Book Reviews

Closing the Gate: The Obelisk Gate Wrap-up

The sequel to N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is a spectacular continuation of an original, fresh take on the oversaturated fantasy genre. Picking up where The Fifth Season left off, the sixth season has befallen the Stillness. No it hasn’t but it would have been interesting if she just kept making up seasons and there were just 20 of them where different shit happened in all of them. Also that was my attempt to write a “professional” book review for a sentence and a half. If I wanted to do professional book reviews that ship has sailed a long, long time ago. There has to be people looking for book reviews from people who aren’t the losers who think they are professionals on Goodreads (no free ads) or from the “professionals” who are actually boring losers. Right? Please agree with me this is one of the foundational principles behind my whole idea for a fantasy blog. I guess I should mention this book won the 2017 Hugo Award. Probably deserved it. I think it goes without saying but there are extensive spoilers in this blog.

Well now that I have leaked out a little bit of my insecurity and my cry for acceptance is out of the way, let’s talk about The Obelisk Gate. I never thought that this could be the case, but Jemisin has an incredible way of taking what could easily be overly complicated or overdone magical concepts and just simplifying them enough that I can accept it and move on. Orogeny, and later just the flat term for magic “magic”, manifest in these weird biological and geological ways that make it slightly unclear what exactly the limits of the powers are, but because it doesn’t seem like any of the main characters have any idea what these powers can fully do, we are able to just be cool with it. The beauty of this book is the writing, Jemisin is able to masterfully capture the little details of interactions and thought that make the story seem so real. I admire the way even the grandiose conversations are littered with emotion and personality analysis.  Once again, this blog is beset with spoilers, if at this point you are not prepared for the spoilers, that’s on you chief.

We are treated to 3 POV’s in this book, well kind of, similar to the last book except this time they are on a linear timeline instead of hopping around like a bad sci-fi movie. Instead of three versions of Essun, which I’m guessing now was originally chosen for some shit relating to essence, we get Essun, her daughter Nassun, and Hoa the Stoner. O yea I think Schaffa flocka flame gets a chapter somewhere in here. He is fucking cool man, he’s part grandfather, part immortal super-killer who is some version of “the bad guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goal who is morally ambiguous because that goal is to help the entire population of the world” archetype. A more learned man would probably know that term. Or provide examples. I shall do neither. His little deal with the voice coming from the weird thing in the back of his head is a really cool chapter that sets up mystery. I always enjoy a little family slaughter for the sake of the world type thing.

Essun is in Castrima under and struggling with a littttttle bit of identity crises. This is a woman who is used to hiding, instead she is kind of cast into the limelight and becomes an important part of the leadership squad. Faced with having to fit in, having to make decisions for the good of the comm, and meeting her long lost other leg of an isosceles love triangle, it’s safe to say she is struggling. Throw Alabaster telling her she is the key to catching the moon, which is apparently the reason the seasons are fucked, and it is safe to say she is swamped with struggles!

So essentially the point of this book is Alabaster went to some other city where he found out about a three party war between the stone eaters, Humanity and Father Earth and decides to break the earth one last time to try and end the war. In order to make things right Essun needs to catch the moon so it goes back into orbit and the seasons end and everyone is happy-go-lucky so they stop trying to kill everyone else. Some of the stone eaters don’t even care and just want to rule the earth and kill everyone. They are led by this guy Nassun names “Steel” which besides being a badass name, he essentially is your more proto-typical villain.

The key to catching the moon? It’s the obelisk gate of course! As Essun learns to use magic, which is I guess being able to manipulate peoples biological cells instead of just manipulating the earth, she learns to utilize the obelisks in ways she never dreamed!

Nassun on the other hand, is in a weird growing up faze where she is struggling to deal with her father, who as we all remember murdered her younger brother, and balance her new life in the found moon comm, run by fan-favorite Schaffa. I am unclear of her role in things, but I really enjoy her creepy descent into darkness, especially when she kills her annoying ass dad.

