November 02, 2004
Magician by Raymond E. Feist

Magician by Raymond E. Feist: this is a Viking Classic compiliation of two novels, Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master, both with slight changes, presented as an “Author’s Preferred Edition.”

At the beginning of this saga (this compiliation was almost seven hundred pages), we meet Pug, a thirteen-year-old orphan who lives at the castle Crydee in the peaceful Kingdom of the Isles. He is best friends with Tomas and the two enjoy their boyhood not knowing the destinies that await them.

Soon, Pug is apprenticed to Kulgan, the castle’s magician, and Tomas is choosen to be a soldier. However, strange happenings are soon to occur that plunges not only their world, but also another, into an epic fight spanning decades with repercussions that they never could have dreamed of.

This is another one of my purposely vague reviews because I want this book to be as much a surprise for you as it was for me. I was about half way through when I happened upon a reivew that contained a spolier that would have ruined much of the novel for me if I hadn’t almost reached that part already.

This was definitely one of the better books I’ve read all year and I read most of it in one sitting despite its length. I was constantly amazed at how well he was able to create what amounted to dozens of main characters, all of whom I felt connected to and very interested in seeing how their lives would play out.

If you are a fan of adventures, swords and sorcery, or just love a good yarn, then you cannot go wrong with these books. I have ordered the next book in the Riftwar Saga, Silverthorn, and am anxiously awaiting the time I can return to the world of Pug, Tomas, and so many others.

October 02, 2004
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde: the second novel in the Thursday Next series, picking up where The Eyre Affair left off.

Again, it’s 1985, England is the world’s biggest superpower and a virtual police state seemingly controlled by the mega-corporation Goliath. Thursday Next, Special Operations Literary Detective, has managed to infuriate Mr. Schitt-Hawse, a Goliath executive, by imprisioning his half-brother Jack Schitt in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Schitt-Hawse proceeds to blackmail Thursday into getting his half-brother back by eradicating any trace of her new husband so that she’s the only one who even remembers him.

To make matters worse, a bunch of bizarre coincidences have resulted in accidents that almost take her life and she still has to figure out if the newly discovered Shakespearean play was really penned by the bard and save the world from turing into a ball of pink sludge.

As with The Eyre Affair, one has to have a certain suspension of disbelief, but I completely loved the book. The literary references and jokes were wonderful and trying to figure out how Thursday’s going to deal with everything that’s going on is both interesting and fun. I really look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Well of Lost Plots

October 27, 2003
Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown

Cannibals of the fine Light by Simon Brown: a short story collection from an Australian author that never quite lived up to its potential.

These stories, set in a not-to-distant future, almost all revolved around biochips planted in people’s brains and their relationships with other humans, machines and animals.

For the most part, I didn’t really enjoy too many of the stories. I wanted to know more about the time and place that they happened in. Kind of like with William Gibson’s Neuromancer, I felt that I was missing key elements as to why people did the things that they did. I just never really felt myself drawn into the story.

Saying that, however, I did enjoy a few of them. They were “The Mind’s Eye,” “The Final Machine,” “Brother Stripes,” “Rain From the New God,” and “The Truth in Advertising,” a clever little co-written piece that made reading the book worth it. Not really recommended, but fans of anthologies may find enough gems in here to make mining the book worth it.

October 20, 2003
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham: this is science fiction at its best, relevant and enjoyable still even though it was published almost fifty years ago.

David Strorm lives in a community where genetic mutations are an every day part of life. Whenever these mutations occur (ranging from small differences like an extra toe or finger to the extreme like a two-headed calf), they are rooted out. In the case of livestock and crops they are destroyed and for those humans unlucky enough to deviate from the Divine Image of God, they are cast out of the community and sent to live in The Fringes.

David has the ability to communicate via telepathy, something he’s been able to hide for most of his life. However, as he gets older and the risks are more serious, it becomes inevitable that his secret will be found out.

I completely devoured this book, enjoying every minute of it. Despite that it was written almost fifty years ago, the language and people of the book were as fresh as if their stories had just been conceived.

I wish that Wyndham would have written a sequel to this book so that I could see how everyone’s lives played out and if information about The Tribulation was ever discovered (my money’s on nuclear war).

