summer reads

wells3I had planned my summer read long in advance to have an Amazon shipment sent to my friend Natesh out of my Amazon associate slush funds. While in Boston and Maine, I read Richard Dawkins’ The God delusion, the fourth Kelly McCullough’s Fallen Blade novel, Blade reforged, the second Ancient Blades novel, unrelated to the above, A thief in the night, by David Chandler, and also the second Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar novel, Happy Hour in HellThe God delusion is commented on another post.

Blade reforged is not a major novel, unsurprisingly for a fourth entry, but pleasant nonetheless, especially when reading in the shade of a pavilion on Revere Beach! The characters are mostly the same as previously and it could be that the story has (hopefully) come to an end, with (spoilers!) the evil ruler replaced by the hero’s significant other and his mystical weapons returned to him. A few loose ends and a central sword fight with a more than surprising victory, but a good summer read. Checking on Kelly McCullough’s website, I notice that two more novels are in the making….

Tad Williams’ second novel Happy Hour in Hell is much less enjoyable as the author was unable to keep up with the pace and tone of the highly imaginative first novel, full of witty and hard-boiled exchanges. The first novel introduced the (after-)life of a guardian angel in California, Doloriel (a.k.a. Bobby Dollar), with enough levels of political intrigue between Heaven and Hell and Earth and plots, pursuits, assassination attempts, etc., to make it a page-turner. This second novel sends Doloriel on a suicide mission to Hell… and the reader to a Hell of sorts where the damnation is one of eternal boredom! What made the first novel so original, namely the juxtaposition of the purpose of a guardian with his every-day terrestrial life, is lost. All we have there is a fantastic creature (from Heaven) transposed in another fantastic environment (Hell) and trying to survive without a proper guide book. The representation of Hell is not particularly enticing (!), even with acknowledged copies from Dante’s Inferno and Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings. There is a very low tolerance level to my reading of damned souls being tortured, dismembered, eaten or resuscitated, even when it gets to the hero’s turn. Add to that a continuation of the first book’s search for a particular feather. And an amazing amount of space dedicated to the characters’ meals. This makes for a very boring book. Even for a rainy day on a Maine lake! The depiction of the levels and inhabitants of Hell reminded me of another endless book by Tad Williams, Shadowmarch, where some characters end up in a subterranean semi-industrial structure, with a horde of demon-like creatures and no fun [for the reader!]. Ironically, the funniest part of reading Happy Hour in Hell was to do it after Dawkins’ as some reflections of the angel about the roles of Heaven and Hell (and religion) could have fitted well into The God delusion! (Too bad my Maine rental had Monty Python’s Holy Grail instead of The Life of Brian, as it would have made a perfect trilogy!)

Most sadly, David Chandler’s A thief in the night had exactly the same shortcomings as another book  I had previously read and maybe reviewed, even though I cannot trace the review or even remember the title of the book (!), and somewhat those of Tad Williams’ Happy Hour in Hell as well, that is, once again a subterranean adventure in a deserted mythical mega-structure that ends up being not deserted at all and even less plausible. I really had to be stuck on a beach or in an airport lounge to finish it! The points noted about Den of Thieves apply even more forcibly here, that is, very charicaturesque characters and a weak and predictable plot. With the addition of the unbearable underground hidden world… I think I should have re-read my own review before ordering this book.

2 Responses to “summer reads”

  1. Dan Simpson Says:

    My summer reading wasn’t that exciting.

    From it, I would recommend the first two books from the Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks. I think the new book (3 of 4) comes out in the next month or so. I liked it more than the night angel trilogy. It’s fun, although at the end of book 2, it’s unclear exactly where it’s going (which is either a good thing, or a very bad thing depending on if it looses its mind in the last two volumes).

    I would also recommend The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman. It has some problems (if you read the end of book 2, you’ll see one of the big ones…), but all in all it’s quite good. Interesting pull against fantasy tropes without completely losing the ties to the genre. It’s actually quite well done and should be read together (lots of interlocking plots and long-distance pay offs – Grossman is better at structure than most fantasy novelists).

    Outside of fantasy, I would heartily and unqualifiedly recommend Murder in Mississippi by John Safran. It’s a true crime book that has all of the great things in it. A white supremacist murdered by a young black man, an intrepid but useless Australian journalist and a general feeling of secrets and lies. It was probably the best book I’ve read in a long time.

    I feel obliged to recommend Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End Of Taste, which is a book about the titular Celine Dion album, Celine Dion herself, and the cultural, political, and class aspects of taste and aesthetics. Another not perfect book, but really really interesting. (I accept that this is maybe not a view shared by other people.) (I should also point out that even in the constellation of Celine records, Let’s Talk About Love is particularly bad. It’s definitely no Falling Into You)

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