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Book review: Freedom and Necessity - Phil's Rambling Rants — LiveJournal
March 9th, 2006
11:02 pm

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Book review: Freedom and Necessity
Today's book review is Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull.

This is a book I never would have tackled if not for the authors, and I'm not sure it was entirely worth it even so.  At 444 pages, it's not as long as some things I've read, but the language, style, and complexity of the plot make it quite a difficult slog.  It's set in middle 19th Century England, and cast as a series of letters between the characters, written (of course) in the style of the time.  And despite the suggestion in the cover blurb that it's a fantasy, and a few little hints here and there, it's pretty much completely an ordinary-world story of political intrigue and family politics of the worst sort.

All of the above makes it sound like a terrible, boring waste of time, and it's quite a credit to the authors that they did hold my interest in both the characters and the plot.  It was an interesting and enjoyable story, despite being quite a gruelling slog.  (It took me two weeks to read the thing, two weeks when I was otherwise occupied with a dreadful cold which left me with no energy to do anything but read, and I was putting in quite a bit of time on the project.)  It might, in fact, not have been as interesting if it had been shorter and lighter reading, though I still would have preferred it that way.  Brust and Bull do an amazing job of writing a novel I wouldn't want to read, and in the end it comes out a pretty good book.  To someone for whom the story and style are a treat rather than an ordeal, it should be a fantastic book, but I'm afraid I will have to give it a 7 out of 10.

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From:daev
Date:March 10th, 2006 05:18 am (UTC)
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There are definitely books that require the flu.

One of them is Always Coming Home which never would have become a favorite book if it weren't for the fact that I had nothing else to read in the apartment while I was stuck in bed.

I enjoyed F&N, but, like you, I found it a bit of a slog. David Gehrig got me to read both Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow and I felt the same way: I'm glad I read it, and it was never outright hard, but I had to keep shoving myself forcefully along the whole way through.
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From:janeg
Date:March 10th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Very similar to my reaction, Phil. I got through it but kept wondering why, as the style and topic were not my usual choice and the book was overly long. If I had not liked their other writings, I would not have kept going. A good editor might have made the authors cut enough to really improve - but perhaps the authors would not.
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