Rudin (The Russians) ★★★★☆

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Title: Rudin
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 183
Words: 49K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Rudin’s Arrival

The novel begins with the introduction of three of the characters – Aleksandra, Lezhnev, and Pandalevskii. Pandalevskii relates to Aleksandra Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s invitation to come and meet a Baron Muffel’. Instead of the Baron, Rudin arrives and captivates everyone immediately with his intelligent and witty speeches during the argument with Pigasov. Rudin’s arrival is delayed until Chapter Three. After his success at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, he stays the night and the next morning meets Lezhnev who arrives to discuss some business affairs with Dar’ya Mikhailovna. This is the first time the reader finds out that Rudin and Lezhnev are acquainted, and studied together at university. During the day that follows Rudin has his first conversation with Natasha; as she speaks of him highly and says he “ought to work”, he replies with a lengthy speech. What follows is a description quite typical of Turgenev, where the character of Rudin is shown not through his own words, but through the text which underlines Rudin’s contradictory statements:

“Yes, I must act. I must not bury my talent, if I have any; I must not squander my powers on talk alone — empty, profitless talk — on mere words,’ and his words flowed in a stream. He spoke nobly, ardently, convincingly, of the sin of cowardice and indolence, of the necessity of action.”[5]

On the same day, Sergei leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s early and arrives to see that Lezhnev is visiting. Lezhnev then gives his first description of Rudin.

Rudin and Natasha

In two months, we are told, Rudin is still staying at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s, living off borrowed money. He spends a lot of time with Natasha; in a conversation with her he speaks of how an old love can only be replaced by a new one. At the same time, Lezhnev gives the account of his youth and his friendship with Rudin, making for the first time the point that Rudin is “too cold” and inactive. On the next day, Natasha quizzes Rudin over his words about old and new love. Neither she, nor he confess their love for each other but in the evening, Rudin and Natasha meet again, and this time Rudin confesses his love for her; Natasha replies that she, too, loves him. Unfortunately, their conversation is overheard by Pandalevskii, who reports it to Dar’ya Mikhailovna, and she strongly disapproves of this romance, making her feelings known to Natasha. The next time Natasha and Rudin meet, she tells him that Dar’ya Mikhailovna knows of their love and disapproves of it. Natasha wants to know what plan of action is Rudin going to propose, but he does not fulfil her expectations when he says that one must “submit to destiny”. She leaves him, disappointed and sad:

“I am sad because I have been deceived in you… What! I come to you for counsel, and at such a moment! — and your first word is, submit! submit! So this is how you translate your talk of independence, of sacrifice, which …”

Rudin then leaves Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Before his departure he writes two letters: one to Natasha and one to Sergei. The letter to Natasha is particularly notable in its confession of the vices of inactivity, inability to act and to take responsibility for one’s actions – all the traits of a Hamlet which Turgenev later detailed in his 1860 speech. Lezhnev, meanwhile, asks Aleksandra to marry him and is accepted in a particularly fine scene.

The Aftermath

Chapter Twelve and the Epilogue detail events of over two years past Rudin’s arrival at Dar’ya Mikhailovna’s estate. Lezhnev is happily married to Aleksandra. He arrives to give her news of Sergei’s engagement to Natasha, who is said to “seem contented”. Pigasov lives with Lezhnevs, and amuses Aleksandra as he used to amuse Dar’ya Mikhailovna. A conversation which follows happens to touch on Rudin, and as Pigasov begins to make fun of him, Lezhnev stops him. He then defends Rudin’s “genius” while saying that his problem is that he had no “character” in him. This, again, refers to the superfluous man’s inability to act. He then toasts Rudin. The chapter ends with the description of Rudin travelling aimlessly around Russia. In the Epilogue, Lezhnev happens by chance to meet Rudin at a hotel in a provincial town. Lezhnev invites Rudin to dine with him, and over the dinner Rudin relates to Lezhnev his attempts to “act” – to improve an estate belonging to his friend, to make a river navigable, to become a teacher. In all three of this attempts Rudin demonstrated inability to adapt to the circumstances of Nicholas I’s Russia, and subsequently failed, and was in the end banished to his estate. Lezhnev then appears to change his opinion of Rudin as inherently inactive, and says that Rudin failed exactly because he could never stop striving for truth. The Epilogue ends with Rudin’s death at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848; even at death he is mistaken by two fleeing revolutionaries for a Pole.

My Thoughts:

After Anna Karenina and it’s almost 1300 pages, every other Russian novel that’s under 500 pages suddenly makes me feel like somehow I’m cheating and having an easy time of it. Russian literature is bleak and grim and depressing and your very soul is supposed to suffer while reading it. And here I am, breezing along like I’m on a circus ride or something.

It’s just not right. Or maybe I’m just not right. OR (prepare for Conspiracy Theory Numero Uno)…..

….. The WP4 have brainwashed me into somehow liking Russian Literature. I can totally see Dix trying to brainwash me, so I’m going with the Conspiracy Theory option.

Thankfully the titular character is not the main character. He’s an arrogant jackass who won’t stick to anything unless it is done exactly his way. Since he pretty much sponges off of other people, well, you can see the friction there. What got to me was near the end of the novel, Lezhnev (I’d call him a main character) meets Rudin (who is now practically homeless and barely surviving) and is very charitable to him. That was fine and showed what a good man Lezhnez was. What I really disliked was how Lezhnev starts praising Rudin for everything that I abominated in him. His inability to get along with others. His laziness. His excuses for not finishing things. His playing with people’s lives as if they exist for his use alone. I was actually waiting for him to starve to death all alone but I think how Turgenev portrayed him dying, getting shot at the barricades during the French Revolution of 1848 (I had to go look on wikipedia, but this Revolution was just another one by the Frenchies, not the one portrayed in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities). It was very fitting for Rudin to die while sticking his nose into a completely different country’s business.

I have to admit, I am not skilled enough to be able to tell the differences in writing style of Turgenev from either Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Part of that might be that a good bit of Russian literature was translated by Constance Garnett and if she wasn’t careful, her own style would overpower theirs. While no translator is listed for this book, the public domain version is translated by Garnett so I’m going to assume this is her translation.

And yet, with everything, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Turgenev sees people and does an excellent job of putting that down in words. I get all the benefit of a varied circle of acquaintences without actually having to deal with people. That is a Win-Win situation as far as I’m concerned!

The only other Turgenev that I’ve read is Fathers and Sons. I definitely preferred that to Rudin. However, I do look forward to more Turgenev as I continue this Russian journey.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix and the Goths (Asterix #3) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Goths
Series: Asterix #3
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Asterix and Obelix, nervous about Getafix traveling alone to the annual druids’ conference in the Forest of the Carnutes, accompany him on his journey and remain outside the forest during the conference. Meanwhile, on the Roman Empire’s border, two legionaries are captured by a band of Goths (Tartaric, Esoteric, Atmospheric, Prehistoric, and Choleric), intending to kidnap the Druid of the Year and use his skills to conquer Gaul and Rome.[3]

En route to the Forest, Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix meet another druid, Valueaddedtax, who uses his magical powers to convince the Romans to let them pass. At the edge of the Forest of the Carnutes, Getafix and his friend leave Asterix and Obelix for the druid’s conference. Unaware that the Goth band is hiding nearby, the druids enter their inventions in a contest, in which Getafix wins the “Golden Menhir” prize with his potion, which gives superhuman strength. As he leaves his colleagues, the Goths take him prisoner. Asterix and Obelix, fearing for their friend’s safety after they do not see him leave the Forest, enter the woods and find a Visigoth helmet (actually a pickelhaube like those worn by Germans during the first years of World War I). They instantly set out towards the east (thoroughly confusing Obelix) to rescue Getafix.

Unfortunately, they run into another Roman patrol, which spots the helmet Asterix is carrying and mistakes them for Goths (who are wanted for assaulting Roman border guards). Obelix and Asterix easily defeat the Romans, but the Roman general is informed of the incident and sends out pictures of Asterix and Obelix with a reward for their capture.

