Sunday, July 29, 2007

Update and Limited Edition of Snow Crash

I don't have any reviews this weekend, unfortunately. Currently I'm reading a historical fiction/adventure novel called Birds of Prey by Wilbur Smith, so I won't be reviewing that one since this is a speculative fiction site. After that, I'll probably read either Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay or Pandora's Star by Peter Hamilton, unless my copy of Red Seas Under Red Skies, the newest Gentleman Bastard book by Scott Lynch, is here by then, of course! Red Seas Under Red Skies is out in the United States August 1, so the wait for that is almost over. I'm going to order at least one more book off my wish list with it, perhaps Children of Hurin. Too many books, too little money (and time).

Subterranean Press announced today that they will be releasing a limited edition version of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. The limited edition copy is $150 and the lettered edition is $500.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadows

One of my favorite anime series is The Twelve Kingdoms, which is unfortunately a series that never tied up all the loose ends. After I watched it, I was disappointed to find out the novels the anime was based on had not been translated into English so I could read the series (even though the books are also incomplete - the anime is only supposed to only cover events in the first four books out of seven that are currently out, though). Earlier this year Tokyopop released Sea of Shadows, the first novel in the Twelve Kingdoms series by Fuyumi Ono, and my fiance was nice enough to get it for me for my birthday this year. I heard that Tokyopop plans to release one Twelve Kingdoms novel a year, and the next, Sea of Wind, is supposed to be out next March.

Sea of Shadows is a young adult novel which contains rather simplistic writing. The story is at times a little slow, but at the end it was getting much more interesting (which didn't surprise me since the anime also started out a little slow and got interesting around the same point in the story the book did). There is a lot of somewhat repetitive self reflectiveness (some might call it whining) contained in the pages of this book - I personally don't mind reading about a character's thoughts, but in this book the repetitiveness did annoy me a little at times. Everything was spelled out for the reader pretty clearly, but then, it is a young adult book. The story itself, however, is quite charming and I did enjoy reading a fantasy book that used Chinese mythology instead of the generic Western fantasy elements that are prevalent in a lot of the fantasy books available in America.

Sixteen year old Yoko Nakajima is essentially a goody-two-shoes who tries to please everybody. She gets along with her classmates, teachers, and parents and always does her homework. One day at school, a man Yoko has never seen before appears and tells her that her life depends on accepting his allegiance. Not knowing what to do with the chaos caused by his arrival and the strange creatures with him, Yoko agrees and ends up leaving with him. This man, called Keiki, takes Yoko to another world via a powerful shoku, a storm which allows people to cross over from Japan into the world of Twelve Kingdoms. Here, Keiki and Yoko are separated and Yoko must find her way in a strange new world on her own.

As a kaikyaku (a person from Japan who has been brought to the Twelve Kingdoms through a shoku), Yoko soon finds she is an outcast since she is seen as a bad omen. Chased by the authorities and demons, she does not know what to do and is somewhat naive when the occasional person shows her kindness. After being taken advantage of a few times, Yoko becomes quite bitter and is afraid to trust anyone. All she knows is she must find Keiki and find out what is going on.

I absolutely love the mythology in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms - the link between the king and his kirin (a benevolent creature who chooses the king and then acts as his advisor) and the balance between the perfect kirin and the imperfect king, the different creatures, babies that grow on trees and can be part beast/part human. Learning about the new world Yoko has entered was the most fun part of the book for me.

At first, Yoko is a bit annoying as a character since she does become very suspicious and a bit whiny. She develops throughout the book, though, and at the end I rather like her, particularly since I can relate to her original naivete and being a "good girl" who never wants to let anyone down. Reminds me of myself at that age, other than being dropped into the middle of a strange world and chased by demons, of course!

Sea of Shadows could be a little repetitive at times, but it was definitely hard to put down later and I suspect the next books will get even more interesting. It was a charming, enjoyable book, particularly when delving into the world of the Twelve Kingdoms.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


I'm behind on my reviews. I finished Thud! and Sea of Shadows and haven't yet reviewed either of them. I have a good excuse, though - I've been sick all week (and still am). Blech.

So anyway, on to the first book I haven't reviewed, which is Thud! by Terry Pratchett and the only Discworld book I hadn't yet read (at least until the next one comes out this fall).

Thud! is another Discworld book about Sam Vimes and the rest of the City Watch. Tension is everywhere in Ankh-Morpork as the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley, a war between the trolls and the dwarfs, approaches. A prominent dwarf is found dead with a club beside him and a famous painting depicting the Battle of Koom Valley disappears from the museum. It's up to the Watch, with a bit of help from "Mr. Shine" (who turns out to be a troll king and not, in fact, a cleaning product), to discover what is going on and the truth nobody wants to hear about what actually happened at Koom Valley.

