Archive for Tad Williams

a journal of the plague year [deconfited reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Running, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2020 by xi'an

Found a copy of Humans by Donald Westlake on the book sharing shelves at Dauphine. And read it within a few hours, as it is very light reading but quite funny nonetheless. If hardly ranking as a mystery novel. Or crime novel, unless the crime is Gaiacide and the criminal God. Reminded me of the equally light Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams. As the main character is an angel, falling for humans as he tries to steer them towards the Armageddon. The setting is the early 1990s, with the main scares being atomic disaster (Chernobyl) and the AIDS pandemic. Plus the rise of environmental worries and of Chinese autocracy. I put it back on the shelves on my next visit to Dauphine, hopefully for someone else to enjoy!

Baked radish stems with basil for making pesto, with a bit more bitterness than usual. Cooked plenty of fennel since this is fennel season. Continued making my weekly rhubarb preserve. Keeping the garden active, now watching squash vines invading new territory, hopefully with an eatable reward in the Fall. Tomatoes are growing incredibly fast as well..! Saw another fox in the Parc before official opening times, quite close if speeding away from me and barely avoiding bumping in a pair of greyhounds which fortunately sounded completely unconcerned.

Watched Children of Men after an exhausting week online for a grant panel. While a parabola for the coming collapse of civilisation under political, biological and environmental apocalypses [is there any meaning to use apocalyse in the plural tense!?] and a premonitory tale on Brexit and the buttressing of Britain [or Trump and his Big Wall mania] induced by anti-immigrant rethorics, the film is over the top in terms of plot and action, with symbolism taking over realism, even on the slightest degree, every shot being filled with references to religions and arts (like the Pink Floyd flying pig), to previous environmental disasters (with long shots of burning cows reminiscent of the mad cow crisis) and geo-political upheavals (including a Hamas type protest in the refugee camp, with a short appearance of a jeep with a French flag more reminiscent of the liberation of Paris in August 1944). Characters are charicaturesque, with a very Manichean division between very few good ones and mostly bad ones. The most ridiculous part of the scenario may well be the battle scene in the refugee camp [tanks versus pistols!]… Once again stunned by all the awards and praise piled upon that film.

Read two more volumes of the Witcher [bought during BayesComp for my son!]. One being Sword of Destiny and a series of short stories, like the first volume. The second Blood of Elves and the beginning of the novels. The first season on TV borrows mostly from the first two collections of short stories. Which are somewhat better than the novel, as the latter is very slow paced and overly sentimental. Not terrible, mind.

Completed with uttermost reluctance the Horde du Contrevent [translating as the windwalkers] by Alain Damasio (no English translation available, but an Italian version, l’Orda del Vento,  is). Book that I again picked for figuring in Le Monde 100 bes&tc list! And felt like constantly fronting a strong, icy wind when going through the pages of that unusual book. The style is unpleasant and rather pretentious, with numerous puns in French.. The story is one of a (religious? mystical?) group walking against the wind(s) for decades to reach the source of these winds and to find the last types of wind no one has ever met. Their dreary pilgrimage is described by the 23 membres of the group, called the Horde, with a heavy-handed typographical symbol at the start of each paragraph identifying who’s speaking (and a convenient page marker with all these symbols). A bit heavy handed as a polyphonic novel (appropriately composed in a Corsican retreat!) and even more in the crypt-Nietschean philosophy it carries… The background universe there is somehow eco-steam-punk, with the wind producing most of the energy. The most exciting part involves rather realistic ice climbing. However, I clearly stand in the small minority of those less than impressed by the book as it is highly popular among French readers, one of the highest printings in the Folio collection, with side products a BD (above) and a movie (in the making?). (And enough votes from fans to almost reach the 10 most favourite novels in Le Monde list. )

empire of grass [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2019 by xi'an

