Next Book – The Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

2015-03-24 07.39.03I’m cutting it fine to announce this next book as I am probably going to finish The Bourne Identity tonight or tomorrow (work permitting.) It’s taken me quite a while to read, but it has been worth it.

My Book Activity page has been a little non committal about what I am planning to read next as well. Up until <in a minute when I change it, so by the time you read this post, it will be changed!> the next book section has read:

Haven’t got one yet. I’m thinking it should be one of my new ones? Then again, I haven’t read a fantasy for a while and I do need to slot them in amongst the others??

I really really want to read some of my “new books”. Those would be the ones that I got for Christmas! But, I’m not going to let myself just yet… Yes, you’ve guessed it, I took the second option and will be picking up a fantasy for my next book.  The Pawn of Prophecy is the first of David Edding’s Belgariad series. And again, like The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, I own a good few of the series. And again, although I own quite a few David Eddings books, I have never read one!!!! (aaaand again, you see why I started this blog) As some of you will know, I read quite a bit of fantasy in my late teens (some one or two years ago approximately.) I also have friends who have read all the David Eddings books but I have always had something else to read. Well David, now it’s your turn. Your rightful place on my bookshelf has been asserted for many years. Your rightful place in my mind (ew) is about to be realised. Bring forth the fantasy realms of the Belgariad and all the adventure that comes with them…

Footnote: I am going to need to find a better way to arrange these new book posts. The title and the bloody great picture give the surprise away some what…

Book Review – Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

wpid-20150109_144108.jpgLet’s start this review by saying that Lord Foul’s Bane is a really good book. I tweeted and wrote progress updates on goodreads while I read the book and while suffering from bouts of descriptive amnesia, “it’s good” was all I could muster. OK, maybe not the most in depth descriptions in the world, but most definitely true.

The flow of Stephen Donaldson’s wonderful prose is one of the things that keeps you reading the book. Forget the story lines and characterisation, his descriptive ability, especially of the forests of Morinmoss is great, on a par with the best I’ve read elsewhere. Stephen’s prose is spot on, although some of his choice of vocabulary didn’t sit quite so well with me. I have to admit that this is at least in small part due to my own vocabulary evidently being somewhat smaller than his! I could have found Stephen’s use of interesting words off putting or jarring to the flow of the prose, but his writing is so good that you pretty much know what the new word means without having to check. I just found that in places it detracted slightly because there wasn’t a need for it. Unfortunately, I think I will still have to check what each word means if I find any of them in other text 😦

I have to say that I can not fault any of the main story arcs in the book. I found myself reading yet another book that starts off in the normal world and moves somewhere else. This is interesting in that I thought they were pretty rare, and here is another. I, like many have a book idea burning smoldering quietly in the back of my head, and that also has a bit of location hopping. On writing now, more and more examples are coming to mind; His Dark Materials, Stardust, the Jon Shannow series and of course The Sword of Shannara. What Lord Foul’s Bane does that most of the others does (except mine!) is use the move between worlds as one of the main plot hooks. Thomas Covenant is a complex character. They say give a character at least one flaw and that can be the making of them. Well, Covenant has quite a few! I think they are the making of him as a lead, but there are many who found him just a bit too much. He is grumpy, violent, self centered and in at least one significant event unexpectedly evil. I found myself wondering why he acted the way he did in some scenes, but as mentioned, Stephen Donaldson did a fantastic job of characterisation throughout the book and Covenant is true to himself. There are many times when the emotion of an individual or of a whole group is very effectively conveyed to bring the story alive against your own emotional experience, and you cant ask a lot more than that.

It has been said that the Unbeliever books, of which Lord Foul’s Bane is the first, follow the LOTR story. I started the book thinking that I was going to get a repeat of The Sword of Shannara, but I didn’t, possibly because my knowledge of LOTR is not tip top anyway? This might be a good juncture to introduce the fact that my memory is *slightly* on the poor side. It does what it needs to, and it appears to work relatively well for both my job and excruciatingly odd facts, but occasionally when I need the normal use of a memory, it falls woefully short. This has both positive and negative effects. In the negative are all the obvious things that a lack of memory is known for. My absolute worst is names. I can attempt to have a conversation about a film and people become “the one that jumped off the building” or “the one that wasn’t Batman!” (I joke you not!) On the positive side, I do have a very good memory for plots and detail (I’m a stickler for continuity errors) as long as someone reminds me I have seen the film it usually only takes a few queues and I’m back in the game. Anyway, I let you into that particular mental issue because I don’t really remember the finer detail of some of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I haven’t read the others yet (strike me down with hellfire and brimstone instantly!) The Sword of Shannarah definitely registered on the LOTR alarm, but although I had been warned that Lord Foul’s Bane was also quite closely related, I didn’t notice it. After about 3/4 of the book I finally managed to link the “important ring” story arc and when the Ranyhyn appeared at the end, what with the mountain and all, yeh, well, that was pretty familiar too!

