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- ► 2013 (253)
- ► 2012 (287)
- Thoughts on "Parallel Stories" by Peter Nadas (by ...
- Magic Gifts: A Free Kate Daniels Novella by Ilona ...
- A Nice Chistmas Gift: "Percepliquis" by Michael Su...
- My Three Most Disappointing Books of 2011 (by Livi...
- Thoughts on "Leeches" by David Albahari and "The T...
- Deadcore: Four Hardcore Zombie Novellas (Reviewed ...
- BLOG TOUR: Maria V. Snyder on "The Trouble with Na...
- Stirred by J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch (Reviewed b...
- NSB HOLIDAY COUNTDOWN: “A Dirge for Prester John” ...
- "Wasted Morning" by Gabriela Adamesteanu (Reviewed...
- A Cover Snapshot of my Current Reading List (by Li...
- NEWS: M. R. Mathias Announces Release Dates for “T...
- Three Indie Mini-Reviews: Child of the Ghosts, The...
- The Three Ruins Anthologies from Hadley-Rille Book...
- Several More Highly Anticipated 2012 Novels (by Li...
- Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough (Reviewed by Mihi...
- Interview with Kelly Gay (Interviewed by Mihir Wan...
- My Highly Recomended Books of 2011 in Covers (by L...
- NIGHT SHADE BOOKS HOLIDAY COUNTDOWN: Excerpt from ...
- "Native Star" by M.K. Hobson (Reviewed by Cindy Ha...
- "Saints Astray" by Jacqueline Carey (Reviewed by L...
- Zero Sum by B. Justin Shier (Reviewed by Mihir Wan...
- 2011 Goodreads Choice Winners and a Review of my P...
- Legend by Marie Lu (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)
- "Rise of Empire" by Michael Sullivan (Reviewed by ...
- Two 2011 SF Novels that are past their expiration ...
- GUEST POST: “The Joy of Cooking Tropes” by Michael...
- Spotlight on December Books
- ▼ December (28)
- ► 2010 (346)
- ► 2009 (466)
- ► 2008 (376)
INTRODUCTION: As 2011 is drawing to a close, I wanted to discuss all my top books of year here and the only one that was missing was Peter Nadas' 1150+ page, 18 years in the writing and few more in translation masterpiece. I will offer just a compilation of my thoughts as I have been unable to cohere them into a review, but I hope they will give at least an inkling of this book's power. Very long, quite difficult and quite messy and sprawling on occasion, but a great and memorable book that I see myself rereading for a long time. Here is the blurb:
"In 1989, the year the Wall came down, a university student in Berlin on his morning run finds a corpse on a park bench and alerts the authorities. This scene opens a novel of extraordinary scope and depth, a masterwork that traces the fate of myriad Europeans—Hungarians, Jews, Germans, Gypsies—across the treacherous years of the mid-twentieth century.
Three unusual men are at the heart of Parallel Stories: Hans von Wolkenstein, whose German mother is linked to secrets of fascist-Nazi collaboration during the 1940s; Ágost Lippay Lehr, whose influential father has served Hungary’s different political regimes for decades; and András Rott, who has his own dark record of mysterious activities abroad. The web of extended and interconnected dramas reaches from 1989 back to the spring of 1939, when Europe trembled on the edge of war, and extends to the bestial times of 1944–45, when Budapest was besieged, the Final Solution devastated Hungary’s Jews, and the war came to an end, and on to the cataclysmic Hungarian Revolution of October 1956. We follow these men from Berlin and Moscow to Switzerland and Holland, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, and of course, from village to city in Hungary. The social and political circumstances of their lives may vary greatly, their sexual and spiritual longings may seem to each of them entirely unique, yet Péter Nádas’s magnificent tapestry unveils uncanny reverberating parallels that link them across time and space.This is Péter Nádas’s masterpiece—eighteen years in the writing, a sensation in Hungary even before it was published, and almost four years in the translating. Parallel Stories is the first foreign translation of this daring, demanding, and momentous novel, and it confirms for an even larger audience what Hungary already knows: that it is the author’s greatest work."
THOUGHTS: The parallel stories of the title have rarely any finality and characters jump in and out though there are several mainstays in the "bedrock" part of the novel that takes place in Budapest 1961 and revolves around several late middle aged women with troubled past, their sons, nephews, husbands, and especially the Lippay-Fehr household.
The novel took me several weeks of reading, rereading, going back and forth and extensively using the search function on my epub version which I alternated with the print version as I read each page at least twice, though not necessarily in order, but sometimes following the characters using search. As quite a few of these stories just stop at some point, while others start I think that either a flow chart of some sort or using search is useful in making sense of the huge tapestry of the book.
