The Eight

The Eight

1 Star

Gah. Heh…ok…breath…. Alright, I think I’m finally ready to write a review for this book. I’ve started several times, and it went something like this; “Hatehatehatehatehatehatehatehate!!!” So I had to get some distance from this story before I could really decide what made me so angry about it. Let’s look at the story itself, first off.

This book is one of the many that came out in the wake of The Davinci Code, touting jacket blurbs like “The next Davinici Code!” and “If you like The Davinci Code, you’ll LOVE The Eight!” Lies, all of them. But I digress. So I got this book from a friend with no real recommendation–he just handed it over and walked away. I see why now. The story is of a woman who gets wrapped up in a mystery. Over several thousand years, a set of chess pieces has been scattered all over the earth. It is rumored these pieces hold a great secret–one which kings have been attempting to harness since the beginning of time. The woman, an American computer contractor in Iraq, follows the clues in an attempt to unravel the mystery. She encounters danger and adventure along the way.

So, sounds good, right? That’s what I thought! That is, until I actually started reading it. The general premise is great–the mystery was interesting, the back story wonderful, the fact that it was a mystery through time just gave it that much more oomph. However, for some reason the author just couldn’t pull it together. A good adventure mystery needs to have pace–a focus on the excitement, buildup to a great payoff, a twist or two, and a grand ending that leaves the reader gasping for breath. This had all the set up for that, but none of the delivery. The author seemed to get bogged down in details–but the wrong details. I remember reading four or five pages describing a meal the main character had, with wonderful descriptions of the drinks and the food and the scenery and the in-house entertainment. All well and good, except it had nothing to do with the story line. No bit of information gathered from that meal ever came up again…the action happened afterwards.

What really irked me was after reading several of these scenes, the author completely crapped out on what could have been a great ride. She has a character enter a scene, and, in three sentences, describe a grand adventure the character embarked upon to find a missing piece of the chess set. Now, this would have been some great reading. There was a puzzle that needed to be solved, major obstacles, a pitched battle, a near death, and grievous injury. How wonderful would that have been?!? But no–instead we get pages about the texture of blended yogurt, and two sentences summing up a major part of the story line that happened somewhere else.

This happened several times. It was almost as if the author didn’t think she had the ability to really craft a great adventure, so relied on recaps to get the information across. Come on! If you’re going to write a mystery, at least do it right! It took me a long, long time to get through this book. I wanted to like it; I love the genre, and there is nothing better than a really great puzzle mystery. But the author just wouldn’t let me–I’m not sure you could write a worse mystery if you tried. If you see this book, run far, run fast, and pick up The Rule of Four instead.

–Adrienne

Published in: on September 4, 2008 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  

The Rule of Four

3.5 Stars

What a good story! This is what a good puzzle mystery should be. There was intrigue, there was mystery, there were fascinating puzzles that just begged to be solved. Now, it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but puzzle mysteries can be hard. The author must craft a believably tough puzzle that is still solvable. These puzzles worked really well, but I think they were a bit too complex, and the solutions took too long to explain in a satisfactory manner. It would have been better to not explain them so throughly and just let the reader’s imagination take over.

It was still a great story, however, and was very hard to put down. The ending was most satisfactory, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a good puzzle read steeped in myth and history.

Published in: on September 2, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Same review as the first, but with a much sunnier feel due to the location change.  I’m glad not all of them are as dismal as the first, since I don’t think I could have taken much more dark/grimy/dirty/sloven/etc. -ness.

-TC

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Completely mindless, but fun.  I don’t really see the draw of these books, but they’re harmless and quickly over.  I finished 2 full books in this series while waiting in a waiting room (though admitedly I was there for like 4 hours).

This is the first book in the series, and tells how three main characters become orphans.  But really that’s over with on the third page or so.  After that, there are frequent references to how lonely and sad the children are, but not much more about the circumstances.  The book was clearly written for children, so there are a lot of: “I feel disappointed.  That means I am not happy with how things turned out.”  “We know what disappointed means!  Get to the real point of why you’re disappointed!”  But you read that and thought that was just me complaining about the book not getting to the point, didn’t you?  Nope, I mean that to be a paraphrase of what the characters actually say to each other.  About 20 times in the 30 page book.  Though I didn’t really count.  But the definitions they use aren’t bad, and in some cases I was struck by how applicable the definition given was to the book’s use of it.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend it exactly, but I did enjoy it enough to read the second one I’d already bought.  Probably not enough to buy anymore though.

-TC

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

The Girl with Braided Hair by Margaret Coel

I like series. You know, those books that take you through the lives of people in a particular region. Doesn’t matter if they are imagained, real or sci fi. I like knowing how someone else envisions their lives, who the interact with and what they do. This author does a good series. Coel could so easily revert to the tried and true banal of “silly little mysteries”, but instead develops characters and situations that are plausible, maybe even probable. She includes threads of history, both ancient and modern, real life situations facing native Americans, and complicated relationships to tie it all together. Yes, it does have a love affair, another guy who wants the woman, and gossip, but it somehow works in her books. Based on the tragedy of Wounded Knee, from the 1970’s, the story takes you through the discovery of a 30 year old murder and the insuing investigation, complete with death threats, more murders and last minute salvation. A nice read.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Infinity Beach

3 1/2 Stars

Have you ever noticed that the Mystery and Science Fiction sections are always together, way at the end of the fiction books? That makes sense to me because Sci-Fi books usually have some type of mystery in them. Not necessarily a whodunit sort of story, but a what’s-really-going-on-here type of thing. All the Jack McDevitt books I have read feature this element, Infinity Beach more so than most. Kim Brandywine sets out to discover what really happened thirty years ago when her clone sister disapeared amid interesting circumstances. The book is very good until the end, where is really slows down.

