Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reading in June

I was really looking forward to Donaldson’s Gap series, which seemed poised to deliver everything I was thirsting after in a space opera. The opening volume of the series, The Real Story, was something that I’d heard described as an exercise in slowly shifting the reader’s perceptions of the characters from villain to hero and vice versa. From that angle, it was a huge success. From a general reading angle, however, I had quite a few problems with the story. More information in the upcoming review.

There are times when I regret putting up every book I read. Those times are not when I read something really stupid, such as Pog Decides to Climb Mount Everest, because those are fun in a look-what-an-idiot-I-am way. Something like Crime and Punishment (or, later in this very article, Hamlet), however, is a far more awkward proposition. What the hell am I going to say about a novel that has been often proclaimed the best novel of all time? In this case, I suppose I could say that, though I don’t know if I can name it the single greatest, it’s certainly up there, but I’m not exactly being original there, am I? I suppose I could mumble briefly about the horrible believability of Raskalnikov’s decline, the heart wrenching character of Sonya, and all of that, but, really, this is something that you probably don’t need my recommendation for.

Somehow Form a Family is a collection of personal essays from the author of Here We Are In Paradise, Jim the Boy, etc. while I wasn’t as engrossed as I was while reading Earley’s fiction, I still enjoyed his writing throughout the volume.

I’ve always been having a bit of trouble spotting the decline that’s supposedly been upon Malazan for quite some time. Now, having read the supposed nadir of the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just an atypical Malazan fan, because Toll the Hounds blew me away. From a plot standpoint, it’s hard to argue that it’s a particularly good novel, being primarily concerned with fragmentary tangents and only coalescing after quite a bit of pages have passed, but the excellent prose and – yes, I’m going to say it – wisdom of Erikson’s words (I have a full three thousand words of quotes from the novel, which is, needless to say, slightly above the average) make up for that and then some.

Anansi Boys was a lightning fast read that made the tiring business of air travel go by in a flash. Like Neverwhere, the easiness of the read belies the power of its themes and the depths of the characterization found here. I’ve got to admit it: Gaiman is just as good as everyone says he is, and I can’t wait to get into more of his work.

Though undeniably the most bloated of the trilogy, The Naked God had me enthralled right up until the end. Which was even worse than I’d expected. All of which will be, of course, elaborated on in my review on Tuesday.

Hutton has a great sense of the rhythms and flow of speech, but I ran into problems with the play when, after the first act, I wanted to slap both of the characters, one for being pedantic and arrogant, the other for being…well, just arrogant. That combined with the hard to understand, and harder to forgive, colossal mishearing in the final act caused Last Train to Nibroc to not work for me, though it would, I don’t doubt, be different when performed.

I had high expectations for Banquet for the Damned after reading Apartment 16, and I’m glad to say that it lived up to them. Nevill’s debut is a balanced blend of classic and modern horror, with the strengths of both well intact. My review of the novel is forthcoming.

As I said when discussing Crime and Punishment, I just don’t think there’s much I can add here in the way of insight that hasn’t been said before, so I’m not really going to try. On a personal level, this was a bit of a revelation, as I can finally see why Shakespeare is so revered. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed both Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, but Hamlet feels like it’s on another level entirely from both of those.

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