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Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Confusion of Princes, The Obsidian Blade, and Great Expectations Mini-Reviews

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix
I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time. This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between.

You’d think being a privileged Prince in a vast intergalactic Empire would be about as good as it gets. But it isn’t as great as it sounds. For one thing, Princes are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Khemri discovers that the moment he is proclaimed a Prince.

He also discovers mysteries within the hidden workings of the Empire. Dispatched on a secret mission, Khemri comes across the ruins of a space battle. In the midst of it all he meets a young woman named Raine, who will challenge his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.

Released: May 15, 2012       Pages: 337
Publisher: HaperTeen         Source: Library

I don't understand. I don't understand this at all. 
Let me explain. Last September, I picked up a copy of Mister Monday*, also by Garth Nix. I read it. I wanted to love it. But I ended up wanting to throw it at a wall not liking it. I was afraid A Confusion of Princes would have the same writing style as Mister Monday (you know, same author and all), and I didn't want to read another book like that. But for some reason, I picked this book up.

And I'm definitely glad I did.  Since I ended up really liking both this and Glow, I think I'll have to start reading some more spaceship sci-fi (I should probably find the actual name for the genre).  The writing was nothing like Mister Monday's.  I loved all the action, and the ending was beautiful and spectacular.  It fit perfectly. 

Khemri was a little unlikable, but yet...I liked him at the same time.  That's the awesome paradox of how Garth Nix characterized him.  He'd basically been raised in a way that made him a less-than-friendly person, but he overcame it.  And I felt for him and was cheering him on. 

My favorite part of this book was the worldbuilding.  The sheer complexity of it all still amazes me.  It's genius.  I have no words to describe how utterly cool I thought it all was.  If you're looking for examples of awesome worldbuilding, this is a good place to look.

I really enjoyed this.  Apart from some technobabble that I couldn't even begin to comprehend, I liked pretty much every part of it.  Only a few things kept it from being a 5 star book, so it'll be 4.5 stars.  Highly recommended.

"...It's only Mister Monday Mom...." Wait, what? That never happened.

The Obsidian Blade (The Klaatu Diskos #1) by Pete Hautman
Kicking off a riveting sci-fi trilogy, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman plunges us into a world where time is a tool — and the question is, who will control it?

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished — only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing — one right on top of the roof — hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey
— from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

Released: April 10, 2012           Pages: 320
Publisher: Candlewick              Source: Library

(This post contains minor Fear spoilers.)

I have two separate issues with this book.  The first is with the book itself.  I didn't like the writing, and I couldn't connect with Tucker, the main character.  At times he acted his age, but at times he acted a lot younger.  During the first half of the book, I was very bored and felt like nothing was happening.  The second half happened way too fast, and I found it to be bizarre and disjointed.

My other huge issue is the religious statements in this book.  I don't like the statements that were put forth about religion.  I hate how the Reverend was "cured of his belief" in God.  As if it were some disease, and only a more advanced society could save him.  No, no, no.  I don't read books in order to read messages like that.

"But, Annie.  Remember in Fear, when Astrid Ellison gave up her faith?  Why didn't you have a problem with that?" 

Actually, I do have a problem with it.  But not the same problem that I had with the entire The Obsidian Blade.  In Fear, I didn't agree with Astrid's choice.  I don't condone her behavior.  But I respect her as a character, which goes a long way.  And Michael Grant handled the issue very well.  There wasn't an underlying message that religion is worthless.  It was just a "Hey, this happened" sort of thing.  (And besides, we don't know what will happen in Light.)  Also, Grant showed us both sides of it, when Edilio made a remark along the lines of "I'm sorry you feel that way, Astrid, but I'm going to keep my beliefs."  (Don't quote me on that one.)

But in this book, the religious aspect was  It went too far, in my opinion.  In the Gone series, for example, religion is portrayed as something honest, real, and something that can give people strength.  In The Obsidian Blade, it was pulled apart and twisted into something that it isn't.  And some parts weren't even necessary to the story.  Did we really need to know that Jesus didn't actually rise again from God's power, but was actually "cured" by the same people that "cured" the Reverend?  No.  I didn't feel there was any reason for that.      

I'll stop myself from ranting right now, because I could go on for a good long while about this.  I didn't like this book.  I'm giving it two stars because I've read books that I felt were worse off story-wise and writing-wise and such.  On the other hand, I don't know if I've ever read a book that made me this mad.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Dickens's magnificent novel of guilt, desire, and redemption
The orphan Pip’s terrifying encounter with an escaped convict on the Kent marshes, and his mysterious summons to the house of Miss Havisham and her cold, beautiful ward Estella, form the prelude to his “great expectations.” How Pip comes into a fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption.

Released: 1861               Pages: 460
Publisher: Oxford University Press (and others)   Source: Library

I'll skip the "expectations" puns, because it seems Goodreads reviewers can't get enough of them.

This was my summer reading book for the Advanced British Literature class I'll be taking this year.  Assigned reading books always make me wary, because I've outright hated many of them.

I liked this one, though.  In all the "classics" I've read before, I've never really liked a character.  I was getting there with Huck Finn, and Nick Carraway was getting there, but finally I found myself growing attached to Pip.  This is a first, when it comes to "classics".  (And I put classics in quotation marks for reasons I will probably post on at a later time.)

I liked the story, too.  It moved a bit slow, but it was told in a way that made me still enjoy it.  It took me forever to read, though.  I loved the old-fashioned language, and I kinda wish people still talked like that today.

Overall, I enjoyed this, even though it took me over three weeks to read.  Four stars.

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