Saturday, September 24, 2005

Steven Brust - Favorite Author

Steven Brust is by far my favorite author. I have read every one of his books, some of them several times. I truly enjoy the worlds he has created in his novels. Jhereg was the first one to capture me and it was one of his first books. It tells the story of a young assassin trying to make his way in the world. From the very first passage, I was completely enchanted; it quickly & skillfully drew me in, heart and soul. Brust writes with wit, humor and charm, colorfully describing characters, scenes, thoughts, simply everything about the world he's created. It's obvious that a great deal of thought went into this creation; he passes along casual details that hint of greater stories to come, including histories, myths, and rumors.

The central figure is Vlad Taltos, one of the top assassins in the land. The other important figures are his assistants, his wife, a few antagonists, assorted friends and colleagues, but most importantly, his familiar, Loiosh. In addition to being a highly skilled assassin, Vlad is also a very powerful witch. Loiosh is perhaps his strongest ally, being able to communicate with Vlad telepathically. Several characters are able to communicate this way, and it's a handy method to advance the story more quickly, without intrusive time delays and journeys back and forth.

Part of what makes this story so easy to read is Brust's use of common language - he doesn't try to take us back into Olde Tyme, using overly-flowery, excessively eloquent language; he makes use of language as many of us do today, with only a few quirks thrown in to keep things interesting.

It takes a lot to charm me this thoroughly, and I can't think of the words to describe how happy I am with this book, and everything about it - the characters, the dialogue, the quick pace, the story line, the plot twists, the detail, the simple elegance, the vivacity of it all. It is, in other words, amazing. I'll bet you won't be disappointed.

There are ten books in the series right now, with also some splinter series that are just as good. The first ten are:
1 Jhereg
2 Yendi
3 Teckla
4 Taltos
5 Phoenix
6 Athyra
7 Orca
8 Dragon
9 Issola
10 Dzur

"This whole series is entertaining and worth reading!" -Locus
"Engaging...written with a light touch...good stuff!" -Publishers Weekly
"Watch Steven Brust. He's good. He moves fast. He surprises you." -Roger Zelazny
"Hard to put down . . . fun to read!" -OtherRealms
"Imagine James Bond in a world of magic...exciting!" -Voya

Hope you read and enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Stump - Niall Griffiths

Niall Griffiths was born in Liverpool and has since moved to Aberystwyth. Both towns have a strong hold on his imagination. His first two novels were set on the west coast of Wales, his third, Stump, re-visited his native city.

Stump is a surprisingly gentle novel, despite the harshness of two of the book's characters, and the hardships endured by its narrator. The story unfolds cleverly: each chapter written from Stump's POV is followed by a chapter written in the third person, consisting mainly of dialogue, and concerning two rather unpleasant yet clueless scousers sent on a mission to track down Stump. The narrator himself is a one-armed ex-alcoholic scouser intent on rebuilding his life in the 'softer' surroundings of a small Welsh town. He is both inspired and challenged by the simplicity of his new life and the rural environment in which he has escaped to, and Griffiths tells his story without great apology or pity. There are some scathing attacks on the 12 step program but recognition also on the narrator's behalf of his own shortcomings and past f*ck-ups, and how they will change his life forever. The plot concludes amusingly but plausibly, and the writing throughout is wonderfully suited to the characters it portrays. This was the first book I've read by Niall Griffiths, and I will be seeking out more in the near future. A very enjoyable read, but you do have to get used to the dialect. It reminded me of On the Road by Jack Kerouac.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

Okay, I am a major vampire fan. I love books, movies or anything about vampires. So, when I heard that a new book was out called The Historian, I, of course went out and bought it. With all my schoolwork, it took me about four days to read it, and that was reading it every spare minute that I had. I love it, what a great new take on an old story.

The Historian was written for us book lovers, for those of us who love literature of all kinds. The book takes us on a tour of the greatest libraries in the world and some very remote ones as well. I would be heartbroken to learn that all of them were made up, and I think that some of them must be real.

The story follows several historians as they hunt for the tomb of Vlad the Impaler, the man behind the Dracula legend. Its elaborate time-scheme involves three generations of academics. In 1930, Rossi, an Oxford don, becomes obsessed with Vlad Tepes (the medieval warlord who was Stoker’s model) and his role in resisting Turkish rule. Twenty-five years later, Rossi vanishes, revealing in a letter that Dracula is still at large, and his protégé Paul sets off for eastern Europe in search of him, hooking up en route with Rossi’ s daughter Helen, an anthropologist, who turns out to be a descendent of Dracula. Their quest and Rossi’s are related in the 1970s by Paul to their teenage daughter, the novel’s overall narrator and (as we learn from a prologue dated “2008”) a future professor. The restless Helen has resurfaced after years of traveling and minimal communication, and her husband and child hunt for her separately, converging at a French monastery.

This is not a book for the normal reader. You have to really love literature and reading about literature to enjoy this book. There are few action packed sequences, very little blood, and next to no fighting. So if you are looking for action packed, Dracula hunting novel, keep looking. This is a novel for historians themselves, interested in the legend of Dracula.