Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Black Angel, by John Connolly

This book, while still outstanding, came as a bit of a disappointment. Not even for the plot itself, but, I thought the book would be a John Connolly wrote romp through Europe, and it wasn’t.Parker’s part in Europe only took up a small part of the book. Still, a very good book, filled with Connolly’s usual skills, but with a few more improvements needed than his later books.

I always find his writing style interesting. You can see the journalistic style seep in when he tells a tale from the past, that doesn’t always affect the plot of the story but fully fleshes out the world of the book. In some ways it reminds me of a remembrance of stories passed by mouth around a campfire late at night, before books were so easily accessible. True, this style does break the pacing of the story at times, but it is never too overbearing. I for one love the style, but it really depends on what you like yourself.
I found the villain in this story initially to be a bit of a letdown, but then I found him to be terrifying. Brightwell, grotesquely fat, whose mere arrival causes visions of terror. It’s quite a good play on the trope of heavy-set people as being the bullied, or the gluttonous or the comedic sidekick. Although, he doesn’t quite have the larger than life aura of the previous or future villains. The reason, in my opinion, is that we actually see the villain’s main acts with our own eyes, rather than see the aftermath or hear about them, a la Mr. Pudd or Herod.

Also, and this is the biggest flaw in the book, Angel and Louis characters seem to change in this book. Yes, I understand characters do grow through a series, but I’ve read The Reapers and every other book but the unquiet, and this sudden change doesn’t really fit. There’s something wise and prophetic about their chats with Charlie now, but not intelligent and common sense oriented as their past talks.
My final comment about this book is that it can be slightly overwritten. Like for God sake John Connolly, you don’t need to prove that you’re a literal good writer, the proofs already in the plotting.

Character 8/10: Characters are a pretty big deal to me, and I’m slightly in love with Connolly’s characters. They’re just so real and deep and flawed and...seriously the list of positive descriptions could go on and on. It’s only an eight, because I have read better wrote characters, and Angel and Louis’ mid book transformation. I also get a little bit bemused at the macho manly chats between Charlie and his friends, but that’s part of the characterisation.

Setting 7/10: Now this is an author that makes a setting come alive. He adds in tales of the past to really flesh out the environment, and it really makes it a joy to read.

Plot 9/10: This is the first John Connolly plot that actually surprised me. Usually, I read it to enjoy the ride, not actually be surprised by non-character related revelations.

Final: 24/30
An outstanding continuation of Parker’s story that is slightly dragged down by my own pre-conceptions and a slight discontinuity with two characters characterization. 

Have you read any of John Connolly's books or any books of a similar

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Lovers, by John Connolly

The Lovers opens with Charlie Parker announcing that the book “is an investigation into the circumstances of my father’s death”. That line created so much expectation and questions in myself, the reader. Why did his father kill those teenagers? Why did he then kill himself? And what resides in Parker’s family that makes him what he is?
Without delving into spoilers, I can definitely say this book is John Connolly’s best book yet. The prose is gorgeous without being arrogant and obnoxious , and the plot drags you into an all night reading session as Parker comes to grip with his father’s, and his own, intertwined past. Coupled with the plot and the prose the book proves that, unlike many literary writers, John Connolly can actually write a good plot.
My favourite style in this book is that John Connolly blends modern storytelling with a more word of mouth, ‘round a campfire, style of tale telling. There are many moments where we get some deep insight into a character, or a place or even a tale, all in a colloquial, word of mouth language. All of this adds a substance and an atmosphere to the tale that is lacking in many books. Also, it creates a sense of kinship to the peripheral characters that isn’t apparent in most books, which makes certain scenes unbearably heart wrenching.
John Connolly seems to play around with character point of view. It isn’t noticeable, or overdone, but you do find yourself filling in what you’re not directly told. Like, how unnerving is Charlie Parker? Characters, especially when Parker’s enraged, back down, or act as though they’re in danger. Why do they do this? Is Charlie Parker a wolf in sheep’s clothing to many people? That is one of the joys about reading this book, the joy of seeing what you’re not told.
With every book there are always downfalls. The two things that bothered me in this book was the lack of depth of the main antagonists and the rather un-climatic ending. Although, one could argue that since this is Parker’s tale, Connolly deliberately does not flesh out the villains, so as not to take away from Parker. Still, the confrontation was rather lacklustre and I would’ve liked more meat to the villains.
If you like crime, fantasy or horror, you should definitely buy this book.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

On My To-Read List

Ah, I have a LOAD of essays for Uni to do, so instead of doing a review i'm just going to post a picture of some pretty awesome books. The Killing Kind is actually a re-read, but it is so awesome.

