Fantasy

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I haven’t updated this site in a while, which is a pity, especially since I actually write things I could post here. To remedy this problem, here’s a round-up of all the novels I read up to this summer, excluding any novels that were nominated for the Hugo award since I’m going to write a separate post about that shortly. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve read recently (in chronological order):

Ann Leckie – Ancillary Sword
Ann Leckie – Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie – Ancillary Mercy

I have now finished Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. Overall, the books are competently written and worthwhile to read. The first book is significantly better than the following two, but far from awesome. To be honest, this feels much like Lois McMaster Bujold, just slightly worse and not as funny (there are some good parts though; I loved the translators). They might be fairly bad for non-initiated readers, so I only recommend the first book to people who already like reading space opera. For the rest of you, there are better books in this genre.

Mira Grant – Feed

I’ve now finished Feed by Mira Grant. It’s a well-written and fast-paced book about political intriguing in a zombie-ridden future version of the US, as observed by a team of bloggers covering the presidential race. I don’t really like zombies and I could get better intrigues elsewhere, so this isn’t my cup of tea, but if you do like zombies, this might be a good read. All three books in this series were nominated for Hugo awards, but none (rightfully in my opinion) won. I Am Legend remains the only zombie book I really like (or vampire book, or whatever).

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor

I have now finished The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. It was a long time a go I read a “normal” fantasy novel (China Miéville doesn’t count as normal) and I sort of know why. Even though the book is fairly well written and carefully thought out, it simply didn’t appeal to me all that much. I do appreciate the fact that this is one novel, though, not a series, which is, sadly, rare nowadays.

The setting was well-depicted but not terribly interesting. The only thing that made the novel worthwhile was the fact that it was well executed. The characters were also rather good (as in realistic and interesting), except for the main character which was a little bit too good (as in not evil). I found the names almost impossible to keep up with, though, and the book just has too much made up language (including formality levels which don’t exist in English, but that were sort of covered by using old English pronouns).

So, overall, well-written, but not my cup of tea.

Kim Stanley Robinson – 2312

Some thoughts after reading 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson:

In general, I admire the author’s ability to mix science and fiction into novels that are surprisingly interesting to read. The Mars trilogy is a good example of this. I also think he’s pretty good at creating interesting characters and stories about them, as for example in The Years of Rice and Salt.

Therefore, I’m a bit disappointed with 2312. It contains a lot of science and a lot of fiction, but they feel disconnected. While interesting on their own, this feels more like a half-hearted novel interspersed with small speculative science essays. Even though the book is almost 600 pages long, it still feels like I didn’t get to know either the characters or the setting. The story feels much like an excuse to introduce the setting and is in itself rather boring.

I should perhaps say a few words about the book. The story takes place in 2312 as the title suggests, in a world where most of our solar system has terraformed or is in the process of being so. The plot focuses on a conspiracy that threatens mankind’s fragile existence outside Earth, and the efforts to reveal and thwart the conspirators. This sounds reasonably interesting, but the novel feels disconnected and therefore not very interesting.

Ian McDonald – River of Gods

I have now finished River of Gods by Ian McDonald. In short, it’s a science-fiction novel set in India one century after its independence from Great Britain. The story combines elements of a futuristic society (AI, nano technology, genetic engineering) with traditional Indian themes. The character gallery is diverse and interesting. The story appears fragmentary at first, but is tied together rather neatly. I liked this book a lot and I’m definitely going to read more by Ian McDonald. He’s very good at both describing society and the people living in it, not seldom making it both fun and interesting. If I were to liken him to other authors, I would choose William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and John Brunner.

Ian McDonald – Desolation Road

I decided to start reading Ian McDonald’s novels from the beginning, which means Desolation Road (1989). This is after being rather impressed by both River of Gods and Luna: New Moon (scroll down for my earlier ramblings). The novel starts with a certain Dr. Alimantando, student of the intricacies of time and space, who gets lost in the red deserts of terraformed Mars and founds a new settlement: Desolation Road.

Strange people get drawn to, arrive in or escape to or otherwise arrive in the settlement. The narrative quickly spirals out of control, including side stories about the world’s best snooker player, a guitarist capable of channelling demonic forces through his electric guitar, a corporate worker slowly advancing through the ranks of his company by replacing everyone under him with robots, a little green man who may or may not be real, and, for some reason, Glenn Miller. It all tied together in the end, somehow, so it’s not really a short story collection, but could have been.

