Archive for June 13th, 2011

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Read Lately…In Star Wars, Mass Effect And MORE Fantasy

June 13, 2011

And the reading frenzy continues!

Currently, I’m still on track to reaching my goal of reading 100 novels for the year of 2011. June’s nowhere near over yet, and already 51 books in, to be exact. As to why I’m doing this, there are a couple reasons — 1) for my love of reading, and 2) I’m insane.

It’s also quite fun. I read every day anyway, and in the same way I like to track my games and playtime with Raptr, I like to track my books and reading progress with Goodreads. By the way, if you are on GR, feel free to add me. If you’re a science fantasy fan, I could also do with some fresh new sci-fi recommendations that aren’t based on video games or Star Wars, heh.

Once again, here are some of the titles I’ve had the pleasure of reading these past couple of months…

Feed by Mira Grant

A zombie book! In a world where the CDC is the most important organization in the country, children are trained in firearms as young as 7, and Alaska has been ceded to “the Infected”, the population has come to depend more on social media instead of the mainstream news to get their up-to-the-minute information. Enter our protagonists, a trio of bloggers who land the story of a lifetime — the opportunity to accompany a senator on his campaign across the country to become the next president of the United States…but of course, bad things start happening.

Not that I’m a huge fan of zombie books, but when this one was nominated for a Hugo and my book club chose it to read for the month of May, I seized the opportunity. For one, I loved the premise behind the book. The story, however, turned out rather predictable and “telegraphed”, and for the lack of a better term the characters are kinda full of themselves. Ah, but the ending was a bombshell that made everything worth it. Despite my indifference for the characters themselves, the emotional fallout that resulted was simply gut-wrenching.

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Shreiber

Did I say I wasn’t a huge fan of zombie books? Really, I’m not. Like, I don’t go out of my way to read them, but every so often something indulgent like this just falls in my lap.

And God help me, but I liked this book. I didn’t really think I would. When I first caught wind of a series of Star Wars books about zombies, I predicted only disastrous results. Zombies are good and fine, but I just couldn’t imagine their presence in my beloved Star Wars universe. But curse my curiosity, I wanted to see what it was all about. And it was a short read, so I picked it up.

And whaddya know, a few chapters in and I actually started enjoying myself. Sure, there were a lot of plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but the book was also everything its cover promised — blood, gore, dismembered body parts, more blood and gore, flesh eating Stormtroopers, and even Wookiee zombies. It delivered where it was supposed to, and I mean, you might say the secret is low expectations, but then again you don’t pick up a book like this and expect anything more. This book belongs in my closet of guilty pleasures for sure, and I’ll just try not to feel so dirty for liking it.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

No more putting this off; I’m making it a goal to polish off all the Dresden books by the time Ghost Story comes out, which gives me about a month and a half. Yeah, so maybe I have the attention span of a squirrel, but I usually have a lot of trouble reading books in a series back-to-back-to-back as I find myself getting antsy and needing a different focus after a while. The only series with which I’ve ever been able to do pull that off is A Song of Ice and Fire. Say what you will about the quality of the subsequent books after A Game of Thrones, but George R. R. Martin does have a way of engaging you and making you want to know what happens next.

Jim Butcher makes me feel the same way, which is how I’m now reading all these Dresden Files books in a row and still not feeling worn down. I still have issues with “emo Harry” sometimes, but the stories themselves are always so full of action and humor. Currently on the 7th book now and I’m pleasantly surprised at how the momentum has not slowed down, which is rare in an ongoing series. In fact, I’ve been told the books just keep getting better and better. At this point, I’m starting to believe it.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

I’m always thrilled to give a new book and a new author a try, especially since everywhere I look, the consensus for this new series is the same: “Recommended for fans of the Dresden Files.”

I can see why — both are narrated by a male protagonist in the first person with a modern, “hip” voice. Both are humorous and full of pop culture references. Harry Dresden has a talking skull named Bob, Atticus O’Sullivan has an Irish wolfhound he talks to named Oberon. They both keep paranormal company like werewolves, witches and vampires. And always, there’s some bad guy trying to kill them, and action ensues. It’s inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between these two series.

Atticus, however, is a 2,100 year old druid. And despite taking place in modern day Tempe, Arizona, the Iron Druid Chronicles series is steeped in Celtic mythology and culture. You’ll love Hounded if you’re into that type of thing. Or even if you’re not. I had a lot of fun reading this book. I would say it is better than the average debut novel, but I’m also curious as to how this series will progress. Atticus seems to have a magical solution for every problem, or friends that do, so I’m interested in seeing how things will turn out in terms of character growth. In any case, it’s always refreshing to read an urban fantasy novel that doesn’t suck.

