Saturday, 16 January 2010

Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons is one of my favourite Science Fantasy authors so I was delighted to stumble across this, his breakthrough novel, in my local lending library. "Song of Kali" is actually horror rather than SF but it is a well written gripping horror story based on Hindu myth and legend  set in a squalid and bleakly described Calcutta. The main character is a poet  who inadvertently gets caught up in this web of human sacrifice and grotesque re-animation and his story certainly held my attention till the last page.

Good stuff although the world has shrunk since 1985 when the book was published and I am not sure he would get away with his stylised depiction of Calcutta if he were writing it today.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Lightstone by David Zindell

This first book of a fantasy series from David Zindel leaves no fantasy cliché un-ticked: Unlikely Hero with flaw that will turn out to be his greatest strength: check. Motley Crew of adventurers coming together on epic quest:  Check. Party Contains warrior: check, beautiful female archer: check, bard: check, healer: check, hero's best friend who appears to be useless but will actually turn out to have key role in saving hero and therefore the world: check. All powerful villain, the epitome of evil who was defeated in ages gone by but who is immortal and re-appears every few centuries to try to take over everything: check. Strange telepathic link between evil villain and unlikely hero: check. Did I mention the sword? Heroic sword to be carried by our hero that has lingered since time immemorial at the bottom of a (wait for it) lake: check.

I could go on. Zero points unfortunately for originality of story or characterisation.  To give Zindell his due he has been somewhat bolder in creating a mythology in which to set his story. The inhabitants of Zindell's world trace their origins back to advanced beings who came from the stars bringing with them objects of unimaginable power. With the passage of the ages and the squabbling of men these objects have been used, abused and eventually lost but now our heroes must find the greatest of them, the titular Lightstone, in order to overcome the evil villain. This mythology is quite well crafted and but neither it nor the quality of Zindell's writing are enough to raise the book above OKness.  I won't be rushing out to buy the remainder of the series but I won't rule out reading them at some stage in the future either.