Monday, March 26, 2012

Dead Reckoning (Spanky, sexy vampires plus some fairy mojo)

Charlaine Harris might not be the next Tolkien in the writing field, but she's fun and Sookie Stackhouse's practical sass always puts a smile on my face. Say what you will about the writing itself, but there's something to be said about an entertaining read. Defense aside, the latest book wasn't as good as some of the earlier ones like "Club Dead," but it was a great afternoon jaunt through their Southern supernatural setting.


Supernatural Problem #1 The book starts off with a bang, literally. A firebombing in Merlottes and a side trail of annoying problems all due to Sandra Pelt (Just DIE already). To quote the great BBC show "Coupling," the Pelt sisters are like the unflushables of the series. Even after Debbie's death, Sandra continues as an annoying problem in countless of the books. Luckily, she's dealt with fairly easily and causes enough of a distraction to keep up the pace with another problem since the main one in this book isn't as enticing.

Supernatural Problem #2 Fairies. Lots of em. Untrustworthy too because Claude and his band of stripperfae have some weird shenanigans going on under the surface. The book moves the fairy plot in an interesting direction though, leaving lots of unknowns to keep us biting for the next in the series.

Supernatural Problem #3 Vampire issues. The big bang up finale is taking Victor down. But where there are vampires, there are romantic quadrangles. The overarching one of her romantic interest comes down to Eric. He's terse through the whole beginning and then it's revealed that Appius, his creator's making him marry some other vamp. Her whole relationship with him's now in question and to top it off, the option of Bill is still on the surface as they flirt throughout the book. On top of it, Alcide tries to come back into her life, nude and in her bed. She's done with all of the guys for the time being, fed up with everything.

The book ends on a cheery supernatural asskicking and does its job as an awesome page turner. Throw in some Sookie Stackhouse sass, attractive supernatural men, a hefty helping of violence and blend!

Rating: 3

Mistborn (Jesus is a badass named Kelsier)

One thing Brandon Sanderson does well is get inventive with magic. It's not "Expelliarmus" nor poofs of giant light. It's no fairy flights of fancy or using your "imagination." He uses metal. Not the hairbanging rad kind of way (although it'd make an excellent soundtrack for the book) but his characters ingest metals, giving them access to certain abilities. The book is a microcosm into this world through a small band of rogues who are determined to take down an evil ruler/god. Everything they do is flashy and more awesome than a unicorn fart. What really makes the book though is the character of Kelsier (Jesus) who throughout the book rallies the battered citizens and sparks a rebellion so huge that even though it seems ridiculous, you actually believe he might be able to pull it off.


Wine into Water Moment #1 Kelsier takes on a disciple named Vin. She's a little scrapper with an attitude and a people problem. But he's so flippantly ridiculous that she naturally starts wondering what the hell kind of clown show she stumbled into. And they put on quite the show. She's a Mistborn though, like Kelsier and rare at that. So he takes her under his wing and trains her in all her metallurgical magic so she can be a badass and fly through the Mists like he does. (on a very irritating side note, this book is afflicted with the capitalization complex where Sanderson randomly capitalizes words to make them fancier rather than coming up with a new term entirely)

Wine into Water Moment #2  Kelsier performs a miracle and explodes all of the geodes in the Pits of Hathsin that these poor skaa (peasants) have been mining out for centuries. He's known as the Survivor of Hathsin because he's the only one who ever escaped. Everyone else dies down there, either stuck in the Pits or killed for not bringing back atium. The miracle he pulls off while exploding the object of his torment for so long is not only extremely gratifying to him on a personal level, but nothing sheer of amazing to everyone else. It pretty much solidifies his position as this almost untouchable persona.

Wine into Water Moment #3 The sacrifice. In any Jesus parody, it has to happen. Kelsier faces a Steel Inquisitor and takes it down, only to die as well. But in this power play, he reveals these god-like creatures can be killed, giving hope to the skaa. More importantly, he becomes a martyr for his cause, something the people can truly rally behind and immortalize in their own way.

Beyond that, the growth of Vin's character is extremely enjoyable to read and the way she takes up the mantle after Kelsier's death is nothing short of epic. The final faceoff with the Lord Ruler is like a spot on crotch-kick to his failing empire, because in the end, this mighty man is taken down by a pint sized girl.

