Archive for Patrick Rothfuss

the slow regard of silent things

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2015 by xi'an

As mentioned previously, I first bought this book thinking it was the third and final volume in the Kingkiller’s Chronicles. Hence I was more than disappointed when Dan warned me that it was instead a side-story about Auri, an important but still secondary character in the story. More than disappointed as I thought Patrick Rothfuss was following the frustrating path of other fantasy authors with unfinished series (like Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin) to write shorter novels set in their universe and encyclopedias instead of focussing on the real thing! However, when I started reading it, I was so startled by the novelty of the work, the beauty of the language, the alien features of the story or lack thereof, that I forgot about my grudge. I actually finished this short book very early a few mornings past Christmas, after a mild winter storm had awaken me for good. And look forward re-reading it soon.

“Better still, the slow regard of silent things had wafted off the moisture in the air.”

This is a brilliant piece of art, much more a poème en prose than a short story. There is no beginning and no end, no purpose and no rationale to most of Auri’s actions, and no direct connection with the Kingkiller’s Chronicles story other than the fact that it takes place in or rather below the University. And even less connection with the plot. So this book may come as a huge disappointment to most readers of the series, as exemplified by the numerous negative comments found on amazon.com and elsewhere. Especially those looking for clues about the incoming (?) volume. Or for explanations of past events… Despite all this, or because of it, I enjoyed the book immensely, in a way completely detached from the pleasure I took in reading Kingkiller’s Chronicles. There is genuine poetry in the repetition of words, in the many alliterations, in the saccade of unfinished sentences, in the symmetry of Auri’s world, in the making of soap and in the making of candles, in the naming and unaming of objects. Poetry and magic, even though it is not necessarily the magic found in the Kingkiller’s Chronicles. The Slow Regard of Silent Things is simply a unique book, an outlier in the fantasy literature, a finely tuned read that shows how much of a wordsmith Rothfuss can be, and a good enough reason to patiently wait for the third volume: “She could not rush and neither could she be delayed. Some things were simply too important.”

redshirts

Posted in Books, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , on September 28, 2014 by xi'an

“For the first nine years of its existence, aside from being appointed the flagship, there was nothing particularly special about it, from a statistical point of view.”

A book I grabbed at the last minute in a bookstore, downtown Birmingham. Maybe I should have waited this extra minute… Or picked the other Scalzi’s on the shelf, Lock In that just came out! (I already ordered that one for my incomiing lecture in Gainesville. Along with the not final volume of Patrick Rothfuss’ masterpiece, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which will just be out by then! It is only a side story within the same universe, as pointed out by Dan…)

“What you’re trying to do is impose causality on random events, just like everyone else here has been doing.”

What amazes most me is that Scalzi’s redshirts got the 2013 Hugo Award. I mean, The Hugo Award?! While I definitely liked the Old Man Wars saga, this novel is more like a light writing experiment and a byproduct of writing a TV series. Enjoyable at a higher conceptual level, but not as a story. Although this is somewhat of a spoiler (!), the title refers to the characters wearing red shirts in Star Trek, who have a statistically significant tendency to die on the next mission. [Not that I knew this when I bought the book! Maybe it would have warned me against the book.] And redshirts is about those characters reflecting about how unlikely their fate is (or rather the fate of the characters before them) and rebelling against the series writer. Ensues games with the paradoxes of space travel and doubles. Then games within games. The book is well-written and, once again, enjoyable at some level, with alternative writing styles used in different parts (or coda) of the novel. It still remains a purely intellectual perspective, with no psychological involvement towards those characters. I just cannot relate to the story. Maybe because of the pastiche aspect or of the mostly comic turn. redshirts certainly feels very different from those Philip K. Dick stories (e.g., Ubik) where virtual realities abounded without a definitive conclusion on which was which.

X’mas bookreads

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2014 by xi'an

Even though I am beyond schedule at several levels of reality, I took some time off during the X’mas break to read a few of the books from my to-read pile. The first one was The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams. While I read two fantasy series by Williams, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and Shadowmarch, which major drawback was that they both were unnecessarily long, this short novel is a mix of urban fantasy and of detective story, except that the detective working for Heaven in our current universe and fighting the “Opposition”, i.e. Hell, at every moment. This may sound quite a weird setting, but I nonetheless enjoyed the plot, the characters and the witty dialogues (as in “a man big enough to have his own zip code”). There were some lengthy parts, inevitably, but the whole scheme was addictive enough that I read it within two days. Now, there is a second (and then a third) volume in the series that does not sound up to par, judging from the amazon reviews. But this first volume got a very positive review from Patrick Rothfuss and it can be read on its own.

