The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Part 1

519T2WI7QgL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_When I was growing up, I remember Treasure Planet coming out and loving it. I read Treasure Island as a kid and it was okay, but this new idea that the ships were in space and flying through the air, with aliens and what not, completely set my imagination going.

That same joy of pirates and ships flying through the air naturally drew me to Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass. I’ve only read a couple of Butcher’s Dresden Files and thought they were pretty decent, having heard my work compared it his from many friends and colleagues. But I am happy to say that I’ve really enjoyed reading The Aeronaut’s Windlass.

I’ve decided to split my review up into two parts. This is really a large book, over 600 pages. And to be honest, I’m only halfway through it. (Remember, I’ve also go
a full time job, writing, and being a father. Reading happens, just slower than I’d like some times.)

The novel is firmly rooted in the steampunk genre, with interesting gauntlets that shoot etherium and ships powered by steam and ethereal winds. There are warriorborn characters who have lion blood in them. And there are talking cats, which was pretty neat.

The book was a bit of a slow start for me. I really like to jump in and get to the action quick, but with 600 plus pages, I could understand taking a little more time. Butcher takes the time to craft some very interesting characters who you come to really root for. Captain Grimm is by far my favorite, this stoic captain of the Predator. He runs a tight ship, as they say, but he has a past that we don’t quite understand but I am excited to learn more about as the book progresses. The other main character of the main cast is Gwen Lancaster. Gwen is a very naive and confident noble. Her character is the one that I hope to see the most growth in as I read more. She is very sure of her ways and it gets her into a lot of trouble. But she’s also just turned 18 and we can all remember having that confidence at that age.

The book has many aspects that would appeal to all kinds of readers, from steampunk to mystery to military, even a little romance is starting to develop. I highly recommend it so far, at least the first half. We shall see how things go though.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and my final thoughts on the novel. Until then, here’s a photo of a tattoo a friend of mine has, wishing you all a beautiful life.

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Exile, R.A. Salvatore

51MHC5A5MHLThree days and I’ve finished the second book in the Dark Elf Trilogy – Exile by R.A. Salvatore. As when I first read through this series over a decade ago now, I’m devouring these novels like there is no tomorrow. However, the big difference between when I read these novels before and reading them now is I read every line with an author’s eye. I’m always watching to see how the author is doing what he/she is doing on the page. I’m seeing how the feelings are being shown, how the characters are being described, and why I’m getting so damned connected to them.

Exile picks up ten years after Homeland. Drizzt has survived in the Underdark all these long years. But in surviving, he’s lost sight of what made him so different from the other drow – his principles and honor. He realizes this and befriends a svirfneblin, or a deep gnome. But not all is well, as Matron Malic Do’Urden, his wicked mother, hunts him in order to regain Lolth’s favor. The ensuing adventures take Drizzt throughout the Underdark in an attempt to avoid his vengeful kin. And by the end of the novel, he has come to the realization that he must flee the Underdark and make for the surface, where he will hopefully be able to escape the Spider Queen’s wrath.

The novel is right up there with Homeland, with Drizzt finally learning what true friendship and loyalty means. And these first friendships that he makes with Belwar and Clacker foreshadow the greater friendships that are to come with the Companions of the Hall.

While the novel is well written, the pacing seemed a little off for me, slowing a bit too much with the chase through the Underdark. It was a bit too much cat and mouse for my tastes, but in the end, the payoff was worth it. Still earns this book a solid 4/5.

I’m taking a break from Drizzt while I wait for Soujourn to arrive at the library. So instead, I’ll be reading Jim Butcher’s The Aeronauts Windlass.

Homeland, R.A. Salvatore

Have you ever picked up an old favorite and reread it? It’s like reuniting with an old friend and wondering why you ever stopped talking.

Homeland2I had that wonderful experience this past week rereading Salvatore’s Homeland. Now, my brother recently got me a signed copy of his Cleric Quintet, the first series I read of Salvatore’s. And it’s still one of my favorites. But by far my favorite character of Salvatore’s, maybe even of all time, is Drizzt Do’Urden. This noble drow swordsman who has sparked a long running series of novels, graphic novels and game characters.

Homeland was written after the first introduction of Drizzt in the Icewind Dale Trilogy. This novel focuses on Drizzt early years in Menzoberranzan, drow city located in the Underdark. It’s an evil, chaotic city filled with all kinds of creatures who are raised to do nothing but scheme and murder. But Drizzt is unique in that he has none of the murderous desires for power that his brethren have. The novel follows him from early childhood through his schooling, both at home under the matriarchal society and in the warrior school of Melee-Magthere, and eventually to his refusal of drow society and escape into the Underdark.

The novel was a quick read but a very enjoyable one for me. Part of that comes from my love of Drizzt Do’Urden as a character. But another part comes from my fascination with the drow. These creatures who seem so strange in their evil ways but I can’t help but like. In fact, thinking back now, the drow played a large role in my conception of the shedim in my own novel. But more on that another day.

All-in-all, I give Homeland a 5/5, equal parts nostalgia and just good, fun writing and reading.

Relic

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s “Relic” was pretty interesting for what it was. There were some decent characters and some really great moments. There were also moments where I was just like “eh, whatever, just turn the page”. However, I think I would still enjoy reading this again. Except for the Epilogue. I would never read that again and I’d rather forget that it happened.

The best part of this entire book was the setting. Like in Alien, the setting adds so very much to the overall story. This is a huge, labyrinth of a museum with so many nooks and crannies to hide in that I’d be afraid to walk around on a good day. And there are all these bones and stuffed animals. It was way worse than the Nostromo from Alien. I mean, this place was massive. No wonder they couldn’t find Mbwun. You wouldn’t be able to find a regular killer. In addition to this being a huge place, I kept imagining it as being dark anywhere that wasn’t regularly traversed by museum visitors. It was all around creepy and would have made a great setting for many different genres to add some tension.

The monster was also a very interesting creature. Mbwun was this hybrid super monster of a reptile and ape and human. It is designed to be the perfect killing creature and, although we never get a really good view of it until closer to the end, its killings are always quick and precise and brutal. And even though we never get into its head, we can imagine its thoughts as it tries to survive in this chaotic city environment. I also really liked the way that the back story of this monster is explained. It’s not like it randomly occurred. It evolved as a perfect killer and could be tracked well back to the dinosaurs. There was a lot of science in this novel and used well to support the monster, unlike Pinborough’s Widows.

My biggest problem with this novel was the Epilogue. I would have been completely content to end at the last chapter, where everyone is happy and celebrating Pendergast leaving. But then this chapter occurs out of nowhere explaining that Mbwun was actually Whittlesey infected with a virus that turned him into a monster. No! I liked the evolution of the superior killer. Not this virus. And Kawakita trying to recreate it and creating some kind of drug. Just was not happy at all with that. I understand that it was likely a way to set up the sequel but still, I’d have hoped for something else.

The Wolfman

So I had a really hard time reading this novel. I just had so many mixed feelings through the beginning about how things were going. But there were some redeeming qualities that Maberry used to his advantage that I will outline a bit later. Before I start though, I want to acknowledge that this is an adaptation of a movie as opposed to the other way around and that may have something to do with the problems I found in this novel.

Film Title: The Wolfman

To start with, this was such a slow book for the first 100 or so pages. It felt much more like I was reading a mystery novel as opposed to a monster novel. In fact, if I didn’t know that a werewolf had killed Ben in the prologue, I would have said he could have been murdered by a madman and Lawrence was just investigating on his own. It really just didn’t work as well for me. It was too slow and I understand that the werewolf only changes on the full moon but maybe there could have been a bit more excitement. We learn a lot about Lawrence as a character and his relationship with his father, but I don’t know, it just wasn’t happening fast enough for me. That being said, the last 200 pages seemed to fly by for me. We first see the werewolf and things just go from bad to worse for Lawrence. I felt like the beginning could have been cut in half and it would have helped me a lot.

The monsters in this novel were definitely the two werewolves. The first time we see the werewolf in the gypsy camp was awesome. You get this figure, eight feet of fur and claws and teeth, standing up before Lawrence, and then carnage ensues. This creature is a force of pure anger and malice and rampage. We saw this early this semester with Rawhead Rex but unlike the ancient god, the werewolf has no logical reasoning. It is an animal of pure instinct and power. It attacks and attacks without thought of why or how or who he was before. That is where the horror lies, at least for me. The loss of the self and the knowledge of right and wrong. The chance that I could hurt someone unwillingly and then have to deal with that loss afterwards.

However, I would agree with what one of my fellow classmates pointed out about not having someone to root for when Lawrence turns into the werewolf. The Lawrence that we have come to connect with disappears and we can just sit back and witness what happens without any hope of preventing it. But it worked to show me the same feeling that Lawrence has after being buried underneath the consciousness of the Wolfman.

Having never seen the movie, I cannot compare the adaptation. I would hope that it isn’t as slow as the book is to start, but I will have to wait and see once I’ve watched it.

World War Z: True Zombies

I really liked reading World War Z. This novel was completely different than anything I had ever read before in horror fiction, or any other genre for that matter. The premise for the novel is that this is a collection of interviews from people all over the world about their experiences during the zombie apocalypse.  So, while we don’t really know much about the man doing the interviewing, that’s okay. We are told the story of this long war by stringing together all of these smaller short stories. And while we weren’t given one main character, we are still invested in the novel as a whole because our protagonist is not one person but all of humanity and that worked for me.

The depictions of these zombies were definitely what I would call true zombies. The slow, rambling dead that use their sheer numbers to overwhelm their prey. If you are bit, you turn into one of them. You have to sever the nervous system to kill them. All of these traits are what I think of when I think zombies. Not the craziness that we see in modern representations of fast movie zombies that you can kill with a bullet to the chest. No. True zombies. And I appreciated that.

And in this instance the zombies were monstrous because they are everywhere. We’re not focused on one character in a house or something. We don’t have the hope that if we can just escape, then we’ll find somewhere where there are no zombies. These zombies are everywhere and that is what gives them the most horror. No matter how far you run, except Antarctica, there will be zombies. And they will keep coming whether you are awake or asleep. And the fact that if you kill one of them there will be one less but if they kill one of you, there will be one more of them is a horrible way to fight a war.

I could go on and on about the things that I liked in this book and that were done well but I feel like I should talk about some thing that didn’t work. For me, it got really long about midway through the book. It just seemed to keep going on and on about similar experiences with no end in sight. This made it very tedious to read. However, I understand why it was done like that. This war seemed to be going on and on for those trying to survive. They were going day by day with no end in sight. So in a way, it made sense for it to get a little laborious to read. It definitely connected me a bit more. Aesthetically though, I could have used it going a bit quicker.

So what was my favorite interview in the novel? Definitely the interview with Darnell Hackworth. This interview comes at the end and is about the K-9 units used during the war. They trained dogs to scout out areas and to lure zombies into combat on the military’s terms. While there were certainly casualties, which was said to hear about, this unit was pretty successful. And that came from the amount of specialization that the dogs had. Larger dogs, like rottweilers and mastiffs, were used as body guards and fighters not only against zombies but also against rabid dogs. Smaller dogs, like dachshunds and minpins were used as the scouts in urban areas because they could fit through all the tight spaces. It was really interesting just imagining these dogs working in tandem to effectively complete missions. I just thought it was cool.

If it wasn’t obvious already, I really enjoyed this book. Because of its unique writing style, I am hesitant to watch the movie that recently came out. If anyone reads this and has seen the movie, I would appreciate some reviews of the movie and a yay or nay on whether or not to watch it.