Booklet or Tome?
Tome - don't try and give me something short please. I want to read for as long as possible :)
Pre-Owned or New?
Both? I love the smell of old books and the feel of them. But at the same time I also love the look and feel of a new, untouched book.
Historical Fiction or Fantasy?
Again, both but I love my fantasy
Hardcover or paperback?
Both, but I tend to choose paperback for accessibility. Though hardbacks make nicer collector's items.
Funny or sad?
Both - what do you take me for? But I do prefer funny.
Do you prefer reading in summer or in winter?
Winter, staying indoors and reading. But reading outside in Summer is okay too, it's just that I can read easier on a cold day than a really hot one.
Classics or mainstream?
I read both, but if I had to choose it would be classics. But cant classics be mainstream at times?
Guidebook or Fiction?
Fiction - no explanation needed.
Crime Novel or thriller?
Ebook or Print Edition?
Print, I can read e-books and do for accessibility reasons, but nothing beats actual printed words.
Collecting or clearing out?
Collecting - next question!
Internet or Bookstore?
Bookstores - I love browsing over books in them and carefully choosing a couple or three or four...
Cookbook or Baking Book?
Baking - mainly because I enjoy those recipes more
Tagged Next: Anyone who reads it and hasn't done it yet!
Have you ever done a type of personality test?
I think I commented on something like this before but it's always fascinating to me.
I've confirmed that I am ENFP and according to other tests my temperament is sanguine and then melancholic. In other words, I'm an emotionally guided people-person! No surprise there :)
I'm also doing the popular, but scientifically un-testable, multiple intelligences test, which states that I am most intelligent to do with people and words...
So far in my philosophical venture into the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, I have read both this work and his Beyond Good and Evil. However, while I gave Beyond Good and Evil 3 stars, I feel that this is a better work academically and so give it the higher 4 star rating. In this The Gay Science, many of Nietzsche's key ideas come together in a much clearer manner, and it is easier to understand his views on concepts I feel he lacks more ignorance (religions for instance).
The title of this work stems from the more traditional meaning of 'gay' - that is for it to purely mean 'happy'. In other words this is Nietzsche's examination at times of how science and rationality has come to be considered an ultimately grave and serious task when he believes it should be a happy task or something to delight in understanding.
One thing that I have discovered through reading Nietzsche is that he seems to be someone who has been misinterpreted at times. His statement that 'God is dead', for instance, is a reflection on the fact that in the past Europe had a universal belief in God and now in the current age many people no longer believe in God. His 'will to power' quote was more about the concept of self-determination rather than a concept of war and conquering: the concept that 'what a man can be a man should be.' And further it has often been said that Nietzsche was a nihilist, an Anti-Semitic and a misogynist. The first two can be disproved relatively easily in that in his writings Nietzsche opposes nihilism and writes about humanity as a whole (abhorring racism). His writings on females are...less clear, but on the whole he shows that he respects women at the least.
Part of this misinterpretation is to do with the fact that his Nazi sympathising sister re-wrote his articles and notes after his death to side with Anti-Semitic views and potentially more misogynistic views. The other part, I believe, is due to the fact that Nietzsche does write at times in blindly contradictory ways. For instance his theory of 'perspectivism' is one which states that there are multiple perspectives which can be seen to be correct and that multiple perspectives should be examined on any issue - therefore creating a sense of how existentialism works for Nietzsche. However, Nietzsche outright makes a contradictory exception to this, claiming that the 'herd instinct' connected to already established views, is one to be avoided. He uses this to discredit established ways of thinking according to religions, apparently unaccepting of that fact that man could potentially set out to find the Christian God for him or herself, or that there could be a level of spirituality which supersedes established orders. Further, if we were to take Nietzsche to his absolute conclusion, then it would seem that anarchy should reign...
There is another reason why Nietzsche is so misunderstood, aside from his convoluted and intricate manner of writing. This is due to the fact that his 'theories' are made in the form of truth claims. Nietzsche comes across as extremely arrogant in his writing, though at times humility does seep back in, with his writing conveyed as fact, rather than thoughts and reflections upon different topics. This makes it hard for the critical reader to truly accept or fully respect Nietzsche, though he has many potent ideas to discuss.
