mythicalgirl: (nap time)

I'm sorry.  I tried.  I just can't finish this book. 

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist starts out well if a little wordy.  I liked Miss Temple and Cardinal Chang.  Dr. Svenson not so much - I found him kind of boring.  And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with this book.  It is a great premise - an evil cabal practicing mind control, blackmail and murder via a strange combination of alchemy and science.  There's violence and sex and Victorian values, Oh My!  You would think that this would be right up my alley.  And on the surface it is. 

But after reading 350 pages I'm finding myself just too tired to go on, especially as the action at this point has become very repetitious.  Hero/heroine finds his/herself in tight spot, is confronted with/by a member of the cabal, is left to die but manages somehow to live and escapes to fight another day.  Sometimes more than once in the same chapter.  And this happens over and over again to all three of the main characters.  Meanwhile the details on the glass books and the cabal are portioned out so slowly as to be excruciatingly painful. 

After the first 100 pages I decided to read this book more as a send up or parody of the Victorian Mystery/Fantasy novel.  That actually helped quite a bit for the next 100 pages but it just wasn't enough. 

I'm OK with long, wordy novels so long as I feel like I'm getting somewhere.  Heck, sometimes I like long, wordy novels that don't go anywhere, so long as they are fund to read.  Unfortunately The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters just isn't doing it for me right now.     
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
Sartaj Singh is a Sikh police inspector in Mumbai.  Ganesh Gaitonde is a notorious gangster and one of the most wanted men in India.  Right at the beginning the two are brought together, Sartaj trying to make the capture of his career, Gaitonde trapped in a strange white cube of a building.  Via a speaker and video camera Gaitonde speaks with Sartaj, alternately telling stories and hurling taunts.  By the end of the chapter Sartaj has bulldozed his way into the building, Gaitonde is dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and an unidentified dead woman is found near him.  Thus starts Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra.   

The rest of the book is an exploration of Sartaj's investigation of the Gaitonde case, flashbacks of Gaitonde's rise to power (told by the man himself), myriad subplots about family, relationships, and the other cases Sartaj is working on.  There is A LOT going on in these 900-plus pages.  Some other reviewers have found that there are too many plots but I don't think so.  In the end all the minor plot-lines helped to flesh out the characters.  The "insets", think intermissions from the main story line and characters, allow the reader to both cleanse the palate (a necessity considering all that is going on here) and ultimately serve to tie up loose threads of several plots.  

When I first finished the book I was a little disappointed that the main plot-line was tied up with a rather weak climax.  If you are expecting things to finish with a bang here you will be disappointed.  It took a day or so for me to come to terms with the ending and how this plot lines was resolved.  Now I feel that it wouldn't have been right to end it with a big police action, lots of bullets flying, etc.  Yes, there is a bit of police procedural here and yes, this book is partly about gangsters and The Game.  But it is also about people and one of the things Chandra makes clear here is that no matter what huge events happen (the death of a loved one, the capture of a big criminal, the notice of a famous guru) in the end these people still have lives to lead.  The big things happen only for a moment - life happened before, it will continue to happen after.

Ganesh Gaitonde is one of the most vividly painted characters I've read in a long time.  I loved his chapters as he told the story of his rise to the top of the criminal underworld.  But it was Sartaj that I identified with the most.  He is a man trying to do the best he can at his job and his life.  He has had failures and has had to come to terms with the brutality and corruption that is part and parcel of being a policeman in Mumbai.  His ideals have suffered a bit, as has his private life, but he has survived.  

I really likes this book.  I loved the way Mumbai came to life on the page for me.  I loved the language and all the Hindi (even if I had to look some of it up).  I loved the characters and the story.  I will warn you though, if you are expecting linear storytelling with a big finish then this probably isn't the book for you.  This is to regular literature the way that Bollywood is to Hollywood - there is no exact comparison.  If however you are wanting to read a really good book that transports you to another place then Sacred Games may just be for you.   
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
Yes, I know I said I'd have this up on Saturday.  Got a wicked headache instead.  Sue me.  

Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, edited by Ekaterina Sedia, is a collection of short stories that are not in the genre of Urban Fantasy as most of us know it.  You know, the type where there are vampires, werewolves, magic, fey, etc.  Nope, here Urban Fantasy means that the stories take place in an urban (or suburban) setting, the city is in a way a character in its own right, and the story is fantastical in nature.  Think Urban Fantasy meets speculative fiction. 

Certain stories here are true gems but honestly, after reading the first two entries I was starting to wonder if the Foreword by Jess Nevins was going to be the best part of the book.  The first story, Andretto Walks the King's Way by Forrest Aguirre, is a plague story that is strongly reminiscent of Poe.  It isn't a bad story per se, just done to death (no pun intended).  I was hoping for more.  Then I read Hal Duncan's The Tower of Morning's Bones.  This is a bad story.  This is one of those that made me go WTF?  I read the whole thing, although I have no idea why, and at the end I still didn't know what the hell was going on or what Duncan was trying to say.  I got the occasional glimpse of an actual story a couple time but then it was buried again under all the language.  This is definitely one of those stories where I feel the author was trying too hard with the "art" and lost the story.  This is just my opinion, of course.  YMMV.  

Then I hit Courting the Lady Scythe by Richard Parks.  This one I liked, kind of a fantasy take on the be-careful-what-you-wish-for theme.  I'd been about to throw the book at the wall but this story stayed my hand.  Maybe this wasn't all crap after all.  Parks was followed by Cat Rambo's sweet coming of age story The Bumblety's Marble.  And then one of my favorite entries in this anthology, Promises; A Tale of the City Imperishable by Jay Lake.  This story ROCKS!  It has an atmosphere to it that brings the harsh environment of the city to life.  It is also a rather sad story, one that left an emotional impression on me - possibly why I liked it so much.  

Of the next eight stories the only one that really impressed me was Sammarynda Deep by Cat Sparks.  A story of love lost and the price of honor, this one also stayed with me long after I finished reading.  Of the other seven here none were truly bad (although I didn't care for Tearjerker by Steve Berman) and all were well written.  It is just that none of them really made an impression on me, one way or the other.  

The next story to truly make and impression is Ben Peek's The Funeral, Ruined, a look at technological change and what it costs us to give up our traditions.  It also evokes a deep sadness similar to Lake's entry.  Down to the Silver Spirits by Kaaron Warren is a horror story based around infertility and what some will go through to have a child.  I'm not married nor do I have or want children so I wasn't much affected by this one.  It is a good story but I felt it had been done before.  

Of the last six stories there was one I loved, one I really didn't get or like, and the rest were decent.  Anna Tambour's The Age of Fish, Post-flowers is a post apocalyptic story set in the big city.  There were parts of it that I just didn't get.  I think this story would have been better suited to a novella than a short story.  I just felt like I was missing a lot of information that might have made the story more understandable and therefore more interesting.  And then there is Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest.  I've read some of Valente's work before and found her to be a wonderful storyteller with a rich, lush style of writing.  Palimpsest is written in this same evocative style, painting a picture of a city you can only get to by having sex with someone who has been there.  A city full of mysteries, strange creatures and wonderful experiences.  At eight and a half pages Palimpsest is way too short, giving just a glimpse of this amazing world that Valente has created.  (Good thing she thought so too and wrote a full-length novel based in this world, also called Palimpsest.)   

So to summarize, this collection was just OK.  The stories I liked I really liked - to the point that I'm looking for other work by the authors (Jay Lake, Cat Sparks, Cat Rambo and Catheryne M. Valente).  There were several I didn't like but only one that made me say WTF.  The rest were just decent, well-written stories that just didn't do it for me in the end.  Again, this is my opinion based on my tastes.  You might feel differently. 
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
Shadows Over Baker Street, edited by Micheal Reaves and John Pelan, is a collection of stories based on one idea: What if Sherlock Holmes lived and had to deal with the world of H.P. Lovecraft?  I think it was the premise that attracted me although I have no clue why.  I don't think I've read Sherlock Holmes since high school and I've never read any Lovecraft.  So I came at this with a desire for mystery and horror and no preconceived notions.  

