September 22, 2012
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl, a millionaire and a child prodigy, has been mostly left on his own since the dissappearance of his father, and by his depressed and bedridden mother. He uses this freedom to develop a diabolical plan to manipulate fairies for their gold by kidnapping Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. (Lower Elements Police) Little does he know, that he’s not exactly dealing with Tinkerbell. This fairies are well-armed with both ancient magic and advanced technology and they do not take kindly to human meddling.
Describing the inner thoughts of the characters gave them a lot of depth, as well as explaining details of the fairy underworld without overloading the reader. My favorite characters were the gruff, cigar-chomping Commander Root, Foaly the techie centaur and Artemis Fowl himself. As he reacts to events, adjusting his plans, he sometimes has moral doubts and wonders at what point he is going too far. We can see that for all his precociousness and power, he is still a vulnerable and lonely boy.
This was a fun, page-turning adventure, kind of a parody of James Bond-type novels that take themselves too seriously. While there is a lot of comical zaniness in here, Colfer has created a sophisticated and well-thought out plot. This is a good “cross-over” book that would appeal to adventure, science fiction and fantasy readers alike.
Read in September 2012
June 14, 2008
Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg (Book 1 of the Majipoor Cycle)
This book was literally shoved into my hands by my fiance with an exhortation of “You have to read this!” After reading, I have to say, he did me a favor! It takes place on Majipoor, a large planet that was long ago colonized by Earth and races of other planets. Much of the technology has been lost, and Majipoor is at a feudal, agricultural level of development and something of a galactic backwater. But overall, it is a peaceful and prosperous world.
Here we find Valentine, a young man who has forgotten his past. He joins a troupe of traveling jugglers, and immerses himself in the art and the carefree life of an entertainer. But Valentine is not who he seems, and when he discovers his true identity, he faces a great challenge, and a journey across much of Majipoor.
Silverberg has created a fascinating world, filled with many colorful characters of various species. The significance of dreams, and their interpretation, figures prominently in Majipooran culture- even in the social order. The Lady of Sleep guides the people with prophetic dreams, while the King of Dreams punishes wrongdoers with nightmares. It was an exciting and suspenseful adventure. I look forward to the next book in the series, Lord Valentine Pontifex and the continuing political intrigue it will reveal.
November 21, 2007
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane
While trying to outrun bullies, Nita escapes to her favorite refuge- the library. While poking through the children’s section she finds a series about careers- “So You Want to Be a…Police Officer, Teacher, Doctor, Wizard” wait, Wizard?! Nita gets the book and finds that it is a handbook on how to become and act as a wizard. Wizards, in this world are a lot different than the conventional view of them in fantasy. They are charged with slowing down the process of entropy- the death of the universe by conserving energy and maintaining balance. In searching for a lost possession, Nita and her new friend Kit find themselves in an alternate New York City ruled by malevolent machines with minds of their own. The world depicted in the book is fascinating, and the plot is a suspenseful and often hilarious adventure.
While physics obviously works differently in this universe, Duane uses scientific concepts in telling the story, so I think it will likely appeal to readers who tend to prefer science fiction over fantasy, while fantasy enthusiasts like myself will find the unusual take on magic to be interesting.
I look forward to the next in the series- Deep Wizardry.
June 26, 2007
The Amber Spyglass: Book 3 of His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
In a cave in the Himalayas, Lyra lies in an enchanted sleep, guarded by her mother, Mrs. Coulter who fears Lyra’s life is being threatened by the Church. Will Parry, accompanied by a pair of angels searches for the kidnapped Lyra. Meanwhile, physicist Mary Malone finds herself in a strange world inhabited by intelligent elephant-like creatures on wheels. These mulefa and their symbiotic relationship with a seed-pod bearing tree hold the secret to Dust- and the danger posed by the tearing of the barriers between worlds. As Will and Lyra travel between the worlds, the tension builds between the forces of tyranny represented by the Church and of intelligent consciousness led by Lord Asriel. But the conclusion surprisingly, was not the battle itself (though that is certainly in there) but a psychological and emotional coming-of-age drama. But you’ll have to read the book to discover the conclusion- as I have a no-spoilers policy on this blog. It’s more fun that way! Bwahaha!
