Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

The Law of Nines

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind

Once upon a time, I read Wizard’s First Rule and liked it. I wish I had left it at that, but noooo. I just had to get another Goodkind book, and it had to be this one. At some point in his career, it seems Goodkind stopped writing fantasies and started writing political and social commentary. But not in a good way. Oh no, not in a good way. If you want to know Goodkind’s views on such subjects as texting, abstract art, gun control, women’s fashion and more, and you like endless repetition and asshole main characters, you may get something out of this book. If you just want a tightly written urban fantasy thriller, look elsewhere.

 

SUPER SPOILERY notes (all seven pages of them) under the spoiler tag. Direct quotes in bold. Sorry for all the caps shouting. :P

 

 

After he’d gone out with her a second time she had started sending him text messages. They were painfully petty. So, is Terry Goodkind one of those jackasses who bitches about Millennials on Twitter?

 

He couldn’t imagine this woman ever sending him a text message. Petty-texting Bethany is the woman he’s gone out with twice. He can tell from a glance that Mystery Woman, who he met five minutes ago, is ever so much more sophisticated. Okay, so it’s not cool of Bethany to keep sending texts when she knows Alex hates texting (respect boundaries, Bethany!), BUT Alex is still an asshole and Bethany deserves better. (But also, Bethany. My girl. Learn to read signals.)

 

Why does he do mental gymnastics to rationalize Mystery Woman knowing his name instead of asking her, “Hey, how’d you know my name?”

 

He pressed his lips tightly together in agitation at Bethany and her mindless texts and phone calls. They were never important, but they had just interrupted something that was. Our “hero,” ladies and gentlemen. Cut him loose, B. He’s an asshole.

 

He only glanced at the featured pieces on his way past. He had trouble calling them “works.” Oh, so Alex is one of those “abstract art isn’t art” types. No wonder the gallery owner looks so “happy” to see him.

 

The gallery owner tries to give Alex a heads-up on what type of art is selling in the current market and Alex is all (paraphrasing) “Maybe MY work would be selling if you showed it more, Mr. Martin!” And Mr. Martin, who has clearly had it with tortured artists who’d rather starve than compromise their “artistic vision,” basically says “I do show your trite little landscapes, Alex. Nobody’s buying that tired crap.” Am I supposed to sympathize with Mr. Martin? Because I totally do.

 

Talking about his art: The woman, after all, had liked it. And she easily appeared more intelligent than any of Mr. Martin’s collectors. And: He knew that no matter how hungry he got he would never throw paint at a canvas and pretend it was art. 1) Hah! I knew it! 2) It’s page 18 and I loathe the “hero,” but there is plenty of time for character growth (please, Lord, let there be character growth). 3) I’m starting to wonder if Goodkind’s house is full of wall-to-wall Thomas Kinkade.

 

Yet when Alex looked at the way other people lived, the things they did, the things they believed, he thought that he was the sanest person he knew. He often wondered how people could be so deluded about things, like the way they would believe it was art if someone else simply said it was. OMG this guy is SO BITTER about abstract art outselling his landscapes. SO VERY BITTER.

 

Alex is still avoiding Bethany instead of, I don’t know, maybe telling her “Hey, you seem nice, but I’m not interested.” And then he says this: “No, I mean she’d rather be out going to clubs and drinking than doing anything with her life. In fact, she wants to get me drunk for my birthday. There’s more to life than just partying.” WHOA. ALEX IS SO DEEP. OMG, WHY IS THIS 27-YR-OLD TRUE ARTISTE WHO ISN’T DOING ANYTHING WITH HIS LIFE BESIDES PAINTING LANDSCAPES THAT DON’T SELL STILL SINGLE? WHY HASN’T SOMEONE ALREADY SNATCHED UP THIS PRIME SPECIMEN OF JUDGMENTAL ASS? I AM FLABBERGASTED!

 

So now he’s inherited 50k acres in Maine. Ridiculous restrictions on the inheritance are in play. Taking bets now on whether the imaginary landscape Alex painted is connected to this surprise inheritance. (Just kidding! We all know it is.)

 

Oh. His name is Alexander Rahl. So in other words, this book is an exercise in How to Try Something New Without Trying Anything New by Writing a Sword of Truth Book Thinly Disguised as Urban Fantasy. (Oh, haha! Goodreads lists it as Sword of Truth #15.5)

 

They said there was brain damage that couldn’t be reversed. While they weren’t exactly sure what had caused the damage to her brain, they said that, among other things, it caused her to sometimes become violent. They said that such damage was not reversible. There is SO MUCH REPETITION. I hope this pattern doesn’t continue.

