Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thoughts on: the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

The Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness
(my own photo)
I've finished reading Monsters of Men, and I wanted to talk about it.  However, it is the final installment in a brilliant trilogy, so I thought that I would talk about the series as a whole.  

*spoiler alert*

The Knife of Never Letting Go was a really exciting, fast paced book.  I brought it with me on holidays, hoping that it would be long enough to last me the full three weeks, but I ended up reading it within a few days.

You could argue that the whole book is just one very long chase sequence, and you do have a point.  However, I think that there was enough character development to prevent it from feeling stale.

The idea of everyone being able to read everyone else's minds was interesting, but then again I don't think that if you could read someone's mind that it would just take the form of a sentence. A lot of thought is visual and otherwise non-verbal, and I'm not sure if the book really dealt with that aspect of it.

I thought that the moral ambiguity that was introduced in The Ask and the Answer was thought-provoking.  In most adventure novels there is a really strong good-evil dichotomy, and I thought that this was a really interesting break from this tradition.

However, there was one thing that really irked me, and that was the constant game of "Ben's dead, no wait he's not, no wait he is, no wait...".  I think that there is only so many times you can justifiably re-incarnate a character.  In this series Death is Cheap .

The ending was also a bit of a let down. Either he should have just killed Todd off, or not killed him at all.  It seems like he's still leaving the back door open to write more books in the series, and it gets on my nerves when writers do that.

Chances of finding it in my imaginary bookstore: 80%

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book review: Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus
 Orson Scott Card
(my own photo)
I would like to start out this post by thanking my friend for lending me loads of awesome books, including this one.
This book is set in the future; humankind has nearly destroyed the Earth, but are now starting to rebuild society.  One way of rebuilding is through Pastwatch, a group of historians who use a machine called Tempoview to look into the past.  However, some historians believe that they should go further; that they should try and go back in time and make the world a better place by altering the results of the voyage of Christopher Columbus.

I thought that this book was really exciting, and the pacing was really good.

The idea of letting people see into the past and to travel through time isn't by any means unique, but I think that it was very well thought out.  I really enjoyed the comments about the technical side of the machines used to look into the past.

One part of a novel that can be really make or break for me are the characters, and personally I found the characters in this novel to be lacking.  Too many of the characters were completely flat and flawless.

Then there was the alternative history.  Now, I don’t pretend to be a historian or an expert on Columbus, but this book seemed to suggest that if Columbus’ voyage were somehow changed that the world would become a better place at virtually no cost.  The Columbus legacy is really complicated and I don't think that the treatment of the topic was sufficiently nuanced.  Also, if the goal of these historians was to make the world a better place with less suffering and slavery, then why didn't they go even further back in time and prevent slavery from being invented? Time travel is difficult to write about, and I don't think that this book dealt with the topic particularly well

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore: 60%

I wrote this post before I knew about Orson Scott Card's attitude towards homosexuality.  I think that it is unacceptable, and this blog post was in no way meant to suggest that I condone this.

Chance of finding it in my imaginary bookstore? 0%

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Holiday reading

The summer holidays can be the best time for reading.  However, especially if you are flying abroad, then there will be a limit on how many books you can bring, which is annoying for those of us who read a lot.

So, here are a few quick pieces of advice on how you can reduce the number of books you have to pack without running out of things to read.

1. Start Afresh

If you are in the middle of a book, then it's probably better to start a new one.  The weight of the pages that you have already read is dead weight.  For obvious reasons, a paperback is better then a hardback book.

2. E-readers 

I personally am a supporter of the paper book; they don't run out of battery or hurt your eyes, and I think that it's easier to form an emotional connection with a book if it doesn't occupy the same space as a hundred other books.  Maybe that's a bit materialistic of me, but I just enjoy the feeling of reading a paper book.  However, I understand that there are a lot of advantages to e-readers, and going on holidays is one of those times where it can be great to have one. An e-reader and a charger are far lighter then most books, and you can bring as much reading material as you could possibly need with you.

3. Slow reading

While everyone has their own reading pace, this pace can also change depending on what book you are reading.  For example, when you read a fast-paced book, then you might read more quickly, either consciously or subconsciously, because you want to get to the end, or find out what happens next.  However, if you read a novel that's very introspective and thought-provoking then you might spend more time digesting the ideas and thus read more slowly.  While there is nothing wrong with either type of book, it might be a better idea to bring a book that you think you will read more slowly on holiday, so it will last longer.

4. Buy a book while you're there

If you're on holidays somewhere were you have some knowledge of the local language, then it might be a great idea to buy a book in that language while you're there.  You might only be able to read children's books, but it can help to learn the language.  I would particularly recommend this if you are on a student exchange.

5. Join the library

If you are going on holidays in your home country, you might not need to go through a long, complicated process to borrow some books from the local library in the place where your staying.  This helps reduce the number of books you have to bring and is better for the environment then buying a brand new book.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book review: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
(my own photo)
Arthur is arguably the most famous British king; the brave, noble warrior whose deeds have been celebrated for centuries.  But in Reeve's novel the real-life Arthur is nothing like the Arthur of legend.

Shortly after Arthur, a brutal, petty tyrant, burns down a village, Gwyna, a young girl who lived there, is taken in by the mysterious Myrddin.  He spins stories of Arthurs greatness in the hope rallying support for the man he believes can defeat the Saxons and unite Britain.  Gwyna becomes involved in making these legends and learns the power of words and suggestion.

While the writer makes it clear that this is just his own interpretation of the legends, I did enjoy the way he went against the hero-worship that traditionally surrounds Arthur.  However, I think he may have even gone too far in the opposite direction, and I don't think that the Arthur character in this novel had enough redeeming features to make him seem real.

It was an exciting, fast paced novel, and I felt that it dealt with issues such as the power of words and social constructs surrounding gender in an interesting, accessible way.

I think that this book is probably best suited for readers from 10-15 years of age.

Chances of finding it in my imaginary bookstore: 60%