Garrett (garote) wrote,

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February reading

Discworld 12: Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett

I couldn't remember most of the plot to this one. What really made me pick it back up, though, was being reminded that Greebo gets transformed into a human during the last act and runs riot in the kingdom.

My favorite line, from Nanny Ogg: (Upon spotting a dozen alligators drifting in the swamp.) "Ooo, them's mighty big newts!"

It was just as much fun to read a second time as it had been the first. Pratchett is a genius.

8 out of 10 pumpkins up.

Discworld 18: Maskerade, by Terry Pratchett

I continued my revisiting of Pratchett with a book I only vaguely remembered. Something about a ghost and a singing lady. I figured that the more vague my memory, the better, since the story would be a fresh surprise.

As I plowed through it, I realized why it was so vague. I was inexplicably dissatisfied with the ending. The beginning is alright, and the middle is hilarious, and the ending is clever but a little too quickly tied off. Miss Perdita is arguably the main character in the book, and at the end, we are deprived of any view whatsoever into her mind as she makes several huge life-altering decisions. The witches steal the show and run off with it.

That said, it's still a great read. I was thrilled to get more time with Greebo in human form - he's a riot! Mmmmmrrroowwr!

7 out of 10 wonder-dogs up.

Discworld 20: Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett

I'd totally forgotten how the assassins did their job, and so this re-reading had all the suspense preserved. That said, Pratchett mucks about with the timeline of events between locations much more than usual with this book, and I found it a bit disorienting. I would have also liked to linger a bit more with Teatime at the end.

But these are very minor quibbles in a book that is by turns hilarious, exciting, and wonderfully dialogue-driven. After I finished it I watched the two-part BBC dramatization of Hogfather, and enjoyed it a lot, even though the story was savagely compressed and a little bit disjointed.

8 out of 10 spoons up.

Bryant and May Book 5: White Corridor, by Christopher Fowler

Two interleaved murder mysteries for the geriatric duo of Bryant and May to solve. The first one used the writing tactic of the "unreliable narrator" to obscure the real culprit, a bit of a cheat I thought, but still a fun ride. Fowler's characters are vivid and endearing, and sometimes he sneaks in real zingers, such as:
"The princess has an incredibly tight schedule," she said, managing to make the statement sound vaguely gynecological.
7 out of 10 thumbs up.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

This book feels like Young Adult fiction, despite all the beyond-dated 80's callbacks. The author expects readers to be as nostalgic for the 80's as he is, often to the point where he will waste paragraphs of time explaining the details of some environment, costume, or vehicle that has absolutely no relevance to the plot, and only barely contributes to atmosphere. Actually seeing a car decked out like the Ecto-1 would be cool. Reading some guy's daydream of what it might look like is not cool - it is tedious. The linear narrative of the first quarter of the book is also a bit of a chore.

The good news is, once he sets the stage and cranks the plot up, the book becomes one hell of a page-turner, and you feel happy you stuck with it. His pacing becomes sure-footed all the way through to the smartly chosen ending point, and you find yourself paradoxically glad that he didn't go any farther, and in retrospect, disappointed that he didn't find an excuse to stretch the middle for a another hundred pages or so, even if the characters just goofed around for that time.

Ernest has great skills with plot and pacing, but not with characterization. He rarely gets inside the minds of his characters, rarely imbues them with feelings, and for a while I thought the lead female character was suffering from an unfortunately common affliction I'll call "paradoxical feminist syndrome", or PFS for short - where her primary motivation seems to be to emasculate and reject the lead male character, over and over, all the way up until the male character triumphs over adversity, at which point she has some kind of brainfart and throws herself at him like a raffle prize. I've seen cases of PFS in dozens of fantasy and sci-fi novels, all authored by men old enough that they should know better, including Piers Anthony, Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, John Varley, etc. I was all ready to add Ernest Cline to that list, when I realized, it wasn't actually the character that was shrill and emasculating - it was Wil Wheaton's reading of the character that brought her across that way! I started re-playing her dialogue in my head, without Wil's inflection, after each line, and she suddenly sounded like a regular human being in context.

This is both the blessing and the curse of audiobooks. The narrator brings their own take on the character to the character. When it's done well, you get an added layer of depth that really enhances the experience. When it's done poorly, or overdone, you suffer.

5 out of 10 fuzzy bunnies up.
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