Weaveworld

weaveworld Meet Calhoun Mooney.  Cal is having an okay life – his father hasn’t been the same since Cal’s mother died, Cal’s girlfriend is pressing that whole “marriage” thing, and all of the homing pigeons in the back yard are completely freaking out.  He doesn’t know it, but he’d better enjoy it, because he’s about to fall into a magic carpet and find out that his current life isn’t the one that he dreams of at all.

Welcome to the Fugue, a hidden world where the magic still lives and the countryside is beautiful.  It’s been hidden in the carpet to keep the Scourge and its agents from completely destroying the land, but people are hot on its trail and when they find it the fight for the salvation of the Fugue begins.

*****

Clive Barker tends to be known for his horror works, but this is actually MOSTLY a work of fantasy.  I say mostly because there are some definite “Barker-like” parts of this story.   Not enough that I’d classify it as horror, per se, but I can’t really recommend it to people who are squeamish at all.  So, Cole, you can’t read this one.

For everyone else, this is a pretty good story.  The idea that the remnants of an entire world and its people are hidden in a carpet is pretty cool.  And Barker has (as is to be expected) written some pretty interesting characters.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Barker story if they didn’t have some sort of powers – magic coat, some force that a few chosen can shoot from their mouths, etc ( note, these are not the same things.  😉 ) -but they all work pretty well within the definition of the character.  It’s a long story with plenty of people in it, but never really feels like you can’t keep track of them.

I also think it has a pretty neat ending – but I try not to give those away.  So, check it out if you like mostly fantasy with some overshades of horror.  This is early Clive Barker, so if you’re a fan of his later work and haven’t checked this one out, you should.  A bit of a warning though – this isn’t the longest book I’ve read recently, but it sure felt like it sometimes.  He can be a bit long winded, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a classic from a contemporary master.

A note:  It looks like there are some versions of this that don’t have the whole story (maybe it was in 2 books, way back when?)  Anyway, look for the longer one if you have a choice, that way you get everything you’re supposed to.

Weaveworld by Clive Barker, 704 pages

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Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Starring: Thursday Next

Okay, so I went on a vacation and then got a cold and in the meantime I finished a SERIES of books.  Now, I could list them all out in a strange sort of backwards posting like I did for the Phoenix Guards one, but that kind of annoyed me so I’m going to throw them into one MEGA POST!

Here we go, grab a tea and a scone or something because this is going to be long.

*****

lost Lost In A Good Book is the second in the Thursday Next series that started with The Eyre Affair (I did that one back near the beginning of the year).  Our protagonist, Ms. Next, lives in a world that’s evolved parallel to ours – where ducks are something theoretical and dodos have been brought back from extinction.  She works in Special Operations (SpecOps) as a Literary Detective – responsible for checking out things like forged Shakespeare works and other literary crimes.

Her first book brought her into contact with the Goliath Corporation, the megalomanical world conglomerate that wants to own and control everything and, surprisingly enough, they aren’t through with Thursday yet.  In Lost In A Good Book, Goliath is back to its old tricks of manipulation and has “time-slipped” Landon, Thursday’s husband, in order to “convince” Thursday to a) retrieve their agent from The Raven where he was left after the last round of adventures and b) reveal the secret to entering books in the first place.   In order to get her husband back, Thursday not only learns to read herself into books, but also joins up with Jurisfiction – the quasi-police force inside books.  Oh, and there’s also mammoths, a jar of lentils which indicate entropy levels, Ms Havisham, the Cat Formerly Known As Cheshire and a new enemy who has the ability to make you forget things to contend with.  Seems that Thursday’s got her hands full.

*****

well

Thursday’s back; preggers and tired and in need of some down time.  It’s hard when everyone is out to get you, you know?  What’s a girl to do except join the Character Exchange Program and have a little downtime in the Well of Lost Plots – a place where book ideas are made and die.  Still a member of Jurisfiction, but on the lamb from Goliath, Thursday fills in for “Mary”, a supporting character in a crime story that’s not being read and not really going anywhere.  Meanwhile, she can’t help feel like there’s something or someone that she should be remembering but it’s probably not that important, right?

All is not well in literary world, however.  First, people are being murdered, the Minotaur has escaped and “UltraWord” (the newest version of the Story Operating System) seems to have some flaws.  There are also some issues with the Generics (“blank” characters, just waiting for spots in a story) and the nursery rhyme and Oral Tradition folks aren’t happy.   Looks like this isn’t going to be much of a vacation after all.

