Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On recommendations

There are sure to be spoilers for Agyar within this post.

I've withdrawn my post on Agyar for now. Here is the reason:

Despite the amazing transformation Agyar's character goes through by the end of the book, I am troubled by the amount of violence I let slip through with the words "not for children." In the case of Agyar I did and do think the book is brilliant on a human level, but right now I don't trust my judgment. The truth is, Agyar is a callous murderer who has very little qualms about most of what he does, considering "most" humans cattle who exist to feed him.

I think I've gone too far over the line towards accepting books that make some good point on the basis that the ends justify the means. The trouble is, I don't know where this line should be. I've become desensitized to violence and sex in books, to the point where I read a line in a different book last night that should have been shocking but I instead felt nothing about—except concern that I should have been shocked and revolted.

That's why I am withdrawing that post, and probably should withdraw many of the others I've made: I don't trust the judgment that led to them.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


By Katherine Kerr. Found via Kate Elliot, called it Kerr's "fabulous Deverry series."

Of course, I've only read the first book, so that's all I can talk about. (Right?)

This strikes me as a trashy sword-and-sorcery page-turner.

The sword-and-sorcery part should be obvious: there are swords and there's sorcery.

The trashy? For one thing, the story centers around a group of characters who are being repeatedly reincarnated and brought together to remedy the wrongs they've done to each other in past lives. (Supposedly, everyone is reincarnated, but the vast majority of people who must exist to support these central characters in their quests are mostly invisible as far as the story goes.) For another, the sorcery is of the sort that makes me more suspicious of the "good" guys than the bad ones (I had a similar reaction to Melanie Rawn's book Exiles, and never read the second in that trilogy). For a third, there is a not insignificant emphasis on lust (Kerr uses the word many times) and incest, even imaginary incest. While this isn't an automatic negative, I dislike the way she handles it.

The dialog is often either wooden or incredible, in the sense of being too corny to believe.

But for some reason, I kept reading. Some of her characters (well, Cullyn and Jill) are decent enough that I wanted to find out what happened to them. Sadly, others (including ones she tried to portray as decent) are less sympathetic. They are also, arguably, so different between reincarnations that you can see this as the author punishing the sons for the sins of the fathers: they often seem to be fundamentally different, with only one or two traits in common with their past selves. In fact, while reading, I toyed with the idea of interpreting it as Nevyn being deluded and looking to redeem his past mistakes with people who had nothing to do with them, but this is not the obvious interpretation.

So: recommended? Not really. Despite the pageturner factor, there are so many other good books to read that I don't think this one is worth the trash. It also worries me that it's the first book in a fifteen book series, although I believe not all the books directly concern these characters.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Random Acts of Senseless Violence (not a review)

This is not really a review, but I just finished this book by Jack Womack and it's eerily similar to current events. I'm finding it a little bit hard to keep them in separate categories.

The book itself? Masterfully written, but definitely not happy. "Violent" and "chilling" are probably more appropriate words. Not for kids even though the narrator (really a diarist) is a 12-year-old girl, and I doubt I'll ever suggest it to anyone who doesn't specifically ask for this kind of book. The cruelty isn't even as twisted as possible, unlike some other books I've read; it's scary because it seems to result from people just not caring anymore.