Overall this is an excellent middle book of the trilogy. The second book can always be really awkward because it struggles to recapture the magic of the first book while providing a bridge to the final book all while having to be entertaining in its own right. This book succeeds, the final battle between the lovely people of Castrima under and the Rennais gang was very satisfying. At least until Essun wipes them all out in two seconds by accessing The Obelisk Gate and unleashing world bending magic on them. I didn’t like that part at all and feel like the publisher made Jemisin end the book so it didn’t get too long so she went fuck it just blow it all up on us. It kind of reminded me of the Mistborn trilogy when Sazed just ends the war by reshaping the earth. It’s funny that a huge blast of magic always seems so anticlimactic to me. This book could have been another 200 pages and I still think it would have worked. I legit can’t wait to get to the next one.

Book Reviews

The 5th Season Wrap-up

Let’s get into it. On this lovely morning before a four day weekend I have finally finished The 5th Season. So with iced coffee in hand (I’m basic) and something I picked up from my guy on the corner that isn’t crack, but certainly is as addicting, I am ready to dive into this wrap-up. Looking over some of my last few blogs it’s becoming apparent that I am starting to get a little too gassed up on my literary criticism. I think that is because I got in that rare zone where what I am reading, and I guess listening too, has me hooked. There is just a feeling that some books give that make it hard to focus on anything else, and let me tell you, The 5th Season is one of those.

It is certainly better for the brand for me to trash books since it is way easier to make fun of poor writing or a corny story then to come up with an entertaining way to talk about a book that I love. But I can’t in good faith trash this book. The 5th Season is excellent. When I was recommended this I was excited and to dive into something different, though of course naturally hesitant to try a new author and series. Since the A Land Fit for Heroes series has been such a mild disappointment, I really needed something to cleanse the palate.

The 5th Season is certainly a ride, it gets progressively darker throughout the novel. Like when I first started reading it I thought that my boss had given me a YA fantasy book and I was not pleased. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with some good ol’ YA, when you are you know, 12. I mean you get this story and one of the character POV’s is this girl who has discovered she has magic powers and has to go to a school to learn how to use them. Another character is a young women who has progressed throughout the school and is assigned to work with a difficult, socially reclusive master wizard person. Sounds familiar right? Well boy are you wrong.

Sure those are the baseline things, but there are more twists throughout this then a nerds nipples in 6th grade when a barely sober substitute teacher puts on a movie and goes to sleep. The main storyline is about a woman seeking revenge against her husband. Lovely right? Well her husband murdered the shit out of their son for being a rogga, which sounds like an Australian insult, but means earth wizard. And that little girl who gets to go to wizard school? She was locked in a shed by her parents for two weeks until someone picks her up. That dude then proceeds to shatter her hand as a way of letting her know who is boss. Also one of her classmates gets diddled. Before I forget about that stubborn young woman trying to make a name for herself, she actually isn’t supposed to learn from that stubborn master earth wizard, she is supposed to fuck him so they can make a kid that the Fulcrum (which is the name of the school) can keep the baby and strap it to some machine where it lived a pseudo life as a vegetable.

Not your typical storybook stuff here.

The story never gets stale, it naturally progresses and at a certain point you just go fuck it I can’t predict this just power through. There are lots of elements of magic and the limits of this magic is kept conspicuous. The bad guys have a way of negating the magic which seems to level the playing field. If you know me you know I hate the old fashioned “My magic gets progressively stronger to conveniently solve the problem” trope that plagues good fantasy. Also known, by me, as the Goku effect. So to see that magic is not the all powerful answer to everything always makes me happy.

The book ends setting up the sequel perfectly, without that final end battle that is soooooooo epic that there can’t possibly be anything after, until of course the next book starts… Give me a book like this where the author isn’t afraid of killing people off or subverting expectations. Jemisin does a fantastic job of taking those expectations and dirtying the shit out of them, leaving us something dark and twisted, like the aforementioned 6th Graders nipples. Stay cool everybody and enjoy the 4th.

