The Forever Queen by: Helen Hollick
The Long War by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Bad Religion by: Ross Douthat
Other Books I’m Reading:
Don’t Kiss with your Mouth Full by: Henry P. Mahone
Anathem by: Neal Stephenson
I decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year. I was sad about it. Yet, it turned out to be a good thing. There were sick children, and car repairs, and last minute travel. Basically if rocks fell and everybody died I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised. While all that was going on, I thought I’d go on a many worlds kick to round out the Finity review.
That turned out to be not the best of ideas. I started The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. However, I didn’t finish. Dick’s actual life is always more interesting to me than his writing. I also started The Long War by Pratchett and Baxter. Got halfway through that before putting it down. There was some question in my mind about series, and maybe the last book was so bad because they were just setting up their universe. Nope. In fact, if you want a full review of The Long War just look at my April 15th 2013 review of The Long Earth and change out the titles in your head.
What could make this all better? Obviously. Vikings. The Forever Queen is about Emma of Normandy. Wife of English king Æthelred the Unready. Isn’t that a great name? He was unready too. Mostly, unready for the Vikings that were ravaging his lands. So his wife Emma has to step up and try to get something, anything done. Which is how she ends up married to the Danish invader, and new king, Cnut the Great.
I’ve got to give Helen Hollick her props. She is writing about an era with not a lot of reference material, and some extremely confusing names, and she’s doing it well. While the book does drag around the death of Æthelred, making the reader wish that Emma would just take care of business already. Still, mostly the plot moves along at an occasionally dry but steady clip.
There are some tragic scenes that are not depicted in overly gory detail. So far less gory than most Viking tales. There is a very upsetting scene of Emma getting beaten by Æthelred that may be difficult for some readers.
Hollick also explores the origins of King Harthancunt, Emma’s son by Cnut, Edward the Confessor one of Emma’s sons by Æthelred, and William the Conqueror who is Emma’s illegitimate great nephew. There are many royal children with very sad lives in this book. In fact the whole era after Cnut is sort of like the year of the five emperors in Roman History. No sooner in one guy on the throne than he is dead and someone else is sticking their face on the currency.
All in all, a solid read.
Favorite Scene: Cnut and Emma meet for the first time.
Favorite Quote: “Ælfgifu of Northampton was two months dead.” – Okay, it may not seem like much, but I had a party.
Enjoyability: Solid four stars.
Where to read this book: Anywhere.
Further reading: Really looking forward to the new Allison Weir, and the new Bernard Cornwell. Both coming out in the next six week. Can’t wait.
Currently on Loan from the Library:
The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by: Alison Weir
The War of the Roses by: Alison Weir
Genghis by: Conn Iggulden
NanJing Requiem by: Ha Jin
Other Books I’m Reading:
Anathem: by Neal Stephenson
The Long Earth by: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter turns out to be one of those books that is long on set up and short on almost everything else. It’s a great set up too. A random scientist figures out how to make a box that will come to be known as a Stepper. He publishes the plans for the Stepper on the internet and naturally, a bunch of kids put one together. The Stepper allows you to step from the earth you are on to one directly east, or directly west across the meta-verse. How many other earths are there? How many steps do you want to take? How broad. How expansive. You could do almost anything with a set up like that. But they don’t.
Instead the rest of the book is a bunch of ready made set pieces. You know the one about how the possibly sentient super computer meets you in a surprising way, and wants your help? Yup, that one is in there. Or how about the one where you dip you toe in the water, and almost get eaten by a surprising creature? Yup, that one is in there too. So are, guys beating on each other until they are friends, finding a fellow castaway, discovering the city you didn’t know existed, and barely escaping death at the hands of a native life form. They even threw in the rebellion against you computer scene. Just for good measure.
As the computer and his human explore the other earths we find that most of the animals on them look like horses, elephants or pigs. Also we find they are able to directly reference every major science fiction franchise of the last fifty years except Doctor Who. The Doctor should not be put out by their failure to drop his name. It’s actually an honor. If we must reference everybody else, how good is our book really gentleman?
As someone mentioned in the comments on another post, the Percy Blakeney of this book is not anything like his namesake the Scarlett Pimpernel. Also, he’s deeply under utilized. Exploring how an Englishman is pulled out of World War Two France, and sheltered by a life for he thinks are Russians on a different earth for most of the rest of his life could have been interesting. Sadly Percy appears at the beginning, reappears for no real reason about halfway through, and then is gone again.
After two hundred pages or so, a couple things do happen. They resolve themselves in a sort of climax, which is in no way surprising, or heartbreaking, or full of the destructive potential the reader is lead to believe will be present. Then when someone finally does blow something up, it’s trite, and seriously not at all tragic.
I could go into more. But I won’t. In the end I still love Terry. But I’m going back to Discworld where interesting and surprising things actually happen sometimes. As for Baxter, well I still see no reason to include him in my library.
Enjoyability: One star. I’m sorry Terry. Really, really sorry.
Where to read this book: Well, I guess anywhere, but only for medical reason. Like insomnia.
Further reading: Right now I’m reading Genghis. Which suites my slightly stabby mood.