Sunday Status Updates

Sunday Status Updates is a new feature here at FanLit. Read below to see what our community of reviewers is up to.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Bill: This week I’m wrapping up The Wise Man’s Fear so I do not have to carry that tome on my vacation. I have to confess that while I’m enjoying the read, it isn’t grabbing me and holding me down. Though it’s possible it is being badly served by the fact that I have to keep picking it up and putting it down this week due to lots of other things intervening and I usually don’t like to take more than two or three days to finish a book. Then again, perhaps if it were grabbing me more, I wouldn’t be putting it down no matter those other things. And, if the sun came up today, then I must be somewhere in the MALAZAN universe for the re-read. This week I’m closing down Memories of Ice — and what a close it is — and preparing to head into House of Chains. On deck is a mystery (as in not knowing, not as in I’ll be reading a mystery), though I think I’ll take care of one or two of my missing book problems, wherein I’ve been sent the sequel to a first book I haven’t read (Shadow Prowler) or the third book of a series in which I’ve read the first but not the second (The Ruling Sea).

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Greg: I am working on a review of A Place Among the Fallen by Adrian Cole and just started Flame Winds an old school pulp sword & sorcery tale by Norvell W. Page.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews John: Just finished the 20th Anniversary Edition of L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s The Magic of Recluce… still amazing!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Kat: I’ve just finished Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere on audio and am about to start Sean Russell’s The Initiate Brother. In print I’ve just begun Charles Stross’ novella Palimpsest which won a Hugo Award in 2010.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsKelly : I just finished Kevin Hearne’s Hexed and am about to start the next book, Hammered. You’ve got to love Atticus O’Sullivan: he’s funny, he kicks butt, and he knows how to spoil his dog.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Marion: Last Sunday I found Cryoburn, the latest Miles Vorkosigan adventure by Lois MacMaster Bujold at a used bookstore. It was, if not a beach read, definitely weekend fare. I enjoyed it but was a little disappointed; it seemed lightweight until the very end. I had started The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, by Jack Weatherford, a nonfiction book about the daughters of Genghis Khan. The queens, however, have been completely sidelined by Embassytown, China Miéville’s newest, which I’m two-thirds of the way through.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Robert: What a crazy week. Yesterday, my sister-in-law got married, so I’ve been running errands almost every day in preparation for the wedding. At the same time, I’ve been entertaining the in-laws who have been staying with us all week. If that wasn’t enough, our son Zane turned six on Tuesday, so there was a birthday party to take care of, two cakes, and lots of Skyping with the family who didn’t make it. Despite all of that, I somehow managed to finish writing a review for Teresa Frohock’s impressive fantasy debut, Miserere: An Autumn Tale. After that, I started reading Jonathan Wood’s urban fantasy novel No Hero, but gave up after seventy pages. The writing style, humor and execution just did not click with me. So now I’m reading Heaven’s Shadow, an entertaining near-future tale about humanity’s first contact with an intelligent alien lifeform. What attracted me to this book was that it was co-written by David S. Goyer, screenwriter of such films as Dark City, Blade, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Once I’m done reviewing Heaven’s Shadow, I plan on reading The Goblin Corps by Ari Marmell. Hopefully The Goblin Corps will be much better than the last Ari Marmell novel I read. Meanwhile, in what little spare time I have, I’ve been slowly working through Toll the Hounds in Steven Erikson’s awesome epic fantasy series, MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN. I’m also a huge fan of graphic novels, so in that format I’ve been reading Peter B. Gillis’ adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s classic novel The Last Unicorn, and Blacksad — a beautifully written and illustrated collection of stories featuring John Blacksad, an anthropomorphic private investigator.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Stefan: I managed to read three books this week — not bad! First up was The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, an excellent anthology that includes all the nominated shorts stories and novelettes, and the winning novella, from last year’s Nebula Awards. Next up was The Shadow Men by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, which I wasn’t that thrilled with, and The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which was much better (and less gimmicky) than I expected. I’m planning to review both of these in the course of next week. And now I have to pick what to read next from my pile of very exciting ARCs. I’m leaning towards either Low Town by Daniel Polansky or The Best of Stephen R. Donaldson, although The Devil’s Diadem by Sara Douglass looks interesting too… Plus, I’m very much tempted to get a Supporting Membership for the upcoming WorldCon, so I can get the Hugo Awards Packet (which includes lots of great reading material) — and vote in the Hugos!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Terry: I’m currently reading the nominees for the Sturgeon Award for my Magazine Monday column. I’m enjoying the short stories in The Beastly Bride, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, which is overdue at the library — which means I’m reading as fast as I can. I’m also reading Cassandra Clare’s City of Fallen Angels and wondering whether my 11-year-old nephew would enjoy Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series as much as I have. And I’m almost finished with the graphic novel American Vampire, which is making me think this particular medium is not Stephen King’s forte.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: I’ve just finished Judith Tarr’s The Isle of Glass, and I’m playing around with a review. I’m also reading — and enjoying, in a way — Joel Rosenberg‘s Guardians of the Flame: The Warriors collection. Finally, I’ve buckled down to read a novel that’s been adorning a dusty corner of my shelf for years now: Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman’s first DRAGONLANCE book, Dragons of the Autumn Twilight. So far it bears an uncanny — and unfortunate — resemblance to early R.A. Salvatore.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Ryan: As for me, this past week has reminded me of William Gibson’s claim that “I’ll open with three or four pages of such high and wordy weirdness that people who can’t hack it or aren’t clever enough to keep reading will just go away and leave me alone with the readership I like to imagine I have.” This is what I think Neal Stephenson has done with the first (at least) one hundred pages of Anathem, so I’ve found myself re-reading A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.

