On Rereading

I am going to throw out a couple of numbers. These numbers are just guesses, because Jurassic Parkthey involve things I never actually tracked, but I don’t think they are all that far off and are presented not as hard stats but just to give a general impression. So I think everyone should be OK with them.

Jurassic Park – 20

Small Gods – 12

Tom Sawyer – 10

Dragonflight -6

To Kill A Mockingbird -5

The Thrawn Trilogy – 5

The First Law – 3

God’s War -3

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell -2

This numbers represent, to the best of my guessing ability without a time machine to double check them, how many times I have read the books in question. Now Jurassic Park is an outlier for sure, it was the first adult novel I was given and in fifth grade it was as good as gold for me. I read it five or six times back to back and continued to reread it periodically right through high school. Likewise Tom Sawyer was a book I have held a copy of forever and I had to read To Kill A Mockingbird twice for classes.

Every other book listed is a title I have picked up in high school or later and then reread, for pleasure, several times since. I am a re-reader and I am not ashamed of this fact. If there was one thing that was ever going to derail my blogging it was the burning desire to go back to old favorites again. As I pushed through a growing pile of new releases and other new to me books my book shelves started singing my name. ‘Nathan,’ they called. ‘Nathan, we have all your old favorites’ right here!’

I have finally snapped. I refuse to refuse the siren call. I grabbed City of Stairs, very likely my favorite read of last year, and I pushed everything else back to read it.

And it was wonderful.

And I will most likely do it again.

Let that sink in. I reread a book less than a year after reading it the first time. For a person whose online persona is built entirely around being up to date on current reads this is not common. Especially as said person has watched his reading time cut in half or more by a change in jobs.

I understand why people don’t reread, I really do. I did not grow up in a family of re-readers. My mom and dad both read, but neither saw a purpose in buying a book that will only be read once (obviously our entire philosophy on reading was different from the start). They both figured that once you knew the story then what was the point? And as a person will a chronic need to know the ending (to the point of reading Wiki synopsis of books I have no plan on actually reading) I suppose I understand this.

Then of course is the blogger’s nightmare; a reread of an old book is one new book not getting read. And it isn’t just bloggers who feel this way. There are so many quality books out there, and the feeling of discovering something new and wonderful is such a great feeling, I really do understand the desire to keep looking for the next book love.

All of this, and a thousand other reasons why people don’t reread, I understand.

But I don’t actually get it.

When it came to City of Stairs I found myself thinking about it again during a recent Tough Travel’s topic. And I remembered how cool it was when they found a list of items in the Unmentionable Warehouse. And then I was trying to remember exactly how Sigrud took on the sea monster. And.. And… And……..

I was nose deep.

And yes, Shara was just as awesome. How did I forget the scene where she gets so angry that she…cooks. And not pancakes and fried eggs, no, Shara is too pissed for that. She goes gourmet fucking meal on those ingredients.

And yes, Sigrud was still something else. The man saves the day not once but twice and still sits in the background of Shara, that is something spectacular.

And little details were remembered, while other details missed the first time were found.

Most importantly I didn’t have one single thought that I was wasting my time. The story was just as fresh, even if I knew where it was going. I was enjoying reading this as much as any other book I have read this year. Which makes sense, because I enjoyed it as much as any book I read last year as well. Why would things be different this time?

Of course I have been doing a Discworld reread for some time now. And there have been a couple books, especially in the early days of the blog, that I had read once before and reread in order to drop a review. But for the most part I have resisted the call of the bookshelf and told myself that they would all be there when I finished blogging. That resistance is now broken. I refuse to deny myself one of life’s greatest pleasures.

A good story is always good, great prose always appreciated, and characters that become your friend never get old. Rereading great books should not be a guilty pleasure it should only be a pleasure. And if the old blog suffers a bit from it, so be it.

Hell, I may reread City of Stairs before the sequel hits.   Just because I can.

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Tough Travels – Heists/Cons

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week we look at Heists/Cons

Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

Oh wow, is it Thursday?  Sorry I am late people, let’s go!

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes- Actually, I have not read this book yet. Mostly I am putting it here as a reminder that I want to. Especially since an author recently recommended it to me. But I am positive that it is about a heist of some kind because reviews have told me so.

The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachael Aaron- I picked the omnibus but really the heist aspects of Eli Monpress move on to a full blown save the world plotline that impressed me greatly. But the first two books are very much heists as Eli works toward his goal to be the thief with the highest bounty in the world. Which if he keeps it up shouldn’t be too hard; this is a man who can smooth talk an entire ocean and walk right out of any jail around.

