Adrian Czajkowski, Guns of the Dawn (2015)

First a blog-related question – how do you like the new layout? I am, I have to admit, on a fence, but it is refreshing 🙂

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And now, this:

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Author: Adrian Czajkowski

Title: Guns of the Dawn

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 658

A book bought by me immediately after it was published, read and reviewed by Ola, and now I also finally got around to reading it. Ola’s original post is in Polish, as was often the case in our early days, so I’ll recapitulate, and maybe one day she will translate the whole thing.

Ola liked it, with 9/10 I’ll say she loved it. Sense and Sensibility in Vietnam was her title, and what followed were comparisons to PlatoonFull Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now. And Shadows of the Apt, obviously 😉 Conclusion is, that the book is as well written as Czajkowski’s other novels, and keeps the reader interested up to the very last page.

In general, I agree, but I’m not as enthusiastic as Ola had been.

I agree, we do have a likeable heroine, Emily Marshwick, a copy of Austen’s protagonists, a daughter of impoverished nobility trying to stay afloat in a dilapidated family manor in a society that reached early industrial age – while preserving magic and strong monarchy. She’s pragmatic, self-reliant, smart, prideful and quite a bit prejudiced. It was light, not as fresh as Austen’s prose 200 years ago, but very entertaining.

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Wolsung (2009/2012)

IMG_20200130_112632My turn to write something, and I’m in a bit of trouble. Reading non-genre, doing overtime at work and playing games, there’s simply not that much new stuff to review. I wanna rant about the Witcher show, but I’ll have plenty of space for that in our upcoming two-shot. I’m not happy with the TV version of one of my favourite sagas, I can tell you that in advance. Not the worst show, but not a good adaptation.

Then I thought about reviewing a very interesting non-fiction by S.C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer…, about the Comanches, their rise to power and their fall. It’s a very interesting perspective on Native American history, and a new one for me. But then I thought it might be a pretext for another two-shot, as among Ola’s favourite non-fictions of 2019 were Richard Slotkin’s more scholarly works on similar issues. Lets do a take on another genre, one of the classic ones!

So, I decided to write a few words about a non-computer role-playing game I recently started that I think is fun and accessible for people without much experience. As tabletop RPGs are destined to forever be an elusive niche, I’ll start with a few words of general introduction. Still, it’s not designed as in-depth review, these can be found on the rpg sites. Just a glimpse into a field of activity that keeps me from reading and reviewing more books 😉 and perhaps a suggestion of a fun group activity.

A simple (if that can be said about something with 400+ pages of rules… most players only need to read 16 pages, though), fun game. Less known than it’s boardgame version, but also less expensive and easier to play. And a shortened, but still allowing for a test play, version, is available online for free.

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Gene Wolfe, The Wizard Knight (2004)

Gene Wolfe was (he died this year) a prolific and acknowledged American fantasy writer. His short stories (I have one anthology, but it’s still waiting its turn), and novels have many admirers, among them Le Guin, Gaiman and Ellison. His signature? Unreliable narrators, selling you their version of very complicated stories. It’s not his invention, but I have to agree I really have to pay attention when reading Wolfe, not to get totally lost. I find it impossible not to get lost a bit 😉

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My first encounter with Wolfe, though, was when I read his Soldier of the Mist, a novel (part of a trilogy, but I only have volumes one and two, the third part was published years later) about a young Greek mercenary who, after suffering a head wound, is only able to remember event of a current day. Not knowing who he is and pretty little about the world around him, he couldn’t be a reliable narrator if he tried to 😉 Fantasy element is added when he discovers he’s able to communicate with gods and other supernatural beings. I liked it, but couldn’t find any of Wolfe’s other works. A few years later, The Book of the New Sun was recommended to me, and these tomes I devoured with great taste. Story of Severian, young (Wolfe’s heroes do have a few things in common, and not only their youth 😉 ) torturer (!) exiled for showing mercy – and wondering the dying Earth of far future. Quite soon after that I ordered a cheap, used copy of The Wizard Knight, for when I have a fancy to read more Wolfe. I finally read it earlier this year and with a great pleasure, although with a feeling it’s mostly more of the same.

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L. E. Modesitt, Jr., Saga of Recluce (1991-?)

