Posts Tagged: Review

Foz Meadows, contributing review for A Dribble of InkI’m happy to introduce Foz Meadows, the newest contributing reviewer here at A Dribble of Ink. Foz joins Justin Landon as a contributing reviewer and will be publishing monthly reviews covering a wide range of novels. You might recognize Foz’s work from her own blog, Shattersnipe, her contributions to the Huffington Post, and her past writing here at A Dribble of Ink, including yesterday’s essay on escapism and privilege in Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Book Smugglers, in discussing their choices for the 2013 ‘Best Fan Writer’ Hugo award, described Foz as having ‘written some of the BEST blog posts and articles last year addressing sexism, racism, problematic narratives in Fandom and in YA, all in relation to SF,’ and I’m incredibly proud to bring a writer with such pedigree to A Dribble of Ink.

I was first introduced to Foz’s writing last year after recommendations from several other critics and blogging friends. Her reviews and commentary are sharp, insightful and intelligently engage with many of the important issues being discussed in the overall SFF discussion. For a proper introduction to Foz’s writing, I encourage you to check out her 2012 Year in Review. I feel that adding Foz to the team at A Dribble of Ink will continue to expand and add variety to the areas of coverage and topics of conversation covered, which, in this editor’s opinion, is a very good thing.

So, then, here’s to Foz.

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 720 - Buy: Book/eBook

I’ve reached the halfway point at least in this series to date. Death is like a feather, duty like a mountain, and around 5000 pages of WoT is like carrying a 400 lb. woman wearing spandex and a tube top on your shoulders as you run up that mountain. Not the most pleasant of images, true, but this book was much more of a slog than the previous book, The Fires of Heaven, had proven to be.

When I first read Lord of Chaos back in November 1997, I even then found it to be the most difficult of the seven books to date to enjoy. Back then, used as I was to reading cultural and religious histories in English and German, it wasn’t the size of the novel that daunted me but rather how disjointed it felt. Nearly 13 years later, that sense of disjointedness was even more pronounced. It was a struggle at times to pay attention to what was transpiring, which might explain in a perverse fit of reasoning why I am reviewing it so soon after completing it (I finished it about an hour before I began writing this post), when I typically wait 1-2 days. Between the often-interchangeable character types (Aes Sedai, Cairhein, Aiel, Forsaken, Tairens, etc.) and the over-explanations of things that I first read about several books ago, I fear my own complaints may become just as repetitive if I don’t spice them up with some actual observations. Read More »

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 832 - Buy: Book/eBook

Editor’s Note: The release of A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson brings to conclusion the long-running, much-lauded and oft-criticized Wheel of Time series. To mark this event, I’ve invited Larry Nolen, editor of The OF Blog, to republish his reviews of the entire series, one a week for fifteen weeks, on A Dribble of Ink. I consider Nolen to be one of the best online reviewers of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and his reviews of Wheel of Time, in the form of a ’10 Years Later’ re-read leading up to the release of The Gathering Storm, to be some of the most lucid and fair critical analyses of the series available online. You might not always agree with his reviews, but I think you’ll find yourself thinking about the Wheel of Time in ways that might surprise you. So, enjoy. -Aidan Moher

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning. (p. 1)

For tens of millions of readers, the above passage will be quite familiar. For the past twenty years, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has been one of the most popular epic fantasy series to be released, with sales of well over forty million copies for the thirteen main volumes, one novel-length prequel, and a related encyclopedia/artbook. It is a series that has legions of devoted fans, tens of thousands of whom have created websites, argued passionately (and some might wonder, pointlessly?) over various minutiae found within this sprawling multi-volume work, and several hundred at least who have named babies after characters or who have had tattoos of emblems found within its pages. However, this series perhaps has drawn one of the largest anti-fan crowds in a subgenre that is littered with negativity and borderline psychotic outbursts directed toward those who do not share in the perpetrator’s hatred for that series (or most any other series). Various forums devoted to discussing epic fantasy series have seen thousands of threads over the years devoted to the question of whether or not Jordan was a “sellout” and to analyzing (sometimes focusing more on ad hominem comments than actual constructive criticism) just where the series jumped the shark and why.

I certainly was no fan of the author’s prose, his characterizations, and my interest in the setting he created dissipated the more I considered the structure behind his constructed mythologies.

I myself began reading the series in November 1997 as a way of relaxing my mind during the brutal written and oral exams for my MA in History. I read the first seven volumes in paperback that year and proceeded to re-read them a few times over the next three years. Read the eighth volume, The Path of Daggers, upon its October 1998 release and I began to wonder what was actually transpiring here. Purchased the ninth volume, Winter’s Heart, upon its November 2000 release and I was so disinterested by the time that I read it that I never read any of the first volumes since then and have read the latest three volumes only fairly recently (2006 for the tenth volume, which was read more so I could write a series of satirical posts rather than because I actually wanted to know what was transpiring there, and 2009 for the last two volumes, since I was receiving a review copy of the latest volume a week before the official review date). While I was not a rabid detractor, I certainly was no fan of the author’s prose, his characterizations, and my interest in the setting he created dissipated the more I considered the structure behind his constructed mythologies. Read More »

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Publisher: Orbit Books - Pages: 512 - Buy: Book/eBook

I admit, prior to reading The Troupe, I had no idea what vaudeville was all about. I had an idea in my head, based on implied fuzzy cultural memory, but it’s not something I’d ever taken a moment to actually look into. Having read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and paged through Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, two circus-themed novels from 2011, I classified Bennett’s novel in my mind as another entrant in this newly popularized subgenre. Vaudville isn’t the same as a circus, but I was expecting a similar type of novel where the setting is as much a character as the people that populate it. The Troupe shattered those notions. Plot and character driven, set against a vaudville background, Bennett’s novel calls to mind the stylings of Neil Gaiman and lives up to the comparison.

Sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville to find Heironomo Silenus, the man he suspects to be his father. As he chases down Silenus’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are unique even for vaudeville and strange happenings follow in their wake. It’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe isn’t simply touring, and Silenus is hiding a secret as old as time itself. Told in a tight third person voice, The Troupe follows George through his experience as a vaudeville act, a lost young man searching for direction, and a chess piece in an endless metaphysical war. Not surprisingly, the novel is divided into three parts that roughly correspond to each of those story arcs, although none are entirely resolved until the final pages. Read More »

Exploring Avatar: The Last Airbender
Pop Culture is full of phenomena. These phenomena capture the imagination of millions, and dominate talk around water coolers, Internet forums, Twitter and pub tables. Many factors lead to the formulation of such zeitgeists, such as focussed marketing, fresh storytelling that taps into flash-in-the-pan societal fears and interests, a bold take on traditional concepts, or, well, because they’re just damn easy and accessible. Such phenomena, by their very nature, come and go. They sweep through fans like a fever, and burn out just as quickly.

Lost was a cultural phenomenon… until the second and third seasons when the show-runners jumped the trails and lost control of their script. As I write this, “Gangnam Style” is sweeping America, Europe and the rest of the world, yet Psy, the Korean musician behind the hit, will likely never release another song which significantly impacts Western pop music.

There are phenomena like Pokemon: a weird, complex Japanese videogame and television series that captured the attention of children fifteen years ago and still hasn’t let go. Each new iteration of the video game series sells millions of copies, and the animated series is still running today. Most famously, there is also J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. When it first rose to wide prominence at the turn of this century, it was easy to dismiss Rowling’s work as a fad. But then it kept on going, and going, and going. Harry Potter and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are now literary staples on the same level as Bilbo Baggins and the Pevensies.

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