The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth by John Garth, one of several Tolkien-related books I got for christmas...I'm a bit of a Tolkien nerd (in addition to being a Dr Who nerd), and found this a very interesting and easy to follow read, full of interesting insights into Tolkien's inspirations and travels, lots of photographs and illustrations too.
Started on the latest book in the Invisible Library series- The Dark Archive. I absolutely love this series. And it already starts of well, set in Irene's adopted steam-punk world and Vale taking Irene off to an underwater mission. I just adore the mix of steampunk, magic, urban fantasy and a sprinkle of science fiction. And having the convenient in-universe setting and description of Fae and high chaos worlds, you always get a handy explanation why characters follow archetypes and tropes... and if you pay attention, this will also give you a hint of something is wrong. I think the writing and the ideas are quite clever.
I read all of the Fleming Bond novels during the first lockdown. Really enjoyed them on the whole and was happy to leave literary Bond at that and not bother with the continuation novels. Horowitz’s two instalments were on a Kindle deal a few months ago at 99p each, so I bit the bullet and bought them, both liking the author and being very intrigued by the “with original material by Ian Fleming” tagline.
It’s very faithful and authentic, with the two things that probably stand out being insights into Bond’s personality and background for Pussy Galore. The former works well, and isn’t completely out of place as Fleming did delve into this a little more towards the end of the run of books. The latter is nice, but her appearance in the book is fleeting, as is the continuation from the events of Goldfinger. That’s very Fleming in itself, however, as he glossed over his own cliffhangers in the following book!
In trying to be faithful and authentic it probably stumbles a little by not presenting anything new. The villain of the piece is pretty much beat for beat an amalgamation of Dr No & Goldfinger, so isn’t really a substantial addition to Bond’s garish rogue gallery. The plan is unnecessarily convoluted too.
Overall it’s a nice page turner and a dip back into literary Bond. I especially loved the Grand Prix and coffin escape sequences.
Out of the two Horowitz books, it’s Forever and a Day that interests me the most; early days for Bond and pre-Casino Royale. Will be reading that one next.
Rhythm of War by: Brandon Sanderson which is just a ride from the word go. I’m only about a third of the way through but it’s such a brilliant follow up to Oathbringer with several unexpected characters getting their own viewpoint chapters finally.
I loved this pre-Casino Royale instalment of literary Bond. It's dark, funny, rattles along at a great pace and Bond is very well written. He's got the signs of the Bond we know and love, but there's some moral complexity throughout, which seems appropriate for someone who's just been handed a licence to kill.
I think it owes a lot to its successor, Casino Royale, with some elements, but I think that's great; it's my favourite Bond book (and film!). The villain is as grotesque as Le Chiffre, Sixtine is a precursor to the younger Vesper, Bond goes through the mill and it's got a killer last line.
Not only a great outing for Bond, but I think it's easily a rival to some of Fleming's own work.
As mentioned before on these very threads, my only real experience prior to reading the original novel was watching the very loose animated adaptation in my youth and listening to the BBC Radio dramatisation starring Timothy West and Julia MacKenzie only this past year.
Aside from the use of certain language and the expression of rather distasteful opinions which were very much of its time, I found this a quite enjoyable and surprisingly a very easy read.
It does go into rather strange places (quite literally!) in its final chapters though.
It’s a Bond continuation novel that I was never planning to get, but it was in a book charity shop local to me and it’s set within Fleming’s Bond timeline so I thought I’d take the punt.
I like that it drew inspiration from the details of Bond’s obituary in You Only Live Twice and was set a few years later. The prose isn’t dissimilar to Fleming, albeit with swearing, which isn’t something I’m against but I quite liked how Fleming usually did it off-page, so to speak. There’s some great sequences and passages, but the overall plot is quite meandering and becomes unnecessarily convoluted to the point where it needs to be pieced together through exposition at the end.
The concept is great and I think there’s scope for a prose equivalent Quantum of Solace’s revenge mission, but perhaps it should’ve been planned and commissioned as two separate novels. As it stands, it’s not bad, but I think it meanders because it doesn’t want to stray too much in the confines of one book, yet it’s convoluted because it’s underdeveloped and things happen just because they happen.
After just sticking to the Fleming novels I’ve now tackled three of the Fleming Bond set continuation novels. I might keep my eyes peeled for Colonel Sun & Devil May Care just to complete the set!
Obviously the film that this story spawned is far more well known and developed but personally I thought this was a charming little piece. Very understated as well when it comes to tackling the idea of the ripples we all leave behind in our lives.
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray, and Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. I thoroughly enjoyed both - Master & Apprentice for its story and likable characters, and Light of the Jedi for the sheer world building and scope.
Light of the Jedi just instantly captures this Wild West feel to the Galaxy and it portrays the Jedi and the Republic at their absolute peak for what really feels like the first time in the franchise to me. It really shows how far both organizations have fallen by the time of the prequel trilogy because you know even before the Clone Wars really started, neither the Jedi nor the Republic were really what they once were. I get the feeling we’ll see the events that led to this decline slowly begin to unfold as more stories set in this era are told and I’m all here for it!
My only criticism is that the timeline of the story is a little stretched in places and there’s just so many characters introduced and involved with the story that some of them get a little lost in the shuffle. I feel like Soule does a great job setting up the important players in this book, though, and I hope some of the others get more time later down the road.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
“Hey, a cool little sci-fi book about time travel. And the cover is pretty.”
Little did I know.
I expected some chronology-bending shenanigans but wasn’t prepared for the emotions that came with them. Seriously, the feelings. This was one of the most engaging and lyrical books I’ve read in a long time. I savored every one of its 200 pages.
Red and Blue are soldiers, continually crossing paths as their respective species battle each other through time. The butterfly effect has been weaponized, as one side sets a series of events in motion that will impact the other side generations later, and so on, spinning timelines into various strands.
Red and Blue break protocol and use this technique to leave elaborately-crafted messages to taunt each other. It’s playfully antagonistic (and fun!) at first, then they gradually discover something deeper and intimate within the acts of sending and receiving correspondence. I don’t want to say much more, but will note that there were parts I wanted to re-read (and even read out loud) because they were so beautifully crafted.
A short read but an utterly gorgeous one. Recommended.
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