Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reading in May

I've mentioned my love of Daniel Abraham a fair few times on this blog, and reviewed his short story collection from Subterranean Press, and so I dove into The Dragon's Path as soon as it crossed my doorstep. I can't quite say that the novel possesses as much depth or power as The Long Price at its height, but The Dragon's Path is an interesting and enjoyable book that serves to set up many an interesting thread for future volumes. Review coming.

 The White Luck Warrior, the second volume in the second of Bakker's three connected trilogies, can be easily compared to the middle volume of the first trilogy, The Warrior Prophet. As there, here we focus on an army on the move dealing with supply problems, and so on – but this book lacks the galloping pace of actions and revelations that made that first trilogy such an unforgettable experience. This is not, however, a weak book by any stretch of the imagination. Though I wish more ground had been covered, and less retread, the writing here is powerful and resplendent with metaphors and hidden meanings, and the thematic and philosophical ideas explored are as insightful as the standard that Bakker has set for himself.

Though I enjoyed many of the stories in The Martian Chronicles, I'll admit that, come the collection's end, I still wasn't convinced that Bradbury deserved his legendary status. Now, having read Something Wicked This Way Comes, I'll gladly admit that I was wrong: Bradbury most certainly deserves his praise. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a story about danger and change, but it's also – and most of all – a story about childhood. The exuberance of its characters and the skill of its prose is mesmerizing, and, though the novel does occasionally verge on the saccharine, there are six moments of awe and majesty for every half stumble. This is required reading for anyone interested in our genre's greats.

 Spurred on by my Breaking New Ground challenge, I began Moon Called and found a fast paced and enjoyable Urban Fantasy book with well drawn characters and a generally quietly believable approach to world building. Though Briggs has yet to show herself exceptional in any way, Moon Called is still an enjoyable novel that promises better things ahead.

 Like Hard Man, Savage Night is crime so bleak and brutal it's impossible to react to with anything but a terrified, strangled laugh. Guthrie reacts to the borders of sanity and general taste like most of us view finish lines, and his characters are slammed together so hard and fast that the gruesome mess that's left is likely to leave you as sick as you are satisfied. This is a roller coaster ride of cleverness and tension, but, like all the best four hundred foot drops, it's best to brace yourself before going in.

 Dashiell Hammett's debut is noir writ large, a single amoral detective pitted against an immoral city. Like Savage Night, this isn't a novel that will win any points for restraint, but the laconic honesty of its telling and force of its words is impossible to ignore. Review here.

 Kiernan's Subterranean Press collection, The Ammonite Violin & Others, weaved nightmarish and erotic tapestries out of lush language and surreal descriptions. The Red Tree mesmerizes the audience in a way as different as can be. Here, Kiernan's speech is unadorned and honest, crude and raw and vulnerable. And the image that she paints is both vivid and disorientating, at once horrific and run through with desire.

 I think it's rather well established that I liked Nevill's first two novels, Banquet for the Damned and Apartment 16 a fair bit. I even interviewed the man here.  After all that, I went into The Ritual with damn high expectations – and the book's first half blew even those away. Here Nevill displays excellence in atmosphere and character, creating a taut and terrifying adventure that rivaled anything in Nevill's first two books. And then, alas, the book's second section began, and the characters were gone, and the pacing was gone, and the atmosphere was gone. Review coming.

As I read the first hundred pages of Stone, I was deeply in love. Roberts writes with all the penetrating honesty of a confession and the intricacy of a carefully considered narrative, and his ideas are fresh and riveting. Alas, soon after the imprisoned protagonist wins his freedom, narrative momentum grates to a meandering halt and never returns in force. Still, the ideas that Roberts explores are interesting, and the prose fantastic throughout. I'll be reading more of Roberts in the future for sure, though I hope that his other novels maintain a more even pace throughout.

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