Showing posts from May, 2022

Across the Nightingale Floor (Tales of the Otori #1) (2002)

by Lian Hearn A young boy with mysterious powers is rescued from  the slaughter of his village and adopted by an honorable lord.   Thus begins a tale of intrigue as political factions and secret societies contend for influence in an alternate history version of feudal Japan.   Lian Hearn tells an intriguing story in a fascinating setting and creates characters that I cared about, but prepare yourself for one major flaw in her writing.   Lian Hearn She has a tendency to wrap things up rather abruptly and has a penchant for deus ex machina.  As of this writing, I have completed the original trilogy and, though I enjoyed it quite a bit, I was disappointed that the complex threads that she interweaves throughout three novels are largely resolved by circumstances that could not be foreseen by the characters.   Nevertheless, I intend to read the fourth book and particularly the prequel, since it focuses on Lord Shigeru, who was my favorite character in this novel.  In him, Hearn creates a fi

The Ysabel Kid (Floating Outfit #1) (1968)

by J.T. Edson Dusty Fog joins forces with the Ysabel Kid to run guns to  the Mexican army for use against French invaders, thereby ensuring safe passage for a band of former Confederate soldiers whom Dusty and the Kid hope to convince to accept amnesty, give up support for the French, and return to the US.   Though the premise sounds a bit convoluted, it’s a very straightforward tale of straight shooting good guys and backstabbing bad guys.   Go to McMurtry or McCarthy for gritty novels about what a nightmare the Old West could be, but come to Edson for tales of camaraderie and bravery.   J.T. Edson He is not a very good stylist, producing some sentences that are downright confusing and relying too much on repetition (we read that the Ysabel Kid is “Indian dark” dozens of times).   However, he does know how to set up an exciting action scene and that makes up for a lot.  He also seems to know his stuff when it comes to firearms of the period, so it is interesting to read about how the

Master and Commander (Aubrey & Maturin #1) (1969)

by Patrick O'Brian Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin begin  their long friendship and association during the Napoleonic Wars, when Maturin agrees to become the physician for Aubrey's ship, even though he is greatly over-qualified for the job.  Author Patrick O’Brian is an astonishing author.   Patrick O' Brian There is plenty of action in this novel, but O’Brian is most interested in the psychology and emotions of his two major characters and the many individual personalities in the crew.   These are related in brilliant prose, with great humor and a talent for uncovering the telling detail that reveals O’Brian’s deep understanding of human psychology.   The novel is very immersive, delivering passages and conversations that are dense with detail about the 19th century British Navy.   Some of this is explained to the reader, via the character of Maturin, who is new to Navy life, but if this novel has a flaw, it is that I was sometimes not completely sure about jus

The Great God Pan (1890)

by Arthur Machen A jigsaw of narratives gradually reveals the existence  of a woman born of an evil spirit who preys upon mankind.   Arthur Machen’s groundbreaking story influenced generations of horror writers, including such titans as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.   Arthur Machen Characterization is virtually nil and there is a very heavy reliance on coincidence.   Also, most of the horror takes place offstage.   However, the picture that slowly emerges is pregnant with terror, and the reader is led to imagine horrors and perversions that the writer would perhaps be unable to match, especially one who was writing in the late 1800s.   Tame by today’s standards, it was highly controversial in its time and there were critics who felt that such a product of a clearly diseased mind should not be allowed to exist.   "The Great God Pan" (French) "The Great God Pan" (Greek) "The Great God Pan" (Italian) "Supreme God Pan" (Turkish)