Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Prestige

Title: The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1995

Recommendation: An engrossing read for fantasy fans and non-genre readers alike.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Two magicians, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier are magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. Their lives become intertwined through a continuous feud over each other's secrets and the feud will take them further than they have ever imagined.

Reactions: I came across this book browsing the bookstore shelves and bought it without any particular knowledge about the contents or the author. The jacket proclaimed it to be the winner of the World Fantasy Award and the unusual description intrigued me.

Having finished the book, I am very glad to have stumbled across this particular gem. The Prestige is a superbly written account and masterful in a variety of ways. The most obvious one is the narration of the novel. The story is presented in roughly three parts: one part follows a meeting between the descendants of the two magicians, the second part is presented through Alfred Borden's diary, and the third part is the presentation of the same events through Rupert Angier's diary. All three are masterfully connected together through a set of mysteries that slowly become revealed to the reader.

It's a fairly unusual type of fantasy novel in that for the large part of the book there's almost nothing mystical or fantastical about it. Only about 2/3rds into the novel something unusual occurs and it's almost in the realm of science fiction or alternative history. Yet, the twist is very important to the story and brings the whole narrative together to a good ending. There's also an amazing sense of the plot being tied together and I can only applaud the author at how well he intertwines the lives of the two magicians and echoes their respective lives across the narratives.

On top of all this, we get a pretty authentic feel for the stage arts of the 19th century magicians and get a feel for a solid cast of characters who are well-drawn, realistic, and very distinct from anything a fantasy reader would associate with the term "magician".

So if you have lived under a rock like me and have never heard of this book before, I highly recommend it. Apparently there is even a movie based on the book directed by Christopher Nolan that came out in 2006 and has good ratings. Yes, I clearly live under a very remote and mossy rock for I missed the movie as well. Time to go check Netflix....

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Shopping

As almost everyone has heard by now: Borders is going out of business and closing all their stores. I am rather saddened by the fact since I did enjoy having a store nearby where I could go browse books at my leisure. Now I am left with one little bookstore nearby carrying only the latest releases or a Barnes & Nobles store that's a good 20 minute drive. Not to mention that my Borders Rewards card they talked me into buying didn't pay off.

But regardless, yesterday I joined a throng of shoppers picking the Borders bare with their going out of business sale. I managed to buy four novels and a book of cryptic crosswords -- all for 40-50% off the original price. Not too shabby.

The first book I picked up was The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. It's a book that's been talked about on the fantasy blogs for a few years now and I am curious to give it a try. The second book is Blameless by Gail Carriger; it's the third book of the series that I wasn't planning to continue reading, but at a sale price it somehow seemed worthwhile.

Then I picked up Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. It's a collection of short fiction and I do enjoy Neil Gaiman's works most of the time. Finally, I picked up Spirits in the Wire by Charles de Lint. I don't actually know much about the book besides the blurb I read, but I've heard a lot about the author and decided he would be worth trying.

So, now with my reading stack replenished and this being the first free weekend in almost a month, I'll go get some quality reading done.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Last Colony

Title: The Last Colony
Author: John Scalzi
Series: Old Man's War, book 3
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2007

Recommendation: Absolutely worth reading if you have read the first 2 books in the series. And if you haven't -- you should!
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: John, Jane, and Zoe live quietly on a colony as a family until John and Jane are offered a position as colony leaders for a new hybrid colony Roanoke that will take colonists from 10 existing planets. But the colony's life won't be simple with the new threat of the Conclave...

Reactions: I was traveling this weekend and managed to have my flight delayed both on the way there and back. The only upside to this was that I got to read The Last Colony -- and in fact finish it before my return flight took off the ground.

The Last Colony returns to the main character of the first book, John Perry and I greatly enjoyed having him back. While Jane can be pretty kick-ass, I think it's John's sarcasm that I missed in the second book.

The story flows quickly, taking lots of twists and turns. I liked the political intrigue that permeated the book and the character interactions on the colony. I was also very satisfied with how the series got wrapped up.

My main issue with the book is some deux ex machina applied to get the characters out of a sticky situation on their new colony. But all-in-all the fun reading experience outweighed some small eye-rolling aspects of the story. I would absolutely recommend this series as a whole.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Recap

August is already here -- I really don't know how the time manages to fly by so very quickly. Fortunately some solid reading got done in July and I managed to finish four books:
  1. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
  2. The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett
  3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  4. Poison by Sara Poole
Without any doubt, my favorite book this month was The House on Durrow Street. It came just at the time when I was in a mood for such a book and I would say it was even better than the first book in the series.

In addition to good reading, I am also watching the latest season of Torchwood. Torchwood is a British show that spin-off from Dr. Who. However, unlike the characters in Dr. Who whom I don't really like, Torchwood has many awesome characters and somehow hits just the right intersection of sci-fi, action, and complete silliness. If you haven't seen any, I would recommend watching from start because the show is so good. However, in terms of plot one could easily start at this season since it's quite self-contained. The premise of the season is simple: what would happen if one day people just stopped dying? You can't die no matter what -- not from age, not from poison, not even by being exploded into pieces by a bomb. And of course Torchwood is in the middle of things investigating. Good times :)