Thursday, May 31, 2007

Quick Takes: Ford, Whedon, Hamilton

The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford: Before he wrote 1995's Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel Independence Day Richard Ford made his name with The Sportswriter, the first novel featuring Frank Bascombe as the protagonist. The Sportswriter is set during an Easter weekend where Bascombe is about to go through a major life change. He's already divorced, his son Ralph had died, and he feels like he is at the end of his career as a sportswriter. Bascombe is just floating aimless and while he acknowledges his flaws (many), he does not seem to take responsibility for them. Not really. From reading The Sportswriter (and one of his earlier novels, the awful The Ultimate Good Luck), I have no idea how Ford later crafted Independence Day. Bascombe narrates each novel, but in The Sportswriter Ford has Bascombe explain everything in detail. Ford, through Bascombe, tells the reader everything but doesn't show. He narrates what happened in the past rather than let details show up as part of a story. The first hundred pages, in particular, were rather difficult to sit through as Ford info-dumps on the reader. While The Sportswriter was much, much better than The Ultimate Good Luck, it was very disappointing compared to Independence Day. It felt like I was reading dictation rather than a novel written by a Pulitzer prize winning author.

The Astonishing X-Men: Torn, by Joss Whedon: So we follow a Pulitzer prize winning author with a trade paperback collection of X-Men comics. I generally do not read comics, but Joss Whedon's name as writer is enough to get me reading. This is the continuation of the story told in Gifted and Dangerous. The X-Men are about to face an attack from the Hellfire Club after withstanding SHIELD and, I believe, that whole mutant cure storyline, and somehow the story felt cut off. I know it is only a handful of issues, but the main storyline felt a little short. Shorter, anyway, than Gifted or Dangerous did. Again, disappointed. Not much to say about comics, though.

The Naked God: Flight
, by Peter F. Hamilton: If Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy can be called anything, it isn’t short. Flight is only the first half of the hardcover of The Naked God and it still weighs in at just under 800 pages. I can say without a doubt that I have no idea where Hamilton is going with this trilogy, but I’m enjoying the ride. The dead souls of humanity come back to take over the bodies of the living in this science fiction spare opera and humans must find a way to save their future since killing the hosts just creates more souls trying to return from the beyond. This is a big, sprawling story and giving any sort of plot synopsis will be meaningless if one hasn’t read the first two volumes (The Reality Dysfunction and The Neutronium Alchemist). Considering there are likely more than 3000 pages across all three books (each split into two volumes for paperback release), Night's Dawn is still worth the time spent reading. Hopefully with Faith Hamilton will deliver a satisfying conclusion.

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