This is magic realism on Mars, probably with a seasoning of some hallucinogenic drug. On the whole, it’s very entertaining, quite chaotic and a bit too long. Desolation Road didn’t feel similar to either River of Gods or Luna: New Moon. It’s not the best book I’ve read, but it was entertaining throughout. Next on the list: Out on Blue Six.

Ian McDonald – Out on Blue Six

More Ian McDonald! Out on Blue Six is the weirdest book I’ve read in a while and reading it felt a little bit like reading Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. It has the same I-have-no-idea-what-the-hell-is-going-on-but-I-sort-of-like-it feeling.

The story is set in a distant future in the Compassionate Society, where computers force everybody to be happy by pairing them up with the right partner, shepherding them into the right career (one that makes you happy, that is) and so on. It’s just that not everybody is happy. Some people want a little bit of anarchy, some people want to break the rules. This is what the story is about, or at least where it starts. Then down the rabbit hole it goes and it’s extremely hard to summarise what happens next, but it contains the King of Nebraska, angels, a teleporting woman with a cybernetic cat, judgement day (literally) and lots of raccoons.

Unfortunately, the book suffers from the same problem as Gravity’s Rainbow does: I don’t really care about what happens, neither with the main characters nor with the plot. Since Pynchon’s language is extremely entertaining to read, I still liked Gravity’s Rainbow, but while this book is entertaining, it fails to be anything more than that. I have a feeling that I won’t remember anything about this book five years from now, whereas many parts of Gravity’s Rainbow are still with me, even though it was seven years ago I read it.

Ian McDonald – Chaga

I’ve now finished Chaga by Ian McDonald (Evolution’s Shore in the US). After having read a couple of his earlier, rather bizarre novels, this one is much more serious and feels comparable to the later novels that I liked a lot.

This novel is the first in a trilogy focusing on Kenya and the impact on the country and its people when alien life starts spreading from a crash site on Kilimanjaro.

In short, the novel is fairly interesting and rather brutal, but not as sophisticated as his later novels. One thing I didn’t like in particular was that the book almost felt like it could have ended after about two thirds, and the remaining third didn’t feel interesting enough.

While I don’t regret that I read the novel, it’s still not as good as either the later novels written in a similar style, also about emerging economies (India, Brazil, the Moon) or the earlier, more freaked out ones. I will probably not read the remaining two books in the trilogy. I am, however, looking forward to the sequel of Luna: New Moon, which is projected for a release later this year.

Charles Stross – Neptune’s Brood

I’m done with Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross, having previously read Saturn’s Children (which is completely unrelated story-wise, but takes place in the same universe). Neptune’s Brood is actually far better than the previous one, so I recommend anyone interested in Charles Stross to read this one instead.

The story is complex and revolves around an interstellar banking fraud of epic proportions. The main character is drawn into the intrigue, first mostly as a scholar of interstellar banking frauds, but as the plot thickens, she turns out to have a much more involved role than that of a random bystander. The novel contains a few really entertaining characters, is generally well-written and overall a better story than Saturn’s Children.

The setting is post-human space where androids and other life-forms have supplanted mankind, but where things still work much the way they would if humans were still around, except on a bigger scale. While interesting, the setting is not the main attraction here, the characters, the storytelling and the plot are. The novel was shortlisted for the Hugo Award in 2014.

James S.A. Corey – Leviathan’s Wake

I just finished James S.A. Corey’s book Leviathan Wakes, a novel that felt very interesting while immersed in it, but which does appear a bit bleak in retrospect. I think this might be at least partly because the book has some appealing points, such as great characters and dialogue, but lack something that makes it interesting in the long-term.

I don’t feel like summarizing the plot, but we’re talking about fairly realistic and sometimes brutal interplanetary science fiction with lots of space ships and stations. The book is character-focused and with interesting characters in general, this makes it a good read. However, I don’t feel it’s good enough to continue reading the series (this is the first book in a series called The Expanse).

James S.A. Corey – Abaddon’s Gate
James S.A. Corey – Caliban’s War

Against better judgement (see my previous review), I have now read two more books in The Expanse series, which brings me to a total of three. I decided to keep reading after I watched the TV series, which was better than expected.

However, I must say my initial judgement was accurate. While there are entertaining characters and sometimes interesting plot elements and a well-written setting, the overall story lacks something. I’m still not sure what it is, but the overall story just feels unsatisfactory to me. I probably need to think about this, but it seems the plot is too superficial and works mostly like an action movie.

