December 10th, 2012

game of thrones

Books 160-161: A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords by G.R.R. Martin

Book 160: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) .
Author: G.R.R. Martin, 1998.
Genre: Epic Fantasy. Historical Fantasy
Other Details: Hardback 761 pages and Unabridged Audio (37 hours). Read by Roy Doltrice.

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. - synopsis from publisher's website.

In the second novel in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the fragile peace of the Seven Kingdoms has been shattered and civil war has broken out. Meanwhile, the Night Watch sends a reconnaissance force north of the Wall to investigate the wildlings. Across the sea Daenerys Targaryen continues her quest to reclaim the Seven Kingdoms.

In all the novels the story is told in the third person by a group of point of view characters and these stories weave together. This format also means that there can be quite a gap between the continuation of various strands of the story. This, along with the density of its plot and the huge cast of characters, meant that I chose to read quite slowly, taking in a few chapters a day. I also listened to its audiobook version as again this gave me a better grasp of its complexity.

I'm totally in love with this series and it is love that is tinged with obsession. I can't recall when a novel or series has had this kind of effect on me; probably the Harry Potter books. I was also pleased to have a reading companion for this novel so that we could share our responses to various events. However, he moved onto 'A Storm of Swords' ahead of me so I have some catching up to do so that we can discuss new revelations.

Book 161: A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3).
Author: G.R.R. Martin, 2000.
Genre: Epic Fantasy. Historical Fantasy.
Other Details: Hardback 973 pages and Unabridged Audio (47.5 hours). Read by Roy Doltrice.

Westeros is still in the grip of civil war and it is not only devastating the members of many noble houses but the common people and the land itself is being destroyed. A large host of wildlings are marching on the Wall with a view to overwhelm the Night Watch that stand in their way. Across the sea Daenerys is crossing the continent hoping to raise an army to retake the Iron Throne.

I found myself again totally entranced by G.R.R. Martin's imagined world. It was an incredible piece of writing that delivered time and again quite shocking developments. I am unable to just stop here and hope to finish the series to date by the end of the year.

George R R Martin's official website and his Livejournal grrm.

Books #47 and #48 (almost there!)

Book #47 was "Microserfs" by Douglas Coupland. This was probably even funnier/more interesting if I'd read it in the mid-90s, which is when it was set and when it was written, because it hasn't entirely stood the test of time. The book revolves around a set of low-level employees (serfs) who work at Microsoft and realize they don't really have a life of their own outside work. They leave the company to form a start-up software company. It's told in diary form from the viewpoint of Dan. It doesn't have a ton of conflict other than "Will they make it or fall on their faces with the startup?" and the plot kind of meanders. But one does tend to get invested in the characters anyway and hoping that their main challenge and all their little mini life challenges (finding love, helping Dad who has been laid off, etc.) work out for the best. Despite my criticisms, found it charming and enjoyable.

Book #48 was "Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table" by Ruth Reichl. I'd read her "Garlic and Sapphires" earlier this year and expected I would enjoy this book as well, and I did. Reichl was once the chief food critic of the New York Times and former editor of Gourmet magazine, but you wouldn't have expected it, knowing she grew up with a mother considered a terrible cook, who once gave dozens of people food poisoning at an engagement party she threw for her son. Reichl writes about her years growing up, her growing interest in food and finding people to mentor her in understanding and making great food. It's interspersed with some of the recipes she mentions in the memoir. I really, really enjoy Reichl's writing; some of the best food writing I've run across yet.
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Book 62 for 2012

The Zero Stone by Andre Norton. 236 pages.

Classic space opera from one of my favourite authors. Murdoc Jern is an apprentice gem trader, travelling from planet to planet with his boss when catastrophe strikes on the planet Tanth.

Left alone with no resources and hunted by unknown enemies, Murdoc has to find some way off the planet if he's to survive - and what does it all have to do with the strange stone which is his only legacy?

Brilliant stuff. Mysterious aliens, strange planets, evil villains and questionable heroes. I'd read this before, but long enough ago that I'd forgotten the details. The sequel is already on the pile to be read soon.