Some random book thoughts for February 2014

Just like in my January post I write this one as a snowstorm rages on outside my window, with several unfinished posts in my queue. One of my goals should be post actually finish some of them so there’s more than one or two postings a month here. Alas, the best laid plans…

I stated off last month with The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron, the continuation of her “Legend of Eli Monpress” series. Unlike the first three books of the series The Spirit War is a huge tome in the trade paperback format. When I asked Miss Aaron via twitter if the book (and the next) was ever going to be released in mass-market edition she said it wouldn’t be because they were the size of a phone book. And then she actually apologized for that. Well, I’m the one that was sorry in the long run because I waited so long to read it.

Unlike many longer books there isn’t a ton of wasted space in The Spirit War. It’s pretty full of new content, with just enough rehashing of the first three books to help remind readers what transpired and to help new readers along with the plot. The story is a good one, moves at a decent pace, and while the cliffhanger is telegraphed a little bit it does set up the next book very well.

And the next book, Spirit’s End picks right up where The Spirit War ends, almost as if the two are one very long book. If you tried to read Spirit’s End without at least reading The Spirit War you’d be totally lost. The story takes a bit of a turn in Spirit’s End, but all of the major plots (and most of the minor ones) are tied together nicely in the inevitable ending confrontation that includes all the major characters still alive. It’s a well thought out ending, and one that could very easily have happened given the circumstances. Only I didn’t like it very much.

The book (and series) is great, but the final conclusion wasn’t what I was hoping for. Rachel Aaron went out of her way to avoid the stereotypical fantasy ending but I think strayed off the path a little too far. It’s not like the ending doesn’t make sense, it most certainly does. It just didn’t do it for me. I gave both The Spirit War and Spirit’s End five stars on Goodreads and they absolutely deserve that, but I have lots of questions about what possibly happens next (which I won’t share here because it would spoil the previous books). Of course, a sixth book might answer those questions…

Then in a complete changing of the gears I went away from the fantasy genre to Empire and Honor, the seventh book in the “Honor Bound” series by W.E.B. Griffin. The previous book, Victory and Honor, was basically half a book as it rehashed the first five books multiple times and jumped so far ahead in the time line World War II was essentially over. In Empire and Honor the war is indeed over, and it deals with the dismantling of the OSS in both Europe and South America. The plot moves along OK, but nothing really happens for most of the book. It’s just contrived occurrence after occurrence heading in no real direction until the last 40 pages or so. The final encounter of the book is a total letdown, and in fact ends basically in the middle of the action, such as it was, as if several pages are missing.

Griffin’s son, William E. Butterworth III, has taken over many of Griffin’s series and is listed as co-author, but it’s pretty clear that Griffin has very little to do with most of the current running series. Reading the older books you can see the current writing style is close but the content is far from Griffin’s heyday. It’s a shame too, because it’s alienating many longtime readers.

The next book I picked up was The King’s Deception by Steve Berry, but after being just a couple pages in I accidentally left the book in my car as my wife went off to work one morning. Looking for something quick to read I grabbed Allegiance in Exile by David R. George, a “Star Trek: The Original Series” pulp-style novel, off the to-read shelf. This was the last of the $1 paperbacks I had bought recently, and with the other two being pretty bad I wasn’t expecting much other than it being a time killer.

I was surprised at how good the book was. I mean, it was really good. It didn’t have much in the way of the standard ST:TOS crap that was in the first two books contained (other than McCoy not liking the transporters, which I always find amusing) and really delved into Sulu as a character as opposed to a caricature. It was a good, well developed story that was never as “over the top” as many of the Star trek novels are. It looked at things a little differently than those books, and his treatment of Captain Kirk as a regular person as opposed to a larger than life hero was refreshing.

Then I got back to The King’s Deception, which like most of Berry’s books uses historical facts and twists them a tad to come up with modern stories relating to those twists. The King’s Deception deals with the Tudor era of the British monarchy, and specifically with the end of the reign of Henry VIII and on to the Elizabethan era. Without spoiling the plot, the story weighs heavily (and mentions and credits) a book by Bram Stoker entitled Famous Impostors. I already knew of the story Berry’s book was based off of, but it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it.

One thing I really enjoy about Berry’s books is he clearly indicates what is real history and what he fictionalizes in his writer’s notes at the end. I’ve often times gone back and reread some of the chapters in his book armed with the knowledge now that something there is fictionalized. It’s a testament to how good a writer he is by the fact that many times I can’t tell until he mentions what’s not real.

January is traditionally a slow month for new stuff, and I didn’t find anything interesting to pick up. The list for science fiction/fantasy for February doesn’t look all that promising either. I probably won’t get much reading done this month as hockey and TotalCon take up much of time free time. Right now I’m reading The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. More on that next month.

Until next time…

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