The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

August 2, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

catThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein

—–

I’m not sure why, but I was under the impression that this book fell earlier in Heinlein’s career. No, instead this is his penultimate book, full of all the thinks he became notorious for: blatant sexism; looser plots; more libertarianism; and much, much more perversity. I mean, I’m no prude, but when the book opens with a woman telling the male narrator that he’s stretched her out and made her no good for anyone else, it sets an uncomfortable tone.

The book is peppered with Heinlein’s philosophy on everything, and halfway through, we get the full doctrine on women and government. He had a profound misunderstanding of socialism, and a misogynistic attitude in general, and it offended me so much I almost stopped listening. Then I wondered how bad it would get, and decided to tough it out. Let me illustrate some of the biggest WTF moments:

  1. I’ve already covered the size-of-dick passage that pretty much opens the book, but I have to put it at the top of the list. It just … what? It’s baffling.
  2. The female lead walks out on the male lead, over his being an absolute jerk, but then she comes back, begging HIM to take HER back.
  3. A woman expresses anger over something said to her, but the narrator notes that “her nipples crinkled”, which he takes to mean she’s secretly pleased.
  4. Four thousand years in the future, a computer responds to a request by saying “Yassuh massah”.

Of course, the future is full of free love, with married people not just allowed, but expected to sleep with however many people as possible, and since this is a Heinlein novel, that means some of them are underage and related to each other (though he does throw in some M/M action, which was unexpected). Again, I’m no prude, but I can’t help but feel like this is more one of Heinelein’s fantasies and less a novel, though I feel that way about Stranger in a Strange Land, too.

All that aside, the story just isn’t that great. Time for the Stars and The Door into Summer were good stories, compelling and entertaining, but this novel rambles around with no obvious point. He pulls in important information only when it’s necessary, instead of setting it up earlier in the story and bringing it in when it’s relevant. The end result is a story that’s just one event after another, loosely tied together as an adventure novel. The characters aren’t very sympathetic either, since they’re insufferable. They’re privileged and entitled, and their approach to everything is one of condescension.

This book is indefensible to me. It’s questionable in so many ways, and it’s not even that good of a story on top of that. I’m still looking forward to reading Heinlein’s juvenile books, but I’m questioning if I want to read anything else from his later years.

Started: July 9, 2018
Finished: July 19, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Pick the Plot

August 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

plotPick the Plot by James Riley

—–

The whole Story Thieves series has been pretty clever so far, but Riley raises that cleverness a notch by turning the fourth novel into a choose-your-own-adventure story. Since the series frequently breaks the fourth wall for Owen and Bethany’s adventures, Riley brings the reader in as an important character in the story, which makes sense, since most of the CYOA books were written in the second person. Pick the Plot, though, is not.

This time around, Owen is trapped in a time prison back in prehistoric times, and the prison is set up so that it resets at the end of each day, putting the prisoners back on their first day there, with no memories of what happened in the previous day. Since the story sometimes sends the readers back to the beginning of the story to pick the next choice in a situation, the conceit works well, even if it means the story is pretty much on rails. As I was reading, I cheated with some choices so I could make sure I read the whole book, but it turns out that Riley will still steer you in the direction he wants you to go. There is a divergence in the story that alters part of the plot, but it reconnects with the ending so there’s still only one complete plot. For a book in a series, though, this is to be expected; if there were different endings, it would affect the next book.

Speaking of which, it looks like Story Thieves is coming to an end with the next book. While I wouldn’t mind seeing more stories set in this universe, I’m glad that Riley is working toward a known ending, instead of carrying the series out through too many books. It’s been a fun ride, thanks in part to how clever it’s been, but it feels like it will be going out on a good note. I’ll be starting the final book immediately after this one, so I’ll let y’all know.

Started: July 15, 2018
Finished: July 17, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Into the Drowning Deep

July 31, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

deepInto the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

—–

I’ve read a bunch of novellas by Grant/McGuire so far, but Into the Drowning Deep is the first novel of hers I’ve read. I had been looking forward to it, since I’ve liked her style, but felt like the novellas moved too quickly, or didn’t give enough attention to the character development. I chalked it up to the brevity of the format, and wanted to see what she could do with a full-length novel. Rolling in the Deep helped me move this up my list to read.

In a way, I was right, in that the novel starts out being almost exactly like the novella, just with more character and plot development. It’s definitely the same story (scientists and television producers go out to the Mariana Trench to discover if mermaids are real), but it uses different characters and goes into more depth with the cast and their trials. The good news is Grant’s characterization skills are top notch, as she draws out a cast of different characters who are all distinct and likeable (or unlikeable, as the case may be).

The thing is, there’s something about Grant’s style overall that feels a little flighty, giving the suggestion that we shouldn’t take the events too seriously. We should, because this is a straight-up horror novel set at sea, and it’s not that Grant’s style is irreverent, but it has a kind of casual feel that’s at odds with the tone of the story. It’s a characteristic I’m finding more often in more recent genre fiction, and I’m not quite used to it.

