Shadowheart


He, umm… he did not, shall we say, stick the landing.

The final volume of Shadowmarch series managed to both be frenetic and also to drag terribly, an impressive accomplishment, but not fun to read.

Much of the book is an extended battle sequence – a series of engagements around the primary locale (Southmarch, if you’re interested) that are so frequent that they cease to hold the attention.

The climactic battle, involving a freed/awoken (though not ‘woke’) god, depended on some world building that the book didn’t earn. And some story lines turned out to be absolute nothings. There was, for example, a potentially interesting and morally weak poet named Tinwright who managed to take a large quantity of pages only to not do anything important or meaningful, in the end. It was like someone fired Checkhov’s gun, but missed and then did nothing more with it.

Finally, the ending went on for something like two hundred pages after the climax. Sure, Tolkien did that… but he was Tolkien. I didn’t know Tolkien, but I read a lot of his works, and you, sir, are no J.R.R. Tolkien.

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‘Shadowrise’ By Tad Williams


The Tad is back! By which I mean that Shadowrise, the third book in his Shadowmarch tetralogy, is much better than the disappointing second, Shadowplay.

This one is more exciting and the characters have grown so that they are less irritating than they sometimes were in previous installments (though I would have liked more from the perspective of Chert, the funderling [read: fantasy dwarf]) and he seems to have firm control over the narrative.

I’m already reading the fourth book and will blog about it soon, if my daughter will let me finish it.

‘The Big Jump’ By Leigh Brackett


Leigh Brackett is one of the great pulp science fiction writers of the twentieth century. While definitely writing pulp, most of the time, her writing is several degrees better than most every one of her contemporaries. And if you’re a feminist, she was one of the few female sci fi writers of the period (Andre Norton is probably the one who comes closest in output and quality; LeGuin was something like a contemporary, though a little later than Brackett, but is one a whole other level – which is no dig on Brackett [nor Norton]; at least 99.9999% of all writers are not as good as LeGuin). Continue reading

‘Shadowplay’ By Tad Williams


Point number one, Williams’ writing is not relentlessly grim, but his books are far too grim, at least, for the writer to go by ‘Tad.’ It’s just weird.

Second, I think I have merely transferred my bibliomaniacal tendencies to buy books towards checking them out from the library. Books on hold are being made available faster than I can read them (and certainly, fatherhood has slowed down my reading – a nearly seven year old, precocious, and active adopted child does not lend itself to quiet contemplation, though the trade off is certainly worthwhile). I had to renew this book once and I feel like the other two borrowed books in my possession will not be done before they are due. And I have more in the queue. We all have problems. This one, I suppose, is not even the worst of mine.

The level of ‘high fantasy’ – magic and monsters and the like – is higher than before. In fact, this series is actually, pretty textbook high fantasy, but it feels like it isn’t, because there is a certain grimness running through it.

I miss the realpolitik of the first volume, but it did a decent job of fleshing out the world and making the threats faced by the ‘good guys’ (two of whom are actually girls; arguably to primary protagonist is a self-possessed adolescent girl) more three dimensional than before.

But I still don’t feel one hundred percent convinced, though his writing is good enough, clearly, that I have now read five books by him (in two series).

‘Shadowmarch’ By Tad Williams


I recently finished Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and this book (the first of four in a new series) is both better and worse than the earlier series. Better in that Williams has a better handle on how to manage the plots and characters, making it seem less sprawling than it really is. What is, in truth, place setting for future volumes, feels more organic. It also feels more mature, in a sense. The political scenery feels more realistically entangled.

There is, however, nothing so wonderful as the lengthy opening of The Dragonbone Chair, which lets you immerse in the quotidian life of the future hero as a lazy kitchen helper, as well as get solid glimpses of the forthcoming plot through his eyes, in part.

I will definitely keep reading, though I won’t rush out and get the second volume right now.

 

Triplanetary


The first of the Lensman novels by E.E. Smith, aka, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Triplanetary never mentions Lensmen and you might not even know that it’s a series, except that the masterful, manly, monogamous, and magnificently named hero (Conway Costigan) is begging for more appearances.

Clearly the product of serialization, you can see where each installment began and ended. Pirates attack a space liner/cruise ship, but Costigan and Captain Bradley escape and lead a counterattack against the evil pirates. Then aliens appear and wipe out everyone but Bradley, Costigan, and a love interest. (Cliffhanger!) The escape from the aliens and send super technology info to Triplanetary, a space super spy/military agency, who finally and fully defeat the space pirates – but the aliens are back! (Cliffhanger!) Manly men in awesome space ships fight the aliens to a draw and peace is achieved.

The end.

Smith tries really hard to make his science believable by the standards of the day (he first wrote it in the thirties) and I’ll probably read more of these.