Even from my own Christian perspective I accept that Nietzsche was partly right when talking about such ideas as 'God is dead' or the avoidance of following the 'herd instinct' in morality. Yet as I have said before, Nietzsche misses that Christianity could be about more than mere morality or power structures because he only sees the physical abuses of such systems and therefore rejects them entirely. I do believe that God has, sadly, come to appear as dead for much of humanity - though in particular areas his resurrection has become evident - yet I also believe that what Nietzsche cannot comprehend is the spiritual aspect of humanity and that is why religion to him must be entirely rejected.
I don't know how many of you know this, but earlier this week it was announced that Australia would bring back the knighthood of the Order of Australia. Before people talk about it being a self-serving idea for the politicians, at the moment the idea is to exempt politicians as people who have sought office.
For your amusement in connection to this I present the following: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jennaguillaume/hilarious-responses-to-dames-and-knights-in-australia
However, I want to take a brief moment to talk about something that troubles me in all the criticism of this idea (and others) that I have read. People have been using this to take the focus off honouring those who deserve a title, to mock the government and talk about how 'old fashioned' this all is. Of course, I understand that to the average Aussie the perception is that 'real issues' are being replaced by 'silly little things' - such as knighthoods in this instance. And whether you believe the government is doing anything depends of course on your personal opinions (I happen to believe it is, or is at least not doing what the previous two governments were) but that's a matter for other conjecture.
I don't want to talk politics. I want to talk about the notion of 'old fashioned values'. Such values seem to be a point of criticism these days. And I'm not talking about positive criticism. What I want to say is that so called 'old fashioned values' lead us to where we are today. To talk as if to completely remove them, or as if they are - well - useless, seems to me to be a grave error of judgement. I'm not saying that all the values of the past were useful but there are many of them which we use today which are still important to society.
In other words, there is a danger in using blanketing terms. More danger in such terms than there are from any such 'old fashioned values'. The important thing is to constantly be thinking and considering anything you are told and from what sources you gain your information. Because, in the end, what might be true to one person might in reality be a fabrication.
Unwind is finally a YA novel that packs a serious moral punch. It delves into the idea of life and death - discussing such ideas as abortion and euthanasia through a plot which could be seen as ethically allegorical in its own right. Yet, even despite this being a novel which relies on its deep concept, this novel is still an entertaining read.
It is a concept that many people scoff at in regards to books like this. How could a story about teenagers being killed (the same argument goes for The Hunger Games) be seen as entertainment? Is that not a psychopathic form of enjoyment? Is it not a form of cultural desensitisation? Perhaps. But at the same time it is part of the way in which the themes of these books are truly conveyed. I could write three essays about what I believe in regards to the topics of abortion, euthanasia, life, death and childhood but those three essays would not be as likely to stick into the hearts or minds of the reader as much as a clever and profound story or metaphor would.
That is why books like this are entertaining, because it helps them to be memorable. And so despite this concept of teenagers being 'unwound' from the age of thirteen - removing the need for abortion - and all their body parts being kept alive for transplants, this is an entertaining book. The more important note is, however, that this is a motivating and insightful book.
Whatever side of the debate you are on regarding such issues as abortion I doubt that anyone is truly advocating for the death of humanity. This is something hidden by labels such as a pro-life and pro-choice, the differences between the two labels indicating that one side seems to favour death and the other life. The question becomes more one of convenience, whose death and the ages old question of 'when does the soul begin to exist'. It is rather ridiculous that we keep fighting over such things rather than work out ways to save lives, but human differences have always caused division more than human similarity. It is these ridiculous and contradictory concepts that Neal Shusterman looks into in this novel.
No matter your own views (and for the sake of avoiding an argument I do not intend to share mine here) this is a compelling novel. The delivery of the novel is a touch awkward in the writing, but the concept is excellent and it is generally the concept, more than the execution that remains with me from any novel. So I encourage others to give this a read and ask themselves the difficult questions about what they believe and what basis they have for believing this.
