Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.25 to 4.75 stars

Five stars is a gift, because parts of this 'story' frustrated me to no end, though the novel carries a very strong four star rating for me. Yet the hidden gems I found along the winding road this tale took made me laugh, cry, rage, cry some more, laugh some more, and scratch my head in wonder.

Pros: Exceptional story telling (occasionally, sporadically), often lyrical prose, beautiful deep embedded world building beyond the mere descriptive paragraph. I loved the scenes with Master Elodin, Devi, Bast and to some degree with Denna, a character I had little sympathy for in The Name of the Wind.

Cons: When we finally leave the University (a full one-third of the way through the novel), the action and adventure is quashed in a couple of sentences, at least as it respects the actual journey east. All the chapters seem too short to me, but that might be because I tend to read epic fantasy where the length of the chapters can approach one hundred pages or more. And here we are, back at the University again when we reach the end of the second day.

I plan to re-read, in succession, both novels of the Kingkiller Chronicle, later this year. I decided not to re-read The Name of the Wind prior to reading The Wise Man's Fear and feel now that was probably a mistake. I struggled to remember some of the characters the author referenced in passing in the second novel.

And now the waiting begins, and if history is any indicator, at least a half decade will pass before the past (Kvothe) and present (Kote) converge in the final (or is that 'next') Kingkiller Chronicle novel.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review, Lecture and Discussion: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics)Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I skimmed through this prior to attending the lecture and discussion sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library as the second of four novels in their 'A Taste of Victorian Literature' series. For a full report on the event, please visit my blog post entitled 'Charlotte Bronte Burns Through the Cool Veil of Jane Eyre' (warning: it's four pages long, so don't forget to click through to the rest of the post when you reach the bottom of a page).

Visit my review from May 2009 for my thoughts, insights and first impressions into Jane Eyre.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: It Can't Happen Here by Lewis

It Can't Happen Here (Signet Classics)It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Written in the 30s, during the depths of the Depression, before World War II, this dystopian classic paints a grim picture of America's fall into it's own flavor of fascism. Some of his assertions stretched my belief nearly to the breaking point, most notable being the seemingly easy evaporation of two of our three branches of government after the League of Forgotten Men rise in power and seize the executive branch.

The novel follows the life of Jessup Doremus, an elderly (nearly retirement age) editor of a small town Vermont newspaper, uniquely positioned to lead us down the slippery slope of disappearing civil liberties and rising paranoia among the citizenry. The evils promulgated by petty near-thugs upon strangers, neighbors, friends and family ... almost indiscriminately ... all as an exercise in absolute power (as far as I could tell).

Not a comforting read, except for a brief glimpse of hope at the end. I can understand the shock value it would have had when it was published. I'm glad I read it, and even more glad none of it has proved prophetic for America ... yet.

I read this novel as one of the suggested readings for my local library's adult winter reading program called 'Altered States' and blogged about my reading journey.

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Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by PKD

The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 - 3.75 stars

I struggled a bit with PKD's prose, which at times staggered about like an alcoholic or drug addict and/or a mentally ill person rambling about their innermost incoherent thoughts. But an occasional brilliance burst through the befuddlement to guide me back if I strayed too far off course.

Written almost twenty years after World War II, PKD presents us with an America divided up as spoils of war between the Japanese Empire and Nazi Germany. He portrayed a believable view of American life under two fascist regimes. I surprised myself by feeling empathy not only for the victimized Americans (including Jews hunted to extinction, Blacks reduced to slaves, and other insidious persecutions of non-Aryan races), but also the Japanese, some of whom begin to see the writing on the wall.

I couldn't help but compare the Oracle (aka as the I Ching or Book of Changes) to the Cosmological Interventionists represented by two out-of-control orphaned Blitz children in Willis' Blackout/All Clear. It's a stretch, but the conclusion of both novels left me with the same intriguing warm fuzzy feeling.

I read this novel as one of the suggested readings for my local library's adult winter reading program called 'Altered States' and blogged about my reading journey.

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Book Review: Dragon's Egg by Forward

Dragon's EggDragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit to a science fiction reader shortcoming: I love to watch science fiction, but usually don't care to read it, especially the sub-genre of 'hard science fiction.'

And to be completely honest, I thought I gave myself a migraine reading the first pages of Dragon's Egg (an astrophysics crash course in neutron stars). Once past the cold hard super-heavy facts, I thoroughly enjoyed the development of the cheela life-form and the brief interaction the human scientists experienced.

I completely sympathized with the crew of the Dragon Slayer not wanting to blink, let alone sleep, as they watched the astonishing development of cheela society. In just a few hours, the cheela civilization went from 'savages, stagnating in an illiterate haze' to outpacing human development by 'many thousands of years.' Relatively speaking, of course.

I didn't connect to any one particular cheela, since their lifespans were so short in human terms, nor with any of the scientists, who got the short-end of the stick when it came to their story-line. But my eyes teared up reading a farewell delivered by a cheela robot to the human scientists, a fitting benediction to a benevolent mutually beneficial first contact interaction.

Recommended for all fans of science fiction, first contact stories and hard sci-fi novels.

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The reason I read this book? It won the poll for the March 2011 Beyond Reality science fiction selection.

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Dragon's Eggragon's Egg
by Robert L. Forward
Start date: March 1, 2011

The Name of the WindThe Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss
Start date: March 1, 2011

Traitor's KnotTraitor's Knot
by Janny Wurts
Start date: February 17, 2011

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