June 2012 Month in Review

So last month I talked about how the weather in Ohio was staring to get a little nicer, now I can talk about how the past several days have been really hot.  That’s the problem with Ohio weather, you have about 5 nice days a year, 3 in the Spring and another 2 in the Fall.  Other than that it’s just kind of crappy all year.

Anyway, on to the books I read this month.  Although I read 9 books this month, I’m a little upset that I didn’t break 3,000 pages, I hit 2,972.  Although part of that was from reading The Malloreon by Eddings.  I bought the series in the two volume collection, and the books are trade paperback size which means that overall there are less pages per book.  For example, in my edition, the first book – Guardians of the West, was 273 pages.  Amazon lists the hardcover edition of that book at 454 pages and the mass market paperback at 448 pages.  So if I adjusted my page count for the year to go by those editions, it would probably put me up to about 3,700 pages this month.  But I’m not going to do that, so we’ll leave it as it is.

(That was actually a really good guess.  Being kind of obsessive about this sort of thing, I checked the paperback page counts against my page counts.  The paperback copies would have added 734 pages, which would have put me at 3,706.)

So anyway, on with the recap of books I reviewed this month:

When I order the books with links for these posts, I put them in alphabetical order by author’s last name, and then for a series I list the books in the order of the series.  Oddly enough, that’s the order that I read the books in this month.  Strange coincidence I suppose.

So at the end of these posts I’ve typically been asking a question of those who read it, but this time I’m going to put in a little bit of blog news.  Probably 2/3 of my posts in this blog have been book reviews.  And while that is still going to be the primary purpose of my blog, I’m going to expand the scope of my media discussions a little bit.  I’m going to start going through some more movies and TV shows and discussing those on my blog as well.  I just recently started watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly and thus far I love it.  I started writing down my thoughts after each episode and in the coming weeks I’ll be doing a series of posts where I talk about the show.  After I finish up with Firefly (and Serenity) I’ll pick another show and go from there, it should be fun.

On that note, I’m off to start reading The Fall of Hyperion.

Hyperion

I first heard of this book from the Writing Excuses podcast, however, the Hyperion Cantos is also listed on NPR’s top 100 SciFi/Fantasy list at #51.  Dan Simmons did an excellent job with this book, and after only reading the first book I would argue that it deserves to be much higher.  We’ll see how the rest of the series stacks up, but I’m really impressed with this book.

Book Stats

482 pages

Science Fiction

First book in the series

Plot

The plot of this book is seemingly very simple, but as the book continues it becomes much deeper.  7 people are sent on a pilgrimage to the planet Hyperion where they will make a journey to see the Shrike, a savage monster who kills all of the people who are sent to it.  During the course of their journey, they tell their stories about how they ended up being chosen for the pilgrimage.

Their stories vary greatly, with one of them being right out of an action movie, another being a love story across time, and another being a tale about the life of a poet.  All of the stories are very well done, and as they’re told they start to reveal a larger plot that may end up with the extinction of the human race.

Setting

Various planets throughout the galaxy.  All of the environments are unique, well planned, and interesting to read about.

Characters

The seven characters who go on the pilgrimage are listed and briefly described on the first page of the book.  In my copy that page is even before all the copyright information.  The characters are the following: the Priest, the Soldier, the Poet, the Scholar, the Starship Captain, the Detective, and the Consul.  even from just their titles you can see where there would be some friction between them.  It’s difficult to succinctly describe all of their personalities, but they’re all very well done and you get to see a large part of their backgrounds throughout the book.

Enjoyment

Wow, that’s the first thought after reading this book.  The only real comparison to this book is Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where a diverse collection of people share their stories.  But while I didn’t care for Chaucer’s story (or at least the parts of it that we read in my senior year English class) I loved this book.

Dan Simmons does an excellent job of writing very different stories for each of the pilgrims.  Obviously any time you have a variety of story types, you’re going to enjoy some of them more than others, it’s all dependent upon your personal tastes.  Even if a particular character’s tale isn’t the type of story you typically enjoy, they’re quick reads that drop subtle hints about the overall story of the war between Humans, Ousters, and the Core AI’s.