I made the claim in 2012 that the book I most enjoyed reading for that year was the very first novel in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive series. It had a great scope, characters which I cared about (despite their lack of refinement), an incredible magic system and adrenaline fuelled action sequences. Dare I say it, Brandon Sanderson has gone one better with the sequel, in many different ways. And I'm not merely referring to the fact that this book is bigger (in word count) than the previous novel.
There are plenty of spoiler twists that I could gush about, but instead I'll talk about the improvements this novel offers over the first book. The first is that it offers a change in direction, prompting the reader to consider and question the grand nature of what is to come ahead. Yet at the same time this book is more or less as self-contained as any single book in a grand 10 book epic series could ever be. Each book, so far, leaves the reader with questions but yet at the same time does not leave the reader with a frustrating cliff-hanger. It seems to me that in taking over the mantle of epic fantasy from Robert Jordan (by which I mean that Brandon Sanderson's novels fill in the gap in fantasy previously filled by Jordan) Sanderson has learnt from some of the flaws of The Wheel of Time and consciously chosen to avoid them.
Let me therefore mention another improvement in this novel. This, for me, would have to be both the writing style and characters. In the first novel the writing was passable but noticeably rough in select places. In this novel the prose is more polished and as a result all the characters are more refined and show distinct character development. This is crucial to a grand fantasy series in my view as there is nothing worse than going from point A to point B within a series and seeing the characters remain the same by the end.
There is a distinct fluid dynamic to all the characters, made easier to note because of the more eloquent prose, in which no character is as they seem. I'm not stating that Brandon Sanderson is the greatest prose stylist in fantasy because like many other fantasy authors his prose is more of a background to the action and events of the grand story - he is similar to Jordan or G.R.R Martin in that respect (though he does not overly use more words than are required and he avoids the cursing and raunchy vibes that make Martin's work unpleasant to me). What I am stating is that there is distinct improvement in Sanderson's writing that means that his prose is neither noticeably clumsy nor noticeably purple. In other words his writing works because it does not detract from the experience of reading - this in my view is great writing.
Allow me to add to the points raised above about the fluid dynamic of the characters. The best aspect of this series so far is that I have come to realise that there are no unlikeable characters for me within this series. Characters may appear to be 'evil' and to relish evil for the sake of being, well, evil at times but the range and variety of perspectives offered throughout the novel allow for Sanderson to reveal his characters as neither good nor evil. Indeed, as I have come to realise, one of the flaws, if you will, of fantasy has been its tendency to categorically consider particular characters as good or evil in the vein of Tolkien (which works best if writing a mythology about other themes and not a pure fantasy tale). The problem with such categories is that it means you cannot truly flesh out your characters - their thoughts and motivations - and all your 'Big Bad' villains become nothing more than mini-Hitler caricatures. I do not say this flippantly or to say offence, but I am pointing out that it is easier to categorise your characters into good or bad camps, rather than explore their motivations. And while Sanderson writes about heroes and villains, he does reveal that even the 'villains' have their motivations. As such no character becomes truly stagnant or dull.
One final point about the characters of this novel. It has been pointed out by several reviewers that they believed the first book focused too much on Shallan and that she was a frustrating character in that first book. Shallan is a much improved character in this book, with some of the reasons (defence mechanisms) for her annoying nature, explained. I believe that her segments in the first book really set the groundwork for this transformation of her in this novel and also provided us with a necessary glimpse of Jasnah as a character. Where Shallan was not a particularly strong female character in the first book, in this sequel I would argue that she becomes a strong female character and this highlights that Sanderson deliberately wrote her in a particular manner that works out.
There are plenty of grand twists and revelations in this particular novel. You will learn more about the Radiants, the Heralds, the spren, the Shards and all manner of other worldbuilding items and yet come out of the book with still more questions. All I can say is that I am glad I am not the one writing this series because it is so utterly mind-bogglingly big already and there are still plenty of planned books yet to come. There are again the grand themes of the other book about honour, humanity, loss, death, life, religion and all manner of other ideas wrapped within the enticing plot (you might even spot some existentialism in there if you look).
