It had to happen sooner or later.
I figure that I should start posting my thoughts about the books I’m reading for the Auroras, mainly so that I don’t forget what I’m voting on. I’ve tried to actually create a form for myself, so that I can try to be fairly even-handed in the way I treat the books. I’ve tried to think of the things that I’m taking away from the books, positive and negative.
So far I haven’t read anything truly bad. Not that I expected that I would need to. Some of the content, however, raises questions for me, and the method I’m using to break it down seems to help.
Here are the questions I’m asking myself for my “reviews”. You can consider it a kind of “fill in the blanks” for the blog.
What is the outstanding “trend” in the book? (ie: outer space, aliens, dragons, elves, parallel worlds, etc):
I guess some would call this a hook? Personally, I look at it as a theme running through the book that rather stands out. For instance:
Harry Potter: You’re a Wizard, Harry.
The Hobbit: Dwarves. Lots and lots of ’em.
Star Wars: Space ships and lightsabers!
You get the picture.
Is there a Message?:
Terry Pratchett was a master at this. By the time I was halfway through the Discworld series, I’d started noticing that he was weaving subtle commentary on dearly held beliefs into his humorous fantasies. Often the results were breathtaking. As I said, he was a master. Some people do not have this talent and it feels like you’re being bludgeoned with The Stick of Annoyance until you want to hurl the book across the room (or track down the author and physically hurl them across the room. Take your pick. I’m going with the easy option).
Any other genres incorporated into the book? Was it done well?:
Because sometimes Fantasy & Science Fiction are just that. And then sometimes they’re not. The lines get really blurry, for instance, on the spectrum spanning Magic Realism, Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance. And then there are other subgenres like the ‘Punk variations, where you have a kind of urban fantasy with science fiction technology (Cyberpunk), or steam powered gadgetry (Steampunk), etc.
Is the “trend” realistic?:
Yes or no and why. Because sometimes things just seem contrived. Sometimes things just get bloody trendy. I could be talking about vampires, but between you, me and the wall over there, vampires are never going out of style. Ann Rice would stage a rebellion. I’m talking about how one year it’s elves, elves, elves and the next it’s dragons, dragons, dragons, and if that wasn’t bad enough, how about we just write dystopian novels for the rest of the decade?
Soylent green is people, by the way.
Was the book easy to get into?:
See, here’s an easy answer. Did I procrastinate on finishing the book? Did I have trouble understanding what they were talking about (mumblemumblehardsciencefictionmumble)?
Did you have to do any homework (pre-reading) to really understand the book?:
Is it part of a series? Is it part of a shared universe of standalones? Should you have read something else beforehand in order to understand what the hell is going on?
Was the world believable?:
Brandon Sanderson says that there are rules for magic. I believe him because he makes a good case for it (it’s a kind of push/pull of the universe. Think of Harry Potter needing a wand, or Harry Dresden requiring a focus object). It makes magic more believable. So if you’re telling me that digging into the ground to plant a tree nets you toaster pastry instead of dirt, you better have a darned good reason for it, because I probably won’t believe you.
Were the characters believable?:
You say your character is perfect? No flaws? I don’t believe you. Because I have a ton of ’em, and so does my husbeast, and my brother, and my cat. My cat is very flawed.
What “problems” did you have with the book?:
Plotholes I can drive a bus through? People not reacting like people? Outstandingly cheesy stereotypes that are taken very seriously and not actually meant to be cheesy? I’ll probably point them out here.
What did you like about the book?:
I’m sure I’ll think of something to put in here. I love books. I’m enthused by books. I love to read. I think that giving me books is what got my parents through those difficult “tween” years (before they were actually called such). I’m sure I can find something good to say about practically anything.
Except maybe those last 2 Matrix movies that I heard a rumour someone made. There can be only one.
And here I try to come to terms with all the bullroar that I’ve posed in the previous questions. Nothing like a summary to make you say “Um…yeah. So that’s what I thought about this thing. Your mileage may vary.”
At very least, I hope that what I have to say about the upcoming books is interesting. I can’t promise there won’t be spoilers.
…and if the format is well-received♥ I may just keep it.
♥ (I’ll know it is if I don’t get hateful comments or people camping on my front lawn. Which would be difficult because the neighbours will fight you for the parking space. Just so’s you’re aware)