Thoughts on Cherie Priest's Boneshaker

Steampunk intrigues me.  I enjoy imagining a speculative world built upon steam-powered technology instead of the electrical technology we take for granted today.  I like the chunky, mechanical look of the equipment and the Victorian-inspired attire with its myriad straps and buckles.  I have always appreciated the genre from afar though, having never read, watched or listened to any Steampunk-related media, so Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is my participatory introduction to this world of clockwork mystique.

We are oft cautioned not to judge a book by its cover, but that should not stop us from appreciating an exceptional one.  Jon Foster’s illustration on the 2009 TOR paperback edition is attractive and succeeded in drawing my eye to it on the bookshop shelf in the midst of hundreds of others.  We see an extreme close-up of a young woman’s face as she gazes skyward, herself colored with a muted gray palette while her bulky metal goggles are colored gold and reflect the giant, wire-frame zeppelin that has drawn her eye just as it has ours.  Is she looking at the zeppelin in excited anticipation or is it a threat to her?  The goggles hide her eyes so we don’t know.  I don’t often lose time staring at cover illustrations, but this one captures my imagination completely.

Even the color of the text in the book was an interesting artistic choice.  Instead of the standard black print, the text is sepia.  I don’t recall ever seeing a book printed in anything other than black.  It is a neat choice and fits the genre and time period of the book well since it brings to mind sepia photographs from the late nineteenth century.

Boneshaker is not merely a Steampunk novel though as it also includes zombies, or “rotters” in the parlance of the denizens of this cursed version of nineteenth century Seattle.  While this is my first experience with the Steampunk genre, I am an unabashed appreciator of zombie fiction.  Priest’s alternate history version of Civil War-era Seattle has been walled in to protect those outside from The Blight, a noxious yellow gas that corrodes material and turns those who breathe it into groaning, shambling cannibal terrors.  This awful gas infecting the city is the result of a pre-narrative accident, the test of a drilling machine gone awry.  The conductor of the test, the brilliant inventor Leviticus Blue, supposedly perished in the accident but questions remain.  Sixteen years later, Ezekiel Wilkes, the teenaged son of Blue and his widow Briar Wilkes, decides he wants to learn the truth and sneaks into the walled-off part of the city seeking answers.  When Briar learns what her son has done, she goes in after him.  What follows is a fun adventure tale as mother searches for son in a dead and deadly city.

Boneshaker is full of great atmosphere.  Priest does a wonderful job of describing how the thick-as-pudding blight gas has corrupted and corroded the buildings inside The Wall, how the sun never really seems to provide enough light, how the rotters’ moans and groans unsettle one’s nerves.  It is an oppressive setting and it effectively filled me with dread.  Priest takes her time establishing the setting, peppering in action scenes with character-developing walk’n’talk scenes.  Chapters switch between Zeke’s activities and those of his mother and occasionally I had difficulty reconciling when one person’s scenes took place in relation to the other’s scenes.  Ultimately, it all works out but I felt like I spent too much time trying to figure out if I was reading simultaneous or subsequent action.  The pace of the story is generally slow until the exciting and satisfying conclusion.

While Ezekiel and Briar are sympathetic characters, they frustrated me.  I found Ezekiel to be obnoxious, foolish, and smart-mouthed, all of which I was as a 15-year-old boy so I suppose Priest wrote him quite accurately, but I didn’t like myself when I was fifteen either.  I forgive Briar for her occasional brash and rude demeanor due to the stress she was under, but her behavior in some situations still baffled me as she acted in the complete opposite manner I would have expected.  Still, she is a strong woman and not a damsel in distress so for that, I commend Cherie Priest.  As in her debut novel, Four and Twenty Blackbirds (which I reviewed here ), Boneshaker is full of strong female characters.  There are too many stories in all media wherein the women are either window dressing or quest rewards.  Cherie Priest’s heroines are a nice change of pace.

The supporting cast interested me much more than the two protagonists and while we do learn a bit about characters like Lucy and Angeline, I wanted to know so much more about the backstories of Swakhammer and the zeppelin crew.  A novel detailing the origin story of the antagonist would be particularly interesting.

As a first experience with the Steampunk genre, Boneshaker did not disappoint.  This is the second Cherie Priest novel I have read and I enjoyed both of them so I think I can safely put her on my author watch list.