To say any more would be to write spoilers about this series that would ruin it for the ardent fans. All I will say is that if you found the first book more or less reasonable I would pick this book up and enjoy the improvements. If you loved the first book then sit back and enjoy this sequel. And, if you are more or less ambivalent about this book or about epic fantasy as it stands, then maybe this is not the book for you. However, I fully recommend that any fantasy reader check out what Brandon Sanderson is doing - this book really connects into his wider cosmere concept - and enjoy what you see.
Just letting any Facebookers know that one of my friends has this group on Facebook about writing that he's always encouraging us to grow with new members. Feel free to join or not and start talking books: https://www.facebook.com/groups/532977973385628/
At one time, one of Toothless’s animators stuck a ball of duct-tape on his own cat’s tail for reference which ended up perfect for this shot. (actual footage of his cat he used)
If anyone wants to see a video of myself, check out my last post. I'm just making sure that it did not get hidden for anyone who had been asking about it...
This is a video version of my most popular review to this point on both sites I use so I thought I'd give people who have been wondering, a chance to hear how I sound and a little more of what I look like :)
I apologise for the glare - and for the quality - it was the best location and camera that I possess. Also it was mid morning after a shower so my hair is more or less messy. And I do speak rather quickly - a poor habit of mine sad to say. But hopefully you like it anyway!
"I can speak of slavery only so far as it came under my own observation - only so far as I have known and experienced it in my own person."
Twelve Years A Slave is one of those autobiographical works that make you question how such a strange and harsh reality can exist. The events within the book are a unique telling of one powerful tragedy regarding slavery, told by one man born free and sold into slavery. It is a story that I believe we as readers and human beings need to continue to read and understand, because the greatest weakness and horror of humanity is our ability to belittle and trample upon others.
Solomon Northup was a remarkably educated man and therefore his telling of events is clear and concise in how it provides an accounting of events that reads as remarkably honest and rational. Northup spares no detail, writing according to the era in which he existed, in highlighting the anguish he felt at being drawn into slavery and the ignorance of others regarding his true freedom. It is a book as much about ignorance as it is about anything else: the ignorance of the law regarding the fairness of Northup's illegal kidnapping, the ignorance of others regarding Northup as a free man and the ignorance of a society that kept African American citizens as inferior slaves.
Yet, in saying the above, ignorance does not feel like the right word. To claim something as 'ignorance' is to claim that there was or is a lack of knowledge or information. In some cases in this book, yes, information was absent. Not everyone knew that Northup was truly a free man - though they knew he was a cut above the other slaves they had seen. But many, many people knew to an extent that they ways in which they were treating slaves was wrong.
"...the court decided my evidence inadmissible. It was rejected on the ground that I was a colored man - the fact of my being a free citizen of New-York not being disputed."
Perhaps the harshest idea in this book as it relates to slavery is how Northup explains that he worked hard, laboured for his masters for years and brought prosperity for his masters and yet was treated lower than a dog. His hard efforts brought harder whippings and curses that no one should ever be fit to bear. And all in the name of an idea that some people are fit to be slaves and desire slavery.
"Let them know the heart of a poor slave - learn his secret thoughts - thoughts he dare not utter in the hearing of the white man; let them sit by him in the silent watches of the night - converse with him in trustful confidence, of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' and they will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves."
I do not feel that anything I say can compare to allowing the book to speak for itself. So I encourage you, if you appreciate moral historical lessons to read this work. I believe it to be an important work and not merely another light entertainment by rich, white educated men who sit around at desks all day...
"A human trial has permitted him to escape; but there is another and a higher tribunal where false testimony will not prevail, and where I am willing, so far at least as these statements are concerned, to be judged."
This review will more or less be an attempt to summarise the notes I took in my seminar today in a way that relate specifically to Albert Camus' The Outsider. Firstly, this will help potential readers understand what the core theme of this classic work is and secondly this will help me be able to summarise the very concepts of existentialism and absurdity as they relate to my studies.
Firstly, it was recommended that The Outsider can be broken into three parts. The first representing the absurd: a theme that continues on throughout the book. The second part represents how the rules, laws and government of others affect the individual and regards how they are imposed. The final part is the part of 'tragic consciousness'. I'll break these points down as I go along!
The 5 Aspects of the Absurd
1. We exist in isolation
2. We are alienated from the self
3. The recognition of modern life's repetition
4. An acute sense of time's passing
5. The answers to life cannot be solved by the rational mind - but it is relied upon regardless
The main character of The Outsider, Meursault, displays all these characteristics in regards to the absurd. He is an isolated character, in other words, he is cut off from the people around him. When at the beginning of the novel he is informed of his mother's passing, he cannot - cannot - grieve over this. He is cut off from her or others as an individual. He is also alienated from himself, at times in retrospect recognising that he hardly understands who or what he is. There is further a clear combination of time passing and 'mechanical repetition' throughout the novel. And finally all these elements culminate in a decisive recognising that though, rationally, none of the problems of life in the novel can be solved, rationality is the tool by which these problems are attempted to be solved.
The second part of The Outsider, regarding how laws and their implementation affect the individual, springs from this understanding of absurdity and existentialism. Existentialism as a philosophical concept seems to work inwardly rather than externally, regarding life entire as meaningless rather than full of any profound purpose. Therefore, laws imposed upon our protagonist seem meaningless to him (though they may lead to death) because he does not recognise the meaning in such laws.
That is until the final part of the novel, in which the moment of 'tragic consciousness' arrives. It is a moment of clarity within the conflict of a work of fiction, the moment at which a character can look back and recognise how they have continued to be stuck in a routine or daily grind and then tragically, the next minute fall back into that same routine. For Meursault, this 'tragic consciousness' moment seems to involve a realisation or recognition of how he has always been happy and can always be happy - even in the face of death. And therein the tragedy is that he comes to wish that the crowds greeting a potential execution are full of anger towards him.
Thoughts From The Afterword
"In our society any man who doesn't cry at his mother's funeral is liable to be condemned to death"
Therein lies the summary of the novel in one paradoxical quote. It is a quote that remarks upon modernity as much as it remarks about existence. The point seems to be served that humanity as a whole is far too quick to judge individuals based on the outward appearance - that to not cry over the death of a loved one (as has happened in the past) means the accused must surely be guilty because they must lack humanity. Yet the only crime being committed may be a crime against the established orders and conventions of the times as much as anything.
"I also once said, and again paradoxically, that I tried to make my character represent the only Christ that we deserve."
Finally, allow me to end with this point. Camus' book is one which deals with many metaphysical issues, among them religion. I have argued elsewhere that I believe all men carry a kind of religion - a series of rituals which they hold to on a level of idolatrous worship - and so will not reiterate such an argument here in regards to this book or quote. I do want to say however that I do not believe Camus means such a statement in any way to be blasphemous (he does suggest as such), but rather that he hopes he has created a character of fiction who represents the way every man has felt at some point - that life is meaningless. And that further he has created a character who represents the same kind of role of Christ (a saviour) in terms of providing a moral lesson that reality and the rules of others are no guideline to live our own lives.
Perhaps it could be even better said that the focus of the quote should be on the final section 'that we deserve'. Camus, in creating a martyr figure, symbolically suggests that we as people are all guilty of the crime of killing the innocent and those who dare to be different to our views and systems, that we as guilty individuals do not deserve a saviour who saves eternally, but one who saves us only from the rigour and ritual of repetition and unhappiness. It is, if anything, a simpler way to look at reality and is dependant upon the day to day in my opinion but it is a fascinating concept to conclude a fascinating work of true literary genius.
The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short story fiction that challenges the concept of the supernatural themes of fairytales as much as it challenges the ideologies and values of its era. And, for that matter, into the modern age. Angela Carter has a prosaic voice which sounds very similar to that of modern authors such as Neil Gaiman or even perhaps Susanna Clarke and yet is remarkably her own. It is a voice which relies upon the sensual and superficial as much as it relies upon the transient and metaphorical. In other words the stories can be read as you would read any fantasy.