Like most anthologies there were some entries that pleasantly surprised, some I enjoyed, and some that were just, well, there.  Despite the Lovecraftian mythos there were no stories here that made me go WTF?  Usually the WTFery is in direct response to a story that is either very poorly written, tries too hard to be "art" or both.  I am happy to say that I didn't encounter either here.  Sure, some of the entries are written better than others - that is always true in anthologies - but none of the stories made me try too hard to understand them and none had that pretentious feeling of trying to be more arty or literary than thou.  So all was good. 

Since I didn't have any stories here that triggered by bullshit meter or made me say WTF I'm only going to call out the ones I enjoyed the most.  My favorite here has to be Neil Gaiman's A Study In Emerald, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone.  I have always loved me some Neil, especially his short stories, and this one doesn't disappoint.  Gaiman brings alive a world where Lovecraft's Old Ones have conquered humanity and are now the royal families of the world.  There is murder, treason, and a delicious twist on the typical Holmesian genre.  Lovely.  I can see why it won a Hugo.

Along with Gaiman's entry I was quite pleased with Tiger! Tiger by Elizabeth Bear, The Case Of The Wavy Black Dagger by Steve Perry, The Adventure Of The Antiquarian's Niece by Barbara Hambly, The Horror Of The Many Faces by Tim Lebbon, and The Drowned Geologist by Caitlin R Kiernan.  All were solidly entertaining in their own right without having to have an extensive familiarity with either the Sherlock Holmes stories or Lovecraft.  I'm sure my opinion as to which stories were the best and of the anthology as a whole would have been different if I were more familiar with the theme.  As it is I was just looking to be entertained and the stories mentioned above did so admirably. 
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)
Fount Royal is dying.  Withering crops, horrible weather, mysterious fires, gruesome murders: and all because of her.  The witch!  Or is it?  A traveling magistrate and his young clerk have arrived to try Rachel Howarth on the charges of murder and witchcraft.  If found guilty she will burn.  But Matthew Corbett isn't so sure he believes in witchcraft or that the woman he meets in the gaol is guilty.  Matthew soon finds himself racing to uncover the truth of the evil plaguing Fount Royal and to prove Rachel's innocence before time runs out. 

Wow!  Book-gasm indeed.  This is my first book by Robert McCammon and I must say that I was (am) very impressed.  The story held me from the first words to the last.  Its now several days and two books later and I still find myself thinking about it.  To me that is the sign of a very good book.  This is historical fiction, which we all know is a favorite of mine.  McCammon captured the feel of colonial America as well as the religious fervor and witchcraft hysteria prevalent around 1700.  The mystery that is central the the novel is well crafted as well.  Several times I was sure I knew what was really going on only to find a few pages later how wrong I was!  I like being kept on my toes like that.  It makes for a more enjoyable read.  

Fair warning to those who might pick this one up (and I strongly recommend that you do) - this is a long book.  I read the mass market paperback version that is split into two volumes.  Total it was about 900 pages.  If you are expecting something to read for a couple of hours and be done this is not the book.  There are no wasted words here IMO.  And every one of those 900 pages was totally worth it!

Another fair warning.  I found this book in the Horror section.  And in a way it is horror but not in the way I was expecting.  It could have just as easily been shelved in Mystery/Thriller or Fiction.  If doesn't really fit any of the genre labels. 

I can't think of anything else to say without going into spoiler territory so let me just say that I recommend this one big time.  There is a follow-up book featuring Matthew Corbett.  I already have my copy of Queen of Bedlam and it is in the TBR pile.             
mythicalgirl: (bookgasm)

Someone is killing celebrities and making off with the bodies. Lieutenant Donal Riordan has been assigned to protect the latest target, a famous opera singer, from the assassins that are sure to strike. He must do everything he can to keep her safe from the madmen who want her bones. He fails. 

 

So goes the first quarter of this book. The storyline with Donal and the Diva is just the beginning of the roller coaster rider that is Bone Song. The plot revolves around a death cult that is stealing the bones of talented people and artists for reasons known only to them. And they don’t like waiting for these people to die a natural death either. There is a federal task force trying to identify all the players and stop the next assassination. Rich and powerful people are mixed up in this and knowing whom to trust is almost impossible. Throw zombies, wraiths, Bone Listeners, and death wolves into the mix and you have a fantastically dark thriller that I couldn’t put down. 

