The Bone Clocks

0812976827.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Everything that happens has consequences in the future and one weekend for a 15-year old teenager after a fight with her mother has unexpected consequences throughout the rest of her life. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell follows the life Holly Sykes through her own eyes and those four other characters during 60 years of her life.

The book begins with a 15-year old Holly Sykes leaving home after a fight with her mother, only to have a life altering weekend for herself involving a trip to a paranormal world that she forgets and her family as her younger brother disappears. The book ends with a 74-year old Holly taking care of and wondering about the future of her granddaughter and foster son as climate change and resource depletion are sending the world towards a new dark age, though a surprising return of an old acquaintance results in them having a future. Between these two segments we follow the lives of an amoral political student Hugo Lamb, Holly’s husband Ed, author Crispin Hershey, and Marinus who is both a new and old acquaintance of Holly’s for a period of time in which they interact with Holly during different periods of her life that at first seem random but as the narrative progresses interconnect with one another in surprising ways including glimpses into a centuries long supernatural war in which Holly was directly involved in twice.

From beginning to end, Mitchell created a page-turner in which the reader did not know what to expect. The blending of fiction and fantasy from the beginning then science fiction as the story went beyond 2014 (year of publication) as the narrative continued was expertly done. The use of first-person point-of-views were well done as was the surprise that the book wasn’t all through Holly’s point-of-view but switched with each of the six segments of the book giving the reader a mosaic view of Holly’s life. The introduction and slow filling in of the fantasy elements of the story were well done so when it really became the focus of the book in its fifth segment the reader was ready for it. On top of that the layers of worldbuilding throughout the book were amazing, as characters from one person’s point-of-view had random interactions with someone in another and so on. If there was one letdown it was the science fiction, nearly dystopian, elements of 2043 in which the political-economic setting seems farfetched—namely China who would be in trouble if there is an energy crisis and thus not dominate economically as portrayed in the book—that made the denouement land with a thud.

I had no idea what to expect from The Bone Clocks and frankly David Mitchell impressed me a lot, save for the final 10% of the book. The blending of straight fiction, fantasy, and science fiction was amazing throughout the narrative and the numerous layers of worldbuilding, plot, and slowly evolving of the mostly unseen supernatural war that was instrumental to main points of the narrative. If a friend were to ask me about this book I would highly recommend it to them.

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The Claw of the Conciliator (The Book of the New Sun #2)

0312890176.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Outside the walls of his home city for the first time, a young executioner on a mission finds himself amongst strange locations and stranger people. The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe is the second volume of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy continuing the journey of Severian, an exiled torturer figuring out the world.

Picking up shortly after the last volume, Severian is in the mining village of Saltus with a new travelling companion Jonas after being separated from Dorcas and the theater company at the gate of Nessus. Severian believes he sees Agia, but after searching for her returns to his inn to take his mask and cape to execute an accused witch. Later that night he travels to an old mine, fights off man-apes, and comes face-to-face with Agia but doesn’t kill her even though he tricked him to get him there so see could have revenge and get possession of the titular Claw that she put on Severian’s person during the events of Shadow and Severian used during his fight with the man-apes. Severian and Jonas are then taken by associates of Vodalus, who they kill as they get to the revolutionary’s hide out in the forest. Severian and Jonas join Vodalus after taking part in a cannibalistic ritual, before heading off to the House Absolute on a mission from Vodalus. The two are captured by the guards and in a holding room are attacked, which results in Severian learning that Jonas is a robot with human skin. Using the knowledge acquired from the memories of the person they ate, Severian finds a way out of the holding room and Jonas leaves to find a way to get repaired. Severian wanders around the grounds, finding his sword, coming across the Autarch, and then is reunited with theater group and Dorcas. The five perform a play during which Baldanders turns and attacks the crowd resulting in the group running for it. Severian meets with them again on the road heading north, he and Dorcas head to Thrax while Dr. Talos attacks the other member the troupe resulting in her joining them and is attacked by a poisonous bat which results in her death in the ruins of a city while meeting with associates of Vodalus who perform a mystic ceremony.