There are many great stand-alones in fantasy, but, arguably, the genre is built on series. I guess, when you create an entire new world, just to place your story there, you’re tempted to re-use it 😉 And it pays better, and readers expect it. So, while Tolkien started with trilogy (that he is quoted to think about LotR as one book), his successors published longer and longer series or various length, renown and quality. For me, Belgariad and Dragonlance were gateways into post-tolkienian fantasy, and, after ca. 25 years of reading fantasy, there are still more huge – and reportedly great – series on my TBR.
Recently, I found myself on an extended business trip abroad, with only one book in my luggage (a 900-page one, but still 😉 ) and I visited an excellent second-hand bookshop that offered a pretty complete collection of one of the longest-going fantasy sagas, L.E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluce. While not featured in most of the top tens, it’s often mentioned as an interesting series of novels, with carefully thought-through magic system and an innovative approach to the issue of chaos/order balance. I’ve always been interested by this last issue, as a huge fan of Zelazny‘s Amber. I bought the first four volumes, and now, after reading the first two, I reached a preliminary verdict.
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And Tolkien it ain’t 😉

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House of Cards

I had a discussion recently about the “book was better” trope. It usually is, I believe. But, as a contrarian, I like to find exceptions to every rule, even one I believe in.
Long before Netflix ordered the American version of “House of Cards”, I believed HoC to be such an example, contradicting this particular rule. British HoC is listed among my favourite shows of all time, while I just couldn’t bring myself to love the novels, even if the first one predates its tv adaptation.
So – I decided to re-post my thoughts on the topic. I still haven’t seen the last season of the Netflix show, and I don’t think I ever will. Regardless of the crimes of Kevin Spacey, it was too long and nowhere near as god as the original version. I want to remember how good it began and not spoil my impressions by seeing its progressing deterioration. I’d rather re-watch Sir Ian Richardson’s Shakespearean prime minister.
In a time of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Urquhart is perhaps an unattainable dream 😉

Re-enchantment Of The World

No, not that:house-of-cards-kevin-spaceyAlthough I’m very happy that I could binge-watch it now, in Poland, on the day of release, on Netflix, like a normal human being, not one episode a week on… what was it called, television?

Not even that:

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Although I believe it’s a superior product. Kevin Spacey is excellent, but Ian Richardson is great. Shakespearean villain, veteran of political system even more ruthless than the one we know from the American version, Francis Urquhart would outmanoeuvre Frank Underwood before breakfast. And then Underwood would remind him that UK is a pygmy next to the world’s biggest superpower. Realpolitik is a tough business.

Actually I’d love to see a series where Urquhart/Underwood had to cooperate, sort of evil version of Roosevelt/Churchill duo. Magnificent bastards both of them…

Anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you this:

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Michel Dobbs, House of Cards (1989)

or

the book…

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Brian McClellan, Uncanny Collateral (2019)

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Author: Brian McClellan

Title: Uncanny Collateral

Format: epub

Pages: 96

It’s been some time since I’ve read a really new genre book… Now, I finally did, but, despite it being from one of my favourite young writers, I’m not very happy about it.
Brian McClellan is one of our favourite new authors, his Powder Mage universe – one we greatly appreciate. Great ideas, great characters, constantly improving writing. I’m yet to read his second Powder Mage trilogy, but it’s only because I’m certain I’ll like it and I’m saving it for later.
When I read in his newsletter he wrote a short urban fantasy novel, I was intrigued and immediately bought an epub (pdf and mobi included in the package). I read the first chapter that very day, two further ones during the next couple of weeks, and finished this very short thing only recently, during a flight. Why? Well…

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Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad (2005)

This will be a short one, written just before I’m going on vacation. But this 200 page novella was such a delight to read, I decided to write a quick post and schedule it for publication during my escapade. I’m actually somewhere in Apulia right now, don’t expect many comments from me until July 16 😉 (well, maybe some, I’m not going totally off the grid…).

Ok, time for formalities…

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Author: Margaret Atwood

Title: The Penelopiad

Format: Paperback

Pages: 199

From the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, I give you a short, very special re-telling of the Odyssey. Serious, but light, funny, but making a few pointed accusations and changing the moral of one of the best known stories mankind ever produced. A treat indeed!

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