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May 27th, 2008 - Phil's Rambling Rants

May 27th, 2008

May 27th, 2008
09:40 pm

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Book review: Gentlemen of the Road
Book reviews are piling up again.  First on the pile is Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon.

This book is something of a departure for me -- it's a mainstream novel.  It's historical, but with no fantasy elements at all, and written by an up and coming Literary Author.  And I picked it up because it actually sounded good in a review on All Things Considered.

From the opening few pages, it was clear that this was an author who enjoyed words and was artful in using them.  His sentences are artful without being annoying, and he actually uses words I don't really know (though I can pick them up pretty well from context) more often than anybody but Gene Wolfe.  It was quite entertaining at the beginning, but unfortunately it didn't quite hold to such a high level.  It read very much like a fantasy novel, just without any creatures more fantastic than elephants, or practitioners of any arts more arcane than medicine.  To the sort of people who wouldn't be caught dead reading a genre novel, it was probably a really eye-opening experience, but to me, it was just a fairly average-quality adventure plot.  Well enough told to be enjoyable, but nothing truly amazing; good but not great.  8 out of 10.

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10:10 pm

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Book review: The Final Key
Today's book review is The Final Key by Catherine Asaro.

This book is somewhere in the middle of Asaro's great big Skolian Empire series.It's a direct sequel to Schism, which I barely remember; other than that, it probably doesn't matter that much what order you read the books in.

I devoured the first few of these books with great pleasure, but the last couple I'd read had convinced me that the series had jumped the shark so thoroughly that I let this one languish on the shelf for quite a long time.  That was a mistake; this one was good.  A bit too complex and tangled a plot, but the weird stuff on the border between science and metaphysics was actually interesting again, and I found the story entertaining as it whizzed by, and I cared a bit about the characters.  But I'm having an awful lot of trouble actually remembering the details.  8 out of 10.

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10:23 pm

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Book review: Sword of the Deceiver
The last book on the stack is Sword of the Deceiver by Sarah Zettel.

The cover says this is "a novel of Isavalta" and it takes place in the same universe, but no Isavaltans are actually mentioned.  It seems to be pretty self-contained and doesn't require reading the previous Isavalta books.

This is another book that had been sitting on the shelf for a long time; in this case, because the previous Isavalta books, though good, were very long and difficult to get through, and I've kept putting off reading a book that I feared would take me weeks to get through.  This one isn't so chewy.  I did spend pretty much all day yesterday reading, but I got through most of it and finished it today.  It's a good, exciting story of intrigue, as long as you can deal with actual gods directly and significantly intervening in mortal affairs.  It also has a fairly interesting approach to magic, although we don't get exposed to as much discussion of how magic works as we did in the first couple of Isavalta books.  And it's a fairly satisfying story of how real people can become corrupted and become villains, and of betrayal and commitment.  It's a good read, but I don't think it reaches great.  So 8 out of 10.  (I am concerned that I'm giving that rating to an awful lot of books these days.)

Bleah.  If I write a plot summary I'll be late to bed, so it needs to be skipped.

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