This story was all over the place and it felt like the quality of everything connected with it was the same. There was significant worldbuilding with Severian getting out into the wider world as the previous fantasy feel was joined by sci-fi elements to create this unique landscape of future Earth. However while Wolfe created this interested background, the plot and the first-person narration were all over the place and whatever elements that were good were very much outweighed by the bad, in particular the nonsensical play that added nothing for approximately 15 pages and was just to set up Baldanders’ attack in the next very short chapter. And frankly every time Severian seems to become interesting, though by his own account, he does a 180 by disclaiming his own “perfect” memory or puts himself down.

The Claw of the Conciliator is a mishmash of good, bad, and frustration. A lot of this comes down to the writing of Gene Wolfe and primarily from the first-person point-of-view that creates most of the issues. Maybe after finishing the tetralogy I might get a better view of things, but frankly if this “classic” continues to be frustrating it’ll be a big disappointment.

The Shadow of the Torturer (The Book of the New Sun #1)

0312890176.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A young man breaks the cardinal rule of his guild and instead of the expected torture and death is sent out the only home he’s known to be a travelling executioner. The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe is the first volume of The Book of the New Sun tetralogy following the life of Severian, an apprentice torturer who betrays his guild and brothers.

Raised within the ancient Citadel of Nessus by the Seekers of Truth and Penitence, aka the guild of torturers), Severian almost drowns in the River Gyoll and with some of his fellow apprentices goes into a necropolis where he encounters the legendary revolutionary Vodalus robbing a grave and helps him in fight with volunteer guards, earning him a gold coin from Vodalus. Later just before Severian becomes a journeyman, he meets a new client Thecla who is being used as a pawn to get to one of Vodalus’ associates. Because of her position, she asks that Severian talk with her and the two becomes friends even though Severian knows she’ll get tortured eventually. After her first torture session, Severian gives her a knife and after she slits her throat he turns himself in. Instead of torture and execution, Severian is sent out into the world as an executioner and given sword named Terminus Est. Venturing out further into Nessus than he ever had before, Severian scares people and is advised by the local guards to put something over his executioner’s garb. The next day after sharing a room with two charlatans he goes to a rag shop and when buying a mantle is challenged by a cavalry officer to a duel using an alien plant. The shop’s owner feeling responsible for this happening in his shop tells his sister, Agia, to show Severian how to prepare for the duel. The two journey around city to get his plant weapon and are joined by the mysterious Dorcas, who Agia dislikes though Severian is intrigued with. Facing his challenger, Severian survives a strike from the plant weapon surprising his opponent who attempts to run but onlookers attempt to stops him but he attacks him and kills several of them before he’s arrested by guards. The next day Severian wakes in a hospice and learns he is needed for an execution, visiting his client he finds Agia and her brother, who was his challenger, then realizes how naïve he was. After Severian executes Agia’s brother, he and Dorcas meet up with the charlatans while looking for some religious fanatics that Agia stole from only to learn they’ve left the city. The story ends on a cliffhanger because Severian decides to finish writing at that point.

There were a lot of things happening in this volume, which resulted in the story being both engaging and disengaging. The first person narration made the story very intimate, but also didn’t allow for the traditional world building which forced the reader to figure a lot of things out while trying to get a grip on the story itself. Yet once you figure things out the story becomes intriguing until Severian confronts the brother and sister in the prison cell and the brother’s reasons for challenging Severian are stupid. And the ending of Severian just deciding just to quit writing at the end of the story is weird as well. The fact that an older Severian is “writing” means that readers know he survives whatever happens, thus forcing Wolfe to take another direction which had both good and bad points.

The Shadow of the Torturer is a good story overall, though there are issues in the beginning and at the end that are somewhat disconcerting for a first time reader. Gene Wolfe created a very interesting protagonist and created several interesting twists throughout the story though some didn’t pay off as well as others while also laying seeds for future stories around Severian. This is an enjoyable volume that I’ll have to revisit with a reread in the future after completing the rest of the tetralogy.

Godzilla Raids Again (Godzilla #2)

Godzilla Raids AgainGodzilla Raids Again
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again, is the second installment in the kaiju franchise following up the hugely successful first film just the year before. Takeo Murata and Shigeru Kayama once again wrote the screenplay and story along with Shigeaki Hidaki thus giving continuity to this Motoyoshi Oda directed film.

