Oct 25, 2009

Book Reviews @ The Temple

The Chronicles of Amber (Corwin Cycle) by Roger Zelazny read by Roger Zelazny – I’m going to give the review I was going to give until something happened, so let’s go.  So this is a big series in my family.  One of my brothers owes his name to the main character, it was one of my first fantasy series, but it’s been 15 years since I read it.  I know I loved it then, but I was 15, what do I know?  Some things you used to love don’t age so well, but hey it’s well respected, it’s got to be good, right?  Yep!  It’s fucking fantastic.  I’ve said before, a solid fantasy series depends on a believable world that you are immediately immersed in that is clear, but clearly different.  That introduces you slowly into aspects of that world, keeping that cool factor, but never confusing you.  This book does that wonderfully.  And it does that through another very hard thing to do – first person storytelling.  The book is solely from the perspective of the main character, and he starts with amnesia, which means he is being slowly introduced to the world.  That is an amazing device to bring the reader in with equal parts mystery, wonder, and coolness.  The plot is fantastic, up even into the 5th book you don’t know who the enemy really is.  You hate the “bad guy” in the first book.  But by the second book, he was never the bad guy, it’s actually these guys.  And then they aren’t so bad, or maybe they are, but you don’t know.  It does political and familial drama in a way that is not cheesy or melodramatic, but is suspenseful and engaging.  I can’t say enough, it really is one of the best fantasy stories ever.  Here comes the “but”.  BUT, I’m a fucking moron and I accidently listened to the abridged book.  FUCK!  I found this out when I was literally 30 minutes from the end of all 5 books.  GOD DAMMIT!  Really?  I didn’t bother to compare to my real life copy to see if it was abridged until the very end?  So I’m super pissed, I feel like I missed out.  The books are cut by at least 1/3 by the abridgedness.  It’s fortunate that I’ve read it before, so it’s not like I’ve never seen those pieces, it’s almost like I got a refresher without going through the whole thing.  But it is amazing! I wanted the whole thing.  But I’m not going to go reread or listen now that I’ve already spent a month listening!  I mean it’s been 15 years, if you extrapolate from those two data points, I’ll be 45 by the time I reread these books, I’m super annoyed.  I suppose it’s possible the things that were cut out weren’t great, maybe I liked it more because it was abbreviated?  But I doubt it, more likely I missed 1/3 of an awesome sandwich, and that sucks.  I’m starting the Merlin Cycle now, una-god-damn-bridged, so hopefully that will cheer me up!

Amber (Merlin Cycle) – Alright, I’m through the second series! I managed to get unabridged this time. It was kind of a mixed bag. Two books were read by zelazny, two by some boring guy, and the last by an interesting guy. The last guy was interesting just because he actually did voices, gave each person a semi-recognizable tenor. Kind of sad that I only got this by the last book. Also had a slight side effect of messing with my 9-book-enforced impression of what they should sound like. But to the books – they are still very good, but not as good as the corwin cycle. At times they are, the world is still fantastic, the introduction of sorcery is awesome and makes the options more plentiful. The books do too much to try to be mysterious, though. I don’t really like when a story gets up its own ass with it’s sneaky plot. The first 5 books were masterful at this, just the right amount of playing around with the reader, stringing you along, constantly getting you to question who was on whose side. These 5 books take the sad turn of messing with reality via magic. I don’t like a untrustworthy narrator. Corwin was legitimately confused because he didn’t know the truth. But Merlin is confused because of silly magic games, and once that possibility is introduced, I have no reason to believe anything else that ever happens again, because it could be silly magic games. It really bothers me in a lot of stories these days, especially all the psychological thrillers. Anyway, besides the 2 books (mostly) when zelazny is doing that, they are good. The ending happens too quickly, but then maybe that’s the way endings happen. Still a great series of books, I’m looking forward to 2025 when I read them again!

A Night in the Lonesome October written & read by Roger Zelazny – What a fascinating book! I got it on accident with the amber books, so I listened having 0 idea what it was about. Part way through I had to go google it because I was kind of confused, and I definitely wouldn’t have figured out all that was going on if I hadn’t (though, as it turns out, if I had looked at the cover of the book, that might have cleared things up). The premise is London at some unknown time, perhaps the 1800s. Several historical and fictional people are involved in a dramatic ritual involving dark gods. Those people include dracula, jack the ripper, dr. frankenstein, sherlock holmes, and others. Each of these people has a famliiar (an animal with which you have some sort of magical connection). The story is told, in first person (which zelazny seems to have a mastery of) by jack the ripper’s familiar, a dog named Snuff. He is to help his master prepare for and complete his portion of the ritual, for which there are two competing teams. The whole story is just the machinations of preparing for the ritual and allies and enemies and such. The playing out of the story itself isn’t all that fantastic, it’s not bad, it’s just fine. The premise is just so odd, though, it makes it a good book. Part of the problem is listening to it I tend to miss things when I get distracted, and so I lose some of the intrigue. This wasn’t so bad with the amber books because I had a general idea of what was going on (even if I had forgotten nearly every detail). Here I was often lost until something else happened to clear up what I missed before. Nonetheless, pretty cool book.

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