Tue, 22 Oct 2013
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
As most people are by now aware, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's classic that adds a plague of zombies to the book's setting and plot.
I have to say that while I was looking forward to the book, its execution left me wanting. The zombie storyline feels like a veneer laid over the original storyline in a way that doesn't really add much to that original story. I feel like the zombies are just a gimmick that don't hold up for an entire book. Pretty much the only thing that kept me reading was my love for the original story, which remains mostly unchanged beneath the zombie veneer.
Seth Grahame-Smith has recharacterized several of the people, mostly making them more violent and bloodthirsty--Elizabeth is a Chinese-trained "master of the deadly arts", and Lady Catherine is a noted zombie slayer with an entourage of ninjas--but everyone takes pretty much the same actions and ends up in the same places. At least one character becomes a zombie and is killed, but not until after her presence in the original plot is finished. I think this sameness is what led me not to really engage with Grahame-Smith's additions: the original was a deliciously sarcastic commentary on 19th century people of wealth layered in with a genuinely compelling story of the development of characters' personal relationships1. The zombie additions don't change the story enough to make a statement of their own, but they do serve to obscure some of the themes and characterizations of the original, so their presence is a net negative.
All in all, I probably would have been better off just reading Pride and Prejudice again.
1 One of the great things about Pride and Prejudice is that it's pretty feminist-friendly. Sure, it's a tale of two people who take a long time and a lot of minsunderstandings to finally come together and realize their True Love(tm), but two of the things I've always appreciated about it are: 1) Elizabeth is given agency to choose her own path in life and 2) the reason it's okay that they end up together is that when she tells Darcy what her issues are with him, he listens. How often does that happen in popular love stories?
Mon, 12 Feb 2007
E Pluribus Unicorn
E Pluribus Unicorn is a collection of short stories by Theodore Sturgeon. All of the stories were written between 1947 and 1953, though they don't seem very dated, aside from occasional archaic-sounding language usage.
The stories are mostly fantasy, though some could be considered almost horror; many are certainly unsettling, most notably The Professor's Teddy-Bear, with Bianca's Hands (and perhaps A Way of Thinking) a close second. Die, Maestro, Die! reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe, in structure, if not in style. There's an element of melancholy in several of the stories, including The SIlken-Swift, Scars (which has no elements on fantasy, but is simply a good story), and especially A Saucer of Loneliness.
Overall, I enjoyed the collection; I hadn't read much by Sturgeon before, and I quite like his writing.
Thu, 22 Jun 2006
War of Honor
It's past five in the morning. I've been up reading for almost the last four hours because I wanted to finish the book. It's good. The pace is much slower than I remember previous Honor Harrington books being, but things do move along.
Reading all of the Honor anthologies before this book is highly recommended.
Mon, 07 Mar 2005
This one's a worthy successor to Rusalka. More that's familiar Cherryh style, including characters worrying over their choices and not knowing which characters to trust.
Perdido Street Station
While Perdido Street Station certainly falls under the broad-reaching umbrella of "speculative fiction", it's hard to pin it further than that. Like the city of New Crobuzon and many of its inhabitants, the book is a blend of several things; there are fantasy aspects and steampunk aspects and horror aspects and probably half a dozen other sub-sub-genres scattered throughout.
There are many good things about the book, but the most immediately obvious is Miéville's writing style. When he's being descriptive, his prose drips adjectives, each chosen for just the right shading of connotations. As I read, I could almost feel the sludge-filled river or the miasma of smoke above the industrial sector. And after I stopped reading, my mind would race along thought passageways, seeking to maintain the same dense, rapid flow of words to which it had become accustomed. Many scenes left me breathless with their coiled tension, the languor of subsequent events providing some relief.
The world in which New Crobuzon exists is well thought-out and very detailed. It's obvious that Miéville has put significant effort into fleshing things out. All of the parts hold together, which is important, because part of the enjoyment derives from exploring this whole other world, with cactus-people and insect-headed women and demons and causal-spinning spiders and well, you get the idea. Many of the details presented tie back into the story eventually, but plenty of things exist simply because they would be there in a complete world.
The story itself is good, as well. There are too many branches and joinings to describe succinctly; you'll have to read it yourself to learn of Lin and Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin and Too Too Abstract Individual Yagharek Not To Be Respected and everyone else.
In short, it's a well-written book with a beautiful, distinct writing style. Go read it.
The Alleluia Files
This book forms the third in Sharon Shinn's Samaria trilogy, being preceeded by Archangel and Jovah's Angel. I still think Archangel is the best of the set, though The Alleluia Files is a fairly decent book.
The Alleluia Files again contains many trappings of romance, though there are two romances this time, and consequently neither is as well developed as previous books'. For me, the one in Archangel is still my favorite, which I realized is probably because of the way Shinn weaves music throughout the romance and the rest of the book. It's still a very important part of this book, but not to the same degree as in Archangel.
I'm afraid I'll have to do the majority of my discussion of the book below the spoiler barrier, since I don't want to spoil either this or Archangel for those that have not read them.
The Time of The Dark
The Time of the Dark opens with a woman dreaming of events taking place in another world. By the second page this book, published in 1982, has already described something as "cyclopean". I, having read that description, was busy being depressed about the story, fearing that Hambly was aspiring to some Lovecraft-styled tale. (This would be a problem because most such imitations are bad ones.) Fortunately (so to speak), it's merely a run-of-the-mill fantasy story from the early '80s.
The book does carry a fairly obvious Lovecraft influence, mostly in the descriptions of ancient architecture and of the Dark, a not-terribly-nice race which is encountered early in the book. There was one particular description of some ancient ruins where I was enjoying some nice echoes of Lovecraft's style until she actually used the adjective "Lovecraftian". Oh, well.
So the descriptive writing wasn't too bad. The plot was, unfortunately, pretty standard stuff. People (a man and a woman) are transported from this world into another one where magic is possible and some great danger threatens. These two become instrumental in saving people from the danger. I was somewhat pleased to note that it wasn't completely textbook--the two did not fall in love with each other. On the other hand, the woman, a medieval scholar, discovers an innate talent for sword-based combat, while the man, a sometimes-biker and itinerant artist, finds that he can work magic and falls mutually in love with the widowed queen.
This is the first book in a series. I want enough to know what will happen that I'd read the next books, but if they're similar to this one, I'll probably be sighing at the clichéd fantasy conventions as I come to them.