Rating: 4

The Hunger Games (An orgasm so intense it reverberates around the world)

I'll start with the first book in this phenomenal trilogy. The second the writing kicks off, you're drawn into this desolate world of Panem where the Districts starve and slave away while the Capitol feasts and enjoys their rich and fancy life. While District kids starve to death, the Capitol folks watch these kids kill each other for entertainment and also as the government's reminder to the Citizens that they're still powerless. #Panemproblems for real. More importantly, we watch all of this horror through the eyes of Katniss, a fiery buttkicking purveyor of awesome. This chick is like the ideal of strong independent teens.


Heartbreaking moment #1: When she takes Prim's place at the Games. We all knew it was coming, but who didn't admire the internal strength of a big sister who would protect her sister at all costs? When Prim's name is announced, the reader waits in tense silence for Katniss's daring declaration. "I volunteer as tribute!"

Heartbreaking moment #2: Rue's death. Man. That hits you HARD. She's exactly like Prim and the way Katniss interacts with her is identical, plus she's also twelve years old. And after they triumphantly blow up the food stock, you so want them to find a way to escape the games together. But what gave it even more impact was the note of rebellion where Katniss covered her in flowers and sang her to rest. She gave the gamemakers and audience her own personal fuck you and really told us what inner fire this chick had inside.

Heartbreaking moment #3: In a different sense than the tragedy, when she returns for Peeta and gets him the medicine he needs, she really shows she cares. Despite her concern for his well-being, she doesn't reciprocate the feelings he's so intensely proclaimed. But this disparity in what Katniss feels versus what Peeta obviously feels creates something that's rather painful to watch. If Peeta was a douchebag character, you might not feel bad, but he shows himself throughout the book to be self-sacrificing, humble and generally just a very sweet, honest person. So at the end of the book, when she tells him the truth, it's nothing less than soul crushing. The boy with the bread echoes throughout your mind with the final words, like the residual notes of a gorgeous song that's come to an end.

This book is amazing. It's one that reminded me why I love books so much and has reawakened a want to read around the world. The spark inside carries across in beautiful writing that haunts you long after you've finished the trilogy.

Rating: 5

Belgariad (Otherwise known as how I publicly flayed myself with fantasy tropes)

Look. I get this book was written in 1862.

Oh wait, you mean this gem was written only twenty years back? I'm wondering how something written only thirty some years ago has less characterization than a Jane Austen novel. Seriously though, I borrowed this series in eager anticipation having heard great things about it. Everyone told me the books were fantastic. Well, everyone was wrong. I mean, I did finish it, so it wasn't unbearable.

The storyline was trite, but the action moved along at a fast enough pace to keep me reading. And since the writing was more readable than some of the stuff on the shelves, I managed to pull myself through the whole thing, but then again, each book is extremely short. Everything from plot to characterization reads with all the thrilling zest of Northanger Abbey. I feel like I'm back in college with my white haired professor reading it to me, clouding the room with his pungent soap and grandpa smell. Yes, David Eddings, I mean you.


Gripe #1: The plot is like driving a flat highway in the Midwest. You see all the turns coming from miles and miles away. It takes out all the thrill and turns it into a more impatient version of the "Are We There Yet" game. Hint, one way to make your plot more thrilling is by not announcing what's going to happen from the beginning in prophetical form. You weren't being subtle with Garion's chosen one storyline at ALL.

Gripe #2: The characters are about as animated as dead fish. Men act like men and women act like women. In other words, men drink and wench and go to taverns. They behave practically except when it comes to battle and then they take fiendish delight in chopping off limbs. When it comes to women, they all adapt an utterly befuddled "bitch be crazy" consensus. The women are equally as ridiculous, never saying anything straightforwardly and playing puzzles for no real reason at all. It's like watching a group of frat boys and sorostitudes interact with the exception that this is a fantasy novel and they have no rightful place in that genre.

Gripe #3: The stereotypes. All Drasnians are shifty. All Sendars are practical. All Chereks have beards. Seriously, I'd have to open up the Disney vault to find characters more one dimensional than these. The stereotypes might have worked at the time, but this didn't hold very well in modern day.

As an older series, I can respect what the book accomplished. They set some standards and followed the epic quest formula we know and love so well. The part with Ce'Nedra raising an army and Durnik coming back from the dead was pretty cool. They had their fun little points where you finally got to see the fates of the characters unfold and there's always some comfort in the formulaic epic quest stories. But would I read it again? Definitely not.

Rating: 2