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April Books 8) Temeraire

8) Temeraire, by Naomi Novik

This is the first Hugo year I can remember (since about 2000) when I had not read a single one of the nominated pieces of fiction before the shortlist came out, but this probably reflects more on my efforts to catch up with classic non-genre literature over the last while than on anything about the quality of the list. I reckon this is the front-runner, though: LibraryThing users own more copies of it than of the the other four nominees combined (as of today, 621 to a combined 479 for the rest), and while general exposure to the book-buying public doesn't necessary correlate directly with Hugo voters' preferences, it seldom runs exactly opposite to them either.

I enjoyed it. I was one of the teenagers who really loved Anne McCaffrey's books on first reading them and then realised that they were rubbish - one of my worst experiences of disillusionment with any author. This story of dragons in the Napoleonic wars is a brilliant counterblast: the internal politicking of the dragonriders is all too true to life, and the girl dragons (and their girl riders) get to fight as well as their male counterparts (though for some reason this is not public knowledge). I'm also in the camp of those who enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, though I hated David Weber's efforts. And I also liked the few Patrick O'Brian novels I have read, so it's not a big surprise that I liked this.

Novik scores in my book for a sensitivity to nineteenth-century language which few writers can manage; also for her convincing portrayal of a subtly different history and society from what we are used to (as I said above, I found the internal politicking of the dragonriders most compelling). Towards the end of the book she changes one important detail in a well-known historical event in our timeline, with the result that the reader is suddenly thrown into real suspense as to how closely her world's history is going to map our own - a difficult trick to pull off.

I don't rate this as highly as the last three Hugo winners, but it is a good start to my Hugo reading season none the less.

Top five UnSuggestions for this book:
  1. A generous or+hodoxy by Brian D. McLaren
  2. Institutes of the Christian religion by John Calvin
  3. Libra by Don DeLillo
  4. The power of now : a guide to spiritual enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
  5. Laughable loves by Milan Kundera

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
blue_condition
Apr. 7th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
I'd best not try that one as I love Laughable Loves and I thought Libra was about the only non-irritating DeLillo ;)
shsilver
Apr. 8th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
My review of it is on my website. Basically, I found it enjoyable as long as I ignored the fact that she completely ignored any pretense of creating a coherent and logical backstory. She claims that the sentient dragons have been around in Europe since at least Roman times, but they have had absolutely no historical, cultural, or religious impact on the continent. That, for me, was a bigger chunk of disbelief than any of the rest of it.

It was the only novel nominee I'd read prior to the list coming out, although I've now started Eifelheim and have the other three sitting next to my bed.
frumiousb
Apr. 8th, 2007 07:08 am (UTC)
I liked Temeraire. It was a nice change in an era of heavy, complex world building. It felt fresh, clean and with nice hints of Richard Henry Dana.

Are you aware that Naomi Novik keeps a livejournal?
nwhyte
Apr. 9th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)
Are you aware that Naomi Novik keeps a livejournal?

Yeah, though I haven't looked at it yet; no doubt someone will bring this review to her attention, but since she already knows what is in the book I wouldn't expect her to respond!
nickbarnes
Apr. 8th, 2007 09:38 am (UTC)
You should, of course, read the rest of O'Brian. The Aubrey/Maturin series from #2 to about #8 are among the finest historical novels I've read. #2 (Post Captain) stands on its own very well. The quality declines somewhat after about #11 or #12, but by that point momentum will carry you to the end.
nwhyte
Apr. 9th, 2007 10:48 am (UTC)
I think #2 is one of the ones I have read and I did indeed very much enjoy it!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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