Monday, October 27, 2008

[books] Brisingr

Brisingr (Inheritance - Book 3) Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
Brisingr is the third book in what was supposed to be the Inheritance Trilogy. However, a while ago, Paolini made the "Trilogy" a "Cycle" paving the way for a 4th book. So the stories do not conclude in Brisingr, contrary to my prior expectations. Disappointment #1.

Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr are, at the end of the day, children's books. And as such, not meant to be compared to fantasy novels such as Lord of the Rings. Tolkien far outstrips Paolini in terms of his language, both English and the various invented tongues. Paolini's invented languages sound rather like German or some combination of Northern and Eastern European languages, far less "outlandish" than they should be. The dwarfish that he invented is interesting though and not quite like elfish (which is what my former reference was about).

However, if my only points of dissatisfaction where 1) that it didn't end the story and 2) the invented languages were, well, not quite fake enough, it would probably mean that the book was reasonably good and not deserving of a 1/5 rating.

I think this book is arguably the weakest of the 3 so far. Eragon was powerful because he was setting up the stage, exploring the world, but threw in some large fights and chases and introducing magic and such.
Eldest was interesting because it introduced new worlds (elves) and new, powerful charachters (Oromis, Glaedr, Nassuada). It moved the story forward and culminated in a big battle (a bit reminiscent of the Two Towers in LOTR where the second book ends with the Battle of Helms Deep). Still good though.
The third (and current) book, introduces only one new charachter, and mostly meanders the story all over the place. It could have been a lot shorter - I have no problems with long winded descriptions of things, but pages and pages about walking and flying with little consequence (waaay too much like World of Warcraft) just drag the middle part of the book to no end. The final "climax" is rather predictable and expected and just leaves you with "meh".

Overall, not a great book, I will probably read the 4th to just finish off the series, but I'm no longer recommending this to any younger cousins or friends' kids. Its not worth the trudge and the return on investment for going through 1400+ pages (all 3 books) is lower than expected.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

[books] Anathem

Anathem Anathem by Neal Stephenson

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anathem is the latest of Stephenson's books after his mega-massive System-Of-The-World trilogy (I don't know *anyone* who finished all three).

A couple of things make Anathem daunting and mildly annoying (to begin with):

1. 900+ pages. Ouch.

2. It is based on the planet Arbre where people speak Orth. Yes. Its got its own language. And the language is annoying as heck. To begin with.

The first quarter of the book is the hardest. He is setting things up and taking his time to do so. The language is really, really annoying at this point. Its like someone speaking some wierd dialect of English. A lot of the major concepts in science and philosophy are thrown in, but you have to determine what those are - everything from Darwin to String Theory to Occam's Razor exist somewhere in the book, but they're probably called something Saunt Edhaar's Rake. Go figure.

However by mid-book, things are flowing. You get used to the language, even start liking it to some extent. I was always trying to map Arbre's history / philosophy to well known concepts and its sort of fun. He builds almost everything from the ground up, so its a treatise on Philosophy (to the extent that a work of fiction involving, uhm, many concepts can be). I'm trying really hard not to give away the surprise that gets built up - not really a gotcha per se, but more like, "hrm.. what the heck is going on" sort of deal.

The last 75% is impossible to put down. If you've made it so far, then you're completely hooked. Last week was hell, with three nights of reading until 3am, then waking up and going into work with a nasty mood primarily because of lack of sleep (work colleagues are awesome and put up with my grumpiness). Finally, it gets down to blowing off everything, including girlfriend, so you can really just finish the book and see what happens.

Ending is wierd, but hey, its Stephenson, if you expected a normal ending, you're the sort that believes in Unicorns.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to a *particular* set of friends I have. I'm not sure what that particular set is, but I can picture a whole bunch of my friends who would *not* like this book (Yes, K, I'm looking at you). Thankfully that set (the unrecommendeds) are not exactly waiting with baited breath to read this review or the book for that matter. How about the following: If you like cryptonomicon, if you liked *any* of his previous work, if you like science fiction mixed with real science, mixed with philosophical questions about Life, the Universe and Everything, there is a reasonable chance that you'd like this book. Just plough your way through the first 25% and then you're good to go.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Mehndi Party, originally uploaded by Rooosh.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Mehendid Hand, originally uploaded by Rooosh.