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One of my favorite blogging events of 2013 was the first edition of The Armchair Audies, organized by the Literary Housewife and the Guilded Earlobe. The idea is that bloggers choose at least one category of the Audies Awards, listen to all the nominated titles, and then make their predictions.
Last year I chose the History category, had lots of fun, but failed miserably in my prediction. After seeing the 2013 nominees I’ve decided to stick to History, even though, as last year, there’s an overwhelming focus given to American History (and the world so big!).
Here they are:
The story behind the Vitruvian Man – the nominee I’m most curious about.
A history of San Francisco in the crazy years between 1967 and 1982, “when the city radically changed itself—and then revolutionized the world“.
After San Fran in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, enter LA in the 50s. Portrayed as ”the white spot of America“, it hid “crooked cops, ruthless newspaper tycoons, corrupt politicians, and East Coast gangsters“.
How cool does this sound? It’s a movie in the making:
“The Dirty Dozen meets Band of Brothers in this true story of how a rusty old New Orleans banana boat staffed with an unlikely crew of international merchant seamen, a gang of inmates from a local jail, and a French harbor pilot spirited out of Morocco by O.S.S. agents in the trunk of a Chevy, were drafted into service in WWII — and heroically succeeded in setting the stage for Patton’s epic invasion of North Africa.”
A book about the West Coast’s recording studio scene of the ’60s. A bit too similar to Season of the Witch, but it still sounds… groovy.
Pacific Crucible tells the story of the first months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history (Pearl Harbor) and seized the strategic initiative.
I though military war, especially naval, was not my cuppa until I started reading Patrick O’Brian. I’m hoping this book will have the same effect.
Yet another proof that this re-reading thing really pays off and the confirmation that Tigana is still my favorite stand-alone fantasy novel, 10 years after the first read. This time around the experience was further improved by Simon Vance‘s most excellent narration.
(By the way, to all fantasy authors who still write stand-alones: thank you!)
There’s a lot for the grateful reader to sink his teeth on in Tigana, but the central topic is the subjugation of a people. The Peninsula of the Palm was invaded at the same time by two tyrants and sorcerers. The lack of unity among the Palm’s provinces made them easy targets and all were soon conquered and their territory divided among the two invaders.
One province stood out – Tigana. They were the last to fight back and in a decisive battle the son of the most powerful of the two tyrants was killed. He promised and delivered a terrible revenge: first he crushed them in the final battle and then, using his magic, he ensured that only people who were born in the province before the invasion could remember Tigana, its name, culture or history. Buildings were destroyed, music forgotten, books burned. Proud Tigana was now Lower Corte, a poor and minor province in the shadow of its neighbor (and former rival) Corte.
Now, twenty years after the invasions, a group of rebels led by Tigana’s heir have a plan to bring down the tyrants and break the spell. It is the province’s last chance before its name is forever wiped from history.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is one hell of a premise. The use of language during dictatorships and invasions has always fascinated me. Its direct link to identity, culture and sense of belonging makes it an extremely effective tool of subjugation, humiliation and consolidation. As Gavriel Kay explains in the Afterword:
When you want to subjugate a people – to erase their sense of themselves as separate and distinctive – one place to start (and it is sometimes enough) is with their language and names. Names link to history, and we need a sense of our history to define ourselves.
This book is a good argument against the nay-sayers convinced that fantasy books are detached from the real world. It’s impossible not to make parallels with past and present events.Lots of food for thought in
Tigana, but delivered in a way far from preachy or obvious. There’s lots of suspense, adventure, intrigue and romance. The characters, as I’ve come to expect from Gavriel Kay, are masterly built (he paid attention in the “show don’t tell” class), from the tyrants, to the rebel leader to the inn-keeper we meet only in one short scene.
It’s also very rewarding in its complexity: nothing is black-and-white, characters are never just the Heroes or the Villains and are often put in scenarios that seem like psychology case-studies where there’s never a clear win-win decision.