A reread is desperately needed, I am missing Nico quite a bit these days.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch-One of my favorite books. Sometimes I don’t understand why things are popular but this is certainly not one of them. Watching long cons worked out on several different time frames was a work of near perfection. The fact that Locke and his crew were doing all this thieving for religious reasons of a type even better.

But judging by how often Lynch ends up in Tough Travels I am guessing every one of my readers already knows how awesome this book is and has already placed it on their own list for the week.

The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J Sullivan – I remember this book started with a couple of thieves bragging about a hired out heist they just performed. I also remember I didn’t think it was believable nor that the two thieves were all that witty. I admit, I gave up about two thirds through when some wizard starting speaking in faux medieval English.

The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton-Not fantasy but I had to include my very favorite heist book of all time. Details, details, details. I love the long planning that was required to pull this one off. Even better was the ingenuity followed by pure luck in the final stages that allowed the villains access to their goal. A move was made based on this book. I should track it down. But I doubt it will live up to the book.

They never do.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling- Oh yes, any heist that ends with a dragon ride is guaranteed to close out a list. I couldn’t remember if this occurred in book six or seven but my lovely wife (who is currently on the final book of her latest reread) assured me that they went into the vault in Deathly Hallows. Where Harry and company pissed off a lot of goblins, tipped Voldy off to their plan, and of course rode a dragon out of town.

Join us next week as we look at DISGUISES

Hiding in plain site?  Put on a disguise.  Often used to sneak into the evil lair.  For best results brain a guard and steal his; no one is tracking these things.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Review: ‘Dark Eden’ by Chris Beckett

Dark EdenIt is a fine, fine line that sometimes separates those little details that work and those that start to fall apart and take a book with it. Dark Eden is a book that could go wrong in a hurry by relying on some threads that have to be played just right. It is a near future society that lost its access to technology, a sci-fi dystopia if you will. And be honest how many dystopias hold up to a close reading? It also takes modern English and twists it around to fit the people speaking it. Even though I am not a linguist I tend to pay more attention to language in speculative fiction worlds than anyone wants me to and all too often it doesn’t hold up. Both of these aspects had a chance to derail the entire reading experience for me yet I made it through the whole book. A good sign.

Dark Eden is a title that can be taken quite literally. The world is a literal Eden, started by only two people stranded only five or so generations back. It is also dark, with no star in the sky the only light is provided by the life on the planet (or whatever this celestial body happens to be); native trees and animals mostly have their own light source (with tree being one of many things with Earth names the founders used them on completely new flora and fauna). Both of these setups are more than background information that sits in the back; they are intrical (it’s a word, a promise) to every portion of the story.

For several generations the people of Eden have diversified their genes best they can, scavenged for food, and eeked out an existence as they look to the dark sky for their eventual rescue promised by the founders. Their entire presence is a mistake but with three of the original five heading back to earth it is a given that if they stay close they will be found. Life is getting harder as the population grows and tradition set down by this extended family doesn’t allow for deviation. Finally one young man named John looks at the situation and decides it should change. The valley they live in can’t be everything in the world and if the animals of the land can cross the snowy dark then…

And we come back to those little details and how well they work out in this ambitious setup. Language can be a sticking point. I have read some reviews of Dark Eden that take issues with the liberties he takes with English. One on Goodreads specifically (and quite entertainingly) compares the bastardization of certain words to Dolly from the Family Circus comic; childish mishearings that have stuck in the society. And it is true, ‘versary’ instead of anniversary and radio being split into two words seems like a simplistic approach. But in this one man’s opinion it actually works here. We are dealing with a society that come from two people; any lisp, idioms, or misheard phrasing is forever stuck in the groups’ vocabulary without a larger society to correct it.

The same can be said about the use of repeating worlds for emphasis (it was cold cold out there). My love of British humor has seeped into my everyday language, which in turn has spread among my social group. I have heard many friends say things like ‘pull the other one it has bells,’ a very non regional cliché. I also am quite proud of how many people I know use ‘snake’ in place of the word steal. So I have no problem with a small society taking on linguistics of a couple of dominating personalities. Something I am known to nitpick over is a strength in my mind; just one more aspect of some pretty unique world building.

