Monday, 25 July 2011

Scott Lynch - The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora (The Gentlemen Bastards, book 1)
Author: Scott Lynch
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 544
Editor: Gollancz

Summary: After a devastating plague, a man known as the Thiefmaker pays off the city guard to allow him to take in thirty newly-orphaned individuals, whom he plans to train as thieves. One orphan sneaks into the group of paid children, "thirty-one of thirty". The Thiefmaker soon discovers that this one child, Locke Lamora, is extremely clever but not "circumspect", and is a liability due to his lack of foresight or restraint. The Thiefmaker decides to sell Locke to Chains, a priest of the Nameless Thirteenth god, the Crooked Warden who protects thieves. Chains uses his temple as a front to operate the Gentlemen Bastards, where they play confidence games on the city's richest citizens, in defiance of the Secret Peace.

This summary is probably not the best you've ever seen, and it certainly doesn't do justice to this book—mind you, I couldn't find anything else, and God knows I am bad at making them myself. One thing you need to know about this book: it's awesome. I know, I know, always telling you about good books... but who cares about the bad ones? Well, I don't, so here I am, telling you about something good again. Awesome even. Wanna know more?

Locke Lamora, as the title says, is what you could call a pretty good liar. But not the petty kind of lie where you try to cover a missing assignment or something: the kind where you take a false identity and set up a scam so great it's going to cost the victim a good deal of its fortune. Because like Robin Hood, Locke steals only the wealthiest, though he doesn't give to the poor; everything goes to the vault of his "church", where he and his little gang stack up all they need for their crimes. And everything could have been "happily ever after" if some Grey King didn't appear suddenly, killing garristas, blackmailing the Master of thieves and using Locke against his will to cause a great commotion that will probably cost too many lives.

Oh, here I am, making a summary after all. Well, now you know what it is really about, the gangs, the scams, the bloody Grey Kind and his mess. But one thing you still don't know is that: not only the characters living in this puzzling world are original, they also have a terrific charisma—starting with Locke, this genius, this weird gentleman that knows enough and has enough nerves to pretend being anyone in order to get what he wants (and I tell you, he does get it!), and also his crew, the devil twins Calo and Galdo, the strong Jean and the snoopy Bug. Just for the sake of this bunch, you should read this book. So if I tell you that many other characters are as much interesting, that the chapters about the Gentlemen Bastards' childhood are as hilarious as the ones about present times are gripping, that the city of Camorr is as full of mysteries and surprises as a good Fantasy book should be (though I must admit, the beginning tends to be slow and over-descriptive, you need to hang on before catching the ride), well...

I said enough, didn't I? How could you not like it? And even more: how could you know if you don't try? And like it all you want, there are still many to come, Read Seas Under Red Sky is waiting and so is the rest of the series!

Monday, 18 July 2011

China Miéville - Un Lun Dun

Title: Un Lun Dun
Author: China Miéville
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 521
Editor: Pan Macmillan

Summary: Stumbling through a secret entrance, Zanna and Deeba enter the strange wonderland of UnLondon. Here all the lost and broken things of London end up, and some of its people too - including Brokkenboll, boss of the broken umbrellas, and Hemi the half-ghost boy.

But the two girls have arrived at a dangerous time. UnLondon is a place where words are alive, where a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, where carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets... and a sinister cloud called Smog is bent on destruction. It's a frightened city in need of a heroine...

When I first heard about Un Lun Dun, I thought "sounds like Neverwhere by Gaiman" (which has been in my TBR pile for a while) and I didn't want to read 2 similar books one after the other. But I don't know why, when I saw this one's cover, I just wanted to buy it and read it as soon as possible—which I did.

China Miéville has an impressive imagination and even in the foggy, dark and a bit scary world he writes about, he manages to put slices of humour that are really enjoyable. The illustrations aren't too much to help us picturing the characters he depicts. The story is full of mystery enhanced by the mist around and the threat of pollution that lays around. There's a lot of different parts in the evolution of the main frame so it leaves no time for boredom.

Apart from that, I felt a lot of references during the reading, to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Neil Gaiman's world, Ghibli movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so on (some of them are confirmed at the end of the book, I might be wrong for the others) and really appreciated it!

Therefore, this book was a great discovery. Now I'm curious about Miéville's other works! Luckily I have another book he wrote in my TBR Pile (even if the beginning looks complicated): The City & The City.

Quotes :

"The hautest of couture. Be entertained while you wear. Never again need you face the misery of unreadable clothes. Now you can pick up your favorite works of fiction or non-fiction for your sleeves. Perharps a classic for the trousers. Poetry for you skirt. Historiography for socks. Scripture for knickers. Learn while you dress !"

"If you're brave enough to try, you might be able to catch a train from UnLondon to Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Fransisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless... It's a terminus."