Of the individual tales, the one I’m going to single out here is the story of Sol Weintraub, the Scholar.  Without spoiling the specifics of the story, I’m simply going to say that it’s probably the most heart-wrenchingly sad story that I’ve ever read in my life.  The premise is wonderful and the execution of that story is flawless.  That story alone is enough of a reason to read this book.

Overall Grade

A fantastic idea and wonderful execution, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book.

8/10

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

This is a book I picked up in my ongoing goal of reading through a bunch of the classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Robert Heinlein is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of Science Fiction, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of his better books.  This book won the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel in 1967.

Book Stats

382 pages

Science Fiction

Characters

The book revolves around four major characters: Manuel (who is also the narrator), Wyoming, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, and Mike.  Wyoming and the Professor are both revolutionaries who would like to see Luna recognized as a free state, and they end up dragging Manuel along for the ride.  Manuel is a computer technician who learned that the central computer controlling nearly everything on Luna has become sentient, and he ends up naming it Mike.  The characters were well written, if not exactly unique in fiction in any way.  Mike was the most memorable individual character, and it was interesting to try and see a computer analyze jokes.

Setting

The book takes place in 2075 on the moon.  The Federated Nations of Earth use the moon as a penal colony, and they have developed techniques to grow crops on the moon and ship them down to Earth.  Everything about the setting is brilliantly thought out, and there are many subtle differences in their lives compared to the lives of people on Earth.  But while their culture is different from ours, it works perfectly.

Plot

After speaking with Mike early in the book, Manuel gets invited to a rally with a friend of his.  Ultimately this leads him to get involved with Wyoming and the Professor, who are both revolutionaries who want to have Luna recognized as a free state.  Manuel is recruited to their cause, and introduces them to Mike, who also helps them in their cause.  The book is the story of the process that their revolution goes through from conception through revolution through ultimately being recognized as a free state.

Enjoyment

To start with, the narrative for this book is told from the first person viewpoint of Manuel, and it has a dialect throughout the story.  As far as dialects go, this one works out decently.  Basically, the inhabitants of Luna cut out a lot of the articles in their speech.  (At least I think the correct term for what’s missing is articles, if not that’s what I’m calling them.)  While I generally hate dialects in books, it wasn’t too bad in this book, definitely easy enough to read once you got used to it.

The story was quite interesting, and in many ways was a bit of an homage to the US struggle for independence, complete with signing their Declaration of Independence July 4th, ’76 (although it’s 2076 as opposed to 1776).

There was a lot of interesting stuff going on in this book.  The system they used to set up their underground movement was quite interesting.  They start with the primary 3 members, and they all choose 3 members below them, who each choose 3 below them, and so on and so forth.  Because no person in the pyramid knows more than 6 other people (their 3 subordinates, the other 2 in their group, and their leader) it’s impossible for any one person to compromise the entire operation.

I’m not always the biggest fan of political intrigue, but this book does a good job of mixing it with Science Fiction.  If you’ve a big fan of Science Fiction or political intrigue in books I’d recommend this book.  I’m more of a casual fan of both of those, but I still enjoyed the book even if it wasn’t always ripping me through the pages.

Overall Grade

Not for everyone, but a very well written book.  I think I need to check out more of Heinlein’s Science Fiction.

6/10

The Seeress of Kell

The Seeress of Kell is the fifth book of David Eddings’ Malloreon, and it serves as a fitting ending to the series.  This post is going to be discussing this book, and then the series as a whole, which will also include a comparison to The Belgariad.  Since I’ve set up enough for myself to talk about, time to get started.

Book Stats

272 pages

Fantasy

Fifth book of The Malloreon (Sequel to Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda, and Sorceress of Darshiva)

Characters

Considering this is the fifth book of the series, and the tenth book centered around Garion, if you don’t know the characters, you never will.

Setting

This book takes place in several of the smaller kingdoms within Mallorea, starting with Kell and then going to the island of Perivor.  While in those places they’re still trying to find the Place Which Is No More for the final encounter with Zandramas and the end of their quest.

Plot

This book worked a lot better for me than the previous couple of books in the series because we’re finally moving towards the conclusion of the series.  It was a fairly standard ending, nothing surprising at all, but it was well written.

