Monthly Archives: October 2015

Gone home

Gone home

Gone home isn’t a book, but it is a novel. Sort of. Kind of. It’s a video game, except that it’s not.*

So I’m going to break out of my normal medium and do a video game review. Because I think it’s important. Yes, Gone home has already generated enough blog posts to circumnavigate the globe, but haven’t done one yet and a blog is nothing if not an inherently self-centered platform.

*I don’t actually buy this argument in the slightest. It’s absolutely a video game. I’ll address this later on.

Brief plot summary

It is, culturally, the height of the 1990s. You play the role of Caitlyn Greenbriar, a new college graduate returning home from their European adventure. Your great-uncle died while you were away your family has inherited his mansion and moved in. So you arrive on the doorstep of your home, where you have never been. But the door is locked. Nobody appears to be home. A note is pinned on the door: from your younger sister Sam, it says not to go looking for her.

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The boy with the porcelain blade

The boy with the porcelain blade / Dev Patrick

The boy with the porcelain blade is a book that wears its influences proudly: Gormenghast, Dune, We have always lived in the castle, etc. The author and the blurb both claim inspiration from Scott Lynch but I don’t really see it.

Anyways, it’s a sf novel (whether it is better classified as “science fiction” or “fantasy” is ambiguous).

Brief plot summary

The Orfani are a group of disfigured children who live a fairly comfortable life under the king’s protection. Inhabiting a spider-infested castle, the Orfani are sponsored by the various Houses and overseen by the mysterious Majordomo. Life for the Orfani is a series of plots and counterplots as they try to do away with each other, but the reasons why are unclear. A fencing master with a grudge against Lucien, one of the elder Orfani, will soon set into motion a series of events that will reveal the secrets of the Orfani, the never-seen king, and the kingdom itself.

So how is it?

It’s pretty good. It took me a while to get into though, as I was initially expecting something quite different from what I got, and the structure is such that vital information about the characters’ motivations is not revealed until very close to the end.

The boy with the porcelain blade is structured similarly to The dispossessed. Chapters alternate between the “present” of the book and the protagonist’s past. What this means is that the entire plot remains fairly obtuse until the very end, when the “flashback” chapters start to reveal Lucien’s discoveries that cause him to behave the way he does in the “present” chapters. This means that it’s a book that you have to take on faith and trust that the things that don’t make sense now will be explained eventually. Lucien starts out seeming like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum, which was one of the reasons this book took me far longer to finish than it would normally have. In the end though it felt worth the read.

As I said, I was  initially expecting something very different – largely because the book cover and the acknowledgments referenced Scott Lynch three times. But there’s none of Lynch’s sense of humor here, none of the playfulness. So I had some trouble initially trying to figure out the funny parts. Once I realized that a far, far better comparison would be Gene Wolfe’s Book of the new sun. Reading it with that perspective I started to enjoy it much more.

Taken as a whole, I really do think it was a good book. It’s not exactly a light adventure story though. It’s more of a “literary” work. Frank Herbert and Gene Wolfe are the closest comparisons I can find.

Recommendation

This book was published only recently, but I’ve recommended it a few times already. So far nobody has been able to find a copy (I guess I was just lucky that my public library had it) so I can’t say for sure how successful those recommendations were.

Still, it’s a good recommendation for fans of Herbert and Wolfe. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone who wasn’t explicitly a fan of one of those books. It’s “literary” enough that people looking for “fun” reading will probably be disappointed. There’s also some body horror here, but it’s not too extreme and it shouldn’t be off-putting for anyone who has the stomach for Book of the new sun.

The hunger games

The hunger games / Suzanne Collins

The hunger games was a series that I actively resisted reading for quite a while. I’m not sure why – I think I expected it to be something like The maze runner (which I didn’t read until after I had read The hunger games, so it’s not exactly a perfect comparison). I didn’t get into the series until the first movie came out. It was a friend’s birthday and they wanted to go see it so we went and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, so I decided to read the books.

Brief plot summary

In a dystopian future, what was once the United States is now Panem, a collection of 12 carefully segregated Districts all serving the Capital. As punishment for an earlier rebellion, every district must send one boy and one girl as “tributes” to participate in The Hunger Games, where they are thrust into an arena filled with weapons and traps and forced to kill each other until only one survives.

Katniss Everdeen is a teenager from District 12, which is primarily known for its coal mines. Alongside baker’s son Peeta Mellark she finds herself in the unenviable position of being one of the tributes from district 12.

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Wasp factory

Wasp factory / Ian M. Banks

Banks is an author I see recommended all the time but never got around to reading. Part of it is the issue that crops up when an author writes a lot of books in a shared universe – it’s hard to know when to start, especially when the books aren’t clearly labelled. I ended up picking up Wasp factory not as a way of getting into Banks but because I read some comments on the book by Philip Sandifer that caught my attention.

Brief plot summary

Frank is a 16 year old living on an isolated Scottish island with their father. Openly misogynistic, Frank spends most of their time building weapons, staging massive “wars” on the island, and killing small animals, using their bodies to create shamanistic totems in order to protect the island. Frank killed three people before they were ten years old, but that was “just a phase I was going through”.

Frank’s older brother, possibly even more disturbed than Frank, has just escaped from a mental institution, and he’s eager to come see his family again …

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Les arcanes du chaos

Les arcanes du chaos / Maxim Chatham

As far as I know, there’s no English edition of this book available. As a result I’m writing this review in French. There’ll be an English translation (of this post) forthcoming if I feel like it.

It’s been a long time since I had to write anything in French and even then I was writing how I speak and using ortograf altèrnative. This is the first time since I was an undergrad I’ve actually attempted to write something “correctly”.

Il y’a longtemps je n’ai écrit en français donc excusez-moi mes fautes SVP.

Les arcanes du chaos est la premier roman du « Cycle de l’homme et de la vérité » de Maxim Chatham, écrivain français des Thrillers à l’américain. C’est plutôt comme Dan Brown que ses autres romans, mais je le trouve assez marrant quand-même.

Je l’avais acheté à Europa books (quand elle existait… merde). C’est mon premier rencontre avec Chatham, je n’avais donc aucun idée de quoi trouver là-dedans.

Pt’sit résumé

Yael Mallan, Parisienne célibataire, travaille chez un magasin de taxidermie. Un soir, elle pense qu’elle a vu des ombres vivant dans son appartement. En cherchant le secret des ombres elle découvrira l’histoire épouvante de sa famille.

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