September 2007


The main character, a young woman called Dara, has come to the mysterious Crystal Keep to get her heart’s desire; to win the man she loves. She meets the Guardian of the Keep who tells her that he can trade to her her heart’s desire but only for something of equal value. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t know that so she doesn’t have anything to trade to the Guardian. And what could she give him for it, anyway? The Guardian tells her that inside the keep is the Oracle who can answer every question. However, the Oracle is hard to find inside the magically infinite Keep.

Shortly we find out that Dara was born into a family with a long line of mages. Alas, she herself doesn’t have any magical abilities and people suspect that she’s cursed. Her mage parents live comfortably enough to have their own servants. Dara runs away to the High Lord and Lady’s castle to be a serving maid and to be her own person instead of just someone she could have been. There she meets their son, the Heir Cavin, and they fall in love. Dara’s family line isn’t high enough to grant her the right to marry him and there’s also a chance that her curse will pass on to the kids. Cav and Dara have searched for an answer for some time and Cav’s parents are leaning on him to get married to a high-born girl. Finally, in desperation Dara travels to the Crystal Keep.

Now, despite the fact that the back story is pretty much a romance, there isn’t much romance happening in the story itself. Dara comes to the Keep and searches for the Oracle from the infinite and wondrous rooms of the Keep. She finds some friends and makes some enemies on the way but mostly she learns about herself.

Some of the things and events were pretty obvious to me even before they happened but that didn’t really bother me. Logston’s style here is very much a fairy tale-like. There’s more ethereal quality to her writing than before. However, I’m not really happy with the ending even though it doesn’t come as a surprise. Considering the fairy tale quality of the story, it is appropriate, though.

I suspect that this happens in the same world as the Shadow stories. My main evidence is the gold Sun and silver Moon which are used as currency and the characters attitudes towards dragons. I can’t remember any other setting where people would eat dragon meat. Indeed, I think that in quite a few settings it’s poisonous to people. We see very little of elves but what is said here could be the opinions of people who had just had very little contact with the elves.

It’s an entertaining book but not as good as the Shadow books.

7/10

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Buy a Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.

What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

And, if you’re feeling generous enough–head on over to Amazon and actually send one on its way!

Well, the Lankhmar book came from print yesterday… I’m a selfish bastard so I would buy a couple of those to give away. (I’ve translated the Finnish translation of Leiber’s Swords and Deviltry.) However, I’m currently unemployed so, sadly, that’s not going to happen.

A translated paperback costs here in Finland aroud 20-25 euros new and English paperbacks costs from 7 to 12 euros mostly depending on their thickness.

This is an interesting book. I did like it but it did have some flaws as well.

First off, it’s pretty hard to file this book either SF or fantasy because it has elements of both. Of course, if you think that any working magic makes the book fantasy, then this is fantasy. But magic is used only on one of the worlds.

There are two worlds in the book: one of them is an alternate, SF version of our own world with a rigid caste system and the other is Overworld where magic is real and where actors are sent to entertain the masses of (bored?) people on their own world. The people on Earth can experience whatever the actors do via virtual reality-like devices. Essentially, the actors kill people and have sex on another world to entertain their audience. The actors are also very tightly controlled by their masters in the entertainment industry.

On Overworld the actor Hari Michaelson is a famous assassin Caine who brings in big ratings for his boss. Hari is married to another Actor, Shanna Leighton who is a mage and a people’s heroine Pallas Ril on Overworld. Hari is much, much more popular than Shanna. Recently, their marriage has started to fall apart mainly because Caine is a murderer without any thought for others and Pallas cares about other people more than her own life. (Why did they get together in the first place? It’s a mystery to me.) They’ve already moved to separate houses.

Hari is very much still pining after Shanna and then he hears that she’s mysteriously vanished from the studio’s equipment which means that they can’t bring her back and also there’s a “signal decay” which is going to kill her in a week. So, Hari wants to save her. His studio wants to make it a huge event that’s going to bring them lots of money. For some reason, Hari seems to be surprised and enraged by this. However, they negotiate a deal and Hari goes to save her soon-to-be-ex wife in front of millions of viewers.

The world is quite interesting and the book has interesting media criticism. Unfortunately, ultimately the plot works only when all other characters except for Hari, of course, act stupidly. Also, the characters have all been written as grey. Unfortunately this also means that there’s no reason to root for the main character rather than almost any other character since most of them are sociopaths, anyway. Hari goes also through rather remarkable changes and at least I couldn’t find any reason for them.

Another thing is that the secondary characters don’t have any life outside Caine. They are always thinking about Caine or talking about him or reacting to his actions. Three of them are actually obesessed with him to a degree that the other characters comment on it. And yet, when these enemies who are obsessed with killing Caine get their hands on him they don’t kill him. Why? Because it’s not the end of the book yet…

Still, it was an interesting read if not enjoyable at all times and criticizes our world which is pretty rare in fantasy.

It’s pretty hard for me to rate this book. While it has flaws, it’s definitely a departure from the fantasy cliches.

7/10

Booking through Thursday:

The reverse of last week’s question:
Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .
What is it?

Very likely a new book. I have around 120 books in my to-read-pile…

Andre Norton’s Quag Keep

I think this book has aged badly.

2 stars from 5

My brother urged me to read this one and he was right. Hyperion is down-right literature. It built much like Cantebury tales or Decameron (or Sandman: World’s End) where several people tell their own tales inside the story. I happen to love this structure.

Seven pilgrims are on their way to the planet Hyperion while their galaxy is going to war against the Ousters. The seven people don’t know each other and so one of them suggests that they should tell each other why they have been granted the right to be on the pilgrimage. They’re going to see the Time Tombs and the mysterious Shrike who is apparently destined to end the whole human race. Most of the book is about their stories. Their journey advances between the stories.

All of the stories have a distinct feel about them; some are told in first person and some on third. There’s a touching story about parents’ life and sacrifices for their child and a hard boiled intergalactic detective story. Two of the stories have intimate connection with time: in one of them a woman ages backwards or rather gets younger as time goes by and on the other a pair of lovers are separated through time because one of them has to travel in hibernation from planet to planet. The first story is told through diary excerpts.

I liked all to stories even though some of them didn’t really seem to have much relevance for their main quest. The whole doomsday cult with the Shrike is very interesting and I also find it interesting that it could have risen to power at all. That so many people are apparently fascinated by the end of the human race.

On the other hand, it has far too few female characters and whole tone of the book was pretty pessimistic. And the ending was just not cool.

The Ousters were very interesting and well done. At first they reminded me of the Reavers from short-lived but excellent tv-series Firefly (I even got the Reaver music playing in my head when they first appeared) but they turned out to have a culture of their own.

Luckily, my brother has the next book in the series.

8/10