Monday, January 28, 2019

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

49628I saw a movie, and then I read a book.  If you are a follower of mine, this should now be sending off loud and dangerous warning bells.  

I do not like movies based on novels.  They too often want to press artistic license via dramatic visuals or gender bending on to a beautifully written work.  They think the visualization can expand the imagination.  I despise these actions.  Quit spackling literature with artistic license.

Now for Cloud Atlas.  I saw the movie based on the premise depicted in the trailer.  One story that spans six generations and proves that events span time and space.  Rather unusual and sci-fi, I'm interested.

The movie made zero sense.  We bounce from one generation to another with little discourse and comprehension as to how A got to B.  There are these people with comet birthmarks.  Are they a gang, a secret society, relatives?  What?

Then I read the book.  

We start in the early 1800s with a journal of a lawyer that is being read by a man in the 1930s who is corresponding with a man who wrote an academic treatise in the 1970s that is being hunted by a journalist whose life story became a novel to be published by a man whose life story became a movie that a clone watched in the undated future who became a god to a civilization in yet a further undated future.  

Weird.  And a touch off putting to read as every section is dutifully written in the context of a journal/letter/memoir/interview of each given timeline.  This means really outdated English and colloquialisms in the journal to just absolute guesswork on what the English language will look like in the apocalyptic future.

Now, I am impressed that the author was able to write so cohesively in tone and style to each medium in the novel.  As individual pieces, they are fantastic and the near future clone world would make an awesome sci-fi series.  Put all six scores together as a whole composition and they are a work from Frankenstein.

I think the author was hoping the whole novel would come together and reflect his idea for the six instrument symphony created by Robert Frobisher, our 1930s guide, via reincarnation.  Unfortunately, it failed for me.

Cloud Atlas failed on the whole premise of reincarnation for me.  None of the characters that are supposed to be derived from their predecessor has anything similar in demeanor or conscience.  There is not a single character trait that made me say, "Ah, this is the same person from the previous story."  The lack of this transcendent essence made the entire novel feel like six unique stories stapled together and published straight to market, skip the editor.

The movie certainly makes more sense now that read the novel and delivers that visual flair all movies promise will make it better than the novel.  There wasn't a solid foundation for the movie to build shop on, so I'm impressed with the outcome.  Neither is good without the other.  Is that a victory in there somewhere for the movie industry?

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Riddle in Ruby by Kent Davis

This little gem got lost in a very large physical to-read pile.  After a very serious purging and rationalizing what I was realistically going to read from that pile and what needed to go to my local library, I finally managed to get A Riddle in Ruby to the top of the reading list.  

Thanksgiving had left behind gratitude for a cleaner house and the company of family in town for the holiday.  I wanted to keep the spirit of good nature going through to Christmas on out to the New Year.  This meant picking up that middle grade novel that had been buried in my to-read pile for three long years.  

 A Riddle in Ruby centers around a group of pirates who are actually involved in a deep underground conglomerate with a false name.  The leading lady is on her way to becoming a professional lock-pick for her pirate crew when a chemystral powered carriage charges down a collision course.

The action is well placed and dispersed between excellent bouts of character building and some truly humorous dialogue.  My main gripe with the story is the alternate fiction of the novel setting in Revolutionary Philadelphia.  (All who have read my blog before know I don't like muddying the historical waters with alternate fiction when the story could easily have just been written in a completely make believe world.)

The premise of magical chemistry and the cast of characters are all incredibly entertaining; even the villains are enjoyable to read.  Younger grades will need to be strong readers to handle the antiquated terminology that goes along with the Colonial setting, but older readers should appreciate the length of the story along with the swashbuckling action.

Davis makes a story that is uplifting, humorous and clean--while perhaps not entirely wholesome with all the lock-picking and secret societies.

Plus side to finding this ARC three years later is the entire series is now published.  Guess that means I don't have to wait to continue along with Aruba Teach.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

11295643I have been reading long enough that I no longer remember how exactly I got pulled into the fantasy genre.  

In elementary school, I mostly I read Boxcar Children, Shiloh, Sidewise Stories, Bailey School Kids and Boys Against Girls.  While the Bailey series has mythical creatures, they weren't what I would really call fantasy novels.

During school, I dutifully read my curriculum, which was heavy in Paulsen, London, Hinton, and other very realistic coming of age stories.  It wasn't until I was in high school where I had well outgrown my curriculum and had quite a bit of extra time on my hands.  I needed extracurricular reading.  I asked friends for their favorite reads.  Fantasy books were the ones that I added to my shelves.

Lord of the Rings was one of my favorite trilogies until Brandon Sanderson came along.  I loved the high fantasy of Tolkien.  His elves were specifically most alluring to me.

Then I read Pratchett.  Oh how Pratchett can shine a light on something and make all the warts visible.  The Lords and Ladies of Discworld really are no different from Tolkien's elves, but you don't close Lords and Ladies and want to be an elf.

This was easily my favorite of the Discworld series that focuses on the witches.  I enjoyed their traveling abroad, but this one has lessons.  The novel has quantum mechanics, quashing romantic frippery, the importance of semantics, and being comfortable with who you are.

In fact, my favorite section in the whole book is when Nanny Ogg describes the elves, and she explains semantics.  Words are powerful.  Most of them have been forgotten in modern language, especially since we have somehow bastardized meanings to better suit our moods.

Remember... elves are glamorous.  They project glamour.  No one ever said elves were nice.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Outlaw and the Upstart King by Rod Duncan

Sorry to the author and publishers for not getting out a release day review.  Best laid plans and all that...  I had a very exciting holiday season dealing with a credit card thief, but countered it with Christmas caroling and excellent friends at church.

The Outlaw and the Upstart King made me glad that I gave Duncan another shot.  I was very vocal that The Queen of All Crows left me seriously underwhelmed with the "Gas-Lit Empire" series.  I felt it was a poorly contrived attempt at New Age feminism that just did not fit well with the Elizabeth Barnabus built in the first trilogy.  

Duncan refreshes the series with an entirely new character.  Heck, we don't even see Elizabeth until Part Two.  Once Elizabeth introduces herself to Elias, we finish the novel switching between perspectives.

The new leading gent Elias No-Thumbs has a name you just have to get the story behind.  The small blurb showing him as a leading character on Netgalley is the sole reason I requested the ARC and headed back to the Gas-Lit Empire at all.

Elias is a man down on his luck and living off the scrapings of the rich and mighty he used to rub shoulders with.  He sells his freedom for a ride on an unwelcome smugglers rig and gets enslaved in a glycer factory.  He then sells his future for revenge.  Little did he know what we would find on that return trip when he signed the oath with his blood.

This is not a happy novel.  It is filled with disgust, shame, dirt and hardship.  There is pain.  There is angst.  But I read every last sentence with rapt attention.  I haven't read a book ensconced in the darker side of human emotions combined with the hopes of faith and love in ages.  Too often you get the dark ennui with only the devil for company or you get a pink-spewed rainbow of endless joy.  The lack of balance has sunk many a great story.  

Congratulations, Duncan, on making a story that showed sides of the human experience I haven't read in a long while and bringing me back to why I loved the "Gas-Lit Empire."