What are you reading?

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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  1. @Bill: Best reason ever to finish a large book quickly–those doorstoppers can really weigh down your baggage. ;)

  2. @Ryan – my experience with Anathem was similar, but it gets a lot better once you get settled in. I’m pathologically unable to skip a word I don’t know without looking it up, so I spent about 3 days on the first 50 pages of the novel, flipping back and forth to the glossary in the back. Once you get past the hump, the story is amazing.

  3. I’ve only read a few books by Neal Stephenson, but I decided I didn’t like him much. I get turned off when an author seems to be making an effort to show me how clever or knowledgeable he is. That was definitely the vibe I got from his Baroque Cycle. I prefer to read something that is clever but that doesn’t jump up and down in front of my face shouting “look how clever I am!”

    I may have the wrong impression from only that Baroque Cycle, but it kind of soured me on Stephenson. I have had some of his other books on my list, though, and I will probably try him again someday.

    Ryan, I love this feature — it’s great to keep up with what everyone is reading — thanks!

  4. Not like Neal Stephenson?!

    He is definitely in the Top 5 of quite a few important lists, including coolest bald authors and authors that I’d travel in order to attend their book signing.

    I can provide further lists if necessary.

    (Still, I admit that many of his books require initial perseverance.)

  5. Kat–I recommend going back and reading old Neal Stepenson. Read Zodiac if you can find it, but definitely read Snowcrash. Much more accessible than the Baroque Cycle. I agree that Sephenson thinks he’s sart–but my take is that he thinks you’re smart too, if you’ve picked up one of his books.

  6. I actually have both of those, Marion. I have meant to read Snowcrash for years.

    There are many authors who write for smart people without packing their stories with all the obscure facts they know (for example, Jack Vance). That was my issue with the Baroque Cycle. I will try Snowcrash.

  7. I do agree to a certain extent with Kat. Stephenson has this habit of doing a lot of research for his books, and then insisting on cramming every single bit of it into the book somehow. At the same time, there’s so much energy and joy in his writing that I never find it boring, even when he goes off on one of his tangents.

  8. And it doesn’t always get crammed in there very smoothly.

  9. Gary Chambers /

    The only book by Stephenson I’ve read is Snow Crash, which I enjoyed quite a lot, although I found the number of unsolved plot threads left at the end pretty unsatisfying. Apparently this is something he does a lot? I tried to move on to Diamond Age after that, but couldn’t get past the first view chapters. I’ll have to try that one again some day.

    Started reading The Blade Itself by Abercrombie last night, and am finding it interesting how compelling it is despite the fact that all of the characters seem to be designed to be unlikable, something I’ve only previously seen in The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas.

  10. @Gary I agree with you completely about The Blade Itself. I was hooked by the first paragraph. You’re right, also, that all the characters are unlikable. Every character in each book of that trilogy and in Best Served Cold. This was eventually a problem for me and is the reason I haven’t read The Heroes.

  11. @Stefan- If you’re obsessive about looking-up words you don’t know, you should consider an Amazon Kindle( or I imagine a B&N Nook or other e-readers do the same).
    I always wanted to look-up unknown words, but if I took the time to do that I really would never get a book finished. With my Kindle I can look up word definitions in mere seconds. So it’s barley a distraction.