Amber Spyglass was paradoxically, a fast-paced adventure that found time to beautifully describe features of the natural world, and to pontificate- without boring the reader- on questions of morality, philosophy, science and religion. Truly there are few authors that can manage to pull this off. Pullman mentioned in his interview that he is writing a sequel to the trilogy that ties up some of the loose ends. It will take place several years later when Lyra is 16, and she travels to her world’s equivalent of the Middle East. (Or was it Asia?) Anyways, stay tuned for any further announcements about this book. In addition there is already out Lyra’s Oxford- a shorter story about Lyra and Pantalaimon’s adventures and a companion book by another author called The Science of His Dark Materials. I’ve been wondering how based on science some of the concepts in the book are, so I will definitely be checking that out sometime. But for now, on to some other series that need to get finished!
June 4, 2007
The Subtle Knife: Book 2 of His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman,
The second book of His Dark Materials begins with Will Parry, a boy of 12 in our own world, who must flee from men who are searching for him. He finds himself in a crossroads between the worlds- a city called Citagazze. There he encounters Lyra, the heroine of the Golden Compass. Together they begin a search for Will’s father, who was lost many years ago exploring the different worlds. They learn more about the coming battle between Lord Asriel (Lyra’s father) and “the Authority”, and are exposed to danger at every turn. The amazing adventure of Golden Compass continues, as does the rich philosophical concepts explored and political intrigue. It’s not just a fun read- but a thought-provoking look at human nature, free will, cosmology and physics.
January 11, 2007
Archangel Protocol by Lyda Morehouse
Imagine cyberpunk meets “A Handmaid’s Tale”. Fundamentalism juxtaposed with virtual reality. That gives you an idea of the world depicted in Archangel Protocol. Deidre McMannus ex-cop, has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for her association with her partner who has been found guilty of murdering the Pope. This leaves her on the fringes of a society in which membership in an organized religion is a requirement for the full benefits of citizenship, including being connected to the LINK, an implanted, interactive network. Lately angels have been appearing on the LINK, which some claim heralds the Second Coming, namely a vocally right-wing presidential candidate. In this setting, a stranger appears at McMannus’s detective office, asking her help to debunk the angels.
I found this to be a riveting adventure, set in a creatively portrayed world. I wish, however that the author had included some kind of reference guide at the end of the book, as their are many concepts which are unclear. It got rather confusing around the middle of the book, but if you are patient, it gets clearer towards the end. Morehouse does include various “news articles” at the end of each chapter, which make help the reader piece together the puzzle.
Exile’s Song by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Margaret Alton, the estranged daughter of Lew Alton has become a Terran University scholar, the assistant of ethno-musicologist Ivor Davidson. When they travel to Darkover to research folk music, she expects it to be like any other trip. What she finds instead, is long-buried memories of her traumatic childhood, relatives she didn’t know existed, and an the inheritance to a Domain she doesn’t want. What follows is a fascinating psychological journey and growth of an amazing character. Margaret, accustomed to the individualism of Terran society, chafes against the familial expectations of Darkovan culture. She is also baffled by the awakening of her extraordinary laran powers. Meanwhile tensions between the Comyn, the noble families of Darkover come to the fore as Darkover’s place in the Federation must be decided.
Exile’s Song takes place 20-some years after Sharra’s Exile, the events of which center around Lew Alton.
November 19, 2006
The Deer’s Cry by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison
Celts colonizing space? I’ll admit I was rather skeptical when I heard of the premise for Patricia Kennealy-Morrison’s Keltiad series. But she actually managed to pull it off pretty well. Now, you have to set aside your own knowledge of history, and think of this book as an alternate timeline. The story starts out in early medieval Ireland with the friendship, and later growing enmity between Brendan, the son of a chieftain, and Padraig a Christian missionary. The plot takes a while to get to the point, as the tensions between the two faiths build up. Finally after a confrontation, Brendan and his buddies decide that in order to preserve their polytheistic ways, they will have to emigrate. Conveniently they know an old Atlantean fellow (Atlantis has to figure into this somehow, right?) who remembers the technical know-how for space travel. So, after much preparation, and political drama, they leave and eventually find a lovely solar system to colonize.
This is a prequel for the rest of the Keltiad series- earlier books were written about the “Kelts in Space” civilization, and so this one explains how and why they went there in the first place. The book was basically ok- I thought it took way too long to set up the story and get the plot moving. Also, the Evil Oppressive Christians theme is much too heavy-handed, offensive in fact and an over-simplification of the conversion of Ireland. Still, it was a fun read, but not at the level of caliber of the Sevenwaters Trilogy or the Mists of Avalon. I have heard from other reviews of this book that other Keltiad books are much better than this one. So I will be checking those out later on.