Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Warded Man

If you like reading fantasy, then you should pick up a copy of The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, when it comes out on March 10, 2009. I really think this is the best fantasy novel I've read since George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.

The Warded Man has everything you need to make an excellent fantasy novel. It has strong characterization with interesting characters. It has an interesting plot. There's solid world building. Most of all, it's an original story.

It's the tale of a young man named Arlen, who witnesses the killing of his mother by demons. These demons arise every night and kill any human or animal they can find that isn't protected by magic wards. Arlen vows to find the ancient fighting wards that allowed men to fight the demons millennia ago.

Seriously, I liked this book. The sequel is definitely on my want list when it comes out.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Lost City of Z

Wow! The Lost City of Z, by David Gramm, is a very cool book. It's the tale of Col.Percy Fawcett, the last of the great Victorian explorers. In 1925, he set off on his last great journey of discovery, the quest to find the mysterious Amazonian city that he called Z. He, his eldest son, and a third companion set off into the rain forest to search for it and were never seen again. Many other people set off into the rain forest to find the trio, and many of them--100 by the author's estimation--also disappeared without a trace.

Col. Fawcett was a very experienced explorer, and, unlike many of his contemporaries, he made a habit of befriending the Indians he encountered in his travels. He knew how to live off the land, and had an almost legendary immunity to tropical diseases. He was getting old, but even so, he was remarkably fit. His disappearance was very mysterious.

This book is an action filled account of Col. Fawcett's life as an explorer, the events surrounding his disappearance, and the author's own journey into the Amazon to find answers. If I were to make a list of the top ten books I read this year, this book would probably make the list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Am I Wearing?

Despite the fact that it was only 250 pages of not particularly dense or wordy text, I found Where am I Wearing?, by Kelsey Timmerman, to be pretty slow going. It's a first-hand account of his travels around the world, trying to visit the factories that made the clothes he wears.

The opening chapters describing why he decided to write this book, and the brief mention of his trip to Honduras (where his t-shirt was made), and stuff about anti-Globalization people were all kind of boring. Once he got past that it started to pick up a bit. His trip to Bangladesh, where they made his boxers, was slightly more interesting. He learned a good bit about the country and its people, but the book was still failing to grip me at this point.

Once he came to Cambodia, where his jeans were made, it became more interesting. There was a lot more about him trying to connect to the workers who made his jeans. Yes, he spent some time with a Bangladeshi worker called Arifa, but he didn't seem to devote as much space trying to connect to her. He takes the Cambodians bowling and goes with them to visit their home village. He does something similar for the Chinese workers who made his flip flops. After that, he makes a brief stop at the American factory that made his favorite shorts 15 years ago.

It's mostly a good book, once it pick up about halfway through. Though I do find his harping on how much richer American are than the people who make their clothes to be annoying. Still, it is an interesting book.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams

I know I said I was done with the review blog, and I am done with any sort of regular updates, but I've posting occasional reviews on my LiveJournal, so I figure I might as well cross-post them here.

I love zombies. They are, without a doubt, my favorite horror monster. I love zombie movies, unless they really suck. I love zombie songs. I even have a cool zombie t-shirt. So, I just had to get The Living Dead, an anthology of zombie short stories, when I heard about it. It's mostly worth it.

The anthology isn't perfect. There are a few stories whose inclusion I question (I'll get to them later). There are a few people who's absence I wonder about (why no Brian Keene?). Also, almost all of the stories are reprints, which doesn't matter so much to me, because the only one I'd previously read was the King one. If you're like me, this is a good anthology to buy.

Now, let's briefly look at the individual stories that I didn't like:

"Some Zombie Contingency Plans" by Kelly Link: WTF? There are no zombies in this one at all. It has nothing to do with zombies except that the main character is obsessed with zombie contingency plans. He's also obsessed with icebergs, so I can't help but wonder if Adams would have included it an an Iceberg anthology.

"Those Who Seek Forgiveness" by Laurell K. Hamilton: OK, this sin't actually a bad story, but it isn't all that hot either. It's part of Hamilton's Anita Blake series, which while popular, isn't one of the best series in the genre. This story doesn't really heart the collection, but it doesn't really add to it either.

"Less Than Zombie" by Douglas E. Winter: This is a parody of Less Than Zero, which I hanen't read. Also, I didn't actuall see any zombies in this one either, except maybe, in the snuff film they watch.

All of the other stories ranged from good to excellent. So there a re three stories that I at least would consider clunkers in an anthology of 34. And really, even those three aren't bad stories; I just think that two are a bit out of place in this anthology and the other is just in it to cash in one one more big name--which in unneccisary when you have Stephen King,Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, and several other writers who are well known in the genre. It is really still a pretty good book.