Neil Gaiman, The View from the Cheap Seats (2016)

It’s been some time since my last actual review. I’ve been busy lately, true, but not much more than usual. I’ve actually been reading quite a lot. But now I squeeze reading into smaller bits of free time, it’s harder to find time enough to also write.

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I considered writing about The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, a delightful book already reviewed on Re-E by Ola, 5 years ago. I read it quite recently and it proved to be just as good as she claimed. Good enough I might even agree with the 9.5/10 score, and my opinion is not sufficiently different to warrant a separate post.

Then, I remembered I recently read The View from the Cheap Seats – Gaiman’s selected non-fiction. I’ve already written about a similar collection of Pratchett’s texts, and Gaiman’s foreword to that one is included here, so we have a nice connection.

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: The View from the Cheap Seats

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 532

 

For Ash, who is new,

for when he is grown.

These were some of the things

your father loved and said

and cared about and believed,

a long time ago.

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The Finished Book Tag

First, a complaint. Bookstooge made me set up a LibraryThing account, and now I’m dedicating significant percentage of my free time into moving my catalogue there… I have to agree, it’s an excellent website, and so much fun 🙂 They even have some of my obscure Polish books in the database, although some I have to put in manually.

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I did not have time to check the more advanced options, but this week I started adding 50-100 books a day and when I’m done I’ll look what more they have to offer.

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But that’s not the main topic of today.

Back in December we were tagged by the excellent Bookforager with The Finished Book Tag. It looked really interesting so added it to my list of tags I want to do someday, and here we are, only four months later 😉

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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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