Enjoyment

There’s not a whole lot to say at this point about this book in particular, so I’ll leave more of my thoughts for the series review.  At this point I’ll just give the book it’s individual score and move on.

Overall Grade

A fair end to the story, still nothing you haven’t read in plenty of novels before.

6/10

Spoilers for both The Belgariad and The Malloreon included from this point on.

Series Enjoyment

And now we get to the overall grade for the series.  In general, this series felt far too tidy for me.  Everything worked out just a little too well, and there was never any real sense of danger throughout the entire series.  The worldbuilding in these books is first class, and Eddings does a fantastic job of making the world feel real even when you’re only getting to see small parts of it.

The characters were also very well done, and the constant bantering back and forth was fun to read about.  However, I was a little annoyed with how the women in the party were treated.  Even after seeing quite a few battles and tons of dead bodies, the male characters are still constantly trying to keep the women safe from seeing the carnage.  And this includes Polgara, who is over 3,000 years old and has seen more than her fair share of death, and Velvet, who kills several people throughout the course of the series.  It wasn’t a huge problem for the series, but it was enough to annoy me as the books went on.

I also had a problem with the ending of this series.  Just like at the end of The Belgariad, Garion is essentially just a witness to what happens.  Even though he’s the central character to the entire series, he really does very little to effect the outcome of the story, he’s really just along for the ride.  To me this left the climax of the series feeling very flat.  To compile the problems, after the climax of the story, Eddings has another 50 pages where he describes exactly what happens to all of the characters who were part of the story.  It was excessive and far too drawn out.

Series Grade

All in all, The Malloreon is a solidly written – if dated – Fantasy series.

6/10

The Belgariad vs. The Malloreon

And now we get to the big question, which series is better?  It’s difficult to say, on a technical level, The Malloreon is probably better written.  Garion is older in The Malloreon, and so he isn’t simply hiding behind everyone else, he’s able to participate more throughout the duration of the story.  On the other hand, they’re essentially the exact same story.  Go on a quest for such and such an item, visit one area, get into some trouble, get out of trouble, move on.  Rinse and repeat for 5 books.

I was also a little troubled with several aspects of The Malloreon.  The biggest problem is that it felt shoehorned into the mythology of the world.  We’re going through the same steps of fulfilling the age-old prophecy as we did in The Belgariad, but Belgarath and Polgara (again – 7,000 and 3,000 years old) don’t know anything about the prophecy that they’re fulfilling.  This wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t know virtually everything about the prophecy they were fulfilling in The Belgariad.

I was also really annoyed with Poledra, Belgarath’s wife.  In the first series, it’s pretty much explained that she died.  But no, she was simply away – for 3,000 years.  That was one aspect of the story that I couldn’t wrap my head around.  3,000 years and she never wanted to see her daughter or her husband?  I’m not buying it.

So what’s a reader to do?  My advice if you’re interested in these books.  Go ahead and read The Belgariad, it’s a pretty solid story, and if you’re a fan of Fantasy novels it’s interesting to see the change in the genre from the 1980’s to today.  After you finish The Belgariad, go ahead and consider picking up The Malloreon.  Just be warned in advance that it’s essentially the same story told again.  I also recommend waiting longer than the 6 months that I waited in between reading these series.

And one last question, David Eddings has two other Fantasy series, The Elenium and The Tamuli, as well as several other Fantasy novels.  Am I going to be picking any of them up?  Probably not, and if I ever do, it’s going to be years down the line.

Sorceress of Darshiva

So now we’re up to the fourth book of The Malloreon, this’ll be a pretty short review, so I’ll just get on with it.

Book Stats

241 pages

Fantasy

Fourth book of The Malloreon (sequel to Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, and Demon Lord of Karanda

Characters

The same characters from the first four books, in this book ‘Zakath joins the main party after being convinced that he should by Cyradis.  This book also shows viewpoints from several other characters, including those who were in The Belgariad but don’t play as big a part in this series.  I had the same reaction to this series expanding viewpoints as I had with The Belgariad, it’s too late in the series to try and expand the scope.

Setting

Still in Mallorea, working towards finishing their quest.