Mass Effect by Drew Karpyshyn

Have I mentioned this hour that I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn? No? Well, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn. Loved his Star Wars: Darth Bane novels and enjoyed my first taste of his Mass Effect books with Revelation. So then I went and finished Ascension and Retribution, which tied together rather nicely.

One thing I admire about Drew and his books is his ability to make you sympathize with even the biggest jackwads. This is the man who managed to make me root for an evil Sith Lord, after all. Enter Paul Grayson, a Cerberus agent, drug addict, and a ruthless killer who sold his own daughter out to science. Kahlee Sanders returns to make him see the error of his ways and also to kick some ass, and in book 3 our old friend Anderson even comes back to help out. There is essentially no filler in these Mass Effect books, just action and more action. Typical of video game tie-in novels, but I find these much better written than many.

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

Right away, I sensed that Dalglish was attempting for a Song of Ice and Fire feel. The title format and certain phrases and names dropped as homages were a hint, but he also stated as much in his afterword.

Well, he succeeded in a couple ways, first and foremost in that the story is much too complicated for me to explain in three sentences or less. I also had the feeling I was going to be in for some political intrigue and that I best prepare myself for most of the characters I meet dying horribly and needlessly. Turns out I was right on both accounts.

I liked the book, but A Game of Thrones it is not. A very fine attempt, however, with plenty of character and world building. A little bit more of that and a little less of blatantly trying to shock the reader, then I dare say it could have come close. And speaking of shock-value, expect much violence. I’m so desensitized these days that I barely flinch anymore, but I still have a weakness for the eyes and fingernails and any time anything bad happens to those two specific body parts. Unfortunately for me, Dalglsih seems to have a particular fondness and fixation for eye-gouging and other eye-related torture and injuries.

The Ten Thousand by Paul Kearney

This was perhaps my first real taste into the sub-genre of “military fantasy”. History or literature buffs will realize right away that The Ten Thousand is directly based on the events from Xenophon’s Anabasis. So maybe it’s a little difficult to feel much excitement or suspense when you know what’s going to happen already, but I found some of the fantastical elements in this book really intriguing.

I wish more details had been put into these, such as the mysterious black armor pieces worn by the Cursebearers or the strange exotic race of the Kufr, but most of the focus was poured into the book’s martial elements. That said, Paul Kearney has an obvious talent for writing scenes of warfare, as the battles and the descriptions of the fighting were really well done. I discovered after reading this book that I can take military fantasy, but it’s not really so much my thing. If it is yours though, I recommend giving this one a look.

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order by various authors

Okay, what I actually wanted to do was read the newer Star Wars books, like stuff from the Legacy of the Force or Fate of the Jedi series, but decided to go back a little further in the timeline and read up to it instead. Sure, I could have just read summaries on Wookieepedia and called it a day, but damn my stubbornness, I wanted to do things properly. As such, I started with The New Jedi Order AKA the “Yuuzhan Vong” series that’s, oh, about a whopping 20 books long.

I’m starting to regret things, but once I start a series it gets hard for me to drop it, especially since I’m already more than a third of the way in. It’s been a tedious journey thus far, but NJO does have its moments every now and then. Also, being familiar with the events of the Star Wars expanded universe is one thing, it’s another to go right to the source and read about the finer details. I like knowing more about the stories that until now I’ve only heard of or read about in passing, which was my motivation to tackle this series in the first place.

Kraken by China Miéville

China Miéville came highly recommended, though everyone who had read this one before me warned that Kraken is not like any of his other books. I still wonder if it was a good idea for picking it up for my first taste of Miéville. Even now, I’m at a loss as to what to say about it.

Two things are certain — 1) it was nothing like I expected, and 2) it’s going right into the “Weirdest Books I’ve Ever Read” shelf. The book follows Billy Harrow, a scientist at the Museum of Natural History in London. An expert on mollusks, Billy was also responsible for the preservation of one of the museum’s most popular exhibits — the giant squid. One day, out of the blue, the thing goes missing — all 28.3 feet of it. Investigating into its disappearance, Billy finds himself thrown into a side of London he never knew existed, a world full of magic, secret cults, doomsday theories and other supernatural creatures.

If you’re into Neil-Gaiman-type whackiness, then this book is for you. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be up for reading another book like this for a long time, but I’m more interested than ever now to tackle Miéville’s other more “straightforward” books like The City & The City. Nevertheless, Kraken was a fun if also bizarre read. I give this book a thumbs-up, if for nothing else the entire chapter full of Star Trek references including a live Tribble and an actual working phaser gun, plus the fact I got to annoy my husband by shouting “Release the Kraken!” before settling down with the book every night while I was reading it.

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