Steel Beach: Did Not Finish

Steel Beach by John Varley

I hate giving up on books I plan to review but, unfortunately, this is the second one in a month that I’ve had to abandon.

Steel Beach (1992) is the second in John Varley’s stand-alone novels set in his EIGHT WORLDS universe in which vastly superior aliens have kicked humans off of planet Earth so they can commune with the dolphins and whales (who are more intelligent, in their eyes, than humans). I liked the first EIGHT WORLDS book, The Ophiuchi Hotline, because, though it had its share of problems — weak characterization, confusing plot, uneven pacing —... Read More

The Illearth War: Lord Foul strikes back

The Illearth War by Stephen Donaldson

Reading The Illearth War (1978), the second book in Stephen Donaldson’s THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT, I can’t help but be reminded of The Empire Strikes Back. This is in comparison to the strong THE LORD OF THE RINGS feel exuded by Lord Foul’s Bane, the first book in the series. Both Illearth and Empire are the middle story in a trilogy (and like THOMAS COVENANTSTAR WARS has since spawned additional trilogies), and the outcome is not as cotton-candy as the firs... Read More

The Elfstones of Shannara: Actually refreshing for today, and for when it was written

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

I've read plenty of Terry Brooks's fantasy novels, but among his earliest works I've only ever completed The Wishsong of Shannara. But with news of a television adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara scheduled to air in 2016, I figured now was as good a time as any to delve into his backlog — and it's interesting to see how he's developed as a writer since then.

As the direct sequel to The Sword of Shannara, the story centres on the grandson of the previous novel's protagonist: Wil Ohmsford, grandson of Shea Ohmsford. He's approached by the Druid Allanon with a task only he can accomplish — use the three magical Elfstones in the defence of a young Elf girl with a mission of her own set before her.

For thousands of years a magical tree known as the Ellcrys has held back hordes ... Read More

Doctor Sleep: A sequel to The Shining

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’ve avoided some of Stephen King’s more recent works, like Cell and Under the Dome, because they didn’t look like they would be my thing. Doctor Sleep was a different matter. I didn’t think it was perfect, but it had a lot of the things I look for in a King novel.

In 1977, King published The Shining, a book about an evil hotel in Colorado, and the family it victimized during a hard winter. The father in that family died in the hotel – or, one might say, with the hotel. His wife and son, Danny, escaped alive, in part because of Danny’s gift, or “shining.”

Danny is grown up now, trying to make his way in the world. His gift or “shine” is nearly dormant. It still s... Read More

The Lives of Christopher Chant: A wonderful place to begin the Chrestomanci books

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

The Lives of Christopher Chant is set twenty-five years before the events told in Charmed Life, but was published after it in 1988. Although many would avidly insist that you must read such books in publishing rather than chronological order (just look at the debate that rages over how you're supposed to read the Chronicles of Narnia) I would suggest reading this before Charmed Life. It will not ruin any of the surprises in that book, and instead drops little hints throughout (such as Chrestomanci's aversion to silver, and the name of his future wife) that will become that much more enjoyable when you read of them in Charmed Life.

Set in a paralle... Read More