*****

rotten

It’s time to get out of the book and back into the real world.  And this time, Thursday’s not alone.  She’s bringing her son Friday, Pickwick the dodo and her son Alan… and Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.  Which is probably good, seeing as how Ophelia isn’t happy with her current role and Hamlet’s wishy washy inability to make decisions and she’s busy making some changes.

Thursday is determined to get Landon back this time and she gets her time traveling, half non-existent father to help out.  Amongst her mother’s incessant baking, Thursday manages to get entangled in the Hamlet mess, a disgusting prophet, a gaggle of Shakespeare clones and the world’s most important cricket match.  The Minotaur is still holding a grudge and Landon keeps flickering in and out of existence – just another day in the life…

*****

sequel And thus the first is the end.  Or something.  Or maybe not!  But we are to the last in the series.  Thursday and Landon and their kids, Friday, Tuesday and Jenny are all living mostly happy lives – Tuesday is a genius, Jenny is at a slumber party somewhere, and Friday is your typical surly teenager.  The problem is, Friday is supposed to be out inventing time travel or something and his parents can’t get him to get up before noon.

Thursday has left SpecOps and is running a carpet business with some of her old colleagues… except that the carpet business is a front for SpecOps work.  Which is a front for Jurisfiction work.  Which is just as crazy as ever.  This time, Thursday is responsible for training some new recruits: Thursday1-4 and Thursday5.  See, Thursday licensed her story and now there are books where she is a character… just let your brain bend a bit and accept it.  And don’t worry, Goliath is still lurking and the Minotaur is still trying to kill her.

So, once again it’s up to Thursday to save the day.  Can she stop Thursday1-4 from exacting revenge on her creator, can she help Landon write a great book and can they make Friday actually get motivated to fulfill his destiny?

*****

I told you it was a lot of words.  Okay, here’s my wrap up.  I love these books.  Fforde is painfully clever and twists and turns a story in such a charming way that you can’t help but want to read these back to back.  I put the last one down and really wished for another one.  Some things that I thought were completely genius (in no particular order)

1)  the idea that Thursday considers and rejects that she is a character in a book

2)  the rational way that The Big Over Easy works into this series

3)  the literary cameos, from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Anna Karenina in footnote gossip, are brilliant

4)  the carry over from book to book, although each story is also stand alone

I have to say that these will stay on my bookshelf.  And now I’ve read everything that he’s released and need to wait for the next one… poop.  There are lots of really great series out there, but if you like something intelligent like English class and yet irreverent like Terry Pratchett, you’d do yourself a service to check these out.

Perfectly delightful.  Plock.

Lost In A Good Book, by Jasper Fforde, 432 pages

The Well Of Lost Plots, 416 pages

Something Rotten, 416 pages

Thursday Next: A First Amongst Sequels, 384 pages

Five Hundred Years After

500-years1 In which our Heroes–Khaavren, Pel, Aerich and Tazendra–are reunited again a mere five centuries later…just in time for an uprising that threatens to destroy the Imperial Orb itself!

This is the story of the conspiracy against the Empire that begins in the mean streets of Underside and flourishes in the courtly politics of the Palace where Khaavren has loyally served in the Guards this past half-millennium.

It is the tale of the Dragonlord Adron’s overweening schemes, of his brilliant daughter Aliers, and the eldritch Sethra Lavode.

And it is the tale of four boon companions, of love, and of revenge…a tale from the history of Dragaera, of the events that changed the world!

(heh.  Google books did me good this time!)

*****

Okay, I’m half cheating on this because I have to start shutting things down to head to the airport.  BUT, I wanted to get this up before I left since you all have to wait until Saturday or Sunday (or Monday?) to get the next update.  At least I have an excuse this time.

ANYWAY, yep, our fearless foursome are back and it’s only been 500 years.  While everyone else is off doing things related to their own personal quests from “The Phoenix Guards”, Khaavren has been holding down his post for the last little bit of time.  And oh, the things he’s learning!  It’s time for the gang to spring back into action!

Like “The Phoenix Guards”, the writing style is still all sing-songy when people are talking and it’s still annoying.  I’m getting over it though, and spent a good while searching through two separate Half Price Books to find the last couple of books in the series so I guess I must have liked it anyway.

