Friday, 29 July 2011

American God's by Neil Gaiman

This is probably Gaiman's best known work. This multi layered tale of ancient Gods struggling to maintain an existence in modern day America has spawned a "spot that mythology" mini-game among its many fans. It is certainly a well researched tale and I enjoyed it a lot more than the only other Gaiman book I have read: "Neverwhere".

Both of the Gaiman books I have read remind me of Terry Pratchett in some way although their styles are quite different. To my mind Pratchett's work seems to flow more easily and is probably the better for it but Gaiman's work, although more laboured has definite depth. It is interesting to note that Pratchett and Gaiman are firm friends in any case.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell, and Brethren by Robin Young

I stumbled across a book review post from 2008 on my other blog that I am reposting here for completeness: 

Monday, May 19, 2008

Several hours on plane during the last week afforded me some time to read three books by three authors I do not normally read.

First off "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman.

I can't shake the notion that I have read Gaiman before but I cannot remember what or when. In any case "Neverwhere" (author's preferred text adapted from radio screenplay) is an enjoyable enough yarn. It paints a picture of a seedy under city of London, home to those who have "fallen through the cracks". London Below reminds me vaguely of Mieville's New Crobuzon but Gaiman's novel is far more lightweight than the Perdido street sequence. Gaiman's lighthearted take on fantasy might best be compared to the work of Terry Pratchett or Douglass Adams but Gaiman's writing does not reach the same heights of side splitting humour or piercing satire as either Pratchett or Adams. Enjoyable but far from classic stuff.

Next up is "Sword Song" by Bernard Cornwell.

Ireland is one of those countries that has bad memories of British redcoats and that has probably dissuaded me from reading more of Cornwell's better known series of novels about a redcoat named "Sharpe". Nevertheless I will admit to having enjoyed the couple of Sharpe novels I did read so it was a relief to come across a Cornwell novel about an altogether less contentious period of history. Sword song is set in 9th century Britain when the country is divided between Saxon and Dane. The hero was born Saxon but raised by the Danes a device which provides plenty of opportunities for angst as our hero works with King Alfred to strengthen the Saxon position. "Sword Song" is a very enjoyable historical novel with ample sword and axe wielding and a generous helping of viking longboat thrown in for good measure. My one complaint is that Cornwell tries too hard to create conflict for the hero. It was the same in the Sharpe novels that I recall. You just know that the hero will do all the hard work to resolve the plot drama but will receive none of the rewards.

Finally "Brethren" by Robyn Young.

This novel charts the twin careers of an initiate into the Knights Templar and a Saracen Sultan at the time of the crusades. It is a terrific setting for a historical novel and so far I am enjoying it. I am slightly concerned about a secret society with accompanying secret text that has cropped up. With any luck this won't interfere with the serious business of besieging castles but ever since forcing myself to read the ludicrously inept "Da Vinci Code" I recoil in horror at the mention of secret societies.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Evolutionary Void by Peter Hamilton

This is the concluding volume of the Void Trilogy and as you might expect from Hamilton is is superior quality Sci Fi. The Pilgramage of the living dream fleet to the void seems unstoppable and it turns out that the accelrator faction have their own plans for the pilgrimage. Everyone else thinks that the interferences with the void will cause the death of the Galaxy but can anyone stop them?

The Fantasy alternate storyline set in the void which was such a novelty in the first two books get comparatively little attention here other than that which is required for the resolution of the "main" sci fi plot. Nevertheless Hamilton does a masterful job of pulling all the many strands together into a tidy conclusion.

My one concern about this trilogy is that I could really have used a wiki or at very least a list of characters to guide me through the complex overlapping strands. Remember this story is set in the future universe of Hamilton's previous Starflyer saga and many threads carry over so there is a lot to remember. Sadly I couldn't find any comprehensive reference on the net and that did hinder my progress slightly.