Thursday, November 10, 2011

Acacia: The War with the Mein

Acacia: The War with the Mein (Acacia, #1)Acacia: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has a great plot structure. The arc of the story is well planned, and has potential for interesting conflicts and characters. The weakness comes from:

1. a sometimes too obvious use of a trope, such as Chekhov's Skill, or Orphan's Ordeal.*

2. related to 1, an uneven level of character intimacy. Two characters(the daughters) get great treatment of their progression, their conflicts, their relationships. They are in interesting predicaments, and you see a definite progression from one plot point to the next. You're shown the progress from A->B->C, not just told about being at A, being at B, being at C. The other two characters(the sons), we just get little vignettes where there is more explaining than exposition. This shallow approach makes it feel like those tropes have sharp edges sticking through the fabric of the story.

This is this Author's first fantasy book, coming from Historical Fiction. As such, I can see his predilection for understanding conflict as being a product of the past. There's definitely understanding of the relations of great powers, and the ability of an empire to co-opt it's conquerors.

Surprisingly, his grasp of the fantastic elements are quite good. He creates magic that is unruly, mystic, and has real drawbacks. When you finally do understand the "Tunishnevre", the mixed sense of menace, horror and pity is well portrayed.

In all, I think there's potential here. I'll check the next books out of the library,

* Using tropes in fiction is not a problem, in fact fiction is built out of tropes. Sometimes it can be fun to just list all the tropes in any fiction. We depend on a shared framework of storytelling for drama. It's natural, but the skillful storytellers cloak the tropes in characters, prose and action.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very easy to read, format of letters to a stranger creates an intimate, well-divisioned story.

Like most fiction, this story takes all the dramatic things that could happen to the character, and they all happen. Which, while unbelievable, is a useful device for exploring the drama of being a teenager, and being a teenager who doesn't quite fit in the normal high school crowd.

The amount of sex doesn't jive with my own experience as a teen, and there's definitely some graphic content here. It mostly falls short of being explicit, however. I think I'd have a hard time saying it was ok for a teen to read, but for adults wanting to develop more sympathy for the teenage years, it's a great start.

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