Some random book thoughts for March 2014

With a couple days delay, and with me half paying attention to the NHL’s trade deadline, we’ll rush into an unfortunately sparce blog posting for March. Because of lots of things going on (including TotalCon) I didn’t have a whole lot of time for reading and only got through two books. Luckily, they were both pretty good.

The first was The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. For those that might think that the cover of a book isn’t important, let me tell you that the cover of The Corpse-Rat King was the only reason I picked the book off the shelf. It’s an odd color, with fairly plain imaging, but next to all the glossy covers of the other books on the shelf it really stood out. The title is also eye-catching, enough so that I grabbed the book and read the back. I try to avoid spoiling any of the good parts of books, but as this is on the back I feel it’s OK to mention…

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.

Just as soon as he stops running away.

Let’s be honest, after reading that how can you not be curious as to what the story is? Of course I was, and bought the book. It took until early February to grab it off the to-read shelf, and I was hooked right away. The story of Marius and Gerd is a “buddy” story, and those really have been played to death…errr…well, they have been now at any rate. You see, with both main characters in the book dead it leads to some amusing scenes. Somehow Battersby makes it all work by being so over the top it doesn’t seem like it’s over the top at all. The ending is perfect for the story, and fits right in with the rest. It wasn’t forced or, as I like to call it, “contrived”, it was simply the logical conclusion to a well thought out story.

I tweeted to Battersby when I finished the book that it was the weirdest story I had ever read, and I loved every minute of it. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, The Marching Dead, at some point in the near future. I gave The Corpse-Rat King four out of five on Goodreads because they don’t do half grades, but it’s really a 4.5 of 5 in my opinion. Well worth checking out.

The second book was The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, the sequel to The Lives of Tao. The book picks up a few years ahead from where the former ended, and is a pretty straight forward good guys (Prophus) vs bad guys (Genjix) story with the assorted story points you’d expect from such a story. Chu breaks from the oft suffered “second book syndrome” by just continuing along the style and story points of the first book, while adding a good amount of background material that not only fleshes out The Deaths of Tao but also gives more body to The Lives of Tao.

Chu also avoids the trap that many newer writers fall into by not spending a huge amount of time recapping the first book. When it needs to be done, he does it, and in a quick manner that makes it feel like part of the current action. Lengthy recaps are one of my pet peeves, and Chu gets a passing grade for doing it right.

It was an interesting ending, and not what I was expecting. There has been a third book announced (The Rebirths of Tao) for release at the end of December, so you can bet I’ll be there getting it soon after it hits the shelves. Like The Lives of Tao I gave The Deaths of Tao a solid four out of five on Goodreads. Another one worth grabbing if you can.

I also just noticed that both The Corpse-Rat King and The Deaths of Tao are from the same publisher, Angry Robot. A look at their list of book shows I have read a lot of their stuff and have many on my to-read shelf. Their quality is pretty high, so I’m going to need to check out some of their stuff I’ve not seen before.

After a few months of not grabbing anything new it was a good month for finding stuff. I didn’t realize I had missed Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper until I saw the release date for her third book (I don’t recall the name of the 3rd), but that was quickly rectified as Barnes & Noble had a copy. The new Robert Asprin book Dragons Wild was also picked up, but that may end up in my wife’s to-read pile as opposed to mine. In the hardcover remainder section I found three, One Rough Man and All Necessary Force by Brad Taylor, and Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. I was tempted to buy the Grafton book when it came out, but I was certain it would be remaindered so I just held off until recently.

For new stuff two look interesting, Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards and The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke, but as longtime readers will know there’s always a chance I’ll stumble into something else while I’m out.

In some blog news, this will be the last “random book thoughts” in this format. Starting with the book I’m reading now, Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young, all the books I read will have individual posts instead of grouped together as I have done in the past. The reason is a writer friend mentioned that while I don’t really consider my blurbs about each book to be reviews they really are, and many writers aren’t interested in linking to posts the way I write them; that they would be more apt to link to individual posts about their book. So we’ll go that route for awhile and see how it goes.

There will still be “random book thoughts” postings, but I’m not yet certain how they’ll look and beyond what I’ve bought and looking to buy what it will contain. But I have a whole month to work on that.

Until next time…


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