I would give the latter two books perhaps 3/5, so they might still be worth reading if you really liked the first book. If you found the first book fairly good but not excellent, then that’s probably enough. Do watch the TV series though! Looking forward to season two. But I’ve read enough in this series. Any suggestions for what to read next? More Charles Stross is high on my list.

Charles Stross – The Family Trade

After having read two books by Charles Stross (Saturn’s Children and Neptune’s Brood; I highly recommend the latter), he has established himself as a very intelligent author capable of writing intriguing stories populated by interesting characters. I selected The Family Trade as my third book more or less randomly, which might have been a mistake.

The book is parallel-worlds fantasy (modern US with some kind of medieval alternate history were the Vikings has colonised America). While he does some interesting things with the “world walking” itself, as well as some interesting things with the settings, I’m not impressed at all. As is the case in Neptune’s Brood, economics plays a certain role, but ignoring that and some of the violence, this novel feels like something Stross would have written when he was 20 (he was 40 when the book was published). It’s also the first book in a long series and there’s very little chance I will continue with it. Definitely not my cup of tea!

Charles Stross – Accelerando

Accelerando by Charles Stross is one of those books that it’s really hard to wrap your head around to write a review. It’s a chaotic collection of short stories that are sometimes hard to follow but great at least some of the time. They describe the transition from a modern society (or a parallel version of it at least) to a post-human technological singularity through the eyes of three generations (before, during and after the singularity).

After the first few pages, my expectations for the rest of the book sky-rocketed, but I must say that the rest didn’t really impress as much. While some concepts and the language never become boring, the book simply isn’t coherent enough to work well as a whole.

One criteria I think is interesting to evaluate when reviewing books is if, in theory, I could have written the book myself. Accelerando places itself very firmly in the “no way what so ever” category, much more so that most other science fiction I read. It’s not only the way Stross writes (which is probably the main reason for reading the book), but the audacity and scope of the imagination on display here.

If you’ve read this far and think this sounds cool, you should give this book a try. I expect people who won’t like the book stopped reading after the first paragraph, so no reason to tell them to avoid it.

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Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 2008

On the off chance that someone would ask me who my favourite author is, there have been a long period in my life when Neil Gaiman would have been an accurate (almost obvious) answer. I’ve never been a person prone to idolising other people, but Neil Gaiman is probably the only author to have come close.

I’ve read almost everything Neil Gaiman has published (and most of it has been reviewed on this website, have a look here) and I’ve seldom been disappointed. Therefore, I’m a bit sad to tell you that I did not find his latest novel, The Graveyard Book, to be even close to some of his earlier novels. It isn’t abysmally bad or anything, it’s just very disappointing.

The basic idea is interesting, however: an assassin is sent to kill an entire family, but the most important target, the baby boy, escapes and makes his way to a nearby graveyard, where he is taken in by the ghosts and protected against his pursuer. The child is raised by the late Mr. and Mrs. Owens, and protected by a shadowy figure called Silas. The boy is called Nobody, or Bod, and the narrative goes on to cover how he grows up among tombstones and crypts. In the background, the original story with the assassin also continues, because the man who killed Bod’s family did not complete his job and is still looking for the last victim.

As in all his other books, in the Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman lets his imagination flow, and although the various episodes are not as brilliant as some of the others he has written, they are still entertaining. There are  quite a few good adventures to find in a graveyard for a curious kid. The problem is that this book feels like a TV series, with each chapter having an independent plot, which is almost completely detached from the wider perspective.  Bod explores the Graveyard and grows up, but there is hardly any coherence in the sense that earlier episodes are necessary or prerequisites for later ones. There is the with the murderer in the background, but in my opinion, Gaiman lets it lie dormant for far too long before he really sets things in motion.

To be honest, I’m quite disappointed with this book and I can’t even give it three snails. The ideas are okay and the writing style is good, but it simply isn’t on par with Gaiman’s earlier performance. I still consider him to be one of my favourite authors, mostly because of Sandman, Coraline, Neverwhere and Stardust, but more recently, he’s been drifting farther and farther away from that idol status he was once close to ascend to. Before reading the Graveyard Book, I thought that Anansi Boys was a deviating low-water mark, but now I’m starting to doubt. Is the ability to write fiction that holds me spellbound, which I thought infallible in him, finally starting to fade? Neil Gaiman is still one of my favourite authors, but it would be a lie to say that I admire him as much as I did before.

