Not all those who wander are lost

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

Genre: Fantasy (novella), dark humourThe Wurms of Blearmouth

Rating: 7.5/10

Steven Erikson is well known for his  series of door-stoppers, the Malazan Book of the Fallen (first book reviewed here), which averages at at 1100 pages per book. For those of you who look for books of a more manageable size, there is the Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach of which this book is the 5th. It’s a series of stand-alone novels following three side characters that were taken from the main work and given a life of their own.


 

Imagine, one’s seemingly loyal manservant attempting to kill his master. This is what the world has come to, Master Reece. Is it any wonder that I envisage a brighter future, one where I sit secure upon a throne, ruling over millions of wretched subjects, and immune to all concerns over my safety? This is the tyrants dream, Mister Reece.

Erikson seems to have taken the switch from complex, densely worded epic fantasy to witty banter and darkest humour in his stride, creating a marvellous story for which my biggest complain is that it is too short, with too sudden a resolution as the book is just above 200 pages long.

The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal, along with their manservant Emancipor Reese find themselves shipwrecked on a beach overlooked by the castle of Lord Fangatooth Claw the Render and the awfully inhospitable town of Spendrugle. Which is unfortunate as our necromancers aren’t good people. In fact another book The Crackedpot Trial focuses on a group of hunters trying to bring them to justice for their crimes against society. Amusingly for us they come across as relatively benign as they tend to meet the sort of people that are even more horrible and who are deserving of their kind and tender ministrations.

It’s a crazy tale, that is sure to induce laughter and cringes, sometimes both during a single sentence. The dialogue and narrative are testaments to Erikson’s talent, with scenes of bewildering cleverness and wit that he seems to pull off with ease. His characters are as memorable as ever, from the vain and pompous lord who commands his scribe document his every word (but revise, reinvent, and rewrite it to make it better) to the lonely militiaman who carries out his solemn duty to arrest all visitors while venting his dissatisfaction of married life while maintaining that he has never been married. As I’ve mentioned before my biggest complaint is that of pacing, with the end approaching just as you are getting used to all the characters.

“Behold!” The lord faced outward again, defiant against the roaring seas, and struck a pose looming ominously over the town. “Behold! Oh, and note my widespread arms as I face this wild, whore-whipped sea. Oh, and that wretched town directly below, and how it kneels quivering like an abject slave. Note, too, the grey skies, and that fierce colour of … grey. What else? Fill the scene, fool!”

Coingood started scratching furiously on the tablet.

Watching him, Fangatooth made circular, tumbling motions with one hand. “More! Details! We are in the throes of creativity here!”

Received before public through NetGalley

Humanity

Why, a god could get sick with this lot, no doubt about it. If it wasn’t too much work, he would have ended this world long ago, and without much regret. But I’ll settle for what washes up every morning. The bodies and dead dreams, the brave and the insipid, the frightened and the belligerent, the wise ones-but how rare they are!-and the idiots, of which there are far too many. - The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Genre: Crime, MysteryAnd Then There Were None

Rating: 10/10

And Then There Were None is the best selling mystery novel in the world, with over 100 million copies sold and is the 7th most sold book in the world.  It’s widely considered to be Christie’s masterpiece, and considering that Christie is the  best selling novelist of all time this is prestigious badge.


 

Unlike the majority of her other novels this book is not told from the detective’s point of view. It is told from the viewpoint of the 10 victims/suspects, a very unusual style which probably helped lead to her describing the novel as the most difficult novels that she wrote.

In a mansion on a lonely island, off the coast of England, 10 people are gathered together. Each had received their own unique invitation to the island, specially tailored to ensure their arrival such as promises of employment and grand summer holidays. They soon discover that they are alone, and that no-one has a clear idea of who the host is.  Despite mild unease they set out to wait for their mysterious host who had left orders behind for supper to be served and a gramophone record is to be played . The record accuses each of them with successfully getting away with murder – a charge which they all vehemently deny. Realizing they have been tricked into coming to the island they try to leave but they are  without a way off as the boat that took them there has left. And then they begin to die one at a time in ways which inexplicably follows an old nursery rhyme, Ten Little Indians,  shown below. However with no way to leave the island, and nowhere to hide, it is an indisputable fact that the killer is among them.  And so they desperately begin to search for the killer.

“Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.”

It presents a baffling, ingenious mystery which the reader will battle to solve before the reveal. It presents a seemingly unsolvable, impossible and puzzling mystery that happens to have a perfectly logical solution.

If you enjoy crime or mystery novels then without a doubt you should read this book. It’s short (250 pages) and incredibly enjoyable with at it’s heart baffling, ingenious mystery which the reader will battle to solve before the reveal. For that is Christie’s grand talent: the presentation of a seemingly unsolvable, impossible and puzzling mystery that is resolved by a perfectly logical explanation.

 “When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”

Related on site articles

Agatha Christie (author bio)

Cards on the Table

“If this had been an old house, with creak­ing wood, and dark shad­ows, and heav­ily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feel­ing. But this house was the essence of moder­ni­ty. There were no dark corners – ​no pos­si­ble slid­ing pan­els – it was flood­ed with elec­tric light – every­thing was new and bright and shining. There was noth­ing hid­den in this house, noth­ing con­cealed. It had no at­mo­sphere about it. Some­how, that was the most fright­en­ing thing of all. They ex­changed good-​nights on the up­per land­ing. Each of them went in­to his or her own room, and each of them automatical­ly, al­most with­out con­scious thought, locked the door….”

― Agatha Christie,  And Then There Were None

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Genre: Graphic Novel

Rating: 10/10

Probably the best graphic novel, and definitely one of the best novels written.


