Review: Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt

Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt
Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods
A. S. Byatt
Grove Press, 2012

I’ve always felt that the majority of people tend to gravitate towards classical mythology as there stories of choice. The place of the classical epics has been firmly cemented in our educational system for so long now that this shouldn’t really surpise anyone. While I certainly have respected and enjoyed stories grounded in classical myth my heart has always been more firmly entrenched in the cold, harsh world of Norse myth. Where the threat of annihilation weighs heavy on the hearts of the gods, where Odin was pinned to a tree by his own spear in order to gain knowledge, where a great serpent coiled around the Earth, and where sword weilding maidens wait to claim the souls of the valiant fallen. So when Booker award winning author A. S. Byatt penned a book loosely retelling the story of Ragnarok I was completely on board.

Despite its sparse page count Byatt’s rendition of Ragnarok is a powerful piece of prose. Some of that comes from the strength of the story; a tale whose gravitas and power has not been lessened by the inexorable crawl of time. However the beuaty and strength of Byatt’s rendition also comes from her own command of prose as well as her deft interweaving of the Norse Gods’ fall with the loss and fear experienced by a small child during the height of the Second World War. With a disturbing and painful sense of ease Byatt is able both use the story of Ragnarok experienced by the child as both allegory and escape. Ayatt writes in the opening chapter: “The thin child knew, and did not know that she knew, that her elders lived in provisional fear of iminent destruction. They faced the end of the world they knew.”

Continue reading “Review: Ragnarok by A. S. Byatt”

Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk
Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow’s Son
Jon Sprunk
Pyr, 2010

Looking for a quick and exciting read a while back I cast my eyes over my ever growing list of books I should read some time (better known as my Goodreads to-read shelf) and settled on Jon Sprunk’s Shadow’s Son. Given my penchant for character-based fantasy I thought it might be a good fit. As it turns out I was right and Shadow’s Sonmakes for an energetic albeit somewhat dark read. Caim is a haunted young man; both literally and figuratively. He is plagued by the memory of his famiy’s death while being constantly followed by a protective spirit named Kit that only he can see. Caim’s tortured past has cast him on a path of violence and darkness and he now works as an assassin. Things get dicey when someone attempts to set Caim up as a fall guy leaving him in possession of the deceased mark’s daughter Josephine. Suddenly, Caim is on a desperate quest to unravel the web of conspiracy in the city of Othir.
Continue reading “Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk”

Review: The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

The Scar
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
Tor, 2012

The Scarby Marina and Sergey Dyachenko appears to be the authors’ first translation into English. The Dyanchenko’s are rather prolific in the non-English European market and particularly in those states whose members are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Translation isn’t an easy thing but I’m always saddened when it takes works like this (well reviewed, and a recipient of prestigious awards in its home market) more than a decade to get translated and even further depressed by the fact that I never bothered to expand my borders by learning a new language (something never really emphasized in the American Education system, but that is still a poor excuse). Elinor Huntington deserves some serious recognition for doing a superb job with the translation. Not that I can compare against the Russian but I never noticed any major bumps that threw me out of the story.

The publisher’s blurb for The Scar places under the umbrella of the sword and sorcery genre and that works to an extent. There is a certain traditional feel to the prose (here I’m assuming that is intended rather than a consequence of the translation) but one that definitely calls to mind the works of the more lyrical swords and sorcery of yesterday like Howard or Moore (the blurb cites Robin Hobb and Michael Moorcock). However, The Scar is a more direct study of character and consequence than modern fantasies and leans much less heavily on action than traditional sword and sorcery. This novel is its own unique fantasy (not quite heroic not quite epic) and one that is a breath of fresh air amongst the grim and gritty (which I still love) and even the more traditional epic fantasies available today.

Continue reading “Review: The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko”

Some final thoughts on FotJ and Troy Denning’s Apocalypse

Apocalypse (Fate of the Jedi) by Troy Denning
Apocalypse (Fate of the Jedi) by Troy Denning

The Fate of the Jedi series has ostensibly been a trilogy drawn out over nine books. Lacking forward momentum, and somewhat unfocused it never managed to unite all of its cohesive parts into a unified whole. At least not until the final volume Apocalypse. This isn’t quite enough to save this series and doesn’t make up for the haphazard mess the series was but at least makes for an exciting tale in its own right.

Continue reading “Some final thoughts on FotJ and Troy Denning’s Apocalypse”

Dusting the cobwebs….

I apologize for the lack of posting last week. We are currently in the process of setting up a new branch library across town and I spent most of last week unpacking boxes, shifting books, and other things. I went home most days with just enough energy to go for a run. Rinse and repeat this for several days and by Friday I had pretty much destroyed my immune system (allergies + exhaustion). That was just in time for my sister to be graduating from Grad school and Mother’s Day weekend which was spent down in Washington D.C..  I still mostly feel like ass but hopefully I’ll be able to get some posts up this week and chew through some of my review backlog.

I’m also going to try to avoid buying Diablo 3 this week…that probably won’t happen though. I’ve yet to finish playing Skyrim and Mass Effect 3,  the latter because I don’t really want the story to end, and I had hoped those facts would keep me away but I’m not sure that’ll be enough.

So keep your eyes open for more content coming down the line.

Review: The Games by Ted Kosmatka

The Games by Ted Kosmatka
The Games by Ted Kosmatka

The Games
Ted Kosmatka
Del Rey, 2012

The Games by Ted Kosmatka is a sciencefiction thriller that actually leans more heavily on the science part them my initial impressions lead me to believe. In a near future the advancement of genetic science is promoted and funded in part by a no holds barred death sport held during the Summer Olympic games. Each country breeds, cross breeds, and outright designs a creature to compete in this sport with the winner receiving prestige, and an influx of cash via publicity and investment.

The Games opens with a desperate bid for supremacy by the corporation behind the American Gladiator project. Rather then leave the genetic design in the hands of the scientists it is instead handed over to an experimental supercomputer. The result is something entirely new. The American scientists and animal handlers, led by Silas Williams, must attempt to understand this new creature. Flummoxed by its bizarre genetic makeup and strange physiology Williams also enlists the aid of an attractive xenobiologist, Vidonia João. As the team delves into the creatures training it becomes readily apparent that it far stranger and far deadlier then they could of dreamed.

Continue reading “Review: The Games by Ted Kosmatka”