I plan to re-read The Fionavar Tapestry ( and maybe The Sarantine Mosaic) next year.
One of my favorite quotes:
He carried, like baggage, like a cart yoked to his shoulders, like a round stone in his heart, images of his people, their world destroyed, their name obliterated. Truly obliterated: a sound that was drifting, year by year, further away from the shores of the world of men, like some tide withdrawing in the grey hour of a winter dawn. Very like such a tide, but different as well, because tides came back.
Other thoughts: The Literay Omnivore, The Speculative Scotsman, just add books, Fantasy Cafe, Only the Best Fantasy & Sci-fi, Ela’s Book Blog, Speculative Book Review, The Readventurer, Necromancy Never Pays, Doing Dewey (yours?)
American Gods goes into my mental list of “it’s not you, it’s me” books. (I feel I’m loosing some imaginary “coolness factor” by not having loving it, like there’s social pressure involved. Some books have that aura.)
After all, it seemed to have all the ingredients necessary to win me over, including the epic scope and the appealing plot – old and new Gods fighting for the hearts and minds of Americans without them knowing? Sign me up! Also, I loved my two previous Gaimans (The Graveyard Book and Good Omens), always a good sign.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what didn’t do it for me, because the writing is clearly brilliant and none of the narrators in my audiobook was particularly annoying.
Although the plot sounded great, throughout the 20 hours of audiobook I had to tell myself to suspend my disbelief (unusual for me in fantasy novels) and stop over-analyzing, like:
- Why should I be on the side of Shadow and Odin and not with the new Gods of Television, Internet and Money? Didn’t Odin instigate wars, rape and murder? Why are we safer with the Old Gods? If I had a choice, I’d probably go with the new ones.
- Are we really more obsessed with money today than, say, 200 years ago?
- Isn’t there be a better way for Odin and his buddies to gain power? Maybe try to gather more human followers by doing a few tricks. Show off a bit. There are birds of thunder flying around and Shadow can control the weather, for crying out loud.
- Where are the current, strong Gods like Jesus Christ and Allah? Wasn’t it a cop-out not to include them?
There are a lot of contradictions in the plot line and in the end (because of it?) the story becomes very secular: Man has the power and (I ask myself) if Man has the power, why do we need Gods at all?
“Jesus does pretty good over here,” (…) “But I met a guy who said he saw him hitchhiking by the side of the road in Afghanistan and nobody was stopping to give him a ride. You know? It all depends on where you are.
Maybe Gaiman’s whole point is to make the reader think about this. Either way, all this questioning made me disconnected from the characters and it’s always more difficult to love a book with characters you don’t care about and whose deaths you’d be indifferent to.
I did enjoy it in general, especially the resolution of the missing girls’ mystery in the sleepy small town. The road-trip was a great opportunity for Gaiman to display his humor, clever writing and even cleverer observations of people and culture.
I just wish that Shadow felt more like someone with an actual will and opinion, that I cared 2-Euro-cents about his zombie wife, that all the build-up and premonitions had an explosive finale, that the Gods we get to know in the “interludes” (probably my favorite parts) made an appearance somewhere in the main story. Lots of things felt too… loose.
Technically, American Gods is grand but unfortunately I can’t really say that it won me over.
things mean a lot, The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Reviews, That’s What She Read, S. Krishna’s Books, Birdbrain(ed), Man of la Book, just add books, Entomology of a Bookworm, Life with Books, Melody & Words, Sophisticated Dorkiness, Reading with Tequila, a book a week, The Little Red Reviewer, ResoluteReader, A Lifetime of Books, The Labyrinth Library, Once Upon a Bookshelf, Amy’s Book Obsession, 50 Books Project, biblioathlas, Postcards from Asia, Becky’s Book Reviews, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On (yours?)
Life has been happening like crazy on this side of the line. Add holidays and heat and pure, unadulterated laziness and you get a blogging slump. It would also be a reading slump if it wasn’t for YA audiobooks and daily newspapers (a holiday tradition and zen moment).
