i may be a bad person… i’ve chatted with some people who love Butcher’s Codex Alera series. i powered through the first 1/3 of the first book (“Furies of Calderon”) before i threw in the towel. Really i think it’s just the tempo and style of the writing that throws me.
i am NOT saying this is a bad book by any stretch, just that it’s not a book for me personally. Butcher did some really cool things with the elemental forces of the world, bonding them with users who could then harness that power in a sort of partnership. That hooked me early on, but i managed to spit the hook right out.
Book Club of One grade: N/A. On Butcher’s series don’t ask me. Find a reviewer who finished at least the first book and see what they though. Buuuut, for me it’s a solid pass.
A solid piece of work from a master of theological writings. Lewis’ spirituality doesn’t just creep into his Sci-Fi work, it pours in. This makes for a very interesting take on the Sci-Fi genre!
Of the trilogy Out of the Silent Planet is the strongest work. If you’re interested in checking it out but don’t want to read all three books you can safely read the first and never have to pick up the other two. The other two continue the story-line with the third bringing it to a close though. Silent Planet paints an interesting picture of a solar system teeming with life and Earth sequestered because of it’s sin issue. Perelandra paints a poignant picture of new life, a Garden of Eden scenario. That Hideous Strength brings everything to a close in a darker doomsday must be averted tale.
i really enjoyed the first book, i’d say Silent Planet gets a grade of A, Perelandra is a B/B-, and That Hideous Strength is a C.
Book Club of One Grade: B overall (see above for individual books though). i can’t stress how interesting Lewis’ theological bent makes the series to read. Silent Planet gets a solid recommendation for me, with an urge to press on if you find the opener compelling.
Brief review inbound:
The first book of the Farseer trilogy was soundly in the OK territory for me. If i had more time to devote to reading i may continue into the other books, but for now i’ll let the first stand for my dip into this entry on the list of NPR’s Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy books.
The first quarter of the book was difficult for me to get through. It felt flowery and over written. The middle of the book settled into a pace that was much more agreeable. The last quarter of the book was pretty dang good. All the parts combined are what make the book OK for me instead of garnering a higher personal rating.
Hobb does an amazing job building political intrigue, and “The Wit” and “The Skill” are both very interesting takes on magic/telepathy. She builds a world that’s rich with history and social structure which is nice. My biggest obstacle was honestly just the style the book is written in.
Book Club of One Grade: C. It’s a solid one though. If you have a taste for purple prose you can’t go wrong with Hobb (that’s honestly NOT a stab at all, that’s a genuine statement from me). One day, when i’m semi-retired maybe, i might return to these books to see how everything plays out. Between the magicy-mental powers and people getting “forged” (you’ll have to read the book for an explanation on what that means) the concepts are really really good.
i do love me some carl! The original Cosmos series being a cornerstone of young me’s love of all things science. i don’t know what i was expecting from Cosmos when i picked it up but what was between it’s covers felt very unexpected.
First, Sagan writes a very developed and compelling female protagonist. i really liked how complex a character she was. She really felt like a real person to me.
The first 80% of the book feel like fiction that’s about science. It shifts solidly into Sci-Fi territory in the end though. None of this is a complaint at all. It was super refreshing to get some serious scientific foundations built for a fine piece of Sci-Fi.
The pacing of Contact was slower than i’m normally drawn to but again, that’s not a complaint at all! The book had the perfect pacing for the story it was telling.
i feel like the aliens we eventually meet are exactly what you get if great minds of science dream about what could be out there! i’m very glad that Sagan turned his mega-brain to this piece of fiction.
He also raises and explores some interesting spiritual questions by the end of the book. Sagan, who is often painted as an Atheist by persons of faith is in fact more of an agnostic and that shines through in Contact.
Book Club of One Grade: A. A real solid A, i recommend this book without reservations, just know going into it that it doesn’t have the “action-movie” pacing of many modern Sci-Fi works.
The first time i read this book i was a sophomore in high school. It was the recommendation of a close friend of mine, who had it recommended to him by his father. i only mention this because his dad was one of the most interesting people i have ever known. He could cook like a chef, had an amazing library, told us the best dirty jokes, and had a scrap book filled with advertisements and articles with humorous misprints he’d accumulated and cataloged over the years. My favorite being a very old newspaper ad for a brassiere that should have read, “for a great Fit,” but instead read, “For a great Tit!” Needless to say, any book that this man recommended to our young and malleable minds was consumed post haste!
So, it was with a great amount of nostalgia that i picked up the book again. i remembered it being a well written work of science fiction, with a solid story-line, and an interesting take on a new alien race. Digging into the book i found that my nostalgic memory… was totally spot on! Which is a rare thing to happen in one’s life. Normally that thing we remember fondly isn’t nearly as good as we think it is. i recall sitting in an ER waiting room (i had driven an injured friend there) and the first Predator movie came on. A young rippling Arnold commanded a crack team of commandos, explosions, grenades, yelling, CHAIN-MACHINE-GUN!!!!!! i waited with anticipation for my first glimpse at the predator, remembering that magic moment when i was just a nerdy youth. i could not brace myself for the special effects disappointment i faced. The memory my brain had woven of that cloaked predator running through the jungle made the actual footage just horrible by comparison…. But Mote In God’s Eye was not a cloaked predator event in my life.