One thing that must, must, must be emphasised about this collection is that it is not a rewriting of old fairytales, though it may seem as such at times. It is, instead, a reworking of old fairytales. It is this distinction which is important (if only semantically) in that readers should understand that each of the short stories are unique works by Carter as they stand but are still inspired by the concepts of pre-existing 'fairytale narratives'. The titular work itself is clearly drawn from the tale of Bluebeard and his new wife for instance, although Carter grants her female character a greater sense of agency and voice than in the original inspirational work.
It is this quality which has lead to calling Carter's work 'feminist re-working' and yet it is a mistake for anyone to think of the extremes of feminism - the false 'no men allowed' sides that have sadly been created at times - as being present in this anthology. It is far better, if you are to give this any sort of title, to think of it as 'equalistic reworking' (to dispel the false concepts of uneasy history) in which female and male characters are each granted agency in various ways. However, one can note throughout the book that the stories chosen do reflect at times the concept of men as 'beasts' and villains (though some noble male characters, tortured by curses and other various ailments) do exist. As an overarching way of looking at men from a female perspective it seems to me to be an unfair one, but I do agree that we men do often act according to more violent 'beastly' natures. And, curiously, I found her two tales spinning off from the idea of 'Beauty and the Beast' to be two of the better tales.
Carter's work here is subtle and also sensuous and evocative in the writing. I felt while reading each story that there was a superficial sense of the tone being flirtatious and salacious in its own way, reminding me of the ways in which supernatural literature has come to be re-constructed in more modern eras. There is something about the concept of the forbidden and the fae that Carter seems to indicate is appealing to the adult world. Does it hint to a twist on the ability of us all as children to touch into the subconscious and into imagination more easily? Or is it more a play on primal instinct and desire - a yearning for what we know we should not possess and yet want? These questions are always prompted through each story.
On the whole it is a collection to read if you enjoy more modern works such as Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders. I cannot help but believe that Gaiman was influenced in part by Carter, particularly in some of his fairytale re-constructions, and yet Carter has her own way of detailing surfaces and environments that is beautiful, seductive and charming. There is a touch of the Gothic Horror as much as their is a touch of the strange fairytale and that serves to create works which are as unique as they are familiar
Currently in Australia we have a Prime Minister who happens to be, in some circles, controversial. Not because of what he is doing so much as what he is not doing for certain people. To explain why is to basically explain a whole load of politics and also to explain that more or less, people have taken offence to who he is as a person. I for one accept him as our leader and because of this respect him as an individual.
Unfortunately, in my eyes, several individuals I know happen to act in a manner which is disrespectful to him as our leader. Name calling and attacking every action undertaken is something I can understand, and yet to me it seems very disrespectful. And thinking upon this has lead me to recognise an issue in society at large. We seem to believe that respect must be earned.
I strongly disagree with this. Think for a moment on the concept of respect and who we as various people groups in our different societies say we should respect. There are three key groups I can think of and they tend to be children, women and the elderly. I have never seen someone come up with a rationalised argument that they should not respect the elderly because 'hey they have to earn my respect'. And the same goes for attitudes towards women and children. Because, hey, when you act in a way that is disrespectful to those groups in particular, most people will look upon you as a lower quality person.
Respect does not need to be earned, but I do believe that trust needs to be. I believe that respect is not earned but is inherent in identity. I believe that all people as human beings deserve the respect of everyone else. I believe that our leaders deserve our respect as leaders. But I do not believe we have to throw our trust around blindly, because trust is a very different issue.
