Log et al – Peter Curd

An irreverent peek into the inner rumblings of Peter Curd

May

21

Review: Servant of the Shard

By pcurd

Servant of the Shard
Servant of the Shard by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stopped reading the Drizzt books somewhere around this title – but I couldn’t remember where. I did not remember all that was described in the blurb so I dived in – it rapidly became clear I had read it before, but decided to stick with it to give me a reminder.

The story does not focus on the “Fellowship of th…”, sorry, the “Companions of the Hall” but rather on two of the villains – Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle (view spoiler) – from earlier books in the series. They still play villains, of sorts, in an honour-amongst-thieves sort of way which never quite convinces you to like them but does at least let you sympathise with their problems in life. Many of the supporting characters are compelling – unusual for the series – and the world is richer because of it. There are fewer fights, and more politics, than I expected in an R. A. Salvatore story with a plot that required following (some, at any rate). It’s not really a good place to jump into the story of Drizzt but I think I remembered enough of the previous stories that I didn’t suffer because of it.

This book also acts as a backdoor pilot for the Sellswords series (the remainder being written several years later) so I intend to dive down that rabbit hole for a little while before coming back to the Drizzt series. Entreri has always been a favourite of mine and I’m interested to see how Salvatore turns him into a “hero” – although undoubtedly, as an anti-hero.

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May

15

Review: Abaddon’s Gate

By pcurd

Abaddon's Gate
Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was not expecting the story to get so much better. The Expanse series has been good up to now, but not exceptional. The TV conversion seemed strong and I wanted to get far ahead in the books before watching more of it – but I lost my enthusiasm in January after finishing the somewhat disappointing Caliban’s War (it’s still a good story, I gave it 4 stars!) which I didn’t feel had taken the story forward as much as I’d expected.

Abaddon’s Gate seems to meander around and about the story rather than dive in, but it’s necessary and the pay off is worth it. The authors manage to weave all those loose parts back into a thread which hammers home in the last section of the book – and it’s glorious. The characters fit together cohesively and believably, and the authors make you genuinely feel for them. (view spoiler)

I don’t think the book has much for new readers who don’t know the characters and the story but as a continuation of the saga it’s an excellent read.

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May

15

Review: Damia’s Children

By pcurd

Damia's Children
Damia’s Children by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve gone back to reading the Tower and Hive series, a staple of my childhood, after maybe a decade. I’ve probably read all of these books at least 3 times before but I had forgotten most of the plot lines which is making this an enjoyable “first read” again.

McCaffrey is at her sexist, dubious best in this series. The Talent parents “leaning” on their children to help their minds develop properly always felt fishy to me and it’s no better now than it was when I last read them. I can see her point, these children are dangerous after all, but it’s quite hard to read at times. Every character is a caricature and whilst it makes for quick, light reading – it’s not very meaty!

(view spoiler)

A fun read, but not your true Sci Fi!

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May

2

Review: Resurrection, Inc.

By pcurd

Resurrection, Inc.
Resurrection, Inc. by Kevin J. Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s a typical Kevin J. Anderson story. The characters in the book are in a universe where people play on each other’s fears, and this is expressed in a way that plays on the reader’s fears.

The story revolves around the concept of a Servant – a resurrected corpse that is essentially programmed for servitude. Most of the technology is laughable (they don’t even have mobile phones in this future) but it was written in 1984 so that is hardly surprising. The Internet derivative is actually quite interesting, it has developed into something recognisable as a network of computers but seems to be more like AOL – a section for news, a section for local information, and loads of databases you can search.

(view spoiler)

Overall a reasonably fun read, and short, but not something I’m keen to recommend.

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Apr

24

Review: The Moonstone

By pcurd

The Moonstone
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading this book for a while now (Kindle says I started in August last year! 8 months!) but I haven’t been reading every week, or even every month. That’s not because it’s a bad story, far from it, or because it’s not a compelling tale, it is, but because I have been pretty deep in a series of audio books and found myself filling time that way. However, the last 40% or so of the story really pick up the engagement, the framing changes, the narrator changes (it’s an epistolary), and suddenly I had to finish it.

The story is considered the first full length detective novel written in English and as a fan of the genre, I was keen to see where it had started. The contemporary setting of the 1840-60s is not a period I know well. Around that time I believe the only authors active in that time from whom I’ve read more than one book are: Oscar Wilde (mostly later (1880-90s)), Jane Austin (earlier (she died in 1817)), Edgar Allan Poe (died in 1849), Jules Verne, and Charles Dickens. I haven’t read any Thomas Hardy, nor any Robert Louis Stevenson, and only one Lewis Carroll. Perhaps this should direct my future “to read” list then.. But, to the point – The Moonstone gave me a very interesting slice of life I haven’t seen before. Whilst the family-centric lifestyle of Austin is here, there is also a good railway service so the ladies of the household can move around. Rachel Verinder catches trains all over the place – I can’t see Elizabeth Bennet travelling this way (and the railway didn’t open until 12 years after the book was written). The servants described so well by P G Wodehouse or Verne get plenty of words, but they don’t have the social mobility of the 1900s yet – they live in house and are hereditary. It’s an in-between time – and fascinating because of it. Whereas Dickens gave a deep view of the underclass and the seedy, Wilkie Collins merely touches on it. Collins’ focus is on the lives of the privileged and those in contact with them.

My favourite narrators were the “head servant” Betteredge and the “adventurer” Blake. Both are key characters in the story and cross reference each other in a very interesting way – something not many stories are able to do. I wasn’t expecting the amount of humour that comes out during Betteredge and Miss Clack’s sections – it’s rather modern and very British. I looked forward to these narrators and found the change of pace quite rewarding. However, none of the narrators were boring and all had an interesting twist on their telling of the story. Their prejudices and world view form the majority of the story – how and what they see in the world is often more interesting than the sub-plots. This kind of social commentary is of course common in 19th century storytelling and Collins’ inclusion in The Moonstone isn’t out of place.

I find myself being reminded in parts of the Jeeves and Wooster series by Wodehouse – even though these books are set (and were written) many decades later, I am sure Wodehouse was inspired by those that came before him – The Moonstone must be included.

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Apr

13

Review: Chorus Skating

By pcurd

Chorus Skating
Chorus Skating by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s done! I’ve finished the Spellsinger series! It wasn’t a hard series to work through, really they are “easy listening” stories, but it felt like a long time.

It’s a return to form after the diversion through the 7th book (Son of Spellsinger), focusing again on the cast of the third 6 stories with a layer of “elderly” creakiness thrown on top. Really though, chronologically the cast can’t be older than their early 40s so the frequent comments on dodgy backs, pained knees, and worn out fingers is a little over the top. Foster himself must have been older than that when writing this book, I hope he wasn’t feeling his age quite that much!

The story follows the same rambling through the country meeting people and solving their problems motif that has been the series staple since the third book, this time focusing only on one sub-plot. This could have been a problem, but for once the new characters (because, of course, bringing back old characters would be far too dull) aren’t all annoying. All of them are interesting, and the majority have a good mix of personality and motivations. It felt a little like he was trying to cram in a few more “tribes”/species to get them off his list, but it was a good variety which added to the plot rather than being entirely fluff.

My biggest gribe is the continuation of the trend towards terrible female characters. Since the midpoint in the series I think Foster went off women, and starting writing awful characters with only two possible guises – the house-proud busybody or the acquisitive wet rag. Even once strong characters from the beginning of the series are not immune, morphing into a totally different person on their reappearance. In this book the problem is multiplied by the number of female characters brought in at once. What Foster was doing, I can’t imagine, but he does manage to introduce a new group with a different background to those we’ve seen before that I became quite attached to. Of course they are all men, since they are well written.

I still don’t think I can recommend the Spellsinger books to any particular group, or type of fan. They aren’t good fantasy stories, they aren’t good adventure stories, and I don’t think they are good “anthropamorphic animal” stories (although I’m no expert in that genre). I was able to enjoy them though, and this is one of the better ones for sure. I will miss one or two of the characters – but all the best characters left after their respective book never to be seen again anyway so I’m used to that.

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Mar

27

Review: Son of Spellsinger

By pcurd

Son of Spellsinger
Son of Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, it’s from the 90s so of course it has rap. For 6 books Foster has managed not to include any lyrics, giving little treats to those who know the songs and can guess what might happen but now, because 90s, it has to be rap and because (I assume) he’s made up the lyrics himself he can include them in the book. And it’s awful. Not to mention the pseudo-cockney accent of the otters makes completely bizarre rhymes and really terrible wordplay the apparent order of the day.

The story is another romp through the world (in one of the few directions we haven’t been before, naturally) meeting increasingly exotic animals that need to be looked up in an encyclopedia (or Google) before you have any idea what they are and solving problems at a rate of one per chapter.

So, it’s a Spellsinger book. Yes, and apart from the change of musical genre it’s fairly unchanged from the previous 6. The group dynamic is used to good effect and the sense of comradery is more believable here – not least because the group starts out fully formed (for a while anyway) from the beginning. New characters being introduced is another Spellsinger trope and of course we get that too – one of my favourite of the series is introduced. Never to be heard from again, I assume.

After all of the books I’ve trudged through for this series you’d think the eighth one would be the easiest to jump straight into, but the new direction of this part of the series makes it hard. The characters just aren’t as interesting, and plots getting very stale by this point. But I must, I will finish this series – by sheer force of will if I have to!

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Mar

18

Review: The Time of the Transference

By pcurd

The Time of the Transference
The Time of the Transference by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last of the original Spellsinger books and actually I enjoyed it quite a lot. Some of the story didn’t make much sense, and the entire ending is just mad but I came out of it with a positive feeling. The onward marching plot from the first few books is now well and truly replaced with “books in a bottle” where a fresh calamity is created and resolved within one book. This was one of the more believable plots, although some of the sub plots make very little sense – in typical style for the Spellsinger series.

There continues to be a seemingly never ending cast of new characters and species to introduce but for once I wasn’t entire put off by any of the characters.

As a finale of a series it’s disappointing but considering two more books were published I assume Foster felt the same way and perhaps his second chance at a finale will be better.

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Feb

27

Review: The Paths of the Perambulator

By pcurd

The Paths of the Perambulator
The Paths of the Perambulator by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favourite Spellsinger book so far. The story is a little mad but it has a good premise and allows Foster a lot of freedom to try things out. The titular Perambulator is a well conceived “big evil” character and all the way through I was wondering what beast from Jon-Tom’s world it would be. It made it clear to me what the earlier stories were missing – something that I actually care about!

My biggest issue with this book is a bit of blatant sexism about half way through which is handled quite poorly – there is an attempt to deflect it as being “oh, it’s just his way” but that is then undone by another set of comments later. Perhaps this was acceptable at the time, but it’s unpleasant now.

I overall enjoyed the story and whilst it is definitely not worth reading all the books just for this one (as it might be for, say, the later Harry Potter books) it’s a nice joy to have it appear in the middle of the series as a reward for (suffering?) coming this far.

I’m a big fan of the John Wayne-alike that appears too..

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Feb

20

Review: The Moment of the Magician

By pcurd

The Moment of the Magician
The Moment of the Magician by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story did drag a bit for me. The travelling became the entire story – the actual plot was resolved within a couple of chapters at the end – and left all sorts of holes open.

You know how in a good story there are loads of tangential bits that don’t make sense on their own but then – boom – everything is revealed? Well The Moment of the Magician does the bits, but forgets the boom. None of the odd little side plots are resolved and it just becomes a walking story. Most of the Spellsinger books fit this description but this is by far the most blatant and most unoriginal yet.

The characters stayed a little more fixed this time without new “leads” appearing all over the place, which was nice, and we got some nice scenes with JonTom and Mudge doing things together which threw me back to the first book and happier times (for me, as the reader).

I am running out of things to say about these books, they are all very similar and writing this a few days later I find it hard to remember what happened and what was in the next book (yes, I’ve dived straight into number 5. 6? I’ve lost count) but I could be anywhere or anywhen in the timeline and be equally confused.

They are fun enough but I don’t feel like I’m learning anything!

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