Oh ho ho, what’s this? My semi-regular feature Literal Daze, wherein I review books and audiobooks (and maybe the occasional movie thrown in for fun), has reached a lucky half-dozen! Let’s not waste any time then.
The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss)
The Wise Man’s Fear is Patrick Rothfuss’ second book in the fantastic Kingkiller Chronicles trilogy. This one picks up basically right where the first one leaves off, with the main character Kvothe attending a sort of medieval version of a university for magicians known as the Arcanum. The story takes us from his trials and tribulations there, through to his search for a wealthy patron and then his adventures out in a bandit-infested forest known as the Eld. Eventually it ends up back at the university, bringing us full circle once again.
I’ll be honest. Never has a book frustrated me in the way this one has.
It’s long. Longer than it needs to be. Despite being a thousand pages long, the plot seems to be paper thin. Everything happens, and yet nothing happens. The story suddenly splits off on a tangent at a moment’s notice, like a child with ADD trying to follow an angry cat. By the time it returns to the thread it left so many pages ago, you’ve forgotten what you were doing there in the first place. Never have I read a book where so much and yet so little happens simultaneously.
Despite all this, I still loved this book.
Kvothe is just such a fascinating character, it almost doesn’t matter what’s going on in the story, I don’t know, maybe that’s the point. I could read about his exploits all day, regardless of what he’s doing. It was especially enjoyable seeing how his myth grows in the book, how the mix of truth, half-truth, and outright fabrication mix together to make Kvothe into the legend he has already become by the end, even though he hasn’t even reached his twenties.
Give me more, Mr. Rothfuss. I need more Kvothe like a bad drug. Just please don’t make me wait too long.
The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
I’m genuinely surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. I’m not real big on historical fiction most of the time, and the very fact that this book had so much hype behind it (Oprah’s book club, Television Series, etc) made me wary to give it a shot. However, when I could find nothing else at the library, this caught my eye and I reluctantly decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.
For those in the minority like I was who haven’t read this book, The Pillars of the Earth is the story of the building of a new cathedral in the fictional city of Kingsbridge in England during the Medieval period of time known as “The Anarchy”, around the mid 12th century. Sounds like a snoozefest, right?
Wrong! It turns out, the building of the cathedral is only the backdrop in a story that’s actually about war, political intrigue, mystery, and love. The various characters we follow throughout the story and how their lives interweave with the new church are interesting and three-dimensional, whether they are likable protagonists, hated villains, or the many who fall somewhere in between. The scope of the story itself is impressive, covering about forty years and nearly the entire lives of some of the characters. This makes sense of course, since the building of a new cathedral back then took decades, but being able to pull of such a feat and managing to still keep the plot moving forward and interesting throughout is something that is not easy to do. Here, Follett made it look easy.
Overall, the only conclusion I can draw is that, for once, the hype was justified on this one. It’s just a wonderful book through and through. I can’t wait to read the sequel.
As usual, since I listened to the audiobook version, I’ll also make a quick note on the narrator, John Lee. At first, I wasn’t crazy about his narration. His voice and british accent are well suited to the material, but it almost seemed too soothing, and the voices of the different characters didn’t seem all that distinct. However, as it went on, his style really grew on me. I realized that his different characters actually were pretty distinct, just very subtly so, and his tone and inflections really drew me into the action of whatever was happening in the specific scene he was reading. Overall, he did a great job.
I never read A Princess of Mars, the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs that the new movie John Carter is based on. In some ways, I think that’s probably a good thing. I’m always weary of movies based on books that I’ve already read. They never seem to be able to live up to the hype. So, when I went into John Carter, I was fresh to the material and had no preconceived notions about the story. I didn’t even know what it was about.
For a quick summary, the story is about a guy named John Carter (funny how that works), a confederate soldier in the old west. After a series of incidents, he finds himself wandering into a cave, where he meets a strange futuristic figure and somehow ends up unconscious. When he comes to, he’s on Mars, though he doesn’t know it yet. The premise here of course is that over a hundred years ago, perhaps Mars actually did have an atmosphere and alien cultures inhabiting it. When he comes to, John has to adjust to the reduced gravity of the planet, and soon realizes he is like a superhero there. He can jump higher, he’s stronger, and faster than any of the natives. Eventually, he joins up with the struggles of some of the people there and finds his place in this world, so to speak.
Though John Carter wasn’t exactly Oscar-worthy material, or even anything above the level of a popcorn-flick, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it thoroughly. It’s good, pulpy, fun Science Fiction, unabashedly embracing the clichés of the genre and playing to their strengths. There’s no deep message behind the movie, save for the idea that it would be awesome to be a superhero and save an entire planet. It never tries to be more than that, and in the process reminds us of how fun going to the movies can be. Frankly, that’s good enough for me.
Make sure and come back again when I’ll be reviewing Ghost Story by Peter Straub, as well as the audiobook of World Without End by Ken Follett. It’ll be a smashing good time.