Aside from that, though, Into the Drowning Deep is a solid novel, in that it’s easily accessible, palpably tense, and populated with characters whose desires drive the plot. It doesn’t quite compare with the brilliance of her Wayward Children series, but it does show off Grant’s skills as a writer. One of these days I’ll commit to some of her longer series.

Started: June 24, 1028
Finished: July 15, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Orpheus Process

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

orpehusThe Orpheus Process by Daniel H. Gower

—–

The Orpheus Process was lucky thirteen in the Dell/Abyss line of books, so of course it has to be a good one, right? It won’t be as bad as either of the Ron Dee books, right? I’m not just trying to pump myself up for reading another crappy horror novel, right?

Unfortunately, no. The Orpheus Process doesn’t delve as deeply into the pointlessness that Dusk, Obsessed, or Descent did, but it’s hardly a good book. It has a dry, unemotional style that feels very tell-y, while also having a melodramatic, over-the-top feel to how Gower tells the story. It’s filled with stilted dialogue and inconsistent characters who flip-flop on their decisions without much reason why. I pegged that much of it within the first fifty pages, but the rest of the book revealed bad science, gratuitous violence, and ridiculous plotting. The book is readable, and doesn’t tread the misogyny line as much as those other three books (though there is a heavy dose of sexism), but that’s about the best I can say for it.

This isn’t a book that makes me want to throw it into the fire, but neither is it a book I would ever want to re-read, nor is it one I would recommend. To paraphrase Eric Idle, this isn’t a book for reading; this is a book for laying down and avoiding. I have fond memories of this publishing line, but I should have remembered Sturgeon’s Law before attempting this reading project, as I have regrets.

Started: July 5, 2018
Finished: July 15, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Messenger’s Legacy

July 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

legacyMessenger’s Legacy by Peter V. Brett

—–

Right as I was starting to read The Core, I discovered that Brett had another novella that fell between books three and four of his Demon Cycle. Since I was finishing out the series, I figured I needed to read it, too, but since I had already started The Core, I decided to wait to read this one. That was both a good idea and a bad idea.

It was a good idea, because I didn’t remember Briar from the previous books, and The Core helped jog my memory and let me know who he was. It was a bad idea, though, because by the time I finished this book, I knew what had happened to him when he was younger, albeit just in the broad sense. Messenger’s Legacy feels superfluous afterward, since all it does is flesh out the details. Had I read the book in its right place, it might have had a different effect on me, and it’s certainly not fair to judge the novella on my own failure to stick to the timeline, but it definitely makes a difference.

I don’t think the book is necessary to read if you’ve already finished the series, but if you’re reading the series fresh, make sure you drop this volume into its right place. It will be new to you there, and will set the ground for the character when he enters the story as a key player. Not having read it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of The Core, but it would have made a difference had I read it in its proper place in the chronology.

Started: July 14, 2018
Finished: July 14, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Return of the Jedi

July 26, 2018 at 4:25 pm (Reads) (, , )

jediReturn of the Jedi by James Kahn

—–

Return of the Jedi is my least favorite of the original trilogy of movies. I’ve never been convinced that Vader showed any signs of having good in him before this movie, and the way Luke keeps telling everyone that he does never made much sense to me. It’s a sticking point for me, and I have yet to see anything in the movies that resolved it for me. When I started this novelization, I was hoping the book would give more insight into how Luke knew that about his father.

Unfortunately, the novel sheds no additional light on on Luke’s revelation. Instead, it makes Vader out to be even more cold blooded, enough so that he struck me as a character who was less likely to have any good in him than in the movie. The novel does go into a little more depth, adding dialogue that was likely cut from the script before filming, but it doesn’t resolve that central issue I had with the book.

The novelization is a bit tell-y, and the characterization feels weaker since Kahn appears to rely on readers being familiar with the characters from the movie instead of developing them in the story itself. It’s a decent enough read, and would entertain someone looking for a quick read, but I don’t see why anyone would choose to read the book over seeing the movie. It doesn’t add enough to make it a necessary read.

Started: July 6, 2018
Finished: July 14, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Core

July 25, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

coreThe Core by Peter V. Brett

—–

It’s weird to think I’ve only been reading The Demon Cycle since 2013. It feels like it’s only been three years, tops, but by the time I got into it, The Daylight War had only just come out in paperback, and I had to wait for the last two books to come out along with everyone else. I hate waiting, but I also hate losing track of details from one book to the next.

The good news is that Brett does such an extraordinary job of building his world that it only took about 100 pages to be completely familiar with what had come before. Characters came back to me quickly, and as they did, so did their stories. The biggest struggle I had was remembering which events went with which book, but that didn’t affect the story, since that wasn’t relevant to the plot itself.

The book seems to polarize people, namely in how Brett brings the series to a close. More to the point, it’s in how long it takes to get there. Brett populated his saga with a ton of characters (not GRRM levels, but still one that might require a spreadsheet), and it seems like he was wanting to make sure each one got their own conclusion, so it takes well over half the book to get to the journey to the final confrontation, and then well over three quarters (maybe even seven-eighths) of the book to get to that confrontation. It then takes almost no time to get through it, which surprises me, for all the build-up Brett put into that moment.