Plot

This book really deals with finishing up the demon subplot that was started in the third book.  And while it’s interesting to see their continuing travels, the lack of foreshadowing in these books is really starting to get annoying to me.  The final resolution seemed to come from nowhere, and left what could have been a really cool scene falling horribly flat.

Enjoyment

In my post yesterday I talked about how many novels and series – especially Fantasy novels and series – tend to go on far too long.  David Eddings was a very good writer, but both The Belgariad and The Malloreon needed to be 2 books shorter than they actually are.  This series especially is starting to really annoy me.  The characters are never lost, because if they’re ever unsure of where to go, they refer to a not-so cryptic prophecy or have Toth summon Cyradis and ask her where they need to go.  Along with that, Garion seems to have a direct line to some divine being who has a vested interest in their success and will readily point them in the right direction.  Between that and all of the characters being essentially superheroes, there is absolutely no tension whatsoever.  Since Beldin has been traveling with Garion and  company, they have 5 sorcerers (3 of them are thousands of years old), a master of poisons, the Emperor of Mallorea, and two super spies who can find any information as well as any supplies that they will ever need.  Along with this, Silk is such a gifted manipulator of people that ‘Zakath’s aides say that the entire economy of Mallorea would collapse if he wasn’t trading there.

Overall Grade

The quality of the writing in this book is as good as the rest of the books, but having every book use the same formula gets old pretty quickly.

5/10

When is enough not enough?

Such a wonderfully cryptic title for a post isn’t it?  I’d like to think so.  This is going to be another one of my posts where I ramble on about a topic related to books.  I’ve had a few of these posts in the past, including posts where I ramble on about Uniqueness and Originality, Learning Curve, Romance in Books, and a couple other things from in my blog.  Well, this post is brought on by two recent experiences.  The first of these is from watching an online lecture about writing by Eric James Stone, an author of numerous short stories and recent Nebula award winner for his novelette “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made.”

Anyway, the lecture that he gives came from when he was filling in for a class that Brandon Sanderson teaches at BYU.  This past year, Sanderson had the entire class recorded and it is in the process of being posted online.  The website for the series of lectures can be found here, while the lecture by Stone that I’m referring to can be found here.  The lectures are all very interesting and cover a wide variety of topics related to creative writing, including several lectures where Sanderson discusses the business side of writing, which was interesting to listen to.

During Stone’s lecture, he focuses primarily on the process of writing short stories, at which he excels (I have to admit that I haven’t read much of his stuff, but one of his stories that I’m familiar with is Rejiggering the Thingamajig, a very interesting story that can be found on the Escape Pod podcast here.) Anyway, he discusses the idea of moving from publishing short stories to publishing novels.  A concept that he brings up that I find very strange is that when he finished a novel and sent it out to editors, he was told that it was too short.  Without listening to the entire lecture again I think he says that his novel ended up being something like 65k-70k words.

So that’s half of the origin for this post, and the other half comes from some books that I’ve read in the past few months.  Several of the books that I’ve read recently I’ve put down thinking that the book was entirely too long.  One of the recent books I’ve read that works as an example of this was Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch.  I enjoyed the book – particularly the second half – but I thought that it was a couple hundred pages too long.  The first 300 pages of the book could have been cut down to about 50 pages, which would have streamlined the book and made it a quicker and more enjoyable read.

While the Lynch book works largely as a stand alone, there are plenty of books in series that have the same problem.  One of the biggest breakout Fantasy authors of the past decade it Pat Rothfuss, who is known primarily for his Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear).  These books are huge, Amazon lists The Name of the Wind at 672 pages, and The Wise Man’s Fear clocks in at a whopping 1008 pages.  I really enjoyed both of those books, but I had a problem with the beginning of The Wise Man’s Fear.  The first 1/3 of the book was pretty much the same story as the last part of The Name of the Wind, in which Kvothe is struggling to make enough money to stay at the University while managing to piss off half of his teachers and several of his classmates.  Kvothe’s story is really interesting, but while reading the second book I kept wishing that he would get on with his adventures away from the University.  At the end of the second book, Kvothe is back at the University.  I’m going to buy the third book shortly after it comes out, and I’m really hopeful that Rothfuss gets Kvothe away from the University a lot quicker in the third book then he did in the second.

