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Books Books Books!
Chris Pic

Life's busy, but there's always time for books!  Here's some thoughts on ones recently completed
as well as some misfires.  Fair warning....nothing here warrants inclusion in the NY Times book
review by any means.  

The Lost Regiment Series, Books 1-6 (William Fortschen): 

I'm combining the first six books of this series into this blurb....what can I say, I'm lazy.
This is a series I actually read several years back.  I think due to new Fortschen books that
have recently come out (all good, by the way) I felt drawn to picking these up again.  I was a
bit hesitant---purely because I had such a good warm and fuzzy from the first time around.  Many
times when I read a book several years after my initial read I walk away disappointed.  The book
hasn't changed, but my perspective has.  Perhaps I've matured, or just plain see things
differently.  Maybe I'm just more demanding than I was as a teenager or in my early twenties. 
Whatever it is, I shouldn't have worried----these books still kick ass!  Mix in wonderful,
complex characters, complex military strategy, Civil war history, a gate to another world, and
oh...9 foot tall monsters who would love to suck on our beloved heroes bone marrow.  Sound
corny? Perhaps.  But in Fortschen's hands this is a war to the death, and not a single page
should be missed.

For Love of Mother Not (Alan Dean Foster):

Speaking of being disappointed by a re-read.....this is the poster child.  I have great respect
for Foster.  The man is absolutely prodigous in his output, and whether it's a movie tie in 
(check him out...he's done the novelization of almost every major sci-fi movie in the last 25
years.  No shit.  Many times his tie in is better than the movie.), or a story of his own, the
books are always worth reading.  I've been reading and collecting Foster's work for 20 years
now.  Thought it was time to dust off one of his earlier works....and also the first book in a
long standing series (Pip & Flinx).  I must have been 16 when I first read this.  I remember
thoroughly enjoying it.  Looking at it from the eyes of a 34 year old it's just plain tired and
juvenile.  Thoroughly disheartening to say the least.  Now I find myself looking at all the
Foster books on the shelf and wondering if I'd have a similar reaction the second time around....

One Second After (Fortschen): 

Another Fortschen.  This is a new one and is a post apocalyptic story set in modern day US. 
This has the usual Fortschen elements which really resonate with me---the central characters are
flushed out in great detail and the plot is interesting.  Also, very unusual for a post
apocalyptic novel, the descent from our cushy modern life to Hell is actualy very plausible it's a little scary.  Most novels of similar ilk use global nuclear
warfare, asteroid impacts, magic, etc. to drive the "change".  It's refreshing (and yes, still
scary) to see such a plausible cause.  One Second After is also a college lecture on
techology/medicine circa 1880 cleverly disguised as a fictional narrative.  Fortschen has
certainly put in the research into One Second After, and I appreciate it.  In my mind he's set a
pretty high standard for himself----I expect all Fortschen books to have such a level of
research and realism---anything less would be disappointing. last point:  I'm thankful
Fortschen is starting to do things without Newt riding his coat tails.  Good for you Bill!

The Law of Nines (Terry Goodkind): 

Hey lookie here!  Another mammoth, juicy adventure involving Richard Rahl!  Yeah!!!  Oh
wait....this isn't Richard Rahl, you say?  And this isn't part of the Sword of Truth series, you
say?  It's actually set in modern day US you say?  Agh!  The thing is, Goodkind has provided so
many enjoyable hours with the Sword of Truth series that I kind of felt I owed it to him to give
this a shot.  At best, it's a cursory tie in to SoT.  That being said, it wasn't a bad read at
all.  A little long winded at times, but still entertaining.  I'm very curious if there will be
more coming (Goodkind certainly left room for more), or if this is simply a stand alone. 

Dragon Keeper (Robin Hobb)

Here's a challenge for you.  Picture yourself as a fart being blown out of a truckers ass. Now
write a narrative about your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions as you are being ejected from
the dark, warm comfort of your home into those tight sorta whities.  It's not easy to do.  Robin
Hobb is the best I've come across at it.  The fart in this case is a snake crawling into a hole,
then subsequently coming out as a dragon at a later date.  I read it and I'm know EXACTLY what
this dragon is thinking, and I understand the creature.  No shit---it takes amazing writing
skill to take something so mundane (albiet fantasy-based) and make it interesting. 
Unfortunately the rest of the book is a stinker.  Three of Hobb's previous four trilogies I
really enjoyed...another one just sucked.  Guess which category this falls into.  I tried so
hard to get into this one.  When Hobb is on, she's damn near world class.  Also, she knocks out
maybe one book a year (something to do with family and having a life apparently), so it will be
another 3-4 years before I lay my hands on a new Hobb trilogy (technically this is only a two
book series....maybe the editor realized what a stinker this was and aborted the normal three
book cycle).  I feel even worse about this because I read it via an illict e-book.  If I even
marginally enjoyed this I would have bought it new at the store....promise. 

The Magician (Lev Grossman):

This is actually an accidental pick up.  My wife's book club recently selected this as the
flavor of the month.  It piqued my interest because it wasn't their standard fare (e.g., the
down trodden in Iran, poor women being abused in Pakistan, handicapped kids in Afghanistan being
taken advantage know, the stuff that warms your heart and makes you feel good inside).
 The Magician is something of a cross between Harry Potter and heroic fantasy---with a
consistently more gritty tone than Potter.  It sounded interesting, so I gave it a whirl.  30
pages later I quit.  Just didn't mesh with the main characters and was constantly annoyed by the
writing style.  An interesting side note---only 2 gals in the book club finished it too.  Looks
like next month is back to safer ground....perhaps genocide in Africa?


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