Friday, March 20, 1998

Review: "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury

Another trip down memory lane. A while back, I revisited "Farenheit 451" and "The October Country," now I stop at the carnival.

The carnival rolls into a small Illinois town in the dead of night, carrying a dark secret. Two boys, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, set out to discover all the secrets of the Cooger and Dark Pandemonium Show and get more than they bargained for. Now they have to dodge Mr. Dark, while trying to save the town from the temptations of the carnival.

Regardless of what Bradbury writes, he does it well. I still say his best works comes when he walks on the dark side, though. A sense of foreboding, a feeling of evil permeates the story. Bradbury is a master at it.

Not only that, but his characterization is top-notch as usual. Everyone knows, or perhaps was, a kid like Will or Jim. As far as the nasty characters go, Bradbury is able to make them dark and fascinating, yet still very believable.

Bottom line: This is one of those books that I think should be required reading for everyone. Bradbury is a master storyteller and this is one of his best.

Sunday, March 15, 1998

Review: "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin

This book boasts that it's "The Fantasy Novel of the Year" in bright red letters on the cover, and the tale, for once, lives up to that boast. Martin delivers a gripping story of power plays, court intrigue and treachery.

This complex tale weaves elements of fantasy, mystery and suspense into a novel that will keep you reading well into the night.

The world of Martin's novel is intriguing in itself. It's a place where summer can last for decades, and winter lasts longer. As the novel opens winter is coming, and with it darkness. But at this point, that's the least the characters have to worry about. Plots to murder and take over the throne of the seven kingdoms abound, taking up most of the characters' thoughts in this first book.

Martin switches back and forth between several key characters, often leaving the characters in a precarious situation for several chapters before returning to them. Normally, a writer who used that technique to build suspense would annoy me, but for some reason, it works for Martin. Probably because there simply is so much going on. This novel is 800 pages long without a dull moment - that's difficult to do.

Another thing I like about this book is the gray area. Everyone on the "good" side is not likeable, and everyone on the "bad" side is not despicable. For example, I absolutely loathed Sansa Stark, who is obviously on the "good" side. I called her the "prissy bitch" for most of the book, and wished her sister Arya would give her a sound thrashing. On the other hand, I found I often liked Tyrion Lannister, obviously one of the "bad" guys.

The only real complaint I have with this book is that not all of the story lines were wrapped up well. Some of the stories lacked closure. I realize Martin is planning a several book series here, but still there should be a little closure. For example, one character is left dangling with a knife at her throat. That's OK for a couple of chapters, but for a year or more until the next volume it's a bit annoying.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. I don't know if I'm ready to call it the "Fantasy Novel of the Year", but I'll definitely say that, in my opinion, it's one of the top two or three.

Wednesday, March 11, 1998

Review: "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

This is the first installment of the little nostalgia trip I've been on lately.

It's been a long time since I first picked this book up in junior high for a book report, but the years have not changed the impact it has on me.

If anything, this book had a more profound effect on me this time around, because I'm older and can see deeper into it. It's almost chilling when you look around at the world we live in now and compare it to the world of this book. The low price we put on human life and the gradual disappearance of some personal rights play right into the plot of this book, and I know that when I turn on the television, a lot of the programs I see remind me an awful lot of the "family".

Another thing that really brought the similarities home was a discussion I had online with someone about the book while I was re-reading it. The person told me he felt the book was boring and not worth the paper it was printed on. When I asked the person to elaborate, I was told that it needed more action. What this person described as how the book should have been presented was basically like a television show. At first I was amused that the person had completely missed the point, then after some thought it kind of scared me.

Some of the things in this book just sent a chill down my spine that wasn't there the first time around. That's not to say I think we are, or will ever be, in a society like the one Bradbury envisions, but still it's definitely something worth thinking about.

This book should be required reading for everyone.

Sunday, March 01, 1998

Review: "Daughter of the Blood" by Anne Bishop

What would it take to turn Hell upside down? How about a young girl who is much more than she seems.

Jaenelle is Witch, a being destined to be more powerful than the High Lord of Hell himself. If, of course, she lives long enough to fulfill her potential.

She is only seven when she's discovered to have the powers of Witch, and her childish antics keep Saetan, the High Lord, and her earthly protector and would be consort, Daemon Sadi, scrambling to keep her safe.

If she were to fall under the control of the wrong people, it would be disastrous. The wrong hands are the vengeful, self-appointed High Priestess of Hell, Hekatah, and her mortal puppet, Dorothea SaDiablo. Both who long to get their hands on the girl, never fully realizing what she is.