 

Dear lord, the ableism. I almost wish I had the Kindle version so I could run a search to see how many times he uses words like crazy and insane. (It seems like A LOT even—especially—for a book with an institutionalized side character.)

 

About Bethany again: She was a living, breathing example of superficial, and willfully so. She seemed to have no interests other than that she had a kind of odd, narrow focus on him and the two of them having a good time—or, at least, what was a good time by her definition. Okay. I think I have the measure of this now. Bethany is a villain using her “superficial” feminine wiles to get close to Alex. There is literally no other explanation for a woman willingly spending time with this douche canoe.

 

“But I like you.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” She paused a moment. “You get me hot,” she finally said, falling back on her lusty voice, as if lust was magic that could banish any objections. He imagined that it very well might with most men, but he wasn’t most men. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! O. M. G. I. AM. DYING. “Not like other girlsguys™.”

 

So someone walked into the gallery, paid cash for all of Alex’s paintings, then scribbled obscenities all over them with a permanent marker (the only one specified being “F*CK YOU ASSHOLE) and told Mr. Martin to give them back to Alex. 1) The real hero has obviously arrived. Truly, this man is a champion of the people. 2) I really want him to be an abstract artist who bought the six paintings with the pocket change left over after he bought a Porsche with the proceeds from his last commission.

 

Jax the Mystery Woman says something to Alex that his mother recently said to him, so he flips out and slams her up against a wall, then demands an explanation and thinks about how he could crush her throat. 1) His reaction is completely unjustified. 2) Jax doesn’t knee him in the balls and take him down right then and there. I am disappointed, Jax. You’re fired.

 

“By the way, covens have to do with witches—thirteen of them—not sorcerers. I’d not even like to contemplate thirteen witch women all together in one place at once. They’re known for their rather rash temperament. Be glad they can’t get here; they’d simply gut you and be done with it.” I would like to see an Alex-gutting. If someone starts a Gofundme to help the witches get here, I WILL DONATE!

 

As Alex turned onto Atlantic Street, headed home, he saw a red glow in the sky. Within a few blocks it became clear that it was a fire. A house in the distance was burning. A red glow lit billowing black smoke. So we’ve decided to stick with the needless repetition, then? Cool, cool. These little repetitions within the same paragraph are almost more annoying than the repetitive dialogue infodumps and introspection. How much shorter would this book be without all of the repetition?

 

Ben is dead. Should have seen that coming, but I was thrown off by his being the grandfather instead of the uncle.

 

Chapter 14 is really short, but it still manages to be full of repetition, you know, in case we’d all forgotten how much Alex hates texting and thinks Bethany is pretty but shallow. And then he answers the door and Bethany shoots him and it all feels worth it somehow.

 

The first sentence of Ch. 15: Before Alex was able to dodge more than a few inches to the side, the gun went off. On the very next page: He’d had time to move only inches before she’d pulled the trigger. The more of these I find (and I’m not noting them all), the more I wonder. Has Goodkind Ann Riced his editors, or what?

 

Alex just killed a dude in a manner that suggested he knew what he was doing. I don’t remember any prior mention of his having martial arts training.

 

Bethany is indeed a villain. She occasionally refers to herself in the third person. And she’s there to rape Alex after she’s done tasing him into submission. On the one hand, ugh, why? On the other hand, this is weirdly refreshing and I can’t wait for Alex to be victim-blamed. (I am so petty.)

 

Alex didn’t think she was all that familiar with technology. He thinks this after Bethany accidentally tases herself by pulling the trigger while her skin is in contact with the Taser barbs in his chest. Despite the fact that she’s perfectly versed in the use of cell phones and was using the Taser like a pro prior to this. In other words, Alex has no reason to think this.

 

HAHAHAHA!!! Alex got slut-shamed.

 

He appears to have zero trauma from the sexual assault. At least he spared a thought for the guy he killed, I guess. Well, one of them.

 

The heroic painting vandalizer is not, in fact, an abstract artist. Disappointment. Oooh! Unless this Radell Cain guy he works for is really RC Dillion, the artist whose abstract works Alex was looking down his nose at earlier.

 

Oh, goody. A repeat of the “magic is like technology” speech. I really wanted another one of those.

 

Ye gods, this “what would happen if all of our technology stopped working” speech is SO VERY PREACHY. Also, the word “filth” features quite a lot.

 

This whole Prophesied Chosen One thing is so, so tired.