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The Princess Bride



Title: The Princess Bride
Directed by:
Rob Reiner
Written by:
William Goldman
Year: 1987

The Princess Bride opens up with an old man visiting his sick grandson to read him a story, which happens to be the novel by the same name, written by William Goldman. Even though the story is that of true love, the boy makes sure his grandfather doesn’t dwell too long on sissy details such as kissing. Instead, it’s a fairly straightforward story about a princess who loses her true love, and how he returns to find her, but has to fight the evil king in order to regain the hand of his beloved.

I think this film is extraordinarily difficult to rate and review, because it combines a rather dull story and setting with ingenious dialogue. If the film had lacked the dialogue, it would have been among the worst films I’ve ever watched, and reversely, if the story and setting would have been more interesting, it might have been a masterpiece. As it is, it’s worthwhile, but not exceedingly so. I enjoy the witty dialogue and some other details, but that’s not enough to please me all the time, probably because I’m not amused by everything that’s supposed to be funny.

Still, I might judge this film too harshly. It’s not meant to be a serious movie with an intricate plot and deep musings on the meaning of lite, but it’s rather intended to be plain entertainment. As such, it’s pretty good and if you’re not averse to such films in general, the likelihood that will you’ll like The Princess Bride more than I did is quite high.

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Title: Mordant’s Need – A Man Rides Through
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Year: 1987

A Man Rides Through is the sequel to The Mirror of Her Dreams, Stephen R. Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need, the story about Terisa, drawn from our modern world into a world of mirror, power and conspiracy. This is the last volume, which I felt I wanted to read after having been impressed by his mastery of plot shown in the Gap Cycle. At the end of the previous volume, most of the threads are still unconnected, leading me to conclude that the potential for greatness certainly was there.

I wasn’t completely mistaken. On the whole, this story is good and looking only at the plot, it’s a worthy follow-up to The Mirror of Her Dreams, which i gave four snails. Since the things I like with Donaldson stay roughly the same, I’m not going to elaborate on that now, but rather point out why I have decided to reduce the grade to a mere three.

To begin with, this book is too long. Yes, yes, I know, I always say that, but bear with me, To begin with, the story could have been written using fewer pages without any problem. More serious than that, though, is that quite a number of pages are spent on things lacking even the slightest trace of interest. Without spoiling too much, I can say that there are way, way too many and too long descriptions of battle in A Man Rides Through. Personal conflict is okay, but descriptions of pitched battles? I might have liked that when I was fourteen, but now it’s just a waste of time.

Additionally, I have a minor complaint. Donaldson uses phrases like “Oh, Geraden” or “Oh, Terisa” almost compulsively. Once I noticed this, I got more and more vexed for every time I heard it. I admit it might sound insignificant indeed, but it still annoyed me a lot.

That being said, this book isn’t bad. I have chosen to focus on the differences between this second volume and The Mirror of Her Dreams, and then it is true that the latter surpasses the former in almost every regard. However, these books have to be read together, because the story isn’t even remotely finished after the first book. Taken as a whole, I think Mordant’s Need is good, but the two books don’t even come close to the brilliance of the Gap Cycle.

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Title: Mordant’s Need – The Mirror of Her Dreams
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Year: 1986

It’s been ten years since I read Mordant’s Need for the first time, that time in translation to Swedish. I read my notes from that time and my opinion wasn’t very favourable. In short, I said that the book was full of good ideas, but implemented in a bad way. I was not pleased. Since then, I’ve read and liked a lot more by Donaldson and I’m 25 instead of 15. This lead me to the decision to revisit Mordant and see if my opinions from a decade ago still held true. They did not.

Mordant’s Need is the story about Terisa Morgan being pulled from her existence in our world into Mordant, a kingdom on the brink of disaster, caught between mighty enemies, and with a king who seems to have lost his sanity as well as his will to defend his people. Around the king, his followers begin to doubt their reasons for their loyalty and start making their own decisions on how to meet Mordant’s need. In this realm, mirrors work as gateways to other places and other dimensions. Terisa is translated from our world as part of an effort to save Mordant, but apparently something went wrong, because the imagers were expecting a mighty warrior, not a young, insecure woman.

I have said it many times before, but Donaldson is exceedingly good at two things: characters and plot. This book contains a number of unique characters, and although they might seem a bit exaggerated at times, they fulfill their function. The plot is intricate, but it’s hard to say how good it is before it is revealed in the second and final volume about Mordant, A Man Rides Through. However, I have faith in Donaldson’s ability to handle plots.

I have three things I would like to complain about. First, there is a serious flaw in the plot. I don’t like to spoil the reading for potential readers, so I will let it suffice to say that Donaldson portrays a number of characters that should be able to figure something out, but still fails to do this (even though it’s blatantly obvious to the reader). Second, the character of Terisa is a bit annoying. I’m sure Donaldson has written her that way on purpose, but her weakness is tiresome in the long run. Of course, she is not a static figure throughout the book, so I’m prepared to disregard this complaint. Third, the book is too long. The story isn’t at all finished after The Mirror of Her Dreams, so it’s really a question of reading both volumes or none at all. I will continue with A Man Rides Through straight away, so you will have my opinion about this book in more detail later.

These flaws still only add up to a subtraction of one snail, because this book is much, much better than I remembered. It’s not as good as the Gap Cycle (quite far from it), but it’s still interesting enough. Donaldson is a master of intelligent plots and that means a lot to me. Let’s hope he can keep the story going at this pace to the end.

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Title: Thud!
Author: Terry Pratchett
Year: 2005

It’s amazingly difficult to write more than thirty books set in the same fictive universe without repeating oneself a few times, and even though Pratchett has shown that he isn’t above that (see Going Postal  and Monstrous Regiment, for instance), Thud! is still a good try. It’s a continuation of my favourite Discworld thread, namely the one about the City Watch (containing pearls such as Feet of Clay). The story focuses on the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley, a recurring source of friction between dwarfs and trolls everywhere in the world. A dwarf leader named Grag Hamcrusher is murdered and Vimes, Carrot, Angua and the others are sent to investigate (incidentally, there’s also a new figure, a vampire). Of course, it turns out that it isn’t a simple murder and that this time the anniversary has a potential to be much more than a rough night in the city’s streets and bars.

Apart from covering the standard subjects of this series, such as policing and the various problems contained within the watch, Thud! focuses on ethnic polarisation and antagonism, with obvious references to real world occcurences of such phenomena. Since Vimes is now father to a young boy, it also means that these harsher themes are interlaced with something softer and more affectionate, although the combination itself is of course a crucial point in the story.

This setup reminds me of many of the other novels in this series, all of which I like rather much. Some things repeat themselves, especially things about the city. Yes, Ankh-Morpork is a colourful explosion of wild ideas, but there are limits to how many books one can set in it before it becomes too old. Pratchett has passed that point a long time ago. Still, I do think that the author develops for every book and that there’s a distinct difference between later and earlier books. In short, he’s become a better author and this gives this book an edge towards the older ones.

To sum things up, this book is probably much better than many of its predecessors, but that effect is somewhat cancelled by the fact that I’ve read more than thirty books by Pratchett. Thud! is good, but it’s not unique and it contains too few new things to be really good. Considering that the most recent two books I’ve read by this author only received two and a half snails each, the three and a half I’ve decided to give Thud! is pretty good.

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Title: Going Postal
Author: Terry Pratchett
Year: 2004

I have not read or listened to every Discworld novel, but not far from it. This is due to many things, but the fact that I listen to them rather than read them is more than just a contributing factor. The first half of the series (from Isis Audio Books) is read by Nigel Planer, who probably is one of the best narrators of fiction of all time. The second half, thus including Going Postal, is read by Stephen Briggs, a competent but not brilliant narrator.

In the chronology, Going Postal ought to be placed after The Truth, since the newspaper from that novel is well established in the city. The story focuses on Moist von Lipwig, a masterful swindler with a face no one seems to be able to remember. However, he is caught and sentenced to death, but is offered a second chance after a fake execution; he is to become the new Grand Post Master of Ankh-Morpork. Of course, this is not as easy at it seems, since the post service has been out of order for a long time and the new clacks (semaphore) system has taken its place. Or has it? Moist decides that this ought not be the case, but he has to fight against, prejudice, rivalry, madness and more to revive the mail service.

All this works, but it is not good. Perhaps it is because I have read so much by Terry Pratchett, or perhaps it is because I do not enjoy Stephen Briggs as a narrator. Most likely, it is a combination of both. The story itself feels rather weak, with some unfinished threads and no truly unique features. On the positive side, Going Postal contains some original characters that are highly enjoyable. On the whole, though, I expect more of Pratchett. Or at least, I did expect more, but perhaps not in the future. Two and a half snails to Terry Pratchett and Going Postal.

