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Watership Down (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 12 February 2012 00:00

The sad thing is, this epic tale of a group of rabbits driven into epic flight towards the high, dry hill ("Watership Down") could probably not make it in today's market. It's too naturalistic, too paced in its telling, for modern audiences (trust me, how many times have I seen people pick up Early ReTyrement, flick-thumb its 357 pages and frown ("I gotta read all this?)). So a journey that lasts a lot longer, filled with descriptions of lazy English nature, would have a far harder sell these days.

Animal Farm was once rejected because "Americans don't like animal stories".

And here I am, sitting on Indigo.

But back to Watership's review, yes, rabbits forewarned by one of their psychic members, driven from their doomed warren into headlong flight. We slowly take the rabbit's perspective and gain its darting, fearful eye. Every field is a hunting blind. Ever shifting shadow an enemy ("All the world will be your enemy, prince with a thousand enemies..."). And we learn words of their language, sprinkled through the story here and there and suddenly used, with great boldness, in a complete sentence (Bigwig's defiance against General Woundwort). I've tried this trick too in my books and not been so successful.

So the rabbits finally make their journey, they ascend Watership, they are happy and warm and safe. And with poor rabbit administrative talents, eventually come to realize that the one thing they lost along the way was all their does. For the warren to survive a generation, they will have for find breeding partners (ah, that's what the second half of the book is about). There are some in a farmhouse hutches nearby. And Efrafa, the totalitarian warren a short distance off, is overloaded with spare does. But the trouble, of course, is to get them past the patrols...

It's a great, sprawling epic that will reward those who can stick with it a full share of battles, final stands, harrowing escapes and clever stratagems. I read it at 16 and loved it, and reread it a two years ago and loved it all over again.

So if you are into something new and wonderful and lush, shove all those chick-lits and wiz-books out of the way and dive into this new world.

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 February 2012 09:29
Good Omens (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 05 February 2012 10:04

The first admission is that I've bought just about every Pratchett book out there - loved the Diskworld series. And Gaiman, I've also read one or two of his and generally liked them. So when a work acquaintance mentioned Good Omens, I had to have a look.

I've got to say that I really enjoyed it; the opener is perfect with the Angel of God (Aziraphale) and of the Devil (Crowley) distantly looking down at the ejection of Adam and Eve from Eden, both with strong misgivings (Crowley is miffed that the apple thing was very unfair, even though he, himself, played a part (as Crawley, right?)). It's a very clever start, allowing us to like the characters on the basis of their strengths and weaknesses.

And as the centuries pass, Aziraphale and Crowley work for their sides yet (in a perfect simile about how two competing salesmen in a foreign country will likely socialize with each other because of the alienness of everything except each other) meet for dinner at favorite restaurants and enjoy those little pleasures neither heaven nor hell are particularly good at. And so everything is nice and everyone is happy, until the Apocalypse is initiated with the birth of the anti-Christ.

With a flair even modern governments cannot duplicate, the babies are accidently swapped, the American Ambassadors' devil-spawn going to a loving but distracted midland's father. And as the boy grows without Hell to guide him or Heaven to interfere, the entire end-game for the fate of the world (and every sole upon it) is up for grabs.

As I said, I really enjoyed the whole story, the concept of Good and Evil as one's job, the revenge a helpfully prophesizing witch has on those who decide to burn her at the stake, the perversion of the hellhound companion into a cute dog named "dog". All that plays well. My only problem is a standing problem I've long had with Pratchett, his end-climax. I don't think this is an English (meaning Britain) thing; other writers don't seem so afflicted. No, it's that he can't seem to execute  a sharp satisfying single climax. With all respect to the master, they seem to be overlong, confused, multi-part climaxes, as if he'd come up with multiple resolutions and decided to work all of them in. His Diskworld books are often like this, and it carried over here. I've read this story twice now, and both times I've come away slightly dissatisfied at the end, as if all the actions of all the characters seemed diluted by the floundering about at the critical showdown. It's rather like sitting down to the perfect meal, and just as you are peaking, just as you are shaking your head at how good it is, the staff inexplicitly swaps out your silverware, brings the check early, and forgets to ask if you'd like desert.

Your reflections of it was that it was good up until that point.

But that's not to say that you won't have laughs aplenty and twists galore up until that point. Overall, its still a favorite and still comes recommended.

(and besides, the end might work for you - it just might be my Yankee outlook).

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 February 2012 10:46
Winchester Law (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 23 January 2012 22:20

I’m in the middle of Arabian Nights right now, a long slow slog (though there are gems of wisdom scattered throughout). While trying to get Early ReTyrement seated at a local bookstore, I ended up picking up a couple of used novels, including this old 1988 western by Doyle Trent.

I’m not going to review Winchester Law as much as I’m going to review the lost passion of Western writing. I read through the yarn and found long periods where nothing happened. Bill Williams staked out his land. He bought wire. He strung it up. He worried about where the cattle he’d ranged here had wandered to. He looked for them and found them. Yes, during all this, there was the growing threat of land barons, hired guns, Comanche raiders, even rattlesnakes. But overall, the pace was slower than most books but in keeping with his contemporary writers. Lots of big skies, lots of routine, lots of time to think.

I really rather enjoyed it.

I was grinding through a software load this weekend, up at 3am on meetings or running the checkouts, lots of kick-back time, perfect for a novel of this caliber. And that’s the take-away of this – don’t allow yourself to get stuck with vampires or boy-wizards. Go to a used bookstore (in Orlando, “BookWorm” and “Maya Books” are two good ones) and browse the shelves for something new.

Even if you end up stringing wire under that hot plains sun, looking nervously over your shoulder for Comanche.


Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 22:25
Pandemonium (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 15 January 2012 22:01

What would you do if the earth broke apart under your feet, the sky turned black and the mountains fell upon the multitudes around you?

Well, if you were a writer, you'd write about it!

I mentioned the exibit of John Martin's paintings HERE, all the biblical end-of-the-world, fire-and-brimstone you could cram into your eyeballs. While there, I picked up Pandemonium / Stories of the Apocalypse, a little set of end-of-the-word short stories marketed to go along with Martin's display.

Now, I've read EOTW stories before. Last year while in a down mood, I got two anthologies, one on the end of civilization, the other, broader, the end of the world. And the thing was, none of them filled me with dread, despair, or ultimate fin the way the Pandemonium set did.

These were grim stories, gut-punchers that let you lean way, way out over the abyss. Like "OMG GTFO" where people start channeling for the screeching masses of hell and we learn a very depressing fact. Or "Sardak in search of the waters of oblivion", where explorers in a depressing future world begin to rot alive in a terminal salt swamp. Or "Closer", where two teams of third-stringer baseball losers play the final game while the winds of Heaven and Hell roar and the world around them turns dark. And "All-demon-place", where the standard quartet of heroes find resolution to their quest in an un-heroic (and unconventional) manner.

I really did like these stories - a few are funny, a couple don't make much sense, but that's an anthology for you, right? A literary chocolate box where you will find both cherries and coconut hidden within the sweets. I think if I had one complaint, nobody explored Heaven's side of the Apocalypse: either religion had nothing to do with it or Heaven was just as much as Hell at fault for the destruction. One story, just one, where the angels flew in divine goodness and the righteous were saved would have been nice. But then again, evil sells.

I'll mention that you'll have a bit of a time finding this book - it was a limited set (I've got 7 out of the 100!). However, there are Kindle copies about, so you might want to check out their site HERE for ordering information. Really, if you want to peek into a world dying harder than 2012, where the pain throbs, the blood flows, and all hope is gone, you should check this out. I really, really enjoyed it!

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 January 2012 22:41

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