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 😉
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.
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.
And Tolkien it ain’t 😉
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:Although 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:
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…
Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you this:
Michel Dobbs, House of Cards (1989)
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Author: Brian McClellan
Title: Uncanny Collateral
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.
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…
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…
Author: Margaret Atwood
Title: The Penelopiad
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!
Author: Robert Holdstock
Title: The Fetch
Edition: Warner Books, Paperback
Robert Holdstock was a distinguished British writer whom I already reviewed once. His Mythago Woods is a great, if a bit rough, journey through the world of Celtic – and earlier – myths connected in a very real way to a modern (well, post-II WW anyway) world. Mythago… is a first part of the Ryhope Woods cycle, whereas The Fetch is a stand-alone novel, but we stay in the general area of myths, archetypes, and British countryside. But while the previous one was scary at times, Fetch could well be called a horror story. I could see it being adapted to the big screen (or Netlix 😉 ) as a classical horror with an Omen vibe (without Christian references).
Only third post this month and a re-post again. The first one had been planned for some time, to start the series and encourage our new readers to reach deeper into Re-E’s archives 😉 Today I’m commenting on a book that Ola reviewed over four years ago, and I’ve only just read. Next week – we will, hopefully, finish our post on Captain Marvel, just before the Avengers: Endgame premieres.
The Night Circus was quite popular a few years ago, with awards and positive reviews and a beautiful cover. Reviews vary in tone (but it still has a great 4.04 Goodreads average with 564K ratings and 62K reviews!), cover still looks great.
Why not a counter-review? Because in many ways I agree with Ola. I just like it a great deal more 😉
I agree that the book is in many ways an exercise in style. Imagination, attention to detail, well thought-through structure, poetry and elegance – all there. Slow pacing, not much happening, romance too easy, ending perhaps a bit too happy (there were victims along the way, I don’t think that’s too spoilery…) – yes, I agree.
It’s just that I like to occasionally read a book like that. I was in the mood and Morgenstern delivered what I needed – a diamond polished perhaps too much, but shining. The book reminded me a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it lacked the humour of Clarke’s masterpiece. My score for The Night Circus? 7.5, actually only a point more than it got from Ola 😉
And I’ll add one long quote, nothing too original, and definitely naive, but I liked it, and it will also serve as a sample of Morgentern’s style:
“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, (…) and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with his prey.”
(…) “But wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?”
Re-enchantment Of The World
Ooops, I’m late again! 😉 To make up for it, this time I will write a shorter review than usual ;). The Night Circus is a debut novel of Erin Morgenstern – and her only book to date. This novel won Locus Award in 2012 and acclaim of many critics and readers alike. And left me with a feeling of pointlessness of it all.
The book starts with a description of a circus. Or, rather, of THE circus, the ultimate circus there could ever been. Le Cirque des Rêves opens only at night. It is black and white, it consists of multiple tents and booths arrayed in a series of circles connected by winding alleys. It is circular, looping and continuous, and feeding on itself. A place of innumerable wonders, constant surprises, awe-inspiring performances – and a few mysteries. It shows up unheralded, it disappears unannounced – but when it’s…
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