Black Hills

Thoughts on Dan Simmons's Black Hills

I have previously expressed my favorable opinion of Dan Simmons (here and here ) and with his 2010 novel Black Hills, he reinforces my appreciation of his amazing storytelling ability.  Black Hills tells the non-linear story of Paha Sapa, a Lakota Indian with the extraordinary ability to absorb another person’s memories and see their future simply by touching them.  As though that were not burden enough, he is also a participant in the Battle of the Greasy Grass (you know it better as the Battle of Little Big Horn) as a young boy and in touching the dying body of General George Armstrong Custer, he feels the ghost of Custer enter his body.  Paha Sapa then lives with the ghost of General Custer within him throughout his life, both of them watching as Paha Sapa’s people, culture, and way of life are destroyed by the relentless westward advance of modern civilization.  This is a fascinating, thought-provoking, sometimes heartbreaking story of a man who loses everything, always seeming to take two steps back for every step forward.  I enjoyed seeing this story from Paha Sapa’s perspective throughout several important periods in his life as the ghost of Custer offered the white man’s counter-perspective, usually in humorous fashion.

While there is a hint of the supernatural in this work of fiction, there is a lot of fact here, too.  Let no one say Dan Simmons fails to do proper research before he writes an historical novel.  The bibliography (humbly labeled “Acknowledgments”) is four pages long.  It is staggering to consider how much time Simmons must have spent just reading and researching the works of others before beginning his own project.  It demands respect.  On occasion though, it also gets in the way of the story and this is my one major concern with this book.  During a few rare moments, I felt as though I was reading a history text about Native American life or about the Battle of Little Big Horn or about the sculpting of Mount Rushmore or about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was always interesting information but in some cases, it felt like too much information presented in a dry manner and it slowed the story.

After reading Black Hills, I will view the Mount Rushmore monument, which I have not yet seen in person, in a completely different light now that I know how important the Black Hills region of South Dakota is to the Native American tribes of the area.  It is interesting to think that the monument was carved into that mountain to honor American democracy, but to the native peoples of the region, it is graffiti, a disgraceful defacing of a sacred mountain.

Masterfully interlacing fact with fiction to tell a story of American history from a perspective we rarely see, Dan Simmons has created a wonderful novel and solidified his position on my watch-list.  I truly enjoyed Black Hills and look forward to my next opportunity to read a Dan Simmons book.

The End of Your Life Book Club

Thoughts on Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club

I was standing in the New Releases section of my local Barnes & Noble Booksellers looking for a new book to send to my mother for her birthday.  I had read a favorable review of The End of Your Life Book Club, the reviewer summarizing the book as a memoir about a man and his mother and the books they read together near the end of her life.  My own mother is an avid reader and ingrained within me from an early age a similar appreciation of books. The End of Your Life Book Club sounded like it might be a good gift.  However, after reading the jacket flap and learning that the man's mother was also dying of pancreatic cancer, I closed the book and placed it back on the shelf.  This wasn't just the end of the woman's life.  It was the end too soon.  It sounded too sad for me and certainly too sad to give as a birthday gift.  I bought something else instead and shipped it to my mom.

I called her a few days later after I had received confirmation that the package had been delivered.  Mom and I engaged in the usual mother-son chatter and then I admitted my original intent; that I had meant to send The End of Your Life Book Club to her and we would each read it together, a mother and son reading a book about a mother and son reading books.  I suggested that while I hadn't sent the book that inspired the idea, maybe I could get a copy of the book I did send and we'd read it together.  Mom liked the idea but wanted to read The End of Your Life Book Club instead.  I warned her of the subject matter but she insisted that we read the book that inspired the idea.  So, I ordered two copies and had one shipped to her and other to me.

The book is simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming.  Mary Anne Schwalbe was a tremendously accomplished woman.  In addition to being the mother of three children, she was an educator and traveled to impoverished and war-torn countries to volunteer in refugee camps, caring for women and children.  She was, like my own mother, always reading something and inspired her kids to read.  This love of books and reading gives her and her son something to discuss other than cancer treatments.  Through the books they read, the two of them find strength, peace, and inspiration.  They follow others through their struggles, fictional or non-fictional, and through discussion of these stories, the two find a way to manage their own challenges.

Somehow, through all of the chemotherapy, awful side effects, and bad news from her oncologist, Mary Anne Schwalbe stayed strong.  She had a matter-of-fact outlook on the whole situation.  She was determined to do what she could do and didn't worry about what she could not control.  She seemed almost peaceful about it, or at least that was she appeared to her family.  If she was scared, she did not show it and that impressed me.  It would be so easy for some people to curl up and hide, but she continued to live her life, travel, attend charity events and work toward her goal of getting a library funded and built in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She wasn't dead yet and she didn't want anyone fretting over her or eulogizing her before it was time.  I find that inspirational.

