We’ve posted a few times about how sometimes it is what is left out of a story, as much as what is put in, that can make it compelling, and how that void can fire the imagination. If that is a measure of how compelling a story is, that we keep thinking about it and imagining what was not explicitly told after we have finished it, then the Epic of Gilgamesh certainly qualifies. If only its omissions were more intentional.
new and non-Shannara, I was therefore skeptical, but intrigued. Perhaps the only notable non-Shannara works he has published are The Magic Kingdom of Landover series, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was my hope that Child of Light would tap into whatever had enabled Landover. Unfortunately, my hopes were misplaced, and Child of Light proved to be anything but fresh.
Some books under-promise and over-deliver. Swordspoint, which we reviewed last week, is like that. The summary was enough for me to read it, but I didn’t expect anything remarkable; it proved to be one of the best fantasy books I’ve read this year. Forsaken Kingdom’s cover blurb was, unfortunately, the opposite. While the book wasn’t exactly bad, the main emotion I experienced while reading it was boredom. This coming from the man who recently read Human Dimension and Interior Space from cover to cover, and found it interesting.
While I knew that I wanted my next few reads to be fiction, I harbored a certain degree of trepidation as I made my selections. Even when I sat down to open Swordspoint, I was cautious, approaching it like someone poking an injured monster to see if it is still alive, anticipating that I would again read through a fantasy novel and finish thinking that it was just okay, and when does the next Stormlight book come out, and why won’t Rothfuss ever finish the Kingkiller Chronicle? Less than a page of Swordspoint was all that was required to chase away my doubts and hesitations and any thoughts of other fantasy stories, because it was that beautiful.
The Variable Man’s description included references to a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth, and a man from the past. Whatever I expected from that sparse summary, it was not what the story proved to be. The fact that the Earth set piece happened to have undergone a nuclear apocalypse (at least five of them, actually) is really something of a footnote, one of those throw-away world-building tidbits, like villius flowers, that don’t really add to the plot or the substance of the story, and exist only to create a more full-fleshed world. As for the man from the past…that’s where things got interesting.
Despite the title, Poetics should not be thought of as applying exclusively to poetry. Rather, it is equal parts literary criticism, and one of the world’s earliest “how to write fiction,” books. Much like Art of Rhetoric, there were pieces that have become outdated, but much has remained surprisingly relevant to modern literature. All that is required is a bit of translation.
I was a little worried, going into my reading of Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric, and subsequently The Poetics, that these classic texts might also fall into that category, where they are lauded for their continued relevance mostly because they are so general that they can hardly fail to be relevant.
If there is any truth to the postulate that a culture is reflected in its art, then I thought surely a collection of Chinese “fairy tales” would offer some fascinating insights into Chinese culture. It’s true that I learned something from this collection of short stories, but I’m not sure what it is yet.
Look at me, reading another science fiction book from this century. I’ve seen this billed as a grittier, modern take on HG Wells’ The Time Machine, and I think that’s somewhat apt. So apt, in fact, that if you’re thinking of reading The Accidental Time Machine, I suggest you just go read Wells’ original, instead.
Like many nonfiction books, including several that we’ve reviewed here on the site, Parenting Is a Contact Sport suffered from a severe case of repetition. It wasn’t a long book, but however many tens of thousands of words it contained, I could pretty much communicate the same message in a single sentence: have a relationship with your children. All of the chapters, all of the awkwardly personal anecdotes that were supposed to be hacking my brain and convincing me of the author’s message, could really have been reduced to just that statement. Granted, some elaboration is useful, but I really don’t think that quite so many words needed to be used.