Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Books of the Week: 5/15/12

You should feel so blessed (or maybe cursed?). Despite my impending finals hanging over me like a red right hand, I'm still taking time to review books, saving you the misery of wasting your time and money. Aren't you lucky? AREN'T YOU? Anyway, for this week's regimen we have: One Warcraft (NOT Warhammer!) novel, one Space Marine Battles novel (as always), and one sci-fi novel that resisted easy classification through complete insanity.

Of Blood and Honor
Chris Metzen

No. Just... If a novel begins with a clumsy, overly detailed narrator description of the main character, that's a very bad sign. You see that "clumsy" in the previous sentence? Pretend I'm using that again and again to describe the writing. I'm willing to excuse a little clumsiness (especially in a book that's been translated from another language, which Of Blood and Honor HAS NOT) but Of Blood and Honor's overwhelmingly bad writing pushed me too far.

On the plus side, I did make it further in Of Blood and Honor than I did in Splinter of the Mind's Eye. That's SOMETHING--at least Of Blood and Honor doesn't have creepy incestual romance. I think...

Did not finish. Clumsy writing. KRUNK AM WRITE LESS CLUMSY THAN MISTER METZEN! Yup. My caveman alter ego (WHO I AM ON DRUGS TO SUPPRESS) just chimed in. He's right. Deal with it. Maybe Of Blood and Honor gets better, but reading to that point wouldn't be worth it.

Rynn's World
Steve Parker

How many of these Space Marine Battles books do I HAVE?. Rynn's World uses the standard Battles template--Space Marines vs. <insert enemy here>. In this case, the enemy in question is orks, and they're invading a Space Marine homeworld. THAT'S not going to end well...

Rynn's World has some of the best portrayals of Space Marine-human interactions I've ever seen. Members of both parties have varying opinions of the other side: some Space Marines view the humans as nuisances, some see them as children to be protected, others as assets; and "ordinary" humans see the Marines as gods, immortal warriors, tyrants...

In keeping with the nuanced portrayals of humans and Space Marines, the orks are also quite well done. Some Warhammer writers make the mistake of writing them as universally stupid. However, some orks (not all, thankfully) are cunning and treacherous.

Overall, Parker is a good writer, though he does overuse the expression "cored like an apple." Why? I have no idea. Maybe he really likes apples. The battle of Rynn's World is one of the most epic sieges I've ever read. I have to compare it to Helm's Deep, except with more nine-foot-tall guys wearing heavy armor and carrying machineguns. At least some of this epicness is due to Parker's ability to make the battle matter--like Helm's Deep, there are clear consequences for losing.

Rynn's World is probably the best Space Marine Battles novel I've read so far. (Have I said that before?). It's epic, well-written, and...BIG SHINY MEN WITH MAGIC BOOM WEAPONS! Yeah. What the stress-induced hallucination said.

Cordwainer Smith

Norstrilia is an imagination of a future where a devastated Earth was repopulated from other colonies, and where the planet North Australia (Norstralia) has discovered the secret of hugely extended life. This book has one of the most unique "worlds" of the sci-fi I've read lately.

The writing style in Norstrilia is very conversational, like a story told around a campfire, or maybe an Australian yarn. At first, this feels a little strange, but then it grew on me. And then I got sick of it. That storytelling style would probably be great in a shorter book, but after a few hundred pages, it starts to grate. There is a fair amount of specialized lingo, but nothing I couldn't understand.

Despite their wealth, the inhabitants of North Australia cling to their ancestral habits of thrift (wait, that sounds Scottish?). In addition, they practice a method of eugenics to keep their population stable. I have to say, despite my dislike for eugenics, laughing to death doesn't sound all that bad.

Norstrilia is a strange mashup of a crime caper, a coming-of-age tale, political commentary, and many other things. The main character is forced into scams and deceptions to save himself after he manages to buy the Earth. Yeah. THE Earth.

I can't decide if this is a young adult novel or what. It's creepy but innocent, sexist and racist but not, depressing but strangely uplifting. Also, there's catgirls. (So if any of you lean that way...). I think Norstrilia was written in the '60's, which might explain some of the content.

Look. Norstrilia's weird. I can't adequately explain the strangeness of it. Giant sheep, telepathy, catgirls... It's pretty well written, though the narrative voice may wear on you. The plot is...strange but fun. YOU AM EITHER LIKE LOTS OR HATE. IT AM THAT SIMPLE. AND THERE AM CATGIRLS! MMMMM... CATGIRLS.... Shoosh, Krunk. Take your medicine now.