 

Now we’re onto “true art is magic” and I’m even more suspicious that Radell Cain is RC Dillion, abstract (and therefore not “true”) artist. “Art—good art—involves principles of balance, flow, placement, and composition, among other things. These elements must be in harmony, each element working with all the others, in order for art to have a deep meaning to us, for it to truly touch our souls.” Jax says this, but I still hear Goodkind sneering at abstract artists.

 

Jax tells Alex she knows he’s The One because she spied on him magically through his studio mirror and saw him cry for his dead grandfather and then get angry and pound his fist on his desk as he cried. I cannot with how lame this sounds: “You were angry at death for taking him. You were raging against death itself. You raged against death because life means that much to you.” OMG I read it aloud and it sounds even stupider.

 

Now they’re getting Jax some Earth clothes so she can blend in better and I can’t help thinking “Obligatory changing room montage!” Also, I should start keeping a list of things this book makes me think Terry Goodkind must hate. So far we’ve got:

 

  • Texting
  • Women who text
  • Abstract art
  • Being concise
  • Distressed jeans
  • Women who buy and wear distressed jeans

 

That magic shop Confessor reference feels horribly shoehorned in there. “Woman of Mystery” my ass.

 

“The [magic] this world misses we have, but we’re going to lose it just so a few people can seize power for themselves. Everything we have is going to be taken from us. It’s all going to be destroyed at the cost of millions of lives just so a few people can grab power.” At this point I’m estimating this book would be a good 150-200 pages shorter if characters could refrain from repeating themselves and thinking/talking in circles.

 

Five seemingly unnecessary paragraphs dedicated to a torture/interrogation method the painting defacer likes to use. I’m predicting this very thing shows up later, and I’m giving myself a cookie when it does.

 

While he was licensed to carry in Nebraska, that license wasn’t valid in other places, especially Boston, where the law took a dim view of people protecting themselves. And in the next paragraph: Alex had a very clear-cut belief about his fundamental right to his own life. He didn’t think that he should have to die just because a criminal wanted to take his life. He had one life and he believed that he had the right to defend it, simple as that. And in the next paragraph: He wasn’t willing to die because of the dogmatic principles of imperious public officials. It was his life, not theirs. Every single one of these little preachy, repetitive rants feels like an author intrusion. Adding to the list of things Goodkind probably hates:

 

  • Gun control

 

Alex watched her sign her name. He hadn’t known her last name before. After dropping this little tidbit, Jax’s last name isn’t revealed. I’d bet a box of doughnuts it’s Amnell.

 

When they finally entered the big, bright room at the end of the corridor, several of the woman clustered near the television looked up, but then went back to their show. There were a few other woman scattered around the room but Alex didn’t pay any attention to them. Fun with typos! At first I thought how much more interesting this scene would be if they weren’t typos and the room was full of one woman’s clones, but then I read it again and now I’m hearing Animal from the Muppets shouting “WOMAN!” and that’s even better!

 

Cookie time!

 

Oh, for @#%$’s sake. I’d decided to stop noting things like this because there are just too damn many, but this is waaaaay beyond the pale. This is all from the same conversation, and it’s only a small sample of all the drugging and feeling and caring repetition in this chapter:

 

  1. In her drugged state she probably wouldn’t be able to understand it all, or to care a great deal.
  2. “She’s drugged. She won’t feel it. I know. I’m drugged the same way and I don’t really feel much of anything or care.”
  3. “She won’t feel it much or care.”
  4. “This drugged up, neither of us will feel it or care.”
  5. “She won’t really be aware of the pain, or care.”

 

BUT WILL THEY FEEL IT, THOUGH? WILL THEY CARE? WILL THEY??? Also, I should mention that all of this was part of the obligatory threat of raping/torturing the woman to gain the alleged hero’s compliance. Ah, well. At least the action has picked up enough to distract me from what an asshole Alex is.

 

Jax wiped a weary hard across her face. Poor hard! Let it get some rest!

 

ALL of the villain’s henchmen are giant beefcakes. ALL of them. Why?

 

The host on the TV was fawning over an actress who thought she was brilliant because she happened to have been born beautiful and read lines written by other people. It amazed Alex what qualified a person for being worthy of adulation. Whelp, we’re at a lull in the action and I suddenly have nothing to distract me from what an asshole Alex is. Jax, who also happened to be born beautiful, is lucky she kills people for a living instead of acting. Otherwise Alex might scorn her too. Also added to the list of things Goodkind must hate:

 

  • Actresses

 

And I’m going to go out on a limb and throw in:

 

  • Women in general

 

So they’ve figured out that Cain wants Alex to open some sort of gateway so he can transport weapons and technology and stuff to Jax’s world and rule with an iron fist after he strips the world of magic. This is offered without a blush or a sideways glance or even the least hint of irony regarding Alex’s stance on gun control. I think my brain is melting.