Especially in Science Fiction and Fantasy, huge books are the norm these days.  And along with huge individual books, most Fantasy novels tend to be parts of larger series.  While the trilogy is very common, it’s not uncommon to see 7 book series (Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire), 5 book series (The Belgariad, The Malloreon), or even as many as 14 books (The Wheel of Time).  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of these series, but there comes a point when enough is enough.  At any given time, I’m in the middle of several different Fantasy series, in many cases because the series aren’t finished yet.  For example, here are some of the book series that I’ve started reading that aren’t complete yet: The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan), A Song of Ice and Fire (George RR Martin), The Runelords (David Farland), The Kingkiller Chronicles (Patrick Rothfuss), The Demon Cycle (Peter V. Brett), Monster Hunter International (Larry Correia), The Stormlight Archive (Brandon Sanderson), Variant (Robison Wells), Partials (Dan Wells), and probably a couple of others that I can’t think of offhand.  Adding up each of the planned books in these series, we come to a total of 60 books, which ends up being an average of almost 7 books per series.

I think I understand part of the reasoning for this.  Part of the mindset of the reader is that if you’re going to pay for a book, you might as well get your money’s worth.  And for most people, that means a longer book with a deeper story.  However, there comes a point where it’s just too much.  I enjoy long series of books, and I’m most likely going to end up buying the final books of each of the series that I mentioned above.  But I’m getting to the point where I almost don’t want to start a new fantasy series unless it’s been completed already because I don’t want to wait several years for the next book to come out.

I love big series of books, but I think in many cases books are being stretched out much longer than they need to be simply to fit in with what is expected of books today.  I read a lot of books, and there are very few books that I’ve put down and said “Wow, I wish that book was longer.”  By comparison, there are quite a few books that I’ve put down thinking “That would have been a much stronger book if it was 200 pages shorter.”

However, there are some books that are very long that don’t feel like they have a lot of filler.  My example for this is going to be The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  This book is enormous, with the hardcover coming in at 1008 pages and the paperback big enough to scare many readers away at 1280 pages.  But when you’re reading it, everything is interesting, works within the story, and is simply fun to read about.  So while that book is easily the most massive book I own, it’s also one of the quickest reads you’ll ever find because it’s written so well.  If I remember correctly, I read The Way of Kings in 3 days.  by comparison, I’m currently reading The Malloreon by David Eddings.  It’s an interesting story, but It’s taken me about 10 days to read the first 4 books, which ends up being about the same page count as The Way of Kings.

In many ways, I think this is part of why I enjoy many YA books.  The stories and themes aren’t any simpler than in adults books, but in YA books the standard seems to more like 300-350 pages as opposed to adult books where nearly every Fantasy book seems to clear 500 pages and quite a few books fall into the 650-700 page range.

While there are authors who are doing an excellent job of writing long books, I’d say that it’s far more common for a book to go longer than it should.  So there’s my rant for the day, what do you think?  Do you agree that many books, or series, are longer than they need to be?  Or do you prefer to get more words for your buck?  And also, do you have any examples of books that are too short?  Because I really can’t think of many.

Demon Lord of Karanda

This is the third book of David Eddings’ Malloreon.  Reviewing this series is going to be a decent way of preparing for my big Wheel of Time re-read later in the year.  It’s not terribly easy to review a book when it’s essentially the same as the books before it.  Although I’m actually going to have an easier time with the Wheel of Time simply because there’s more variety to what happens within the books.  With Eddings’ books it really seems like each book is simply more of the same from the last book.  Not that this is a terribly bad thing, because all of the books are well written.  I think it’s simply an example of how Fantasy novels have changed since these books came out in the late 80’s.  Anyway, on we go.

Book Stats

252 pages

Fantasy

Third book of The Malloreon (sequel to Guardians of the West and King of The Murgos)

Characters

Our same cast of characters from the rest of the books is here as well, although for part of the journey they’re joined by Feldegast, a traveling jester who brings a lot of levity to the group.  Of course he’s hiding a little bit, but it’s nothing that you shouldn’t figure out about 100 pages before it’s actually revealed within the story.  As always the bantering between the characters is well done.