Final notes: If you read this and don’t see the obvious connector between the three characters then you are as smart as me. I was talking about this with my boss when I was about halfway through, and it dawned on me what I was missing. Really embarrassing. Also I mispronounced the shit out of a word and looked like a jackass. Go me!

If you at all care what I picked up from that guy on the corner it was a doughnut.

Last note, I love that Chance the Rapper put Acid Rap on Spotify, but the fact that it is missing Juice is criminal.

Book Reviews

The Fifth Season: The Season of Success

One line plot summary: There are wizard people who can break the earth and occasionally the earth has cataclystic seismic shifts that kill a lot of people, so we follow three of these wizard women in various levels of their lives  immediately following the latest disaster.

Not my best work in crafting the title nor the one line summary but since this is a zero accountability blog the failing is not mine. Let me tell you who is definitely not failing, the author of this masterpiece N.K. Jemisin. Hugo awards and a bunch of other awards I don’t feel like copying and pasting to pretend like I know what they are. You can go about looking at awards in a couple of ways, either you have a bunch of em and they matter or you win a bunch of bullshit awards that don’t mean anything. I hate on awards, but I’d rather have awards then not have them annnnnnny day. You look at my trophy case and it is empty, well actually it is filled but with a million participation medals from races I, you know, participated in. A wall of failing if you will. I did win the college math achievement award in high school, which sounds very immpressive, until you learn that college math in high school is the class you take senior year when you are too stupid to be allowed to take real math classes like pre-calc or AP calc. Basically the brightest of the dullest award.

Jemy dollars on the other hand has the hardware, and 101 dalmatian pages in it is obvious that she deserves them all. If you couldn’t gather what this book is about from my one sentence summary, I will attempt to break it down. So some lady wakes up and her kid is dead. This is used as the launching point of introducing us into the world, well after the introduction chapter that does the same thing. I am more of a show me and I will figure it out then give me a cryptic big chapter world, but this is just so well done that I found myself engaging with it. Normally I hate that stuff and I just try to power through to get to the story, similar to that inevitable magic explaining teacher to student chapter that appears so consistently. I would love to be educated enough to know if there are more specific terms for these kinds of tropes but I’m not so there ya go. Great introductions can go a long way, this is one of those books that does this.

I wish I had something negative to say about this because it is more on brand but I can’t. Right now the book has three storylines. The first is this lady whose kid is beat to death by her husband because the kid is a little earth wizard. The lady wants a little slice of revenge pie, also the husband swiped up the other kid so she wants her daughter back. These chapters are done in the very difficult to pull off second person. One of my all time favorite books, Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, is also in the second person. That was just a random factoid to throw in there to show how smart I am. The second story line is some kid who is just finding out she is an earth wizard and her family gives her to some guy who I assume is going to bring her to the wizard school. The third story line is a 20 year old who is already at the earth wizard school. So three different earth wizards at three different times, pretty simple. I don’t really feel like putting in character names, somehow I feel like that detracts from the summary

And yet, what could easily be a rewrite of The Earthsea Cycle series is instead a fantastically crafted universe that so far is doing a great job of balancing personal stories with big magic. I can’t wait to see how this plays out.  The only fear I have is with such high levels of magic already shown, will any major issue eventually get solved by a bigger display of magic to the point where it losses plausibility. Stay tuned.

Book Reviews

The Dark Defiles: The Defiler of Entertainment

One line plot summary: Ringil and two irrelevant people search for a city that was promised to us but we are going to have to wait probably half the book for while in the meantime Ringil conveniently becomes a wizard so that he can easily win the battle that will take place at some point.

Yes I did it, I decided to take on the trilogy. As Golden State will learn later tonight, it ain’t easy to complete a trilogy. Well the first step to that is winning one championship, and Morgan has obviously not done that either. Let’s call it like it is YOU HAVEN’T MADE THE PLAYOFFS, blow it up and try again.

