It seems like many of the seeds of cyberpunk can be found in The Space Merchants — massive conglomerate corporations, involved in government, with their own closed-system cities, unchecked advertising and profiteering, a brutally oppressed underclass. It’s much breezier than that list makes it seem — a glib, likable and thoroughly unpleasant protagonist and a headlong rush through its 155 pages keep it pretty frothy. The notes at the back of the American Library anthology include three more chapters, originally written to bring the novel up to its contracted length and then only published when it was serialized in
Reading 1950s science fiction can be a little jarring — sometimes, just little things, like a mention of Nash-Kelvinator, long gone and tangled up in other auto companies. On societal issues, though, things seem a bit rougher. There’s some rather weird homophobic stuff in the Costa Rica segment of the book that was a bit hard to just wave off as of the times. It never really cropped up again; I just gritted my teeth and got past it and back to enjoying the book. It did spoil things for me a little, though.
I lost the thread of this book, I think — and I’m not trying to be funny by phrasing it that way, that’s just how it seemed — and then I had a hard time picking it back up again. After a charming beginning and being totally involved in the story being built, the diaspora of characters began the odd part of the book for me, and I never really got invested in the whole war storyline. Still enjoyed the aftermath and wrap-up, though, done very well. Looking forward to reading more McDonald sometime soon.
The Vlad Taltos books kind of drift in time, teasing us with details revealed later. This book kind of plays with that idea, presenting three separate timelines (the main story, of Vlad’s trip to the Paths of the Dead; the usual flashbacks of how Vlad got where he is today; a flash-forward sequence at the beginning of each chapter where Vlad is performing a witchcraft ritual) that all eventually dovetail together into what could have been one straightforward story. Well, more or less. As usual, small things recall things in other books, and seeds for future revelations are doubtlessly planted.
This is also a book with a lot of firsts in it. The number of established characters Vlad meets for the first time through these storylines is pretty high, as well as one important non-character.
Still fun. Going to take a small break from the series now to prevent burnout.
The third book sees Brust playing with the formula a bit — the laundry list replacing the chapter titles is pretty fun. All in all I had the same reaction to this as the first time I read it: maybe not as involved as I could’ve been.
I think I am reading these too quickly. I’m going to go on to Taltos, but I’m going to intentionally slow down, take it easy, invent a voice for everyone, read carefully. There’s too much delicious fine detail here to speed past it.
The second fantasy caper novel in Brust’s series is perhaps a little more lightweight and convoluted than the first, if it makes sense to be both of those things at the same time. It takes place before Jhereg but is not, I think, written after Jhereg, if you see what I mean. In any case, many more small details about Dragarea, a good and twisty crime story and a protagonist that remains likable made it an easy read. I think I’ll move on to Teckla…
The Dark Tower is over and done, and returning to it seemed odd. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book until I held it in my hands; starting it, once again, I was unsure. After finishing, I’m glad I decided to go ahead.
Three stories, slipped inside each other like nesting dolls, connected by common thread; a fairy tale, a remembrance, a framing story. The impact of it all on the story of the Dark Tower is slight, but it is all nicely tied up and presents a little insight. Also, a little conversation with a long-term friend is always nice, and ends with his comfortable voice echoing in your head.
It’s tempting to describe this book as a trifle, a fantasy caper novel with a very likable protagonist. It’s more than that — the world set up is very thorough, there’s a lot of history between the characters that is merely hinted at. It’s also very well-written and plotted. Also, such a pleasure to read a fantasy novel that comes in under 250 pages!
I had read A Storm of Swords before. Didn’t make it any easier.
It’s much harder to talk about A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. By Martin’s own admission, they are two halves of the same book. Unable to split it in half satisfactorily by page count, he instead split it by viewpoints, both books taking place more-or-less in the same time period. This is mostly successful. Dragons finally laps Crows and moves the entire story forward. The first viewpoint chapter from a Crows character is a great relief. However, since it only gets to that point in the last third of the book, there’s a lingering sense that things haven’t moved very far, and not much is done to resolve Crows’ cliffhangers.
Don’t get me wrong: this is still the Song of Ice and Fire. I enjoyed it a lot. Even though it took me four months to read all five books, and I wasn’t planning on taking the time just then, I’m glad to have read them. Now it’s just the long wait for the next one…