Un-su Kim, The Cabinet (2021)

Author: Un-su Kim

Title: The Cabinet

Format: E-book

Pages: 400

Series:-

Among my recent reads this novel turned out to be the strangest one; for me, it resembles mostly an early attempt at a Frankenstein’s monster: sewn together from disparate parts it ends up having three arms, one leg, and an off-color head tacked on back to front. The first 60% were highly enjoyable, but afterwards, an inexorable downward spiral got me in the end to a disheartening feeling of “wtf did I just read?”

It’s a pity, really, because the premise of Kim’s novel is quite promising, with a lot of potential: the life in modern cities became so unbearable for humans that their evolution accelerated rapidly, creating first cases of a post-homo sapiens species. The mutations don’t seem to be adaptive, at the moment, but as evolution works through trial and error, we might see some that would become highly effective.

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T.J. Klune, Under the Whispering Door (2021)

Author: T.J. Klune

Title: Under the Whispering Door

Format: e-book

Pages: 384

Series: –

I’ve heard a lot of good things about T.J. Klune’s books; when I saw this one on NG, I jumped at the opportunity to finally get acquainted with his writing. Alas, while the writing was smooth enough and well-meaning enough, Under the Whispering Door turned out to be a book not for me. I’m sure there are people who’ll enjoy this – not just more than I did, which is no big feat, but generally, in absolute terms, as a feel-good, “wholesome” novel.

I could probably finish my review here; then, words like “infantile” and “cloyingly sweet” wouldn’t have to be written. And I’m a bit tempted to do just that, because I don’t have a beef with this book; no uncontrollable growing and gnashing teeth while reading, no torn out hair – my reactions tended toward bafflement and growing dissatisfaction. Alas, I think I owe an explanation for this somewhat dismal rating. So, here it is.

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The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021)

Escaping from poverty to become a witcher, Vesemir slays monsters for coin and glory, but when a new menace rises, he must face the demons of his past.

Piotrek: Ladies and gentlemen, I present you a perfectly serviceable action anime, a nicely animated tale with a solid, if predictable plot. Childhood friends lost and found, poor kids training to become powerful warriors, valour, prejudice, betrayal and evil conspiracies. Not sure I’d watch a whole season of that, but a movie was enjoyable.

What? You say it’s a Witcher story? No, that simply cannot be, a funny claim…

Ola: Funny, you say? I’d call it preposterous. Nightmare of the Wolf has nothing in common with The Witcher’s lore or worldview; indeed, it is a direct contradiction of both. And I can’t decide if the nifty tag line, Face your demons, is ironic or outright cynical.

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Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January (2019)

Author: Alix E. Harrow

Title: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Format: Paperback

Pages: 374

Series: –

Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, has made its rounds around the blogosphere over the last two years, with predominantly – almost exclusively, in fact – positive reviews. And that’s what I remembered about them: they were all positive, sometimes even raving, and all praising the author’s imagination and poetic language. I should’ve paid more attention to the elements that weren’t complimented, I think, armed as I am now with hindsight. 

You see, there are indeed many things that The Ten Thousand Doors of January should be praised for, particularly a highly inventive use of the symbolism and meaning of portals, thresholds and doors, successfully employing plenty of references to various myths and folktales I’m a sucker for. It is an entertaining, character-focused book, with languorously meandering action and an interesting cast of secondary characters. It’s also incredibly earnest, in that endearing puppy way, all big eyes and enthusiasm.

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Jo Walton, Or What You Will (2020)

Author: Jo Walton

Title: Or What You Will 

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 320

Series: –

Or What You Will, marketed as “writer’s book,” was my first Jo Walton’s novel – and I reached for it thanks to the infallible Bookforager, who is guilty of burdening my TBR with kilograms of books – just ask her, I’m sure she’ll gleefully admit to it and be proud! 😉

It’s a tough book to review, and quite tough to read, to be honest. At least at the beginning, where the writer seems so focused on actively dissuading readers from reading that at some point it became quite irking. But don’t take my word for it, just read the quote below:

“I will ask you to do nothing but read, and remember, and care. If you refuse to care? If reading this so far has made you shudder and recoil? If you have no least curiosity about that apophatic pool by the rose garden, not even whether it’s a swimming pool or a pool full of waterlilies, if you don’t want to at least glance at those books on the windowsill and scan their titles? Then you are not my reader, not any of my imagined readers. Stop now, while you are ahead. Take your embodied self off to read something else, feeling grateful for your solidity, your reality, and that of the world you inhabit, go read something you’ll enjoy more, or deal with the pipes and boilers banging and hissing in your own life, and leave the rest of us here. We will do well enough without you, I dare say.” 

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