 

OH MY FREAKING GREAT AUNT GERTRUDE I WAS RIGHT. I THOUGHT IT WAS TOO STUPID TO BE TRUE BUT NO. RADELL CAIN IS RC FREAKING DILLION AND HE’S GOING TO BE DEFEATED BY ALEX’S “SUPERIOR” ARTISTIC VISION. ALL OF THAT “ABSTRACT ART ISN’T ART” GARBAGE IS ACTUALLY CENTRAL TO THE PLOT AND I HATE THIS BOOK SO MUCH AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

 

So, now that I’ve guessed the ending I’m going to be really bored for the next forty-odd pages. :/

 

When she handed him the knife, he started to wipe the blood off. Jax stopped him. “No, leave it.”

Alex frowned at her. “Why?”

“These blades were made to draw blood. It should have a taste to wake it from its long sleep to its purpose.” What knife-respecting assassin tells someone to sheath a dirty blade?

 

“I love you, Jax Amnell.” I owe myself a box of doughnuts.

 

Oh ho, now she’s all “trust me no matter what” and “never doubt that I love you” before he goes to sleep. She might as well write “I’m ditching you and going it alone without telling you my plan” in reflective paint on her forehead. (I hope her forehead’s big enough. Maybe she could get it printed on a T-shirt instead.)

 

Alex held his hand out. “I need the knife.”

Radell Cain’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“To open the gateway.”

“And how is the knife going to do that?”

“Opening the gateway requires the person named by the Law of Nines. Right?”

Cain studied his face for a moment. “Go on.”

Alex spread his hands. “So how the hell is the gateway supposed to know it’s me, know I’m the one named by the Law of Nines? Do you think that because it’s me I can simply say ‘Open sesame’ and the gateway will recognize me as the one and open? There is no magic in this world, so how is the gateway to know that I’m the one that is able to open it?”

“I give up, how?” Cain asked with clear distaste for the game Alex was playing. (I FEEL YOU, CAIN. I FEEL YOU. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.)

“Blood.”

“Blood?”

“Yes. It needs my blood to recognize that I’m the one who is able to open it.” GAH!!! THE WHOLE BOOK IS WRITTEN LIKE THIS. Here, let me fix it for you:

 

Alex held his hand out. “I need the knife.”

Radell Cain’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“I think we need my blood to open the gateway.”

 

THERE. I just saved you half a page of circular, repetitive conversation. YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

“For the gateway to work […] one of the trees has to be removed [from a drawing on the magical gateway control panel], just like I removed one in that painting I gave you.”

Jax was frowning in earnest. “How are you supposed to know which one to remove?”

“Easy. You take out the one that doesn’t fit the composition.” Alex laid a finger on one of the trees. “This one spoils the composition of the drawing. It doesn’t belong. An artist would know that. I knew it the instant I first saw it. Radell Cain didn’t see it because he wasn’t really an artist.” . . . . . . . . . . . . @#$% you, book. I hate you so much.

(show spoiler)

 

Reading progress update: I've read 502 out of 502 pages.

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind

Oh my gosh. Okay. It didn't take me long to read this and I didn't realize I'd taken so many notes, but you guys. YOU GUYS. I wrote SEVEN PAGES OF NOTES on how much this book annoyed me. SEVEN. PAGES.

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas

This is one of those books I don’t feel the need to review in depth. Many have already done so, and if I forget parts of this book because I didn’t write my impressions down, I will happily read it again. And tell everyone else to read it.

 

Seriously. Go read it.

 

Then go see the movie when it comes out. I don’t know if Australian theaters will run it, so I may need to live vicariously through you Statesiders until I can get it on Blu-Ray.

Jane Steele

Jane Steele  - Lyndsay Faye

Super short review because I am sick and have the attention span of a gnat:

 

If, like me, you HATED Jane Eyre and thought it would have been vastly improved by a higher body count, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. If you LOVED Jane Eyre, this may also be the book for you as it’s somewhat similar, only more murdery.*

 

 

*I draft my reviews in Word. Once Word became (extremely reluctantly) reconciled to the fact that I didn’t want it to auto-correct “murdery,” it tried to convince me to change “more murdery” to “murderier.” I have no idea what I’ve won, but I’m calling this a victory anyway. XD

The Tower of Shadows

The Tower of Shadows - Drew C. Bowling

Once upon a time, more than a decade ago now, I picked up this book from a bargain table. I’m sure I paid less than five dollars, but still. Mistakes were made. I have regrets.

 

Judging by the original publication date, I’m going to hazard a guess that this book is the result of Del Rey trying to recreate Christopher Paolini’s magic formula by finding another young man with literary ambitions and publishing his fantasy-themed teenage doodles. I’m further guessing that they snapped up this manuscript, which was in no way ready to see the light of day, and rushed it through edits in an attempt to strike while the Paolini iron was still hot. Whether or not that’s how it went down, this is not the “fabulous first novel in a major new epic fantasy series” the blurb promises. The writing is weak and amateurish and whatever editing it received couldn’t save it. By putting this book out in the state it’s in, Del Rey did Bowling one hell of a disservice. It’s no wonder the rest of the series never materialized.

 

I should have put this book down and walked away, but the pedant in me (that mean, bitchy pedant) kept turning pages and taking notes. When I get like this, I think I should change my name to Darth Pedantic or something similar. (Honestly, that probably should have been my name from the start.) For the curious, I’ll put my bitchy, pedantic notes under a spoiler tag. (There are a lot, and they're spoilery.) For the not-so-curious, I’ll just say that if you had journaled your D&D campaigns back in high school, they’d probably be on par with this book quality-wise and you might’ve been able to convince Del Rey to publish them during the peak of the Paolini craze.

 

 

Direct quotes in bold.

 

As the two horsemen peered across the moor, they sensed their curiosity darkening toward suspicion. ~ There. Fixed it for ya.

 

He stroked the hilt of his sword reassuringly and patted his whickering mount. ~ Why did his sword need reassuring? It doesn’t appear to be sentient. (More’s the pity.)

 

Kendran, a limber, cheery man who looked and acted ten years younger than he should have, was vigorously running a stained cloth in ever-widening circles up and down the bar. The bar was not getting any cleaner and the rag he was using was hopelessly stained, but the innkeeper did not seem to notice that his efforts were wasted. ~ Every other paragraph is like this. So much double describing. Where were all the editors the author thanked in his acknowledgments? What did they actually do?

 

Scholars and servants swarmed over the library’s white carpet, which had been stained crimson. ~ They’re not swarming. They’re dead.

 

Along the walls, statues of trumpeting sea horses seemed to blow blasts of warning at the carnage before them. Everywhere the shouts of the living fell on the ears of the dead.  ~ And what were they seemingly warning the carnage about? (Six. Six editors thanked in the acknowledgments.)

 

Still she moved farther into the room, driven by a strange curiosity, until she heard two voices, one a whisper and the other a weak groan. ~ How is she hearing that over all those “shouts of the living”? (Never mind that she’s seen only corpses so far. Unless living people really were inexplicably swarming the bloody carpet instead of running for the exits? It’s hard to tell. Only the corpses get descriptions.)

 

“Cade is relentlessly searching for his brother so that he can use him to raise the demon. He needs [his brother’s] blood to complete the summoning, as the black magic used to reverse the Exilon’s magic and free a demon will work only when a sorcerer sacrifices the blood of a sibling.” ~ 1. The dialogue and infodumping are terrible. 2. I guess sorcerers with no siblings are just out of luck, then? Sorry, only children. No demon summoning for you!

 

“You should be able to identify Corin by his limp, a remnant of his childhood encounter with the Coven in the village and by his curly blond hair.” ~ Six editors, y’all.

 

Adriel the Wizard: “I have a bad feeling about this cave that I have absolutely no good reason to enter. I’m going in anyway. Oh, look! Something bad was inside the cave that I had a bad feeling about and no good reason to enter! WHAT ARE THE ODDS???” (This is so very, very telegraphed and ham-fisted.)

 

Wren’s sword keeps changing. First it has an obsidian hilt. Then it has an obsidian cross-hilt. Then it has an ivory hilt. Six. Editors.

 

Wren rubbed his whetstone along the sides of his sword. ~ Rubbed . . . along . . . the sides . . .

 

The old woman’s brown skin accented the whiteness of her hair, and light from the window ran through it, lending her an eerie halo. ~ So . . . transparent woman? (SIX EDITORS.)

 

Slicing his sword at the last possible instant, the assassin swatted the knife away, jumping aside as the horse swept past, and charged onto the Fairsway. ~ The action scenes are a mess. Bonus points to anyone who can guess whether it's the assassin or the horse who is charging onto the Fairsway.

 

To her right mountains stretched into the distance. Like a rocky spine bordering the sea, she thought. ~ They’re called the Seaspine Mountains. I never would have guessed from the name that they look like a spine by the sea. Ever.