A few things stand out about this book for me, 3 actually:
The plot is very well written, the characters aren’t pools of depth, but most do have clear personalities. The overarching story is really really good. It’s got so much to say about it: There’s discovery, and science, and politics, and aliens that are really alien.
Those alien aliens: Niven & Pournelle really built an alien race that is unlike humans. i’m a huge Star-Trek fan but my one gripe with the world of Trek is that everyone is just a human with a rubber thing on their head. Moties are NOT human, they have 3 arms, and a caste system, and they think differently. It’s nice that the aliens just aren’t re-skinned humans.
The book was published in 1974, and as i’ve mentioned in reviewing other reads, i think reading Sci-Fi written in a different era shows us things about the era it was written in. Conventions on marriage and sexual relations resound with early 1970’s Americana thought processes.
i’m really glad that this book made NPR’s top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books of all time. This project meant that i picked up a book that i loved as an adolescent and i love it still today.
Book Club of One Grade: A. Mote gets a solid A from me. Pacing is brisk, story is good, aliens are amazing. If you love science fiction take the time to read this gem.
i’d like to devote this Book Club of One, NPRs top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books review to John Philpot, the man who suggested this book to his son, and then his son suggested it to me. Your sense of humor, your intelligence, and the fact that you always made time to chat with us when we were 14 year old knot-heads had some lasting impact on my life! i hope that you’re somewhere in the ether telling somebody a really good risque joke right now!
Just wrapped up Strange and Norell, which is the abbreviation of the title i’m going with. It’s a long title, and a very long book. It’s pretty well written and if you wish there was more magic in the works of Jane Austin you’ll likely love this one (LOTS of people do). But back to my point: It’s a very long book and to me it felt like a very long book.
i’ve expressed my struggles with long works of fiction in the past (though there have been a few long books i’ve read during this project that were amazing- Sanderson’s The Way of Kings for example) so it’s no surprise that i struggled more than a little to power through this book.
Other than the length my real complaint is that it feels like it always takes the longest way to get somewhere. The spark-notes on this book are probably very amazing and compelling!
Here’s what i really liked about it: flawed characters (i’m a sucker for a flawed protagonist)! More than that though, Clarke’s treatment of magic in her alternate world. Magic in her England is VERY VERY powerful, it’s also pretty dang weird and mysterious. i really like the unpredictable nature of the arcane that she built in her world.
The main characters were moderately interesting (Jonathan Strange and Gilbert Norris) but my favorite were John Childermass and the odd Vinculus. i was glad when near the end of the book they got more of the spotlight shone upon them.
Book Club of One Grade: C-. pretty well written, but soooooo loooooong…. If you’re into period work you may love it (i’m also pretty fond of Napoleonic era stuff- due to my deep love of the Aubrey/Maturin series, but even the time-setting didn’t save it for me). It’s not a bad piece of fiction by any measure but it’s a book i don’t forsee myself ever revisiting.
This series is much-loved by many, making several “top” lists. Maybe it just didn’t click with me…
The opener to Feist’s Riftwar series was a bit of a chore for me to power through. There were some moments, especially early on in the book, that gave me hope that things were going to gel between myself and the book… but it never came to fruition.
i felt like most of the characters were flat, filling archetype roles and not much else for me. The pacing seemed to drag on. It was a book filled with so many of the standard fantasy tropes that i just never really could engage with the story-line. \
The Tsurani were interesting, i wouldn’t mind to learn more about their culture and their war-like motivations, i’m just not sure i’m willing to read through two more books to get that information.
Magician isn’t a bad book at all (i know i’ve painted that picture of it). It’s just not as good as some of the other reads from NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels of all time. It’s also not the worst i’ve read from the list so far (looking at you Sunshine!). All-in-all the best descriptor i have for it is “Meh”. i can see where someone could really fall in love with this world and the story, that someone just isn’t me.
Book Club of One grade: C-. If you really love the standard fantasy tropes grab a copy of this book. If you’re looking for something more in your fantasy reads, maybe look elsewhere. (The Way of Kings would be my most recent read i’d suggest.)
If you needed to fortify your gates against an incoming horde and all you had were copies of this book… you’d be just fine! The Way of Kings is a CHUNK! Nearly as thick as it is wide. It’s like cracking open a great tome.
Often i find very lengthy books to be burdensome. (yet i’ll gladly gobble up a trilogy) They’re most often packed with fluff and flowery meaningless descriptors that pump that page count up. The Way of Kings is a hefty read, but it suffers from none of these issues.
