It’s been a while since we reviewed Stranger, the first in a series set in a post-apocalyptic California desert. We really enjoyed the first book, both for its excellent story and worldbuilding, but also for its thorough and complex portrayal of a truly diverse cast. When I realized that the second book was available from my library, I jumped on the chance to learn more about the world of Las Anclas and its citizens.
Unfortunately, while Hostage delivers a compelling story with interesting new characters, I found myself disappointed by the lack of updates to the parts I found most compelling from the previous book.
Spoilers for both Stranger and Hostage below the jump!
Despite being barely further in Dragon Age: Inquisition than I was when I wrote my last article, I felt it would have been strange to end the month with a post about another series. Instead of the video games, though, today I’m going to talk about one of the books. Indeed, many people may not even be aware that there are Dragon Age books. As of now, there are four—with various receptions from the fanbase—and I’ve only read one. The first one: The Stolen Throne. Always hungry for more information on the DA universe, I leapt at the chance to read this firsthand account of the events that lead up to the Battle of River Dane and how the groundwork was laid for the eventual liberation of Ferelden from Orlais. And I wasn’t disappointed. The book provided an interesting, compelling adventure through areas familiar from the first game (Dragon Age: Origins) while providing fantastic character arcs, but the more I thought on it, the more obvious it became that this novel, both early in the DA universe timeline and the franchise’s life, reflected some problematic elements present in Origins, and to an extent, the other two Dragon Age games.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—A Little Princess? Isn’t that the movie with the little girl who tells stories about India and tells the evil Miss Minchin that all girls are princesses? Yes, dear reader, yes it is. And while that movie is near and dear to my heart, today I’m going to tell you why the book is so much better (fair warning—this review is spoiler-rific, but the book was published in 1905).
In the 1995 movie, the big message is that all girls are princesses, whether they be poor or rich, ugly or beautiful. Being a princess is something that all girls are; it’s an automatic result of being female. One of the more powerful scenes in the movie is when Sara practically shouts at a speechless Miss Minchin, “All girls are princesses! Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?” And while this sends a pretty good message to young girls about their inherent human dignity, it’s a very different characterization of what it means to be a princess than in the 1905 novel. In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s original version, pretending to be a princess is Sara Crewe’s favorite private daydream. She is embarrassed when her nasty classmate Lavinia tries to make fun of her for it, but Sara stands her ground and defends her pasttime. For Sara, being a princess is about being kind to everyone she meets, being courteous and polite even when people are rude or cruel to you, and being generous to those who are less fortunate than she.
I can’t decide if this book is more fun or frustrating.
City of Dark Magic (by “Magnus Flyte,” a pseudonym for Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch) attempts to be a genre-busting whirlwind of adventure and sensuous intrigue. Sensuous is probably the best word to describe it—this is a story revolving around different ideas of sensory perception. Sarah Weston is a Ph.D. student in Boston, studying under the eccentrically brilliant musicologist Dr. Sherbatsky. Upon his mysterious death, Sarah is invited to fill his spot studying Beethoven manuscripts at a castle in Prague. Sarah, you see, has a gifted ear for sound, and loves Beethoven. Beethoven famously had problems with intermittent deafness. Sarah’s favorite pupil, Pols, is blind, but her other senses are especially heightened. Prince Max, owner of the castle, experiments with a drug that increases the brain’s ability to sense the energy of “charged moments” from the past, and so is able to travel in time without actually travelling in time (it’s scientific, you see). Sarah and Max have a more-than-healthy libido. There’s mystery, crime, fantasy, science fiction, erotica… the publisher describes it as a “rom-com paranormal suspense novel.” That’s the book’s greatest strength and greatest weakness. Continue reading →
What do you get when you combine one part Ender’s Game with two parts Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, shake, and pour over 1980s-pop-culture-flavored ice cubes?
You get Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, the next book on your reading list.
I discovered Ready Player One during a layover at the Denver International Airport. I had four hours to kill, no internet at my disposal, and it was the only book in the display that wasn’t Fifty Shades of Grey, a random crime novel, or some pundit’s latest money grab. You’re not supposed to like books you find in airports; they’re just meant to entertain you enough to help you (almost) forget the guy to your left hogging your armrest and the guy to your right blocking the window. But Ready Player One was so good, I stayed up until 3am to finish it after reaching my destination.
Let’s talk about crap, you guys. Because this is total crap.
Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World is a book containing two stories. The second story was the entire “Tsunan and Sanosuke try and resurrect the Sekiho Army with grenades and Kenshin stops them” thing that was in the manga, so I’m not going to focus on it. The first story is about some kid who loses a book (wrapped in a cloth) and has to find it so that he is allowed back into his sensei’s house. The cloth that the book was wrapped apparently had some sort of code in it and Kenshin had to find the cloth in order to prevent somepony else from overturning the Meiji government. I shit you not, this was a topic of a story. There’s been higher quality Naruto filler.
The reason I can’t give you more details about the content of the first story is because the author tended to explain the wrong things. I can tell you the entire history of beef pots in Tokyo, but I cannot tell you who that sensei was (I think he might have been a historical figure).
Besides the unnecessary descriptions of stupid details and no details about the important parts, the writing style is terrible. There are so many awkward phrases that it’s ridiculous. While the dialogue in the manga sometimes comes across as petty and immature, written in text, it’s ten times worse. And don’t make me mention the action sequences that came across so gracefully in the manga were artless.
The translation did not help things. Everything was insanely wordy. And if something only required one verb, the text used two. I got the vibe that the translation was way too literal. Japanese nuances come across as wordy in English, and that was really evident in this book.