Great book and at just 200 pages, a perfect, quick read. Recommended for all, especially sci-fi fans.

October 06, 2003
The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert

The Santaroga Barrier by Frank Herbert: a science fiction novel by one of the best in the field that seemed to hold more promise than was ever delivered.

In Santaroga, a valley town in California, everything appears to be normal - until you look closely, that is. No one ever moves away for long, there’s no business in the town that aren’t local, and outsiders aren’t welcome.

Gilbert Dasein is hired by a group of corporate marketers to visit Santaroga and discover its secrets. Since Gil once dated and is still in love with a local girl named Jenny, it’s hoped that he’ll have more luck than the previous researchers, all of whom died in a series of accidents.

This book had a very strong Twilight Zone feel to it, but I ultimately felt that it never really delivered on its promise of being a scary, intriguing sci-fi novel. It’s not that it was bad, but it just wasn’t as good as I had hoped. I felt that it lacked a strong resolution of what the mysterious Jaspers was and how it came to be in the town.

Also, the book was first written in 1968 and I felt that it seemed a little dated to me. Nothing huge, but some of the issues of race and the like didn’t quite feel right. If you’re a sci-fi fan, this one may still be up your alley, but I don’t strongly recommended.

September 10, 2003
Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn

Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn: a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic story Jane Eyre in a very different time and setting - far in the far in outer space.

Jenna Starborn is a woman who was created in the gen-tanks of planet Baldus for a woman who could not conceive. A few months after Jenna was “born,” a scientific break-through was achieved and Jenna’s “aunt” could now carry her own baby. Thus, Jenna became an unwanted half-citizen loved nor cared for by anyone.

Since the story is a basic retelling of Jane Eyre, it was never hard to tell exactly what was going to happen next since I’d read the book years ago. However, Shinn has created a very believable future and characters that I could sympathize with. I really liked Jenna and wanted to see good things happen to her, though I knew some very painful experiences awaited her future.

All in all, it was a very satisfying read and I enjoyed my time in Jenna’s world. Incidentally, this novel is classified as science fiction, but that’s mostly due to it taking place in the future in outer space.

June 23, 2003
Neuromaner by William Gibson

Neuromaner by William Gibson: rarely have I had a book disappoint me as much as this one has.

This book won the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Philip K. Dick - the first novel to ever win all three sci-fi awards. It coined the term cyberspace. And yet, I found it incredibly uninvolving.

I think my main problem with the book is that when it started out, I felt slightly lost - like I was in a country where they spoke English, but the English was a little different from my own. This made me try and fit it into stories I already knew creating an amalgamation of Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic (also written by Gibson), and The Matrix. I appreciate the fact that by not explaining the past or the present to the readers Gibson presents the novel like it is an accepted reality. I believe, though, this is why I never really was able to get into either the stories or the characters. Trying to get the simple, everyday concepts ("What the hell is a coffin? Why’s he sleeping in it?") made it more of a task to read the book in turn making it harder to accept the characters and understand their motivations. I just desperately wanted it to end so I could move on to something else.

Let me say, however, that there is definitely wonderful stuff in this book - hell, the first line is great. It probably gets better with each read since more will make sense from the get-go, but my frustration and disappoint with the book will probably cause me never to give it another go.

March 31, 2003
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: one of the most entertaining, original books that I’ve had the pleasure to read in quite awhile.

The place is England. The time is 1985, but it’s not an England or a 1985 that you or I would recognize. England, the biggest superpower, is a virtual police state, the Crimean War is still going on after 130 years, Wales is now self-governed, and Goliath, a mega-corporation, seems to run everything from the shadows.

The novel centers around Thursday Next, a Special Operative, who works in the Literary Division. The nefarious Acheron Hades is out to change manuscripts of important novels by kidnapping characters from their pages. While it sounds outlandish, believe me, it really works.

I found this novel to be hugely entertaining and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I expected it to be light-hearted and funny (very much like a Stephanie Plum novel), but was surprised to find out that it wasn’t that way at all. The book does require some suspension of disbelief, but I found myself slipping into Thursday’s world with no problem. I could really see it appealing to mystery, fantasy, and sci-fi lovers very easily, but it’s definitely a novel I would suggest that anyone try.