Thursday, June 09, 2011

I just finished The Getaway by Jim Thompson.

The Getaway is one of Thompson's most famous noir pieces, following some crooks as they try to escape to Mexico after robbing a bank.

It is justifiably well known for its gritty portrayal of underworld life, violence and betrayal. The story is pretty straightforward, with some compelling, if unappealing, characters and it ends with a surprising twist, one that wasn't included in either movie version, since it is so downbeat and unexpected.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

I just finished Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.

Under Heaven continues Kay's habit of taking a historical place or period and using it as the basis for a fantasy work. He says this is so that he can use events and people as inspiration without having to shoehorn a story into actual historical events, and it works very well. Most of his books are quite good, and fairly different from each other.

The inspiration for this book was China's Tang period, what some would consider the height of Chinese pre-modern civilization. This gives the book, and it's characters a notable different feel from his mainly European based work to date.

The book starts with the protagonist mourning his father's death, and spending the mandatory mourning period burying the bones left from a great past battle. From there, he is pulled reluctantly into imperial politics while trying to find a way to extricate himself without shaming or killing himself or his family.

Even though it is a very large book, some parts of it do feel rushed or unfinished. Some characters and plot lines are raised and then drift away or are wrapped up very quickly without tying into the rest of the book. In another author, I would have assumed he was setting things up for a sequel but Kay mostly does solo novels, so I don't think that is the case here.

Overall, well worth reading.