I am not really sure I can say I "enjoyed" the book though I am grateful for the experience and grateful to Will Schwalbe for sharing such a deeply personal story.  I recently had friend die of colon cancer and his family exhibited a similar strength and togetherness shown by the author and his family.  I hope my friend felt as much peace in his final days as the author's mother did in hers. 

The Wise Man's Fear, The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two

Thoughts on Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear

adored Patrick Rothfuss’s debut novelThe Name of the Wind.  It was a wonderful, entertaining first volume (of a planned trilogy) of a boy’s quest to acquire a suite of skills, talents and knowledge, increasing his power to the point where he can avenge the slaughter of his family at the hands of an evil mythical being, growing his own legend in the process.  The book felt much shorter than its six-hundred-plus page length due to Rothfuss’s superb storytelling.  I was excited to read the sequel.

The Wise Man’s Fear, topping out a nearly one thousand pages, is just too long.  While the first novel felt tightly crafted, the sequel seems to meander at times, settle too long in one place at other times.  While the transition from one location to another was supported with believable narrative reasons in the first novel, protagonist Kvothe’s reasons for traveling in The Wise Man’s Fear do not feel like an organic part of the story.  They are more like cheats used by the author to get from point A to point B so he can get on with the next part of the story.

A portion near the middle of the novel dragged the story nearly to a halt and had I not already been invested in the story, I might have stopped reading.  I am no prude, but the entire section deals with Kvothe growing his sexual prowess through a lengthy series of training sessions with a literal sex goddess.  As the character is only sixteen years old, this section of the story comes off as teenaged boy fantasy and I was unable to take it seriously.  By the time I struggled through this scene, I could have sworn it was a couple hundred pages long.  After finishing the novel, I located that section again and was shocked to discover that it was a mere sixty pages.  Even after finishing the book, I do not feel there is a good purpose for putting a sixteen year old kid in a sex scene.  I understand that Kvothe’s talents between the sheets are a part of his legend, but to have him acquire this particular skillset in the manner in which he did just did not sit well with me, especially given his age.

Another gripe I have is Kvothe’s repeated and coincidental reunions with a particular supporting character.  No matter the time of day or place in the world, the two seem to find each other just when it is most convenient.  The first time or two it happened did not bother me, but when the characters repeatedly separate, independently travel hundreds or thousands of miles to different places in the world and still happen to end up at the same place for no reason, I find it just too unbelievable.  It happens multiple times and I uttered an audible "ugh" the last time.

Despite these problems, I think Patrick Rothfuss spins a great yarn.  This second volume could have benefited from some additional edits, but the story he tells is engaging.  I like Kvothe.  He is witty, intelligent, and determined.  His smart mouth and arrogance get him into a lot of trouble and sometimes he gets out of it, but usually he suffers painful consequences. I am not sure I can trust him and I do not know if this story he is telling us is the truth or more legend of his own fabrication.  A handful of times during the first and second volumes of this Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe claims to be the source of embellishments designed to expand his reputation.  He says things like, “There are many versions of this story, but I like this one best.”  These statements establish Kvothe as an unreliable narrator, adding a layer of intrigue to the story that draws me in.  I want to know how he ends up being the Kingkiller referenced in the series title or if he is even the true Kingkiller at all.  I enjoy following Kvothe on his journey, watching his skills and talents evolve, watching his legend grow.

While I had some narrative problems with The Wise Man’s Fear, I still enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the final volume of the trilogy.

The Snowman

Thoughts on Jo Nesbø's The Snowman

This was a disappointing book. I picked it up based on several positive book reviews and a couple of articles heralding Jo Nesbø as a superstar author in his home country of Norway. I was in the mood for a good crime thriller and was intrigued by the dark and dreary Norwegian setting, which seemed perfect for the genre.

I like the main character, Inspector Harry Hole.  Described as not particularly handsome, some would even say ugly, he is a troublemaker at the office often rocking the boat much to the chagrin of his superior officers. He struggles with alcoholism, has a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend, but is the most successful detective on the force. Pretty standard noir hero stuff, I suppose, but he is well-written and I found him easy to like despite or perhaps due to his flaws.

