Archive for June, 2013

The first one is not there

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

The downside on finding cheap discounts that in many cases, if the book is question is part of a series, it will not be the first one but the second or third. Partially that is troublesome because often starting with a second or later book will disclose details from the earlier books which will make them less appealing to read. On the other hand, chances are reasonable that sufficient time passes before one manages to find that first book also for a cheap price. In this day and age of internet (second hand) bookshops the waiting game is much less of a big deal. Finding cheap discounts is fairly easy. To make it less easy for me I try to get the same edition so that the books match.

Anyways, I got my hand on three new (and cheap) second hand fantasy novels. The first one is How Firm This Foundation (2011) by David Weber. This is actually book five of the Safehold series of which I previously purchased (also as a discount) the third book, By Heresies Distressed. Obviously this series will take a while before I decide to get into it. I will just see where it will go before I will be tired of waiting and just start looking on the internet for the other books.

The next two books make completion a little easier as they are books two and three of the Cycle Of Fire trilogy by Janny Wurts. The novels are Keeper Of The Keys (1988) and Shadowfane (1988). I’ve been reading her Wars Of Light And Shadow series for some years now so it shouldn’t be that bad to get one of her older works. Somewhere in the back of my head a voice is saying that I’ve read one novel of the Cycle Of Fire a long time ago, but I can’t remember anymore. It was probably when I still lived at my parents’ place and went to a library often.

So some more books for my read pile, which has only seen some moderate progress lately due to other activities. At some point I will be heading ahead again.

 

Joe Abercrombie – Red Country

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Red Country (2012) is the sixth novel taking place in the same universe Joe Abercrombie created with the fantasy trilogy The First Law. This is the third stand-alone installment and like the previous two books it contains a few familiar characters. The setting is new and takes place in a sort-of frontier region. Life is hard and brutal here and Abercrombie writes his most gritty story yet. There is plenty of nastiness. Not in the sense of horrific, but in the lowness of human behavior. There is little good to be found. Much gets twisted and selfishness plays a big role. Being unselfish is often a mistake, leading to complications and tragedy.

Red Country, in its essence, is a story about revenge, but very different than the similar themed Best Served Cold. The story is more straightforward and although Abercromie adds in several minor stories to spice things up and complicate mattersĀ  it all remains rather low level. There is some humor and some nice character interaction, but none of these are really memorable. Abercrombie shows his usual skill but the story and the setting are simply too mundane and outside the center of real power to make something more of it. Abercrombie is aware of this and some of his characters show great realism toward their situation. It are these small details that make something more of this novel and something different than the usual fantasy fare.

Abercrombie only manages to get one character go through some serious development. He does this well, but for the story the character is more an anti-hero which stands to great contrast with the other characters who show more guts and attitude. Most of them remain fairly sketchy and we see far too little background to create an idea of what they are. The only exception are the old familiar characters. Abercrombie is well versed in their behavior and nature and they stand out amongst the crowd. I expect that many of these new character won’t be heard of again in future novels, if he writes more. And that’s a bit the downside to this novel. He wraps things up too nicely. Oh, there are a few minor threads that remain open, but the question remains if they are of real significance. It will really depend on it if Abercrombie decides to write another greater story in this universe.

In the end I cannot conclude that this novel is up to par with the other novels of the series. The previous novel, The Heroes, I saw as an interesting exercise in writing one big extended final so that it had something special despite not providing the greater satisfaction I had with the first four novels. I managed to mention some good things about Red Country, but it also contains weaknesses. It is a good novel and Abercrombie all the way, but it is not a great one. In a way it contains too many depressing elements and he does not manage to really develop his cast of characters as well as he did in The Heroes. I will still recommend it, but not highly. At least I know I can trust to buy an Abercrombie book without checking it out, because he at least won’t let you down.

Finding something to read

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Having a decent read pile doesn’t help much if you’re not in the mood to read any of it. It’s not that they are not good or hard to get into. I know I can read almost anything if I want to and am in the right mood. Unfortunately I’ve been stuck so I have to wait until I come across something new that I do want to read immediately. Lately I’ve become a bit more picky as I’ve had some books that disappointed me to some or extent do did not manage to appeal me into reading more. I know I will get back to that read pile eventually and catch up again.

A few weeks ago I managed to get a book from my Wanted Books list and today I got another. This one’s Red Country (2012) by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy author who I’ve gotten to appreciate over the past few years so that I don’t really need to think before buying a new novel. Well, one doesn’t get books on my Wanted Books list for no reason. The second book I picked up is an oldie by E.R. Eddison, als a fantasy, called A Fish Dinner In Memison (1941). Just the title is already peculiar. Eddison’s most famous work is The Worm Ouroboros, one that I greatly enjoyed, so I hope this one will do too. As it is a book from the very early days of fantasy one is at least guaranteed a fresh take on the genre.