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Recent Reads

So, last week I was given the opportunity to review a book before its October release. Apparently someone was doing their homework and noticed my brief review of Shelley Adina’s Magnificent Devices novels. As such, I was contacted by her lovely promo person and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the third installment: Magnificent Devices.

Normally I would re-read the first novels before delving into the newest in a series, but it hadn’t been that long since I’d read the first two and I was abnormally excited to get a sneak peek before the rest of the Steampunk world. Luckily, there was little to no difficulty in becoming reacquainted with the characters and, refreshingly, I got to know some returning characters much better. Specifically, the roguish and entertaining Mopsies. Whatever spark of inspiration brought Adina to refocus her attention on these two served her well. They are enduring characters, to be sure.

For me and the rest of you that prefer American Steampunk to its counterpart across the pond, the third novel is where the series really lifts off. Unlike the cartoonish underworld in the first two books, the criminal element in Magnificent Devices is much more edgy and threatening. The devices are far more magnificent, the characters (both primary and auxiliary) are more fully fleshed, and the story is more rife with action. As with the previous books, it is a quick read at about 200 pages, but you won’t regret the afternoon you spent on it.

Since I’m on previously read books, I also finished China Miéville’s The Scar. I’ve been keeping myself in order, reading his novels as they were produced even if there was a bit of a hiccup. His 2002 fantasy story The Tain is seemingly only available in anthologies and none of those were available on the nook. I am certainly not opposed to searching out printwork, but I’m on a budget and I’ve still got holiday gift certificate credit on the nook. So, you know.

At any rate, The Scar is a continuation of his New Crobuzon series. It has all of the weird and amazing and deliciously described details of Perdido Street Station with about 40% less fat. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Perdido Street Station with the sort of reader-passion that should be reserved for erotica. Even so, it had moments that were so convolutedly detailed that it took several read-throughs to understand what was going on. In The Scar, Miéville mastered the art of the self-edit. Still engrossing and descriptive, he manages to keep to the meat and trim the extraneous descriptions.

The character development, I think, also took a strong step forward. The protagonist, Bellis Coldwine, is my favorite sort of person. Self-absorbed, superior, and utterly disillusioned with humanity. Call me crazy, but I can relate much better with “flawed” characters than heroic caricatures. (“flawed” is stuffed into quotes because I find it disheartening that her most endearing characteristics are considered flaws in most literature.)

Either way, if you gave Perdido Street Station a chance and came out less than happy, try again with The Scar. Miéville makes it easy to read on its own and without much prior knowledge of New Crobuzon anyway, so you can start anew without any prejudices you might have developed initially.

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Recent Reads

I try not to read much when I’m writing because I fear accidental inclusion of someone else’s ideas in my own writing. The last thing I need is to throw myself into editing and find out I’ve incorporated a hobbit or a warrior polar bear into my story line without realizing it.

That being said, while I work on edits I’m less likely to incorporate new components into the manuscript, so I read. I’ve been an avid reader all my life, so I take to these opportunities as if the only sustenance that will keep my withered heart beating is book after book after book.

Much like everyone else that was not currently in the know, I read The Hunger Games trilogy. I haven’t put much effort into reading other reviews, however, because I have plans to see the movie on Wednesday. Since one wrong Google could lead me to a movie review, I feel safer in waiting until I’ve seen it to see how other readers received the books.

For my part, I was initially very put off by the first person, present tense narrative. I get this feeling that someone, somewhere decided this was a good idea and I couldn’t agree less. Even so, I thought the book was very well written, the characters easy to love or hate as required, and the world so easy to envision that I almost suspect our own world tip-toes a fine line with that conjured up version.

The second and third books were good and I didn’t find myself liking the characters any more or less than I had, but the change from personal story to epic struggle was less endearing to me. I love a good epic adventure tale, but the stark shift from one life to all lives in balance created a bit of discord in the series for me.

Afterward, I tore through Shelley Adina’s first two novels in her Magnificent Devices series. Lady of Devices and Her Own Devices are available now and the third, Magnificent Devices, is expected this year. I found these books to be the best sort of thing to satisfy an afternoon with little else to do. They read very quickly.

Unlike the American Steampunk that I’ve been gravitating to more recently, these are unapologetically British. True, the third promises to take place in the Canadas and the States, but most traditional Steampunk fans will be pleased with the class structure, ever-present bustles and corsets, and a power struggle between the Wits (educated class) and Bloods (nobility). If you lean more toward the gritty and dystopian brand of Steampunk, there is an almost cartoonish underworld of crime central to the story. It isn’t exactly believable, but it didn’t diminish what was really just a fun read anyway.

 All in all, I do not count the time spent reading either series as time wasted. I expect that I will not purchase another NOOKbook until I have completed a short story or two to submit somewhere, but I am thankful for the respite they gave me.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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