The story begins well enough with a flashback that sets up the events to come. Once victims begin to go missing or are found murdered, the hunt is on and for me, that's where things fall apart. Circumstantial evidence is gathered and suspects are falsely accused one after another. I was particularly aghast at one suspect practically being accused on a national talk show. These false accusations result in the suspects being either killed, wrongly imprisoned, humiliated, or tortured. Pretty sloppy police work and I am surprised the third act of the book wasn't about all of the lawsuits brought against the Police Department by the families of these people.

The author overuses misdirection and red herrings and I stopped trusting him halfway through the story. There are only so many times an author can pull the rug out from under a reader before the reader finds somewhere else to stand, preferably with a different novel in their hands. There was also a lot of vague description designed to enhance tension in particular scenes, but I found it tiresome. In one scene, a character reaches his hand under a blanket and "finds what he was looking for". A gun, a knife, his car keys? We'll never know because it is never revealed. What is the point of that? Instead of enhancing the tension of the scene, it just frustrated me.

I don't read crime thrillers often and I hope the novel isn't representative of the genre in its current state. It would be irresponsible and over-reactive of me to write off an entire genre based on one bad read, but I do think I can cross Jo Nesbø off my list of authors to watch. It's a shame because I was really looking forward to this.

Under the Dome

Thoughts on Stephen King's Under the Dome

Under the Dome is not ripped off from "The Simpsons Movie". Those of you ignoramus maximi who are saying that on every Internet forum I have seen on the subject of this novel or the upcoming television series on CBS need to stop immediately. You are embarrassing yourselves. Good. Now then...

I love this book. The size of it was intimidating, but I calculated that I would need to read just thirty-six pages per day from the day I started reading the book on May 25 to finish before the premiere of the television series on June 24. For a Stephen King novel, thirty-six pages is manageable as his novels tend to be page-turners, quick reads, hard to put down. I averaged almost twice that and finished well ahead of schedule. I was in from the first chapter. This is one of King's high population novels like The Stand or The Regulators (R.I.P. Richard Bachman) with lots of interesting characters who get themselves in all kinds of trouble. And like The Stand, there are good guys and bad guys. I hesitate to use the word "evil" as much of the evil done in the book is a product of either illness (mental or otherwise), physical and emotional stress, peer pressure, environment, or opportunity. Indeed, this last point is one of the main themes of the novel. What would happen if consequence were eliminated and people were free to do as they pleased? Read Philip G. Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil for a chilling tale of a real-world experiment that explores how good people can break bad given the right set of circumstances.

I found myself cheering for some characters and loving to hate others. King does a fantastic job of creating a huge cast of characters, all of whom are distinct, most of whom are sympathetic (even those who do bad things), and all completely believable. Not once did I scoff and think that no human being would behave in such a manner in such a situation. Anyone with a modicum of adult life experience will know that some people are capable of just about any behavior at any time if they think they can get away with it. In most cases, I dread the television or film adaptation of a beloved novel, but in the case of Under the Dome, I look forward to seeing these characters on screen and watching how the actors choose to portray them.

My only gripe is that I did not care for the ending, the cause of The Dome, but I so completely loved every moment that lead to it that I cannot allow the ending to cloud my enjoyment of the rest of the story. I felt the ending was too out there, too ridiculous. It speaks to Stephen King's ability to make outrageous situations feel so real (I mean, a gigantic DOME that traps an entire town... c'mon) and believable that I bought in to the entire story, over one-thousand pages before I said "waaait a minute". I had no trouble believing that the dome was there and I was horrified at the immediate impact (pun intended, maybe) that it had on the people of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine. That is some impressive story-crafting.

I am looking forward to the television series based on this novel. For one, Stephen King is an Executive Producer and has input on any changes that are made. Second, the series is created by one of my favorite comic book authors, Brian K. Vaughan. Check out his Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad for examples of his brilliance.

Downbelow Station

I love C.J. Cherryh's style, but this is not a novel to be read casually. I recommend you carve out decent chunks of time to absorb this book, concentrate on it. Chapters are divided into sections and each section is told from the third-person point of view of a different character so if you pick at this book over the course of several weeks, you could get lost, forget what who is who and what they've done or had done to them. Cherryh packs a lot of information in tight spaces, sometimes sneaking into the heads of her characters and coming out with a sentence fragment of just a few words but that is intended to convey a thought process, a reaction to events, emotion. It happens quickly and if you aren't paying attention, you can miss these flavorful moments.

There is a large cast of characters in this novel and in the hands of lesser author, many of them could have easily been copies of one another, but Cherryh manages to make each of them distinct and clearly establishes their reason for existing in the story. Some are motivated to do what's right, some by personal gain, some by something they haven't quite figured out.

