||[May. 29th, 2009|01:51 pm]
#30: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Third of five books on the Hugo novel list; I reviewed Saturn's Children here, and read Anathem last year (but I may review it sometime before the Hugo voting closes, on July 3rd).
The Graveyard Book is about Nobody Owens, a boy who escapes the murder of his family and takes refuge in a graveyard, where he is raised to adulthood by its dead-but-not-gone inhabitants. Given the Freedom of the Graveyard, he grows up learning several of the traits and abilities we normally ascribe to various types of undead, and begins to piece together the mystery of who killed his family, and why...
The book is organized into eight chapters which are essentially vignettes from various stages of his development. Most of them stand alone pretty well as short stories, and in fact one of them was previously published that way.
I enjoyed the book quite a bit. It was a bit low-key compared to some of Gaiman's other works, but the pacing and scope of the narrative felt very natural.
My Hugo rankings:
2. Saturn's Children
3. The Graveyard Book
Remaining to read: Zoe's Tale and Little Brother
#31-#33: The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
This is a dark-fantasy trilogy recommended to me by Sora. Intrigue and terror surround the most powerful witch ever seen in the matriarchal society of Terreille - but before she can assume her throne and the full measure of her power, she needs to survive her adolescence and the barbarisms that she's subjected to by women and men alike in their desire to control her. Luckily, she's got friends - including her guardian and mentor, the High Lord of Hell.
I read these three books straight through, which is a bit unusual for me. But the end of each of the first two books doesn't really contain any resolutions, but rather propels the reader headlong into the plot of the next one. It was very engaging reading, and the characters and their relationships were interesting enough that I rarely noticed the minor flaws of the series. This was Anne Bishop's first three books, and while the plot hung together pretty well, the machinations of the antagonists felt like a series of cackling plots from a cartoon, or maybe an old silent movie. The writing was trite at times, occasionally succumbing to the tendency towards Important Capital Nouns that litters a lot of generic fantasy. But the characters shone through it all, just the same, and made the series a lot of fun to read.
Next up, I'm nearly done with Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and then it's probably back to the fiction well for me...