Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Silver Chair

Lewis, C.S. 1953. The Silver Chair.

It's been more than a few weeks since I reviewed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Silver Chair is the fourth novel in the seven-book series by C.S. Lewis. (In January, I also reviewed The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. You can read my reviews here and here.) Although I started The Silver Chair soon after, I lost interest quickly. I'd read a chapter here, a chapter there. And soon I realized that I'd been unsteadily plodding along on the same book for about six weeks. Which, if you know me at all, you'll know that that is very unusual.

The truth? Though many people like or love The Silver Chair...I'm not one of them. Don't get me wrong. I don't hate the book. I even enjoy parts of the novel a great deal. But I don't love it the same way that I love the other three, the first three. Which is my least favorite of the seven? It would be a toss up between The Silver Chair and The Horse and His Boy.

The story. The story. What is the story. Two kids--Eustace, whom we first met in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Jill, whom we are meeting for the first time, have unexpected, unplanned adventures in Narnia, a magical land first introduced in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The two step into the adventure. Their quest? To find the missing prince--a person assumed or presumed dead--the son of King Caspian. (Caspian we met in Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.) Aslan, the lion-king, gives instructions to Jill that will help them on their way. But these instructions require familiarity--memorization--and obedience. Neither come naturally to the children. Along the way, the children meet many characters. Some are friends; some are enemies. Puddleglum is the most interesting person that they meet. He is what I remember most about the novel.

Overall, I liked this novel, but I didn't love it. I think others may enjoy it more than I did.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Birds of a Feather

All Jacqueline Winspear books are recommended by Orson Scott Card, so this one qualifies!

Maisie Dobbs has been hired once again to solve a case. This time it involves a wealthy man, his missing daughter and three of her friends that happen to be deceased. As Maisie proceeds in her investigation, she discovers more about herself and her assistant Billy Beale.

This series has a lot to offer. I receive the greatest pleasure from the quiet, thought-filled process that Maisie demonstrates in her quest to solve mysteries. Also, the fact that she's intelligent, yet never arrogant or haughty; she continues to seek advice and listen to those around her.

Like the first, this second in the series contains some psychology, which I really enjoy. However, the moments of intuition and sensing the aura are not to my liking and I believe that it weakens the validity of her findings. Fortunately, it's not enough to dissuade me from meeting up with Maisie Dobbs again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Megan Whalen Turner

Megan Whalen Turner's young adult fantasy series was recommended by OSC, and it deserves every word of praise he gave it. The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia all follow the life of Eugenides, a young thief who later becomes a king, somewhat against his desire.

The thing that struck me most about these novels, particularly the latter two, is the risk the author took. She addresses some fairly mature situations, and while I'm not a fan of dumbing things down or sugarcoating them for children, I'm surprised that she was able to explore them so successfully within the framework of a young adult novel.

She handles characters and emotions skillfully, and her plots are excellent. I only wish I knew if the rumours that she's planning to continue the series are true. These were my second read for this challenge, and the first reviewed by Card. So far, it seems he has good taste!

(I wrote more detailed reviews of each of the three books at my blog: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia.)

Monday, February 18, 2008

OSC on Empire (YouTube) Video

Another OSC YouTube clip...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ender's Game

At the age of six, Andrew Wiggin, who prefers to be called Ender, is taken from his family to be trained as a soldier. Test results and close observation have convinced Earth’s military, in the form of a certain Colonel Graff, that Ender may hold the key to the planet’s defence. The enemy are the buggers, a race who have already sent two invasion forces with near-disastrous consequences for humanity. Once at Battle School, a combination of coursework, games, and psychological manipulation are used to train Ender for the most important battle of all.

Some time ago, I picked up a copy of First Meetings, a group of four stories set in the Enderverse, including the original Ender’s Game, a novelette that appeared in Analog in 1977 (it wasn’t expanded and published as a novel until 1985.) Somewhat against my better judgement, I read the novelette. Having heard so much about the novel, I wanted to read it. Once the novelette was in my hands, though, I couldn’t help but read it, even though I feared that it would provide an inferior experience and lessen my pleasure when it came time to read the “real” story. I was justified in the former fear, but not the latter.

The novel is by far the better telling of the story. It takes everything that was good about the novelette, and adds a wealth of detail, character development, and emotion, without a single wasted word. I thought knowing the end would make reading the novel pointless; instead, it only made clear to me how little Card depended on a flashy climax to keep the reader’s interest. As well as having more time to explore the existing characters from the novelette, the expanded form gave Card room to create many new secondary characters, all of whom are worth the space they’re given in the novel.

My trip to the bookstore today will definitely include a search for the first sequel, Speaker for the Dead. If you’re the slightest bit interested in SF or war fiction, and you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet, do it. Now. Today.

X-posted at my blog.

Shadow of the Hegemon

Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card
Shadow Saga Book 2 (Enderverse Book 6)

Pages: 365
First Published: 2000
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 4/5

First Sentence:

Nothing looked right in Armenia when Petra Arkanian returned home.

