October 14th, 2007


Catching up on the book-blogging

55. The Eight (Katherine Neville)
This is an interesting book. It's about a mysterious chess set that imparts mysterious powers to anyone who possesses all the pieces, and it works back and forth between a modern-day (well, 1970s) story of a woman searching for the pieces and the story of the medieval nun who helped to hide them. I wasn't sure how well it was going to work, and I wasn't completely engaged at first, but it definitely grew on me. There's a nice "fitting-together" aspect to the story, and the gradual discovery of the mystery of the chess pieces was well-done. The chess metaphor did get a bit stretched once the characters start being identified as chess pieces, and the bit where they work out where they are "in the game" didn't work for me -- but otherwise, a good yarn. ****

56. Farthing (Jo Walton)
An alternate history in which Britain comes to terms with Hitler's Germany, and an effective murder mystery too! This is a very good book, if rather creepy in its implications. I liked the characters -- Lucy, the flighty socialite married to the Jewish man suspected of murder; Carmichael, the honest police inspector with secrets of his own. The murder mystery worked as mystery, and the alternate history made perfect -- if rather depressing -- sense. The ending wasn't at all what the "story type" would lead you to expect, and yet it was absolutely perfect -- how could it have ended any other way? *****

57. Path of the Eclipse (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
Our vampire hero is now in China and India, getting into trouble and trying to protect people. The episodic nature of these stories felt even more forced in this case than usual, but the episodes themselves made for an enjoyable read. It seems odd to describe a book that's ostensibly horror as "light reading", but that's what this is, even (or perhaps especially) with all the melodramatic deaths and sacrifices. ***

58. House of Sand and Fog (Andre Dubus III)
This is an incredibly depressing book. Really good, but really quite incredibly depressing. I saw the film a year or two ago, and thought it was extraordinarily depressing (although very good... in a depressing way), but I think the book is even more so. Nothing goes right for anybody, but it's all a series of terrible misunderstandings and character flaws rather than anybody being a stereotypical Bad Person. Heart-breaking, to say the least. Very well-written, but so depressing it made the entire world seem like a terrible place. Yikes. ****

59. The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
I pulled this off my shelf because I was considering going to see the new movie based on it, the Seeker. The trailer didn't strike me as quite "right", but it had been a while since I read the book, so I thought I should re-establish the book in my mind before seeing the movie, just in case. I'm glad I did, because now I know NOT to see the movie at all. It's not just that the tone is wrong (my original non-specific concern), it's that everything they show in the trailer is wrong. This is a wonderful, beautiful book, deserving of its reputation as a classic, and I've no doubt the movie would spoil it utterly. The book is just so calm and atmospheric, and lovely. Highly recommended. *****

60. The Furies (Mike Carey et al.)
This is a beautiful book -- the art is magnificent. The story, though, leaves something to be desired -- it feels like a longer story shoehorned into a shorter format. Or maybe it's just that there's too much randomness and coincidence. Or it's too dependant on Sandman, without enough of its own identity. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but it just doesn't live up to what it should be. Although the art is so gorgeous, it makes up for an awful lot. ***

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