But another little detail was tougher to swallow. The book seemed to decide on an inevitable move from a fairly female dominated group to a generational shift to patriarchy. The necessity of keeping the gene pool diverse (hairlips and other birth defects already plague the colony) has also let to sexual freedom and is something that has helped women keep an equal footing in this devolving land. But changes that John brings about spark a power grab that seems destined to end with women in a secondary role. Already many women in the society seem content with being regulated to breeding stock; several men in the society seem happy to take what agency they have in their lives away.

Details like this aside I don’t hesitate to say I was hooked on this book throughout. Minus the Eden aspect (and various other biblical allusions that the people of the land have played telephone with to almost being unrecognizable) there was almost nothing recognizable about this land. Life coming from the core rather from the sun and light being provided by the native flora and fauna finally clicked in my mind as a deep sea setting on dry land; valleys acting in the same role as vents in the sea by providing heat and focal points for life. And while I hesitate to call most (if any) characters likable they are still fairly compelling.

Mother of Eden is out soon, if not all ready. Peeking ahead it looks like it skips two hundred years in the future of this land. I am going to move it to my must read pile.

4 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

Tough Travels – Dead Gods

tough-traveling

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week we look at DEAD GODS

Fantasyland had gods, right?  And now they are dead.  Dead Gods are not forgotten though, often they are still just influential to the land as they were when living.

I was told weasels turned out harder than people thought.  Maybe this week was easier?

The Godless (Children, #1)The Godless by Ben Peek– Ger is almost dead (Mostly dead?). Not quite dead yet. As in, dead, but his power is still pulsing. A giant whose fallen body shapes the landscape is Ger, and his death has been a slow one. Mortals are born with just a hint of his power years after his fall.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett– The seat of the world was once the center of power. Six gods ruled the land but they were forced to share Bulikov. Until the Kaj discovered how to take them down. Suddenly a land who ruled the known world on the strength of their very active gods collapsed on itself. The death of gods causes a few issues; magical architecture falls apart, a city once near tropical faces the reality of its climate, and suddenly a lack of built up immunities comes into play.

So why is it that some minor miracles still work in Bulikov?

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone- Lets throw the whole craft sequence in this post. Because if there is any theme to these connected yet standalone novels it involves gods dying. Full Fathom Five is all about someone who won’t accept her own charge’s death.

But in Three Parts Dead it is a more powerful god who goes down, not some constructed idol. Kos is a fire god that a city requires for survival. His flame powers the city and yet somehow he gave too much. It is up to neophyte necromancer Tara to resurrect him before the city is done for.

Is the Craft Sequence the most impossible to describe fantasy around? I think it may be.

Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin- I will be honest, I don’t even remember the name of The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2)the Godling found dead in the alley. But poor Oree finds herself caught up in a very convoluted conspiracy because of her habit of collecting various deities in her life.   Godlings being killed is not something other Godlings are fond of.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett – The Great God Om is not dead! So I shouldn’t include him. But he is as close to dead as a good can be, with no belief left and all the power in the world to turn into…a tortoise. He has all of one believer in the world and poor Brutha has already crossed paths with the most dangerous man around- the leader of the Church of Om.

Grim Company by Luke Scull – The in this world were cast down by a group of powerful magicians. Their bodies now pulse with power that can be mined. They don’t play much a part in the series so far but the basics of their down fall were just too cool not to mention.

Join us next week as we look at HEISTS/CONS

Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in fantasy land. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a little bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Fantasy Review: ‘When the Heavens Fall’ by Marc Turner

All roads lead to Rome.When the Heavens Fall

Mayot gets his hands on an object that gives him power to rival the gods. And it is quickly apparent he plans on using it. His presence turns into a magnet for everything to follow; a focal point for the entire cast to converge on for differing reasons. Some know exactly why they are heading to this man while some are driven there by factors beyond their control. But each soul that heads in his direction is drawn in completely; one way or another their fate will be decided in his new magnetism.

I will let you know that this book didn’t hook me right away. There was a D&D feel to some of it, starting with the naming conventions of things like the Forest of Sighs and The Book of Lost Souls. Characters felt wooden and early scene of powers in negotiations didn’t work at all. Toss in a night attack by what can only be described as ninjas and a character speaking in a faux old English accent and my eyes found themselves rolled completely into the back of the head.

But patience in this case was absolutely rewarded. The consistent build up, chapter after chapter, was handled superbly. Power growing and building; Mayot extends his reach a little more with each fight, small or large. And as his power grows the ripples are felt from farther away, leading to even more of the players in this magical world wanting the book he holds for their own. And Mayot’s plans are truly ambitious; it wasn’t until late in the book that I realized just how far he was willing to take this.

