Monday, September 24, 2007


Book Report

It's Monday, and that means it's Book Report day. Unfortunately, the only book I've finished in the last seven days was Candace Havens's biography of Joss Whedon, which I read in its entirety on Saturday night while sitting in the hotel bar at Fencon. (A really fun con, but not much of a bar scene.) The bio, Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy, I recommend highly.

I also read the first part of David Drake's Redliners, which I'm enjoying, and the first hundred or so pages of George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, which is fan-fucking-tastic. But reports on those will have to wait until I finish them, since this is modeled after pass-or-fail school reports intended only to prove I've completed reading.

In that case, I'll dip a bit back into the things I read a bit earlier in the year, and see what I have to recommend.

D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo: Book One: Foundling.

I read this a few months back, and liked it quite a bit. This is one of those books marketed as Young Adult, that could be as easily enjoyed by Middle Readers as by adults. I picked it up on the strength of the appendices, which run 121 pages long (more than a quarter of the book) and include a glossary that puts some dictionaries to shame, illustrations of the clothing typical to different professions, a calendrical system, profiles on different types of sea-going vessels, and insanely detailed topographical maps. Seeing that, I didn't much care what the story was actually about, I just wanted to see if the author had actually managed to make use of all of it.

To my surprise, the story is actually about quite a bit. This is an adventure story in the grandest traditional sense, about a young foundling who leaves the orphanage where he was raised (to be particular, Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls) to take a position as a Lamplighter, one of those who patrol the highways of the Empire, keeping monsters at bay. He gets sidetracked by misadventure, falls in with pirates, escapes, and ends up in the company of a fulgar, a monster-hunter whose body has been surgically altered by the addition of new organs that allow her to store huge amounts of electricity for long periods of time, which she can project as an offensive weapon through her tall metal staff of office. Of course, the surgical procedure that grants the monster-fighter her power means that her body is constantly in rebellion against itself, and has to keep taking regular doses of a medicinal substance to keep her own body from rejecting the new organs and killing her.

This is a fantasy story, but it's an odd kind of fantasy. There are monsters, but beyond that there is little that one might call "magic," with everything else having a pseudo-scientific basis (or at least a pseudo-natural philosophical basis). And it's a narrative not afraid to slow down and take it's time. That said, even though this is book one of an ongoing series, presumably, it never felt plodding or padded.

My only criticism, if I have one, is that the cover doesn't really "sell" the concept. I understand that this was illustrated and designed by the author (who also did all the interior illustrations), and I can understand his intentions, but I'm not sure the book is best served by it. Come to that, the title itself, while it comes to take on significance in the reading, is not necessarily evocative on first blush. My criticisms are short-lived, though, because I see that the new softcover edition has a new cover design that handily addresses both concerns.

See, isn't that nicer?

A nicely written start to a promising series, and recommended for anyone interested in impressive world-building or good-old adventure.


>>A really fun con, but not much of a bar scene.

That's probably because of the room parties. ApolloCon's party on Saturday didn't shut down until 4:30 am.
I'm all for late-night parties, but that leaves all of those daylight hours I could be drinking... (We drunkards have to find some way to pass the time.)
Chris, George R. R. Martin's series is awesome all the way through, you will enjoy! Ranked it high on my list of fantasy and scifi series.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?