Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Book Reviews: Clines, Rothfuss, and Hearne

I’m falling behind in my book reviewing, so I’m going to cram a few together in one blog post.

Ex-Heroes CoverBook the first: Ex-Heroes [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Peter Clines. This is basically a post-apocalyptic zombie book with superheroes, which is an interesting premise. As powerful as the heroes are, they’re not invulnerable, and they’re vastly outnumbered. They’ve established a stronghold called The Mount, in the ruins of Hollywood, where they scavenge for supplies and do their best to protect their citizens from the exes (ex-humans), as well as a street gang that’s discovered some powers of their own.

Clines hits a lot of the expected beats for a zombie story, including flashbacks to the beginning of the disaster, various scenes of humans being trapped by exes, and the terror of the endless sea of undead at the gates. I appreciated that there was at least one twist that I didn’t see coming. (And it has a blurb from Nathan Fillion, which is both cool and incredibly envy-making.)

I’d recommend this one to fans of zombies and Watchmen.


The Slow Regard of Silent Things - CoverBook the second: The Slow Regard of Silent Things [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Patrick Rothfuss. Pat writes an interesting introduction to this novella (novelette?), in which he warns people, “You might not want to buy this book … it doesn’t do a lot of the things a classic story is supposed to do.”

More than anything, this struck me as a character study. Auri is a secondary character in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. In this book, we follow a week in Auri’s life.

Depending on how you read it, there isn’t a lot happening in this book. Auri lives beneath the university, a world of empty caves and tunnels and pipes and ponds and abandoned rooms. In some respects, she reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood, a character who sees the world in a very different and odd way. But in Auri’s case, you get hints of her past, of someone who was broken and rebuilt herself and her world.

If you’re looking for a strong plot, or for a story that has an impact on the greater world, you should probably skip this one. Auri spends her days exploring, finding lost objects and putting them in their proper places, exploring different rooms, and searching for the right gift for him.

The writing is gorgeous, and I was fascinated by Auri’s character, who seems to walk a very thin line between beauty and crippling OCD. My only complaint is that I wish she wasn’t so fixated on him (Kvothe, from Rothfuss’ novels). I understand that this is in keeping with the books, but it frustrates me to read such a beautifully written woman whose existence revolves around a guy. I’ve just been reading too much of that sort of thing lately.

That said, it’s a beautifully written story, though it won’t work for everyone. It inspired me to try some new things with my own writing and characters.


Hounded - CoverBook the third: Hounded [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound], by Kevin Hearne.

This is book one of Hearne’s popular Iron Druid chronicles, and I can see why he’s done so well with it. It’s page-turning fun, with a 2000+ year old druid called Atticus O’Sullvain living in Arizona with a delightful Irish wolfhound. For a long time, he’s been hiding from a very angry god who wants a sword Atticus stole centuries ago.

Lots of action, a good helping of snark, and entertaining, larger-than-life characters, from the werewolf and vampire legal team to the possessed bartender to the Irish widow Atticus hangs out with, swapping Irish tales.

There’s also a bit of hetero-male wish-fulfillment going on, with several beautiful and powerful women who all want to sleep with Atticus. On the other hand, Hearne presents a range of female characters, all with their own strengths.

In sum, a fun and entertaining read.


So, that’s some of my recent reading. Any of these three strike you as interesting? Or if you’ve read them, feel free to share your thoughts.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 15th, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
I've really enjoyed the Clines series, especially as each book goes in a completely different direction. Beyond the superhero and zombie stuff, we get military, supernatural, and all sorts of other goodies thrown in. The fourth, in particular, takes things in a direction that I would never have expected (using a plot hook that's both very comic-booky and yet seemingly out-of-place here), and somehow makes it work.
Dec. 15th, 2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
My UK publisher was kind enough to send me the first three Clines books. I enjoyed the first one, though I didn't fall in love with it, but I'll probably keep reading to see what other twists he comes up with.
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
I read Ex-Heroes because the premise sounded interesting, and ended up HATING it. If I'd read the author blurb and known he'd gotten his start in Hollywood, I'd have picked it up at the library instead of shelling out money for it, because I've yet to read a book by a Hollywood screenwriter that didn't have paper-thin characterization, and this one was no different to me (and it didn't help that he admitted that he had created many of the superheroes when he was a teenager).

