Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “mythology”

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review #13: Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield

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I really like Steven Pressfield as a writer. My favorite book of his is Gates of Fire, about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. He is able to bring Ancient Greece to life in a way that other authors can’t.

In the Bronze Age (and before Homer), Theseus, the king of Athens, travels on a quest where he encounters the Amazons nation. They call themselves tal Kyrte (the Free People), and live by a strict code of honor. These warrior women are bound to each other in war and marriage. They welcome the Greeks, but when their Queen Antiope falls in love with Theseus, things get sticky. The queen’s defection is seen as a betrayal. Antiope’s tal Kyrte lover Eleuthera leads the Amazon invasion of Greece, with the destruction of Athens as their ultimate goal.

The book is told from 3 points of view: Mother Bones, an Athenian girl raised on Amazon stories, Damon, her uncle, and Selene, an Amazon warrior (and close companion to Eleuthera).

The story is involving. I confess I was unfamiliar with the details of Theseus and Antiope’s story, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next. Pressfield’s descriptions of life on the steppes were, for me, the highlight of the book. We gets sense of the desperation in a culture that’s on the verge of extinction and knows it.

The battle scenes were a bit too detailed for me, though. I found those portions a bit of a slog – not because of the subject, just that who was marching in front of who and where the Amazons dug their latrines just seemed to take up a lot of space. Space that could be filled with more action! But that’s just me. I also felt the ending to be a bit rushed. Pressfield doesn’t seem to have much use for his characters once the main storyline is done. Things are wrapped up pretty quickly. All in all, though, these are minor quibbles. I enjoyed this book.

 http://misskatesays.com/2013/01/05/cbr4-review-13-last-of-the-amazons-by-steven-pressfield/

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #43 – American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I’d read American Gods right around the time it came out, and really enjoyed it. Then Amazon had a deal for the 10th anniversary edition for the Kindle, and I jumped right on it. It was as good as I remember, maybe even better.

There’s too much going on in this story to give a synopsis – but I’ll give it a shot. Our hero is Shadow. He’s leaving prison because his wife died in an accident (giving Shadow’s best friend a beej whilst he was driving). Shadow’s pretty much a man without a country, with the loss of his wife, and his friend, who was supposed to give him a job. As he’s trying to figure out what to do, he’s offered a job by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. They travel around visiting all kinds of odd people – who turn out to be old world gods that were brought over by immigrants generations ago. Each time Shadow met someone new, I had to look him/her up on Wikipedia. There are a lot of gods out there I hadn’t heard of. Since then, I’ve down/uploaded every free book on world myths I can find.  Haven’t read them yet, but maybe for CBR5.

Anyway, Wednesday is gathering the old gods because we nasty horrible Americans have turned to new gods:  TV, computers, stuff like that.  That weakens the old gods, as can be seen by the way they are living now.  There’s going to be a battle between the old gods and the new for (I guess) the soul of America.

Like I said, there’s a ton going on in this story, which follows a number of the old myths, with interruptions by the CIA like new gods and Shadow’s own doubts and derailments. There’s a reason why Gaiman is raised to the level of demi-god himself. The man can spin a yarn. If you haven’t read this book yet, please do, Kindle deal or not.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #61: The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

Another exciting new Rizzoli-Isles mystery by Gerritsen, with a taunt and complex plot, changing literary viewpoints, and a keep-‘em-guessing conclusion. Her story takes place in Boston’s Chinatown, where a dead woman is discovered on a rooftop. She is dressed all in black and has no identification, her neatly severed hand and a revolver (her’s) discovered in the alley below. We are also introduced to a young homeless woman, living hardscrabble on the streets of Chinatown and being followed by an unknown protector with seemingly superhuman capabilities.

From the first pages, Gerritsen’s Chinatown is portrayed in haunting, even mystical terms, where ghost stories abound, a mysterious Chinese widow with an ancient warrior’s sword runs a martial arts studio, and a non-human Ninja-style creature appears to be prowling the night and exacting vengeance for a 19-year-old restaurant massacre in which the widow’s husband was among those killed, and which the police got very wrong at the time. A retired cop who is scrutinizing that massacre, breaks the case but is killed before he can talk. Homicide detective Jane Rizzoli is following the clues but getting nowhere when she is saved from a killer’s bullet by the unknown creature. Coroner Maura Isles is brought in to examine the bodies which have started piling up, but is hampered by mistrust from the police due to her testimony against a violent cop. Meanwhile, a mafia boss comes under scrutiny for possible links to the long-ago massacre–from both Rizzoli and the ninja creature.

And what does all this have to do with the plot? Actually, it’s all just background to the real mystery which revolves around the disappearance of the Chinese widow’s teenage daughter two years before the massacre, and to the disappearance of another victim’s teenage daughter just weeks after the massacre. Clues accrue like mad, but seem to get lost in the maze of crisscrossing plotlines until all is revealed in one explosive climax.

If I’ve made Gerritsen’s novel sound confusing or the plot too muddy, it’s actually not. It is, however, a complex  story, with the viewpoint occasionally shifting from third person to first and back again, with delightful detours into Chinese mythology, and with touching personal vignettes to flesh out the characters and make the story that much more powerful. I’ve only read a few of Gerritsen’s mysteries, but The Silent Girl surely ranks among her best.

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