August 1st, 2013


Books that I read in July

Books that I read in July

47. Stasheff, Christopher. The Warlock In Spite of Himself (Warlock Series, bk. 1) (378 p.)

48. Stasheff, Christopher. King Kobold Revived (Warlock Series, bk. 2) (216 p.)

49. Sakai, Stan. A Town Called Hell (Usagi Yojimbo, bk. 27) (213 p.)

50. Brust, Steven. The Lord of Castle Black (The Viscount of Adrilankha, bk. 2) (397 p.)

51. Brust, Steven. Sethra Lavode (The Viscount of Adrilankha, bk. 3) (351 p.)

52. Taylor, G.P. Wormwood (256 p.)

July total: 1,811 pages
2013 YTD total: 17,967 pages

I normally don't find attempts to mix science fiction & fantasy to be as good as either is on its own (and my thoughs about that led me to a grand unification theory of genres), but Stasheff's Warlock series defies the odds and makes it work-- probably largely because the basic setup is a classic "fish out of water" story, so only one genre is active at a time, and also because the "magic" is mostly explained to the reader using science. I wasn't sure how much I'd like these, but I ended up liking them a lot and would highly recommend them.

Usagi Yojimbo is always excellent, and A Town Called Hell is an above-average volume as the series goes. It can mostly be read and enjoyed without having previously read any of the others, but one particular cliffhanger epilogue will merely be somewhat startling and seem somewhat unresolved for a brand-new reader rather than being the downright chilling story "ending" it is for a long-time reader.

The Lord of Castle Black and Sethra Lavode are the last two parts of The Viscount of Adrilankha, which is the third part of The Khaavren Romances (following the pattern of Dumas' The Vicomte of Bragelonne, which is often published in three parts and is, taken as a whole, the third book of the d'Artagnan Romances). The Khaavren Romances tell some of the backstory of the world & the primary supporting characters of the Vlad Taltos series. These two volumes in particular finish the stories of how Zerika became Empress, how Morrolan built his flying castle, and how a lot of Easterners came to settle in the area. The quasi-Dumas-pastiche writing style still bugs me, but these are otherwise quite good, and I felt much more strongly than I thought I would for the main characters as the denoument unfolded at the end of the last volume, almost choking up in parts.

On the flip side, Wormwood was, like the author's previous book, Shadowmancer, a fairly dreary, somewhat allegorical slog that wants to be the next Narnia, Perelandra, or Golden Compass (except being as pro-Christian as Pullman is pro-humanist), and falls short. Admittedly, in both cases I read ARCs rather than the final version, but it'd take some fairly massive revisions of the sort that I don't think are usually done at this stage to improve these books. One of Taylor's major failings is to consistently "forget" descriptive details when a character or location is introduced to the reader, and then refer to them later in an partial or off-hand manner as if the reader should already know the details and thus recognize that the story is referring to the same character. (Little things like the fact that a particular character is wearing an extremely distinctive mask.) There are some interesting ideas here, and in the hands of a more talented author these might've been books to write home about, but I just don't think the actual execution of either story is all that good (despite both Shadowmancer and Wormwood being bestsellers), and won't be tracking down any of the other sequels.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf