The Wombat's Book Blog

I like reading. I like reading probably more than I like any other thing in the entire universe.

One Second After

One Second After - William R. Forstchen So apparently this is one of the best apocalyptic novels ever, at least according to large swathes of the Interwebs.

Personally, I don't see it. The plot is interesting and the research is excellent, but the writing itself is execrable. I have expectations of professional novelists. These include being able to remember what the beginning of a sentence was by the time you get to the end - if you start a sentence with 'after' I expect that sentence to have something happening after something else.

The characters are flat and uninteresting and I found myself not caring about their plight in the slightest.

Also, he nicked a number of plot points - not vital ones, but several of the surrounding atmospheric details, like who became president after Air Force 1 went down and so on, from Alas, Babylon.

One Year After

One Year After - William R. Forstchen The writing is an improvement over the first book, but not by much. When I saw it was a Tor/Forge book I was optimistic, but the editor must have read this in his sleep, because I can't see any excuse for the kind of basic English errors in this book.

Characters still flat, still can't bring myself to care.

White Flag of The Dead

White Flag of The Dead - Joseph Talluto I'm a terrible hypocrite.

Ten minutes ago I slammed a book for grammar, and now I'm going to praise another book which has some linguistic issues of its own.

White Flag of the Dead is not terribly well-written, in the purely mechanical sense. There are some problems with words, and I'm fairly sure that even in America educational types know how to spell 'hors d'oeuvres'. My spell checker certainly does, even if I'm not 100% clear on it. So yeah, not without its problems.

"Then why four stars?" I hear you ask.

Because if you tell me a good enough story, with interesting enough characters, then I don't care. You can make me not care by making your characters interesting enough and your story fun enough.

I devoured all the books in this series over a weekend, and I'm not even sorry.

Thief's Magic

Thief's Magic - Trudi Canavan So, you like epic fantasy, but you don't like all the trimmings that come with it?

You don't like two-page descriptions of a single flower or ye olde language?

Then baby, have I got a book for you!

I've always loved Trudi Canavan's books because they are fantasy without all the froufrou most authors insist upon. Now don't get me wrong, most days I am all about the froufrou, but sometimes you just want to read something that tells you a story, you know? You don't want to be impressed by the author's clever use of language or beautiful descriptions, you just want a good story well told.

Canavan does this so well, she sometimes reminds me a little of Heinlein, even though their styles are completely different.

Well worth a read, if it's the kind of thing you like.

Hell's Foundations Quiver (Safehold)

Hell's Foundations Quiver (Safehold) - David Weber I love David Weber. Ever since I read my first Honor Harrington book (Honor among Enemies, I believe it was - I can remember entire pages of the book but the Honor books' names always escape me) I have adored this writer.

When my brother showed up one day with a copy of On Armageddon Reef, the first book in this series, I was filled with glee. I remained filled with glee until I reached the end, and realised that the next book wasn't out yet.

This is the vicious cycle you are trapped in when you're a Weber fan - you spend a year occasionally thinking about the next book, more and more often as the time goes closer, until for a week before release you can't think of anything else at all...and then the book comes and you spend a day reading it and then you realise that the next one wasn't going to be out for another year...

I managed to delay this by not reading this book for about a week after I got it. I let it sit there, mocking me. I even considered rereading the other books in the series to prolong it, but when I counted up I realised that I had read the first book seven times, so that was a no.

Eventually, however, having finished literally every other thing on my Kindle (damn you, Terry Goodkind, why isn't your series LONGER?) I caved to temptation and read it.

And as it happens, just like every junkie with their drug, while I was in its grip I couldn't be happier.

There were the occasional moments of frustration - I mean really, who stops mid-battle for a two-page lecture on military history and the design of whatever weapon they are using? David Weber, that's who. There were the verbal tics (I counted only one 'such as it is, and what there is of it' which is an amazingly low number for a Weber book, although I did see two 'poured their hate' and one 'spat their defiance') but you know what? Nobody's perfect.

And if David Weber can keep on giving me Strong Female Characters who aren't always Strong, or even Female (it's a long story - about 8 books at this point) and huge battles and ALL THE FEELS, then I can cope with the actually quite interesting lectures on military history and the verbal tics. I have a weakness for battles against overwhelming odds, for gallantry in the face of almost certain death, and for a clear-cut Good Guys-Bad Guys division, and David Weber caters to all those weaknesses.

I'm not going to say anything about the plot, because quite frankly it's Book 8 in a series and there is nothing I can say about it without spoiling the others, except that it's Weber at his best, and that if Thirsk doesn't do the thing we're all hoping he's going to do in the next book, I may implode.


After London

After London - Richard Jefferies If you haven't read this book yet, there's no time like the present.

If you like apocalyptic fiction, and if you like old books, you're in for a treat.

While the plot is rather slow, the writing is glorious, and it carries you along peacefully, much like the protagonist spends a lot of time being carried along by the waters.

I'm not a big favour of the abrupt ending, but I can live with it, and I will definitely be reading this one again!

The First Confessor: Sword of Truth: The Prequel

The First Confessor: Sword of Truth: The Prequel - Terry Goodkind I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to read this book before the Sword of Truth series, no matter what the author might have to say.

Not because it might put them off - in fact, it probably will suck them in even better than the original first book did, because it's a fun read - but quite simply because, as River Song would say...Spoilers!

If you're one of the lucky people who watched the original Star Wars trilogy before the newer films, you will know what I mean. You will especially know what I mean if you've ever heard someone say 'but we already knew he is Luke's father' at the pivotal scene.

This book does something very similar to that to a number of things in the Sword of Truth. The devotion to the Lord Rahl, the boxes of Orden...

It's a wonderful book, it really is, although I feel that the writing may have benefited from a bit more spit and polish.

I have a few gripes - mainly the way they try to explain everything, which...yeah. When I read the thing about Magda's hair at the end, I had to stop for some deep thoughts about how over-explaining anything (or in some cases, trying to explain it at all) turns something serious, silly.

It's a great read, fun and quick, but if you're new to the series READ THE OTHER BOOKS FIRST.

An Apprentice to Elves

An Apprentice to Elves - Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette So, book 3.

Apparently once you have taken your first castle, you take a bit of a break. Seems about right, taking off 12 years in the middle of an invasion to...what? Wait for the protagonist to grow up?

I don't know, I just don't know. I liked this book while I was reading it, swept away by the gorgeous writing (and it is gorgeous) but at the same time, I also hated it.

The worst part is that if this book had been part of a duology, with Tempering basically cut in half and stuck into the books on either side, I probably would have liked it much more. It's as though my negative feelings about the previous book influenced this one, and now I'm just sad about the whole thing.

Add to that that I'm not a big fan of Alfgyfa, who is as whiny as Isolfr at his best, or the alfir, who are enormous assholes, and this really wasn't the book for me.

Plot-wise, the book isn't bad. Things happen, and the book is exciting and keeps pulling you along for the ride, helped by the hypnotically beautiful writing.

That ending, though. Really, guys? This is what you're going to go with? I get that you couldn't save the North any other way, but if the choice is between the ending you chose and the tragic death of the entire way of life of the people of the North...well, you picked the wrong option.

TL:DR: I was very, very disappointed with this book, but that may have been a function of my very high expectations considering who its authors are.

The Tempering of Men

The Tempering of Men - Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette I'm going to be honest with you, I'm a little bit disappointed in this book. I guess that's why it took me so long to do a review - I didn't want to say anything bad about it, but there really wasn't much to say.

Let me start with the positive - we get glimpses of other people's points of view this time, and I enjoy the break from Isolfr's somewhat whiny point of view. I like whiny heroes (Hi, Harry Potter) but sometimes it's nice to have a viewpoint from someone who is a bit more grown up, a bit more settled in themselves, and has accepted themselves and their lives a bit more.

I think my favourite is probably Fargrimir, who is his father's sworn-son. In the first book it is explained that a man without sons will sometimes make one out of a daughter, if he has one of those, raising her as a man in order to have an heir. Fargimir is badass and a compelling character, and one of my favourite things about this book is that we learn more about him.

That being said, if the entire series was one book, this would be the saggy middle. Nothing much happens, and it's pretty blatantly a setup for Book 3. So there's that. Apparently Romans, which...yay? I guess?

Also the whole Isolfr/Skjaldwulf/Vethulf did not work out as I hoped it would. Isolfr seems to be keeping himself apart from his wolfjarls. I had thought that by the end of the first book he had more or less accepted the relationship, but now I find that he never really committed to it, and in fact leaves both his lovers pining for him. I'm a big fan of pining, but when you're actually in a relationship with people and you let them feel the way Skjaldwulf and Vethulf feel, you're a dick.

So, I have a lot of feelings about this book, but basically, as a setup for Book 3, it can't be beat, but as a book on its own it deflates like a second-day balloon.

A Companion to Wolves

A Companion to Wolves - Sarah Monette, Elizabeth Bear I picked up this book last night, because the third book is due out in a few weeks and I wanted to read the ones that came before before it does. I finished it this morning.

In between, I edited a newspaper (badly, I'm sure), slept three hours, and made up the newspaper. I was so distracted I could hardly think, because I wanted to know what would happen next.

I'll probably pick this book up again in a month or so, just so I can reread and make sure it really is as awesome as I, in my sleep-deprived state, think it is.

I'm betting I'm not wrong, because anything that can keep me up the way this book did when I have to be up at Oh God No o'Clock, just has to be good.

The characterization is flawless, and although I sometimes got characters confused (especially during the orgy, but that's a common problem with orgies and I don't blame the authors for that) I really did fall in love with some of them.

I have a feeling, too, that when I reread I will discover that this book has a lot of hidden themes, about equality, and gender, and sex (well, the sex one isn't all that hidden) and other stuff that I am simply too dazed to think of right now.

TL:DR - book is great, ruined my sleep, if the second one ruins my nap this afternoon I shall be upset.

The Stand

The Stand - Stephen King As good as advertised. Very bulky, I don't think I'll be rereading it, but still a great ride.

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War

Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War - P.W. Singer, August Cole This book definitely made me think of Tom Clancy, although without some of the flair and skill Clancy built up over so many years.

I enjoyed it and it really sucked me in after a while, with its really cool tech (much of which is possible now or is expected to be possible soon) and its smooth build-up to a brilliant climax, but I do have a few quibbles:

The characters. Some of the characters are wonderful people, some of them are flat and lifeless carboard cutouts. There aren't that many of the latter, which is why I managed to finish the book, but they're all the more noticeable for being rare. I also found it annoying that some characters seemed to appear only long enough to do their bit for the plot. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, but what I mean is: When you read a story, and it's 100% obvious that Plotpoint McHasajob only exists at all to say one or two lines, then it's a fair bet that the author is being lazy.

Annoying textual ticks. Look, when you give someone a cool full name, you don't have to repeat it every time we meet him. Commander Bill 'Sweetie' Darling is referred to that way the first time his name is mentioned in every scene where he appears. It's a small thing, and if he has ten chapters it's a lot, but it annoyed the living daylights out of me. It actually annoyed me more than Captain Jamie Simmons, who was mentioned almost every chapter for the last half of the book - at least with Jamie I didn't feel like I was in a Jane Austen novel hoping not to offend anyone.

Ends like running into a wall. BAM - the end. I could have used a bit of a slower build-down after the climax (which was beautifully done). More time with the characters, a bit more fleshing out...I'd have liked that.

I also didn't approve of the treatment one of the best characters in the book received, but that's just me, and it was a deserved ending...

The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse

The Girl's Guide to the Apocalypse - Daphne Lamb I really wanted to like this book. Sadly, it appears to be in dire need of an editor.

Normally, when I got to my first "I do not think this word means what you think it means" moment, I move on to a different book, but the light and fluffy writing drew me in until I was almost able to ignore the fact that the author seems to think that 'harbouring' means the same as 'hoarding'. There's no excuse for the later substitution of 'ushering' for what I can only assume to be 'butchering', and the two your/you're substitutions I noticed made my brain itch. These complaints may be petty and if this were fanfiction I'd leave the author a note pointing them out and otherwise ignore, but this purports to be a published novel created by professionals, so my standards are fairly high when it comes to the basic nuts and bolts of writing.

In addition, this book wanders from encounter to encounter randomly with no attempt at a coherent plot and absolutely no character consistency. The reactions of some of the characters are so strange that I can only hope that one part of the never-fully-explained apocalypse was some kind of crazy gas.

All these problems aside, the book has the bones of a delightful story, and I cannot help but feel that the author has been badly served by her editors, if she has editors at all. Her voice is unique and her protagonist is charming, despite the often-nonsensical situations she finds herself in.

In short, I find myself wishing that I could take a red pen to this book, because with some decent editing it could be so much better than it is now.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson I put this book down feeling as though I’d been slapped in the face and, in a sense, I had.

The Traitor is an exquisitely well-written book, with brilliant characterization and a wonderful world that I would like to know more about (will there be a sequel? Please, please say there will be a sequel!) and a main character who is possibly the single most untrustworthy character I have ever met.

I’m not even sure if I mean that as a compliment. I am, in fact, not sure if I liked this book. I don’t like to be lied to, and I don’t like feeling like I’ve been tricked, and by the time I put it down, I felt that both those things had happened.

On the other hand, if there is a next Baru Cormorant story, I will be begging to read it. I will be camping in front of the publisher’s office just to make sure I have my copy as soon as humanly possible.

I haven’t been this conflicted about a character since…um. I don’t think I’ve ever been this conflicted about a character.
I think I’m in love with Baru Cormorant.


Ariah - B.R. Sanders I wouldn't recommend this book to just anyone.

This is the kind of book that you cup your hands around as though it was a fragile, beautiful butterfly. This is the kind of book that means such a lot to the right person that the thought of having to talk about it to someone who doesn't get it is too exhausting to contemplate.

I could go on and on about what a magical, beautiful experience reading this book was for me (I'm sitting in my office on four hours' sleep because I couldn't face the idea of going to sleep before I'd finished it) but instead I'm just going to point you at this review by Foz Meadows, which says everything you need to know about this book, in a better way than I ever could.
I don't want to review this book. If I review it, I have to acknowledge that I've read it, and that would mean that I have read the last new Pratchett there will ever be.

It's a good book. I cried all the way through. Not because of what happened in the book (although there were some tears for that as well) but because of what the book is.

I'm not going to tell you what happens. There's no way to talk about the plot without spoiling you, so you'll just have to read it yourself.

o7, Sir Terry.
Mind how you go.