We start this trilogy in the lovely Hironish Islands, which if you were wondering what the climate is for the Hironish Islands, It’s cold and rainy and wet! OF COURSE! The book starts off casually mentioning Ringil killed a kracken, but of course we are not treated to this, rather we are treated to soldiers digging up a grave looking for the wizard of yesteryear. Riveting.

Did I read this book to complain and write blogs whining about it even though I could have quit anytime? Yes. Read my other book reviews, this is what I do mannnnnnn.

I will say, having the characters all be in one place does save us the obvious part of the book where they are going to meet. I truly am rooting for the Dwenda at this point. Not that I think they would be better rulers, but honestly these characters are annoying just kill them already. If I have to hear any more about the lizard war I am going to flip. Morgan here is some free unsolicited advice from someone who has only ever written 20 pages of fiction he keeps hidden in a folder on his computer because he is scared of ever releasing anything creative into the world: if you are going to continuously have the characters mention a war that sounds way more interesting than the time period those characters are currently inhabiting, maybe that should have been the story you wrote.

Generous of me to offer my opinion. Let me tell you though, man to reader, the lizard war sounds fucking awesome. Gallows gap is your end chapter, not Ringil yells and people die.

The real question here that Morgan obviously is banking on the answer being yes is: Will pandering to the readers expectations of diversity in fantasy serve as a substitute for character development and a good story? Well he got a published trilogy out of it and it seems to get a lot of positive praise so the problem here is obviously my expectations.

To counterbalance this heaping of dog shit I have delved into another series as well. I would say stay tuned for the big reveal but no one reads this so I am also going to concurrently read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. While the creators of the Farmer’s Almanac may take issue with the creation of a new season, I am more than jacked up for it. This is what is hot in the fantasy streets, Jemisin has won Hugo awards out the ass. When I figure out what a Hugo award is I will be even more impressed. Kind of seems like everyone gets one but I digress. My promise to you is I will not put in the research to answer that elusive question. Review coming soon.

Final Notes: Like the door to the church when you see the priest alone with altar boy and you just ran out, it is time for the Raptors too close the door and forget about the ugliness that was committed inside. Just be happy you get the ship and set sail.  Do priest jokes still play?

Once again the real hero of this series is the designer of the cover art. FIRE

Book Reviews

The Cold Commands Cool Down

There comes a point in a fantasy series, or I guess any series but who would waste time reading anything else, where one is faced with an ultimatum. Either finish out the series or don’t. This decision is always extremely difficult for me. On the one hand, I don’t enjoy quitting, if I have made the time commitment to get as far as I have I might as well see it through. On the other hand, if I am already questioning whether I am going to finish the series it definitely means I shouldn’t waste my time. I always have some optimism in the sense that I believe that every series is one twist away from becoming truly great. The problem is if I do choose to finish out the book than the series, it really starts to feel like a slog and takes away the joy that I get from reading. But I am not going to love everything I read, I am a typically harsh critique who also believes there is value in reading stuff I don’t enjoy. Much like running in the rain, I am going to be miserable the whole time, but after finishing it I am mentally tougher for having done it.

The prime example of this is the Dark Tower series. That series sucked, I won’t waste more time describing why. Around book three I realized this, but since I had already finished three books, I figured why not. By book six I was miserable. Of course no spoilers but the end of that book is actually amazing, but literally I am talking about like 5 good pages out of 10000000. Finishing that series cost me the second half of last year.

After the first book in this trilogy, I wrote that I was willing to give the second book a chance. And I am not going to say that the decision was either good or bad. The second book improves upon the first, not in the sense of the characters growing or anything, but the plot flows a little more naturally. Once again the ending was underwhelming, I am going to assume at this point that either Morgan is saving up for a big battle at the end of the trilogy or small end battles are kind of his ironic twist on the end-battle. I mean it just seemed ridiculous that Ringil seems to have transcended into immortal being. His sneak through the church quarters was just flat out dumb. Are the gods helping him or are they not? Does anyone care? It seems like lazy writing to me, he finally gets captured and sent to the gray places, where he is repeatedly killed by Sethlaw but in the end he just magically breaks the cycle by yelling loudly or something. Then he comes back and dispatches Risgillen by once again yelling loudly and doing magic. Also an absolutely terrible choice to name one character Ringil and the other Risgillen. I mean Ringil goes by Gil half the book so this was just an unnecessary complication.

