Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Books that I read in September

Books that I read in September:

54. Cook, Hugh. The Women & the Warlords (Chronicles of an Age of Darkness, v. 3) (283 p.)

55. Cook, Hugh. The Walrus & the Warwolf (Chronicles of an Age of Darkness, v. 4) (486 p.)

56. Dumas, Alexandre, Sr. The Count of Monte Cristo (441 p.)

57. De Camp, L. Sprague. Years in the Making: the time-travel stories of L. Sprague de Camp (377 p.)
(Contents: The Wheels of If; Tiger in the Rain; Balsamo's Mirror; Time; Aristotle and the Gun; Language for Time-Travelers; Faunas; The Gnarly Man; Reward of Virtue; A Gun for Dinosaur; Nahr al Kalb; Lest Darkness Fall; Kaziranga; The Isolinguals)

58. McKillip, Patricia A. Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master trilogy, bk. 2) (215 p.)

September total: 1,802 pages
2010 total: 15,764 pages

This is the earliest that I've hit both of my unofficial annual targets (50 books & 15,000 pages) in the three years I've been keeping track of my reading. (Which is a hint at how much reading I did a decade ago, when I was usually actively in the middle of up to four books at any given point-- one by my bed, one by the couch, one at work, and one in the car.)

As I mentioned last month, I picked up three volumes of Hugh Cook's Chronicles of an Age of Darkness for free on a lark several years ago, and have just now gotten around to reading them. I'd widely recommend books 2 & 4 to anyone who enjoys Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and J.R.R. Tolkein; book 3 is also good, but as a nearly-no-humor exploration of a female slave trying to improve her lot in an empire based very loosely on a low-fantasy version of the Mongol Horde, it's not going to attract the broader interest of book 2 (wherein a teenager goes on a quest, keeps quitting and resuming it as major events happen around him, and ends up right back where he started) or book 4 (wherein a teenager gets wrapped up in piracy, war, political intrigue, a new religion who declares him to be the Demon's Son, quests, monsters, love, genetic manipulation, STDs, and a half-dozen other things while he grows up, all while nursing an ego the size of Texas and undertaking quite a bit of swashbuckling). Book 2 is mostly snarky-silly humor; Book 4 doesn't spare the snark, nor the silliness, but it is much more rooted in the milieu, and, in a hallmark of the Chronicles features a lot of the same scenes as the previous (and future) books, just told from different viewpoints. In effect, the series is sort of like Rashomon on a beyond-epic scale. (There are 10 books in the series, and Cook originally envisioned this as a 60-book series!)

If you're interested, the Wikipedia page about the Chronicles is a much better introduction to & summary of the series than I could ever write.

I decided to read The Count of Monte Cristo because Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame mentioned it was his absolute favorite novel of all time. I knew it was a "classic", but that was it, so I had no idea what to expect-- and was blown away. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's basically the ultimate revenge fantasy, done up as an adventure story--but as I was trying to summarize it for kateshort, I realized the main character isn't really the Gary Stu he might appear to be, he's really the G*d* Batman of 19th-century France, only even *moreso*!

Imagine if Batman's parents were killed by four men rather than one, and then instead of merely becoming an ultra-competent detective & crime fighter, spent years setting up plots within plots within plots and then tracked down those four men and set his plots in motion to destroy their lives so thoroughly that they would have nothing left-- and then, instead of killing them, he leaves them at their lowest point to either commit suicide or go insane, and then when his revenge is done, he retires.

But in the meantime, he's quite possibly the richest man in Europe, he's an expert swordsman, an expert marksman with a gun, a master detective, a master of disguise, speaks several languages fluently, and he knows human nature well enough to be able to not only predict anyone's actions five moves ahead, but even predict which street they'll randomly take home so that he can "conincidentally" be there to meet them. In short, he's the G*d* Batman.

And I liked it a lot.

L. Sprague de Camp wrote time-travel stories as well as anyone else ever has--particularly stories in the vein of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court--and several of his best stories & poems in that sub-genre are collected together here. I started to make a list of those deserving particular mention, and quickly found myself listing off all of the stories. (The poetry was interesting, but wasn't really my cup of tea.) If you can find this collection, or another with these stories, I definitely recommend reading through them.

Heir of Sea & Fire is book 2 of a trilogy and is not particularly self-contained. It's thus hard to judge it on its own (especially since it's been a few years since I read book 1), but I found it to be an enjoyable read--just one with few resolutions. I was most intrigued by the concept of the dead kings of Hel and Aum-- if not held in check by the power of the current King, several hundred years' worth of dead kings & their retainers rise up in semi-physical form, resume the wars they fought amongst each other when they were alive, and lay waste to the countryside and anyone living who gets in their way. That's definitely a different use for undead characters in a fantasy story from what one normally sees.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: books, reviews

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