Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last night I finished Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell.

I've been interested in the battle of Agincourt since I was a kid, an interest that was heightened when I found out that an ancestor of mine, John De Byllam, was one of the English archers who fought there, and was knighted afterwords.

Agincourt is a piece of historical fiction, following an English archer who survived the slaughter at Soissons, and ended up on the fields of Agincourt. The battle itself only takes up a small part at the end of the book, the main part is build up, developing characters who's fate would be decided at Agincourt.

Overall, an enjoyable book. Cornwell's characters don't feel like true period people, like you would get in the Patrick O'Brien books, but they don't feel so modern as to totally undermine the historical part of the fiction. The history is reasonably accurate, adding only a few non-historical characters.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I just finished Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind, the sixth book in his Sword of Truth series.

I've commented in other reviews how Goodkind creates these ridiculous situations for his characters, but I finally realized why--it's the Superman dilemma. His main character, Richard Cypher/Rahl, along with his companions is so powerful and hyper-competent that he will defeat any opponent that comes against him openly, and has done so over and over in these books. The result is that it is very difficult for the author to put him in real jeopardy, and therefore the ridiculous situations, similar to what used to happen in Superman comics. This book actually makes that situation worse as it is revealed by the end that in addition to being a superb warrior, the most powerful wizard in many years (and a new type of wizard), he is also a great businessman, an insightful philosopher and a great artist.

This book also has two other problems. First, it's way too long. The second is that Goodkind has obviously become enamored with the ideas of Ayn Rand and is using them in the most transparent and cliched ways possible. For those readers out there who think Ayn Rand is a hack writer, pick up this book and see how badly those ideas could be portrayed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today I finished Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane.

Lehane has a reputation for being more than just a standard genre writer, so I was a little surprised by Gone, Baby, Gone because it is just that - a standard genre novel. All the cliches of the modern private eye novel are there - the hard PI (in this case a man/woman team), their even harder but loyal to them criminal friend, the world weary cops they deal with, etc, etc.

The characterizations are a little deeper than your standard run of the mill PI book, but nothing too special when compared to other top of the line practitioners like Estleman or Parker and definitely not notable compared to genre innovators like Hammett or Ellroy.

I also had problems with the portrayal of child kidnapping. It does point out in the intro that the vast majority of child disappearances usually involve family members and are resolved quickly with no problems for the child, the child disappearances in the novel are portrayed so vividly and have horrible outcomes, at least in one case, that that is the impression it will make and increase our societies silly paranoia about it's children.

Still a good novel but, as always, expectations can lead to disappointment.