Tag Archive | shakespeare

Book review: Olympos by Dan Simmons

Olympos (Ilium, #2)Olympos by Dan Simmons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MARS: Paris is dead. Hockenberry and Helen are lovers. Achilles and Hector have joined forces against the gods while the gods fight amongst themselves. Mahnmut and Orphu discover the quantum energy they’ve been tracking emanates from Earth rather than Mars, and it’s about to destroy both worlds.

EARTH: Meanwhile, Odysseus travels with Harman and Ada, seeking an end to Setebos. Daeman travels alone, seeking the same end. And the voynix drop their pretense of servitude; humanity’s continued existence is precarious.

Dan Simmons juggles many plates in the concluding volume of this epic duology. I admit to being a little lost at times, and occasionally needing to trudge my way through chapter 2017SFFReadingChallengeafter chapter in dogged determination. Yeah, the story bogs down now and then. So many moving parts! But stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded in the end.

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FO Friday and Book Review: The Serpent of Venice

The Serpent of Venice: A NovelThe Serpent of Venice: A Novel by Christopher Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pocket is back, and as irreverent as ever.

We first made Pocket’s acquaintance in Fool, a comic re-imagining of King Lear. (Yeah, I don’t know exactly what magic Authorguy used to pull off that feat, either, but it worked.)

Here, Christopher Moore plunks Pocket down smack dab in the middle of a combination of Othello and The Merchant of Venice, with a little The Cask of Amontillado tossed in for seasoning. Add a mysterious “mermaid” with rather specialized sexual proclivities and a taste for blood, and you’ve got all the right ingredients for the stew entitled The Serpent of Venice: A Novel. And I mean “stew” in a good way: tasty beef and potatoes and carrots and celery and herbs and spices, simmered just long enough for the ingredients to blend and become flavorful.

So, Pocket is in Venice after Cordelia’s untimely death. But because he is who he is, he opens his mouth once too often and finds himself chained to a wall in a dungeon, where he makes the acquaintance of that mermaid. His mates, Drool the Natural and Jeff the Monkey, are imprisoned, as well, albeit elsewhere. Plot points and hijinks ensue as Moore’s mash-up of two of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays, one a comedy, the other a tragedy, unfold their convoluted and, yes, somewhat twisted, plots.

Personally, I never really considered The Merchant of Venice a comedy; it’s awfully dark behind all those lovely speeches. I was pleased to see Moore’s reinvention take some of the sting out of that play’s ending. Regardless, Moore has a gift for seeing the absurd in classic literature, and he uses that gift well here.

That said, I’m giving three stars for “I liked it” only because Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars. It’s a 3-1/2 star, enjoyable, fluffy read. With lots of bad language and sex. So, yeah, for mature audiences only.

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7cde9-fofridayYes, my entry for FO Friday is a finished book. Wanna make something of it? I thought not. So, why don’t you click on the badge over there, instead, to see what other folks have finished this week?

Book review: Iago by David Snodin

Three of five stars

Remember what happened at the end of Othello? Yeah, me neither. At least, not in great detail. But that’s all right, because the events of Shakespeare’s tragedy are only tangentially important, in the sense that they provide the backdrop and impetus for the events in this novel.

In the aftermath of the murder of Desdemona and her husband Othello (yes, I know that’s not what happened in the play….just go with it), Iago, their accused murderer, is the subject of a vast and wide-ranging manhunt throughout Cyprus and Italy. Annibale Malipiero, the Chief Inquisitor of Venice, is especially interested in questioning Iago about the dual murder, and goes about it in a circuitous fashion.

Gentile Stornello, the teenage son of a rival Venetian household and a cousin to Desdemona, is accused of murder. He is arrested and brought to the fearsome Venetian prison, where he is tortured and questioned by Malipiero, among others, and thrown into a cell with a mysterious prisoner who refuses to speak to him for days, perhaps weeks. Time is fluid in prison, and poor Gentile is never really sure how long he’s been incarcerated. Eventually, however, the mysterious prisoner gives up his silence, and is revealed as Iago himself. Malipiero enlists young Stornello as his proxy, offering the young man his freedom and a dismissal of charges if he can discover the truth of the murder from Iago. And, after an engineered escape from prison and their subsequent flight across the length and breadth of Italy, Gentile endeavors to do precisely that.

David Snodin constructs his story brick by brick, carefully building upon this event and that occurrence, layer by intriguing layer, leading the reader down a certain path with startling surprises around every corner. It’s slow going at first, but the pace picked up about midway through, and the writing itself is lovely. I loved the rich period detail. I didn’t love the ample gore and violence, but accepted it as a necessary evil, er, plot device. Overall, this was a satisfying read, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone with an interest in Shakespeare or historical novels.

Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program for the opportunity to read this book.

Book review: Ill Met By Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt

Ill Met by Moonlight (Shakespearean Fantasies, #1)Ill Met by Moonlight by Sarah A. Hoyt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

William Shakespeare, aged 19 or 20, a small-town schoolteacher, comes home one day to find his wife Nan and his infant daughter gone. A small log lies in baby Susannah’s crib, giving him the only clue to their whereabouts: they’ve been snatched by the Fair Folk.

Quicksilver, heir of Oberon and Titania, comes home to find his his parents murdered and his throne usurped by his brother, Sylvanus. He enlists young Will in a scheme of revenge, with Nan as both bait and reward.

Alternating between happenings in the world of Faerie and events in Stratford-upon-Avon, we follow Will’s desperate search for Nan, Quicksilver’s desperate quest for vengeance, and Nan’s indoctrination into the ways of the Fey.

It’s possible I might have liked this book better had I read it in one sitting. It’s a short thing, less than 300 pages, but even at that it felt too long. None of the chief characters, save Nan, engendered much sympathy. Quicksilver especially annoyed me — arrogant, duplicitous, selfish, and self-righteous, he had no qualms about using and deceiving a “mere mortal” to his own ends, and I never quite bought the idea that he fell in love with Will. Will, even given some leeway for his youth, seemed much too wishy-washy and easily led. Only Nan seemed to have any strength of character.

Still, on the whole, it’s not a bad story, a decent way to spend a few hours if you don’t have anything better to read.

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