I enjoy Cherryh's vision of the future. It is messy, hazardous, lived in. Conditions on the station and on starships feel cramped, sweaty, and uncomfortable. These are not crisp, clean places with flawless machinery and on-station shopping malls full of viewing decks with gorgeous views of the stars. People die and when it happens it is quick and without fanfare. There is no slow-motion scene of them falling to the ground while those around them scream "Noooooooooo!" It just happens and that's that. And I love Cherryh for it. Her world feels real.

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was

When the village of Ku-fu is struck by a mysterious plague, the exceptionally strong but not particularly bright Number Ten Ox recruits the help of Li Kao, an elderly scholar "with a slight flaw in his character", in his quest for the Great Root of Power, a legendary ginseng root with the power to cure any ailment.  During their quest, this odd couple will encounter a wide variety of strange characters, many of whom are more caricatures, and will get themselves wrapped up in more trouble than they have any right to survive.  Their adventures are outrageous, told in a lighthearted and sometimes humorous tone.  A couple of scenes had me laughing aloud and these are the highlights of the novel for me.  The often ridiculous nature of the events had me imagining this novel as an animated film in the visual style of 2003's The Triplets of Belleville.

I found the supporting characters more interesting than the two main characters, though Li Kao is the more entertaining of those, but I think that is the very reason I did not enjoy this novel more than I expected to.  Number Ten Ox, the narrator of the story, was plain and uninteresting to me.  He seemed only to exist in the story to carry Master Li from place to place and to serve as a reasonable introduction to the character of Lotus Cloud.  Other than that, he could have been omitted from the book and the story could have been told from the perspective of Master Li instead.  Perhaps the point of Number Ten Ox's existence is to be the perspective of the reader, the normal person who is experiencing the magical and supernatural elements of this ancient China that never was with as much wonder and awe as the reader is meant to feel.

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was is an interesting book.  I have never read anything quite like it.  I am not sure I will seek out the rest of the trilogy but I am grateful for the experience.  Enough people seem to really love it that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasies and is looking for something a little different from the standard swords and sorcery stories.


Thoughts on Stephen King's Cell

Stephen King is a master of creating horrible situations and then dropping average people into them to see how they react. This is one of the reasons I enjoy his novels so much. The heroes of his stories are regular folk, easy to identify with, carrying the same life baggage as the rest of us. None of them are prepared to deal with the atrocities Stephen King is about to throw at them. Another thing of which Stephen King is a master is describing these atrocities in such a manner that he has me laughing out loud. To be able to create such scenes and infuse them with a bit of humor takes real skill and this is King's bread and butter. The initial scene of Cell is a cavalcade of horrific events that get crazier and more surreal with each turn of the page.

It is no spoiler to say that the premise of this novel is that a strange signal is broadcast over the cellular networks causing all who hear it to completely lose their minds. The victims of this broadcast become murderous or suicidal which winds up being really unfortunate for those who were not using their cell phones at the time of the broadcast. Small groups of people not affected by the signal band together and try to survive while wondering what caused such a bizarre event. Their journey is fun to read as King crafted some terrific, exciting scenes full of "holy [EXPLETIVE DELETED](I am trying to swear less in 2013)" moments. I enjoyed the core characters, all of whom are believable in their behavior, their reactions to events around them and their interactions with each other. Ultimately, though, the explanation of the cause of strange signal did not satisfy me, nor did it make much sense to me. Still, in this case, the journey is more important than the destination so I can easily recommend Stephen King's Cell to people who enjoy reading End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It stories.

John Cusack

John Cusack

A film version of the novel was announced in October 2012. The film is still in the pre-production stage, but so far John Cusack has been attached to star.  He is one of my favorites so I'm optimistic.  The script was co-written by Stephen King himself and "Last House on the Left" remake screenwriter Adam Alleca.  There is no information yet about who will direct, but at this point, Cusack's involvement is enough to pique my interest.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Thoughts on Cherie Priest's Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Of the thirteen books I have read since joining goodreads in May 2012, eleven of them are by authors I have not previously read and the majority of those are the first published works by those authors. I was introduced to Cherie Priest by the Sword & Laser show in one of their Author Guide episodes. They predominantly discussed her recent steampunk novels but ignored her early Southern Gothic ghost trilogy, the first of which was her debut novel:  Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Though interested in the steampunk novels, I wanted to begin at the beginning so I read Four and Twenty Blackbirds first.