Setting

The characters are still in Mallorea, and they end up in the city of Ashaba – which was the primary city that worshipped Torak.

Plot

The second book ending with what could have been a really bad situation.  They were all captured by Kal Zakath and taken to Mal Zeth, his capital city.  But while this could have been a horrible situation, it didn’t end up bad at all.  They ended up befriending ‘Zakath and spend a fair amount of time in Mal Zeth.  They’re somewhat kept as prisoners, because they aren’t allowed to leave, but they’re given free reign to do what they will while they’re in the city.  Of course they have to leave the city because they’re trailing Zandramas.  Ultimately a plague hits the city, which really does nothing except make their escape a little more difficult.  After they leave the city, the plague doesn’t really effect them at all.

Quote

“It’s a failing I have.  I’ve looked at the world for quite a few years now and I’ve found that if I don’t laugh, I’ll probably end up crying.” – Silk

Enjoyment

My biggest problem with this book has been the same problem that I’ve had with the rest of the series, the problems never deepen.  We go to one city, get through the problem, and then move on.  I’ve talked before about how the characters are all highly competent, but even the very few times they’re in over their heads they’re helped by an outside party.  For an example, there are a couple of times when they aren’t sure about where to go, so they simply have Toth ask Cyradis where they’re supposed to go next.

Overall Grade

There’s nothing in this series that will blow you away, but it’s a solid – if dated – Fantasy series.

6/10

King of the Murgos

Well, I’m up to the second book of The Malloreon, and the seventh book about Belgarath, Polgara, and Garion.  This book is really just more of the same from the previous books, in some ways that’s good, and in some ways, not so much.

Book Stats

276 pages (again, I have the two volume collection)

Fantasy

Sequel to Guardians of the West

Setting

The same world as the first six books, although this book takes place in the southern hemisphere of the world, starting around Nyissa and then later in Cthol Murgos.

Plot

The search for Garion and Ce’Nedra’s son Geran continues.  This is much the same as the rest of Eddings’ books.  Travel for a short time, encounter a new problem, overcome the problem, move on to the next place and problem.

Characters

The characters in this book are much the same as the rest of the series, which ends up being the biggest problem for the book.  The characters have been exactly the same for 7 books now.  I was encouraged when the first book started with a section from Errand’s viewpoint, but since that first section everything has come from Garion’s point of view.  Speaking of which, we’re told Errand’s actual name, it’s Eriond, which to me wasn’t particularly inspired.

My biggest problem with this book is Ce’Nedra.  In the last book of The Belgariad, she takes charge and assembles an army to try and help Garion.  In the first book of The Malloreon she insists that she is coming along to find her son.  It seems like the only time that she is even mentioned in this book is when she’s having a nervous breakdown from missing Geran.  I think it was set up that she was a stronger character, and it was irritating to see her constantly breaking down.

Enjoyment

I’m not entirely sure about how successful this series is.  Eddings is essentially telling the same story from The Belgariad, and at one point Garion mentions this to Belgarath.  They’re following the trail of a prophecy, encountering monsters, and chasing after a person who has something they need (Aldur’s Orb in The Belgariad, Geran in The Malloreon).

There are two elements of these books that are absolutely fantastic.  Eddings worldbuilding is brilliantly done, there is a depth to every country, and all of the cultures that the group encounters are fleshed out and unique.  The other brilliant aspect to Eddings writing is the banter between the characters.  Polgara and Belgarath are always fun to watch, and Silk is probably one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in Fantasy novels.

However, there are problems with this series for me.  The first is that there really isn’t any growth in the characters.  Even though he is older now and an experience king, Garion is still largely the same character that he was at the start of The Belgariad.  Belgarath and Polgara are both thousands of years old, they’re not going to change, but I would like to see more growth from Garion.  My second complaint is with the episodic nature of the story.  Every problem that the encounter is usually solved within two or three chapters.  Other than the overarching plot of chasing after their son, nothing ever gets really bad.  We get one small problem, which is quickly overcome by our hyper-competent characters, and then we move on.  Which brings up another problem, these characters are all so powerful, that they’re never in any danger no matter what comes up.  The lack of depth to the problems that arise combined with the strength of the characters means there’s never any tension in the story.  I’m hoping that this changes in the rest of the series, but I’m not holding my breath.

