Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Pile - May & June '11

The TBR pile - we all have one and it grows faster than we can read. Mine is no exception. I thought it might be interesting to round up and present all of my recent acquisitions once a month, so ... here we go.

I was late in posting The Pile for May and I didn't buy much books in June, so I decided to merge both posts.

The Deserter (Peadar Ó Guilín)

I read The Inferior when it came out back in 2007 and I remember really liking it, so when I heard that The Deserter is finally coming out I was really thrilled. Peadar was kind enough to send me a review copy, but I absolutely have to re-read The Inferior so I'll be able to fully enjoy The Deserter. Reading priority: high.

Night Work (Thomas Glavinic)

I've accidentaly stumbled across this book while browsing the Web and thought the blurb on the back sounded interesting - Night Work is a book about some guy who finds himself alone on Earth while everyone else seems to have vanished into thin air. Reading priority: medium.

The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi)

There was a lot of buzz around Quantum Thief a while ago, with it getting nominated for Locus award for best first novel and everything. It all got me curious, so I was very happy to receive a review copy of it from Tor. Reading priority: high.

Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)

Not really speculative fiction, but even I have to take a break from time to time. :) Bought this because I wanted to buy something I usually wouldn't and I remembered a friend told me about this one. Reading priority: medium.

Pump Six and Other Stories (Paolo Bacigalupi)

No, I didn't read The Windup Girl yet. I still ordered Pump Six, just because. It's supposed to be really good and it's been on my wishlist for ages, mostly because it took so long before it was published in paperback. Reading priority: medium.

The Pile Special

I bet you know the feeling when you have a book on your TBR pile that seemingly everyone has read and praised, but you still haven't gotten around to reading it. I have plenty of those, and I will select and present one every month. My goal? To read it ASAP, preferably during the next month. This month's special is:

Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows

I saw it, bought it and forgot about it, as usual. Then I met a girl last month who absolutely adores The Night Angel trilogy - even more so than A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now I think I really need to read The Way of Shadows, if only to see whether her love for it is justified.

'Fun' fact: as for now, I've only read one of all The Pile Specials - Richard Morgan's Black Man. I've started reading Gormenghast and Nights of Villjamur, but I didn't feel I was in the mood for the latter and while I like the former, I read it a bit like a bedside story, a few pages every evening, so it will take me forever to read.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

George R. R. Martin - A Dance With Dragons (Book Review)

At first, I meant to wait and publish this review on 12th of July, but then a bunch of reviews got released a few days ago and I changed my mind. :) Keep in mind that I’m a huge fan of ASOIAF series; I tried my best to write a non-biased review, but reviewing books you like is always hard. This review does NOT include any significant spoilers for ADWD, but it does include some references to previous volumes.

I was one of the lucky few who got their books from – in my case, though, it was also through kindness of Adz, who was actually the one who pre-ordered the books and was generous enough to send me one of her two copies. Thanks again! You can imagine how thrilled I was when the book arrived, and I began reading it immediately, but by the time I finally put it down, my excitement had somewhat waned. Why?

Well, the first thing is that A Dance with Dragons is, as Wert aptly described it, sprawling. It takes place on many different locations of The Seven Kingdoms and The Free Cities that are sometimes a whole continent apart. Before, we mostly followed events that took place in The Seven Kingdoms, with Dany and later Arya being the only POVS in The Free Cities. This time around, The Free Cities are in the centre of it all, but plenty of POVs still remain scattered throughout The Seven Kingdoms – and each is telling their own story. This can sometimes make the story seem a bit too diffused; the reader has to follow both the politics of The Free Cities and the events in The Seven Kingdoms, which are not in the best of states after the events of A Feast for Crows.

Jumping to and fro between POVs doesn’t help the reader any. In the first half of the book, the POVs are mostly Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys, which makes the plot very easy to follow even though it’s as complex as always. In the other half of the book, though, the POVs grow considerably more numerous and incredibly fragmented, with plenty of characters only appearing in one or two chapters. The plot is thus much harder to follow and the flow of the story is interrupted, but on the other hand, this fragmentation also brings some insight into the events that transpire in The Seven Kingdoms. Still, it all left me a bit confused, if very much curious as to what will happen next.

A Dance with Dragons will not answer most of the questions you’ve had ever since you’ve read A Feast for Crows or even A Storm of Swords; it will rather give you plenty more things to wonder about. In the second half of the book, we reach the final events of A Feast for Crows and see some of the familiar faces again, but to my great disappointment, most of POVs from A Feast for Crows only appear briefly and in some cases not at all.

What probably irked me most about A Dance with Dragons was that many characters previously thought dead or missing appear again. Even though they are mostly minor characters, this took some edge off my constant worry over who will get killed next. A Dance with Dragons has its share of shocking events, but they left me skeptical – after all, I’ve just been shown that not everything happened the way I thought it did, so who says it’s any different this time around? Who says those characters will not return in The Winds of Winter? The problem is that I like to worry about who will die next – it means that I actually care about the characters and this emotional investment is an important part of my reading experience. So while I do not believe that all of the characters presumed dead or missing will stay this way in the next two installments, I sure hope that most of them will.

So, was A Dance with Dragons worth the wait? I honestly can’t give a definite answer to that question. It’s definitely a wonderful and complex book that did not disappoint me, but on the other hand, it could hardly live up to the expectations I’ve had of it after all these years. The style is often not as flowing as I’d like it to be, there is still some repetition of certain phrases – ‘words are wind’ especially seems to be everyone’s new favourite saying – and, much like A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons seems to suffer from being one of the middle books of the series, as the events that transpire in it are mostly just setting the stage for the grand finale. Still, I can’t say anything but ‘kudos’ to Martin – despite the complexity of the book he holds the reins of the plot firmly in his hands.

And so begins our wait again. Is The Winds of Winter out yet?



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