56. Rowling, J.K. The Tales of Beedle the Bard (111 p.)
57. Vernon, Ursula. Dragonbreath (Dragonbreath, v. 1) (146 p.)
58. Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash (470 p.)
59. Eddison, E.R. The Worm Ouroboros (The Worm Ouroboros, v. 1) (520 p.)
September total: 1247 pages
2014 YTD total: 15,124 pages
Hooray! Once again, I've made it past both 50 books and 15,000 pages in a year.
Beedle the Bard is one of the Harry Potter spin-off books, creating a real-life version of a book mentioned in the main series. In this case, a book of wizard fairy-tales, interspersed with lit-crit commentary by Dumbledore. It's okay, and a couple of the stories are quite inventive, but it's by no means a must-read for anyone other than a obsessive Harry Potter completist.
Dragonbreath is the first in a long series of children's novels about a little dragon (who hasn't learned how to breathe fire yet) trying to re-write a school report about the ocean in a world populated by anthroporphic lizards & amphibians. It's mostly prose, but large chunks of it are presented in graphic novel format. I've skimmed a few of the books over the years, but this is the first time I sat down and read one cover to cover. It's good; I liked it a lot, and by the end I was interested in finding out how our hero deals with the attack of the ninja frogs in book two...
I've heard many people rave over the years about how good Neal Stephenson's books are, but I'd never had the chance to read any of them before now. Snow Crash is about a dystopic near-future world where it's common for people to log into a virtual reality world. It's sort of similar to a cross between Ready Player One and Neuromancer, and definitely leans heavily on the latter for inspiration. The first half to two-thirds of the book drew me in--heck, right off the bat I wanted to read more adventures of a sword-weilding pizza driver for the Mob, who absolutely promise to get your pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, come Hell or high water, or the Don will personally deliver an apology (and then destroy the driver who failed him). But the rest of the book wasn't about that, it was about a white-hat hacker discovering that someone has found a way to create a computer virus that destroys not only the computer it infects, but also the mind of the computer's user. The last third or so, with the revelation of how the virus works and chasing down the bad guys, is fun for its high-action adventure aspects, and somewhat interesting for finding ways to tie in ancient Sumerian religion, but the further it went, the more it negatively affected my suspension of disbelief. I was hooked enough to not want to put the book down, but kept being put off by the stretching and back-bending necessary to claim a Sumerian universal language not only works but affects computer programs, too.
I first read The Worm OUroboros several years ago, but having more recently read the sort-of-sequels, I wanted to go back and re-read the original to see how it holds up, how it ties in to the later books, etc. Well, it ties in only insofar as the action all takes place on the same planet, one minor character here who only appears in the first two chapters here is the major character of the later books, and the main country of the later books is mentioned here--but as a place that no one can visit. On the other hand, this volume is significantly more readable than the later ones, with significantly less navel-gazing philosophy. Instead, it's a prototypical fantasy adventure, complete with major quest, massive battles, strange creatures, evil sorcery, and more. More amazing is that it's one of the few modern-style fantasies that pre-dates Tolkien's Middle Earth stories. It has two major drawbacks: First, despite loads of creativity going into naming people and towns, the major countries have terrible names: the protagonists are Demons from Demonsland, the antagonists are Witches from Witchland, and various other characters come from Impland, Goblinland, and Pixyland--and yet, they are all actually just people. Second, it's written in a somewhat modernized version of 17th-century English, and when the characters write letters, that's done in full-on 17th century English, complete with ye olden randome spelyng. (Less important than those is that, like many fantasy & science fiction stories of its time, it starts off with a frame story that tries to explain that this is all really happening on another planet in the solar system. But that pretext gets dropped and forgotten after the second chapter.) But other than that, it's basically crying out to be made into a movie or BBC TV series--it's just as good as anything else that's gotten those treatments (and better than several by far). The characters perhaps aren't quite as well-rounded as someone writing today might make them, but they are generally multi-dimensional and, in their defense, are basically early prototypes in the genre. Highly recommended, if you are able to get past the two main drawbacks.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf