Monday, November 26, 2007
Fiction, 285 pages
This book begins, harmlessly enough, as Vlad Taltos, fresh from fighting the Jenoine and losing a good friend, risks a meal at his favorite restaurant. Though planning to dine alone, he soon finds himself in the company of a Dzurlord and Mario Greymist, the Jhereg assassin.
The Jhereg want Vlad killed, but Mario isn't there for that reason. Mario comes on behalf of a mutual friend—one concerned about a political situation involving Cawti, Vlad's ex-wife.
After a brief sojurn to Sethra Lavode's fortress on Dzur Mountain, Vlad returns to South Adrilankha to remedy the problem. Along the way, Vlad meets old friends, makes new enemies, and comes up with a few tricks.
Vlad Taltos would deserve a place beside the hard-boiled detectives of fiction, except that he's an assassin, not a detective, and resides in Dragaera, a fantasy realm.
About three-fourths of Brust's prolific writing is set in Dragaera, a land the ruling Dragaerans, a tall long-lived people, grudgingly share with the shorter, short-lived Easterners. Like other Easterners, Vlad Taltos is a member of an oppressed minority. Unlike most Easterners, Vlad holds a title in House Jhereg, and has several prominent Dragaeran friends. Not only is Vlad unique, he may be the only living Easterner to have spoken directly with the goddess, Verra.
Brust's Khaavren romances span centuries, while his Vlad Taltos novels span mere decades. The Taltos novels are shorter, and faster paced than those concerning the long-lived Dragaerans. Both series are well done, but it might be best to start with the Taltos novels before savoring the Khaavren romances which introduce some of Vlad's Dragaeran friends and provide the overall back story.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Over his long career, Jack Vance has been a prolific science-fiction writer. Sometimes his writing is exciting, sometimes subdued. His 2004 novel, "Lurulu" is of the latter sort. But what it lacks in treacherous villains and dangerous situations, it makes up in its richness of detail and pursuit of meaning. Lurulu is a mystical place, or perhaps state of being—a concept that means something different to each person. The book speaks of friendship and of the adventure of everyday living—at least everyday living for spacemen.
This sequel to "Ports of Call" begins after Myron Tany has offended his eccentric aunt and been put off her ship. Being a resourceful youth, he quickly finds employment on another. As the Glicca travels from star to star, Myron and his colleagues encounter interesting characters, societies, customs and beliefs. Although nothing much actually happens, the writing is superb, the dialog, sparkling. The pace is perfect, the content entertaining and the style satisfying.
Future critics may not consider this to be Vance's best work. But it's not his worst. Vance, writes in his preface to the 2007, "The Jack Vance Treasury," that he considers, "Lurulu" to be his, "final book." Vance, born August 28, 1916, was 89 when he penned that June 2006 preface. The writing in "Lurulu," like the texture of fine old wine, is mellow. Some things do improve with age.
Check out this entry on VanderWorld for a bit more on Jack Vance.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Translated by David James Karamisha
Fiction, 2005, 120 pages
When Ama shows Lui his forked tongue, she decides to get one too. Several days later, Ama takes her to Shiba-san's shop to get her tongue pierced. Over the months that follow, she'll use increasingly larger studs to stretch her tongue, prior to taking the final step of splitting it. Along the way there is lots of sex, beer and pain. Lui faces the aftermath of two murders and becomes anorexic.
This award winning, first novel is a story of transformation. Although the three main characters have piercings, tattoos and more extreme body modifications, these transformations are merely physical. Lui's transformation is to be spiritual. In the end, Lui's transformation is both subtle and ambiguous. The book ends as Lui's transformation begins. It's up to the reader to determine where Lui's transformation will take her.
Had she been American, rather than Japanese, Lui might have behaved and acted differently. Still, the story is sufficiently universal that it transcends language and culture. However, though it may be universal, it is not typical. In its way, it resembles another short novel, "The Story of O." In that novel, two alternative endings are provided. Hitomi Kanehara provides only one, but its ambiguity suffices.
More reviews of Snakes and Earrings
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Moral: Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy. Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend. And, if you are up to your neck in shit and can still manage to be happy, for Heaven's sake keep your mouth shut.
- David Loeff
David Loeff (pronounced Lef) is an author and graphic designer. His freelance services include conversion of manuscripts into eBooks, photo retouching, book design, etc.
Dave worked domestically in the sewn goods industry, before he became a buyer in Taiwan. He subsequently worked as a mental health clinician, technical writer, computer technician, and graphic designer.In addition to fiction, Dave writes about graphics, travel, and other topics. His website is http://truthandtalltales.com.