So what have I been up to the last couple of months that I haven't been blogging? Nothing much really. I'm stuck in a rut and I'm slowly digging my way back out of the mire. Even though I've been procrastrinating on an exponential level I still haven't been completely idle where reading is concerned - I've been close enough to stone cold idle though - and while I don't have the drive or the energy to write full-blown reviews let me give you a quick recap of what I've read lately and what are my thoughts on the books.
After I've reviewed DAVID LUIS EDELMAN's "Infoquake", that was way back in June, I've tackled (for the 7th time now) the mind-boggling saga Malazan Book of the Fallen. "Reaper's Gale" is not the best book in the series, but it is still a substantial effort by the fantasy powerhouse that goes by the name STEVEN ERIKSON. I'm not going into the details, so if you are unfamiliar with the series you can go and catch up on some of the older reviews I've written ("Midnight Tides" is actually the opening review for this site; at that time I was still learning the ropes of how and what to write so it is most definitely too long and unfocused, but it went a lot of effort into writing it). "Reaper's Gale" is, in my opinion, a weaker work than the initial four novels, but feels tighter and more focused than both"Midnight Tides" and "The Bonehunters". Malazan Book of the Fallen definitely remains a hallmark of modern fantasy, and "Reaper's Gale" only solidifys this notion.
After the hefty Malazan novel I had a taste for something smaller in volume, but not necessarily lighter of content. I found what I was looking for with URSULA K. LeGUIN's "The Dispossessed". It's no secret that I'm a fan of her work. "The Left Hand of Darkness" was a terrific work of fiction and one of my favourite reads of all time and while I wasn't as enthused with "The Lathe of Heaven" -- another of her masterworks -- "The Disspossesed" reminded me of LeGUIN's lucid insights into the human condition and her brilliant characterization skills. The ending was lukewarm in comparison with the rest of the novel, but a very strong work of fiction on overall, totally deserving of the Masterwork title and all the awards it got back in the day. Highly recommended.
"Heroes Die" and "The Blade of Tyshalle" by MATTHEW WOODRING STOVER are certainly works of fiction that I shouldn't have postponed reading for so long. STOVER -- a close example to PAUL KEARNEY in this particular case -- is another gem of fantasy literature who deserves more widespread recognition (and audience). He has a devoted following among the genre fans, which comes as a no surprise to me, but his works never cut it as deep into the mainstream as have titles from some lesser authors. His Star Wars novels, namely "Traitor", "Shatterpoint" and "Revenge of the Sith", are considered among the best works that were written in this particular shared world, but again, author's renown usually rises and falls with the original work he writes...which brings us to THE ACTS OF CAINE. The Acts of Caine are, by this moment, an unfinished fantasy series that consist of the following novels: "Heroes Die" (1997), "Blade of Tyshalle" (2001) and "Caine Black Knife" (2005, Act of Atonement: Book One). Book Two of the Act of Atonement, "His Father's Fist", is forthcoming. There is a rumor of more books about Caine to be written and he has recently signed a deal to write a novelization of a popular "God of War" videogame (Kraitos, the character you play in the game, has Caine written on it forehead really), but I digress. Caine is Badass, period. Following Caine's story is an absolute joy ride, but what makes these books good aren't the inventively portrayed acts of distilled bone-crushing violence, but the fact that you care about Caine and what happens to him. STOVER is a smart writer and his characterization is quite on the spot. Where STOVER fails in "Heroes Die" is the pretty straightforward plot and the feeling that he could expand on the world-building (the ideas are good, but the author rarely deviates from the fast moving plot and Caine's story), which makes the book a bit "provincial". But all this doesn't lessen my opinion of the novel, since STOVER addresses all the shortcomings of book one in "Blade of Tyshalle" and disperses all the doubts I had that Acts of Caine won't meet the high expectations I had about them. Truly remarkable.