Monday, September 3, 2012

Extra! Extra! Novels Edition

Hi Folks!

I'm cramming in this post a little bit late -- I've spent the holiday spending time with the Wife and X-Com: UFO Defense (which is dated but more fun than I expected!).

For this week's slew of suggested reads, I'm going to be taking a look at some of my favorite novels -- my only restrictions will be that there should be no repeats from previous posts.

Here goes:

Shogun by James Clavell
This title might seem a little out of place with my normal brand (being that it is historical fiction as opposed to Sci-Fi or Fantasy), but I love it all the same.

It follows many characters, though initially we stay with John Blackthorn as his ship washed up on Japanese shores in the 1600's. He has to learn the language, the culture, and the many layers of deception in this new society. If he pulls it off, not only will he keep his head, but he could be wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

The book changes names and alters events, but for the most part follows historical events and characters accurately. Besides being an interesting story, it also offers a very interesting insight into a different culture. How accurate it is, I cannot say, but it was interesting none the less.

My only complaint is that the ending didn't wrap things up quite like I wanted, though I suppose that's difficult for most books that weigh in at over a thousand pages.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series is no hidden gem to today's readers, so this is just my opportunity to acknowledge my favorite title in the series.

Azkaban is a very tense novel in which Harry has to come into his own while feeling completely alone. This year at Hogwarts introduces some of the more interesting characters in the series -- my personal favorite Sirius Black and the always interesting (in the books!)Remus Lupin. The inclusion of a little bit of time travel and one of the happier endings for a Potter novel make this one my favorite, bar none.
Dune by Frank Herbert
A Sci-Fi classic, and with good reason. I read it for the first time last year (shame on me, I know), and I absolutely loved it.

The story takes place in a universe that could be our own, set in the far, far future. The setting itself is interesting as you see it in snippets, while the story could be seen as similar to Shogun: the main character, a young man named Paul Atreides, has to seek shelter with relatively secretive natives, the Fremen, on the planet Arrakis (known as Dune). He learns their ways and joins their culture, all so he can, eventually, strike back at the many enemies that helped destroy his father and family. If this means taking on the Emperor that rules the known galaxy, so be it.

The characters in this novel are sometimes twisted, often times perverse, and at all times interesting. Paul himself is an especially bad ass character in fiction.

On a side note: Sandworms are pretty damn cool.
Dragonmaster: Storm of Wings by Chris Bunch
Out of all the titles here, this is probably the least known. It deals with a fantasy world in which dragons exist, mostly as a menace, and wars are fought with sword and steel.

Then enter Hal Kailas, the protagonist who just can't let the status quo get by. He entrenches himself as an interesting character from the start and will continue to grow on the reader, especially if they have any childhood obsession with dragons (raises hand). The bulk of the story comes from Hal's exploits as a soldier, the most important of which being his help pioneering the use of dragons as tools of war.

Some really great storytelling and realistic characters -- even with the inclusion of dragons and some minor magic.

The sequel stays strong and concludes the main story. The third, and final, novel is about life and events after the war, and doesn't have the same steam of the other two.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
That's right, I've FINALLY started to read the novel. I would be farther along, but there was some debacle with Barnes and Noble not making it clear that their version was abridged (check the INSIDE covers and title pages!).

I'm not very far in at all, but the writing is superb (if a touch dated -- and populated with a bit of French) and the story, while already significantly different from the 2002 film adaptation, remains interesting and fresh.

To fans of the film thinking there might not be many major differences -- Fernand is actually a poor fisherman who is more like a cousin to Mercedes than anything. He's still love struck and jealous of Edmond, but other than that he has no relation to Mercedes betrothed.

I am very much looking forward to finishing this book, finally!

That's all for now. A bit short, I know, but it will have to do!

I'm also working on the next Pull List Review, so keep an eye out for those posts in the near future!

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