 

Watchmen

Watchmen is beyond a doubt the most famous and acclaimed
graphic novel that has ever been written. Now a graphic novel is, simply, a lengthy comic book, yet Watchmen clearly desired to achieve beyond it’s peers. Watchmen isn’t just a great comic book, it’s considered to be one of the greatest novels. It was included in Time’s, “All-Time 100 Greatest Novels” list (the only graphic novel on the list).   Entertainment Weekly also  included watchmen on their list of the best 50 novels of the last 25 years, where it was described as The greatest superhero story ever told and proof that comics are capable of smart, emotionally resonant narratives worthy of the label ‘literature’.”  If you had happened to watch the movie of this novel, I assure you that, once again, the book is a lot better.

Rorschach

Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”

Watchmen tells the tale of an alternative world in which superheroes (vigilantes) emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, ultimately helping the USA to win the Vietnam War. Now the country is slowly edging towards a nuclear war and society is restless. Costumed heroes were outlawed, bythe Keene Act,  and the ex-superheroes are now retired or working for the government.  The books follows this bizarre group of has-beens as they begin an investigation of the murder of a old team-mate which leads to a far more sinister conspiracy.  Overlapping plot-lines and a time-jumping, non-linear narrative, introduces us to the dark and ruthless world that is Watchmen.

It is the oldest ironies that are still the most satisfying: man, when preparing for bloody war, will orate loudly and most eloquently in the name of peace.

In structure each issue or “chapter”, apart from the final, ends with supplemental fictional documents add to the detailed back-story.   The character’s aren’t the typical cartoon types that you might expect. No one is clearly bad or good, everyone is somewhere in the grey in-between.  Moore’s intention ,with the characters, was  to create several “radically opposing ways” of moral perception. To quote the creator,

What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.”


Watchmen is the graphic novel that breaks the trend and stands as a marvellous and different book. Even if you don’t normally read graphic novels take the chance and try Watchmen.

 

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Genre: Epic FantasyA Clash of Kings

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire

Rating: 10/10

People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it’s served up.

If you haven’t read the first book read the review on site.


 

A Clash of Kings is the second novel in George R.R. Martin’s series (A Song of Ice and Fire – adapted by HBO under the name A Game of Thrones).  Winning the Locus and Ignotus  awards for best novel this book continued Martin’s legacy as a master of epic fantasy.  I was quickly immersed in the complex labyrinth of grand schemes and political intrigue of Westeros resulting in a rather quick read for a 1040 page door-stopper.  

 When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.

It begins where A Game of Thrones left off – after the murder of Eddard Stark the Seven Kingdoms are plunged into civil war.  Joffrey rules from the Iron Throne, backed by the Lannisters, but rumours are spreading claiming that he’s not the legitimate heir. Both of Robert Baratheon’s brothers march towards the throne, each with a different claim. Robb Stark  seeks independence of the North and revenge for his father. And on the Iron Islands Balon Greyjoy prepares for his rebellion against Winterfell. The stage of Westeros is set and the War of the Five Kings begins.  In the midst of all the chaos, the Night Watch has been sends a group beyond the Wall searching for the “King Beyond the Wall”. Far away Daenerys continues her quest to return to the Seven Kingdoms backed by three newly born dragons. 

So many vows…they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.

It’s difficult explaining how good this sequel is without giving away content or ruining the thrill. Also as you have – presumably – read the first book you should already have a clear indication of whether you like Martin’s writing or not so there’s no point going into that. Simply put this book is a continuation of the brilliant narrative started with A Game of Thrones. If you liked the previous book go for this, it’s more of the same without the slow paced start.

Why should death make a man truthful, or even clever? The dead are likely dull fellows, full of tedious complaints – the ground’s too cold, my gravestone should be larger, why does he get more worms than I do…

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”

Genre: (epic) FantasyThe Wise Man's Fear

Series: The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day Two

Rating: 10/10

“I’d heard he had started a fistfight in one of the seedier local taverns because someone had insisted on saying the word “utilize” instead of “use.”

This is Patrick Rothfuss second book and it is brilliant.  I’m not alone in this view, the book was a instant hit topping the New York Times list, garnering brilliant reviews at every turn.   George R. R. Martin is quoted as saying ,”The Wise Man’s Fear was worth the wait. I gulped it down in a day, staying up almost to dawn reading, and I am already itching for the next one. He’s bloody good, this Rothfuss guy.”.

“Death was like an unpleasant neighbor. You didn’t talk about him for fear he might hear you and decide to pay a visit.”

Kvothe, the eponymous king killer, became the most notorious living being only to give up his life of adventure and become a innkeeper in a backwater town.  He was sought after by Chronicler who convinces Kvothe to tell him his life story.  Kvothe declared that this would take three days; this is the book of the second day.

It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.

Continuing from the events of the previous book Kvothe decides to take a break from university life and to take up his search to uncover the truth of the Amyr and the Chandrian, the ones who killed his parents . Of course things are rarely as simple as they are planned to be. Kvothe begins his journey to become a living legend and fufil the requirements of the boast with which he introduced himself -

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.”

This book has everything. It is seamless, mesmerizing book with wonderful prose – brilliant wit – stunning action and beautiful descriptions. It is incredibly enjoyable to read. To put it simply this and A Song of Ice and Fire are my two contenders for being the best on-going fantasy series. If you like the genre at all this is the book to read.

It was only then I realized I didn’t know the name of Elodin’s class. I leafed through the ledger until I spotted Elodin’s name, then ran my finger back to where the title of the class was listed in fresh dark ink: “Introduction to Not Being a Stupid Jackass.”
I sighed and penned my name in the single blank space beneath.