Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Anyhow, book three...
Yep, same author from Dogs in the Moonlight. Though both deal with the fantastic, they were very very different books in all other respects.
One thing an author can always do to impress me (as a writer myself) is to, in separate works, maintain different styles and tones without compromising either their talents or their own "voice." Lake manages that beautifully, at least between these two books. That's something that I've always struggled with, and I've noticed in others as well. Even if you love an author, it's somewhat off-putting to hear the same voice coming out of the mouths of character after character in world after world. (Sorry, Simon R. Green, I love you but it's true...)
Unlike Dogs in the Moonlight, which added a dash of the supernatural to everyday people set against the gritty backdrop of rural Texas, Green is set in a mythical world. Yet somehow Lake manages to take that gritty realism and transpose it to his made-up world as well. In the very first pages, I could feel the unrelenting sun beating down on my head and taste the dust as I breathed. This continued for the entire book. The setting descriptions were amazingly detailed without being tedious or overwhelming or dragging down the plot. The thing I found most interesting about that was how exactly the details were conveyed. The story is told in First Person, but from an indeterminate amount of years later. The main character is reflecting back on her life, and while her overal tone is detached by the power of years, and in fact nearly clinical in its deliverance of amazingly detailed descriptions of events, the reader still cares. I found it an interesting trick to make the reader feel more passionately about the tale than the narrator does. To her these are just old memories; to us this is an exciting new story.
Another interesting thing about this story was the lack of a romantic sub-plot. It's very rare to read a story without any sory of love interest or relationship development being part of what moves the plot forward. Often, the main character's love interest is a large and important part of the plot. In this story, however, that is not the case. The main character does have relationships, but they are treated as something that just happens alongside the main action, and indeed are mostly not treated as the typical understanding of "relationships" at all, but as just a convenient opportunity for sex.
My only real complaint about this story was the ending. The climax of the story didn't feel any bigger or more spectacular than the events leading up to it. And the only way that I knew that that particular section of action was the climax at all was by the small number of pages left in the book. Very unsatisfying.
It was an interesting read overall, and while I probably won't be itching for a reread any time soon, I'll definitely be on the lookout for more by this author.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
This is a collection of short stories set in Texas, and themed around the supernatural. The book is divided into four sections: ghosts, angels, gods, and aliens.
The book started off strong with the short story from which the collection got its name, "Dogs in the Moonlight." I went into it with no expectations, having never read anything by Jay Lake previously, and so the twists and turns this tale took caught me completely by surprise.
The stories were told in first person, and the vernacular that Lake uses to tell the tales is strong enough to let the reader hear the blue-collar Texas twang of the characters, yet subtle enough that it doesn't interfere with the reader's ability to enjoy the story or force the reader to puzzle out what the everloving-eff is going on (I'm looking at you, Charles W. Chesnutt!)
I felt that Lake also did a good job of balancing between the supernatural and the mundane. There were enough of the nitty-gritty everyday details to keep the stories well-grounded, but it was mixed with events fantastical enough to make the story worth telling. The first three sections were very strong, but I felt that the portion about Aliens fell down, especially when it was forced to not only follow the previous three sections but also to end the collection. I found myself skimming most of the stories in that section, and felt that it would have been better served to be placed in the middle of the book and allow one of the other sections to serve as the conclusion.
Okay, so, first book!
It's a collection of short stories themed around (you guessed it!) love gone awry. Some of them have happy endings, some are more Romeo-and-Juliet like, but all of them have romance as a plotline. I'd selected it because Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher both contributed to this book.
I'm not normally one for collections of short stories, and anticipated reading the ones I wanted to read along with a few others, skimming through the rest, and that being the end of it. However, I actually ended up reading all but one of these stories, and enjoyed them all very much. Some were more bodice-ripper-romance-themed than I would have liked, but I was pleasantly surprised by most.
Jim Butcher: A short story set in his Dresden Files world. It addressed the unresolved romantic tension between Dresden and Murphy. As with all of Butcher's writing, it was just the right balance of entertaining dialogue and fast-paced action. A quick and enjoyable read.
Neil Gaiman: He is the most phenomenal writer of short stories that I have ever encountered in my two decades of reading. He can pack such a big twist into such a short story that I always need to take a minute, back up a page or so, and let my mind unbend itself. This story was no exception. Love love love.
There were a couple others that had Gaiman-esque twists to them, but most simply told an entertaining story. Nice, enjoyable read.