Monday, 11 July 2011

John Scalzi - Old Man's War

Title: Old Man's War
Author: John Scalzi
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 320
Editor: Tor Books

Summary : With his wife dead and buried, and life nearly over at 75, John Perry takes the only logical course of action left him: he joins the army. Now better known as the Colonial Defense Force (CDF), Perry's service-of-choice has extended its reach into interstellar space to pave the way for human colonization of other planets while fending off marauding aliens. The CDF has a trick up its sleeve that makes enlistment especially enticing for seniors: the promise of restoring youth. After bonding with a group of fellow recruits who dub their clique the Old Farts, Perry finds himself in a new body crafted from his original DNA and upgraded for battle, including fast-clotting "smartblood" and a brain-implanted personal computer. All too quickly the Old Farts are separated, and Perry fights for his life on various alien-infested battlegrounds.

I took the liberty of putting the awesome cover of the Subterranean Press edition instead of the ugly Tor one—I hope you don't mind. I thought that maybe, with a nicest cover, more people would try it... because let's admit it, not only the ugly cover but also the summary doesn't really give you the sudden urge to read this book. Doesn't work with me, at least—and yes, I'm not a huge hard SF fan, so sue me. But that, dear, that would be a great mistake. Because this is not hard SF. This is not a boring scientific book for nerds full of battleships and the likes. This, my lovely little bunnies, is the funniest and most awesome SF book I had the chance to read for a very long time.

I usually aren't that fond of old people, especially an old hero, but this one is an amazing old guy. His wife died and he realises that nothing really awaits for him anymore, so instead of wasting his last years, he enrolls in the Colonial Defense Force. Some people say that they only take in old people to make them young again before sending them to battle... and being young again is the dream of a big part of these old jeezers. Perry soon becomes friends with a bunch of them, naming themselves the Old Farts. Along with him being sent to weird planets needing to be protected from Aliens attacks, we follow the adventures of those guys, how they meet, how they live, how they die.

Yes, it's mostly about fun, but it's also about dying. The whole book is a deeply human adventure where people think about their lives, about all they lost, and all they will lose. About the right they have to conquer those planets, their right to kill other species for their own survival. About the rightness of their choices. Yes, you will have fun, this I can guarantee. You will also see the stars, some ships, some amazing technologic discoveries and some weird creatures, and the trip will take you to the end of the universe and back. But Perry will keep your feet on earth, that's for sure. Lucky you, if you miss him already, there are three sequels - not that any mystery is left at the end of the first book but I must say, more of this, it's hard to say no!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Stephen Clarke - A Year in the Merde

Title: A Year in the Merde (Paul West, book 1)
Author: Stephen Clarke
Pub. year: 2005
Pages: 383
Editor: Black Swan

Summary : They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings.
They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after pétanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories. In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a laugh-out-loud account of the pleasures and perils of being a Brit in France. A Year in the Merde tells you how to get served by the grumpiest Parisian waiter; how to make amour -not war; and how to buy a house in the French countryside.

This book is a window to France for English speakers, especially English people. I found it interesting to discover this point of view on my country, and even more to share it with you as a French person. The author is quite realistic about France even if he draws a negative portrait of it. Luckily, he sees positive stuff in it as well.

The narrator is a sarcastic English man who discovers the hexagone and tries not to complain too much about the local English accent. He gets used to the numerous strikes and explains the differences there are between the two countries.

I have to say that all of it is not exactly true, and that some of it isn't true at all for me, but maybe that depends on where you live in France. Paris doesn't really reflect the life anywhere else in France on a lot of aspects. And obviously, he chose extreme characters to serve his purpose-most of them not really representative of our population. But I guess it would have been a little bit boring to pick "normal" people.

Even though I liked discovering this vision of France, I regretted that Paul West was so obsessed with dog shit, strikes and sex. I mean, it's funny at first, but after a while it becomes a bit boring and at some point, the reader stops enjoying the book for a moment. Apart from that, it was fun to read.

I read the second book, Merde Actually, but it's not worth mentionning. The narrator goes to the countryside but nothing really happens for the first half of the book, and the second half is still less entertaining than the first book. I also have Merde Happens in my TBR Pile but since I didn't really enjoy the 2nd, I don't really feel like reading it anymore... not before a long time, anyway.

Quotes :

"It's a sort of dyslexia. You know dyslexia?"
"Yes," Alexa nodded, peeling a ripe purple fig with painful symbolism.
"I'm in some way dyslexic. Or colour-blind. Some people can't make out the meaning in words or the differences between colours - I can't make out dog turds. I'm shitlexic."

"The Unions were furious that the government had been rumoured to be thinking about considering the possibility of maybe looking into the purely theoretical concept that it might one day (not now but in, say, 80 years' time) be less able to pay for transport workers to retire at 50"

"And in a similar vain, the rural party promised to change the law on endangered species so that hunters could now shoot dodos, unicorns, mermaids and American tourists."