As has been the case with the last few Discworld books, there is a bit more of a serious note to Thud!. It's certainly not all seriousness, though, as becomes apparent by such touches as the artist of the stolen painting being afraid of a chicken he hears in his head. Another humorous addition is the Gooseberry dis-organizer with Bluenose technology that Sybil gave Vimes, which is reminiscent of the palm pilot except this one is powered by a little talking imp.

It's always fun to see how Pratchett takes a fantasy world and illustrates our modern world through it. The "affirmative action" in the Watch that results in the hiring of dwarfs, trolls, a werewolf, golems, and in this book, a vampire always keeps things interesting as all these different species try to get along. Different religions and superstitions are wonderfully illustrated through these various creatures. I also liked the way he poked fun at art and artists and what makes a piece of work actual tasteful art.

I wouldn't call this the best of the Discworld books, but it was certainly still a lot of fun containing much of the satire the series is known for.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire

Recently, I finished the final book in Storm Constantine's Wraeththu Chronicles, The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire, after being glued to it for a good chunk of the day. I was sad to see the trilogy come to an end, but at least there is still the Wraeththu Histories trilogy left to read.

This story was told from the point of view of Calanthe, who was a major character in both of the previous books in the trilogy. Calanthe, not knowing where else to go, ends up working in a whore house for a time. Eventually, he leaves the whore house to travel around Jaddoyoth, on a quest to discover his destiny and who is sending him on journeys to learn from various Wraeththu.

Since this book is about Cal, it also fills in the missing information on what happened to him after he was separated from Swift in the second book.

There is not much I can say about this that I have not already said about the first two books. It is beautifully written, and each point-of-view character has his own voice, making it seem as though each book really could be written by a different person. Cal's voice is more humorous and sarcastic than Pellaz or Swift, making him a pleasure to read about. The other characters are also portrayed as unique individuals with their own problems and motives that set them apart from other characters. I have rarely read books with such strong character development - there are no black and white characters here.

The story is thoughtfully written and contains a lot of interesting speculation on what the world would be like if humanity was replaced by a race of hermaphrodites that is more enlightened than humanity yet very human at times, no matter how hard they try to escape it.

This is one of those books I could not stop thinking about once I was finished. I still don't think it charmed me quite as much as the first book, but I couldn't put it down since I wanted to find out if Pell and Cal ever saw each other again.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Bewitchments of Love and Hate

The Bewitchments of Love and Hate is the second book in the Wraeththu Chronicles by Storm Constantine. It is much the same as the first book in that it is beautifully written, emotionally absorbing, thoughtful, and fascinating. I almost enjoyed it as much as the first book, but not quite - not because of the book itself, but because I wanted to find out what happened to Pellaz, who was not in this book other than being briefly mentioned on a few occasions.

The second book of Wraeththu is told from the perspective of Swift, the son of Cobweb and Terzian whom we met in the first book when Cal and Pellaz stayed with the Varrs for a time. The story starts with Swift as a young har and is the first part is somewhat of a coming-of-age story. I loved the way Constantine got inside Swift's head as she wrote about his first learning of humans and how he pictured them from what the other Wraeththu told him.

Cobweb tells Swift of the demon Cal who once broke Terzian's heart by leaving and his feeling that Cal will return some day. Terrified by Cobweb's obvious fear of this event, Swift tries to protect the house from evil, but Cal is found one day and brought to their home. As in the first book, the story isn't about action so much as the relationships between characters, but it is very enchanting and well-done.

Many of the characters who appeared in the first book appeared in this one in addition to the aforementioned - Seel, Ashmael, Thiede, and Caeru, to name a few. Constantine has a rare gift when it comes to characterization - I can't remember being as emotionally attached to a set of characters since when I read the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire. Each of the characters is so real and has their own unique personality - I loved them all.

This book gives more details on some aspects of the Wraeththu that are not explored very fully in the first book - for instance, the different tribes, Wraeththu magic, aruna, and Wraeththu procreation.

I still loved this book, but I felt it lacked some of the magic of the first book. This could have been because I'd already become enthralled by the first book, or just because I really want to know more about what happened to Pellaz. I suspect this is the case since it is no less well-written or beautiful than the first book, and the characters no less endearing. I still savored it and read some passages a couple of times, but it didn't give me that feeling of wanting to start the book all over again when I was done like the first one did (although I would definitely reread it at some point in the future).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Bewitchments of Love and Hate and highly recommend it to people who enjoy thoughtful, character-driven, unique stories (who have read the first book, of course!).


Monday, July 2, 2007

Go to Carol Berg's Site and Win a Free Book!

I saw on Carol Berg's website the other day that she is holding a drawing for a free autographed book of your choice! All you have to do is send her an email with the subject "drawing" and you're entered. I thought maybe you had to supply your address or which book you would like to receive if you won, but Carol responded to my email (I'm such a dork - that made my day!) and said that sending the email was all that was required.

Visit the site and scroll to the bottom for the address to send drawing entries to:
Carol Berg's Site