Saturday, January 22, 2011

Litany of the Long Sun

Litany of the Long Sun (The Book of the Long Sun, #1-2)Litany of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The good things about Gene Wolfe:

He relies upon, and builds the reader's intuition. When characters interact especially when strong emotions are at play, Wolfe doesn't underline anything. There are no expository emotional statements. We're expected to intuit from the tone of the conversation and the physical manifestations the emotional charge of a conversation. At first, this can leave you feeling quite lost. In fact I missed some moments for sure. In the beginning, when something of import occurs, I sometimes didn't realize until a few pages later. As I read, I got a sense of how characters talked, and how they reacted to things. It became easier to spot when their tone changed, or when they might be lying. This same technique is used when exploring the world. There aren't any places where you're told, the world is like this. This word means that. The immersion in the world isn't because he's drawn you a picture. He wants you to instead be a pair of eyes, dropped into the world. Much of what you first see doesn't make sense, because it's all new to you. Eventually, it comes to feel natural.

The bad things about Gene Wolfe:

His plot relies a lot on luck. Not the kind of I win at everything kind of luck, but the kind of luck that places the right people around you. The kind of luck that takes a character with no political ambitions, and places him in the center of things. In reality, unambitious people are never at the center of world events. Perhaps that's part of what he's trying to say. Our idealized concept of leadership is never met today, because our systems prevent any such people from attaining positions of power. But at the same time, it weakens the plot.

The good things about Litany of the Long Sun:

The main character is religious. And he's not ridiculous, stupid, vain, annoying, or any other stereotype that is often placed upon religious characters in modern fiction. Instead, he is sincere, devoted and loving. He is not perfect, he acknowledges his sins, and is not incapacitated by guilt.

Wolfe's prose reads at an elevated level. Not to say that it's better or worse than the prose of a writer like Brandon Sanderson, but it's written in a more grand(?), poetic(?), literary(?) kind of voice. In all honesty, if every book I read was written in this voice, I'd get tired of it. But I really enjoy it every once in a while.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other StoriesThe Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Short stories are difficult, because they have to hit it out of the park. While none of these short stories was great, they were ok. Not as good as the Jonathan Strange/Mr Norrell novel was.

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