  12. @Kat- I really think you’d like The Heroes. While the characterization is typical Abercrombie, they are more likeable, than his previous books. The Heroes is basically a war story, (in fact the whole book is very much like the battle of Gettysburg), so a lot of the characters are just soldiers. You can’t really hold anything against a soldier who is just following the commands of his leaders, up to a point anyway. And there are a few that I would argue are real heroes; Cracknut aka Whirun of Bligh for one.

  13. I actually started The Heroes and stopped because it sounded like all the others. I’ll give it a try again someday.

    About the Kindle: Having the dictionary is nice, but the lookup is even easier on the iPad (which Stefan has), because it’s touch-screen instead of Kindle’s awkward navigation. So, looking something up takes only milliseconds on the iPad instead of the “mere seconds” of the Kindle. :)

  14. Yep, what Kat said. Also, in this case, I was looking up the ton of specialized vocabulary Stephenson created for Anathem – they aren’t actual real words you’d find in the dictionary, although they do often resemble them (e.g. “saunt” which is a combination of “Saint’ and “savant”). The first 50 pages of Anathem features one of those every other sentence, and once I knew there was a gloassary, I couldn’t help looking them up… and then often one glossary entry refers to another one, so I’d have to check that one, and in the end it took me half a week to get through those first 50 or so pages.
    But again, not to scare anyone off — the book gets really exciting later on :)

  15. I gotcha- yeah that happens to me too. Sometimes I can’t decide if a glossary is a good thing for me a or a bad. There’s been some books, I’ve actually read the Glossary before I read the story. But you have to be careful of spoilers when doing that.

  16. Kieran /

    @Tim- I also recently read Dragons of Autumn Twilight and thought it was fairly mediocre. It wasn’t the first Weis & Hickman I read (that was Well of Darkness which I liked, though it seems to have got a pretty scathing review here). The characters seemed likeable enough, but the action was mostly poorly decsribed and the charcaters while likeable were pretty paper-thin. I bought the whole trilogy, but I’m not in any rush to try the second one!
    I actually really liked early Salvatore though!

  17. @ Tim and Kieran -I picked-up the gift box set of the Dragonlance Chronicles, years ago. Mostly I could not resist the beautiful cover illustrations, especially the cover of Dragons of the Autumn Twilight which also wraps-around the box that contains the three books. (I still have it displayed. I wish I could live in that treehouse village).
    Admittedly that trilogy isn’t all that great, but I thought it had a kinda of charming appeal. I wish I’d have ran across it when I was in Jr. High though. I would have loved reading it back then.

  18. Kieran /

    Have to agree that there is a definite charm (and I also most likely would have loved it had I read it in my early teens – although I didn’t really read anyone but Terry Pratchett in my early teens) and I didn’t hate it by any means, but there are better D&D tie-in books out there. I recently read Azure Bonds by Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb which I was very impressed by. And as I said, I liked early Salvatore before I started to find his books a bit formulaic (Homeland was a brilliant book IMO).

  19. @ Kieran: To clarify, by “early Salvatore”, I mean his earlier written stuff (i.e. the Icewind Dale trilogy), not the Homeland series (which comes before Icewind Dale in the chronology of the series but was written afterward). I agree with you that he’d improved quite a bit by Homeland, though Legacy was my personal favorite.

    Anyway, the distasteful (for me) correlation I saw between Dragons and Icewind Dale was the adjectives, to be honest. Well, yes, I have to admit I really am getting a bit tired of goblins so stupid they spin right around halfway through a deathblow because someone insulted their parents, but that’s more stylistic than anything.

    To get back to the adjectives, and their overuse…this has always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I don’t like overuse of adjectives, and the Weiss and Hickman team has them in deluges, qualifying everything in sight like its going out of style. It’s like they’re afraid that if they don’t remind us that Flint is mighty or stout every once in a while we might just forget and start thinking he’s a weedy little elf.

  20. Kieran /

    Ah yes, adjective over-use, a crime I’ve probably been guilty of myself in my own writings. Probably from reading too much Howard and Salvatore! Despite their lack of subtlety, I think avoiding adjective use completely can make writing a bit dry. A balance is definitely needed.

    I must admit I also have a soft spot for stupid goblins, though they did not help with the very disjointed action scenes in Dragons.

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