That title is no understatement. Bloodied copies of this book have been purportedly discovered amongst the most worn possessions of failed coup leaders, which Luttwak is quick to disclaim as being evidence that they did not amply take to heart his text’s lessons, and not a suggestion that his instructions are flawed.
As promised last week, this will be our review for Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn as a whole, assembled trilogy. We’ll be talking in more detail about the story as a whole, and the writing specifically, across all three books.
It’s probably for the best that not every book I pick up seizes me in quite the same fashion that the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy did, because it would severely interfere with my writing output if that were the case.
Sometimes, when I’m writing back-to-back reviews within the same series, I find that I don’t have enough to say about each book, specifically, especially while reserving series-wide thoughts for the series review. That isn’t a concern here.
There are two main ways to read The Dragonbone Chair and its sequels in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, and they are not mutually exclusive: this can be thought of as a historical fantasy story with sorcerous elements, or as a Tolkien-style fantasy with strong historical elements.
Although I’d long desired to find a biography of Werner Von Braun, one of the more complex and mysterious figures of early rocketry, most of the treatments I found seemed unlikely to provide the kind of detail and depth of analysis that I was seeking, so when I came upon a biography of him that was consistently billed as the best study yet done of him and his history, I was optimistic enough to add it to my reading list, and excited enough by its possibilities to read it within a year of its addition.
I wish that the human brain was a better tool for diagnosing itself, because I would be very interested to know how much of my distaste for this book arose from the writing style, rather than the contents. To be honest, the writing sounded juvenile. It is my hope that the author adopted this style in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, rather than it being an actual reflection of their intellectual capacity, but I found it quite off-putting, and rather undermining to those parts of the book that are valid. While I realize that an inaccurate understanding of electromagnetism does not preclude wisdom in the area of fiction writing, making a blatantly invalid analogy does make me question how well the rest of the book was thought through before being published. And that was just the most obvious example; the whole tone of the book conveyed a similar impression.
It was actually a television adaptation of Foundation that prompted me to realize how long it had been since I last read this science fiction classic, and that it was probably time for a revisit. My wife and I recently watched AppleTV’s interpretation of Asimov’s novel, and so I decided it was an opportune time for a reread.
Will Wight’s Cradle series might be my current guilty pleasure read. These fast, light, action-packed, “martial arts” fantasy novels aren’t Brandon Sanderson masterpieces that will massively alter my understanding of how to write fantasy, they aren’t four thousand year old tomes of philosophy or history, they aren’t detailed technical analyses of obscure mathematical theorems (a textbook on the disc embedding theorem might hold the prize for the strangest book currently on my reading list), but every time a new one comes out (which happens with impressive frequency), I get a copy within weeks, and read it within days.
Yet for all the attention that the equivalency between science and magic seems to take, it was not to me really what drove this book or made it enjoyable. I think this book was really all about perspective and communication, and the evidence is in the very structure of the book. It is written primarily from two perspectives: the “magic” perspective and the “science” perspective, and it is the contrast between the two that makes this book distinct from any number of other riffs on the interaction between more and less “advanced” civilizations.