I need a bit of incentive because my spirit breaks just by looking at the two months backlog. Anyone interested in doing a buddy-read or something? Any easy read-alongs going around? Interesting projects?
Meanwhile, and while inspiration doesn’t strike, I’m doing a meme. They’re not usually my thing, but these are desperate times and maybe thinking about the books I’ve planned for the upcoming months will help.
Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR List
Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
Harris’ The Observations didn’t do much for me, but everyone seems to be raving about Gillespie and I so I’ve decided to give it a try.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
My most anticipated re-read is Tigana, my favorite book by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve decided to tackle it in audio format this time around.
Chroniques de Jérusalem by Guy Delisle
All books by Guy Delisle are an instant best-seller here in Brussels, European capital of the graphic novel. I’ve never read anything by him but heard lots about this one, a birthday present from my co-workers.
The King of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief, #3) by Megan Whalen Turner
I’ve recently re-read the first two in the series just so that when I’d pick this one up for the first time everything was fresh. I hear it’s the best one of the series so far?
The Unicorn Hunt (The House of Niccolo, #5) by Dorothy Dunnett
I’m trying to go through The House of Niccolo series reeeeeeally slowly because you only read Dunnet for the first time once. It was a Herculean effort not to lunge for this one right after Scales of Gold and its extraordinary ending. I’ve waited long enough.
Moab is My Washpot by Stephen Fry
Whenever I don’t have a formed opinion on a certain topic, I Google Fry’s thoughts on it and always find myself nodding in agreement. Moab is My Washpot is an autobiography covering his first 20 years of life. The Fry Chronicles is already in the TBR waiting its turn.
The Mauritius Command(Aubrey/Maturin Book 4) by Patrick O’Brian
Another series I want to make last, although its 21 volumes-long… The previous book, HMS Surprise, is set to become one of the best of 2012.
Mayombe by Pepetela
For Kinna’s Africa Reading Challenge, this will be my first by one of Angola’s most famous writers. Everyone I know who reads in Portuguese seems to have read at least one of his books.
She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff by Annalee Newitz & Charlie Anders (Eds.)
To celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, on 16 October.
Un día de cólera by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
At the beginning of the year one of my goals was to read more books in their original languages. I’ve done well in Portuguese and French but haven’t picked up anything in Spanish yet. This hour by hour description of 1808′s Dos de Mayo Uprising in Madrid will put me back on track.
Look at me, being all good about my New Year Literary Resolutions! We’re only half-way through the year and I’ve already re-read more books than in 2011. I decided to try The Mists of Avalon in audiobook format because it’s narrated by the divine Davina Porter, who in my humble opinion can do no wrong.
I won’t do a full review of the book, but will just record for posterity the major differences between my two reading experiences. I think they says a lot about my 17- and 32-year-old selves.
The biggest change was how I felt towards Morgaine. She’s still awesome, a perfectly fleshed-out character that you really get to know and admire for her courage and self-reliance. But while at 17 I completely identified with her – I wanted to be her – now I often wished she would just lighten up a bit.
Look, I get it, she’s in love with someone who’ll never love her back, and her way of life is dying before her helpless eyes, I see how that makes a person cranky. But at the same time I wish she would, just once in while, let go of the aura of pathos she carries around all the time and laugh like she means it. I think my reaction to Morgaine is part of my growing intolerance of depressing books and movies I mentioned here before.
On the other hand, my feelings towards Guinevere haven’t changed. She’s the same little angry ball of resentment and unhappiness. But despite this, Marion Zimmer Bradley still made me understand her motivations, even when I resisted it and was determined to completely hate the annoying hypocrite.
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, July 2011. In The Mists of Avalon, this is where Morgaine is born.
Arthur jumped out of the pages this time. We only follow the story thought the eyes of the female characters, but still get more insight into the mind of Lancelot or Uther than that of Arthur, who’s the story’s whole reason of existence. Still, what we do get to know about him is surprising.
