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.
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.
I love A Christmas Carol. I'll read most things with "Charles Dickens" on the cover, but I love A Christmas Carol. It's a feeling that I inherited from my dad, and I have for several years now been in the habit of re-reading this classic Christmas tale every year around the holidays. This is in addition to frequently attending whatever stage adaptation happens to be around, listening to the Patrick Stewart audiobook version several times (often while running), watching at least one movie adaptation (I like the Muppets version and the Patrick Stewart version the most), and for several years participating in a radio play adaptation for a fundraiser.