So I’m at odds with the book, because it’s well written, strongly compelling, and vivid, but at the same time it’s a little rambling, and doesn’t bring a level of epic heroism to the conclusion that I expected after all this time. The series has such a strong start, and even as the story loses its focus in the last two books, it’s still readable. I mean, this is the longest book I’ve read this year, and it only took me two weeks to finish it. I feel like this is a three-star book, tops, but for all that Brett brought to the entire series, and how well he built this world, I’ll bump it up to four.

Started: July 1, 2018
Finished: July 14, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Door into Summer

July 24, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

doorThe Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

—–

I still haven’t read enough Heinlein to be an expert on his fiction, but I’ve read enough of his fiction and people writing about his fiction to know what to expect from his books. There seems to be a divide in his ouevre, separating his juvenile works from his adult works, with the consensus being that his juvenile books represent his best work. The Door into Summer feels like it’s a hybrid of the two; it feels like he’s still writing in his juvenile style, but starting to write for and about adults.

Because it’s Heinlein, you get the standard sexist and anti-government stances, though he hasn’t quite yet reached the point where that’s the point of the book. Unforunately, it also means that the book will feature a male main character in an inappropriate relationship with a female minor who is also related to the main character. I wouldn’t have expected that to be a standard thing in a Heinlein novel, but both Time for the Stars and The Door into Summer have featured such a relationship. In both cases, the relationships are instigated by the minor, but that doesn’t make it any less inappropriate or icky. It’s hard to defend the rest of the book due to this one aspect of it, but it reads so well that I’m going to try.

I read an article by Jo Walton where she noted that no one could write a sentence that compelled you to read the next one like Heinlein, and I get that. The stories are wildly compelling, though I’d be hard pressed to say why. They just work, in an organic kind of way that defies explanation. I’m hesitant to read any of his later works, since I understand they veer off into blatant crazy-man philosophies, but these earlier works make me want to read all of his stuff. I have another audiobook to finish before I begin tackling the rest of his earlier books, but I’m looking forward to reading them.

The later stuff, though? I feel like I’m going to have to ease my way into them.

Started: July 2, 2018
Finished: July 8, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Usagi Yojimbo: Mysteries

July 23, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

usagiUsagi Yojimbo: Mysteries by Stan Sakai

—–

Stan Sakai can churn out a lot of Usagi Yojimbo. I don’t mind at all, since I have yet to come across a collection I haven’t liked. I’ve said before what makes the series so great — vivid characters, real history, a good sense of place, and honest conflicts — and that holds true with Mysteries, which of course is no surprise.

One of Sakai’s more recent character creations is Inspector Ishida, a police inspector who investigates the crimes in his district in feudal Japan. Usagi and Ishida are two characters who interact well together — both rely on people underestimating them, though for different reasons — and Mysteries is a collection of stories featuring the two characters. The collection would be a good one regardless, but with both of them featured in the entire book, of course it’s good.

I repeat myself a lot in my reviews of these collections, but the series overall is consistently good, and since Mysteries is volume thirty-two, it’s hard to come up with new praise for it. Regardless, Usagi Yojimbo is a series to read, for readers of any age. If you haven’t yet, now is the best time to start reading it.

Started: July 7, 2018
Finished: July 7, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

Tales from Jabba’s Palace

July 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

jabbaTales from Jabba’s Palace, edited by Kevin J. Anderson

—–

One of the things I like about these anthologies edited by Anderson is how the stories interweave to tell a larger story concerning the scene from the movie. These aren’t standalone stories about each character; they’re stories that, together, form a larger picture about what’s happening behind the throne room. It’s a clever idea, made admirable by how Anderson had to work with the authors to make sure the stories worked together. It makes me wonder if Anderson came up with the backstory, or if the authors worked together to create it.

Like any anthology, though, the stories are mixed, with some good ones (A.C. Crispin’s take on Yarna was especially good) and some bad ones, with a lot of them just being mediocre. They do a lot to fill in backstories, which seems to be the primary purpose of a lot of the Expanded Universe books, but as stories, they’re not always the best. It doesn’t help that some of the more notable characters, like Boba Fett and Oola, don’t get the kind of attention one would expect. There’s more opportunity for comedy with these characters, though, which isn’t something you see too often in the books. Salacious Crumb’s and the Gamorrean guard’s stories stand out in that respect.

Despite liking Crispin’s story, I had issues with it being the tale of the “Fat Dancer”. I mean, the frog-thing from that one two-second scene gets his own story, and is named in the title, but here we get “Fat Dancer”? She has a name, folks. Why reduce her down to one characteristic? Given that the story was written by a woman, I was surprised this was the approach taken to it. It was disappointing.

So, it’s a little good, and a little mediocre, though none of the stories were bad. This is part of the reason I’ve stopped reading anthologies, save for ones where I have a reason to feel all the stories are of high quality. I just prefer stories with more room to breathe, and written by authors I know and trust to take me on a good ride.

Started: June 22, 2018
Finished: July 1, 2018

Permalink Leave a Comment

« Previous page · Next page »

%d bloggers like this: