Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bonehunters by Steven Erikson: Mini Review

Finally finished this 1200- pages monster !! The last few hundred pages had me hooked to the book, literally grabbed me by the neck and made me sit through that mind numbing action sequences, hands-on combat scenes exploding in your face, the plots thickening and peaking to fantastic climaxes! it was all right there, the secrets unfolding as I continued reading mesmerized and completely besotted with crawling through those hoopla loops that Erikson keeps weaving with his intricate plotting.

By now we all know that the greater evil is the Crippled God - and its a war between the Gods and we need to take sides. the mortals caught in between this deathly duel are the hapless Malazan Armies. and yet some among the Malazans, are now showing thier true colors, destined for greatness beyond thier mortal realms. Having chosen to lock horns and taunt some of the Gods, who are now playing with the Mortal lives. You know who am talking about !!

But while book#6 does meander along like a typical Malazan Novel, with pretty much the entire cast deciding to travel - ships, horses, on foot - and smattered with Erikson's rich undeniably deep philosophical ramblings the ending is the most satisfying of most novels. While I'd still rate Memories of Ice as my best read so far, BoneHunters comes a close second. After all, this is about the creation of another Legend in the Malazan universe - where the Fourteenth Army of the Empire literally go through a fire-hose to end up as the BoneHunters.

Till Book#5 - we are still being introduced to different story arcs , with bit-players and their entire historical baggage laden on the reader without warning ( Think Midnight Tides - I was thinking who the F%%K is Trull Sengar and why so much drivel about him? Heck that is an entire BOOK on this guy !! ) - But Bonehunters is the first book where it's all beginning make sense. A lot of the tangled ropes slowly starting to untangle - this one features pretty much EVERYBODY - that you've seen till book#5 - different story arcs again - but all of them coming to a fantastic climax. albiet all stories do not end. naturally, its only book#6 - Erikson's got 4 more in the offing.

This book also reveals the Adjunct Tavore - going deeper behind that mask of expressionless cold steel to reveal the person - also some secrets of the rest of the players are revealed - but a lot more still not dwelt upon - Erikson playing the cards close to his heart yet again, giving nothing away.

Going with a 4-star on this one. Rich, staggering. E-P-I-C.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

I’v never enjoyed military fantasy so much. Hard hitting, sweeping, gritty, awash in blood gore and filth, Joe Abercrombie’s best effort yet. I haven’t read his “Best Served Cold” yet, I’ve heard it’s about a linear singular plot of revenge as the name suggests. His grittiest till date. Well, Gritty is one word that never escapes you when you talk about Joe Abercrombie. I soon plan to get back to his first trilogy, where he had taken the usual fantasy tropes and given them a all a nasty little tweak in the head and produced a best seller that took the world by storm announcing the arrival of a major tour-de-force in the Fantasy voices.
Coming back to Heroes – Remarkable military fantasy that reminds us time and again, that at the end of the war, there are no winners. There are only casualties. To quote Mr. Abercrombie, Luck. Some men have it, some don’t.

The novel unfolds over 3 days of war between the Union (the civilized folks) and the North ( a cluster of barbaric warmongers who keep bickering among themselves). It’s a character study of three to four major characters, all of whom are multi-dimensional, flawed and yet endearing in their own ways. The story follows the war from the POV of all these characters, equally spread between both the sides so you get a pretty balanced view of the whole thing as it unfolds. Smattered with pointless jealousies, blood red ambitions running hot and cold, conspiracies and betrayals galore, an average blood thirsty “gritty fantasy fan” would have nothing to complain. What makes this blood soaked, war story even more attractive is the intelligent pacing and the mini-plots that keeps surfacing through the story. Frequent mentions of heroes from the past books keep popping up, so be warned that you might want to finish his first trilogy. It all flows from there. But heck, not to worry, this serves very well as a standalone and one easily slips into the grim world of Abercrombie’s through the Heroes.

Curnden Craw, a war weary veteran who wants nothing more than to retire and go home, has this last battle to fight for the North. He knows everyone’s a coward but he’s a “Straight Edge” – which means he does things by the right always. Least favorite of mine.

Bremer Der Gorst, the finest fighter south of the Kingdom, formerly First Guard to the King, now is a disgraced soldier whose punishment is to be sent as the Royal Observer of the war. This fellow has some serious issues. Man, I just loved the mental tsunamis that erupt in his mind whenever he gets faced down in any situation. Some of the battle’s bloodiest darkest graphically depicted scenes flow from Gorst. A remorseless killer, I just adored this guy and would love to see him come back in some of Abercrombie’s later works. Joe paints the picture of a man, clearly humiliated and having a self-esteem lower than the whale shit at the bottom of the ocean, who comes alive only when the steel is singing its song dipped in dark blood. Crackerjack of a character.

Calder, younger son to former “King” to the Northmen, he easily takes the cake for the best etched character. Dark, scheming, pure evil and yet, a cowardly skunk, an ambitious man who wants to get the Kingdom back at any cost and is willing to scheme and kill anyone in his way. The depth of this character is unbelievable, as he flits his way from black to grey to white and switches back to grey to …I ain’t telling you what shade he is, but he’s definitely my FAVORITE character of the lot. His chapters are like pure silk, smooth and slick. And am sure Abercrombie enjoyed bringing this meanie bad-ass to life in the pages.

The only major female POV is that of Finree, a girl whose got more steel than a lot of soldiers in the union army and whose ambitious overtures challenges that of Calder himself. Her chapters are smaller, but I still enjoyed this fiery feisty little shitkicker, Abercrombie always wants to paint his lead girls as the ass-kicking bad-ass show stoppers, Finree just about stops short of being that.
Another side character that I truly enjoyed was that of the Corporal Tunny who brings alive the sardonic wit that’s so predominant in his fiction. His words are gems that I’d treasure, “War is 99% boredom and 1% arse-opening terror.” Tedium and terror are the two major emotions in the war.
Abercrombie neatly stitches together all POVs in the backdrop of this useless, yet bloody war and finished off with a flourish, understating that important fact that in a war, there are no Heroes. Only casualties.

His settings are already in place as he borrows from his world that he so painstakingly built in the First Law trilogy. But his characterization is bloody brilliant, gems by themselves and they outshine the bloody dark pall that war spills onto the entire book. I’ve become a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie and have vowed to go back and complete his first Law Trilogy which I’d left off after the Blade Itself.

A full 5-stars, if a book ever deserved one, then that’s this one.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Looking forward to.....

This is next installment in the acclaimed Dark Tower series, that last ended with THE DARK TOWER, where Stephen King takes the excuse to travel back into the world of the Dark Tower and my all-time favorite Fantasy Protagonist, the flawed and yet endearing GunSlinger out to save the good in the world.
Best yet, it recounts the story of Roland Deschain's younger days !! Woohoo, I always maintained that the Wizard and Glass story was the best of the lot. ( am a sucker for love stories, THIS IS the one that inspired me to start writing my own attempts at a dark adult fantasy story with an unfinished love story being the hinge)
Anyways, eagerly looking forward to land this one!