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Title: Dreamsnake
Author: Vonda N. McIntyre
Year: 1978

Winners of both the Hugo and the Nebula Award are usually very good (see for instance Dune, The Gods Themselves and Ender’s Game). It might not be in a way I feel is important, but it is always easy to spot why other people think any particular novel in this genre is excellent. Sadly, this is not the case with Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake.

In this 1978 novel, the reader follows a young healer called Snake through her first exploratory year away from her teachers at home. She and her colleagues make use of snakes to produces antidotes, vaccines and a whole array of medicines to cure and aid the sick who inhabit a post nuclear war desert. When one of Snake’s serpents, the dreamsnake, is accidentally slain, she has to find a substitute or face grave consequences when she returns to the healers’ station.

I admit that the setting is nice. I like deserts and I like fantasy in deserts as well. Sadly, that is not enough to make a good novel. The story is extremely weak and sports no unique features or nothing at all out of the ordinary. Indeed, the whole basis for her adventure feels weak in the first, because I never grasped what was so important with the dreamsnake. Supposedly, it helps people to die without pain, but why should there be so much fuss about such a snake? Why is it impossible to be a healer without this capability? I have no idea, which undermines the whole story because this is what it is all about.

There is not much else that interests me either. The language is adequate, but very far from being brilliant. The same goes for characters, dialogue, and almost any aspect of the novel except for the setting, which I have already said I liked. This is not enough to make this book worthwhile and I have decided to give it two and a half snails. If anyone fancies Dreamsnake, please tell me why, because as it is now, I have really no idea at all how it could manage to win both the Hugo and the Nebula Award.

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Title: A Night in the Lonesome October
Author:
Roger Zelazny
Year: 1993

In England towards the end of the 19th century, in a year in which Halloween and a full moon coincide, a number of highly unusual players (more or less obviously taken from other famous and/or fictional characters active at the time, for instance Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and Victor Frankenstein) gather to play the ancient game of opening and closing. Some of these people want to open a gateway and allow the Great Old Ones (known from H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories) back to the Earth, whereas others want to close the gateway and keep Earth as it is. Each of the characters have familiar, and the narrator of the story is the dog Snuff, belonging to Jack. Until this night in october, in every game played, the closing side has always won, but will it be so this time, as the ones playing for the opening side is being murdered one by one and the 31th of October draws nigh?

The most interesting thing about A Night in the Lonesome October is probably the narration. Each of the 31 chapters (one for each day) elaborates the details of the game, its players and so forth, but this is done piecemeal and very skillfully at that. In the beginning, it is only apparent that there will be some kind of summoning, but the rules or traditions of the game are only revealed as the story goes on. The twist of having the story told by the dog is also nice, since it gives little insight into what the humans are doing, but all the more into the relationship between their companions.

Still, although Roger Zelazny manages to be entertaining, and even if the concept feels fresh, the overall impression is not sparkling. The story is not interesting enough, the characters, although a wonderful collage of real and imaginary heroes and villains, are not interesting enough. I am, however, prepared to award A Night in the Lonesome October three and a half snails for its quite unique perspective, as well as for its narration.

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Title: Odd and the Frost Giants
Author: Neil Gaiman
Year: 2008

Neil Gaiman is incredible in that he never writes anything that is even remotely reminiscent of something bad, regardless of if he writes for children or for adults, if he writes novels, short stories or comics. Odd and the Frost Giants is a lightweight book, clearly intended for children, presenting a short and to-the-point story about the not quite ordinary boy Odd and his encounters with Norse mythology. Odd lives in a viking village in Norway, to which spring refuses to come. Odd leaves his home, and while wandering in the woods and hills, he encounters three magnificent creatures: a bear (Thor), an eagle (Odin) and a fox (Loki). These gods have been ousted from their home of Asgard by a devious Frost Giant, and Odd sets out to help them and set things straight.

Of Neil Gaiman’s earlier works, I think Stardust comes closest to Odd and the Frost Giants, but admittedly, the two books are not very similar. In my opinion, Stardust has much more to offer the adult reader than has this book. That is not to say that I did not enjoy Odd and the Frost Giants, but it is to say that it is far from the masterpiece I consider Stardust to be. Still, I like Neil Gaiman’s way of writing. He always manages to put a unique touch to everything he writes that makes it Neil Gaiman, and thus, something I enjoy immensely. Although I do not recommend Odd and the Frost Giants in general, I would say it is an excellent introduction to the author for young readers.

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