Cherie Priest was born, raised, and received higher education throughout the American South so it is no wonder that her work is heavily influenced by the attitudes, culture, and legends of the South.  Four and Twenty Blackbirds tells the story of Eden Moore, a young woman of mixed racial heritage who grows up in Tennessee with the gift (curse?) of being able to see and communicate with ghosts. Along with her strange ability is a twisted family history rife with scandal that none of the living members are willing to discuss with her. Eden wants answers and the novel becomes a bit of a detective mystery as well as a ghost story as Eden strikes out on her own to learn what has everyone's lips so tightly sealed.

The novel is dominated by strong, female characters which I believe may be the author's answer to the Southern chauvinistic environment in which she grew up. I speak of the region of America in which many of my own family members were raised, not of her own familial upbringing of which I know nothing. Eden is headstrong from the very first pages in which we are introduced to her as a young child. She continues to develop into a strong adult woman, bright, curious, and resourceful. I enjoyed her and it was easy to root for her.

Cherie Priest writes some really creepy supernatural encounters, a couple of which stood my hair on end. Her storytelling is straightforward, not over-flowery in an attempt to win the award for most thesaurus words used. She just wants to tell a good story and I think she was largely successful, but I felt the conclusion was a bit disappointing. The entire story seemed to be advancing toward a confrontation with a cult determined to raise a dangerous man from the dead but what actually happened was on a much smaller, and in my opinion, much less satisfying scale. I largely favor the journey over the destination though, so my disappointment in the ending does not tarnish my overall enjoyment of the story. I have already added the next book to my To-Read list.

Check out the Sword & Laser Author Guide to Cherie Priest below:

Old Man's War

Thoughts on John Scalzi's Old Man's War

Old Man's War  is my introduction to John Scalzi and it has one of the most interesting first lines I can ever remember reading:

“I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.”

Hooked! My first thoughts were, “Aw, that’s sad” followed immediately by “What the? How can he?” I had to know more. The explanation of how and why the main character could enlist in the army as a septuagenarian pulled me into the story and Scalzi’s ability to tell a story where awful things happen in a humorous way kept me there. The action reminded me of the movie “Starship Troopers” in that is it violent and gory but presented with a humorous tone. His writing style is comfortable, easy to nestle into. Reading this book is almost like coasting a bicycle down a hill. You start under your own power, then physics takes over and you squint into the wind, letting gravity do the rest until the hill flattens out and you come to an easy stop, satisfied with the ride. Part III adds some heart to the story that I thought was sweet, but that also gave me some concerns about how the story might end. I am pleased to say that Scalzi surprised me.

After finishing the novel, most readers will be considering whether or not they would enlist. I’m not sure I would but I can certainly understand why so many in my book club would jump at the opportunity. I will, however, jump at the opportunity to read the next Scalzi book I find.

The Name of the Wind, The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One

Thoughts on Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind

It has been a long time since I read a novel that gave me such an enjoyable experience.  Patrick Rothfuss is a superb storyteller, planting seeds early on that pay off later while still leaving enough carrots dangling on sticks to make the reader keep turning pages and immediately place an order for the second volume of the series within minutes of reading the last word on the last page and ERMAGERD IT ARRIVED YESTERDAY SOIHAVETOFINISHTHISSOICANSTARTREADINGIT! Well, that was my experience anyway.

The Name of the Wind is a fantasy adventure as told by the main character, Kvothe, who appears to be on the exciting first leg of what I expect to be a dramatic character arc that will develop over the course of the three-volume series. The main criticism I have seen leveled at this novel is that Kvothe is unrealistically skilled at everything he does: music, acting, crafting, wit, humor, language, magic, academics. While this may be the case, I’d argue that we are reading the story of an extraordinary person. His almost superhuman abilities are countered by great tragedies and his victories are contrasted often by tremendous setbacks. Despite, or perhaps because of his amazing abilities, he is arrogant, brash, impatient, and his sharp tongue gets him into and out of trouble in equal measure. He is far from perfect. Kvothe spends as much time in stitches as he spends basking in his own brilliance. He is a wonderful character and one I have no trouble wishing I could be, at least during his good moments.

Throughout the story, Rothfuss evoked reactions from me that I haven’t experienced while reading a novel in a long time: trepidation, laughter, joy, frustration, heartbreak, vehement desire for justice and revenge. He has crafted such an inspiring and entertaining story that I yearn for more even after finishing this 662-page first volume, the last third of which I read in a single sitting. I could not put it down.

Check out Sword & Laser's interview of Rothfuss below.  I would love to have a beer with this guy.