Category Archives: Fantasy

Book Interlude: Low Town – Daniel Polansky

I am not pleased with this book after about 50 pages and am going to return it. It feels awkward, jumbled, and it lacks cohesion for me. I didn’t feel any satisfaction or curiosity as I read the book.

But, the biggest thing that annoys me about it is that the main character talks about this set of peoples that live in a specific slum, immigrants from another country. They’re described as short, squat, swarthy, and heathens. Then the protagonist talks to one of these immigrants in their language. It’s broken, and the author romanizes the language with (translations) and the language is Chinese.

And with that, I am done. Just, done.

He could have used broken English to line out how the protagonist doesn’t know the language well, but he opted to use Chinese. If he used romanized Hindi, Arabic, or something else I wouldn’t recognize, this might not be a big deal to me. I realize this is two-faced. But I recognized it, and I’m annoyed. It’s not a fantasy book anymore and I am really angry.

Returning the book this weekend and using the money for another book I’m sure I will enjoy more.

Snuff – Terry Pratchett

I’d like to thank co-workers A and B (‘A’ for the American and ‘B’ for the Brit, god I am so clever) for having a conversation a few months ago that enlightened me enough to understand a joke that came up in “Snuff.”

The conversation went something like this:

B: What’s a “fanny pack”?
A: Those little bags old people wear around their waists.
B: They’re called “fanny packs” in the US? That sounds really bad.
A: Why?
B: “Fanny” is slang for… uh… female genitalia.
A: Oh. Yeah, I can see that. What are they called in England?
B: They’re called “bum bags.”
A: …. that does not sound much better than “fanny pack.”

Now I need to ask B if there’s something about cheese prices in England, because I’ve read 2 books that cracked jokes about the price of cheese in England. This cannot be a coincidence.

Anyways, “Snuff” is about Commander Sam Vines and a vacation in the countryside where the manor of his wife’s family is located. This is the first book I’ve read with him in it, so I didn’t recognize any of the characters, though Terry Pratchett’s writing makes everything seem comforting and familiar if you’ve read any of his other books. I just dove in and read.

I enjoyed it a great deal, with its concerns with class and race distinctions as well as the jokes inserted along the way. Clearly there were some related to genitalia.

What else can be said about the book? It’s a Discworld book! That pretty much sums it up. The main character goes on to experience things, deal with issues that can be applied to present-day life, and there are puns and ridiculous jokes abound.

Book Interlude: The Silvered – Tanya Huff

I feel tricked. The blurb on the dust jacket mentioned mages and war, and I was unsure about purchasing the book. But eh, it’s Tanya Huff and I’ve always enjoyed her books.

And then I find out it’s a werewolf book.

Nothing wrong with that! I should have guessed from the title and the big black dog, sorry, wolf, on the cover.

I find myself skimming more than anything, not because I think it’s bad but because I am not sure I like the book. Mostly, I want to find out what happens and then decide if I want to read the book more slowly. It’s a bleak, depressing world full of imperialism and dubbing individuals “abominations,” and I am not sure I can enjoy the book without first realizing that it ends happily.

House of Many Ways – Diana Wynne Jones

I have had a taste for books that poke fun at fairy tale norms ever since reading The Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede. There aren’t many books that do this and are fun, but not ridiculous, to read. I can only think of the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett and books by Diana Wynne Jones.

“The House of Many Ways” is a continuation of the “Howl’s Moving Castle” world. Strangely, Amazon.com has a description that says “The House of Many Ways” is the second in the series, but “Castle in the Air” is clearly the 2nd in continuity, followed by “House of Many Ways.”

This book takes place in Norland, and it’s main character Charmain Baker is the daughter of a baker and a woman whose sense of propriety has resulted in Charmain staying inside to read and eat pastries because doing just about anything would be improper. In fact, reading all the time might be improper too.

Charmain’s overbearing paternal aunt sets up the story by having Charmain go and be a housesitter/caretaker for their great-great-x-uncle in his strange house, and Charmain furthers it by writing a letter to the King of Norland, asking to be an assistant in cataloging his enormous library. Whilst attempting to work as an assistant librarian, deal with her great-uncle’s strange house, and unravel myths and mysteries, Charmain learns that her previous existence ill-prepared her for her life and that she must first want to take care of herself before she can, well, take care of herself. When she finally starts wanting to be capable, she becomes more likable.

I enjoyed this book but I am unsure why I did, which is why it took me so long to complete this review.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t like Charmain, but I enjoyed the book. Perhaps enjoyed it because it’s a Howl and Sophy book, the last as Diana Wynne Jones sadly passed away last year.

Also, I didn’t enjoy Howl’s appearance in the book! Normally, I find him hilarious. This time, he was just grating. Sophy was not effective in this book either, which made me sad. She didn’t do things in her oddly effective way like in the previous books, and she kept saying, “Doh!” It made me think of Homer Simpson.

What I did appreciate was how Charmain realizes she is useless, and how she makes steps to try and be more useful. It takes her a bit to realize it, and she goes about adjusting herself in a roundabout manner, all the while unearthing strange things about her uncle and her country.

The world itself is more disturbing than in any other Howl book. There, potential violence was on the periphery, but in House of Many Ways, it was right there in the front. It took me aback.

I am going to keep this book, but I’m not sure I will reread it. I miss the omnipresent whimsy and bizarre fairytale touch in the other Howl books that did not appear here.

Good Omens

A lot of guilt is associated with not reading this book, which I have had for so long that someone looked at the cover and said, “$5.99? I didn’t know you could buy a paperback nowadays for $5.

The difference between me now and the me that bought the book years ago is that I’ve read Terry Pratchett’s “Wee Free Men” series and enjoyed it so much that I went and bought any books featuring the witches. They increased my tolerance for the outright silly and for Pratchett’s footnotes, both of which turned me off “Good Omens”.

Now, I appreciate the cleverness of the ridiculous things in the books and the sly digs. I enjoyed lots of things about this book, but it is not among my favorites.

The digs, the asides, the clever snark are fantastic, but something about it does not make it gel for me.