What makes Sanderson’s novel different from so many other long fantasy novels? It’s long for a good reason: The pool that Sanderson has created for our imaginations to swim in is deep… i mean deeeeeep deeeeeeep. If it was a pool it’s not an olympic diving pool it’s more like the Deep Joy Y-40 (google it, totally worth the shallow dive into Wikipedia). He uses this depth to weave a dense story for us.
Also, unlike other long novels, the pacing manages to stay brisk. Rarely if ever feeling like it lags. He jumps between a few stories both of wich subtly build upon one another, not so much in interaction but in the knowledge of the world we the reader are gaining.
The world is rich and alien while still being understandable. Massive storms sweep across the land sporadically and all life on the world has adapted to survive them (that’s why vegetation withdraws into the earth, or protective shells, or lays down flat, etc etc etc). There are “magic”* swords, “magic”* armor, a sort of instantaneous transubstantiative alchemy, giant beasts, intriguing huminoid races….. Other than that i don’t think i’ll give any spoilers here.
Book Club of One grade: A+. It’s long, it’s dense, Characters fit into archetypes but in ways that feel refreshing. If you’re on the hunt for a big ol’ fantasy book, give this one a go.
*”Magic” in this book doesn’t feel like magic… it’s mysterious and handled more like a lost science. This is the first in the series so i’m excited to one day further my journey into this world and see how that unfolds.
i have a weakness for a good chick-flick. Its a fact that few of even my close friends know about me. To me people who say they hate The Notebook are either lying or sociopathic! i’m also (as this Book Club of One project would indicate) pretty dang nerdy! So Time Traveler’s Wife manages to scratch two itches reeeeaaal good!
Niffenegger does a good job of putting a new spin on time travel. In TTW (long title, abreviation established… let’s just accept it for this post) time travel is sporadic, uncontrolable, mysterious. There’s not quantum particals, no Time And Relative Dimension In Space vehicle, no 1.21 Gigawatts or 88 MPH… there’s just Richard DeTamble bouncing around occasionally in the time continuum. Uncontrollable, sporadic, sometimes amusing, sometimes touching, often dangerous; he arrives T-800 style butt-naked.
Niffenegger paints some very interesting pictures with her novel. What happens if love between two people occurs out side of a predictible linear time-line? If good people appear random times and places without so much as their skivies how do they learn to cope with that?
Characters feel rich and developed, the story of Richard and Claire’s love together is equally rich. Most of the supporting cast also feel well rounded, complex, and interesting. The origins of the time travel problem are interesting. Some scenes are steamy enough to fog up a mirror but never feel distasteful. (side note: as a male i’m often very interested in how female authors write about sex and sexuality. Niffenegger did a good job depicting sexuality from both sides of the gender coin, both from Claire’s viewpoint and from Richard’s. Kudos)
Book Club of One grade: A+ i recomend this one with zero reservations. This is a book i’d throw into the ring of a non-nerd book club too, you know one with more than one person in it haha. Paced well, great characters, thought provoking, i’ll likely re-read this one agin in a few years.
Something Wicked This Way Comes feels like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman sat down and wrote a project together… which since the book was published in 1962 i guess a better way to phrase that would be that Something Wicked feels like it should be a notable influence on the work of King and Gaiman.
We follow two boys in a small town in America in an age that has since moved on. An age when traveling circuses and carnivals moved around and set up temporary shop outside of towns for a week or so. An age when young boys left the house in the morning and played unsupervised until dinner time. The book proves to be both a glimpse into a world that no longer exists and a deep stare into the fears that plauge us.
Something Wicked is delightlfully surreal. The carnival rolls into town but arrives with odd and ominous portents of it’s true dark nature. A magic carosel features prominently in the story, a ride on this carosel is able to effect the age of the rider as they revolve around on it’s carved horses, either moving you forward or reversing the aging process. This proves to be a source of temptation for several charaters in the novel, including one of the main ones! As i continue to age, and especially now that a new tiny-human is a part of my life, aging is very much in the forefront of my mind many days. A recent trip with my own aging father highlighted the gravity of the passage of time on the human body even more. So i’ve read this book at a time in my life when this magical carosel is of extreme interest to me!
In short this roving band of supernatural and evil carneys come to town looking for the “food” they need… the essence and life-force of life itself. Our two main protagonists are both tempted and terrorized by the creepy carnival hands and their leader.
In the end one of the boys own aging fathers (he’s not old, just older than the father of a boy that age should be- yet another thing i can relate intimatly to right now) cracks the mystery of defeating the evil carneys and winds up in the end saving the day and the town (although the town is mostly unaware of the danger they were really in).
Book Club of One Score: Solid B: Bradbury does a great job painting this dark tale on the stark contrast of such a wholesome backdrop. Its a pretty easy read overall and dips into heavy enough subject matter that while not taking long to read it still sticks in my brain and gives me pause. It has a slight YA feel overall, which i like in a book from time to time (even as a grown man). Pick it up and give this one a go!