"Parallel Stories" is extremely dense and jumps between pov's, narrative forms, tenses, characters, so it is best read as a collection of vignettes; some shorter, some longer as in the (in)famous seventy page sex scene that is like most of this novel not for the easily offended - I did not count the pages of the scene though it seemed to be 50 pages at least but others did and 70 sounds about right.
There are haunting descriptions from war to sex to death, bodily fluids left and right while the novel abounds with very deep and subtle connections between characters that are easy to miss. There is also much more so that it is really hard to convey what the novel is about unless you start reading and the book was worth all the money and time I spent on it, no question about it.
On the other hand the scathing review by Tibor Fischer in the Guardian has a kernel truth and the novel may turn readers off easily, but I am in the "masterpiece camp" and consider the book an impressive achievement.
While I have greatly enjoyed The Gone Away World in 2008, today I mostly remember it for the long and convoluted paragraphs that somehow read funny and not clumsy.
Angelmaker starts in a somewhat similar manner but if anything it is even funnier and wittier and I found myself rolling with laughter at the misadventures of the main hero, Joe Spork, who wants to live a quiet life repairing the odd mechanical artifact, but an intruder cat which wants the house to itself, an assortment of mobsters related to his deceased father's missing inheritance and an old lady with a dog that manages to reassert the supremacy of the four legs against the two legs after Joe temporarily defeats the cat, are determined not to let that happen.
It is early of course but I really expect to have a grand time reading Angelmaker and the book announces itself as a huge 2012 release. And there seems to be a doomsday device and other sff assortments too...
There were a few other novels I did not like, but where I have quite enjoyed earlier installments and/or work by the author, like The Legacy of Kings by CS Friedman, The Sacred Band by David A. Durham, Extremis by Steve White and Charles Gannon and The White Luck Warrior by Scott Bakker but in all these cases I simply have been moving away from the respective genres (traditional fantasy with ancient evil, kings, emperors, crusades or sf with superior aliens versus the plucky humans and their allies) due to having reached a saturation point, so I cannot say they were really disappointments, but more of a "these books came too late for me" and I would have enjoyed them a few years back.
Number 1 on the list is The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. A college fantasy book in which almost nothing happened until more than half in and which essentially got really going with some 100 pages out of 900+ left. I simply cannot see how the author can finish the series and honor the implicit promises made in The Name of the Wind about what we will see in it, in only one more book especially at the glacial pace this one went.
Number 2 is Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright. I stated my motives HERE and I cannot stress how high were my expectations for this book especially after the superb recent short fiction from the author.
Number 3 is The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. As he is one of the few authors I've read all his novels to date, said novels number 10 or more and I enjoyed to greatly enjoyed all before this one, I was really shocked that I had major reservation about The Fallen Blade not because of vampires but because of the fragmented writing style. Read my joint review with Robert to see more detail.
"The place is Serbia, the time is the late 1990s. Our protagonist, a single man, writes a regular op-ed column for a Belgrade newspaper and spends the rest of his time with his best friend, smoking pot and talking about sex, politics, and life in general. One day on the shore of the Danube he spots a man slapping a beautiful woman. Intrigued, he follows the woman into the tangled streets of the city until he loses sight of her. A few days later he receives a mysterious manuscript whose contents seem to mutate each time he opens it. To decipher the manuscript—a collection of fragments on the Kabbalah and the history of the Jews of Zemun and Belgrade—he contacts an old schoolmate, now an eccentric mathematician, and a group of men from the Jewish community.
As the narrator delves deeper into arcane topics, he begins to see signs of anti-Semitism, past and present, throughout the city and he feels impelled to denounce it. But his increasingly passionate columns erupt in a scandal culminating in murder. Following in the footsteps of Foucault’s Pendulum, Leeches is a cerebral adventure into the underground worlds of secret societies and conspiracy theories."
"Leeches" is the first David Albahari novel I finished - I tried Gotz and Meyer a while ago but it did not hook me so I marked it for later. The novel has a very striking beginning that takes you in and from there it proceeds in a continual "whole book as one paragraph" manner. At times there is a feeling of being overwhelmed by the words as they seem to come in a deluge, so you need to put the book down and reflect on what you just read.
The book's main conceit is in the grand tradition of conspiracy theories, though of the literate Eco kind not the junky Va Dinci (!) ones, but its Eastern European setting and the author's superb literary skills - and of course the translator's skills as the novel reads very naturally and smoothly - kept me interested despite my "meh" feelings towards this genre.
