Monday, November 24, 2008

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage
This novel is basically about a young man who goes to war. Written by an author who had never experienced war but believed he could write a better war novel than was currently available. If history is any indication - he did as the book is a classic (which is why I read it).

I enjoyed this tale! I would definately recommend it. I don't want to talk too much about what our protagonist goes through so will keep this review very brief.

The writing style was pretty fluid and the story was very easy to read. However, keep in mind I'm not reading these books with a critical eye instead I'm just trying to enjoy the story that is being told. I would say Crane did some deep soul searching to get a grip on how his character should handle his first, and subsequent, encounters with actual battle. However, at the same time it seems clear, based on some of the events in the book, that he had no real idea of what life as a solider is like. For a guy who had never seen war though he did a great job.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life of Pi

Life of Pi
I finished up the book, Life of Pi, last week and overall I really enjoyed it. The story is about a young boy whose family decides to emigrate from India to Canada. The family owned a zoo in India and because they were travelling with some of the animals that they sold to zoos in North America they travel on a cargo ship.

Initially the voyage is uneventful, but eventually it sinks and the main character, Pi, barely manages to escape to a life boat. At the same time that Pi finds his refuge a large bengal tiger finds safety in the same boat. A few other animals make it to the boat as well but with the tiger on board the dinghys crew quickly shrinks back to two, Pi and the Tiger. The rest of the book is about the voyage and survival of both Pi and the Tiger.

The entire voyage is quite remarkable and seems fairly unbelievable - much like the stories of religion. I only mention this parallel because as it turns out Pi is also a very spiritual boy who considers himself Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. While that trifecta may seem like a strange combination Pi's logic makes it all seem entirely reasonable. One of the marketing blurbs for the book says "..a story that will make you believe in God.." I don't know if the spiritual message is that strong but, at a minimum it does get you thinking. Something that few books have managed to do to me in a long time.

The book is pretty short, written in the first person (generally), and overall was an excellent tale. I give it a thumbs up

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Servant of the Dragon

Servant of the Dragon (Lord of the Isles)

Servant of the Dragon is the third book in the Lord of the Isles series by David Drake and I am currently reading it. So far it is pretty good - with the same kind of elements found in the prior books. Huge problems are discovered and then solved with suprising ease. However, both Sharina and Cashel have both found themselves in interesting lands with difficult problems to solve so I hold out extra hope for this book.

One of Drakes best traits in these series is his inventive characters and cultures and this book so far has introduced me to at least two new ones. The Dragon's and a Bird guy, Dalar, whose name I can't remember at the moment. Finally, Drake also has a cool habit of allying suprising characters such as demons with the heros. It tends to set any preconceived notion you might have about the term demon on it's ear when one suddenly starts helping to save the world - even if it is for a selfish reason and not a noble one.

Well I finished the book and so far it was my favorite in the series. Each of the characters went on completely different patters in their quests and amazingly all ended up in the center of the same big problem. You don't really have to read the other books in the series to follow what is going on in this book; but I still recommend reading the whole series. However, if you don't have the time for all three books - just skip to this one.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I really enjoyed this story. Timeline was a book that mixed sci-fi with fantasy in a pretty interesting and believable way. The book was a very easy and quick read and provided a nice diversion. One of my coworkers, Ed, also read the book and enjoyed it. However, he also saw Timeline the Movie and had nothing but bad things to say about it. As it so happens, he isn't the only one who had nothing good to say about the movie.

The funny thing is the book reads like it should be a movie. I can't think of a book I have read before where, when I was done, I thought - "man this has to be a movie" as much as I did when I finished this one. Supposedly the movie that was made from this book seriously departed from the book. What gives? I know movies are never as good as the book - but this whole book read like a screenplay. Why would they change it for film? There was very little dialog that wasn't spoken (as opposed to thoughts or asides). I almost feel like someone should remake the movie, but this time actually pay attention to the book. I'm really suprised Crichton approved this movie considering he is also responsible for Jurassic Park. I just don't get it.

Anyway, in the end let me just say, read this book. It is a good story and a fun read. If you don't have a lot of time for reading this book can still fit into your schedule becuase there really isn't much to it.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

The War of the Flowers

I generally like the works of Tad Williams so I entered into this book with a pretty positive outlook. This book is a fine example of his style of writing but there are still many differences between this tale and the other books of his that I have read.

The War of the Flowers is a story about Theo Vilmos, a 30 year old has-been singer, who suddenly finds himself in the world of faerie. Faerie, in Williams mind, is nothing like the faerie of legend; instead it is full of strife and inequality where the elite, those in the Flower families, hold absolute power over all other magical creatures in the land.

Theo is not your normal fantasy protagonist. He is very, very reluctant and not particularly battle hardened. Amazingly, even by the end of the book he isn't much of a hero. He doesn't go through any of the typical fantasy maturation processes where he becomes a powerful mage or a master swordsman. In fact, at the end, he is just a more mature Theo Vilmos.

Even though Theo is burdened with incredible ignorance about his situation and confronted by characters who aren't particularly patient with his lack of knowledge, he manages to bumble through and not get himself killed; even when he is the number one target of the most powerful of the Flower families, the Helleborne's. At times his ability to escape various situations seems overly forced and contrived but, overall, it doesn't hurt the story too much.

Theo is helped in his escapades by a smart-assed little sprite named Applecore and Cumber, a loyal lab assistant, plus a lot of luck. It was a relief for me that Theo got some luck in Faerie because the first three chapters are full of bad luck for our hapless hero. If Williams can do anything well he can build up sympathy for his main character. I was ready for anything good to happen to Theo by the time Chapter 4 rolled around.

While I did enjoy this book it was my least favorite Williams novel so far; if only because Theo was so self-pitying for so long. Furthermore he seemed fairly slow-witted when he was earlier described as being fairly bright (but unmotivated). Overall the story doesn't hold any suprising twists or turns but it was still a pleasant day-long diversion. It was also nice to be able to read an entire story in a single book when fantasy is so often cluttered with multi-volume epics.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Known World

This novel is about the rare slave owners of pre civil war America who were themselves black. While the concept of the book is highly unique, overall I wasn't thrilled with the style. However, the concept alone kept me at it and I enjoyed the tale. If nothing else it made me want to research this small tidbit of history to see if there is any validity to it. While the book was slow going due to time constraints I'm glad I stuck with it. The later half of the book improves on the first.