A War of Gifts

After finishing up The Color of Magic a couple of hours ago, I definitely needed to read something to cleanse my palette a little bit.  So I picked up A War of Gifts, which is a short novella set during the time when Ender was at battle school.

Book Stats

196 pages (It’s a fairly short Novella, about 20,000 words according to an estimate I found online.)

Science Fiction

Novella set in the Ender series, you could read it anytime after Ender’s game, but it was written after Shadow of the Giant

Summary

I’m not going to go into a standard review for this one, it’s got the kids from Battle School, and it takes place in Battle School.

The basic premise of the story is that a deeply religious boy named Zeck is sent to Battle School.  He refuses to take part in any of the war games because war is against his religion.  However, when some of the other kids celebrate a Dutch holiday similar to Christmas, Zeck objects on the grounds that it’s an outward show of religion, which is forbidden on Battle School.  This leads into a larger question of where the line between religion and culture is (hint: it’s really blurry).  The story also deals with some fairly deep religious questions, and just like the rest of the books in the series, Card does an excellent job of showing just how well Ender understands people.

Enjoyment

This was a really quick read that addresses some deep issues of spirituality in the face of war.  I thought it was handled excellently, and Card really based everything upon the characters.  He shows some of the folly of blind faith, but also shows how having faith can strengthen a person through difficult times.  Both as a story in the Ender universe and on it’s own as a warning about taking fanaticism too far this was a wonderful novella.

Overall Grade

A very quick and enjoyable read.

9/10

The Color of Magic

One of the most well known and beloved of Fantasy series is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.  To date, there are 39 books in the series, and the books don’t have to be read in a specific order because they each tell stories about different people who live in Discworld.  The Color of Magic was the first Discworld book originally published in 1983.  This is also the first Discworld book that I’ve read, and it’s going to be the last.

Book Stats

210 pages

Fantasy

1st book of the Discworld series.

Setting

Discworld is a very strangely set up planet, it’s completely flat, and it rests upon the backs of four giant elephants.  What do the elephants stand on?  Why a giant turtle drifting though space of course.  The very basis of the world for these books shows that they’re going to be humorous books, or at least that was the author’s intent.  On the actual planet, the setting is a fairly standard pseudo-medievel European fantasy.  There are a a lot of magical elements in the book, and they seem to follow their own rules as they go along.  As weird as it is, the setting is the strongest part of this book.

Characters

There are two main characters in the book, the first is Rincewind a semi-trained wizard who was kicked out of wizardry school because he opened a forbidden book and the book lodged a spell into his brain.  The spell that is stuck there is the only spell he knows, but he has no idea what it does, making him a horribly incompetent wizard.  The only marketable skills that Rincewind is able to use are his skill as a translator and his skill at running away, both of which he does on a regular basis in this book.  The other main character is Twoflower, a tourist from a secluded continent who is on vacation exploring the rest of Discworld.  Where Rincewind is cowardly, Twoflower is stupidly optimistic and overly trusting of everything he sees in the world.

Plot

Ostensibly the plot was the story of Rincewind guiding Twoflower on his vacation through Discworld.  In truth the plot is a mash up of non-sequitar story elements, many of which never get resolved throughout the course of the book.  The book is split into 4 sections, each of which tells a different story about what Rincewind and Twoflower went through.  The biggest problem is that in none of the stories are they actually responsible for getting themselves out of trouble.  It’s either accidentally accomplished while Rincewind is running away, or it’s done through the actions of some of the gods who watch over the Discworld, or it’s a complete deus-ex-machina where the solution to their problem happens when their bodies are shifted to another dimension and they find themselves on a plain rather than falling aimlessly to the earth.

Enjoyment

One of the things that I’ve heard about the Discworld books is that they get better as the series goes along, all I can say to that is that I certainly hope so, because this book was absolutely terrible.  It was a combination of poorly told jokes, excessively explained worldbuilding (Where he constantly stops and explains in either paragraph form – or in footnotes a couple of times – something about the world that doesn’t matter to the plot.  It’s nothing more than lazy storytelling and a way to try and tell a cheap joke.), and constantly introduced story threads that never resolve.  The ending of the book is also garbage, because it doesn’t really end, it just sort of stops.  One of the main aspects of the story as it’s being told is the question of what the spell that Rincewind knows actually does, you never find out.  It’s constantly brought up that he might use it in a life or death situation – because who knows, it might do something helpful – but the one time he actually tries to use it he’s abruptly saved just before he can finish casting it.

The only decent thing I can say about this book is that it’s letting me do something on my blog that I haven’t done before – give a book a 1/10.

Overall Grade

Nothing in this book worked for me, the only thing that reading this book accomplished was to convince me to never pick up another book in the Discworld series.

1/10