Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Blog Fantastic 040: The Sword of Shannara Review (Unread 017)

Reading a book like The Sword of Shannara, which comes with a lot of baggage, is the kind of thing I have to mull over before I actually open the cover. This is the kind of book where people tend to be more familiar with the criticism and commentary surrounding the book than have actually read the book themselves. In the Information Age, many potential readers probably discover that the book can best be summarized as a Lord of the Rings rip-off or Lord of the Rings-lite and decide to simply skip it over. For readers like me who decide to give it an honest try, it’s more or less impossible to read it with an open mind. It makes it difficult for you to enjoy the book on its own merits because you constantly have to juggle your reaction of the story against the criticism already attached to the book. This is certainly true of all books but there are notable novels, such as this one, that have received an overwhelming negative response that overshadows the positive response, often resulting in it being dismissed far too quickly and unfairly.

Here’s the biggest problem with The Sword of Shannara, the most popular criticisms thrown at it are usually 1) it’s a near identical copy of The Lord of the Rings both in terms of plot and characters, and 2) it’s a really shitty version of that great epic.  These comments can be found far and wide, both in and outside the confines of the Internet. Those criticisms are true but they also offer an incomplete assessment of what The Sword of Shannara has to offer.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Seventh by Richard Stark review (Unread 016)

It’s always a delight to read a Parker book by Richard Stark. I tend to space them out between other books I read for a couple reasons. I love them dearly and I don’t want to rush myself to read them all right away. I also use them as a way to remind me why I love reading when I get a little burnt out on longer and unnecessarily drawn out books. That happens regularly since I read a lot of fantasy and there are many long books in that genre. Reading something by Richard Stark immediately following a large or slow paced novel can really give you an appreciation for what Stark manages to accomplish in the slim volumes of the Parker series. The Seventh is no exception as it maintains the high level of excellence as the rest of the series. I’m simply fascinated by the rapid pacing, Parker’s hypnotizing amorality and focus, the tight plotting and, of course, the narrative structure Stark gives to each of his books. 

I have to admit, I’m a definitive fanboy of this series. It scratches an itch that no other books can touch. There is a precision to each and every book and they all fit nicely together in a way that many other authors try to do with their series but never manage to pull off. To clarify, when I say the books fit well together I don’t mean in it in the way that they’re all set within a clear universe with recurring characters and familiar locale, thought that happens to be true, too. I mean the books fit together well in contrast to each other. There is a structure to each individual volume but there is also a structure to the series. Each book highlights a particular facet of Parker while also fitting comfortably with what has come before.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Blog Fantastic 039: Prince Caspian Review (Unread 015)

When I read the first book of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, I had a lot of problems with it. I enjoyed myself while reading, but once the book was done and I thought about it a little bit, it felt slight and weightless. There wasn’t much substance for me to hang on to and the experience I had with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe soon drifted away. Just like the Pevensie children, I knew I would one day return to Narnia, mostly because I had already bought all seven volumes from Bay Used Books – a matching set, no less. I’ve decided to read the series in publication order so the second book I picked off the shelf was Prince Caspian.

I mentioned in my review of the first book that I enjoyed the writing style and that the plot had little tension or thrills to offer, my reaction to Prince Caspian is eerily similar. The plot isn’t thrilling, not much happens and what does happen is accomplished with far too much ease. Worst of all, I had a more difficult time reading the second volume because the writing style annoyed me for most of the book. I found it to be pandering and patronizing. Why I enjoyed it with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and not with Prince Caspian I can only blame on my mood while reading this book. This time around, I found that the writing style pulled me out of the story, provided too many interrupting commentary, and not enough plot momentum. If anything, it slowed down the story. It also surprised me just how little dialogue this book has. It’s a clear example of how breaking the storytelling rule of “show, don’t tell” will make for a shitty reading experience.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Blog Fantastic 038: Dragondrums Review (Unread 014)

Dragondrums is the third volume of the Harper Hall trilogy. It’s noticeably different than the first two volumes because this volume focuses on Piemur, rather than Menolly. I read some reviews and comments online about how some people really didn’t like that change. It was said that it undermined Menolly’s character and that Piemur isn’t worthy enough to lead his own book. I personally like the change. Menolly rubbed me the wrong way because she was infallible and could do no wrong. She reeks of Mary Sue’ness and that got tiresome pretty quickly. She’s still a part of Dragondrums but it’s less focused that in the previous volumes. I did have my moments where I really liked her but overall, I liked her better in this book. She works better for me when she’s not in the spotlight. For me, she’s a character that works best when I’m not spending all my time inside her head. I can appreciate her talents and personality much more this way. I also happen to like Piemur, so having more of him in Dragondrums was a positive change, in my opinion. However, like Menolly, he did have his moments where he annoyed me.

This book is about growing up and dealing with changes that our out of control (kind of funny then that readers were upset about the change in main character – you can’t do anything about it so settle in and enjoy the story). Piemur, at the age of 14, loses his soprano voice leaving him unable to sing until his voice settles down and he finds his new vocal range. He’s at a loss as to what his future hold. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s never excelled at anything else at Harper Hall besides singing. He’d even become Master Shonagar’s favourite student because of his voice. Aside from that, he’s not really any good in other fields of music. He sucks at making instruments, his gitar playing is no more than average, he isn’t good at composition, or at copying sheet music. Crushed by the thoughts that he would have to return to his childhood Hold, he is given incredible news.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation Omnibus review (Unread 013)

IDW Publishing, the current comic book publisher which holds the rights to Star Trek comics has put together a few archive collections of Star Trek comics previously published by other companies. They’ve also put together omnibus editions that collect multiple mini-series that were first published by IDW. It’s a good publishing strategy as mini-series are often overlooked by regular comic book readers and considering that most of IDW’s Star Trek output has been in this format it makes sense to give those minis a wider audience. Since the omnibus collections contain multiple mini-series at a more affordable price, it’s most likely the favoured choice of potential buyers. That’s why I bought this volume. The page per dollar ratio makes it worthwhile purchase. This volume focuses on stories set in The Next Generation series. Four miniseries are collected together. The first of which is The Space Between.

The Space Between
Written by David Tischman
Art by Casey Maloney
Additional Inks by Stacie Ponder and Aaron Leach
Colors by Leonard O’Grady
Letters by Robbie Robbins, Chris Mowry, and Neil Uyetake
Edited by Dan Taylor