 

The world that Meaney’s characters inhabit is a darkly fantastic necropolis where the sky is various shades of purple and the rain is quicksilver drops of mercury. Power is generated from the bones of the dead, elevators are empty shafts inhabited by bound wraiths, and autopsies are done by Bone Listeners. Familiar and alien at the same time, the world of Bone Song sucked me in. And stays with me still. 

 

I liked the characters in this book almost (but not quite) as much as I liked the world building. Donal is a flawed hero but his flaws are normal, human flaws not the over-exaggerated ones that some authors give their protagonist. Commander Laura Steele is nicely drawn although I would have liked to know more about her past. She is para-live, brought back as a zombie after she died. The author doesn’t share how she died though. Only Donal has some sort of back-story and even that is minimal. The author brings us into his world at a particular point in time and from that point on we’re along for the ride. This made it pretty much impossible for me to put the book down. It wasn’t until after I’d finished that I realized some of the characters weren’t as broadly drawn as I might like them to be. 

 

This is an amazing novel. It is full of mystery, magic, suspense – pretty much anything you could want. I recommend it to anyone who likes dark fantasy or a good thriller. The second book, Black Blood, comes out on 2/24/09. You can bet that it is going on my wishlist!

mythicalgirl: (Eris)

Jack Howard is an underwater archaeologist working in the Mediterranean who has just made the discovery of his life – a Minoan shipwreck and a gold disk with strange markings. At the same time a colleague in Egypt finds a scrap of scroll with early Greek writing in a mummy’s wrappings.   Together the two finds yield up clues to an even bigger find…the location of the lost city of Atlantis. Accompanied by cadre of experts Jack heads towards the Black Sea and a mystery thousands of years old. 

 

Atlantis is an archaeological thriller and it sticks closely to the tropes of that genre. The action moves from Crete to Alexandria to the Black Sea. The protagonist is an expert in his field hiding a secret (in Jack’s case claustrophobia as a result of a botched dive). The love interest is beautiful, exotic, an expert in her own right, and has her own secrets. The search for the truth is like a treasure hunt across the face of the Earth and each new clue brings more questions. 

 

Gibbins definitely knows his tropes and the pacing needed for a thriller. Unfortunately his execution leaves something to be desired. The detail of the underwater archaeological techniques, the use of high-tech equipment, the historical significance of the finds – all of these are done in exquisite detail. And that is the problem. Too much of the story is taken up with the author giving detailed descriptions of things like guns, lasers, submersibles as well as lectures on archaeological finds from the Neolithic Period, from Minoan Create, etc. There is too much telling rather than showing. 

 

My biggest complaints about this book:

1.      The extensive detail about, well, everything was meant to deepen the experience for the reader. Instead it was jarring and kept pulling me out of the narrative. 

2.      I didn’t feel emotionally attached to any of the characters. They felt more like stereotypes than real people: the handsome hero; the love interest; the best friend/gadget guy; the terrorist bad guy.

3.      Plus the characters are never clueless about anything. They know how to do everything and can get out of every situation. By the time I was a third of the way through the book I knew that I would never hit a scene where the characters had to try different solutions to figure something out. They would never be stymied by what they found. Every inscription could be translated, every obstacle overcome. 

 

What I liked:

1.      The archaeology. Gibbins is an underwater archaeologist and this book really shows how well he knows his stuff, both on land and at sea. 

2.      The way the author tied what we know from the archaeological record to his fictional finds and Atlantis was superb. It was done so seamlessly that I more than once I almost went to the computer to do research, sure I’d missed reports of some recent find. Reading the Author’s Notes I was able to see just how much was real and how much was fiction. 

 

In the end I’m glad I read the book because of the ancient history content (what can I say, I’m a history geek) but I doubt I’ll make any effort to read any more of this author’s work. There are too many books out there waiting to be read to waste my time on ones that I only partially enjoy. 

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September 2013

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