Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Title: The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Book 3)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
The Book Depository
“The Farthest Shore” by Ursula K. Le Guin is the third book in the Earthsea fantasy series and was the final book in the original trilogy although the series has of course been expanded since then. I think that this was my favourite novel in the series, and captivated me in ways that the other novels hadn’t. The scope was grand and the story felt like an epic adventure rather than being a collection of interlinked plot points which was an issue I had with the first novel.
The plot itself follows Ged, the Earthsea series’ most central figure who is now Archmage on the Isle of Roke. When, a young prince named Arren arrives with news that magic is disappearing from the more distant lands in Earthsea, Ged realises that he must head out and seek the cause. So, along with Arren he heads out away from Roke hunting out the cause of this magical loss in the hope that they can reverse it before it encroaches upon Roke itself.
As touched on in my first paragraph, this is a grand adventure that contains all the traditional elements of a fantasy epic; a threat to the entire world, an old and aged hero and a young and untested apprentice. It is exciting and fun in a manner that I hadn’t experienced with the other two books in the series but yet still manages to retain the ability to try and explore complex issues. For example, a prime thread is the novel is an interesting look at the almost universal fear of death in which humanity struggles to come to grips with the idea of future non-existence.
In regards to the writing, well the overall flow of the plot isn’t perfect and can meander a bit into detailed exposition as I have come to expect with Le Guin but there was still enough forward momentum to keep me hooked. The upside of this meandering plot is that once again we really get to visualise and understand both the world and its characters as Le Guin colourfully details everything. It is quite clear to me Le Guin has grown as a writer throughout the original trilogy learning and has managed to keep me both entertained with the plot in addition to enjoyed the world she had created.
One slightly negative observation I had is that there was no real continuation of the story of Tenar, from the previous book “The Tombs of Atuan”. Yes elements of what occurred in that book were touched upon but Tenar was reduced to being mentioned in the odd comment. After getting a real feeling for her in the last book it was disappointing not to see anything about how she moved on in life etc. After doing such a U-turn in the previous book to introduce the reader to her, it was disappointing to see her abandoned.
Overall, this has been my favourite book in the series so far and Le Guin has done a good job in mixing an epic adventure story with her love for exposition and world building. Yes, it doesn’t have the best narrative flow in the world but this isn’t anything new from Le Guin so I think that anyone who has enjoyed the previous books is in for a real treat with this one.
Thursday, 9 January 2014
Title: Star Trek Movie Memories
Author: William Shatner & Chris Kreski
“Star Trek Movie Memories” is pretty much William Shatner and Chris Kreski’s sequel to their earlier memoirs book, “Star Trek Memories”. However whilst “Star Trek Memories” focused on the creation, production and reception of the original series, this book looks at what happened after the series was cancelled and how the various Star Trek movies came to be.
The book basically chronicles the production of the first seven Trek movies right up until Shatner has to face Kirk’s death in Generations. It provides an insider’s perspective of the moviemaking process including the rather intriguing thought processes of the studios etc. Shatner personalises it all though by providing the odd funny story and behind the scenes antics that I will be trying to spot when I next watch the movies.
As someone who was born in the 1980’s it was the Star Trek movies that actually ignited my love for the franchise and so I was looking forward to delving into this book. So maybe there is some bias in the fact that I did enjoy this book more, but I do think the book seemed a little bit deeper, probably because Shatner’s memories of this period were much fresher.
As with the previous book, Shatner’s humour is evident throughout and I feel that he managed to keep his ego under reasonable control. In fact the only really Shatner centric element of the book is in regards to his touring across the country after the original series was cancelled and I actually found it rather interesting anyway. However once again we don’t get much from the other cast members in terms of interviews and opinions which I assume is due to some of the issues that they have with each other. This meant that the book was focused on a lot of the backroom and business issues rather than on cast escapades and other potentially interesting personal stories.
An interesting observation I had in regards to Shatner’s relationship with his cast mates is that when he commented on the various issues between them I found that he managed to avoid actually placing blame. He simply acknowledges the state of affairs and moves on which isn’t something you see in today’s world which is full of twitter spats etc. I am sure some people would still have rather seen him delve into a fiery blame game here but personally I found it all very tactful and was happy that he kept away from it.
Overall I think Shatner really did put his heart into writing this and whilst there are some elements of bias here and there due to people remembering things differently I still felt it was a reasonable attempt at some form of neutrality when you consider his close involvement with what went on. Other than that it was quite simply an interesting, entertaining and fun read that should appeal to most fans of Star Trek.
Wednesday, 1 January 2014
Title: BioShock: Rapture
Author: John Shirley
The Book Depository
As a fan of the Bioshock franchise I personally really enjoyed reading “Bioshock: Rapture” by John Shirley. It is probably ranks as one of the best video game based novel I have read and expertly links the events of both Bioshock & Bioshock 2 in an enjoyable and entertaining manner which helps to flesh out the world and backstory.
The novel itself starts at the end of World War II with the world now fearing the threat of annihilation after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Andrew Ryan, an incredibly wealthy industrialist believes nuclear war is inevitable and dreams of creating a place to escape the apocalypse. He also believes that such a place should be free of government, religion and censorship and so he decides to build Rapture, a city under the sea. The novel therefore takes the reader through the creation of the city right up until its collapse into civil war.
As the story commences there is a feeling of hope and ambition but as it progresses it begins to feel quite dark and violent as the reader get to see the ethically bankrupt actions occurring within the city. I quite liked this attempt by Shirley to take a mature look at the dangers of various ideologies and unrestrained science. These are things that were touched on in the game itself but the slower pace of the written novel and greater detail actually drives home the point.
I really appreciated the extra level of depth that this novel has given to the world of Rapture. It provides the reader with a different perspective for some of the events and bridges many of the gaps in narrative from the games. In addition I loved how Shirley has managed to flesh out many of the characters who may have previously just been a boss to fight or a name thrown in as part of the game’s narrative. These characters have been given back stories, personalities and relationships to the point that I felt a lot more empathy for many of them.
One thing to say is that if you haven’t played the video games then I doubt the book will appeal as much to you as it did to me. Yes, it is still an exciting and fun novel that takes an interesting look at the downfalls of extreme capitalism etc. but a fair amount of my own enjoyment came from seeing the events I heard about from playing the game and the greater understanding of Rapture’s lore. So if you haven’t played the games then there is probably still enough here for you to enjoy, but if you want the full experience you should consider picking up some cheap copies of Bioshock and Bioshock 2 first.
Overall, this is a superb example of what a decent video game tie in can be; entertaining, loyal to the feeling of the original games and full of interesting additional lore. If you have played the games then I advise you to pick up this book and delve deeper into the world of Rapture as I am sure you will love every minute.