31 March 2005

March Book Report

Another month's worth of reading and more or less detailed comments. Again, you may find other opinions on some of these books at Make Tea Not War.

One of the things I'm writing these book lists for is so I can know how many books I actually read. The running total for the year so far is 44.

Anyway, here are the books:

The Well of Stars
by Robert Reed. Good space opera with lots of big stuff. It takes place (mainly) on a starship that dwarfs the Earth, that's how big. It's an interesting and exciting story. Worth reading.

Midshipman Bolitho, Midshipman Bolitho and the Avenger, Stand Into Danger and In Gallant Company by Alexander Kent. A good successor to Hornblower. Good, fun adventure novels. Bolitho's a lot more likeable than Hornblower, too. It seems to be developing well as I work my way through the first few - interestingly, Kent wrote them in arbitrary order (rather than chronologically through Bolitho's career) in order to keep them fresh and interesting. It certainly hasn't done the books any harm.

The Briar King by Greg Keyes. Superior fantasy marred only by his use of unnecessary dialect and fantasy words where they weren't required (in fact, they often detracted a little from the story - I didn't even realize his elves were actually elves rather than a human culture for ages). Still, very good characters and a really good story. It's one of those really long fantasy novels that I burnt through in a day or so as it was so good. Another one that I now have to wait for the next volume...

Resolution by John Meaney. Final book in a trilogy (and my comments here apply to both Paradox and Context as well). Very good, exciting space opera (kind of) story. Interesting main character. A parallel story in the past that I found mainly detracted from the main one. A lot of stuff that had to do with made up physics stuff and alternate worlds and quantum stuff. Overall? Great but flawed, I think. I didn't find the things that happened in the past really related much to the main story (of course they do, but you don't really see how until the very end).

The Stone Mage & The Sea, The Sky Warden & The Sun and The Storm Weaver & The Sand by Sean Williams. After enjoying The Crooked Letter so much I decided to read his earlier fantasy series set later in the same world. Very good fantasy in the coming of age/wizard's apprentice style.

White Rajah by Nigel Barley. Fascinating biography of Sir James Brooke. The short story is that this mid-nineteenth century chap took his inheritance, went looking for adventure and became ruler of a significant chunk of Borneo. The most amazing thing is that he seems to have done it by simple bull-headness... he sailed up and started doing stuff, and convinced everyone to do what he wanted. Crazy. The biography is very readable at first but peters out a bit later - mainly because Brooke's life is less interesting later on, I suspect.

Coyote Rising by Allen Steele. Second novel about the colonization of the planet Coyote. A really good story, exciting and with well-drawn characters. The only thing is that, well, there's a big revolution against the government of Earth which drives the story. But not really any reason for it. I mean, the revolutionaries personally dislike the governor and the colony is run pretty badly. But it just doesn't seem like enough to drive armed rebellion, you know? Still, it's a good book.

Concrete (book one) by Paul Chadwick. Really astonishingly good graphic novel. I think that it's the humanity of the main characters that makes it work. Concrete is a very convincing picture of a regular person dealing with being kidnapped and placed into an inhuman body. His body is superpowered (in effect) but cuts him off from most normal human life. I think I have to read all the others now. How could I have missed such a good comic for almost twenty years?

The Tomb by Nunzio Defilippis, Christina Weir and Christopher Mitten. Nice little modern occult comic about a house that has been built like an Egyptian tomb - complete with cinematic tomb traps and so on. Feels like it grew out of somebody's modern Call of Cthulhu game, but not in a bad way. In fact, I'm going to use that house next time I run InSpectres.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling. I picked this up to read on the grounds that it inspired a great deal of Tim Powers' Declare, one of my favorite novels. It's good, but I found Kipling's writing style often painful. Too much "...as all Asiatics do" and other dated phrases (not all of them racist). But the actual story is good, I enjoyed Kim's parallel education in becoming a spy and as an acolyte to the Tibetan Buddhist who befriends him. In terms of illuminating stuff in Declare, I didn't get a huge amount - maybe it needs to wait until I re-read that one to pick up everything.

Conan: The Frost Giant's Daughter and Other Stories by Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates. Really good Conan comic. Busiek's Conan is a little more introspective than Howard's, I think, but not enough to be a worry. Good stories, great art. Recommended, and I'm looking forward to the second trade paperback (it looks like there's enough new issues out there that it can't be far off).

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