My problem with this book is it just feels like the plotlines had no purpose to them. Egar’s entire like love tryst came to nothing, his imprisonment mattered not in the slightest, and him in general served no purpose in the end. This was disappointing. Arceth is another one, shes on drugs, shes off drugs, she has lesbian sex, she gets cryptic messages from sentient pieces of useless machinery and overall nothing happens. It just left me feeling like we could cut out those two characters and save time.

This book suffers from a weak plot that in the end is saved from falling completely flat by magic. I mean does the resolution matter? The Dwenda were stopped with almost zero consequences and once again not a single major character died. Just all kind of feels like a low stakes game, especially when Ringil has already died. Unimpressed.

If I had to rate this thing I guess I will go with the old 5 outta 10. Not terrible, not good. I will read the third because I feel obligated at this point. I assume this thing will go like this “Ringil and the other two useless shits will meander somewhere looking for this pointless island. Eventually, after way too long, they find it but o nooooooo the Dwenda are trying for a third time to take over the world. After an underwhelming fight in which Ringil wins by being the reincarnated human sorcerer the Dwenda are stopped for good! Arceth finds some other Kiriath, Egar reunites with his love.”

CAN’T WAIT!

Final Notes: R.I.P. Kevin Durant. God that was brutal.

Book Reviews

The Cold Commands Halfway Home Report

Halfway through this thing and let me tell you that I don’t know what to tell you. On the one hand, I got more of the emperor Jhiral, he fed some clowns to some octopi, which is the worst way to describe multiple octupuses. I think he has become my favorite character, not because I think he is particularly deep or fun to read, just everyone else kind of sucks. Ringil jesus christ man you should be so much cooler then you are. So whiny, like what is even going on with the scene where he is drowning and then walking for 50 pages through the grey spaces. I equate all long winded walking scenes to the all-time worst walking scene of all time, Frodo and Sam right before they meet Shelob in The Two Towers. This was prettttttty close to that.

The book was going so mediocre until then. I was intrigued by the idea of him having the plaque and I guess we are just tossing that plot line out the window. Also what is up with the gods/mystical creatures in this story. I guess that innocent naked lady in the inn room was a spirit dog or something but like so what. Ringil just wallows in misery throughout the entire story which means that for all the things that he could engage with, he is just like ehh whatever. Meet a multi armed weird prophet? No worries ill just put a knife to him. O he out maneuvers me, okay ill just bitch at the prophecys he gives me. GIVE ME SOMETHING RINGIL.

Is this world interesting? Who knows because if you ask the characters what they would like to do its just smoke some super monkey kush and sit in a corner. Arceth has had the shakes for a solid month, look we have all had hangovers, some of us have even had drug hangovers (GASP!), it doesn’t last the length of Mice and Men. Get over it. For real though it is frustrating to just have zero engagement with anything and seemingly no character growth. The story just seems kind of stale.

I don’t think I am going to belabor the point here because I feel my fingers itching for a good rant but I can’t give in because then I will be guilty of doing exactly what every character does in the book. It just seems like if this is going to turn into a humans vs. aliens/goodish against evilish story, get on with it and lets see how large action goes. Stop teasing it because at this point only a sick battle scene can revive a dead story.

Also congrats on the sex Ringil. I promised to mention if there was a graphic sex scene and alas, 250 pages in we got one. Seemed kind of boring for both dudes. Like all the foreplay and they both came (cummed?) instantly. Should get some Roman swipes.

Final Notes: Hammer Golden State tonight. Don’t fall into the media trap and start believing in the Drake’s.