In the almost conclusion to this review, I think that it is suffice to say that; I own the first trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books… I also own the second trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books, and if they are all as good as the first one, then I am looking forward to reading them. For a multi-volume story Lord Foul’s Bane even managed a good ending. It’s not knock your socks off brilliant. You don’t get an “I never saw that coming. WOW!” moment. But all the loose ends tied up, it provides a strong enough reward for the build up and it does make you want to continue the journey. That journey will happen for me in between other horror, comedy books and the usual genre mixing that I am trying to chaotically follow.

So to the actual conclusion: I started my reading of Lord Foul’s Bane by finding a dog ear on page 308 that had evidently been put there by the previous owner of the book. The page contained what I now know to be one of the best pieces of verse in the many that the book contains. It is about death and I end the review with it because I think it is quite beautifully written and, well, because this is the end (of the review.)

lordfoulsbaneverse

Rating: 8/10

Link to Lord Foul’s Bane on Goodreads

Next book – Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

wpid-20150109_144108.jpgI’m about to get back into The good Jesus and the scoundrel Christ after a bit of a break. I began to slow down on the book a few days ago, but I have also had the MANFLU and therefore not gone too close to things that make me think. I should be able to finish The Good Jesus… pretty quickly, so even though I am getting a bit of a backlog of reviews having not manage to finish the Bill Hicks one yet, onwards with the reading. You know what I say;

“Look after the reading and the writing will look after itself.”

Well, you didn’t know I say that because I haven’t said it before, but it sounds good even though it’s not even remotely true.

But I digress. Right, back on track, where was I? Oh yes, there I was, how irresponsible to have misplaced such a well umm, anyway. Next book. Huzzah!

I have chosen Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson. I have got all of The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant , The unbeliever. AAAnd, I have all of the Second Chronicles as well!! I am pretty sure that these books are quite highly regarded, and I think that there is a strong religious angle to them. I am imagining something akin to the David Gemmell Jerusalem Man themes? With a surname like Covenant and what with him being an unbeliever, something interesting is bound to happen! It will be interesting reading something else with a religious viewpoint after The Good Man Jesus… I think similar themes, but a world (or maybe two) apart.

“So, PoCo, you have 2 trilogies on your bookshelf, have you read any of them? I know that the only reason you bought them from that second hand shop a decade ago is because lots of people recommended them to you.”

PoCo hesitates and looks shifty “Um, well, never quite got round to them to be honest. I’m sure they are great…?”

As soon as I finish the current book, we will see, won’t we!

Book Review – The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks

I suppose that it would be best to start this review by describing my decision to buy The Sword of Shannara in the first place. I have read a lot of fantasy in the past and quite a bit of what I still have in my bookshelves is fantasy based, this is a hangover from when fantasy was my staple genre, back in the day. I tended to read around a small number of authors. Two that spring straight to mind are R.A.Salvator who’s forgotten realms books were brilliant, and David Gemmell who produced some (IMHO) sublime fiction along with some pretty trashy hack and slash! I did read a few others, but I have a bit of a back log of David Eddings, Robert Jordan and Stephen Donaldson (among others) that all hail from that time in my life. Since then my taste has grown and expanded, but so too has fantasy with spectacular work from the likes of Joe Abercrombie (Did I mention I really really like the first law trilogy? If not, I have now. Brilliant books…)

I have, over many years, also dabbled with writing books. My best friend in school and I used to talk about books and writing constantly. He managed to write a whole book while he was doing his A-Levels, but although I thought it was great, he didn’t think it was good enough to send to any publishers, so it is still sitting in his metaphorical bottom drawer… In more recent years I have read a couple of books by successful authors about how they write and about writing theory in general. At least one of these mentioned that The Sword of Shannara was a pivotal book in the development of fantasy, being published at the start of (or being part of the initiation of?) a big rise in the popularity of the genre. This thought skipped gaily into my head one day while I was staring at a rack of books in a charity shop. “Coo,” said I, “there’s that book wot i dun read ’bout.” I bought it, stashed it in the book shelf and that was the end of that episode of my literary life.

With a back story like that it was with more than a little trepidation that I started The Sword of Shannara. Was I going to love it and understand how this book started a fantasy revolution? Or was I going to find it a bit sedentary, the first of a genre introduced with a dodgy basic plot and simple characterisation? The answer is actually a bit of both.