In a book famous for having no black or white characters, Arthur is, amazingly, a Good Man. He’s honorable, faithful, fair, he understands the complex world he lives in and the impossibility to please all, but he still tries. He always seems to see the glass half-full, unlike most of the other characters in the book. But despite all this and the freaky “love-square” with Guinevere, Lancelot and Morgaine, there’s never one person who thinks of him as The One, and that’s terribly sad.
Other things I noticed now and I didn’t before: the patterns, balance and irony. For instance, Morgause and Vivienne want daughters and only have sons, Guinevere longs in vain for an heir to Camelot, Morgaine doesn’t want a child and has one. Guinevere, the greatest catholic Queen, is in love with a pagan. In her later days she envies Morgaine’s knowledge and freedom but is on a quest to destroy the traditions that allow them. The search for the Holy Grail is what speeds the fall of Camelot and its (Christian) ideals. It was Avalon’s tolerance of the early Priests that kick-started their towards the Mists. Everyone loves Arthur, but no one is ever truly in love with him.
This time around I could also appreciate much more the religious discussions. Before I just though of how cool Wicca must be, now I look at the story as a cycle. Just as Avalon supplanted the Old Ones, so did Christianity supplant Avalon and so will something else supplant Christianity.
The general feeling I’ll take from this re-reading is of a story about the rise and fall of Camelot. The Utopian Kingdom is destroyed by intolerance, giving way to the Dark Ages and its impact on knowledge, equality (especially gender equality) and freedom. It’s a much more melancholic story than I remembered.
Still, I look forward to a re-read in another 15 years – who knows what I’ll discover then?
So here it is, the moment of truth, my final Armchair Audies post. You may have noticed an increase of non-fiction in the blog lately and that’s because I chose to listen, review and predict the winner of the History category of the Audies, the awards of the American Audio Publishers Association. These were the nominees:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, narrated by Wanda McCaddon (sample), for love or money. Audible and other online audio stores imposed geographic restrictions on the book and I decided against ordering the (much more expensive) CD. This book was actually the one I was more looking forward to, not only for the topic, but because it’s the only in the category with a female narrator. I tried everything, promise, including calling Audible costumer service to grovel and using credit cards from three different (European) countries.
So, I must underline that my prediction for the winner compromised by the absence of one of the books.
I started off with In The Garden of Beasts (sample), narrated by Stephen Hoye, who was also nominated for The Emperor of All Maladies (sample). He did a great job with both books, especially considering the different languages in Garden and the complex medical terms in Emperor. Both books were about difficult topics, full of emotional moments which Hoye nailed perfectly.
Marc Vietor, who narrated 1812: The Navy’s War (sample), is also at a disadvantage with me because I didn’t care enough for the topic to listen to the full 19 hours of audiobook. Still, it was Vietor’s narration that got me through the five I did manage. There’s a “manliness” and confidence about his voice that fitted well with the descriptions of military strategy and naval battles. I’d love to listen to him read the Audrey/Maturin series.
Finally, Jonathan Davis’ wonderful job in 1861: The Civil War Awakening (sample). I was surprise by how much I actually enjoyed the book. It’s full of inflamed speeches and proclamations, so it wouldn’t do to have a flat narration or one that goes the other way and becomes theatrical. I though Davis found the right balance.
In the end, my prediction for the winner goes to Stephen Hoye and his narration of In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. It was a tough choice considering the quality of the other nominees, but in my humble opinion this one deserves it because of its higher degree of complexity. It’s full of names, places and expressions in English, German, Russian and French. There are also extensive quotes by men and women from different nationalities.
It’s a credit to Hoye’s skill that I almost didn’t notice the narration. In these cases, not being aware of the narration is a good sign because it means you’re not being disturbed by an unrealistic accent or a misspelled word.
My vote is casted, so now I’m looking forward to what the real judges will say.
A patient, long before he becomes the subject of medical scrutiny, is, at first, simply a storyteller, a narrator of suffering – a traveler who has visited the kingdom of the ill.
Microhistories are probably my favorite sub-genre of non-fiction (after biographies), and of all the ones I’ve read so far, none was as epic and all-encompassing as The Emperor of All Maladies. I’m now convinced the history of cancer reflects (and sometimes even leads) global movements. I’m still in awe of the task that Dr. Mukherjee set out to accomplish and of the amazing result.
This book’s philosophy is that the history of cancer is not only a story of scientific activity, but also of the doctors, researchers and lobbyists that fought it, and, most especially, that of the patients:
Resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship – qualities often ascribed to great physicians – are reflected qualities, emanating first from those who struggle with illness and only then mirrored by those who treat them. If the history of medicine is told through the stories of doctors, it is because their contributions stand in place of the more substantive heroism of their patients.
Together with the stories of individuals struggling with cancer, Dr. Mukherjee tackles an impressive number of topics, from cell theory to the cultural movements of millions of people, from scientific achievements to political will, and he’s able to summarize this in close to 600 pages (or 21 audio hours) of clear and compelling story-telling.
Even the parts I found less interesting – genetics, methodology of medical trials – were still surprisingly accessible, and the most interesting ones like the fight with Big Tobacco, the story of palliative care and the rise of patient’s right, were downright gripping.
About 90% of The Emperor of All Maladies focuses of the USA, but on the other hand, most of the book is set in the 20th century, a time when the US led cancer research. Still, I missed a bit of a geographical range. which is my only little quibble with an otherwise fantastic book.
At the beginning of the book we’re told the story of Atossa, a Persion Queen born in 550 BC, who was the first registered case of breast cancer. At the end of the book Dr. Mukherjee imagines Atossa being diagnosed and receiving treatment over the centuries: in the Middle Ages her problem would become a blackbile unbalance (or trapped melancholia), to be cure with goat dung or holy water; the radical mastectomy favored in the 19th century would probably have cost her not only her breasts, but also muscles, lymph nodes and bones in her chest cavity; the 20st century’s passion for aggressive drugs, radiation and chemotherapy might have almost killed her without any results; and 90s/2000s’ doctors would be able to identify the mutation in her genes and better adjust her treatment to her cancer type.
This imaginary birds-eye view of Atossa’s life was my favorite scene because it illustrates perfectly the way Dr. Mukherjee associated cancer’s history to our history as humans.
Today, Atossa would live decades longer than she would have in the past, but, if instead of breast cancer she’d had metastatic pancreatic cancer, her prognosis wouldn’t change more than a few months over the last 2,500 years.
I appreciated the book’s balanced tone that avoided the cheerful optimist about developments and cures that always sound too cheerful, too optimistic, when compared to reality. We still have a long way to go. There’s hope, there’s life extension, but still no universal cure.
A little aside to say that as A Reader I loved all the literary metaphors and references used throughout the book: Alice in Wonderland, Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Anna Karenina (“Normal cells are identically normal; malignant cells become unhappily malignant in unique ways.“), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Cancer Ward, etc. I was also strangely excited by getting his reference to HeLa cells, which I got to know through the wonderful The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
About the narration: Stephen Hoye was the only narrator in the Audies History category that was nominated for two books: this one and In the Garden of Beasts. This distinction is well justified. The Emperor is full of technical explanations and complicated drug names that are accessible in part because of Hoye.
There’s a cadence to his reading that’s very particular to him. I usually get a bit annoyed by this in other narrators, but surprisingly not with Hoye. I also appreciated how you could really notice the emotion in his voice during the last “pages” of the book, when he’s describing the brave, fearless but ultimately vain struggle of a cancer patient.
Other thoughts: Avid Reader’s Musings, The Book Lady’s Blog, S. Krishna’s Books, Book Addiction, My Books. My Life., let’s eat grandpa, Life… with books, Devourer of Books, Bibliophile by the Sea, Scuffed slippers and wormy books, Maple Gazed Kiwi (yours?)
Just like the recent 1812: The Navy’s War, this is another book from my Armchair Audies History category, another book about 19th century US, and another book clearly written by an American for an American audience (e.g. sentences like “the people of this country” and sorry Mr. Goodheard, but, President Garfield who?!).
Fortunately for me, this was where the similarities ended. I was afraid it would also focus too much on military and political strategy, but my mind was soon put to rest when Goodheart explains in the Prologue that
… to get the full story of that moment in American History, it is necessary to go much further afield, to the slums of Manhattan, and the drawing-rooms of Boston, to Ohio villages and Virginia slave camps and even to the shores of the Pacific.
It is also necessary to consider people and ideas that were migrating from the old world to the new. It is only then that this defining national event can truly be understood as a Revolution, and one whose heroes were not only the soldiers and politicians. That Revolution began years before the guns opened, as a gradual change in the hearts and minds of men and women, until suddenly, months before the attack on Sumter.
(…) One person at a time, millions of Americans decided in 1861 – as their grandparents had in 1776 – that it was worth risking everything, their lives and fortunes, on their country. Eighteen sixty-one, like 1776, was – and still is – not just a year, but an idea.
Sorry for the long quote, but I thought it was a great one, and one that can apply to all major events. A non-fiction author that feels like this is half-way towards writing a book I’d really enjoy reading. 1861 might be another of the thousands of books about the American Civil War, but it offers a fresh perspective by staying away from legislative bills and instead following the cultural movements of the day and people who inspired them.
The most surprising part for me was understanding the national feelings towards slavery of the time. I realized that even though the North despised slavery they weren’t abolitionists, who were considered dangerous radicals hell-bent on dividing the country. In these early days, Lincoln himself was willing to sacrifice abolition to preserve the Union (*gasp*).
From here Goodheart describes how the North came to a position where it was willing to accept (and even welcome) war as the only solution against secession. Lincoln of course couldn’t be excluded from the story, but Goodheart also focuses on almost-forgot figures, like the dashing Elmer Ellsworth (photo), founder of the New York Fire Zouaves regiment, who inspired unprecedented patriotic passion. He also describes how states who were divided between Secession and Union came to a final decision. Ohio in particular went through a fascinating process.
There were only a couple of things that didn’t make me give it a 5/5, the most important of which is that the story is told from the Northerners’ perspective and I often wondered about what was going through the minds of their Southern counterparts. Also, Goodheart is prone to unapologetic flights of poetic patriotism that are a bit uncomfortable for someone from a much more self-effacing culture like mine (1861 is the story of Americans who rose up to the situation “not just with anger and panic but with hope and determination, people who, amid the ruins of the country they had grown up in, saw an opportunity to change history.”).
About Jonathan Davis’ narration. As I’ve mentioned above, it’s a very passionate book and Goodheart even includes the odd piece of poetry. It’s also full of inflamed speeches and proclamations, so it wouldn’t do to have a flat narration or one that goes the other way and becomes theatrical. I though Davis found the perfect balance.
The only thing I have to point out is that sometimes it was hard to differentiate between normal text and quotes – often there was just the slightest hint of change in tone or subtle accent. Probably this doesn’t apply to Davis, but don’t you sometimes have the feeling that narrators are ashamed of using a strong accent (or maybe insecure about it?)?
We’re in a non-fiction mood here chez Sleepless Reader, also helped by the Armchair Audies, which are almost at an end. I’ll post and overview and my predictions for the History category early next week.
I’m usual curious about anything historical, but I’m afraid I didn’t finish 1812: The Navy’s War. I’ve probably only reached as far as I did (about five of the almost 19 hours) because of Marc Vietor’s narration.
The book was clearly well researched by a naval historian in love with his field of expertise, and I’m sure anything of importance about America’s first great naval war was there, but my attention wandered off once too many times. There were almost none of the personal histories that I so love in historical non-fiction, Daughan focusing instead on political and military macro-strategies.