This is a common complaint I have with a lot of books and movies, where they will be very interesting and exciting almost right until the climax or big reveal or whatever, and then go pfft. Sometimes this comes from writers not really having a good explanation for all the weirdness that has been going on (the TV show Lost, for example), but often it seems as it they just get tired of telling the story and give up. It’s disappointing.

ben

Published in: on April 16, 2008 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Ender’s Game

5 Stars

When a science fiction book wins the Hugo and Nebula awards, you know going in it’s gonna be good.  Ender’s Game has all the hallmarks of good sci-fi: a future setting, space battles, neat-o technology, relativistic and gravity considerations.  It also has a well written and engaging story about brilliant children training as soldiers by playing war games.  Imagine Lord of the Flies without all the boring bits.

ben

Published in: on April 15, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Storm Front

4 Stars

Book One of the Dresden Files! That was my favorite TV show of last season, so of course it got canceled. Then someone told me it was based on a series of books, so I had to check it out. Not surprisingly, I liked the book version too.

Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, using his magic to solve real world problems, in a private eye sort of way. He also, on occasion, consults for the police when they encounter the unexplainable. Storm Front is a fun read because it explores Harry’s attempts to straddle two worlds, the mundane and the magical, without getting into too much trouble in either, and it mixes in a compelling whodunit in the meantime. I look forward to reading more.

ben

Published in: on April 13, 2008 at 8:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Interesting Times

4 Stars

So my Discworld kick of the last couple months (it’s over now) all started because I got this book from the library. It is the fifth Rincewind story, and made some references to his previous exploits, so I thought I ought to freshen up on his earlier adventures. It turns out that was not necessary. Except for the familiar characters, Interesting Times is its own book entirely. Rincewind gets sent to the counterweight continent, the Discword’s version of Asia, where he gets caught up in a variety of ridiculous and hilarious predicaments. This is the best of the Rincewind books so far.

ben

Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Douglas Adams’ Starship Titanic

4 stars

Hee! That’s pretty much the entire review for this book. It was hilarious. Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker fame, tells the story of a large luxury space ship that goes a little crazy. Wacky adventures ensue. There’s really no point going more into the detail of the story line–which is honestly secondary to the witty writing and amusing situations. The book is a fast read, simply because it’s nearly impossible to put down, and you end up laughing through every page. Highly recommended

–Adrienne

Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eric

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3 1/2 Stars

From the cover art it appears that this is a parody of Faust. I do not know Faust, but I sure enjoyed Eric. It is about a fourteen year old boy who tries to conjure a demon, but gets Rincewind instead. They travel around and have ridiculous adventures, with a pissed off Luggage following them every step of the way. This is the ninth Discworld book, and it exhibits all the irreverent humor and ridiculous disregard for narrative cohesion that I love about the series. This is an improvement over the previous Rincewind novels.

ben

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 7:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Sourcery

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3 1/2 Stars

More of Rincewind and the Luggage!  As far as Discworld characters go, Rincewind is not my favorite, so why am I reading all the Rincewind books at once?  Well I got an omnibus from the Science Fiction Book Club called Rincewind the Wizzard, which has the first four Rincewind-centered Discworld books.  It was sitting on my bookshelf for a while–since I had already read three of the four books, I was in no particular hurry to reread them, but it was something I was planning to do eventually.  Then I rented from the library the fifth Rincewind book, which makes mention of the chaos of Rincewind’s previous adventures, many details of which I could not remember, so I decided to go back for a refresher.

Anyway …. Sourcery is the story of an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son, who is by definition a source of magic, AKA sourcerer.  His extraordinary power sends the Disc all bonky and threatens to really mess things up, and it falls on the shoulders of hapless Rincewind to stop the sourcerer and save the Disc.  Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  

The Light Fantastic

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3 Stars

Rincewind is back! This book is a direct sequel to The Color of Magic, perhaps the only direct sequel in the entire Discworld lexicon. This time Rincewind, Twoflower and the Luggage race across the Disc trying to stop it from crashing into a giant red star. Actually, Rincewind, as per usual, just tries to stay alive, while everyone around him goes crazy about the star. In the process we meet interesting characters and experience satirical adventure. Hilarity ensues.

ben

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  

The Colour of Magic

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3 Stars

I am in the middle of a crazy Discworld kick.  Normally after two or three, I get sick of the style and stop reading them for a year.  But now I have read, like, six in a row and I am still going strong.  It’s weird.

The Colour of Magic is the first entry in the Discworld series, and this reading of it for me is actually a re-reading.  The story features Rincewind, an untalented wizard and practicing coward who has an uncanny ability to stay alive.  He meets friends and escapes enemies and has all sorts of adventures–like any Discworld book, the plot isn’t really important.  The first time I read this book, I absolutely loved it.  This time I only liked it. It’s not that TCOM is any worse now than it was back then, it is just that the newer books in the series are often better, so in comparison…

Oh, well.  It is still a fun book to read and a good introduction to the series.

ben

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Delete All Suspects

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4 Stars

Oh, the Turing books. I love it when authors can come up with truly unique characters. These books revolve around a computer–an artificial intelligence based computer named Turing. Throughout the books, Turing explores her dawning self awareness, and how this complicates her existence. Each individual book has some sort of mystery–murder, embezzlement, scams–that Turing and her small group of human friends must try and solve. The stories themselves are pretty run-of-the mill, with criminals doing crimes that are eventually discovered through clever police work and a considerable amount of processing power. However, the interplay between the characters (several of which are computers themselves, and Turing is always trying to discover if these computers have become self aware also) and how a newly self aware computer explores her new world.

–Adrienne

Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 9:25 pm  Leave a Comment