Reads #4-12

Neglect to write ‘book reports’ for a couple of months, and reap a mountainous backlog. Learn from my mistakes, dear reader..


Shorts

As in short stories, not short pants. Though I do need more of those..

After the 3 non-fiction entries I started the year with, I intended to return to fiction. And so I did, beginning with several compilations of short stories by authors from the r/WritingPrompts subreddit – probably my favorite subreddit on Reddit. There, hopeful authors-to-be and recreational writers (and soon, myself – if I can find the time), write short stories in response to a theme or topic posted by another user – a prompt. Example.

The Hitman and the Rose was purchased many years ago. The story is about a hitman who drops his own personal ‘rules’ when he meets a little girl who needs him. To be completely honest, I wasn’t impressed by the writing nor the editing. It felt sloppy, which is a shame as the plot line is decent..

Collective Ramblings of a Mentally Unstable Alpaca is a collection of shorts published by u/Psycho_Alpaca of the aforementioned subreddit – this user excels at jokes, anti-jokes, and breaking the fourth wall, making his stories unpredictable and hilarious. You may actually find all of his work on Reddit itself – I just felt like supporting him.

[Prompt Me] is a similar compilation by probably the singular most popular writer in the subreddit – u/Luna_LoveWell. She’s pretty darn talented. Again, I’ve probably read most of her stories on Reddit, but read them all again in this book. Some were better than others, but it was still an entertaining collection.


American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Imagine if the gods – all of them – that humanity believed in walked among us, their power waxing and waning with the faith of their congregation. This is the main driver behind American Gods, set mostly in rural Americana (the Midwest, where I live – yay). Immigrants to a new world brought their gods with them in centuries past, and now many of these old gods wander silently, unassumingly, among the populace, making the best of lives that have seen better days. New gods have emerged, and these are eager to reign supreme and challenged. Pulled to this conflict is Shadow, an ex-convict working for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.

You know, pay me a little more and I’ll polish that paragraph up – perhaps take on a career as a writer of book covers. Heh.

I really enjoyed this book and wholeheartedly recommend it. The first half or so was rather slow, as the reader is slowly introduced to the world and its gods. I, for one, found the mythology rather fascinating (since most of the gods are based off real deities from various pantheons – Odin, Czernobog, Kali, and Anubis, to name a few). Once the plot really gets going in the second half, the book becomes a lot more engaging, and the twists and turns are delicious.


Thrawn, by Timothy Zahn

The Thrawn Trilogy is a trio of Star Wars books that were written in the early 90s, set 5 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. These books are no longer considered canon after Disney purchased the rights to the franchise and released The Force Awakens, but the fandom had long insisted that the tale of Thrawn was among the best – if not the best – in the (grossly bloated) Star Wars Expanded Universe. Since I’d read quite a few Star Wars novels myself in my teenage years (to my undying shame), I figured I should give the books a shot.

The novels ranged from decent to good. Thrawn, the last Grand Admiral of the Empire, nearly delivers a crushing blow to the fledgling new Republic. He’s portrayed as a cunning yet merciful, ruthless yet wise; a leader who is able to inspire awe and loyalty in his subordinates while outmaneuvering his enemies by playing battles like chess – always several steps ahead of his opponents. In the end, he falls (because the antagonist must always lose) due to his own hubris and the main characters’ immense plot armor (I mean, no one wants to be the author who kills Luke Skywalker, right?). Overall, I really enjoyed Thrawn as a character, but there’s a lesson about plot armor here somewhere.


The Malazan Book of the Fallen (#1-3), by Steven Erikson

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a series of ten (!!) epic fantasy novels set in the world in which exists the Malazan Empire.

Gardens of the Moon, as the first book, was quite confusing for me in the first half – there were a lot of names, places, species, and history I needed to learn. It didn’t help that the book follows plot lines for several different characters – jumping back and forth – at once, which is always great but definitely doesn’t make the first-time reader’s life any easier. Once I got the hang of things, however, I really enjoyed how the seemingly disparate plot lines came together in the final half to culminate in a tense finale.

Deadhouse Gates contained improved writing and more meaty descriptions of its characters and places – a sign of the author sharpening his skills. However, I didn’t quite enjoy the plot as much as the first, which is not to say that the book was poor.

Memories of Ice, which I’m wrapping up with, is without a doubt superior to the first two. Now that I, the reader, am more familiar with the intricacies of the world in this series, I’m appreciating the history and the events in the books a lot more. The plot and writing are both better. I am surprised by the length, though – I thought I’d passed the climax, but it looks like the book is still going.. Evidently, these are some really, really lengthy books.

Though set in the same world, each book contains an independent main story line that is resolved within its own pages – some characters, background plot lines, and places pass from one book to the next. For example, some characters from the first book appear in the second but not the third, and some in the third but not the second. Additionally, the second book is set on a different continent from the first and third. This allows new places and characters to appear – and I consider the many characters very well developed – without becoming stale, yet you also get to witness how small events in a separate book – a separate continent – can have an effect on current proceedings.

This is shaping to be a series rich in lore, with a developing overarching plot, with distant characters that unassumingly cross paths, with great prose – Long story short, the ingredients for a fantasy series that I’ll love.


Next up..

Despite waxing lyrical on the Malazan series, I’m taking a break at the end of the third book to read up on some classics instead – George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I think I’d get worn out binging on ten consecutive books from the same series, anyway. This will also mark a return to physical books – all of the above were ebooks, read on my Kindle. Very convenient while I was traveling in Malaysia.

This post also marks a progress of 12 books – halfway through my target for the year with two months to spare. Yippee!


Note

I’ve updated my posts about Malaysia, expanded on my post-trip reflection, and renamed the posts to ‘Prologue’ and Epilogue’ because I think it’s poetic, it’s my own damn blog, and I don’t care if you think I’m lame (I already know that I am). 😀

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