Although, I also have to read The Handmaids Tale and The Colour Purple for Uni...ah well.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review of Deadhouse Gates, by Steven Erikson

In the vast dominion of Seven Cities, in the Holy Desert Raraku, the seer Sha'ik and her followers prepare for the long-prophesied uprising known as the Whirlwind. Unprecedented in size and savagery, this maelstrom of fanaticism and bloodlust will embroil the Malazan Empire in one of the bloodiest conflicts it has ever known, shaping destinies and giving birth to legends . . . Set in a brilliantly realized world ravaged by dark, uncontrollable magic, this thrilling novel of war, intrigue and betrayal confirms Steven Erikson as a storyteller of breathtaking skill, imagination and originality--the author who has written the first great fantasy epic of the new millennium.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Deadhouse Gates. I love the colossal improvement over Garden’s of the Moon, the depth of the world and the multiple viewpoints, but the huge problems with this book really drag it down. Maybe the hype about this series ruined it for me as I expected so much more than what it was. I’d still recommend it and it’s still an incredibly good book, but I don’t think it’s one of the best.
I can’t mention all the character viewpoints in this to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you to expect a multitude of them. The story tracks the tales of the Sapper Fiddler, the Assasin Kalam, Parin’s sister Felisin, the historian Duiker and the Trell named Mappo. There are a few viewpoints that crop up, but these, in my mind, are the main characters of this book.
Now, I like a large amount of viewpoints, but only if all of them capture my interest. In my opinion this book had something I call a “Rookie Blue” effect. A huge amount of characters are thrown at you in the hopes that you’ll empathise with a few. Personally, my favourites were Felisin (can’t resist Heboric), Duiker and Kalam. And I only really liked Duiker’s viewpoint because of the characters in his plot, not the actual viewpoint character. Also, I can’t go into details because of spoilers, but Kalam made a decision at the end of his plot which had no reasoning, was anti-climatic and underlined the lack of motivation behind any of his actions.
Another thing that annoyed me about the characters is that they have a habit of saying things that have no relation to the conversation whatsoever. You’ll probably understand this if you’ve read Gardens of the Moon, or it’s just something I imagined.
The plot was actually very, very good. There were some revelations that will cast the past books plot in a new light and other new pieces of info that add interest to the story. When the whirling begins the pacing of the ploy becomes incredible. Even if some characters are just travelling from place to place in their own isolated group.
Of course, I have a complaint with the plots. A lot of the time it feels as though the characters are going from action scene to action scene one after another. This gets tiring after a few hundred pages.
Also, I felt Duiker’s plot went on for far too long. Now, I do see the reasoning behind it as it did highlight the gruelling aspect of Duiker’s plot, but I just didn’t look forward to it towards the end.
I have to say though: the last Duiker chapter of the book is so horrifying that I am incredibly impressed with it.
The setting definitely saved this book. Well, maybe I’m taking the term setting as the total history and land of the whole world, but either definition proves this book’s setting is badass. The whole of the world is chock full of cultures, cults, artefacts and ruins. Steven Erikson has an interesting writing style that introduces a piece of lost history and either weaves it into the main storyline or drops tantalising hints to whet the appetite.
The atmosphere is, quite simply, perfectly captured. You can taste the grit of sand, feel the humid heat of a roasting climate and hear the beat of distant horses, all without describing the land directly. Seriously, I have no idea how he did it. Sure when they actually reach Raraku he describes it in deep detail, but before that he weaves an atmosphere of the desert almost subliminally.
Characters: 5/10
Plot: 6/10
Setting: 8/10
Total: 19/30
I know I have scored it pretty badly and found lots to complain about, but I really, really like this book. The world is so multilayered you can’t help but lose yourself in it and you will love some of the characters. Also, there are ten books I haven’t read, so maybe the next books are astronomically good. For those two reasons I’d recommend this book.