Monday, March 22, 2010

Book 2 in Sergei Lukyanenko's "Nightwatch" series

Dark versus light, good vs evil. . . the story that never gets old. It's even better when sometimes the “good” guys are liars and the “bad” guys are the only ones willing to tell the truth. Throw in some vampires, magicians and shape changers, and I'm in urban dark fantasy heaven.

I'd read Sergei Lukyanenko's Nightwatch last year some time, and was also able to get my hands on the motion picture (Russian language, English subtitles, $5 budget for special effects, excellent directing!!). Everything about Nightwatch was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The main character, a light magician named Anton is a truly likeable guy. At times he's troubled, confused, scared, a little gullible, but an eminently likeable guy, which makes him the perfect target for bad things to happen to. Teamed up with Olga, a sorceress who is locked in the body of an owl, Anton wanders around Moscow keeping tabs on “dark ones”, and generally being a good boy. He saves the life of Svetlana, a new Light Sorceress, and they soon fall in love with each other. But Svetlana has a special destiny (whether she wants it or not) and she will leave Anton behind. When he realizes the Watch sees him as nothing more than the perfect pawn, he makes a fateful decision that can never be taken back.

A friend of mine loaned me her copy of Daywatch, which is the next book in the series, so of course I had to reread Nightwatch. And you know what? I liked it even more the second time around. Heavy on the dialogue and action, and light on the heavy descriptives, it's a quick and enjoyable read. Most definitely on my “highly recommended” list.

I'm about 100 pages into Daywatch, and it's hard to realize this was written by the same author. The writing is still great and the style is similar, but I'd gotten so used to a main character that I wanted to root for, sometone that I wanted good things to happen to. . . it's hard to like Alisa, the dark witch protagonist of Daywatch. So far I'm finding her to be petty, selfish, short sighted, and if her ex-lover Zabulon (who happens to be the head of the Daywatch) decided she needed to meet her end, I wouldn't mind. So much for sexy, alluring dark ones who are seducing people left and right to their cause - Alisa is a bitch.

Anton couldn't help but fall in love with Svetlana, and it changed his life for the worse. Perhaps Alisa's new found love will change her life for the better?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

But I hate Tolkien.

Been barking up the wrong tree?

I always thought I was a pure science fiction fan. I grew up reading the classics – Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and then moved into more contemporary SF masters like Greg Bear, Charles Stross, David Brin and others. The last 5-8 years my “favorite authors” list has included Charles deLint, Scott Lynch, Michael Moorcock, George R R Martin, Steven Brust, Stephen Lawhead, Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville, Cory Doctorow, and M. John Harrison, among others.

Surfing a handful of scifi forums online, I was saddened that no one was talking about my favorite authors. None of these so called SF fans read Mieville? really?

Little did I know I would find all my favorite authors and their rabid fans under “fantasy”. George R R Martin and Jeff Vandermeer are considered fantasy? Seriously? But I hate Tolkien.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fallen off the face of the earth.

Wow, it's been near forever since I posted. I'm totally blaming Neal Stephenson, but more on that in a bit.

what's happened in the last month? the snow melted, more snow fell, and that snow melted. I made awesome ravioli, i had a ravioli disaster, and then made some nearly awesome ravioli.

Ravioli lessons learned:
1. better to overflour your dough than underflour
2. a pasta machine that doesn't quite attach to your table is no help
3. wet filling is bad. really, really, disasterously bad
4. better to slightly overcook fresh ravioli than undercook
5. when using a pasta machine, there is such a thing as too thin.
6. when rolling out by hand, there is no such thing as too thin.

with Passover around the corner, I'm already looking at matzo cake flour pasta recipes. and stacks and stacks of other Passover yummies. and those five pounds that I lost? Yeah, I gained 'em all back, so I'm not real happy about that, but whatever.

I found a new (well, new to me) author, and she's old skool awesome. I recently finished Lois McMaster Bujold's Falling Free. Have you ever seen Mario Batali on TV? He's pretty cheesy on Iron Chef America, but if you can catch one of his cooking shows, it's worth it. I bring this up because he's always talking about how high quality, simple fresh ingredients treated without too much complication make the best food. And McMaster Bujold's writing style is like Mario's cooking: simple ingredients and not complicated, but some of the most satisfying reading I've had in a long time. Although written later, Falling Free is a prequel to McMaster Bujold's long running Miles Vorkosigan series. Suffice to say, there will be more McMaster Bujold in my future.

I am terrible at, and do not enjoy (or maybe it's the other way around), but here's a go at Falling Free, so you have some clue what it's about. 800 some years in the future, zero gee engineering expert Leo Graf arrives at corporation owned station expecting to teach engineering and welding to young recruits or colonists. What he finds are the “quaddies”, a genetically engineered and company owned new race of humans. Specifically designed for use in zero gee, the quaddies have and extra set of arms and hands instead of legs and feet. They have no parents, no home, no privacy, and no rights. The company designs them, breeds them, and controls everything they see and learn. When a new technology becomes available, the quaddies become perfectly obsolete and useless, and the corporation decides to quietly cancel the program, and dispose of the “experimental tissue cultures”.

Yes, the Quaddies are nothing more than genetically engineered creations, modern frankenstiens, if you will, but as Leo finds out, they are real people, with dreams, fears, and natural children of their own. Leo becomes their unlikely hero, and to that end, this is a fairly predictable story. About half way through, I had some idea as to who (if anyone) would survive to the end, and I was right. That's part of the “old skool” style: the white hats are white hats and the black hats are foaming at the mouth black hats, violence and death are only implied if they happen at all, and it is a damn good story well told.

Lois McMaster Bujold is to Mario Batali as Neal Stephenson is to Molecular grastronomy: Uncomplicated and good vs insanely complicated.

and that is one of the reasons i have fallen off the face of the earth lately. Damn you Neal Stephenson, you make me batshit crazy, but I can't stop reading your stuff. some of your pages bore me to tears, but others bring me to tears with their clarity and genius. Half way through The System of the World, and after this, i really, really, really need to take a break from Stephenson. maybe read something that isn't going to fry my brain. Like some McMaster Bujold!