The Seventh Sword Trilogy


I read the first book, The Reluctant Swordsman, five years ago and recently got an opportunity to read the rest of the trilogy (and a fourth book, but I haven’t done so). I gave The Reluctant Swordsman a middling review; enjoyable but not great. But someone commented and encouraged me to give the rest of the series another try.

And I still think they’re middling. Not bad. Far from great. Far from bad, but closer to bad than great. The plot and character development got increasingly unbelievable (I never could figure out what was causing the hero’s jealous mood swings in the final book), without ever becoming so bad that I had to put it down.

But the real problem – which was exacerbated by the longer format of a trilogy – was that the world building was just inadequate. I just couldn’t believe in this world. The economic and social structures were complex without ever feeling like realistic, within the logic of the world. In a single book, where the premise is that a middle aged man gets his fantasy of being placed into the body of a buff and handsome swordsman, that can be overlooked, but not if you drag it out into two more books.

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The Man In The High Castle


The missus and I have become fans of the Man in the High Castle television series and it seemed just wrong not to take advantage of the hiatus between the third and fourth season to read the book.

So, I got it from the library and was once again reminded of how deeply weird Philip K. Dick really is. I was also reminded of how much writers like William Gibson were influenced by him. Not just in Dick being porto-cyberpunk, but in how changes to the world and to technology change language.

The antiques dealer, Robert Childan (also one of my favorite characters from the series, which, in case you have only experienced one and not the other, is, like almost everyone else, wildly different from the man in the tv show), and the way he tries to adopt and interiorize Japanese modes of thinking deeply changes his language and even his inner monologue and that, and other similar adjustments, are the most fascinating part of the book.

The Poppy War


This book got a lot of attention and good press and I was genuinely excited to read it. To add some extra the spice, the author is from right here (Washington, DC; though I guess she has since moved). It lauded as a move away from western-centric fantasy and through some interesting, drug based ‘magic.’

But… aside from the Asian names, it did not actually feel that different from a traditional fantasy (poor girl goes to super school, turns out to be even more super than most, becomes a great shaman, which is to say, a sort of wizard). There were some references to the Journey to the West and other allusions to more classical Chinese culture, but even more thinly disguised references to the 20th century wars between Japan and China, as well as the Opium Wars (the name was barely changed) – so thinly disguised that they felt heavy handed rather than allusive; cheap rather than enlightening.

Just because it’s what I do, I may read the second book when it comes out, but I can’t deny that this one was a disappointment.

Beyond The Empire


Sliding into this book (3rd in the series) was like getting into a comfortable and super fun bath. Not as good as the first one, but still a blast.

Space opera. Military sci fi. Political sci fi. Feminist sci fi.

The strongest relationship in the trilogy was between a man and woman who respected and loved each other without ever suggesting that they had any desire to ever have sex (with each other). If there was a criticism, it is that this friendship didn’t get the attention it deserved in the final book.

I gather there is a sequel series and I’m down to read it.

Magician: Master


A little less ‘D&D’-y than its predecessor, but a little more needlessly complex mythology. A lot of deus ex machinas at work here. On the positive side, some nice subversion of expectations (no one gets the princess).

The next volume, while a direct sequel to this one, I gather, is more of a novel within the same world than a continuation of the same storyline. And I’ll probably read it, but I won’t rush. Does that make sense?

‘Magician: Apprentice’ By Raymond E. Feist


I enjoyed it and I feel like it improved over the course of the book, but… I have a question for those who might know: did he shameless rip off Dungeons & Dragons or did D&D shamelessly rip off from Feist? Because the magic system seems like a good faith effort to justify/explain the D&D system of magic (which is all about creating a justification for why wizards shouldn’t be all powerful).

This was one of the books that I remember seeing in Waldenbooks and B. Dalton as a kid, with Feist being a prolific and popular author on the sci-fi and fantasy shelves of those now defunct (I believe) bookstores.