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

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Books that I read in May

Books that I read in May:

21. Heaney, Seamus, translator. Beowulf (Bilingual ed.) (213 p.)

22. Vance, Jack. The Green Pearl (Lyonesse, bk. 2) (407 p.)

23. Grubb, Jeff. The Brothers' War (Artifacts Cycle, bk. 1) (409 p.)

24. Silverberg, Robert. Valentine Pontifex (Majipoor trilogy, v. 3) (347 p.)

25. Christie, Agatha. Appointment with Death (192 p.)

May total: 1,568 pages
2012 total: 7,254 pages

This is the first time I've read an unabridged version of Beowulf, as well as the first time I've seen the entire original Anglo-Saxon text. It was fun to compare the modern text with the original and look for words and grammar that haven't changed all that much in English in a thousand years--though that would've been easier with a more literal translation, whereas this one is a verse translation that attempts to duplicate the original's alliteration pattern as much as possible. It was also fun to mentally compare with the action in Crichton's Eaters of the Dead. All in all, while it's really dry in spots, it's an excellent story overall, and well worth reading at least once in one's life.

The Green Pearl is a much easier and more engrossing read than Lyonesse was, in part because it has far fewer historical digressions and instead focuses mostly on the action & conflict. Like most Vance, it's still written on a fairly high level that takes a bit more brain power to parse than the typical fantasy novel, but in Vance's case that's definitely a good thing. I liked it a lot more than the first volume, and would almost recommend skipping the first book and going straight to this one, but while it's probably technically possible to follow the action without having read the first book, you'd be missing so much of the context that you probably woouldn't enjoy this book as much as you would if you had already slogged through the first volume. Definitely one of those cases where the second book in a trilogy is better than the first, though.

The Brothers' War is the last of the Magic: the Gathering tie-in novels I picked up, so I've finally made it through all of those. I happen to like Grubb's style (having read a few of his D&D tie-ins over the years), and this generally lived up to that standard, though it's on the lower end of that scale. It also made me reminisce for the heady days of the third edition of M:tG, back when the Antiquities boosters were still available and a lot of these characters and artifacts were mentioned on the cards. Thankfully, the story that's started in this book concludes enough at the end that I don't have to track down the remaining volumes in order to learn how it ends. (A feature sadly lacking in far too many books published with "book one" on the cover.) It's brain candy, but by the same token it's also much better than any of the previous M:tG tie-in novels.

Valentine Pontifex is the conclusion of the main Majipoor storyline. While it can probably be read alone, I don't think it stands well alone. I was happy to be able to read more about Valentine and his entourage, and it's generally a pretty good book, but I don't think this one is as good as the earlier volumes. I wasn't happy about the resolution to the main conflict--if the solution was that easy, then, why didn't the main character think to pull that trick out of his bag earlier on? It felt like the ending was either tacked on, or that there was a lot of padding & meandering around waiting for the pagecount to get high enough and the characters to be painted into a tight enough corner that pulling a solution out of thin air would seem like a feasible way to wrap up everything in a few chapters.

Appointment with Murder is one of those Poirot stories where the most important clue needed for solving the mystery is revealed to the detective but withheld from the reader until the big reveal, leaving you feeling a bit cheated rather than out-foxed. Which is especially annoying when the actual murder doesn't occur until more than half-way through the book. (There is one clue that reveals the murderer is lying, but most of the other suspects also get caught in one or more lies here, so the utter lack of anything else means that clue is basically meaningless.) I got a kick out of the unusual settings (Jerusalem & Petra), didn't mind the shout-outs to other Poirot cases, found most of the characters interesting if a bit thin on dimensionality, but was annoyed by the denoument. It's not one of the better Poirot stories, but it's still okay enough for me.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: books, reviews

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