Of course, someone could always try throwing the spanner in the works. 'What about rapists, murderers, paedophiles? Do they deserve respect?' I would say that yes, yes they do. They deserve the base level of respect that you would afford any human being. Idealistically at least. Because being human is not linked to your actions but to the innate part of who you are and I truly believe that there is a basic level of respect that all humans deserve aside from any actions they may undertake. Call it the courtesy of recognising another individual's humanity. And even if such people do not deserve respect in the form of deference, for I use the term 'respect' broadly as it links to the ability of us all to regard others in a polite manner, it does little for anyone to lower themselves to the level of disrespect. In other words what I am stating is that I consider respect to be linked to acting in a manner of politeness and that even if you loathe what some people have done and what some people are, that it befits and benefits us all to act with courtesy and dignity, to be a step ahead and not a step behind.
Respect is not earned, at least not on the base level. Respect may be earned on higher levels for someone showing that (in moral terms at least) they are a 'better class of individual. And the reason I say that respect is not earned is because if you choose to believe that it is, and in so doing resort to disrespecting certain types of individuals, you only become that same type of person who does not deserve respect. Because your actions should not define your worth as a human being. Because we are all born into different circumstances, but we are all born with the same purity and dignity of spirit and respect means recognising this.
Black Sun Rising is another highly recommended fantasy novel that I took my time to get around to finally reading. Having completed this novel I admit that I am slightly torn about it as an entire experience. On the whole it is not quite as great a read as other novels I have rated four stars, yet at the same time there are large patches of the novel which are five star quality. These patches unfortunately mix with the three and two star patches.
The biggest - issue - I had with Black Sun Rising, and the biggest drawing point of the novel, is that compared to other similar fantasies it is very alien. It features a world - Erna - which humanity has colonised in a distant future and upon which a new religious Church has been established. Centuries after the initial colonisation, Erna proves to be a difficult land for the people of Erna to truly settle. This is due to the mystical natural force which exists strongly throughout the planet: the fae. The fae is a force which responds to emotion, both good and bad, and shapes reality around it - leading in some places to the creation of demons and other nightmares.
The magic system of this world stems from the fae as there are certain individuals who can manipulate it. Some can only learn to Work the fae as a power source, allowing them abilities to influence individuals, Heal individuals and Know things within the minds of others. In other words the fae acts as a physical supernatural presence within the novel's worldscape. Others are born with a more natural ability to See the fae around them and wield the power of that fae. However, while the fae is neither good nor evil, there are some currents within this fae which can only be channelled with more darker acts - such as human sacrifice or regular blood-letting. It is this conflict between good and evil which is nicely balanced and provides fascinating challenges within the plot.
The plot itself follows the efforts of a priest by the name of Damien and his companions as they set off to find a group of monstrous creatures who have sucked the memories and powers of the adept Ciani. Along their journey they form uneasy alliances and discover secrets about the fae and about those who manipulate the fae that could alter the course of Erna's future. Unfortunately the book itself does end with a sort of cliff-hanger promise, yet I am intrigued enough to want to read on.
One of the elements I disliked in the book was the romantic entanglements. Mainly in that there were several archetypes played upon such as 'respectable woman goes for bad boy' - even though that relationship was not particularly one of romance, as much as a master/apprentice relationship that hinted at something sensual. The other trope that was played upon was the whole idea of the 'heroic jealous male', with him sensing the rivalry for the affections of the aforementioned woman, from all the other men around him. Personally the way this all worked out in the writing seemed to convey a kind of twisted sense of love and I wasn't quite sure the author had a particular sense as to what she wanted to so with these ideas. In other words, to me, it felt as if the author had become like a fan and had fallen for certain ways of 'shipping' characters together.
One of the other issues in this book is connected more to the prose than anything else. As can be common in fantasy, the themes and ideas overwhelm the ability of the author's writing and many phrases and descriptions are reused with annoying regularity throughout the plot. However, until fantasy can be recognised for its great literary ability again this will continue to be part of the norm.
That aside this is a remarkable effort of worldbuilding. At times the book feels like a science fiction novel (without the guns, the spacecruisers or the technology) and at other times it feels like a solid fantasy novel. It is a use of disparateness and similarity that creates a world utterly alien and at the same time vaguely familiar, a world of nightmare and dreams. If you want to enter a reading experience with a world such as this featured within it then give this book a try.