 

Wren: “We’re being chased by assassins and there’s only one structure for miles in which we can possibly hide. So let’s definitely trap ourselves in this lighthouse that I have a bad feeling about. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG???” (It’s becoming a pattern.)

 

Corin has zero reaction to learning his brother is alive. He just gets pouty about being dragged into the whole flimsy demon summoning revenge plot.

 

The assassins will take me to Cane. ~ No, Cane is handing you over to the assassins, who will take you to Cade. This is what happens when you have a main villain named Cade and a side villain named Cane and six editors not paying attention.

 

Is the constant action meant to distract from the thinness of the plot?

 

Oh no! Two characters I hardly knew and didn’t care about are dead!

 

“Thank the gods,” Adriel said. His staff lent the chamber its only light. “You are no longer crippled.” ~ OH SO THAT’S HOW YOU WANT TO PLAY IT, HUH? THE MAGIC “CURED” YOUR ONLY DISABLED CHARACTER OF HIS SLIGHTLY INCONVENIENT LIMP? I SEE YOU, DREW. I SEE YOU.

 

Wren sat in his saddle, watching with his stormy blue eyes as sunbeams glided on the horizon. ~ What else is he going to watch with, pray tell?

 

And we’re done! Ye gods, this is bad.

(show spoiler)

 

Darth Plagueis

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis - James Luceno

On the one hand, this book is an excellent companion to the prequel trilogy of films and I’m a little sad it’s no longer canon. On the other hand, this novel is so bloated with Extended Universe references that it’s a perfect example of why The Powers That Be decided wiping that particular slate clean was for the best. Still, I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of how the Republic was so thoroughly corrupted. Most of that aspect is still canon. Just be prepared for more intergalactic politicking than you can shake a lightsaber at (yay!) as well as scads of scientific and philosophical discussions of midi-chlorians (boo). I would rate it higher, but I kind of hated the ending for reasons I’ll put under a spoiler tag:

 

Holy bantha poodoo, that climax was a letdown. I get it. I do. There was a lesson to be learned here. Plagueis got complacent. He truly felt the Rule of Two was obsolete and trusted that his apprentice felt the same. He thought he’d achieved immortality through his control over the midi-chlorians and was above such mortal concerns as assassination anyway. He rather thoroughly set himself up for a fall. And I wanted that fall to be spectacular. I imagined all these epic showdowns between Sidious and Plagueis, and what happens instead? Plagueis is defeated because he lets his guard down on the eve of victory and takes A NAP. And then Sidious just breaks his breathing mask with a little Force lightning and basically proceeds to monologue him to death while a vaguely described “force storm” knocks over some furniture. Are you kidding me with this? THIS is what the whole book was building up to? Bah! I’m going to listen to Duel of the Fates on repeat until I feel better.

(show spoiler)

Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 481 pages.

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis - James Luceno

"Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice." ~Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

 

I haven't read any of the Legends stuff involving Darth Bane, so I'm going to make up my own head canon in which he started this "Rule of Two" rumor to throw off the Jedi. The REAL rule that the Sith actually follow goes more like this:

 

"Always at least two there are. A master and an apprentice. And a spare apprentice or two in the wings in case the first one doesn't work out. And the apprentices' apprentices. And probably a bunch of Force sensitive younglings kept hidden from the Jedi just in case it all goes pear-shaped."

 

Not as catchy, I know. My alternate head canon is that Yoda is a lying liar who lies. From a certain point of view, that is. ;)

Eep!

This is a non-bookish-but-tangentially-book-related post to illustrate how I am a terrible procrastinator and how fear is a great motivator.

 

Amazon and the Australian government are having an ongoing tiff over sales tax on products imported to Australia by Australian customers. As a result, Amazon has announced it will soon stop allowing Australians to ship Amazon products from any Amazon site but Amazon AU. I have no idea what this means in terms of digital content, so just to be safe I decided to make sure my Kindle library is backed up on my computer.

 

And that is how I discovered I am terribly lazy and irresponsible re: all the digital content I've purchased over the past ten years.

 

There were over 900 books in my Kindle library that I hadn't backed up on my computer.

 

So. Guess what I've been doing for the past three days.

 

Bel Canto

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

I was in high school when the Japanese embassy hostage crisis, the inspiration for Bel Canto, unfolded in Lima, Peru. It lasted from December 17, 1996 to April 22, 1997. I remember how it was resolved, so I knew going in that this wasn’t likely to end well for anyone. I told myself not to get attached to any of the characters, just in case. I failed.