The film begins with two pilots, Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi, employed by an Osaka based fish cannery hunting schools of fish for the company’s fleet. Kobayashi’s plane experiences a malfunction forcing him to land near Iwato Island, Tsukioka looks for his friend and finds him safe only for the two men to be confronted by strange sounds then discover two monsters fighting. Tsukioka instantly identifies Godzilla before the two monsters crash into the sea. When meeting with government officials and scientists in Osaka, Kobayashi identifies the other as Anguirus. Amongst the group is Dr. Yamane who states that the two monsters were probably awakened by the hydrogen bomb testing that woke the first Godzilla, but unlike before they do not have the Oxygen Destroyer and must find another means of saving the country. Based on a recommendation by Yamane, the city is blacked out and the military uses flares out at sea that get Godzilla’s attention and moves him away from shore. Unfortunately a group of criminals breaks out of their transport and begin racing around the city, one of the chases leads to a fiery crash at industrial building that causes a larger fire getting Godzilla’s attention. Godzilla heads into Osaka when Anguirus emerges from the sea to attack him, they battle throughout the city before Godzilla kills his rival in the rumble of Osaka’s iconic castle. With their cannery destroyed, Kobayashi heads to their Hokkaido cannery where he is joined by Tsukioka a few months later when news breaks that Godzilla has been sighted again. The two pilots join the search, Kobayashi in his company plane while Tsukioka has been called up to the military. Godzilla’s atomic breathe disable Kobayashi’s plane and he crashed into snow covered mountain, but a sadden Tsukioka realizes they can shoot missiles at the mountain and cover Godzilla with an avalanche. It takes two waves of planes to complete the task and many pilot lives, but Godzilla is buried thus saving Japan.

Running almost 20 minutes less than the original, the film takes a completely different approach from the start. The introduction to the films main protagonists and the monsters is within the first ten minutes and letting the story flow from there. The use of clips from the original film and the reappearance of Dr. Yamane gave continuality from the previous installment while also giving information that this was a different individual Godzilla not the previous one come back to life. Like the first film, the special effects are top notch and essentially make this film live up to the original in that aspect. However, like the previous film there wasn’t much in character development through there was an attempt to give one to Kobayashi to make his death more meaningful. Yet the overall story felt off because after Godzilla had killed Anguirus and the characters vowed to rebuild, it felt like the film was over only for the setting to suddenly shift to Hokkaido.

Even though it is not as symbolic or high quality as its predecessor, Godzilla Raids Again was a good sequel that essentially made the franchise possible. The inclusion of two of the original writers provided for continuity from the first but keeping this film distinct. Although the story isn’t prefect, the special effects more than make up for it thus making for a fun watch.

Godzilla

Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives #1

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Legends by Margaret Weis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The short story anthology Legends edited by Margaret Weis, the first collection of the Tales from the Eternal Archives, contains almost twenty stories of near above average quality loosing connected to one another through a mystical library, titular Eternal Archives. Although the majority of the nineteen stories were fantasy, historical fiction and science fiction were also featured.

The two best stories of the collection were “Wisdom” by Richard Lee Byers, which was followed an alternate interpretation of The Iliad and The Odyssey as Odysseus ventures to save the world from chaos. The second was “Silver Tread, Hammer Ring” by Gary A. Braunbeck features an alternate world in which mythical and folkloric figures exist side-by-side as John Henry faces down a steam drill run by a minotaur. Other excellent stories were the two opening stories, “Why There Are White Tigers” by Jane M. Lindskold and “The Theft of Destiny” by Josepha Sherman, as well many more such as “The Last Suitor”, “King’s Quest”, “Ninety-Four”, “Precursor”, and “Dearest Kitty”.

The two worst stories of the collection were “The Wind at Tres Castillos” by Robyn Fielder which featured historical individuals who didn’t interact with one another at the titular location and the fantastical elements just didn’t make sense creating a waste of paper. The second worst story was “Final Conquest” by Dennis L. McKiernan, while short this story featuring Genghis Khan was a headscratcher though a nicely written one. Although overall not bad, the preface and short introductions loosely linked all the stories with the mystical library between worlds though some were better than others.

The nineteen stories that make up Legends feature—more than not—very good short stories across fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag of quality but only a few stories were completely subpar thus presenting the reader with a lot of good reading.

Individual Story Ratings
Why There Are White Tigers by Jane M. Lindskold (4/5)
The Theft of Destiny by Josepha Sherman (4/5)
Final Conquest by Dennis L. McKiernan (2/5)
The Wisdom of Solomon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (2.5/5)
Bast’s Talon by Janet Pack (3/5)
Wisdom by Richard Lee Byers (5/5)
The Last Suitor by Kristin Schwengal (4/5)
Two-Fisted Tales of St. Nick by Kevin T. Stein and Robert Weinberg (3/5)
King’s Quest by Mickey Zucker Reichert (4/5)
Silver Thread, Hammer Ring by Gary A. Braunbeck (4.5/5)
Memnon Revived by Peter Schweighofer (2.5/5)
The Ballad of Jesse James by Margaret Weis (2.5/5)
Legends by Ed Gorman (3.5/5)
The Wind at Tres Castillos by Robyn Fielder (1.5/5)
Ninety-Four by Jean Rabe (4/5)
Hunters Hunted by John Helfers (3.5/5)
Precursor by Matthew Woodring Stover (4/5)
“Dearest Kitty” by Brian M. Thomsen (4/5)
Last Kingdom by Deborah Turner Harris and Robert J. Harris (3.5/5)

“Dearest Kitty” (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_“Dearest Kitty” by Brian M. Thomsen
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Inspector QB7 talks with an AI Counselor about a recent case he investigated in deciding between suicide or homicide. Set in the far future, between the 23rd and 30th century, the victim–later determined to be a suicide–is one of twelve individuals who strove to remember the Holocaust which by the time of the story is believed to be a legend from the 20th century in which human killed one another at an unprecedented rate. However using the technology at his disposal, the Inspector realizes why his case decided he needed to commit suicide and decides to keep the man’s materials, including Anne Frank’s Diary then to seek out someone else to share the memory of something that should not be forgotten.

Honestly, this story could have been really bad if the author had made the wrong choices but given my rating he did not. Though it focuses on the Holocaust, the mentioning of the Killing Fields and Rwanda, reminds the reader why it’s important to remember the events of the past…so they don’t happen again in the future.

Red Rising (Red Rising #1)

034553980x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Beneath the surface of Mars human mine gases that will eventually lead to the terraforming and colonization of the red planet, but they have been lied to. Red Rising by Pierce Brown is a dystopian young adult novel following a member of the lowest caste in humanities future attempting to position himself within the highest caste to lead a future rebellion for the betterment of all.

Darrow, a member of the lowly Reds, within days sees the end of his dreams of family and success in mining in his colonial town underneath the surface of Mars and is ready to die only to be dug up and shown the surface of Mars full of cities and vegetation that was said to be centuries away. Feeling betrayed by his society not only for the injustice against himself but his people as well, Darrow agrees to undergo numerous surgeries to appear as a member of the highest caste in society, the Golds. Through training and education he is able to pass the entrance exam of The Institute of Mars where young people of the caste compete to prove their potential as leaders so they can govern the Society in the future. Darrow makes friends only on the first night is forced to kill one or be killed himself in The Institute’s first test. What follows for the rest of the book is not only Darrow but every Gold at The Institute learning what it means to rule the Society that has lasted for centuries, but through he makes mistakes Darrow learns and is able to become a leader amongst the students and eventually is able to emerge as the competition’s victor in an unorthodox manner especially as outside forces attempt to have another student win for personal pride.

After waiting years to read this book, it was about 40% into the book that I realized that Red Rising was essentially “The Hunger Games in space” with elements of Divergent and other young adult dystopian series thrown in for good measure by the time I finished. I realize that authors borrow elements from other authors, but Brown rips off of The Hunger Games is so blatantly bad that it hurt. Frankly the mixture of so many things from other series could have worked if they were written well, but in this book it wasn’t. On top of that, what Darrow goes through to appear as a Gold seems to be stretching credibility especially since the Society’s “Quality Control” performs tests on him, including blood which has DNA that should show he wasn’t born a Gold. Though the action in the book was the best feature, the plot just didn’t live up to the hype especially after realizing how much is borrowed and not written in an interesting way from a new angle.

Red Rising might be enjoyed by numerous readers, but I’m not one of them and frankly while I got through the book I’m not interested in seeing what happens next. So I’m selling this book and the other two books in the first trilogy to a friend who is really into young adult dystopia and hope he enjoys it more than myself.