Friday, April 30, 2010

Reading in April

Absolutely mind-blowing. The Master and Margarita is the kind of book that is both hilarious and disturbing, and it has enough layers that every time you reread a passage something else jumps out at you. All that being said, I’m more than a little hesitant about doing a review. First of all, this is (rightly) a classic; if I butchered the review I’d be quite pissed at myself. Then there’s the fact that I’m writing a research paper on the novel, so I’m unsure if I’ll be in the mood to do more writing on it after that. Until I make up my mind, this website has some very interesting information on the novel.

When I read American Gods, I found it interesting but slow to the point that I had trouble sticking with it. When I finished it, I decided to not read any more books by Gaiman. As time passed, however, I kept thinking about American Gods. It took me a while, but I finally gave Gaiman another chance…and I’ll admit it I was a hundred percent wrong about him. Neverwhere is both incredibly fun and quite touching at parts. Aidan's reveiw is here; my review will be up on Tuesday. UPDATE: my review will be delayed for a bit, though it is still coming.

I may not be the intended audience for Wit, seeing as my entire experience with Donne’s poetry consists of one poem read immediately before the play and the one sonnet quoted in full within the play. As for the play itself, I’m rather mixed. The main character’s dilemma is interesting, but I had trouble with the endless scenes that were, essentially, descriptions of medical procedures. I understand that they were necessary to some extent, and most did try and liven things up, but after a point the wit and meaning of some parts seemed to drown in scans and their ilk. Of course, all of that is likely quite different performed on stage.

For the first thousand pages, Return of the Crimson Guard had me convinced that Esslemont was, without a doubt, in the same league as Erikson. And then it all goes to hell. If you’ve read the book, you can see precisely why I despised the ending on Westeros. If not, suffice to say that a brilliant schemer turns out to be an idiot and an idiot turns out to be…well, still an idiot, but everyone’s convinced that he’s some sort of genius. If you want more information, Pat’s review is quite informative.

When I first started Hat Rack, I read Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon because I was too intimidated to jump in with this trilogy. For the first three hundred pages, The Reality Dysfunction felt like everything I’d feared. The three main plotlines were interesting, but the sheer scope of it prevented everything from fitting wholly together. Then everything clicked, and by page four hundred I couldn’t put this down. I’ll probably write my review once I’ve finished the trilogy, but in the meantime there’s Wert’s review to give you a good idea of the contents and strengths of the book, as well as my post on Westeros from immediately after my reading.

This is the slight outlier on the list, I think. I found this around the house and was actually somewhat curious about how my second oldest reading memories would hold up. (My first were for a book that I took out so many times that librarians said I couldn’t have it anymore, and I don’t even remember the title or author anymore. Damn those librarians!) The answer is…well, I’m not really sure. The book’s kind of amusing, I guess, if in a somewhat painful way. In the end, how can you not root for a pig-esque dude who climbs Mount Everest for the hell of it?

Watchmen taught me a fairly obvious lesson: never discount something just because of the medium. Watchmen is, without a doubt, one of the bleakest things that I’ve read, and the detail that went into the setting is amazing. Of course, the actual mechanics of the ending could’ve been a bit better (a…giant alien squid? C’mon.), but it wasn’t enough to ruin the impact of the story. After taking a bit of time to get used to reading graphic novels (something I’m going to definitely try and do more of, now) Watchmen paid off in spades. If you’ve already read it, you may be interested in Writing Excuse’s “critical reading” podcast on the book. In addition, there's a compilation of other Watchmen-related stuff here.

Anubis Gates was fast paced, filled with great action, and great twists. All that being said, it occasionally got to feel like a tad too much. I read the first half of the book or so in a sitting, but after that the amount that everyone could run in place before getting anywhere began to grate a bit. This is especially prominent when the book’s penultimate battle, ending with the death of a major villain, felt noticeably less climactic than several earlier, entertaining but ultimately pointless, bouts to the degree that I actually only realized it was supposed to be the climax when it, well, ended. Still, Anubis Gates is more than deserving of its reputation; this book contains amounts of sheer fun to rival just about anything else you’re likely to ever find.

I found Fall of Hyperion to be just as ambitious as Hyperion, but not as successful in living up to those ambitions. That’s not say that it’s a bad book, however; Fall of Hyperion still manages to combine fast paced space opera and somber passages on the lives of romantic poets, and that’s a damn fine accomplishment, even if the execution’s a bit marred. Full review here.

As I said back in my beginning-of-the-month post, I bought Tome of the Undergates primarily for Sam Sykes’s personality in interviews and on his blog than because the blurb drew me in. To some degree, Sykes does incorporate the questions he raised in interviews into the novel, but it wasn’t enough to save the book. My full review is here.

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