Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review - King Rat, China Mieville

China Mieville is an author I've been willing myself to pick up and try. I was forever approached by people and lectured about how gritty and graphic, weird and wonderful Mieville's stories are. Having now completed King Rat, I can tell you that these descriptions are indeed true... with exceptions.

King Rat is probably the weirdest story I have read. It spins a tale about a man who discovers that he is half-human, half-rat. This entitles him to all the powers of a rat (whatever they are). In essence, the story follows the urbanised, shunned superhero: Ratman. The book is around 400 pages and could probably be knocked over in about a week of on-again-off-again reading. The language is descriptive, if not a tad strange, describing things in a way that I have never even considered, let alone read in a novel. However, there were moments in the story when I did question Mievillie's word usage. More often than not, it felt like Mieville was going to a Thesaurus and choosing words just because they looked sophisticated. Perhaps a read of Orwell's Politics and the English Language could have benefited Mieville here?

My biggest disappointment about this novel is how easily I guessed the plot and the ending (to an extent). Once I had guessed the major plot points, the reading of the novel was a little less enjoyable. There were some very interesting characters in this book and Mieville took them in directions I found fascinating. It was a certainly a change of pace from the traditional, classical fantasy that usually finds its way into my hands. But in saying this, they were characters I couldn't really associate with.

I still don't know what to think about this novel. I think I enjoyed it, but I feel like I didn't. I think it would definitely appeal to someone who is more into the gritty, punk-like way of life. For me, it's just not my thing. But would I read more China Mieville?


3 OUT OF 5

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fantasy Rewind 2: The First Law Trilogy, Joe Abercrombie

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is a set of three novels adhered together to create a single, epic tale. Just like every other fantasy trilogy, I hear you shout from the sidelines. No, it is not just like every other fantasy trilogy. The novels act as progression points in developing a violent, sophisticated and politicalised world - yes, politics!

The Blade Itself is the first novel, followed by Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. Don't be deceived: you cannot judge these books by their covers. I quickly discovered the titles have nothing to do with the story. Though if you look carefully, you'll be able to discover the roots of these quotes and garner an appreciation of just how well-constructed these novels are. Each novel is broken into three parts, each with a quote attached as an introduction. I found that I was looking forward to the next section of the novel for both a new quote and the next stage of the tale.

In my own opinion, the First Law Trilogy is the most well-rounded and satisfying series of novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Each character is interesting and believable, likeable and dislikable. The political world is intertwined with murder, violence and torture: themes that have come to define Joe Abercrombie as a serious, fantasy author. The story is not particularly exciting and jam-packed with action, but it pans out as an interesting tale that draws you in with each page turn.

I cannot relate Joe Abercrombie to any other author I have read, or rather any other author that pulls off unjustifiable violence so well. The First Law Trilogy is a series that surprised me more often than not. I finished Last Argument of Kings with a deep sigh of satisfaction. Not surprisingly, Joe Abercrombie went on to write two more novels, Best Served Cold and The Heroes, both of which surpassed all my expectations. Abercrombie has also been commissioned to write another stand-alone novel and trilogy, set in the same world.

The story follows three main characters and three semi-main characters. Abercrombie does well in always keeping your attention and not dawdling on one character for too long. You come to care about each character's ambitions and fears, a rare experience in a literary world competing for their reader's attention. Fantasy sells from a fan-base and Abercrombie does well in generating one.

If you're in for a good tale of intrigue, betrayal and violence, Abercrombie is a sure bet. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Short Story - Abomination, R. J. Creaney.

Abomination is the first tantalising tale from our newest Australian author, R. J. Creaney. Never heard of him? Shame on you. Unfortunately, being a short story, it is only available in the Kindle edition. But for those of you with a Mac, the Kindle application is easily downloadable. At the very least convince a friend to download it. It's also available on the PC, if you're interested.

Abomination is set in 9th century France where a warrior sets out to confront the abomination he has been chasing for many a year. It is a dark fantasy story with a twist. If you're a fan of necromancy and the rising dead, you'll love this story. I was strangely reminded of the game Diablo. The mood is dark and the landscape grey and uninviting.  Creaney writes with clarity and chooses his words carefully. However, I regret the points where the story both started and ended. To me, Abomination could have been a much larger tale. The characters are rich in detail and I could sense a whole backstory that never made it on to the page.

If you love your history, Creaney has you covered. He nails the essence of 9th century France, and I felt as if I was reading a piece of mythology from that time. I really have no criticisms. It could have been longer, a bit more fleshed out in terms of character development and exposition, but then I remind myself that I was reading a short story and not a novel. For those interested in sampling what could be the next big author, check out this link. You won't regret it.

Review - City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes in the second book in Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. Clare welcomes you back to her world of vampires, werwolves and down-worlders with open arms and a brand new story. But in saying that, City of Ashes certainly reads as unnecessary exposition book two in a planned trilogy.

In this story, Jace and Clary are back to their old antics as they continue their struggle against the infamous crusader, Valentine. Joined by the old gang, Jace and Clary travel from place to place, argue, travel, argue... and that about sums up the story. I'm not saying that City of Ashes was a bad book. In fact, I loved it. I think the premise is intractably constructed and Clare writes with artistic brilliancy. However, the story is really driven (haha) by travel and arguing.

There was also plenty of twists and turns as I have come to expect from Cassandra Clare. The characters are well-developed and believable - though I do question the authenticity of the Inquisitor's motives. The Jace/Clary relationship is slightly disturbing and I felt that it was a bit of a distraction from the overall flow of the story. Other than those small irritants, the story flowed pretty much flawlessly.

In terms of originality, Clare nails it. She does borrow a few of the more overused mythological creatures in popular culture, but it doesn't affect the structure of the story. If you loved book one, then you'll probably love book two. I'll be reading book three, but not any time soon. City of Ashes left me feeling somewhat underwhelmed. That's just of my own opinion.

Story: 6/10
Characters: 9/10
World: 8/10
Impression: 6/10
Overall: 7.5/10