Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Storm of Swords (Fantasy Novel)

Kings. Mothers. Eunuchs. Betrayals. Long Awaited Revenge. Weddings. Leeches. Unexpected Allies. Magic.

 A Storm of Swords is the third book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and the 2001 winner of the Locus Fantasy Award. The novel is long and epic. It continues the major story lines from A Clash of Kings and A Game of Thrones. A Storm of Swords has unexpected twists and turns. It resolves some of the nagging mysteries from the earlier novels. It is beyond a doubt violent, yet at the same time Martin creates empathy for characters that are not so easy to care about. He shows characters growing up and evolving.

Very, very briefly, lots of people die. Some people rise to the occasion and do heroic and honorable acts.

After finishing A Storm of Swords, I feel A Song of Ice and Fire is worthy of the Hugo Award for a series, which to the best of my knowledge has only been given out once, for the Foundation Trilogy. I am awed by Martin’s ability to weave the storylines and draw me into the story. At the same time, I almost put down the novel and gave up on the series because it is so long and so overwhelming. As I often do, I found myself living in the story, and I do not want to live in such a tumultuous world. Yet, as I type, the next book in the series is coming my way.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Clash of Kings (Fantasy Novel)

Kings. Sibling Rivalry. War. Alliances. Magic.

A Clash of Kings is the second book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and the 1999 winner of the Locus Fantasy Award. It is a direct continuation of The Game of Thrones, advancing the major storylines and adding a couple new ones.

Briefly, after the death of Robert, it seems like everyone is declaring himself a king or a prince. Former allies rise up against one another. Magic is becoming more prevalent in the Seven Kingdoms. The Stark children continue to grow up. Daenerys continues to look for a way to get back home.

Reading the series feels a bit like running a marathon. While I still love the series, the initial excitement is over. I certainly can’t keep the pace for the next almost three thousand pages. Fortunately, Martin writes chapters that have their own internal cadence, supplying small resolutions and creating more questions.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Early Del Rey (SF Book)

Mars. Dog People. Ape People. Wars. Brownies. Rockets. Rivals. Elves. Skulls. Plenum. Loops. Soldiers. Memories. Consciousness. Robots. Plagues. Apocalypse. Mutations. Teleportation. Time Travel. 

Early Del Rey by Lester Del Rey is an anthology of 24 short stories that have not be published in other books. The stories were originally published in pulp, science fiction magazines. Woven throughout the book is a description of Del Rey’s career from the time he sold his first story in 1938 to the time he became a full-time writer in 1950.

These are not Del Rey’s best works. There is something unrewarding about finishing a short story only to be told on the next page what was wrong with it. Yet, I found the book worthwhile for a number of reasons. It gave me a taste of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  I was able to see how WWII affected the science fiction community. I learned more about the influence of John Campbell, one of the Godparents of modern science fiction. Lastly, most of the stories were actually enjoyable.

While I won’t recommend Early Del Rey, diehard science fiction fans might enjoy it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Game of Thrones (Fantasy Novel)

Kings. Families. Betrayal. Oaths. Loyalty. Honor. Dragons. Direwolves.

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series. The novel won the 1997 Locus Fantasy Award and recently has been made into a TV series. My biggest complaint about the book was that I had a problem putting it down and it seriously interfered with my sleep. Each chapter had me wanting more. I quickly had a number of favorite characters with whom I was emotionally invested. The book teased with hints of the supernatural while still describing a relatively normal world for most of the novel. By the end of the book, I had some closure but so many major storylines were unresolved –some barely begun– that I was hungry for more. The book is definitely a grown-up fantasy, containing sex and violence.

The structure of the book reminds me of a multi-stranded rope that is slowly unraveling. From the beginning, the first strand that comes off from the rope is the storyline involving the son and daughter of the murdered king. The book has numerous storylines involving characters from the House of Stark, who are supporters of the current king, Robert: Eddard, Lord of Winterfell; Catelyn, Eddard’s wife; Sansa, their oldest daughter; Arya, their tomboy daughter; Bran, a son; Jon, a bastard of Eddard. There is one strand with a character from the House of Lannester, Robert’s dwarf brother-in-law Tyrion. Because most of the characters were together in some of the beginning chapters, the storylines are relatively easy to keep track of.

I have not been a fan of fantasy novels lately; I had read too many knight and dragon stories. I would not have started this one if the last book in the series, A Dance of Dragons, were not a nominee for this year’s Hugo Award. I was delightfully surprised. The plot feels fresh to me. I am looking forward to the next books.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lamb in His Bosom (Pulitzer Winning Novel)

She was like to lose her mind, for she kept thinking that breaths were like threads on a mighty loom, drawn tight, woven among one another, broken singly as each life reaches its frayed or short-ending. She could hear the treadle of the loom knocking in her ears—but that was her heartbeat…
Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller won the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel. In the novel Miller tells the story of Cean and her family, who live in the South around the time of the Civil War. Cean and her husband Lonzo produce fourteen children, a number of whom die before Cean. Her brothers and parents have their own triumphs, tragedies and mysteries.

I easily became emotionally involved in the book. The characters are relatable. The plot is a little slow by today’s standards. I was bothered by the mystery of Lias, Cean’s brother; the structure was so unlike the rest of the book. All-in-all this was a pleasant book.