Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Books of the Week: 8/14/2012

I'm baaaaaaaaack! Once again, I bring reviews of books both good and bad, because I'm just such a nice guy. Now, I just want to say: I know a lot of my reviews have been focused on Warhammer and Warhammer 40K. This will change. Eventually. Anyway, this week, our two books are a "hard" sci-fi novel and an old-school fantasy novel.

2001: A Space Odyssey
Arthur C. Clarke

Yes, this is the novelization of the movie. Yes, it has the space baby. No, I don't know why.

So, it would seem that giant rocks trained our ancestors. Um. Okay, I'll buy it. It's possible, after all. Now we're going into space? In 2001? HAH! We can hardly get a handful of people to the moon, let alone an entire COLONY. I know this was written in the '60s, but it's still embarrassing that we haven't done this stuff. And yet, on the other hand, we've done things that Clarke didn't, or couldn't, imagine.

I like the writing. It's pretty good. Not the best I've ever read, but it's good. I can tell this is an older book, however. Many of the references--like radios, stewardesses (and only stewardesses)--are obviously from the '60s. 

For some reason, I found first half of the book pretty boring. Well-written, but boring. There's not a whole lot of tension. A lot of speculative minutia of future space travel, an AI that--wait, AI? HAL? Duh duh duhhhh! AIs are bad, people! They always end with pain and suffering. I knew what was going to happen as soon as I read "The greatest hope of the Discovery's little crew was that nothing would mar this peaceful monotony in the weeks and months that lay ahead." Well, spell it out for me, why don'tcha? 

Unfortunately, it's so obvious that HAL's toying with them that I can't feel any suspense. There is no surprise when he goes rogue. And when he dies...well, it's disappointing. The movie does it much better (I watched the movie after reading the book). In the novel, HAL's death gets about two paragraphs. Somehow I expected more.

So, aliens "farmed" us. Who farmed the aliens? Other aliens? Turtles upon turtles... And of course! These farmer aliens transformed themselves into beings of pure energy. What is this? Star Trek, like that one episode where Kirk makes gunpowder? 

And, in a twist from "hard" sci-fi to pure madness, the book ends with a Star Baby. A STAR BABY. What. I... I need to sit down.

While I liked the writing, it was overshadowed by some other problems. I didn't care about any of the characters (other than HAL and the man-monkey in the beginning). At all. They had nothing for me to care about. Every character seemed like a bland automaton. When one of them dies, I felt nothing. Nothing. The plot was...believable, until the end. The Spess Babee threw me off completely. As for the technical minutia, well, honestly I just wished that Clarke would get to the action. Or DO something! I get it--this is hard sci-fi, stuff that could happen. But PLEASE! I don't need to know how they keep from floating in zero-g. (Hint, it's velcro slippers.)

Good writing, characters I couldn't care less about, a plot that starts believably and ends in utter madness, and an overload of technical minutia. I was...disappointed. I expected more.

Krunk's Kornor: Krunk am have nothing to say. Other than that Krunk like monkeys. Monkeys am most likable characters in this book. Beyond that, Krunk am confused and bored by 2001: A Space Odyssey. That am all.

Pawn of Prophecy
David Eddings

The first in a quintet known as the Belgariad, Pawn of Prophecy is an older fantasy novel. What the plot was, I really couldn't tell you. You'll find out why.

From the prologue, Pawn of Prophecy seems to be a world similar to Lord of the Rings (right down to the orcs). You have a magic item, stolen by the Big Bad Evil Guy, which a band of heroes reclaim. The only difference is that, this time, the character is meant to have the item and protect it. Like Gondor, except not. 

On to the actual story. In the second paragraph, there is a run-on sentence. A run-on sentence that could easily have been three, four, or possibly even FIVE sentences! It's just ugly. The writing continues in this manner. Please kill me.

Oh, for Cthulhu's sake! The main character is set up, even as a child, as a perfect little hero. No flaws. No. Flaws. None. At all. Even Bella was clumsy. The kid is taught by his aunt (who is probably his mom, because that's just the kind of thing I'd expect at this point) and the village blacksmith, loved by everyone, and loves everyone back. 

If someone doesn't die soon I'm gonna scream. I have no problems with a goody-goody Superman/paladin character, but this... 

There is so much ham-handed foreshadowing. You've got a creepy man in black watching the kid. His aunt/mom tells him that he'll "marry someone else." Why not throw in an ancient prophecy that he fulfills? Oh, wait... Yup, there it is: He gets flashbacks to ancient battles, nearly killing one of his little buddies (who's definitely going to be hero-kid's companion). 

I quit. I don't get paid enough for this. The characters are all standard fantasy tropes, taken to almost parody extremes. The writing is painfully dull. The plot is--well, I don't know if there is a plot. Did not finish. (Future Greg's Note: This is actually meant as parody. Well it parodied so well that it slipped right into Poe's Law. It's still awful.)