While a relatively slim 300 pages length, Leeches packs quite a lot of stuff and it reads like a book twice its size. There is action and drama and quite a lot of tense moments while the ending is very good. If there was one small niggle, I would have loved the book to be present tense rather than be narrated from six years later as a little suspense (eg the final outcome for the narrator) is lost.
Overall a dense but very rewarding read and a highly recommended novel of 2011.
"On vacation with his girlfriend, Ingeborg, the German war games champion Udo Berger returns to a small town on the Costa Brava where he spent the summers of his childhood. Soon they meet another vacationing German couple, Charly and Hanna, who introduce them to a band of locals—the Wolf, the Lamb, and El Quemado—and to the darker side of life in a resort town.
Late one night, Charly disappears without a trace, and Udo’s well-ordered life is thrown into upheaval; while Ingeborg and Hanna return to their lives in Germany, he refuses to leave the hotel. Soon he and El Quemado are enmeshed in a round of Third Reich, Udo’s favorite World War II strategy game, and Udo discovers that the game’s consequences may be all too real."
The Third Reich is quite a disappointing novel by Robert Bolano as the "main thread" of the novel dealing with Udo's narration of his Costa Brava eventful sejour is excellent, but the Third Reich game interludes are utterly distasteful not to say obscene for reasons I will not enter into great detail, as they are obvious. WW2 was a catastrophe that cost uncounted lives and blighted even uncounted more and to make a game of it is just disgusting. War porn which is not even serious but a game. So 2/3 an A book and 1/3 that is not even F, but just utter disgusting junk.
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INTRODUCTION: To celebrate the publishing of Touch of Power, the first novel in her new Healer series, Maria V. Snyder is participating in a blog tour and she was kind enough to include us and offer a very interesting post on how to name characters.
While the official publication date is in January, the novel is available on Amazon now. I have read it a while ago and enjoyed it quite a lot, while I have a review tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday, December 27. In the meantime you can head to Goodreads for a quick summary of my thoughts. I have also reviewed two of her Glass novels on Fantasy Book Critic and talked a little about her superb debut Study series that attracted my attention to this talented author.
Ms. Snyder is running a BLOG TOUR GRAND PRIZE contest on her website HERE. If you want to participate read the instruction carefully and note the geographical restrictions in some situations.
THE TROUBLE WITH NAMES
I normally don't have trouble picking out names for my characters. Before I start a novel, I look through my baby names books and chose names. I chose names based on their meanings and also by what I like the sound of. I put the most time and effort into choosing the main character's names. Then I pick a girl and boy name for each letter of the alphabet (except the main protag's letter) so I end up with fifty names. Easy right?
Not for TOUCH OF POWER. I originally picked Lexa as my main female protagonist. Her name means defender of men. I wrote about a quarter of the book using Lexa, but the name didn't sit well with me. She sounded too modern. I really liked Ava, which means life, but couldn’t use it because I used that name in my short story, SWORD POINT. I really liked the name Avery, but it’s a boy's name. However, I know people have been disregarding the gender thing, so I thought if I spelled her name Avry it would look more girly :)
I also worried about Kerrick. Having used the name Kade in the Glass books, I thought they might be too close, but decided to keep it because Kerrick means, chief hero/king’s rule, and it suited him perfectly. Other perfect names that I found were Prince Ryne (little king), and Tohon (cougar).
Then there's Kerrick's men. Belen (arrow), Quain (clever), Javin (son of Japheth – biblical), and Flea (a nickname of one of my son's friends – see blog about Life is Fodder). My editor thought Javin was too close to Janco from the Study and Glass books so I changed it to Vinn (victor). Except Vinn was too close to Finn from SPY GLASS. Huff! This is going on during revisions and the advance reading copies went out with the name Vinn for what ended up being Loren (crowned with laurel).
Then I had characters named Daneen (god is my judge) and Danny (also god is my judge) and while they're not in the same scenes together in TOUCH OF POWER, they will eventually be in SCENT OF MAGIC. So I changed Daneen to Noelle (birthday of the lord), because my daughter wanted me to keep Danny.
So far, the names of the new characters in SCENT OF MAGIC have been fine, but we'll see :)
What do you think? Did I pick good names? Do you have a favorite and do you know what it means?
Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (POISON STUDY, MAGIC STUDY and FIRE STUDY) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster. When she’s not traveling, Maria lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and daughter.
TOUCH of POWER SUMMARY:
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos. Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....
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