I’m not sure I have a whole lot more to say.. it’s a great second book in a series and I really wanted to see what happened next and now I can’t and I’m kinda bummed.  Rats.  If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one… it’s like visiting old friends.

Five Hundred Years Later by Steven Brust, 553 pages

Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Phoenix Guards

pheonix-guards1

Khaavren of Castlerock is a young gentleman from the House of the Tiassa whose family has fallen onto hard times. Though lacking an inheritance, Khaavren has a long sword and is “tolerably well-acquainted with its use.” On his way to the capital city of the Empire, Khaavren befriends Aerich and Tazendra, nobles from the Houses of the Lyorn and Dzur who also lack income. Khaavren tells them of his plan to join the Phoenix Guards, the new Emperor’s elite personal troops, and his new friends decide to accompany him.  Once in the city, they meet Pel, the final four of the close knit group and it’s only adventure ahead…

(thanks to Wikipedia for saving me from happening to write all those names)

*****

So, I have mixed feelings about this book and I’m going to get the big “ugh!” off of my chest at the beginning.  Sometimes, the writing style gets in the way of the story.  The book is supposed to be a historical recounting so it’s written in an almost romanticized way.  The dialogue is sometimes flowery and tends to have a back and forth cadence that, honestly, half drives me crazy.  It’s primarily “I have a story to tell” “I beg you tell.” “I will tell if you’d like to hear.” “Honestly I’m interested.” “Then I will tell you” ” Please proceed.”

Argh.  Proceed indeed.  There is a certain amount of charm, I’ll admit… but I found myself thinking “GET ON WITH IT!”

As for the plot.. it’s really a Three Musketeers story – except with four people.  There are adventures and there is sword play and everyone seems to always want to fight.  And it’s all set against a background of a strange land where there is magic and wars and a king and a magic orb that watches over all.

In this book, we get introduced to the characters, they form their bonds and have their first series of adventures.  Brust does write fun characters and you like the ones you’re supposed to and kinda also like the ones you aren’t really supposed to.

So, after all of that, these books *are* fun to read, just be prepared to be either charmed or exasperated by the writing style.. and then remember that it’s like that on purpose and Brust does recognize that nobody talks like that and it’s strange.  The things you learn from reading all the parts of books…

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust, 491 pages

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Graveyard Book

graveyardbook The night was dark, the house was silent and the Everyman Jack was walking through with a knife, searching for the last member of the family he’d come to “dispose” of.  Little did he know that Nobody (or ‘Bod’ as he’s affectionately known) has managed to escape to the graveyard up the hill where the inhabitants are glad to take him in and teach them what they know.

And dead people know a lot.  They know how to fade into the shadows and see in the dark and they know of the creepies and crawlies that living people should stay away from.  But they don’t know how to protect him from the outside world and eventually even baby boys grow up.  And it seems like Everyman Jack’s have a long memory…

*****

Yay for kids stories!  Well, yay for Neil Gaiman kids stories!  Because only Gaiman would have a kids story contain more dead people and things than live ones.  I enjoy Gaiman’s work, and while I’m not sure I’d read this to a 3 year old, I’d probably give it to a 6 year old – which may be an indication that I’d be a pretty lousy parent.  I mean, after all, the story starts out with the entire family dying.  On the other hand, I remember having nightmares when I was a kid where my whole family had been captured and we were all on conveyor belts and our heads were bring chopped off.  Isn’t it strange how you always wake up when the blade is coming down on your own head?  But I digress (and it’s okay, I haven’t had that dream in YEARS!) and all I was trying to point out was that it’s pretty obvious that kids have some twisted imaginations.  Or maybe it was just me.

Gaiman has a way of making things that should be creepy, like ghosts and graveyards, into people and places that you’d like to meet and visit.  This book made me wish I could talk to dead people who could tell me tales about their lives.  I guess that’s what historical books are for, huh?  With the exception of the beginning and the ending, each of the chapters in this book feels like it’s own little self-contained story – which is kind of nice since it means that there’s a natural stopping point when you’re reading.  To your kids.  Who I’m sure won’t have nightmares from this one.  Now, the last Harry Potter – that’s an entirely different story.