This is not a subtle book, it is a book of magic. Mayot will take on wizards, titans and gods. Some try to take, some try to manipulate (my favorite character’s favorite tactic) and some try to negotiate. And did I mention that Mayot’s methods are truly horrible? No? Some are trying to stop him only because his success will lead to things worse than death. When the Heavens Fall is completely about the buildup and the payoff; characters, history of the world, deep themes is not the game here. If you are willing to play along, which I eventually was, then there is little room for disappointment by the end.

Every so often a book does something that catches your eye that maybe isn’t central to the plot, or character, but still seems worth remembering. Turner wrote a book with a cast with a fairly mixed gender representation. Woman and men both act with strong agency. But what caught my eye was a completely lack of gender notice by the narrator. There is a standard practice (made fun of early by Terry Pratchett) that when a female mercenary is introduced a reader is immediately clued in to if this one is a possible love interest based on physical characteristics or not. But the men and women of this world are given the same treatment. Unless a specific character makes note of a physical detail a movie casting could truly be put together with a blank slate.  A bit of tangent I know, but the realization hit me and I couldn’t help but mention it.

This was a book I started slow on and had some innate silliness in its set up. But I cannot ignore the buildup that eventually hooked me, nor the fact that the payoff didn’t disappoint. Mark Turner wrote a damn fine book.

4 Stars

International Giveaway: ‘The Ritual’ by Erica Dakin

The Ritual (Theft and Sorcery, #1)Author Erica Dakin is one of Fantasy Review Barn’s oldest friends.  I assume she found us when Pauline first reviewed The Ritual but however she ended up here I am thrilled she stuck around (pushing me to keep the Discworld reread going the whole time).

With the third book of the series out she has kindly offered to put a copy of the first in the series up for grabs to our readers.  Even better, a rare international giveaway.  She only asks that you be 18 or older to enter (a little bit of, well, explicit sex may be within the pages).

She describes the book as a romance with fantasy elements and a bit of adventure…what am I doing?  Here is the blurb.

For Chiarin, a young half-elf thief, life is all about survival. Her race means that she is considered an outcast and disposable, and every day could bring her death.

Then she meets fellow thief Zashter, a master of their chosen trade. Against Chiarin’s expectations he agrees to take her on as his pupil, and draws her into a dangerous adventure gathering powerful magical items at the behest of his sinister employer. What purpose these items will serve Chiarin does not know, but it soon becomes apparent that Zashter should not be trusted.

Yet she cannot deny the mutual attraction growing between them, and she becomes entangled so deeply that there is no going back. Soon she must face the biggest choice of her life, a choice Zashter no longer has…

Good luck to all that enter!

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U.S. Giveaway: ‘The Windup Girl’ by Paolo Bacigulpi

The Windup GirlAnderson Lake is AgriGen’s Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in this chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

 

Paolo Bacigulpi’s The Windup Girl was a phenomenal success. The book, which came out with Night Shade Books, won both the HUGO and the NEBULA awards in 2009.  As the clock ticks down to Bacigulpi’s newest release, The Water Knife, Night Shade is releasing a new expanded edition of The Windup Girl with additional stories, an author Q&A and in a larger format with a re-imagined cover. 

In order to celebrate the author’s upcoming tour we have been given the opportunity to give away two copies of this new edition to readers.  First the tour dates (look Colorado people, we got a ton of love!), then scroll down to the rafflecopter and enter for your chance to win!

5/26/15: Denver, CO Tattered Cover, reading, Q&A, and signing

5/27/15: Boulder, CO Boulder Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing

5/28-29/15: New York, NY, BEA and NYC media

5/30/15: Boston, MA Brookline Booksmith, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/2/15: Chicago, IL Anderson’s Bookshop, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/3/15: Salt Lake City, UT The King’s English, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/4/15: Phoenix, AR Changing Hands Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/6-6/7/15: San Francisco, CA, Bay Area Literary Festival

6/6-6/7/15: San Francisco, CA, Borderlands, signing

6/8/15: San Diego, CA Mysterious Galaxy, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/9/15: Los Angeles, Vroman’s, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/10/15: Portland, OR Powell’s Bookstore, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/11/15: Seattle, WA University Book Store, reading, Q&A, and signing

6/18/15: Crested Butte, CO Rumors Coffee and Tea House, reading, Q&A, and signing

Good luck to all all!

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