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cover image of The Thief

All my public entries are about books these days, so please have another one!

I finished The Thief a few days ago. It's been a book batted around as a really good novel, but I never got round to it (so credit must go to kmo_lj who recced it again.)

The novel begins with Gen, a prisoner in the Sounis king's prison, where he's been languishing for months. The door to his jail opens and he's told that he's wanted by the magus. Gen was arrested for bragging in public he was thief who could steal anything (and did), but the magus wants him for some purpose, so he packs Gen on a horse and they leave the city alongside a few other characters--Pol, a soldier, and Ambiades and Sophos, two young men apprenticed to the magus. Slowly the magus reveals that he wants Gen to steal Hamaithes's Gift, a stone that in legend was given as a gift by one of the gods as a sign of divine right to rule. The novel is a mix of Gen and party moving through to Attolia (where Hamaithes's Gift is hidden) and Gen's telling of the myths.

The reveal! Holy cow! Reveals, plural, actually. I don't think I've ever read a book that's in first person all the way through and still has such a big surprise/revelation about the main character at the end. Most authors end up dropping at least some kind of biographical information to give insight into the character's motivations, which were almost completely lacking, though of course I never realized till the actual reveal happened. That is so cool. First person tends to talk about the thoughts and opinions of the person whose perspective is written from (sometimes as a clumsy way to do exposition or scene description) so it is really cool.

I also really enjoyed the writing. Some of the characters sounded very YA--they seemed to have some simplistic reactions and such (e.g. the magus was really rather trusting)--but Gen was very engaging and the reveal especially gave a lot more depth. The writing wasn't terse or spare or anything, but it dropped words exactly where they were needed--it was very deft, not a word out of place. Gen was always very dry, and I loved his narration. She also did a really great job with the scene where Gen walks into the cavern. When he first enters he nearly has a heart attack, thinking that there are people inside, then realizes they were statues--and then realizes in an even more heart-stopping moment that they aren't merely alive, they are truly the gods of myth. What a moment!

--

Currently reading (in the middle of all the other reading I'm doing, erk):

*Les Misérables, the unabridged version on gutenberg.org. Oh my god, you guys. I read an abridged version a few years ago, so I know what's coming...but I am still filled with blinding rage sometimes. In fact I think knowing what happens exacerbates it, because they are lying pieces of trash who people fall for. The Thérnadiers I could strangle with my bare hands, especially the man. I know some people can't take animal abuse--I can't take the abuse of children. Just. It's so naked I can practically taste the emotional manipulation but on the other hand, when it comes to money people go absolutely nuts. Things which would be a small matter are magnified hugely when money is involved. And I find the Thérnadiers only too plausible. It is awkward to read this book in public because

*Very veeeeery slowly still Aquinas' Summa Theologica. It's so fun to read and puzzle through, and I like the occasional insight into his time period it gives me (including disproving one of the recurring myths of the medieval period, that people thought the Earth was flat: writing in the thirteenth century, he says "any learned man knows that the earth is round").

*Cold Steel by Kate Elliott. Continuation of Cold Fire/Cold Magic (LJ | DW) oh my god, Andevai please be okay.

--

Ran across this article about Hard Science Fiction today (linked from metanews): http://www.slhuang.com/blog/2013/09/21/hard-scifi-i-do-not-think-that-means-what-you-think-it-means/

Agreed on most points.

2. Nor does hard science fiction preclude a concentration on human relationships.


Hm, to be honest this is one of the issues I have with hard science fiction. I think in some ways, it's a problem inherent in the genre, and when I say that I do not mean that it's impossible. I mean that if you are not going to use handwavium (as the article says) to explain or dismiss your worldbuilding, if your novel has an emphasis on creating a world that uses extensions of today's science, then you have less time or energy to focus on relationships. You've got to explain how things happened this way! Same with a fantasy which devotes a lot of time to landscapes and setting; obviously there are people who do draw out the landscapes and the people out lovingly and in great detail, but often writers will prioritize. I find that character studies tend to be more prevalent in works where surroundings are sketched (also to draw greater attention to the emotional complexity in contrast).

I also think a lot of the points that the author brings up are ones that are usually mentioned as a description. To phrase it in a stats way, many points (like romance vs hard sf) are points made because people saw them correlated. They're not implying causation. They're making an observation that many works are one or the other, and that there exists the implication that while sf is/used to be looked down upon as geeky, at least it wasn't romance, for women.

Thoughts? I'm staring at my argument regarding point two alternately seeing it staying up and crumbling entirely. Clearly the answer is to read more science fiction ;)


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/138925.html.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
senza
Sep. 26th, 2013 05:42 am (UTC)
Man, I tried this book a couple of months back because it had gotten such good reviews everywhere, but I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters. Does the plot pick up? Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for YA at the time. It made me sad because I was hoping I'd enjoy it.
silverflight8
Sep. 26th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC)
Yeah, it really does. It felt a bit aimless at first but I liked it a lot when it really got going.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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