Comments: This book starts right after Ender's Shadow, the Formic War is over and the Battle School children have been sent back to their homes on earth. Earth is in a political turmoil, however, and the children are in danger. Shortly after arriving home all the members of Ender's Dragon Army are kidnapped, except one, who escapes. Bean. Bean and Peter Wiggin turn to each other for help. Bean wants to rescue his friends, especially Petra, and Peter wants to rule the world as Hegemon.

It has been a couple of years since I read the previous books in this series and, wow, I had forgotten just how great these books are. It is like meeting up with old friends reading about these characters again. Bean has always been my favourite and his secrets are revealed in this book. There is a lot of political and military strategizing in the story which I do not have a head for, but Card has a way of writing which kept me interested through those parts. An incredibly involved plot with lots of action and fabulous characters.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Appeal

All John Grisham books are recommended by Orson Scott Card, so this one qualifies!

The plot begins with a jury decision against a chemical company accused of contaminating a town's water supply, which caused cancer throughout its inhabitants. Knowing that the decision will be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, the politics of filling a possible seat vacancy are in full force.

John Grisham's books are always a pleasurable read for me. As it goes, some are better than others for various reasons and this one was no different. The Appeal has an abundance of political influence in the plot, making it less appealing (no pun intended) to me, yet I found it to have great educational value. Other than that, it took me half the book to truly be interested, then to have my hopes dashed with the ending. Unfortunately, the conclusion may be reality. HOWEVER . . . I thought this was a work of fiction.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Shannon Hale's Princess Academy

I finally read Princess Academy last week. I really don't know why it took me so long! Both of my daughters (now 17yo and 12yo) had recommended it, and it was even a 2006 Newbery Honor Book.

When Card reviewed it in July 2005, he was effusive in his praise. For example, despite the fact that Princess Academy is a young adult novel, Card said,
I believe it's a book for everybody. Grownups especially. It's been a long time since I've read an adult novel with anything like Hale's knowledge of human nature and human communities.
I know that I, for one, am a grown-up who loved this book! (My complete review is here.)

Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries

Perhaps I was stretching the rules a little when I selected "T" is for Trespass, the latest installment in Sue Grafton's Alphabet Mysteries series, for this challenge, since Card has not actually reviewed it (as far as I can tell). But the list says "Grafton, Sue. All of her works." - so I decided it would be alright.

In his review of "Q" is for Quarry, Card said:
It's always a pleasant surprise when, instead of going stale, a mystery series gets better, deeper, and truer with each installment.
That sentiment applies to "T" is for Trespass as well. My review is here.

Midnight Falcon by David Gemmell

Midnight Falcon is the second in the Rigante series by David Gemmell. Roughly set 17 to 20 years after the close of Sword in the Storm, Midnight Falcon is the story of Connavar's illegitimate son, Bane. He is a young man--a teen roughly 17 to 18 when the story opens. He has never been accepted--never been recognized--by his father or his father's family. His friends consist of Vorna, the town witch, and Vorna's son Banouin. Bane and Banouin team up for a brief period of time. Banouin wants to go to the city of Stone--the empire of Stone. He wants to study at the great library. He wants to read and gather information, to find his place among his father's people. For though his mother is Rigante, his father was a man from Stone--a trader. Bane, well, Bane is just looking for a fight or two or three. He is one angry, rebellious, bitter man. It will get worse before it gets better. Trust me.

When Banouin "accidentally" has his first vision of the future, he fails--or Bane attributes it to him as failing to do the right thing, the honorable thing. He foresees the death of several of the people Bane has come to appreciate, to love, to respect. One is a woman that Bane loves. The other is her father. Bane thinks--knows--that the honorable thing would have been to stay and fight and protect even at the risk of losing their own lives. Banouin has a que sera sera philosophy and plans to make tracks fast--in other words--run away without a word of warning.
When Bane gets this crucial piece of information out of his friend, he rushes back only to find the Stone soldiers have been there--are still there--and his friends are dead. He sees his love get stabbed in the heart, and in the process he is almost fatally wounded himself.

He would be dead certainly if the Morrigu had not intervened, had not granted him life. But what Bane chooses to do next, what he seeks most is blood, revenge. His new goal? To become a gladiator in Stone's arenas. To learn how to fight from the best. To prepare for that one sweet moment of revenge.

The novel spans two or possibly even three years. It is set in the Rigante lands as well as on the mainland of Stone's empire. It is full of characters. It is full of fighting and violence. It is full of strife and tension.

I didn't love this one as much as the first. But it was good. I'm not sure how soon I'll be seeking out the third novel. As it is set several hundred years later. With that much of a gap in time and none of the same characters, I'm not sure how anxious I am to be drawn into another book full of battles and fighting and warfare. I cared in the first two because I had been drawn into the world, the characters, the drama of their ordinary lives. But to start all over again, to start from scratch, I'm not sure I want to go least not yet.