Tag Archives: book review

Review of Neutral Space, by Rebecca Tran

I won a copy of Rebecca Tran‘s Neutral Space through Goodreads. This was especially exciting for me because she turns out to be a local author and I have been trying to read more books by authors who live in my region.

Description from Goodreads:
Lieutenant Jackson Peterson thought he knew who the enemy was. A bitter war with the Kelsairans made it abundantly clear. When Jackson saves a Kelsairan woman from a wrecked ship, the line is suddenly blurred. The enemy isn’t what the government said they were and he can no longer blindly follow orders. A shocking discovery leads Jackson down a sinister path of intrigue that could change the fate of two races. But, both the Kelsairan and the Human governments will kill him to keep their secrets. Jackson will risk everything to stop them. Will it be enough? Or will he die in the process?

This wasn’t bad, just simple. Simple in it’s writing and narration style and simple in it’s plotting. By this I mean the writing is readable, but not elaborate (and it REALLY needs another editing pass, especially to look a punctuation), the narration is a straight forward first person, past tense monologue and the plotting is….well, here’s where it all falls apart really. It’s simple and not deeply thought out.

For example, in all the universe the two characters get put in the same single prison. The male lead is already there and anticipates the female lead will be placed there when he hears she’s to be jailed. (Is there only one such prison in all the universe?) There was no mention of other women (except for a single staff nurse), so I don’t know if this was a co-ed prison. But when she arrived, she seemed able to wander at will and sleep wherever she wanted. She was never actually locked up at any point. That doesn’t seem very prison-like to me, but it sure was convenient for the plot.

Most of the book is a romance in space, which I don’t mind. I like those. But the plot is basically them running around talking to people that they already knew and somehow, miraculously uncovering, in some small amount of time, a secret that had gone undiscovered for 200 years. One of the clues they find is a copy of the original treaty, the breach of which started the war. You guys, if a war starts because someone is said to have broken a treaty, I really think someone would have thought to look at the darned thing before 200 years passed.

That war is basically just a background prop. You never feel the tension of it. The characters met ON VACATION. Yes, I know it’s the space-fairing equivalent of shore leave. But it’s hard to be concerned about a war when the main character trots off to go fishing and throughout the whole book they go wherever they want, including to their families, and no one ever stops them, there is never a battle, or a front, or any evidence of war.

While I appreciate that female lead was meant to be the more elite soldier, she spent the whole book being girly—changing clothes, putting on perfume, angsting about her virginity, and eventually marrying and having babies. She could have been a baker or a politician and been far more believable. Her character was too shallow and simple to actually carry what it was supposed to.

Lastly, there’s the humans and kelsairans, who were less different from one another than the Americans are from the Chinese. They shared the same mores and values. Their languages must not have even been that different, because the characters learned to speak alien languages in months, in one case without anyone to even teach him. He picked it up from listening to the guards talk to one another. So again, the cultures and universe are simple and not as diverse as they need to be. 

I know I sound like I’ve trashed this book. I was admittedly disappointed to find it as flat as it is. But it is entertaining in it’s own ways, has a lovely theme, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it. I’d even be willing to read another of Tran’s books.

Review of Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1), by Max Gladstone

I bought a copy of Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone.

Description from Goodreads:
A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts–and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

I enjoyed this, but didn’t love it. I adored Tara and Abelard. I thought quite a few of the quips were funny and the whole idea of wizard lawyers was interesting. I even liked a lot of the writing. But those parts of the writing I didn’t like almost ruined the book for me. Too often the prose becomes abstract and purple in an attempt to describe something happening on a magical plain or in some’s head or just magically in general and some of it is almost indecipherable. Similarly, things seemed to happen at breakneck speed with very little explanation, especially at the beginning.

All in all, this was a middle of the road read. But it was enough to tempt me to read more of Gladstone’s work.

Review: Franz Kafka’s The Trial: A Graphic Novel, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz & Illustrated by Chantal Montellier

This was something a little different. I stopped at a local coffee shop, The Webster Groves Garden Cafe, and they had The Trial (Illustrated Classics): A Graphic Novel on the shelf. On a whim, I picked it up and gave it a read while I drank my latte. No real thought or planning went into the decision, it was just there and I read it rather than the proverbial cereal box.

Description from Goodreads:
“Someone must have been slandering Joseph K, because one morning, without having done anything wrong, he was suddenly arrested.”

The Trial is a graphic adaptation of Franz Kafka’s famous novel, illustrated by one of France’s leading graphic artists, Chantal Montellier. Montellier brilliantly captures both the menace and the humor of Kafka’s utterly unique masterwork. This darkly humorous tale follows Joseph K, who is arrested one morning for unexplained reasons and forced to struggle against an absurd judicial process. K finds himself thrown from one disorientating encounter to the next as he becomes increasingly desperate to prove his innocence in the face of unknown charges. In its stark portrayal of an authoritarian bureaucracy trampling over the lives of its estranged citizens, The Trial is as relevant today as ever.

I’ve come to the conclusion that graphic adaptations of books, even famous books, just shouldn’t be read unless you’ve read the original. They make great accompaniments, but never seem to stand on their own. This one is no different. It has a distinct style and you get a sense of the story, but it doesn’t really give you enough meat to truly understand the it. As something I picked up on a whim, while sitting in a coffee shop, it did the job of keeping me from being bored and I don’t regret reading it, but I can’t say it really impressed me much.