This one’s a good Gaiman read – wait until the paperback comes out though because there’s no reason to own it hardback.  But make sure whatever copy you get (or borrow, natch) has the Dave McKean illustrations because they are really great.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, 307 pages

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 10:12 am  Comments (2)  
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Wicked

wickedOnce in a far away land, a house fell out of the sky onto a woman – a witch – killing her and freeing her people from her rule.  Theyd called her the Wicked Witch of the East, and her ruby slippers were known throughout the land.

The Witch had a sister in the West – a green, intensive woman who, perhaps more than she wanted to avenge her sister, wanted the damn shoes.   We all know how this story ends.

But what of this “Wicked Witch of the West”, Elphaba?  Who was she?  Was she always a witch, did she have a family, go to school, love anyone?  And what the hell was up with this shoe obsession, anyway?  Gregory Macguire gives us a view into the making of a witch – mixing a backstory of family and school drama with a highly intelligent and forward thinking life and covering it all in a bit of “it’s not easy being green.”

Macguire doesn’t paint us the rosy singing Munchkin Oz.  He tells of a real world, where the threat of political upheaval weighs over the land and prejudice exists.  In the telling of Elphabas life story he shows us that the weak may be swayed, the powerful can be corrupt, having morals and strength doesn’t always mean you win, and makes us question what it really means to be Wicked after all.

*****

Okay, unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of this book.  I originally bought it in a bookstore in Boston back when it was still in hardcover in 1996 or so.  I recently saw it in Costco (where all good things come from) and thought that, since I couldn’t find my hardcover copy, it was worth $5 to reread.  I was right, I forgot how much I like this story.

It’s not the Wizard of Oz, in fact, Dorothy is hardly in this one.  And you know how it ends so it’s not like that’s a surprise… except it is.  It’s a really fascinating way to look at the Oz world.  It’s sort of like if you see someone’s Mexico vacation pictures with the nice beaches and floofy drinks and then go there yourself and see some of the poverty once you’re away from the resorts.  Macguire really has made it a real world with real people living in it and it’s dramatically different from the Baum telling.

I don’t expect everyone to like this book, and I think it may be a bit of a hard read if you’re expecting some fantasy.  This really reads almost like a character study.  All the reviews (and even the back of the book jacket) will mention the notion of “good” vs “evil” and it’s worth bringing it up again.  This book does make you think about it, but never goes over the top and screams “SO IS THIS PERSON REALLY GOOD?!  THINK ABOUT IT!  I CHALLANGE YOU!”.  It grabbed me at various times while reading, that slight pause that makes you rethink your assumption.

All in all, I have to recommend that you try this book out, pick it up, see if it grabs you.  It’s not an easy read only because it does make you think a bit and at times the plot gets a bit convoluted.  Or maybe I was just on too much cold medicine and too little sleep this time around.

Uh.. anyone want to go see the show if it comes back to town?  😉

Wicked by Gregory Macguire, 519 pages

Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 8:18 am  Comments (2)  
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Making Money

making_money

Moist von Lipwig has got to be the best civil servant in the city of Ankh-Morpork for Lord Vetinari to ask him to move from his enthralling career as the current Postmaster General to run the Royal Mint.  After all, it’s not every day that you get rescued from the hangman’s noose and thrown into the world of stamps and mail, and who would be better than an old swindler to know the ins and outs of banking?

Well, if you were to ask Moist, he would say that he’s not the guy.  He’s happy with his life, thank you very much.  But when you’re being asked by a tyrant you’d have to have some real gumption to say no.   So bring on a slobbering dog, the wizards from Unseen University, a few thousand golems and a pair of dead mans dentures and let’s get fiscal!

*****

Okay, first, I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s novels.  The cover of this particular book tells me that Discworld has been around for 25 years.  25 years!!  That’s insane!  The best thing about these books is that Pratchett has created some memorable and truly unique characters that I am happy to greet when I see them again.  I only wish The Luggage was still around.  The Luggage ROCKED.

If you want to know more about Terry Pratchett, check out his website.

Now, you don’t have to start at the beginning of the series, but I’d sure you suggest that you do to get a feel for the world.  Making Money actually works fairly well as a stand alone, but there’s so much more to the world to explore that’s not shown in this one.

OH!  You should also REALLY check out “Good Omens”, coauthored with Neil Gaiman. Click here to read about it on Amazon. Who can resist a novel about Armageddon gone wrong?!  I should really dig that one out and re-read it this year…

Anyway.  Pratchett rocks.  Read his books.  Making Money rocks.  Read this one, too.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett, 404 pages

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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