Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Book Depository: VIII

124: The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula LeGuin. I know the Earthsea Quartet is a very well regarded series in fantasy and that Ursula LeGuin is one of the Grandmasters or whatever, but A Wizard of Earthsea failed to excite me, though I had a certain level of interest and involvement. It took me more than ten years since I first read Wizard before I finally got around to reading The Tombs of Atuan and I had since read Wizard a second (perhaps third) time.

Could Tombs have been any less interesting? Could Tenar have been any less of an engaging heroine? Could I have cared less about the events of the book?

Well, no. Not unless Christopher Paolini tried to re-invent Earthsea.

I highly respect LeGuin for the contributions she has made to the field and I’m sure The Left Hand of Darkness is a superior novel, but Dear Lord, The Tombs of Atuan is...well, not punishing, but tedious. The novel is less than 200 pages and I...just...don'

Granted, this is far less a review than a reaction because I'm certainly not telling you why I found the novel tedious and what exactly was not appealing about it, but I just can't muster up interest to do so.

Which means that should I finish my novel, and some good soul pays me to publish it, I am quite sure that if I get reviewed that I will get my bad medicine thrown back in my face with an anti-review which trashes me but doesn't examine the work itself.
And that's fair.

Because The Tombs of Atuan didn't hold my interest enough to really dissect.

125: Endymion - Dan Simmons. I should have far more to say about Endymion than I do Tombs, but I don't.I find this peculiar because Endymion is a vastly superior novel. This is the third entry in The Hyperion Cantos and Endymion is set nearly 300 years after the end of The Fall of Hyperion. The Web has fallen, the AI controlling the Web is hidden and is deemed an abomination by the leaders of the Pax, the Catholic Church in the era of Endymion complete with a line of Popes stretching back to Christ. Now with the cruciform we learned about in Hyperion the Church can offer a living resurrection as well as the spiritual one of Christ and the Pax has found a way to halt the mental retardation the cruciform offered the Bikura.

Now, the daughter of Brawne Lamia has stepped forward in the Time Tombs on Hyperion and is going to step out in the future, or the present of the novel Endymion, some three hundred years after she left. Raul Endymion, a native of Hyperion, is tasked by the poet Martin Silenius to help her survive through impossible odds since the Pax is looking for her and fears Aenea (the girl). Endymion is told in mostly first person perspective by Raul Endymion and he is telling us his story, so we know that up to a point he survived and the Aenea became this vastly important person. Endymion is the discovery of what that story is.

After the first hundred pages or so and I was able to orientate myself in the world and with the characters, Dan Simmons knocked the novel out of the damn park. Call it cliche or whatever, but Endymion beat the pants off of The Fall of Hyperion (which while very good, did not quite live up to Hyperion). Simmons is still playing with the literary references and I think that he references a couple too many authors from our memories (I am convinced there is no way Stephen Crane will be read in the next millennium, Crane just isn't that good), but it all amasses one great big literary and literate science fiction novel. A tome, if you will. Despite what seems like it should be a dense, ponderous science fiction tome, Endymion actually has good pacing and moves the story along while revealing new things about the characters and the nature of the Universe they live in and Simmons offers misdirection and tantalizing glimpses of what might really be going on.

Bottom line: Endymion = A Good Read.

126: Killer Instinct - Joseph Finder. There must be a very good reason why Joseph Finder's Killer Instinct sat on my bookshelf for the better part of a year before giving it a shot and the promised review. The reason I say there must be a very good reason is that the "CEO of Suspense" hooked me from the first pages. Jason Steadman is a top sales guy at Entronics, an electronics company that seems to specialize in plasma televisions for corporations. Think of your local car dealership or airport. If they have a plasma television running advertisements in the lobby, that's what Entronics is trying to sell you. That's what Jason Steadman is trying to sell you.

When he runs his car into a ditch while he is talking on his cell phone (ha!) and reaching for his Blackberry (ha!) Jason meets Kurt, the tow truck guy. Jason befriends Kurt when they start talking about baseball. Remember, Jason is a salesman and if he finds the right topic he can talk with anyone. Kurt helps Jason out and gets him a better deal at the repair shop, and Jason helps get Kurt a job in corporate security. See, Kurt is ex-Special Forces and he starts using his skills and resources to do "favors" for Jason. These favors help Jason move up the corporate ladder at the expense of some of his more antagonistic coworkers. Things heat up when Jason realizes the level of what Kurt is doing and Jason tries to get Kurt to stop. Then it gets personal because Kurt takes care of his friends, but you don’t want him as an enemy.

I obviously did not know Finder's track record because he has several other thrillers that have sold well, but I found Killer Instinct to be well written and well paced and well constructed and just well done. As I said, Finder hooked me early and got me involved in the story and Finder shows a knowledge of sales and the corporate environment of sales (though I hope to never have a boss like Gordy in any work environment). I do have minor quibbles with story points: I feel that Finder lays the "Business is War" mentality on a little thick and the repetition of Jason listening to business motivational CDs in his car was a bit much, but Kurt was also a bit over the top. I know there are likely highly competent former soldiers out there, but Kurt was too good, too skillful and it stretched my credulity a bit.

But with that said, I thoroughly enjoyed Killer Instinct and only wish that I read it seven months ago.

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