Almost every single character felt like a Mary Sue to me. And the one that wasn't a Sue, died, presumably from having depth. Like, seriously, if one of your main characters is a superpowered supermodel supergenius, that is too many "supers" and you need to look up "Mary Sue" and apply that definition heavily to yourself (aside from not doing the most basic research into how science and scientific publishing ACTUALLY works). Once again, a Hollywood screenwriter publishes a book where pretty people=good, ugly people=bad, end of character development.

Which was a shame, because the premise was interesting, but I won't read another of his books, have already donated Ex-Heroes to the library, and am now much more diligent about reading author blurbs for new authors before I buy.
Dec. 15th, 2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
I read the Iron Druid series but it kind of left me cold -- I got a very Mary Sue vibe off the main character, at least in part because of the thing you mentioned where every female in the series wants into his pants.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, though -- that was gorgeous, and I loved it desperately.
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it was fun but a little unbelievably wish-fullfilmenty on the "my wolfhound brings all the girls to the yard" front. I might still track down the next one, though.

I do have to point out, though, that the main character of a non-fanfic literally cannot be a Mary Sue/Marty Stu; Seanan McGuire has explained this eloquently here and here.
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:15 pm (UTC)
Well, I suppose there's no pressing reason you can't nitpick the opinion I expressed about the feeling I got from the book. Then if you were to do so, I suppose I might counter by pointing out that I did not actually at any point say that the main character IS a Mary Sue, just that the way he was written gave me a Mary Sue type feeling, and therefore your nitpicking isn't really relevant to my comment.
Dec. 15th, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
Fine, then he's an author-insertion wish-fulfillment character who shares a lot of qualities with the Mary Sue/Marty Stu archetype.

One of the things which will make me classify an original protagonist as a MS is when the other characters seem to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about how wonderful the main character is. I don't know if that happens here, because I didn't get that far into the book -- but it's a big issue in the "Jefferson Hunt" series by Rita Mae Brown.
Dec. 15th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC)
If Mary Sue is used as shorthand for any character that's overly cool/admired and thereby assumed to be an author-insert, though, it pretty much loses all meaning as a term, since that's at least 75% of all protagonists. I mean, then Captain Kirk qualifies as a Mary Sue.
The point of a Mary Sue was that she/he was inserted into *someone else's story* and takes it over.

(And it's sexist as all get out, but that's a different discussion.)
Dec. 16th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC)
You're missing part of my point, but that might be because I didn't say it explicitly enough. "Other characters spending a lot of time talking about how great the protagonist is" reads as "Mary Sue" to me because it's bad writing. To use your own example, when do you hear the other Enterprise crew members talking about what a terrific guy Jim Kirk is? I think it happens in the episode "Court-Martial", but it's relevant there.

However, I don't have enough of a dog in this fight that I need to beat people over the head with how wrong their definition of Term X is. It's a matter of opinion.
Dec. 16th, 2014 02:24 am (UTC)
Seanan McGuire can argue the etymology of "Mary Sue" all she likes, but the meaning and usage of words evolves, especially subcultural slang.
Dec. 16th, 2014 04:24 am (UTC)
Sure, language evolves, but it doesn't lose its origins and connotations as it does, which in this case are very specifically sexist on several axes. If people really want to push "Mary Sue" into being an awkward synonym for bad characterization (which I have not seen previous to this thread, frankly, in term of this level of generic-ness in usage, I've only seen it used it ways much closer to the original), yeah, other people are going to push back and that is just as valid a part of the evolution.

Dec. 16th, 2014 11:12 am (UTC)
Fair enough. I think "Mary Sue is inherently sexist" and "Mary Sue only applies to fan fiction" are both going to be on the losing end of that evolution.

