Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the day “March 23, 2012”

Alexis’s #CBR4 Review #17: The Warded Man, Peter V. Brett

The world is infested with demons (see also vampires, zombies, etc.) that rise from the ground like mist at sunset. They are incredibly powerful, all but impossible to kill, and are ravenously hungry. Anyone caught outside the protection of magical wards is doomed to a grisly death. People live in remote villages unable to communicate or travel due to the impossibility of being caught outdoors at night. Although a few stalwart messengers travel the land, braving the nightly demon onslaught with portable warded circles.

Arlen is a young boy living in a remote village who is so horrified by his father’s cowardly refusal to suffer almost certain death to save his mother that he runs off into the night (presumably to become demon chow) only through unbelievable luck, is saved and brought to a remote city where he can pursue his dream of becoming a messenger.

Although really what he wants to do is get all these people to stop huddling in their semi-safe warded houses at night and take the battle back to the demons. So he travels to the warrior desert people of Krasia (read: middle easterners) who are warlike, make their women wear burkas, are suspicious of foreigners, but routinely battle demons. Of course the mean Krasians steal the legendary spear Arlen has found. But not before he copied all the super special wards that were on the spear. He then travels the desert close to death, starving, and tattooing his body with powerful wards. I don’t want to spoil any surprise for those who didn’t see this coming from the very beginning but Arlen becomes…..the warded man.

This was a reasonably enjoyable book that felt like an amalgamation of better books (Wheel of Time, The Passage, Name of the Wind, etc.). The concept of demons who have all but overtaken man seemed original at first but then quickly settles into your basic “young boy journeys to become powerful hero” stuff. The main characters are all brave, kind, smart, and wonderful. Also flat and forgettable.

Also there is an undeveloped romance shoehorned into the end of the story that particularly bothered me. This woman is gang-raped by bandits (mercifully we learn about this after the fact and don’t have to actually read the nitty gritty) and suffers no emotional trauma due to this. So she happily has a romantic interlude with the hero just a few days after this brutal episode. To which I say no. Just no. If you don’t want to deal with a woman loosing her virginity by being raped by a troupe of heathens then don’t write it into your story. But if you DO choose to have her suffer this fate then there damn well better be some repercussions. Because this is a pretty heavy thing to have a young girl just toss off like it was nothing.

There will presumably be a Book 2 to follow but I’m neither intrigued enough by the author or the story to care to continue.

Rebecca’s #CBR4 review #1: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon is a detective story, and a simply written one. At the center is Sam Spade, a cynical detective whose firm is hired by a beautiful woman to follow a man for innocent enough reasons. Spade’s partner does the job, things go awry, and he ends up dead; Spade investigates the murder, and uncovers a bunch of unsavory characters – not least of all the beautiful woman, who is actually a femme fatale who manipulated him into the investigation. Spade finds himself in over his head, and after being promised money for his troubles he ends up just trying to get out alive. Meanwhile, the police are investigating him for the murder of his partner, and grow increasingly suspicious; Spade never reveals all of what is going on to them, and is frequently operating in a moral and legal grey area, if not outside of the law outright.

This likely sounds rather formulaic – but that is because Hammett pared  the detective  genre down to its essence, if not outright creating it . If House of Games wouldn’t work in 2012 because every con movie follows the formula it created, The Maltese Falcon wouldn’t work today because of the tropes and character types that Falcon itself established.

Aside from establishing a new template for the hard-boiled detective genre, Hammett’s style is wonderful. There is a sparseness to his writing that lets the story come through with stunning clarity, avoiding flowery description and inner monologue to focus on the marrow of the story. There are no descriptions of any character’s thoughts or motivations, other than what they state out loud. It is simply and effectively observational.

Hammett’s writing conveys a unique atmosphere and style in a simple, straightforward manner. The Maltese Falcon is a perfect distillation of his writing and the detective genre, tweaked enough that it created the template everyone recognizes today. Not a word, character beat, or plot point is misplaced or extraneous. It’s hard-boiled detective writing at its finest, and is necessary reading for anyone who loves the genre.

Jelinas’ #CBR4 Review #22: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken

Unbroken is CRAZY. I can’t believe the crazy circumstances that Louis Zamperini had to survive, from a plane crash to a concentration camp and beyond. Survival. Resilience. Redemption. It’s all there.

It’s CRAZY.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review #10: Legend by Marie Lu

Day and June live in a future version of Los Angeles, where flooding has killed millions and destroyed huge chunks or our coastline. California is now part of “The Republic” — a militaristic society on the west coast of the former United States — and constantly at battle with “The Colonies” on the east coast.  Day is a 15 year old fugitive, one of the most wanted criminals in the entire Republic, and June is a prodigy, the youngest member of the military group ruling LA.

When Day is suspected of murdering June’s older brother, she is assigned the task of catching him and bringing him to justice.  June goes undercover to befriend Day and his ward, Tess, and as she spends time with him, realizes that her brother’s murder may not be completely black and white — maybe Day is innocent and maybe the Republic isn’t as great a place to live and work as June has always been led to believe.

The story is told from alternating points of view, and kudos to Marie Lu for keeping that aspect of the storytelling fresh.  Switching from one narrator to another can often lead to the feeling that the story’s details are repetitive and never ending (I’m looking at you, Ally Condie), but in this case, the details were fresh and the new perspective for each chapter kept the story moving briskly.  However, I felt that the story fell short of its goals.  There was a lot to like — the sparse details of what life was like in the Colonies, why Day’s necklace was so important to him, differences between the rich and the poor, etc.  But mostly I saw missed opportunities, and I have to wonder how much is due to the writing, and how much of that is due to the editing…Do publishers push YA authors to put out trilogies these days?  This book is supposed to be the first in a series, and maybe it would have been better as one longer book that gave more answers to the many questions raised and then simply dropped and forgotten.

Read more of my reviews here on my blog.

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