Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Before They Are Hanged

Title: Before They Are Hanged
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: The First Law, Book 2
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2008

Recommendations: Read it if you liked the first book and still remember what happened.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: The epic story of various heroes continue unfolding. Bayaz and his company travel to the edge of the world through various dangers. Glokta is appointed the Superior of Dagoska, which is besieged by King Bethod. Colonel West and others continue fighting against Bethod's army in the north.

Reactions: I've read the first book of this series in 2008 and managed to forget almost everything about the first novel other than the unforgettable characters of Glokta and Ninefingers and the fact that I enjoyed reading it. However, picking up Before They Are Hanged in early August proved to be slow reading. It was difficult to get back into the story since I didn't remember what happened before and I must have spent almost 3 weeks just getting through the first 100 pages of the book.

Eventually I picked up on the thread of the story and the reading went much livelier. The highlight of the story are definitely the characters. They are bright, individualistic, and unusual. Several of them end up transforming quite remarkably throughout the book and such changes in character I find interesting to read about. Their rather complex relationships are fun to follow as well.

Plot-wise though, not a whole lot happens in the book. Some progress is made in all story lines, but nothing resembling the conclusion has been reached. The events will definitely continue unfolding in the final book of the series.

Overall, it's a well written fantasy, which I had some trouble getting into as a stand-alone book. I haven't quite decided yet if I want to pick up the next book either. We'll see.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Passage

Title: The Passage
Author: Justin Cronin
Genre: Horror
Published: 2010

Recommendation: A long meaty read for those who enjoy character-driven stories and apocalyptic fiction.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: In the uninhabited jungles of Bolivia, American military discovers a virus that would make a person stronger, more long-lived, but sensitive to light and with an appetite for blood. The virus is tested on 12 convicts from the death row and finally on a little girl, named Amy. The "virals" escape into the wild, killing and infecting the world that quickly succumbs to the virus. What follows is the story of the survivors.

Reactions: Every review I've read mentions one fact upfront. This book is heavy. It's heavy in two ways -- one literal -- the tome of almost 800 pages must weight a few pounds at least. It's heavy with suffering and despair and conflict too, though not as grim as it could be given the contents of the book.

The book starts out with introducing a number of characters, all moving along their paths which soon become mingled together leading to the escape of the virals. The narrative is fairly wordy, but it doesn't bore. There is plenty of action alongside with descriptions and characters' backgrounds. The reader has plenty of time to learn all about the characters, the what's and the how's and the why's. The book splits off into 2 parts, the second taking place almost 100 years later where virals have overrun the world and a small colony of surviving humans are living under the lights still powered by wind turbines as long as their batteries hold.

What I did not expect was the lack of conclusion to the book. Only a small part of the story is resolved at the end of it and plenty of questions left unanswered. After finishing the book I learned it was the first book of a planned trilogy. The ending now makes sense, though it's still rather disappointing given the length of the book, I'd have hoped more of a story arc could have been covered.

Overall, it's an enjoyable read with rich characters and heart-wrenching narratives. There are parts of the book where the events feel as somewhat of a stretch, but overall it flows rather well. Yet, I have seen the overly-glowing reviews of the book, calling it the book of the year, but for me it's not. Enjoyable, but it didn't quite cut through the way my previous read The Windup Girl did.

Still, highly recommended to everyone looking for a good read.

July Recap

And the summer is flying by oh-so-quickly. I am reading The Passage by Justin Cronin right now and enjoying it, but that will be a book to discuss in August. I finished July with only 3 books completed, but the last one took some time to read.


Books Read: 3
  1. Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti
  2. Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey
  3. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Favorite Book: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Overall, it was a good reading month. All three of the books being quite enjoyable in different ways. The Windup Girl was without doubt the best book I've read last month. Waiting to see if The Passage will top it with its own post-apocalyptic adventure.