Monday, December 08, 1997

Review: "Royal Assassin" by Robin Hobb

When I picked up Robin Hobb's first book, Assassin's Apprentice, on a suggestion, I was impressed. When I read this one I was astounded.

After foiling Prince Regal's plot to claim the throne, Fitz returns to Buckkeep, where he has to face his enemy on a daily basis. While he fights his own battles, the six duchies are still threatened by raiders, leaving Verity defending the kingdom, King Shrewd ill, and Regal free to plot.

Fitz meets Regal's treachery at every turn, but his ultimate treachery could be the downfall of the six duchies.

Royal Assassin does exactly what the second book of a series should, but unfortunately a lot don't. It builds on the story and the tension, making the reader want more.

The real strength of Hobb's writing is her characters, and she is in fine form in this segment of the trilogy. All of her characters are well-rounded and three-dimensional, and they pull you deeper into the story. They make you feel like you know and care about them.

This book has vaulted the third book in the trilogy, Assassin's Quest, to the top of my reading list.

Saturday, November 08, 1997

Review: "Assassin's Apprentice" by Robin Hobb

Lately, I've been trying to collect a list of new authors that I might like to read. Based on other writers I enjoy, one name that kept popping up was Robin Hobb. Deciding to give her a chance, I picked up Hobb's first novel, Assassin's Apprentice. I wasn't disappointed.

Fitz, the bastard son of a prince, is given into the care of the royal house by his grandfather, which sets into a motion a chain of events that makes for a good read. Prince Chivalry relinquishes his claim to the throne in disgrace, and is later assassinated by the ambitious Prince Regal, who, although third in line for the throne, plots to take it for himself. Meanwhile, the kingdom faces a threat from outside its borders as well, as raiders attack relentlessly.

Fitz, meanwhile is given odd jobs around the palace, and is generally reviled by those in the palace. But King Shrewd sees a good use for him, as the king's assassin. His first mission is to elminate the feeble brother of the heir's bride-to-be. But when Fitz arrives, he finds the brother anything, but feeble, and uncovers a plot to overthrow the crown.

This is a promising first book with good characterization and a lot of action. The naming system, whereby royalty is named for a quality they will hopefully have, can get a little tiresome, but that's my only complaint. Overall a very good book. The second book in the series, Royal Assassin, is high in my to-be-read stack.

Friday, October 31, 1997

Review: "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson

This is a true classic of dark fantasy/horror.

Robert Neville is the last man on earth. He finds himself surrounded and accosted by vampires created by a highly contagious bacteria. By day, he hunts and kills the monsters. By night, he boards himself into his house to wait for the rising sun.

Although his existence is frustrating, he survives quite well until a group of "still-living" vampires finds a way to halt the bacteria, and form a new society.

Although this book loses some of its original power, being set in the "distant future" of 1976, it's still a very moving and haunting book. It's dark and gritty, but at the same time, there's a wry humor about the whole situation.

While vampire novels have become a dime a dozen lately, I can't think of very many that compare with this one. It's one that has stood the test of time, and will continue to do so.

Sunday, July 27, 1997

Review: "The Immortals" by Tracy Hickman

I've been reading Tracy Hickman's work for a long time now, and this is quite possibly the best thing he's ever written.

In the near future, a cure is found for AIDS, but the cure causes a worse and more lethal disease known as V-CIDS. By 2010 the United States has fallen under martial law, and the disease has run rampant. The government has taken the drastic steps of herding those infected into prison camps to die.

When millionaire Michael Barris sneaks into one of the camps to find his infected son, he finds a much darker side to the camps that he helped create.

This is likely Hickman's best writing and his most meaningful work. It's a very dark novel, and it's even a little scary to think about. Even if you've never liked anything he's done before, you might want to give this one a read.

Saturday, July 12, 1997

Review: "The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe

Many consider this work one of the classic science fiction tales, but I have mixed feelings about it.

In a far-flung, post-apocalyptic future, a world that blends elements of our world and ancient worlds exists. Severian was given over to the Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence - the torturers - as a young child. After he's captivated by a prisoner and shows mercy, he's exiled from the Order. Armed with the sword Terminus Est, he's sent to an outer region of the kingdom to practice his art. But on the way he gets pulled into adventure.

After hearing several stories about how good it was, and finding the subject matter intriguing I bought the two-volume, four-book set. Overall, I was unimpressed. While the story is quite good, it get's bogged down in a slow writing style. Often the author goes off on these philosophical asides that take the reader completely out of the story. So far, I've only read the first two books, "The Shadow of the Torturer" and "The Claw of the Conciliator", but I put the other two on the backburner.

It's an interesting idea, and an interesting story if you can wade through it. It's not for me, but others may like it.

Wednesday, June 25, 1997

Review: "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman

This book falls somewhere in between the old Beauty and the Beast television show, and Alice in Wonderland.

Richard Mayhew is an average guy with an average job and a nagging, but beautiful fiancee until he stops to help a girl he finds injured on the street. After that he gradually fades from our world and is forced to try to find his way through London Below to try to get his life back.

Though I felt it started a little slow, by the end of this book I felt that I had been on a wonderful journey. In addition to creating a world full of wonders in London Below - a place for those who have "slipped through the cracks" of London Above, Gaiman also introduces a cast of dynamic and interesting characters that all bring to mind the Lewis Carroll classic. From the flamboyant Marquis de Carabas, to the innocent Door to the insane assassins Croup and Vandemar, every character is just a little too eccentric and overdone, but rather than killing the novel, it actually makes it that much better.

I'm a fan of Gaiman's Sandman comic, and I also enjoyed his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, "Good Omens". This book shows a promising start to a career as a novelist for Gaiman as well. I'll be looking for his next one.