The second book I read over the vacations in Chamonix is Olen Steinhauer’s An American spy. This is the third instalment in the stories of Milo Weaver, the never-truly-retired Tourist. The volume is more into tying loose ends from previous books than into creating a new compelling story, even though it plays on the disappearance of loved ones and on a maze of double- and triple-agents. The fact that the story is told from many perspectives does not help (it is as if Weaver is now a secondary character) and the conclusion is fairly anticlimactic. A bit of nitpicking: a couple of spies (Tourists) travel to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on a tourist visa, but there is no such thing as a Saudi tourist visa. Plus, the behaviour of the characters there is incompatible with the strict laws of Saudi Arabia.

A third book completed during those vacations is Gutted, by Tony Black. (I had actually bought this book in Warwick for my son’ British studies project but he did not look further than the backcover.) The book is taking place in Edinburgh, starting on Corstorphine Hill with a dog beating, and continuing in the seediest estates of Edinburgh where dog fights are parts of the shadow economy. The main character of the novel is the anti-hero Gus Drury, who is engaged so thoroughly in self-destruction that he would make John Rebus sound like a teetotaller! Gus is an ex-journalist who lost his job and wife to scoosh, running a pub with the help of two friends. Why he gets involved in an investigation remains unclear to me for the whole book: While Black has been hailed as a beacon for Celtic Noir, and while the style is gritty and enjoyable, I find the plot a wee bit shallow, with an uncomfortable number of coincidences. While finding this book was like discovering a long lost sibling of Rankin’s Rebus, with a pleasurable stroll through Edinburgh (!), I am far from certain I can contemplate reading the whole series

Lastly, I read (most of) Giant Thief, by David Tallerman. By bits. This may be the least convincing book in the list. The story is one of a thief who finds himself enrolled in an army he has no reason to support and steals an artefact which value he is unaware of when deserting, along with a giant. The pursuit drags on forever. There are many reasons I disliked the book: the plot is shallow, the main character is the ultimate cynic, with not enough depth to build upon. Definitely missing the sparkling charm of the Lies of Locke Lamorra.

Surprising recycling!

Posted in Books, pictures with tags , , on May 15, 2011 by xi'an

The US cover of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear is this above gloomy passage in what appears to be a medieval fortified city… (It could be Edinburgh, it could be Saint-Malo, any idea anyone?!) So I am surprised the same picture is used for another 2004 book, Powers of Detection, which is a collection of short stories edited by Dana Stabenow, featuring Anne Perry, Charlaine Harris, and others…

It is not exactly the same picture, since taken from under a covered passage, but it is definitely the same place! It is unlikely that Powers of Detection has such an audience as to confuse Rothfuss’ fans, but I wonder if this will require a change of cover for the second printing of The Wise Man’s Fear.

The wise man’s fear

Posted in Books with tags , , on April 17, 2011 by xi'an

I have finished the Wise Man’s Fear this afternoon. It is a wonderful continuation of Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind and as beautifully written. Obviously, because it is taking place in the same universe as the first volume and with mostly the same characters, some of the magic wears out, the beginning of the book at the University does not feel so exciting, even though it is like meeting back old friends, but then Kvothe has to leave and become the special agent of a local ruler, then an apprentice into a mercenary school. He also meets a legendary beautiful Fae, Felurian, does much more than survives the encounter, and starts becoming a legend. His very uncertain relation with Denna is underlying the whole book, with a frustrating pace that I hope will be explained in the next volume. While the writing style is as high as before, the plot has a few weaknesses that make the story contrived at times. For instance, the lengthy hunt for the forest bandits could have been both more elliptical and better motivated, while the training in Ademre does not seem that relevant, except to come up with a legendary sword ironically named Cæsura. But the part with Felurian and the subtle description of Kvothe’s half-abandon/half-resistance is masterly. And even though all sub-plots are not perfectly well-oiled and linked together, they tell great stories.

It will alas take another three or four years before the next (and presumably last) volume appears but the interval is worth the wait as it lets Patrick Rothfuss hone his style and sharpen his story. So far, I still rank The Kingkiller Chronicles as the best fantasy series of the past ten years…

Arrived!

Posted in Books with tags , , , on March 19, 2011 by xi'an

It arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday, not so long a wait considering the book came economy class from the US and was published on the 1st of March. I started reading The Wise Man’s Fear right away. The first page (and the following ones as well!) is beautifully written, as can be expected from Patrick Rothfuss.

“Dawn was coming. It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The most obvious part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been a wind it would have sighed through the trees, set the inn’s sign creaking on its hooks, and brushed the silence down the road like trailing autumns leaves. If there had been a crowd, even a handful of men inside the inn, they would have filled the silence with conversation and laughter, the clatter and clamor one expects from a drinking house during the dark hours of night. If there had been music…. but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.”

Although the wait for the sequel to the Name of the Wind has been very long, I hope I can keep from zooming through this volume, in order to keep enjoying Rothfuss’ style, a style that took years to age. Just like a good wine.

Towers of Midnight [-58]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2010 by xi'an

Now, I was quite surprised to see a trailer for a book, of all things! but here it is, 58 days before the publication of the 13th volume of The Wheel of Time.

After all, there was also one for The Name of the Wind..!