Review: Sabriel

Ohhhhhhh, friends.  Oh, friends.

As you may have read, I was gifted the first three books from the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix for my birthday because my husband pays attentions, remembers, and knows me oh so well.  I could hardly wait to dive into Sabriel, which I haven’t read since I was 13 or so.

I devoured it.  Sabriel completely sucked me in, and though I’d read it before, nearly everything felt new to me this time (thanks 14 years…).

Garth Nix is a master at creating a fantastical world that feels completely real.  The magic that happens feels so believable and effortless – perfect for me who doesn’t LOVE fantasy.  I was instantly drawn into the story by the mysterious prologue, especially juxtaposed with the seemingly normal first chapter (it didn’t stay that way for long).

The world that he built was complex and fascinating, but Garth Nix didn’t let his writing get bogged down with too much detail and background.  Sabriel is fast-paced, tense, and an easy read; it’ll have you begging to read just one more chapter before you have to hit the lights for bed.  Add wonderful characters to the mix, and you have quite the young adult fantasy gem.  I can’t wait to read its sequel, Lirael!

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Review: They’d Rather Be Right

I’ve shared in the past about my quest to read all the Hugo Award winners for best novel.  Welp, I recently checked out and read They’d Rather Be Right by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley – the second winner of the award back in 1955.

They’d Rather Be Right was a short science fiction classic.  The premise was incredibly clever, though I was confused by the main characters motivations – why did Joe care about Bosssy?  Was he only trying to make someone like him?  What made him think Bossy could do that?  How did he figure so many things out that other characters couldn’t?

Lots of questions.  But for me at least, those hardly made reading They’d Rather Be Right less enjoyable.  I know that many others haven’t had the same experience – some have even called this work by Mark Clifton and Frank Riley the worst Hugo Award winning novel in the history of the award.  Many of the critiques I’ve read say that Clifton and Riley were lazy – they didn’t do the work to make the science in the story believable.

I guess I see where they’re coming from.  As hard sci-fi They’d Rather Be Right doesn’t do it for me.  But as soft science fiction: I loved it.  The simple idea that a person’s pride is their downfall, that someone’s need to be right is what prevents progress, is so good and done very well in this work.  I also enjoyed the commentary on social classes and on scientific responsibility.

Other than that, all I have to say is it was a quick read, and there many of the characters were endearing.  Could it be better?  Yes.  Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  Did I love the questions it asked?  DEFINITELY YES.

Birthday Books

Somehow I missed my birthday.  Not in real life; plenty of celebrating happened.  But in blog-life, I just kind of skipped over it.

So, three weeks late, I want to share with you the books that I got for my birthday:

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • Lirael by Garth Nix
  • Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  • Love, Lies, and Clones by Joynell Schultz
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

My husband, being the book-loving, intentional, and thoughtful man that he is, has been looking for the Old Kingdom boxed set for months, and he finally found it.  I’ve mentioned these books to him a time or two (I read them when I was younger and loved them), and he’s been planning on getting them for me ever since.  I can’t wait to read them again!

Also, I have a tradition with the 10-year-old girl that I mentor: on the Wednesday between our birthdays, we go to a used book store and each pick out a book to buy.  She just discovered The Series of Unfortunate Events, and happily picked out book 1.  I found a compilation of old science fiction short stories.  🙂  I love this tradition, and I hope we continue it for years to come.

Do you have any fun birthday traditions?

Review: My Enemy, My Ally

I love Romulans.  Maybe someday I’ll share all the reasons why with you.  But for now, just know that I love Romulans.  Unfortunately, though, Romulans are – in my opinion – under-utilized in the Star Trek series and books.  So when I stumbled upon the Rihannsu series (by googling “Star Trek books about Romulans”), I had to get my hands on it.  The fact that it was written by Diane Duane (who also wrote the So You Want to Be a Wizard series, which I loved when I was younger) was a huge plus, too!

After searching for a long time, my husband and I finally found most of the series at Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore (aka my heaven on earth – seriously, if you’re in the Twin Cities, check it out).  I just finished reading book one this week, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

My Enemy, My Ally started off a little weak for me – mostly because it started off from the Romulan perspective.  Now, that in itself isn’t a bad thing; it’s a pretty typical literary device to kick off a story with a short scene featuring the antagonist.  My issue with this, though, was that the dialogue (and even some of the inner monologue) was in Romulan.

I don’t read Romulan; unlike Klingon, there’s not a movement to learn the fictional language.  It’s not a huge deal to include a language that I don’t read – as long as it’s minimal and really easy to understand given the context.  But it wasn’t.  I was really confused by the first chapter, and the inclusion of so much of an unreadable language really bogged it down.  I almost put the book away and started a different one.

But.  I’m glad I didn’t.  After that first chapter, the book got SO MUCH BETTER.  Duane did a great job of giving us a believable insight into this other Trek culture that hasn’t been amply explored.  I got just what I wanted – more screen-time with Romulans.

The plot was exciting and suspenseful, and I was very unsure of who to trust and who to believe.  The characters from The Original Series seemed very consistent with what we’ve seen elsewhere, and while it was still fun and playful at times, the writing wasn’t too campy like some of the other Trek novels I’ve read.

Overall, I was very pleased with My Enemy, My Ally, and I’m looking forward to reading book two of the series: The Romulan Way.

Review: Children of the Mind

Welp, through lots and lots of tears, I finished the Ender Saga.  There are still plenty of books in the Enderverse, but the story doesn’t continue after this one… so far.  Orson Scott Card has said that he’ll connect back to the Ender Saga with Shadows Alive, but as far as I’ve heard, there’s no date on that.

Children of the Mind blew me away.  I loved each and every storyline, though some more than others for sure.  It was a great next step and conclusion to (most of) what was set up in the rest of the series, and while Xenocide was very similar to Speaker for the DeadChildren was incredibly different – in great ways.

As usual, I don’t want to spoil too much — but to completely share my thoughts, I’m going to have to spoil some things.  So here are my non-spoiling thoughts:

Children of the Mind explored some fascinating topics, just like the other books in the series.  It dove into guilt, self-perception, souls, politics, and love.  And when I say dove in, I mean head-first, no holds barred, giving-it-all-you’ve-got dove.  It was thought-provoking, challenging, and made me uncomfortable in all the best ways.

Here’s your warning though: if you haven’t read it and don’t want things to be spoiled, quit reading right now.

 

Here’s another warning for good measure: there are some spoilers below.

 

Ok.  My conscience is clear.

 

More thoughts: I absolutely LOVED Young Val.  I drank up every single word of the scenes that she was in, whether she was interacting with Miro, wrestling with Jane, or being awkward around Old Val (who I also love fiercely).

I thought that Ender being split between his own body, Young Val, and Peter was awesome, and the fact that he had to end up entirely in Peter was genius.  The Jane/Young Val combo was stellar.  And of course, being the Novinha fan that I am, seeing her wrestle with letting Ender go shook me to the core.

And one last thought: I NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE DESCOLADORES.

Which is why I really hope that Shadows Alive comes out soon and that it tells me more about them.

 

After finishing Children of the Mind, I turned to my husband and told him that Speaker for the Dead was PROBABLY still my favorite book.  He was shocked, I was shocked, and I’m still pretty uncertain.  All I know for now is that Children was amazing.  Absolutely amazing.