Overall Grade

Nothing outstanding, but well written.

6/10

Guardians of the West

The next several books that I’m reading are going to be difficult to discuss.  Ostensibly The Malloreon is a separate series from The Belgariad, but it’s really a continuation of Garion’s story.  All that said, the first book at least is well written, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Book Stats

273 pages (just like I had with The Belgariad, I have the series in a two part collection that contains all five books)

Fantasy

First book of The Malloreon, the series that is the sequel to The Belgariad

Characters

Most of the characters from The Belgariad show up in this series, and their personalities are all the same as they were in the first books.  Much like in the first series, I really enjoyed the banter between Belgarath and Polgara, but many of the other characters were kind of flat.  One thing that I did enjoy more in this series is that Eddings started to write from multiple viewpoints in this book.  The first section of the book is from the viewpoint of Errand, the young boy who carried the Orb of Aldur in the first series.  The later sections of this book are back to being from Garion’s viewpoint, I’m hoping that Eddings continues to write from multiple viewpoints.

Setting

I forget the name of the world, but this book takes place largely in Aloria and Riva within the world.

Plot

The book starts out several years after the ending of The Belgariad.  One of the things that I liked in this book is that it was more episodic than the books of The Belgariad.  The first section dealt with Errand growing up and learning more about the world, the second section dealt with Garion learning that he is involved in another prophecy, and the third section dealt with what will end up being the central point for the rest of the series, Garion’s son being kidnapped and being involved in the same prophecy with Garion.

Enjoyment

Most of my thoughts about the book were listed in the earlier sections.  I enjoyed this book, and I’m going to start on book two either later tonight or tomorrow morning.  But as of now, I’m running a little short on time before I have to leave for bowling tonight, so I’ll cut the review a little shorter than usual.

Overall Grade

An interesting start to a series, but I would definitely suggest that you read The Belgariad before you start this book, as this series starts expecting that you already know the characters.

7/10

Shadow Puppets

So now we come to the 7th book in the Ender series by Orson Scott Card.  Well, either the 7th book in the series as a whole or the third book in the Shadow series which revolves around Bean and the events on Earth just after Ender’s Game.  Either way, on with the review.

Book Stats

372 pages

Science Fiction

7th book in the Ender series (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon)

Characters

This book is much like Xenocide and Children of the Mind in that it feels like it was originally one book that was split into two.  It’s also the 7th book in the Ender series, and if you don’t know the characters by this point, you won’t ever know them.  This book revolves primarily around Bean and Petra.  After the events of Shadow of the Hegemon, Petra falls in love with Bean and the book deals largely with their lives together.  As always, Card’s characters are very believable and interesting to read about.

Setting

Future Earth, just after the events of Shadow of the Hegemon.

Plot

After Bean rescues Petra at the end of book 6, she falls for him and decides to try and convince Bean to have a child with her.  At first Bean is adamantly against this because he knows about his genetic changes and he doesn’t want to pass them on to a child.  Ultimately Petra is able to convince him otherwise, of course this causes all kinds of other problems for them.  While all of this is going on in their lives, there’s still a war being fought in Asia, and Achilles is still around trying to undermine Peter’s attempts to unite the world – and doing a very good job of it.  For the first time Peter makes several big mistakes, and he has to change plans on the fly and deal with Achilles, who works to undermine his authority from inside Peter’s own compound.

Enjoyment

There was a lot going on in this book, but ultimately, I didn’t think the two main plots worked together very well.  Bean’s plot and Peter’s plot have intersecting moments, and there are times when they influence each other greatly, but the balance in the book didn’t work for me.

In Shadow of the Hegemon, both Bean and Peter were fighting against achilles.  Even though they were doing it for different reasons, they both had the same goal, and were able to support each other in carrying out those goals.  In this book their goals are separated, and while they’re not openly working against each other, they aren’t supporting each other either.  Both plot arcs are resolved at the same time, but they’re too disparate for my taste throughout the course of the book.

Overall Grade

This is probably the weakest book in the Ender series to this point, but a weak book by Card is still worth reading.

6/10