Friday, November 23, 2007

Ex Libris: October Reads

Arrgh, as usual, November is passing me by and I haven't posted my October reviews yet. No, it's not a lot since there were two of the books I wasn't able to finish for various reasons.

Here they are:

Welcome to the world, baby girl

Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron is first of her new series, more fantasy than science-fiction as she delves into the rather tired urban trope of 'elves in the city'. However, she makes it her own by painting a grim picture of the Daoine Sidhe living in the shadow of the iron-fisted 20th century human civilization. Likewise, there are still a lot of pretty-boy elves going around but they have the morals of the dark European fairy tales: i.e. not a good idea to trust them. Throw in a secret society of human magicians out to shut down the whole shebang and you got your major conflict. Unfortunately, Bear's story is reminiscent sometimes of C.J. Cherryh's, where the protagonists are so conflicted, they're more annoying than sympathetic. Still, it's worth the slog to read until the end.

Watch this space

Tim Pratt's, Little Gods, is a beautifully written collection of short stories, ranging from the heartfelt and poignant "Little Gods" (one of my all-time favorite short stories) to the (now much-abused) urban mystical detective "Pale Dog" to my weakness of American Western mythos' "Bleeding West." A definite grab-bag of stories and weird ideas, my only plaint is the feel of lack of depth to the stories as opposed to comparable writers like Kelly Link or Theodora Goss. This was brought foremost to my mind when I felt that I shouldn't have read his collection straight, i.e. it felt like eating cake icing. However, given as this is his first collection, this could be attributed to the early beginnings of a soon-to-be-great writer and I will be getting his next collection soon.

A couple of missteps

Unfortunately, I couldn't get into either Chris Wooding's The Weavers of Saramyr (his first book in the Braided Path trilogy) or the more literary Kevin Brockmeier's short story collection, Things That Fall from the Sky. Wooding, a known YA author, relied too much exposition which threw me off the story of a noblewoman whose family is killed by monstrous assassins even while the empress tries to hide the fact that her heir has dangerous magical powers. On the other hand, I loved Brockmeier's short story, "A Brief History of the Dead", but the first few stories in his collection gave me reason to give up on him. You know, I love lyrical language but I'm starting to hate it when it becomes the end-all, be-all of the short story. For God's sake, ease off man! Talk about loving the sound of one's prose

Good first impression

Brandon Sanderson's standalone fantasy novel, Elantris, was a surprise of the bunch in that one may find a book not to one's liking because of wrong timing. A couple of months ago, I tried to read this book but couldn't get into the groove. So I stopped for a while and resumed only last month. Good thing too as I enjoyed this book about a fallen magical city, a prince cursed to join its inhabitants, a feisty princess, and a likeable religious fanatic (yes, it's possible). Granted it has its clunky moments (including its prose), Sanderson still proves you can write epic fantasy without creating several door-stoppers. (Well, at least one anyway; my paperback copy had a particular heft to it.) And the Stephane Martiniere cover was lovely as always.

Where's the beef?

andrew eldritch recommended Sarah Langan's first novel, The Keeper, and overall, it was a good interesting read about a haunted town. In essence, a young woman gathers the horrors and fears of a small little town on the verge of shutting down and then turns them all loose. But alas, despite this interesting look into the well-used trope, I think I'm either so jaded of horror books that I don't scare easily anymore. (Which should be a whole different post altogether.) That or my first fear will always be brain-eating zombies. Still, I like her prose and will be keeping an eye out for this author.

Reaching nirvana

How to describe Theodora Goss's short story collection, In the Forest of Forgetting, without gushing? I'm not sure. Maybe it's because it's a wonderful collection of stories, fantastically-written, insightful and poignant, and, and... well, you know what I mean. If one were to describe what Goss' writes, one can say she writes a lot of fairy tale retellings (which reminds me that I should post about what I LEARNED ABOUT RETELLINGS and which Goss has done perfectly) but does so from a rather Eastern European viewpoint. Believe me when I say, you should be reading her incredible, incredible book instead of reading this sentence. Now I'll go away and cry joyfully in a corner.

A damn good story

On the other hand, John Wright's Fugitives of Chaos is the middle book of a trilogy, which means I can't review this yet until I complete it. Suffice to say, it's a fun read especially if you want to see Wright update Greek mythology for the modern, more exciting times. Only here can you read why Old English monster Grendel can share the same page as Echidna, the Greek Mother of All Monsters. (Mind the spanking, however.)

So... despite the two books I skipped, a pretty good batch of readings for this month.

No comments: