Sunday, May 7, 2006

Catching up on some reviews

I've been a bit distracted to post much about what I've been reading, so I thought I'd take a moment and catch up on my fiction reviews.

Jack Vance, Tales of the Dying Earth: This brick of a book collection of Vance's four famous Dying Earth novels (The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga and Rialto the Magnificent) was good enough to merit its own review, so suffice it to say this. Vance's novels comprise a fountainhead of fun, thoughtful, and endlessly creative fantasy in this loosely related collection of novellas and short stories. One of the best in the genre. I stopped after reading the first two novels, but plan to return to Cugel's Saga in the future.

The Avram Davidson Treasury: One of the unknown masters of both science fiction and the short story form, Avram Davidson is somehow still largely unknown. I ran across him in an older science fiction anthology, tracked down some of his other works, and ended up getting this hefty collection of all his short works. I've plowed through hundreds of pages of short (5-7 page) stories, none of which fell short of excellent. Some were amusing, some profound, some strange and beautiful--all worth reading. If you don't want to buy this worthy treasury, find yourself an anthology which has Or All the Seas with Oysters. Great stuff.

David Brin, Sundiver: Disappointing. I stopped after a few chapters--not my cup of tea. Not bad as far as science fiction goes, but I find my tastes don't go the way of technical descriptions of dolphins being trained to speak (and then becoming spacecraft pilots) or in-depth discussion of how a ship might be designed to fly into the sun on a research mission. Realistic but uninteresting descriptions of all kinds of aliens, too. I'll pass on the rest of the Uplift Saga.

Dan Simmons, Hyperion: Wow, what a book. This one too deserves its own review. For now, let me say that I have read very few books this well put together, this imaginative, and this artistically sound. Unfortunately, the content is quite off-putting at times, turning what might have been a flawless artistic work into something more baudy and more gruesome than its worthy subject matter required. Still, for a discerning and mature reader, I point to this work as one of the most moving and most challenging in all of science fiction. I'll be venturing into Fall of Hyperion once I've built up sufficient stamina.

Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere: I've been meaning to read something by Gaiman for some time, but for some reason I never quite got around to it until recently. Once I began, however, I was treated to a wonderfully enjoyable urban fantasy with none of what usually makes the genre unpleasant. Neverwhere was filled with memorable characters, an eminently likable protagonist (strangely rare in fiction these days), a rapid pace, and a world which kept me turning pages long after I should have gone to bed. Not a profound book, but I've been reading too much of that anyway. I'll be moving on to Anansi Boys and American Gods--Gaiman is a blast.

Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers: And this brings me up to my current read, the classic adventure tale by one of the masters of the genre. Complex, populated with numbers of fun and interesting characters, fast paced and action packed, romantic and humorous--Dumas delivers in every category. No wonder people have been reading this book for nearly hundred years.


Greg Brooks said...

Jason, it's Greg from Jonesboro. We've met a couple of times at Southwest.

Have you read any of Steven Brust's books? Last year the last three books of his 5-book Khaavren of Castlerock series were published:
The Pheonix Guards
Five Hundred Years After
The Paths of the Dead
The Lord of Castle Black
Sethra Lavode

I love these books, especially the first two, more than any other fiction. If Dumas wrote sf-inspired fantasy, these books are what we'd get.

Alan said...

It appears we read many of the same books, meaning of the scifi variety. I have to admit being an sort of older geezer that I am just now starting to wrap my head around all this post-modern, emerging church business.
Father of Tim.