I cottoned on quite early that The Sword of Shannara was, shall we say, quite closely aligned to J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I was a bit miffed at this to be honest. Firstly, because you have a good idea of the main plot, and secondly, this was meant to be a seminal work (relatively speaking.) It helped launch the fantasy genre into the main stream, and it did it by almost completely nicking the main plot and characterisations from the grand master himself. I almost put the book down. Almost, but I didn’t. I had read to  a point just short of half way through the book. I managed to push through acceptance of the LOTR thing. My endurance was rewarded with some really great new characters and a post apocalyptic angle that was similar to the Jon Shannow books by David Gemmell. (did David G get the idea from here – The Sword of Shannow!) Linking Fantasy worlds to ours in any way is dangerous. You have to walk a tightrope to keep the integrity of the story without mixing styles too much. I was surprised to find this plot line in one of the first modern fantasy books, but pleasantly surprised. I was by this point really enjoying the story, it had that fantasy style, so that I saw parallels with the books that I have read, and the book was finding its own voice with the remaining plot. But. This book was still not in the bag for me. I was still finding the quality of the writing challenging. Not plot or direction or even the majority of general grammar! There were loads of niggly little writing inconsistencies. These ranged from descriptive issues (fire made by Gnomes was “man” made) to the way that characters sometimes acted (being quite quiet then suddenly angry for no reason.) It felt like Terry Brooks had tried a bit too hard with the description and in doing so, over-cooking it and managed to add the odd problem. But I didn’t put the book down, and I am glad I didn’t.

So, everything picked up. The story diverged somewhat from LOTR, I found less issue with the writing and everything evened out into a better second half. It appears that this change occurred when Pannamon Creed and Ketleset joined the story. I have a feeling that they really did work on the plot, and the author) in the way that strong characters should. They re-invigorated everything. They gave a fresh viewpoint on what was happening, and I am glad to say that they stayed true to what I hoped they would be, even to the end of the book.

In conclusion, The Sword of Shannara is a good book. There were some pretty big problems with it, but I can see why it was part of the spark that started much more wide spread expansion of the fantasy genre. The book was published in 1977, and the original Dungeons and Dragons came out in 1974, so I think Shannara was part of the push, and not the instigator. Either way, if you like Fantasy, this book is worth a read. Just be aware of the odd foible and you will be fine.

What the papers said at the time – Wikipedia

Rating: 7/10
The Sword of Shannara on Goodreads

Starting the Sword of Shannara

Just a quick post to follow up my tweet. I managed to abstain from starting The Sword of Shannara all day, and got quite a bit of my Altered Carbon review sorted out on the train instead, yay me!

BUT

I’m about to go and sit with my children while they read. So in full consciousness of breaking my own “don’t start the next one until the review of the last one is finished” rule. I’M STARTING THE SWORD OF SHANNARA NOW.

Next Book – Terry Brooks – The Sword of Shannara

Oh my goodness. I cant quite believe that I am rushing to write this blog post so soon. Altered Carbon has rather taken me way with it. I am currently VERY busy at work, but, nevertheless find that in snatched moments I am dreaming, nay yearning to read my book. I almost feel like I need to rush this puny little blog post out so that I can get back to it…

I have 2 children, and at bed time we have always read to them. This has evolved over the years, and I now find that I usually sit and read my book next to my 10 year old as he is reading his. I’m quite proud that of his own choosing he has just finished William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and is now embarking on Swiss Family Robinson. He does manage to mix in a good deal of newer stuff like Diary of a wimpy kid and Captain Underpants, so that’s a good rounded reading habit sorted out 🙂

Anyway, I digress. This evening while I was reading next to said genetically related infant, my neurochem unceremoniously jerked me from the VR reading trance I was in with Altered Carbon (notice cyberpunky lingo) to alert me to the fact that the portion of the real physical book resting in my right hand is now smaller than the portion in my left. That’s the long way of saying that I am more than half way through my book.

So, what to read, what to read?

I have been aware from the day that I started this blog that my historical and unread book collection is heavily lent towards fantasy and SciFi. This is mainly due to two facts; I used to read a lot of Fantasy, so I bought a lot and didn’t read it all. And I did a computer science degree, various cyberpunk and SciFi texts were (honestly) on the curriculum and I have tried to continue that trend by buying and not reading more of it.

With this weighting of genres in mind, I want to spread out my library a bit so that I don’t get too samey, a sentiment that I think I alluded to in my previous “next book” post. I have therefore gone from the far future of Altered Carbon and chosen from as far down the other end of the spectrum as I can. I have picked a book that I bought as a modern classic. A book that I feel I need to read as it was part of the creation of a it’s Genre. Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara. As far as I know, this is one of the first Fantasy books, but I guess J.R.R.Tolkien was cutting the template a while before?? I might have a dig into the past of the genre when I get to writing the review? Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading it. I have always imagined that it is going to be a bit cheesy, like playing the first dungeons and dragons game when you have been playing the advanced version for years. I think that it might be a bit clunky and full of cliches. I am approaching it thinking this, but if it is/does, then I have to accept it for the trail blazer that it was. It has 4 stars on Good reads (3.74/5) so it can’t be that bad?

A note on my apprehension: I feel myself falling into a habit that I don’t think I can get out of. Each book I have lined up to read so far has come a mixture of excitement that I am finally reading it and  a disclaimer about why I haven’t read it. “I think it might be s**t!” or “I’ve heard good things about this, but I think XXX.” This is the reason I have so many books in my bookcase that I haven’t read, and I am beginning to think that this is why I also put off some other things in my life. Maybe as I crack through my back log of books and into this blog, I will see other parts of my life change. And maybe, just maybe,  I will tell you about them. Or maybe I won’t?