Posts Tagged ‘series’

Percy Jackson

28 February 2010

Dear J-

We are reading the Percy Jackson series (and by we, I mean that theVet is impatiently waiting for me to catch up so that she doesn’t blurt out important plot spoiler points in normal conversation), which is going mostly well; the pacing is exciting, and the books experiencing the same sort of bloat that Harry Potter did (each book getting successively longer and fatter, filled with fun story nonetheless, but at the expense of page count). In fact, the clearest analog or inspiration could be said to be Harry and his success; you have the same elements of the fantastical mixed in with the mundane modern world. As we so often dream, these books offer an escape from the ordinary and hope that we can all be special regardless of how little the outside world may think of us.

There’s two issues with Percy’s story (in the scant two out of five books that I’ve read, so far). First, there’s no sense of world-building; second, the dialogue keeps grating on my ear. Sure, the fantastical is pretty amazing here, but it’s all grounded in Greek mythology; the point may be to get kids interested in those ancient tales and seek out the source information, but I can see them being happy with the peeks under the tablecloth that they’re given here — the endless torment of Tartarus, the voyage of Odysseus. Unlike Harry, which featured a unique and accessible universe, the enjoyment of Percy is directly tempered by how big of a Greek geek you were/are. There are multiple instances where I find myself wishing I had some reference (Edith Hamilton, where are you?) available that I could bounce back and forth to check story details.

The pacing is good but every so often a character’s line from the book falls flat in a way that tells me it’s a middle-aged guy who wrote it, not a line some adolescent might blurt out. It wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t yank me out of the story abruptly; dialogue is a tricky thing, and adolescent dialogue is doubly difficult. I find myself reading the words aloud to see if it resembles the spoken vernacular (often it does not, so I tweak them to fit). It’s easy to be a critic, though, instead of reading for enjoyment and this is an easy, fun read. Recommended, with the caveat that you’ll want to bone up on your Greek myths between books.



Stumble Foot

7 May 2009

Dear J-

I refuse to be sucked into discussing work today; instead I’ll happily talk about catching up on some of Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest works.  After all, the Vorkosigan novels and stories are SO delicious that you could be forgiven for minor missteps like The Spirit Ring (it was okay, but not great), but I’d let my focus on the Vorkosigan goodness blind me to the other things she’s written since Diplomatic Immunity.  Thus, as I was already getting some books for figgy’s birthday yesterday, I threw in some extra ones from the past few years.

I started last week with The Curse of Chalion, finished it eagerly, and went on to Paladin of Souls.  If you’re interested in industry accolades, Paladin won a Hugo; what’s interesting to me is the nature of the two books.  Both are set in the same world, with many of the same characters (though the main character is different in both, the novels are chronologically contiguous), but while Chalion was a bit of a Miles-ish romp, a physically-crippled yet mentally-superior (but not arrogant, mind you) hero overcoming challenges in a swords-and-sorcery world instead of a rockets-and-aliens one, Paladin is a mystery.  It’s a good one at that; I find myself not wanting to set it down and suffer the late nights with early morning bleariness consequently.

Paladin is the superior book, I think; there was a huge twist in Chalion that didn’t quite ring true, heartwarming though it was.  Because the characters are refreshingly human — imperfect, limited knowledge, and prone to errors — they’re easy to identify with.  The theology of these books is fascinating, as well, like looking at a very slightly askew version of Earth where polytheism based on seasonal weather took flower.  If you get a chance, I would almost go so far as to recommend Paladin first, with Chalion as a prequel if desired.