It also included extremely detailed descriptions of ship-to-ship combat, which lost me after the first couple of starboard broadside descriptions and lists of the sails which were up during a particular battle.
These are the kind of details I really try to understand in the Aubrey/Maturin series – I look at maps and boat diagrams, Google strange naval words – but I just wasn’t as invested in 1812, so got lazy and then disinterested.
It’s also a book clearly written by an American for an American audience. Not only because it’s a given the reader has heard of certain people, political processes or historical events, but also because of the patriotism the book exalts. The blurb reflects really well the tone found inside:
In 1812: The Navy’s War, prizewinning historian George C. Daughan tells the thrilling story of how a handful of heroic captains and their stalwart crews overcame spectacular odds to lead the country to victory against the world’s greatest imperial power.
In short, not my cuppa, but I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to a naval history buff or an America history buff with a thing for naval detail.
Regarding the narration (at least the part I’ve actually heard), it must have been an easy book to read – no foreign names or languages, only a quote here and there with no strange accents – but Vietor nailed it without flaw. His voice fitted perfectly with the book because it has a certain… manly low pitch (here’s a sample, notice especially the end of sentences).
Next stop, another book about American History: 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart, narrated by Jonathan Davis.
“I suspect that drink has made you impulsive.”
“Drink makes me feel funny; the gods made me impulsive.”
Just like I knew that it was just a matter of time before The Song of Ice and Fire and The Hunger Games exploded and became main-stream, I’m also looking forward to the time when the world discovers The Gentleman Bastards. I know there’s a big chance it’ll only happen when a big studio or HBO realizes its potential…
The first of the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was my favorite audiobook of 2011, when I discovered Michael Page and why he made it to my list of favorite narrators. For a while now I’ve been waiting for the Read-Along organized by The Little Red Reviewer, Dark Cargo, Lynn’s Book Blog and SFSignal to get through the first book so I could join the bandwagon in the second, Red Seas Under Red Skies.
The Read-Along started today and will last for the next five weeks. I’m once again listening to the audiobook version – am I the only one of the participants? This week’s questions come from My Awful Reviews.
1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?
The Sinspire. Was that a good opening or what?! The foul language, the wit, the Weird Sisters, the alcoholic roulette, the mysterious figure watching them, the challenge of a casino heist. One chapter in and I’m already irrevocably hooked. I’m ready to bet they’re going to make it to the Sinspire’s top-level, but once there, everything will go haywire, as is traditional for the Gentleman Bastards.
2. Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?
Probably with variations of what they did on Level 5: carefully observing the players and finding their weak spots.
3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?
Yes! I like the idea of a team of bandits, each with their own specialty, Mission Impossible-style (or Ocean’s Eleven?). Can you be a gang if you’re just two? Still, I have high-hopes for the group that Jean… er… recruited.
4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?
I have several questions about the new guild: at some point it’s said that Jean does it because they need a source of income, does that mean they’re not going to use them in the plan? Even so, they’ll come in hand further on. The new guild can become Locke and Jean’s hidden card.
Will both of them go back to Camorr at some point, and if they do, what will happen to the new guild? Maybe by that time they’ll be so well trained it’s worth it to expat them all
5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?
I’ve read somewhere that unfortunately Sabetha only makes an appearance in Book 3. She deserves a whole book set around her (and with this much build-up, I hope she doesn’t disappoint. No pressure Mr. Lynch!). I’m expecting to at least get to know more about their story in this one.
6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?
Just a few last random remarks: Scott Lynch is a fantastic world-builder. Just like Camorr, the descriptions of Tal Verrar just made my mind’s eye go wild (get out of my brain!). Also, maybe it worked better in audio, but the market scene was wonderfully creepy.
And finally about Selendri: I’m hoping to see more of her, or at least othergood female characters, just to make things interesting while Sabetha doesn’t make her grand entry. Hopefully they’ll put him in a boat I’m looking forward for the sea-faring part of the story to start!
Image: The Spire by Les Edwards