 

Despite my determination not to, I slipped into the Stockholm syndrome as unsuspectingly as the characters. One moment I was reading in a suitably detached fashion about child soldiers pointing guns at foreign dignitaries, and the next thing I knew I was super invested in even the tiniest things. (Did Gen Watanabe ever get to eat his slice of cake, or did one of his captors or fellow hostages swipe it while he was being forced to play interpreter/secretary to terrorists? THIS WAS NEVER RESOLVED OMG I AM SO UPSET I CANT EVEN PUNCTUATE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAKE ANN PATCHETT ASDJGHKASDHKJAH)

 

The writing is beautiful and sucked me in completely. The story is so, so sad, and I can’t decide if I love or hate the epilogue. So I’m just going to sit over here and eat chocolate and stew in my conflicted feelings for a while.

A Certain Light

A Certain Light - Cynthia Banham

Full disclosure: I won an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway I don’t remember entering. I mean, I must have entered it. It’s right there on the list of giveaways I’ve entered. I had to have clicked on the giveaway and gone through several confirmation steps. It’s not something one can do by accident. The only explanation I can come up with is that I was super fibro-fogged that night and brainlessly entered a bunch of giveaways for books I wouldn’t normally be interested in.

 

You see, I don’t generally care for memoirs. I prefer biographies. Linear, non-rambly biographies. And if I’d been in a non-fogged state, I would have steered clear of the memoir of a catastrophically injured plane crash survivor. (I am very uncomfortable with the whole inspiration porn thing. Not that this is inspiration porn, but I wouldn’t have taken the chance.)

 

But since the book showed up on my doorstep and the genealogy aspect did sound interesting, I decided to give it a shot. And I did enjoy the parts about the author exploring her family history, though I found the book as a whole to be a bit repetitive and disjointed in a stream-of-consciousness, memoirish way that would be perfectly fine if I liked memoirs.

 

My biography preference aside, this was well-written and I learned a lot of things about Italian soldiers in WWII that my teachers never covered in history class.

The Seven Dials Mystery

The Seven Dials Mystery - Agatha Christie

Superintendent Battle remains inscrutable as ever in his second book, but this time Bundle Brent gets the chance to shine that was denied her in The Secret of Chimneys. And shine she does, so brightly that she nearly blinds poor Battle. While Seven Dials doesn’t seem to have quite the same sarcastic Clue vibe as Chimneys, it is still a rollicking good read. What it lacks in profuse absurdity it more than makes up for in Bundle’s kick-assery.

The Sittaford Mystery

The Sittaford Mystery - Agatha Christie

Between this and The Secret of Chimneys, I’m starting to get the impression that Christie was on a crusade to single-handedly take down the “policemen in detective novels are stupid” trope. Once again, we have a murder mystery where the police are competent and on top of things and aren’t completely outshone by the amateur detectives. And I’m all for it. Should I be murdered for being too sarcastic and/or pedantic at the wrong moment (the most likely motive, IMO), I’d like to think intelligent, competent homicide detectives will see I get justice. And if I could get Emily Trefusis in my corner too, well! Watch out, hypothetical murderer! Your hypothetical days as a hypothetical non-prison inmate are numbered! Hypothetically.

The Secret of Chimneys

The Secret of Chimneys - Agatha Christie

This is one of Christie’s earlier works, first published in 1925. It’s got pretty much everything: blackmail, a missing diamond, political intrigue, master criminals, secret passages, murder, kidnapping—everything. The plot is convoluted, ridiculous, and some threads are left dangling. It’s also utterly entertaining, especially if you’re in the mood for something ridiculous and you picture the cast of the Clue movie in all the roles. At least, that was my experience.

 

I adored Anthony and Virginia, and Superintendent Battle too, though he didn’t get much page time and spent most of it being inscrutable. I’d love to see a big or small screen adaptation that follows the book and doesn’t shoehorn Miss Marple in there. Battle doesn’t need her help.

 

‘Detective stories are mostly bunkum,’ said Battle unemotionally. ‘But they amuse people,’ he added, as an afterthought. ‘And they’re useful sometimes.’

‘In what way?’ asked Anthony curiously.

‘They encourage the universal idea that the police are stupid. When we get an amateur crime, such as a murder, that’s very useful indeed.’

Parker Pyne Investigates

Parker Pyne Investigates - Agatha Christie

This is a collection of twelve short stories, all pretty enjoyable, if somewhat disconcerting. Mr. Parker Pyne is one terrifying individual with some rather questionable views on women, marriage, and how to achieve happiness (lying, assault, and kidnapping are all acceptable methods according to him). I was entertained, but I was not in the least surprised that no Mrs. Parker Pyne is ever alluded to. ;)

Why Didn't They Ask Evans?

