January 6th, 2007

earthsea

January Books 3) A Clash of Kings

3) A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin (.co.uk, .com)

Having reread and enjoyed A Game of Thrones last year, and in hope that my rereading the books will telepathically spur grrm  on to finishing the next one, I went back to the second in the series and reread it over the last week. Martin, having killed off one of his viewpoint characters in the first volume, now introduces two more to add to the mix; one of these is the piratical princeling Theon Greyjoy (thanks to rcfinch for correction), whose hubris and fall is the clearest trajectory of any character in the book. As ever, the writing is engaging and exciting; the horrid death of one of the claimants to the kingdom half way through is a memorable moment, and the fact that you never know who is going to be alive at the end keeps you on your toes - I think no less than four of the viewpoint characters seem to be killed off at one point or another, though it turns out not to be true in every case.

Oddly enough, the one point where I felt the writing faltered because of Martin's choice of multiple narratives was in the description of the climactic naval battle outside the walls of the capital city, told from three different perspectives, none of them, of course, having a full picture of what is going on, but failing to really add up to a coherent picture.

In rereading this time, I was careful to pay more attention to the characters' dreams and visions, since it's fairly clear that they are signals to the plot to come - in particular, Daenerys has a vision of a young king with a wolf's head, surrounded by corpses, which of course we find out all about at the end of the following volume. Knowing what is to come for the odious Queen Cersei, it was interesting to see how Martin is already foreshadowing her troubles here.

Anyway, a jolly good re-read, and still very strongly recommended.

Top five UnSuggestions for this book:
  1. Don't waste your life by John Piper
  2. Vogue Knitting on the Go: Socks Two
  3. Vine's Expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words by W. E. Vine
  4. Evidence! citation & analysis for the family historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  5. Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee
books

Books of 2006, for the last time I promise

Lots of people are doing this over on the librarything community - list last year's books, and ask all and sundry if they have read them too. I've arranged them in decreasing order of popularity on LibraryThing, and cut off the most obscure ones, and the result is as follows (apologies for multiple authors where I have failed to adequately convert from LibraryThing cataloguing to reality):

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earthsea

January Books 4) Sourcery

4) Sourcery, by Terry Pratchett (.co.uk, .com)

I have to say that this is not one of pterry's greatest hits. Rincewind is really a one-joke character, and the proof of Pratchett's genuis is that he stretched the joke out over two excellent books, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. The wizardly bits of Sourcery are done better in the earlier books, and the exotic foreign parts are better done in later books; the humour hits unrelentingly on the single note of bathos, with very little wit to enliven it. Though I did like this exchange, about why the magic carpet goes up when you tell it to go down, and vice versa:
"How did you get the carpet to fly? Does it really do the opposite of what you command?"
"No. I just paid attention to certain fundamental details of laminar and spatial arrangements."
"You've lost me there," she admitted.
"You want it in non-wizard talk?"
"Yes."
"You put it on the floor upside down," said Rincewind.
Anyway, I shall look out for Wintersmith when in London next week.

Top UnSuggestions for this book: seven evangelical Christian books, and then Runaway, a short story collection by Alice Munro.