(I don't use Mary Sue simply to refer to bad characterization - to me, a Mary Sue is a character whom the author goes out of their way to convince the reader is awesome and loveable without earning it, who bends plot and other characters' behavior in unrealistic ways to highlight the Sue's awesomeness, by whom you can predict who the good guys and bad guys are by whether or not they like the Sue, etc.)
Dec. 15th, 2014 03:33 pm (UTC)
The Slow Regard of Silent Things was a love-it-or-hate-it kind of a book, and definitely not something to be read during distractions or in pieces. (ref.) Interestingly, I didn't get irritated about Auri's attention towards him as much as your note above implies that you did. I don't know if my lack of irritation was because we were seeing only a single week which was inserted into a plotline with an established relationship, or if the multiple topics of obsession kept me from focusing on that relationship. What delighted me about the story was the exploration of the concept that Auri is different, and that difference is not synonymous with weakness.

Edited: I keep saying I'm going to start the Iron Druid series and then don't. Darnit, that book is going on my stack!

Edited at 2014-12-15 03:34 pm (UTC)
Dec. 15th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
If you're looking for books loaded with female characters who are awesome in various ways, try Jay Kristoff's Lotus War books--Japanese Steampunk, chock full of fully-developed women, some of whom fight The Man via intrigue and politics, and some of whom do it via a tiger-griffin.
Dec. 15th, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC)
I bounced pretty hard off Hounded, largely because the vibe I got from the character was "900 going on 19" -- he acts like a really immature asshole, which is tolerable in someone who really is that young (because you expect that part of the plot will be a journey toward more wisdom) but much less so in somebody who's already been around for a couple of millennia.

OTOH, my partner liked it enough to have picked up some of the later books, so mileage obviously varies. And it's also possible that the dude is just more annoying (on average) to female readers than to male ones.
Dec. 15th, 2014 09:48 pm (UTC)
The Iron Druid series is one of my favourites (and yes i know Atticus is the The Bestest Eva. he does calm down a bit in later books). i <3 Oberon.

i read the first Kvothe book and i wanted to slap everyone so i didnt bother with any others.

i read Ex-Heroes: it has a cool premise and i would read the others if i found them in the library. as someone further upstream pointed out, it's basically an action film in book form.
Dec. 15th, 2014 11:08 pm (UTC)
I definitely get what you mean about Hounded and 'wish-fufillment' there. Atticus is very powerful and has many friends and allies and powers and as you say has goddesses lined up to sleep with him. On first reading it gave it a very 'trying too hard' sort of feel to it.

It was only when I re-read it, knowing what I was getting, that it improved for me. The trick was to treat it far less seriously than even The Dresden Files and except as even more of a light read; the book equivalent of a popcorn movie.

To continue the comparison the Dresden Files, Atticus is far more power than Harry Dresden but far more of a self-centered asshole. Harry at least as the grace of characters flaws and the sense to wonder if he's doing the right thing and if he's turning into a monster. Atticus doesn't/
Dec. 16th, 2014 02:27 am (UTC)
I've liked the Ex-Heroes series for what they are - popcorn entertainment.

I actually liked his modern-day Cthulhu novel 14 better.
Dec. 16th, 2014 05:04 am (UTC)
I couldn't get through Hounded's opening. It might be the later part is lower on naked women wanting sex with Atticus, but the opening lost me. It was very clear I wasn't the intended target audience.
Dec. 16th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
I want to read Ex-Heroes, but my reading list for the semester break is already pretty full, and I've got to get back in to tech reading as I started a new job last month and have to catch up on the new SQL Server and database paradigms.

I really enjoyed the Hearne series, a friend turned me on to it and I gobbled 'em up like candy, typically less than 48 hours per book. But I was also unemployed at the time. Part of my enjoyment comes from being a native Phoenician and recognizing his landmarks. Struck me as an interesting take on the Dresden/urban fantasy meme/trope/whatever.
Dec. 16th, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
Hounded : read everything to date. For the most part the first book is good, nice hook to draw you in for silly and fun. Nothing too serious. But later in the series the characters felt, to me, to really get their feet under them. There were points, for instance, that Atticus' age finally really came in to play. A moment of questioning why exactly he acts and talks how he does, and how he missteps at times. Which I don't often get... often ageless immortals feel like kids stuck in amber forever. There were moments when the character felt TIRED. And worn down. And old.

But that's just me. I love the series. It's not a huge Serious Work, but its got enough edges to parts of it that it was worth it for me to keep reading.

At least HALF of what I read these days comes from me trawling through your LJ to get your reviews to see what might interest me. :P
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


Latest Month

October 2018
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow