The Testaments: A worthy return to Gilead

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a great book, deservedly earning its accolades as a masterpiece and a contemporary classic as it brilliantly weds her substantial gifts as both a poet and a prose writer in the service of one of the most potentially powerful genres, dystopian literature. Her sequel, The Testaments (2019), is not a great book. But it is a good one (and really, Atwood has more than one great book to her credit, let’s not get greedy). Fair warning, spoilers ahead for those who have not yet read The Handmaid’s Tale and one kinda-sorta spoiler (explained below) for The Testaments.

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Belgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress: Great companion pieces

Belgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings

As a reviewer I find it a bit challenging to justify my review of these books; they are exactly what they say on the tin. If you like Belgarath and Polgara, you’ll like these books. If you don’t, you won’t. If you don’t know who they are, don’t read them (but you might consider THE BELGARIAD, which contains the background you would need).

If you’re like me and read book reviews just because, well, look! It’s something in print! Let’s read it! — please do read on and get a few of my thoughts. But the functional part of the review is already over.

As you might guess just from the titles, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress are companion pieces, in wh... Read More

Searching for Dragons: Funny and entertaining

Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

It’s been more than 5 years since I read Dealing with Dragons, the first book in Patricia C. Wrede’s ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES. I loved the way the story, written in 1990, ridiculed and subverted the princess stereotype. It stars Cimorene, a teenage princess who runs away to avoid marrying a handsome but dull prince. She ends up working as a housekeeper and librarian for a dragon. (Housekeeper and Librarian seem like “female” roles, but at least these are the jobs Cimorene wants to do and she doesn’t shy away from “men’s” work.)

In my quest to finish all the series I’ve started, I read the rest of the ENCHANTED FOREST CHRONICLES this week. Searching for Dragons, the second book, gives ... Read More

Speaker for the Dead: Even better than Ender’s Game

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

It’s been 3000 years since Ender Wiggin, as a child, was tricked into committing xenocide. While he and his sister Valentine traveled the universe and benefited from the effects of space-time relativity, Ender’s name has been reviled on Earth and all the inhabited planets. He is infamous for his childhood deeds, but almost everyone thinks he’s been dead for centuries. They don’t realize that the man who holds the respected position of Speaker for the Dead is actually Ender Wiggin. And they don’t know that the Hive Queen of the Buggers still lives and that Ender has vowed to find her a new home. When Ender is called to the planet Lusitania to speak the death of a beloved xenologer, he thinks he may have finally found a suitable place for the Hive Queen to resurrect her race.

In the author’s afterward to Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card explains tha... Read More

Silence in Solitude: Splendid space opera escapism

Silence in Solitude by Melissa Scott

Silence in Solitude smartly continues Melissa Scott's Roads of Heaven (Silence Leigh) trilogy, keeping the storyline fresh and invigorating by taking readers down unexpected new paths. This sophomore entry opens with Silence in training on the planet Solitudo Hermae to become the first female magus in history. Her sponsor, the magus Isambard, has agreed to train her in exchange for her taking him along once she discovers how to reach long-lost Earth.

Just to recap, Scott has developed an interesting, but sometimes too complex for its own good, notion of space travel utilizing metaphysical concepts. Spaceships are powered by "harmonics," and must be properly tuned like musical instruments so that they can leave the confines of the material universe and travel throughout "purgatory" (a concept similar to hyperspace). Though hard SF watchdogs will no doubt bristle, it's a... Read More

Dark Moon: Middle book

Dark Moon by Meredith Ann Pierce

Ever notice how the second parts of trilogies are often the weakest? This is not always the case, but it often happens in both books and movies, and it definitely occurs here. Dark Moon is the second part of The Firebringer trilogy, which began with the fascinating Birth of the Firebringer and ending with the explosive The Son of Summer Stars. But smack dab in the middle is Dark Moon, and though it is far from being a bad book, it is unfavorably compared to the volumes either side of it.

In the preceding novel we are introduced to the young Prince Alijan, whose name means 'dark moon', and who is the subject of a prophecy that describes the one who will eventually win back the Hallow Hills for the unicorns. Taken over by the poisonou... Read More