In a palace far above the sea, a young, bewildered queen begins her reign. Deep in the stone under the palace, a young girl translating foreign languages in the royal library becomes obsessed with a magical book containing a language of thorns. It is an obsession that could destroy her world.
Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip is a poetic novel. The language is precise, evocative, and quietly beautiful. Reading it was like viewing a series of snapshots in which the characters' desperation can be felt as one views the scenes.
While parts of the plot are obvious, there are enough twists and unexpected events to keep a reader interested. There may not be enough action for some readers, as there is no villain, aside from the moral ambiguities in us all. For the rest, it is a lovely, poignant story.
Mon Jun 27 20:33:40 CDT 2005
The Postman has a rugged post-apocalyptic setting based on a post-nuclear-war USA that almost - but not quite - survived total collapse. Gordon, a loner who trades old tales of prewar culture in bardic style for his meals, meanders about from village to village, looking for someone who is trying to build something more than a subsistence society.
Falling into misfortune, Gordon uses the uniform of a long-dead postal worker to weave an elaborate lie that will enable him to survive. Unwittingly, the false postman becomes a source of hope to the small, isolated communities that have had no inkling that the nation ever survived. That tremulous hope has its own war to survive before it can really take root, though.
The writing of Postman is average, and the pacing rather compact. I think Brin could've fleshed it out more without losing the point of the story. Most of what Brin does in a little over 300 pages (paperback) is make interesting psychological and sociological speculations. We get snapshots of half a dozen communities, each with its own form of government; each of which is permanently changed in Gordon's wake. The latter is what sets this book apart from the few other post-apocalyptic works I've read. It is a light snack of brain food, and I wish it had been more.
Fri Jun 24 02:27:19 CDT 2005
In Shadow Games
, the first Book of the South in the Chronicles of the Black Company
, we follow the Company on its journey southward towards the near-mythical Khatovar, a city not on any map, yet nevertheless faithfully recorded in the company Annals. Their quest does not lack for opposition, however, for the Shadowmasters are determined to
bar their path, and there are hints that those long thought dead have come south to pursue old enmities as well.
Thu Jun 23 03:31:49 CDT 2005
Shadow Games is the first of the Books of the South, the second part of the Chronicles of the Black Company
. Following the events of The White Rose
and roughly contemporaneous with The Silver Spike
, Shadow Games follows Croaker and the Black Company on the first steps of their quest to return to their origins... the almost-mythical city of Khatovar, across the equator and nearly seven thousand miles of marching from the Lady's tower at Charm.
Tue Jun 21 03:06:42 CDT 2005
Continuing the Chronicles of the Black Company
, The Silver Spike tells the tale of events following the climatic clash in The White Rose
. In the aftermath of that battle, the surviving core of the Black Company went one way, and the supports of the White Rose another.. leaving the soul of the Dominator imprisoned in a silver spike, buried deep in the heartwood of a sapling demigod.
Mon Jun 20 00:07:17 CDT 2005
Hrmph. I saw it. It was OK. I can't say that it was especially good, but it wasn't especially bad; certainly far better than the debacle that was Batman and Robin.
They went out of their way to avoid contradicting the more recent movies while setting up a more effective backdrop for sequels, but I think that will end in the next series (the setup for the sequel-villian was the Joker, which will obviously conflict with the Batman of the 90s).
Sat Jun 18 03:06:41 CDT 2005
The White Rose
is the third book in the Chronicles of the Black Company
. The Lady's victory over her husband the Dominator at Juniper (Shadows Linger
) came with a high price: the loss of the Black Company, long sworn to her service, to follow the White Rose... the prophecied rebel who first imprisoned her and her husband 400 years ago, now reborn to meet the Lady's renewed threat. All unknowing, the Black Company had sheltered the White Rose herself within their ranks, and when the Taken begin to turn on them, chose survival and personal loyalty over the Lady's service.
But if the Black Company is done with the Lady, the Lady is by no means done with them... and the Barrowlands still hold a treasury of ancient horrors seeking their freedom.
Sat Jun 18 02:40:50 CDT 2005
The Black Company
opened Glen Cook
's dark military fantasy with a flood of smoke and flame. The story continues in Shadows Linger, as the Black Company begins to learn the dirty little secret the Lady left in her grave when an unwitting wizard freed her. If the Lady is a merciless, uncaring tyrant, than the Dominator cares very, very much about the betrayal that left him trapped. And not in a loving, tender sort of way.
And that puts the Black Company between a rock and a hard place... facing an unenviable choice of evils with no way out in sight.
Wed Jun 15 01:25:55 CDT 2005
Imagine a hard-bitten mercenary company, the last of the 12 Free Companies of Khatovar, wielding swords, spies, sappers, and seige engines with equal facility in a world where wizards rule the battlefield and the last of the dragons was eaten millenia ago by something even more dangerous.
Imagine ten of the most powerful wizards in the world, all bound to serve one even more powerful than they: the Ten Who Were Taken.
Imagine a long-prophecied conflict between the Lady, merciless and remote in her power, binder of the Ten Who Were Taken, and the White Rose, who defeated the Lady over four hundred years ago... and who has been reincarnated to contend with the Lady for the rule of the world once more.
Imagine that the mercenaries of the Black Company have just betrayed their employer and signed up... on the wrong side.
The Black Company is military SF at it's finest, making a mockery of epic battles between good and evil by focusing on the epic conflicts between lesser evil and greater evil, and never forgetting that sometimes a mouse could starve on the difference. Darkly pessimistic and evocative in a way that only the doomed can properly appreciate, Glen Cook invites us into a world that demonstrates why living in interesting times is not always desirable.
Tue Jun 14 20:47:27 CDT 2005
It's not exactly the most serious interview
I've ever seen, but it's funny.
Tue Jun 14 20:28:06 CDT 2005
Lord of Chaos, the 6th book in Robert Jordan
's Wheel of Time
, marks a turning point for the series. It is the last book that can be effectively defended as lacking major flaws. In some ways it is almost a victim of its own bloat... almost, but not quite, for the high points of the story are very, very high.
Mon Jun 13 02:31:18 CDT 2005
The first movie in the tale of Narnia is due out this summer/fall. The trailer shown before Revenge of the Sith
suggests a visually-powerful movie with special effects sufficient to
the story, but don't offer a great deal of insight into the quality of
the story. It could be as good an adaptation of the novels as The
Lord of the Rings, or as poor as, well, typical Hollywood. The
religious theme of the movies is particularly vulnerable to the tin ear
for religion that the industry is known for... and, of course, it's
been such a long time since I've reread the novels that I won't be able
to tell the difference unless I arrange a reread ahead of time.
So onto my list they go...
More information on the movies is available from Disney
, including online versions of the trailers if you look (it's a couple clicks deep into their flash interface).
The good news, of course, is that the special effects are being handled
by Weta; the same people who did that task for The Lord of the
Rings. That fact alone promises much to me.
Sat Jun 11 18:13:03 CDT 2005
Jordan's Wheel of Time series continues with The Fires of Heaven, the 5th volume of what may be the longest-running fantasy series ever... at least in terms of page count. Rand's destiny has taken him to the Aiel Waste, a vast desert populated by nomadic warriors, where he will contend with the Shaido Aiel following Couladin for the title of Car'a'carn (chief of chiefs)... and with the Forsaken, who lurk as always in the shadows, awaiting the opportunity to strike.
Tue Jun 07 03:52:12 CDT 2005