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? - Agatha Christie

Not Christie’s best work. It’s mildly entertaining, but there came a point about halfway through when I started wishing Frankie and Bobby would just call in the police and go home. I’m not used to wishing my amateur sleuths would find different hobbies. :|

OBSIDIO

Obsidio - Jay Kristoff, Amie Kaufman

I really enjoyed this end to the series, but not as much as the other two books. The reason for this is, quite simply, most of the suspense was gone due to Kaufman and Kristoff tipping their hand too early (like, back-in-book-one early), so the tension died a quick death and the nonstop action kind of turned into a slog. But at least Ella called AIDAN out in a blistering paragraph that included the phrase “[insert masturbatory literary allusion here]”. Oh yeah, AIDAN. Ella’s got your number, pal!

 

I have thoughts and I want to purge them (long, rambly thoughts), but they’re super spoilery so I’ll hide them under a tag.

 

 

The reader learns at the end of Illuminae that Kady and Ezra make it out alive. And that’s fine. Book two introduced new characters whose fates were uncertain, so there’s still plenty of tension and suspense. Then partway through book three the reader learns Nik is the analyst who transcribed most of the video transcripts, including some that he couldn’t have if he and Ezra had died when their Chimera was shot down (and OMG the stupid parachute thing was soooooo telegraphed). So the reader knows Nik lives, and what could have been some awesome natural drama when Kady thinks they’re dead turned into painfully manufactured drama. Blerg.

 

After the analyst reveal, the only characters left with uncertain fates are Ella (though I thought it was strongly implied she’s one of the Illuminae Group’s hackers, and I’m pretty sure Mr. Biggles II is immortal), Hanna (who lives at least long enough to illustrate a few comic panels), and the couple du jour, Rhys and Asha. (And, of course, all the periphery characters and faceless masses that the massive death tolls of the previous two books taught the reader not to get attached to.) Though they were main characters, I didn’t get as attached to Rhys and Asha as I did to the other couples, probably because they got a fraction of the page time and I’d already spent two books thinking of Asha as the dead cousin. Basically, K&K threw too many frogs in the cauldron and screwed up the magic formula. I mean, if they can make me not hate the idea of shipping a spoiled princess and her drug dealer, something’s gone wrong if they can’t make me ship young lovers torn apart by circumstances and reunited years later on the other side of the known universe. (“What are the odds???” she asked sarcastically and rhetorically.)

 

The lack of a horror element also threw off the magic formula. Book one had a mutating bio weapon turning ordinary folk into psychotic super humans a la Firefly’s Reapers (Phobos is basically Pax, let's face it). Book two had the psychotropic facehugger aliens. Book three’s self-proclaimed monster is AIDAN, and it just does not cut the mustard. They might as well have brought vials of Phobos or lanima babies onboard the Mao. The outcomes would have been at least scarier, if no less predictable.

 

Also, I’m kind of pissed off that “Greater Good” AIDAN the Serial Mass Murderer got to end the book by announcing its continuing existence. Second chance my ass. It already got a second chance. And what did it do? Save two universes. Okay, fair enough. I can see giving it a third chance off the back of that. And what did it do with chance #3? Murder two people at the first opportunity, followed by the murder of two thousand more once it had refined its technique. It murdered five hundred or so more when it got its fourth chance (sorry, Churchill crew, all’s fair in love and war), so it’s actually on its fifth chance. [Edit: No! It’s on its sixth chance! Its second chance was when it murdered ¾ of the Alexander population.] I hope that pop song malware from book two infects its new servers and corrupts it so badly it spends the rest of its operational life singing about licking some guy’s lollipop. [bleep] you, discount HAL.

 

And lastly, things that bothered me throughout all three books:

 

I have to say that while the cute little YA Author Easter eggs were kind of fun, they were also distracting. The emotional impact of casualty lists and the like was greatly diminished by the compulsion to look for familiar names of living authors.

 

The inexplicable psychic ability to see other (often dead) people’s thoughts displayed by AIDAN and the “analysts” ripped me out of the story every single time.

 

Nothing to do with the writing, but these books stink. Literally. Thanks to the illustrations and stylistic renderings of reports and chat logs and AIDAN’s masturbatory literary allusions, they reek like a stack of newspapers fresh off the press. The ink smell was so strong on Obsidio (the newest one) that it actually gave me headaches and I had to read in short bursts. Ye gods! I almost wish I got ebooks instead!

(show spoiler)

 

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The Complete Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton