This is yesterday’s news, but I just wanted to say I’m very happy about it. Japanese-born British author is not really a genre writer, but his latest novel, The Buried Giant, gave me the pretext to devote one review to him. Book Ola liked even more than I did, a rare occurrence 😉
It is a very literary fantasy novel, and he also published dystopian kind-of s/f Never Let Me Go. In the genre world he is, nevertheless, an outsider, possibly a newcomer, albeit a very friendly one. I heartily recommend an excellent interview conducted by David Barr Kirtley on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, after a very interesting talk Ishiguro asks Kirtley for genre recommendations. So, you know, if the Swedish Academy is too dumb to give the prize to Le Guin, Ishiguro is also a very good choice 🙂 A writer, who
in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world
It seems that I have a weakness for post-apocalyptic, anti-utopian stuff with young female leads ;). The Passage reminds me in many ways of The Girl With All The Gifts or McCarthy’s The Road, although the popular comparisons to The Stand are also pretty well-founded.
The Passage received a lot of buzz back in 2010 – compared to work of Michael Crichton and praised by King himself, Cronin’s book quickly wound up on bestsellers’ lists. The filming rights to this book – and two next as well, as The Passage is the first installment in a trilogy – were apparently secured by Scott Free Productions even before the book was finished.
Is the book worth the praise? The answer to this, as usual, is complicated ;). I must confess, my initial enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the fact that I have already read the second installment. Oh boy, that’s something I will fully review in my next entry, but for now let’s concentrate on the first book, as if it were still the only one, fresh and full of promises.
Because The Passage in itself is actually a good book. It’s a mash-up of genres, a post-apocalyptic horror/sf road novel with vampires, elements of anti-utopia and chunks of a military thriller, and it all works surprisingly well, even dunked in the heavy philosophical/theological sauce Cronin is so fond of.
Assassin’s Fate is the final installment in the acclaimed Fitz and Fool Trilogy, and the grand finale for all three trilogies about the two protagonists: The Farseer Trilogy, The Tawny Man Trilogy and, indeed, The Fitz and Fool Trilogy. But more than that, it is quite possibly the crowning achievement and the ultimate conclusion to all Hobb’s writing pertaining to the world of Elderling Realms: Six, sorry, Seven Duchies, Rain Wilds, Kelsingra and beyond. Let’s stop here for a moment and count those: four trilogies – because there’s also Liveship Trilogy – and one tetralogy about Rainwilds, newly hatched dragons and their keepers. Altogether sixteen books, each easily over 500 pages long. A solid piece of one’s life spent on reading – let alone writing! It’s not surprising, then, that Fitz and Fool and Nighteyes had become important persons in my life 😉 and that I was heavily invested in reading the end of their story.
And, before I say anything else, I must say that it is a worthy conclusion. As always, it’s heart-breaking, riveting, harrowing and rewarding, enthralling, cathartic, horrible and beautiful in equal measures, tragic and poetic and sad – and yet, still immensely satisfying and incredibly powerful.
Raising small geeks is a lot of fun. For me – definitely, but my nieces also look quite happy about it. I do not always get it right, and showing Coraline to a three year old… hopefully won’t come out in therapy later in life a source of some major issues 😉 And Brave, after which she was afraid her mother would turn into a bear, was not actually my idea (and Madzia enjoyed both, it’s just that there were some after-effects)
Anyway, there are better and worse ideas. I keep them supplied with Ghibli movies and Marvel plushies and make sure there are plenty of books, carefully screened for artistic value and gender equality issues. I read them age-appropriate manga, we play games and tell each other stories. There even is a very special book she can read me!
It’s a chance for me to revisit some of the childhood’s favourites and find some new and exciting books. And in this area I’m not handicapped by living in Poland. Our fantasy is mostly mediocre (with notable exceptions, but still…), our s/f tends to be politically too far to the right for my liking, but kiddie books – we have plenty of the highest quality stuff. There are even some internationally recognised names, take a look.
Popular culture gives us many great samurai figures. There are probably almost as many live action samurai movies as westerns, and The Magnificent Seven Samurai duo of wonderful classics show us how close these genres could be.
But I want to introduce one of my favourite comic books, so no more about cinematic depictions (hmm, who would have won if guys on the left fired on the guys on the right :D?).
In a world of countless great mangas, my favourite graphic novel Japanese warrior is an anthropomorphic rabbit by Stan Sakai, who, though born in Kyoto, is undoubtedly an American artist. I’m not going to argue it’s the most accurate vision of the medieval Japan, from the stuff I’m familiar with the honour goes to Vagabond, probably, and Rurouni Kenshiin has some great moments – usually just before going for silliness and fanservice. And then there is Samurai Jack, a hero whose story recently concluded, after years of waiting.
But Miyamoto Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo, he is my favourite!
The Found and the Lost is a collection of novellas by Ursula Le Guin, the founding mother of fantasy and SF as we know today. It’s a perfect book for both die-hard fans and for those who have never had the pleasure of reading anything by Le Guin before. A doorstop of a book at 600 pages in my digital copy and 816 pages in hardcover, it contains 13 novellas written in the period between 1971 (Vaster Than Empires and More Slow) to 2002 (Paradises Lost). The collection is presented mostly in a chronological order, but another categorization rule readily comes to mind while reading as the novellas can be divided into three main groups: Earthsea, Hainish cycle and “other”.
Quite recently I dedicated an unusually long post to a heated critique of some minor points of one of my favourite fantasy series ever. Apart from my conviction that one of the characters is overpowered and unnecessary, I concluded: arguably some obscure details of how war develops are slightly distorted, giving the series 9,5/10.
That was before reading Seal of the Worm and now I have to admit – the final instalment made me sad. So – the whole series keeps the “well done” tag, “medium” applies to the Seal of the Worm.
Spoilers ahead, even more than in the previous post.