Wednesday 7 September 2022

Shelfish Opinions: 2 - The B's!

Continuing the Youtube theme - making these videos is also giving me blog material.

Previous Shelves here: 1 (A's)

I decided that I would move on from critiquing people's writing to critiquing people's writing, but now the writing is whole books, and the critiquing is cursory opinion, and the selection is made by my (mostly) alphabetised shelves.

Since I have a great many fantasy shelves, this could be a new recurring feature that will hit dozens of episodes.

Let's see how it goes.

Imma present one shelf at a time and just talk my way through the titles there, saying if I've read the book and briefly, what I thought of it. It's worth noting that I'm not responsible for the purchase/acquisition of the majority of the books on our shelves. My wife's an avid fantasy reader, and my children have been also at various points in their lives.

First to backup my claim in the first of these blog posts / videos - here's an 'A' book that was AWOL, A Touch of Light, by Thiago Abdalla, a recently published epic fantasy that I read and reviewed this year. An enthusiastic sprawling tale with griffins, almost-zombies, magically enhanced guardian knights, outer tribes, lots of world building, and a steep learning curve.

& I also have the prequel novella A Prelude To Ashes to read, which is also not on my shelf!

Shelf 1:

(the whole thing is too much to read the titles easily, so I've broken it up below)

Bit 1:

We start off with a couple of A's - Thieves' World book 2 & book 7, by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey. Yellowed pages, heavily foxed, printed in 1980, so from the year of publication. Owned for 42 years. Not read either of them!

Next, Fae: The Wild Hunt, by Graham Austin-King. Which I think he gave me at a Bristolcon, and I've not read. Then The Lore of Prometheus, by Graham Austin-King, which I think he gave me at a later Bristolcon ... after it was a semi-finalist in the SPFBO. I have read this one and it was very good. A modern day tale, mostly set in an underground laboratory in Iraq. A program to torture superpowers out of individuals who showed flashes of them under duress. A veteran and a medic are the the two point of view characters here. It's an intriguing tale with plenty of frustration followed by pay off, solid writing, exciting story.

The first B is Bancroft, and his Books of Babel quadrilogy. Senlin Ascends, The Arm of the Sphinx, The Hod King, & The Fall of Babel. Why do I have book 2 twice in hardback? Dunno. These are excellent. Senlin Ascends was an SPFBO semi-finalist and its failure to make the finals prompted a whole new rule! I've praised Senlin Ascends at length. And the rest of the series lives up to the promise of book 1. Calling this steam-punk puts it in an inappropriate box, but the mechanics are steam-punk. The books are literary, with world class prose. The eponymous Senlin is an unlikely hero, the straight-laced headmaster of a tiny school, a fish out of water, lost in the vast, bizarre, and frightening embrace of the tower. Extra point of view character join the cast as the series progresses. Expect a fantastic journey, with an air of whimsy, but also grounded by the humanity and wonderful portrayal of its characters, along with the strong undercurrents of darkness.

The Way of Wyrd, by Brian Bates is a 1983 fantasy - I've not read it.

Bit 2:

Even more books I've read! I picked up The Darkness That Comes Before from a 'free books' rack at the hospital on a stay with my daughter. I certainly acknowledge its cleverness, interesting writing, and breadth of vision. I did enjoy it. I didn't LOVE it. The reason was that my taste is for books that strongly engage my emotions, not just my intellect. This one didn't. But there's much to recommend.

Nod, by Adrian Barnes, I bought in Waterstones, nipping out from a different hospital stay. One of the staff sold it to me with a personal recommendation. It's a literary book with a low average Goodreads rating (rather like The Magicians) but a lot to offer. The prose, ideas, and atmosphere are excellent. The plot stumbles at the end. The central conceit is that everyone except the main character suddenly stop being able to sleep. Society crumbles and we have the sleepless as a kind of zombie analogue.

I've not read Greg Bear's Legacy. It's actually book 3 in a trilogy. Where are the other two? Who knows! I've also not read Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses (seems very successful), or Oliver Bowden's The Secret Crusade (he's sold a ton of books under the Assassin's Creed IP).

Lythande (hard to see) is by Marion Zimmer Bradley, a Thieves' World book from 1986. I've not read any of hers.

Bit 3:

Next we're into Peter Brett's Demon Cycle: Where's The Warded Man? Who knows! The Skull ThroneThe Desert SpearThe Daylight War, and an ARC of The Core, with the novella The Great Bazaar slipped in there. I thought The Warded Man was a great read. The books felt progressively weaker but still good as we went on. The Core perhaps had too much going on for me to really feel grounded in it.

Next are four Hopeless, Maine graphic novels by the excellent Browns, Tom (art) and Nimue (words). VictimsSinnersNew England Gothic, and The Oddatsea. These are a mysterious, darkly drawn and darkly plotted tale of surreal realities on a misty isle where many things are possible, and most of them have tentacles. 

Finally we dip our two into the C's. Rotherweird by is a fairly recent book by Andrew Caldecott. I've not read it.

Then comes Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A sci-fi gem from the 80's, prescient in its prediction of the internet - though wildly optimistic about its use and effect. Oddly, given the controversy about its author, it was also ahead of most of its competitors in giving women and minorities significant roles. Essentially a fight-school story. I loved the book, was surprised by the surprise, and also enjoyed the film.

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