Fiction: April 2008 Archives

This is a curious book, pleasing in many ways. In the bottom of it, Gun, with Occasional Music is a hard-boiled detective story. It's told in first person by a private detective, who becomes involved in a murder case that isn't quite as simple as the law enforcement would like it to be. There are temptresses, gangsters, corrupt law enforcement, all the basic building blocks.

However, there are also developed animals (one particularly nasty kangaroo, for example), legal drugs to keep the population happy, dystopian society where printed word is banned and asking questions requires a permit and all sorts of science fiction weirdness. The combination is slightly odd but as I said, rather pleasing.

Lethem has created a monster, but it's a good monster. The plot is filled with detective genre cliches, but it's not a joke or parody. Events unfold pleasantly quickly and the final twist is delicious. This was a quick read, but left me rather satisfied. (Review based on the Finnish translation.) [ Gun with Occasional Music at ]Gun, with Occasional Music at LibraryThing ]

The Emperor doesn't rule over the Fourlands. He just protects them, while the god is away. Emperor is immortal and rules the Circle, a group of 50 immortals, who serve him to help the people to survive. All humanity is threatened by giant insects, who have been trying to conquer all lands for centuries. This is the setting, where we peek for a while.

The story is told by Jant, the Messenger of the Circle. He has wings like many other people in this world, but he's the only one who can fly. He also has a nasty drug addiction, giving him hallucinogenic visions of a different world.

The insects aren't the only problem: the immortals of the Circle can't always stand each other. I suppose defending humanity in a never-ending war against completely alien enemy takes its toll. There are several interesting plot lines, but not all of them are properly explored.

As it is, this book certainly has flaws. For example, of the 50 immortals less than ten make any kind of significant appearance. I wonder what the rest do? Well, despite the flaws the book has lot to like and even though the whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts, I do recommend the books for readers who enjoy modern fantasy and like to explore different worlds. It's certainly an interesting world.

The book does end a bit abruptly, but I suppose the sequel (No Present Like Time) picks up where this one leaves the story. Apparently, this is actually a first part of a trilogy... So better prepare to pick up the sequels as well, if you end up liking this one. I know I'm putting the next part on my BookMooch wishlist. [ The Year of Our War (Gollancz S.F.) at ]The Year of Our War at LibraryThing ]

Douglas Coupland: Eleanor Rigby

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With a title like this, it's hardly a surprise Eleanor Rigby is about loneliness. Liz Dunn is lonely, she just doesn't have much to look forward to in her ordinary, lonely life. Just when Liz decides to look for peace in her life, a huge change happens: a young man is brought to a hospital, with a bracelet bearing Liz's name as someone to contact in case of emergency. Who is he?

That's all it takes to turn Liz's life upside down. Coupland piles unlikely, charming, entertaining and touching twists until things get absurd, but it works. The plot moves on on different times, as Liz is writing about what happened earlier and what happens right now. The different points of view alternate and keep the reader anxious to read on. Liz is a delicious character, as is the young man he meets, Jeremy, and this is a rather delicious book. (Review based on the Finnish translation.) [ Eleanor Rigby at ]Eleanor Rigby at LibraryThing ]

Stephen Baxter: Manifold: Origin

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Manifold is a series of three books. They're not a sequence, actually, as they describe parallel universes. The main character are the same, but the world they live in is different. Origin presents us a world where the good old Moon is replaced by a large red moon. As it happens, the main character, Reid Malenfant, loses his wife Emma on the new moon and has to rescue her.

Emma finds the new moon inhabited by various hominid species. Baxter offers us an interesting view to the life of different hominids, with a point of view of the hominids themselves and humans living with them. It's interesting, but it can also get slightly tedious - this is one long-winded book, with a plot that's a framework for all sorts of neat stuff Baxter wants to present.

But it works, for me at least, because even though I began reading book with some doubts, I soon got sucked into the events. It gets quite interesting and Baxter has some pretty wild ideas there. This book isn't for everybody (that is easy to see from the Amazon reviews, many of which give just one or two stars), but if you enjoyed the other Manifold books, this one is worth reading. [ Manifold: Origin at ]Manifold: Origin at LibraryThing ]

Ursula K. Le Guin: Gifts

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Gifts starts the Annals of the Western Shores, a trilogy (so far) of fantasy novels for young adults. That doesn't stop me from reading it, no, because Le Guin is such an excellent story-teller. The book is fairly short and quick to read - but with a book shelf full of unread books, that's not a bad thing at all.

The story is fabulous, that's what counts. It's about two youths, growing up on the highlands where magical powers run in families. Neither of them wants to use their power, for good or bad. The themes of the book - responsibility, fulfilling the expectations of parents, power - are old and familiar, but the way Le Guin uses them is very pleasing. I also really enjoyed the world, with its earthbound magic. Highly recommended, both for younger and older readers! [ Gifts at ]Gifts at LibraryThing ]

Every Carroll novel has been a pleasure, so far, and Marriage of Sticks is not different. There's a nice twist in the plot, so I'll avoid spoiling the fun for you. It's a story of a rare book dealer, Miranda, living in New York, having an affair - and then some rather surreal and fantastic experiences, as is the standard in Jonathan Carroll novels (I'm not sure I'd like to be a character in a Jonathan Carroll novel!).

In any case, it's an interesting story, very fast-paced and at times confusing, but Carroll draws all the plot lines together in the end in a pleasing way. If you've read any of his other Crane's View Trilogy books, you'll recognize some places and people. [ The Marriage of Sticks at ]The Marriage of Sticks at LibraryThing ]

Ken MacLeod: Newton's Wake

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Newton's Wake is a space opera (it says so on the cover). The Carlyles, a band of entrepreneurs (or gangsters) who control a profitable wormhole network discover a planet with some rather interesting artifacts. Too bad it's already inhabited by a lost fragment of humankind. A simple combat archeology operation turns into a huge mess that threatens the whole Carlyle family business.

It gets rather complicated in the end, and it's kind of funny how this book really has no bad guys or good guys - or at least I'm finding it hard to decide who are who. There's quite a bit of action, some pretty cool futuristic technology, plenty of rather entertaining comedy (though that seems to divide opinions pretty wildly according to the Amazon reviews) and even though the purpose of it all is kind of hard to follow at times, I still found the book a good read.

Granted, at some point I thought Newton's Wake was really, really good, but in the end it's not - it's just good. The ending, in particular, didn't please me quite as thoroughly as I would've wanted. Someone said the end of the book felt vague, and I think that's pretty close to how I felt. It was worth reading, however, as Newton's Wake certainly has some pretty wild highlights. I was particularly fond of the search engines. [ Newton's Wake at ]Newton's Wake at LibraryThing ]

China Miéville is one of my favourites in the fantasy genre. His New Crobuzon novels are all very interesting, but so are his short stories, too: Looking for Jake is an interesting collection of eight short stories and one comic written by Miéville.

London is a popular setting for the stories, but there's also one set in the New Crobuzon, telling the story of the legendary Jack Half-a-Prayer. All in all, a good collection of interesting stories, highly recommended for those who have enjoyed Miéville's longer works or want a dose of new weird. [ Looking for Jake: And Other Stories at ]Looking for Jake at LibraryThing ]

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