Thursday, February 4, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character: Locke Lamora

Posted by Simcha 12:51 PM, under | 7 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

For some reason I often find myself attracted to fantasy books that feature a thief as the central character. And one of my favorite thief characters is Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.

After being orphaned as a child, Lock Lamora joins the Thiefmaker's gang where he is trained as a pickpocket and thief. But while skilled at his new vocation, Lamora is too much of a showman and ends up bringing unwanted attention to the Thiefmaker's gang, so he gets sold to Chains, the leader of the Gentleman Bastards.

As a Gentleman Bastard, Lamora learns all manner of skills, from cooking gourmet meals to farming to fighting; knowledge that allows him to slip into any identity that he chooses. And once Lamora becomes the gang's leader, he focuses on conning the city's nobility out of their money through one audacious scheme after another.

Locke Lamora is a thief with no altruistic intentions. While he enjoying conning the rich, he is no Robin Hood, as all the money goes into his own pockets. And he and his gang steal for no other reason then that they enjoy the thrill. Yet Lamora is such a fun character to follow- witty, charming and intelligent- that you can't help falling under his spell. And I love the brilliant schemes he comes up with, each of which requires him to don a different costume and personality. Lamora is definitely one of the most interesting and fun book characters that I have encountered.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Posted by Simcha 8:46 AM, under | 4 comments

Louis McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for the past year. I had picked it up on my last trip to America, not realizing that it was a sequel to an earlier book, and so I put this book aside until I had a chance to read the first one, The Curse of Chalion. Now that I have finally read it, I only wish I had made more of an effort to do so sooner.

Although Paladin of Souls takes place in the same world as
The Curse of Chalion, with some of the same characters, the story is independent of the earlier book, focusing on different individuals and a different plot line. In Chalion, Ista was introduced as the mentally unstable widow of the king. Although, as it turned out, the “madness” was really based on fact, and Ista recovered after the curse was removed, she continued to be treated by those close to her as though she might become unhinged at any moment. At the start of Paladin of Souls, Ista is put into the care of the castle warder, and all her ladies in waiting, where she is expected to spend the rest of her days in quiet solitude.

Frustrated by the suffocating ministrations of those around her, and desiring to escape, Ista suggests a pilgrimage to pray at the country’s holy sites. Although she has no real desire for a spiritual journey, it is the only acceptable excuse that Ista could think of that would allow her to get away. A motley crew is assorted for the pilgrimage and Ista leaves behind her home, with much relief.

Ista’s relief is short lived as during the journey she discovers that the gods are not quite as finished with her as she had hoped. She begins to be assailed by dreams of an injured man calling for her help, and she fears that the dreams be more then just dreams. When an attack by a raiding enemy party leads Ista to the very man who she has been dreaming about, she realizes that the gods have another mission for her, despite the fact that she had failed her previous one.

It is difficult to describe
Paladin of Souls in only a few short paragraphs, particularly without giving too much away. This is a well told, fast paced story with plenty of adventure and excitement, and a bit of romance thrown in. Ista’s companions on her journey are all well developed characters that the reader will surely come to care for. My favorite was the country bred courier girl whom Ista had impulsively invited to become her lady-in-waiting for the excursion.

One of the things I found particularly interesting was Ms. Bujold’s atypical choices for a heroine, the 40 year old widowed mother of the queen. It was nice to have a heroine that was a little different then what you normally get in a quest adventure book.

There was just one part of the book that bothered me and that was when two brothers, after being separated from each other for a long while, are finally reunited. Despite the fact that the brothers had been very close and each thought the other to possibly be dead, when they were brought together the scene was very unemotional and matter-of-fact. I would have expected a bit more drama and emotion rather then the brief exchange of banter that took place. And then when Ista explained to the brothers the strange magical situation that they were in, they were so accepting of everything she said, despite the bizarreness of it, that I found it strange. I saw no real reason why the brothers should have so easily believed what Ista told them. It seemed out of character for these two strong independent men to so easily accept the wild tale that they were told with barely a protest. But these two issues are really just nit-picking on my part. I’m particularly sensitive to book characters who don’t behave as I have come to expect them to.

I would highly recommend Paladin of Souls to anyone looking for a good fantasy book, though I would suggest reading The Curse of Chalion first for a better understanding of the story. Just don’t wait a year to read it, like I did.

Winner of the January Book Giveaway

Posted by Simcha 8:34 AM, under | No comments

Congratulations to Audrey at Brizmus Blogs Books for winning the January Book Giveaway at my website, Audrey will get to select for herself any one book from my bookstore that she would like to receive.

This giveaway runs each month, beginning at the first of the month. To enter, just send me a book recommendation, which will be posted on my website's recommendation page. Click here for more information about this contest.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The key to enjoying science fiction

Posted by Simcha 7:37 PM, under | 7 comments

A couple of weeks ago, Jo Walton posted an interesting piece on the Tor blog about reading science fiction and the kind of skill-set required to really enjoy this genre.

She says that most science fiction readers have developed the skill of allowing the really complicated SF details to pass them by, while enjoying the rest of the story. People who can't enjoy SF because they get caught up in the mechanics of how everything is supposed to work, apparently never developed this skill set and therefore can't really enjoy reading these sort of books. She cites an example of a friend of her husband's who couldn't get through Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, because he couldn't understand how the tachyon drive would work. But an experienced SF reader would know that it doesn't matter how the tachyon drive works, it's the rest of the story that's important.

As someone who has avoided science fiction because all of the complicated scientific stuff they are usually full of, I'm now wondering if I've just been reading them in the wrong way. I've always assumed I wasn't scientifically minded enough to enjoy real science fiction, but if Walton is correct, then perhaps I'm not the only one who often doesn't understand every detail, and I just need to ignore them and move on.

But Walton also mentions how part of the fun of reading SF is having a new world unfold in your head. Personally, I find that if I don't understand all of the details of a world, then that world doesn't unfold properly for me. It's like watching a movie off a scratched dvd, where occasionally the picture will jump, making it difficult to really enjoy the movie.

So now I'm curious as to how other science fiction readers go about reading SF. Do you, like Walton, believe that not all the complicated details are really meant to be understood or do feel that you need to understand everything in order to enjoy the story?

You can read Jo Walton's post on reading science fiction, here


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