It took me quite a while but I eventually went over reading this second volume in the Last King of Osten Ard trilogy. One reason for taking so long is the obvious reason that the book is looong (600+ pages) and heavy and hence not easy to carry during trips. Another reason is that the pace is somewhat slow, most of the book, and complex, with at least nine central characters followed and analysed in their own story. With sometimes a lack of appeal for the level of description adopted by Tad Williams… In particular, some characters are quite irritating in their constant and immature whining, most of all the old king Simon and his grandson Morgan. This was already the case in the first volume, so it feels heavier now, although the grandson seems to improve through his catastrophic journey. In several ways, I actually preferred this second volume since the story starts to bring out a clearer framework. (Even though the lazy choice of absolute evil for the Norn elves does  clash with the description of individuals within this group makes them much more human and balanced.) Albeit rare, there were some humorous lines that struck me, like the two trees fighting for a dog (apparently not an original line from the author). The multiple threads in this book do not help with the junction with the next volume, as the ensuing rich tapestry will become quite dusty by the time it appears. Which is not discussed at this stage. Hopefully it will not join the George Martin’s and Patrick Rothfuss‘ unended series club! And not split again as in Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn

the witchwood crown [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2018 by xi'an

As Memory Sorrow and Thorn is a favourite fantasy series of mine, despite its imperfections, I pre-ordered the first volume in the new trilogy of Tad Williams, The witchwood crown, which takes place about fifty years after the events recounted in Memory Sorrow and Thorn. With some of the former characters, obviously [for the humans] getting old. Or ending up dead. This new story is thus very much articulated with respect to the original trilogy and could not be read independently. (I was surprised to see I remember so much of Memory Sorrow and Thorn given that I only read it once!) Overall, the first volume mostly sets the scene, brings in new villains and threats on this Osten Ard universe created by Williams, but does not see too much action, except for the constant traveling of most characters, crisscrossing the land so much that one would deem setting an Osten Ard travel agency as an urgent requirement for the next volume! The most annoying part of this articulation is that, while it avoids sketching these old characters from scratch, they keep running in circles about their live, old times, their position in the society, &tc. In particular, the latent antagonism between the three royal generations is poorly done, the future (?) king being turned into an idiot who does not know anything about the running of the kingdom and the specifics of its northern and southern enemies. The continuing low key bickering between the older royals is equally annoying, not to mention the princess stuck in between, whose role remains unclear till the end! While the overall plot unfolding remains captivating and meeting a few new characters worth reading The witchwood crown, I am still disappointed at the lack of depth of most characters and at the poor editing of the story in this heavy volume. Many threads are now open and it remains to be seen how skillfully Williams manages to spin them into the next book!

a faint memory of ice

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2018 by xi'an

 

During the past week of vacations in Chamonix, I spent some days down-hill skiing (which I find increasingly boring!), X-country skiing (way better), swimming (indoors!) and running, but the highlight (and the number one reason for going there!) was an ice cascade climb with a local guide, Sylvain (from the mythical Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix). There were very options due to the avalanche high risk and Sylvain picked a route called Déferlante at the top of Les Grands Montets cabin stop and next to the end of a small icefield, Glacier d’Argentière. We went there quite early to catch the first cabin up, along a whole horde of badasss skiers and snowboarders, and reached the top of the route by foot first, a wee bit after 9 pm. A second guide and a client appeared before we were ready to abseil down, and two more groups would appear later. On touring skis. Continue reading

sleeping late on Judgement Day [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2016 by xi'an

“…gorgeous carpets with repeating patterns of silver and gold sketched in silk threads, like John Coltrane blowing in full mathematical freefall, so intricate and charming…”

This is the third, latest (and last?) instalment in the Bobby Dollar series by Tad Williams. And much better than the second volume. Much much better. To the points that (i) I did not regret [too much] the heavy price I paid for it in Zürich airport, about twice the U.S. price to be precise, and (ii) I read the book within a few days, despite all kinds of pressing commitments. The rating of this sleeping late on Judgment Day almost equals the dirty streets of Heaven in my opinion. Which is not that surprising when considering it takes place in the same San Juan location and with mostly the same characters, demons and monsters… The plot is also a straight continuation of the earlier one, which is obviously brought to a partly surprising conclusion and not a completely-happy-ending [no further spoilers!]. Some new friendly characters are fantastic, while a new group of enemies make little sense in the overall picture. But this is the problem with this unique series involving the upper spheres and the lower circles: Everything is possible, while requiring no rational explanation! Obviously, there is a risk of over-exploiting this possibility, which occurs from time to time in the novel. Still, it remains a page turner with often funny dialogues and monologues. May the series now rest in peace!