Asterix has the bright idea of disguising himself and Obelix as Romans and ambush two legionaries, stealing their armor and weapons and leaving them tied up and gagged. Two other legionaries, searching for the Goths, come across our heroes, in which Obelix’s laughter at what they should say if they meet other Romans almost blows his and Asterix’s cover. Soon after, the two legionaries spot the two tied-up Romans and mistake them for Asterix and Obelix, “a fat one and a little one”. Thinking another Legionary captured them and has gone for reinforcements, they decide to take the reward, and take the prisoners to the general’s tent. When the captives are ungagged, however, the full story comes out, and the Romans promptly begin capturing each other left and right, believing each other to be Goths, much to the disappointment of the General. Asterix and Obelix, back in Gaulish clothing, are completely untouched, along with the Goths, who approach the border.

The Goths cross the Roman Empire’s border back into Germania, stunning a young legionary whose eagerness to report an invasion becomes a running gag. (He initially reports an “invasion” of Goths invading the Goths, then an invasion of Gauls crossing into Germania — which his centurion dismisses as their territory is not the one being invaded—, and then finally reports the Gauls returning to Gaul, which causes him to get 8 days inside). They present the druid first to a customs officer, who at first refuses to let them through on charges of importing foreign goods. Eventually, the Goths present Getafix to their Gothic chieftain, Metric, calls in a Gaulish-Gothic translator, Rhetoric, who is threatened to be executed if he does not convince Getafix to cooperate and brew magic potion. Although Getafix flatly refuses, Rhetoric lies and says that he has agreed to do so in a week’s time, at the New Moon.

Meanwhile, Asterix and Obelix also stun the young legionary and enter the Gothic lands. While running into a Gothic border patrol, Obelix stupidly uses the cover up names he and Asterix used for their Roman disguises, making the patrol think the Gauls are Romans. After Asterix and Obelix beat up the patrol, they disguise themselves as Goths by attacking two of them, infiltrating their barracks as members of the army. They escape from the Gothic army, but are soon captured again by the Goths and thrown in jail along with Rhetoric, who was also trying to flee. Although they are thrown in prison, Obelix easily breaks the door (another running gag) and they flee, taking Rhetoric with them to question. While at first he pretends to speak only Gothic, Rhetoric accidentally reveals that he can speak Gaulish and is forced to spill the beans. While trying to sneak into the Gothic town, Rhetoric screams and attracts a patrol. Although Asterix and Obelix beat up the patrol, they surrender to the last standing man to be brought to the Chief.

The Gauls are brought before Metric. Getafix reveals that he can actually speak Gothic and informs Metric that Rhetoric had been deceiving him. Once again, Rhetoric is thrown in jail with the Gauls, and they are all sentenced to execution. Asterix, Obelix and Getafix devise a scheme in which many Goths are given magic potion, so that they spend time and energy fighting each other for chieftainship instead of invading Gaul and Rome, making Rhetoric play a part in it. Under the pretext of cooking a last Gaulish soup, Getafix gives the jailer a list of ingredients and brews the potion when he acquires them. During the public execution, Rhetoric asks to go first. Full of magic potion, he resists all attempts at torture, and beats up Metric, throwing him in jail and making himself Chieftain of the Goths. The Gauls visit Metric in his prison, and give him magic potion. As the two Chieftains had the same magic potion in them, a direct fight proves futile and each storms off, promising to raise an army.

The Gauls wander around the town, giving potions to any Goth who looks browbeaten and who would be glad of a chance of power (their first two candidates being Electric, who is poor and has to sweep up streets, and Euphoric, who is being bossed about by his dictator-like wife). The would-be Chieftains each raise an army, and a confusing set of conflicts begins, known as the “Asterixian Wars”, thus successfully sowing so much discord in Germania that the tribes be more occupied with fighting each other rather than trying to invade other countries.

Although their peace-keeping mission probably created more casualties than a Gothic invasion of Rome would, the three Gauls make it back to Gaul, again running into the over-eager young legionary at the border, return home confident and are welcomed with open arms by the village, who throw their usual banquet in celebration.

My Thoughts:

This made for a great read on a Saturday morning. Sitting on our old comfy couch, eating Stouffer’s fried mac&cheese poppers while drinking diet Mt Dew and reading about gauls beating the stuffing out of Romans, Ostrogoths and Visigoths. What more could you ask for?

Light hearted fun is all these stories offer and so if you only expect that, you’ll be fine. I think my problems that I experienced with the previous book was that I was expecting something more inline with a series of novels, where characters grow and change and the world is explained more and more. Here, Asterix is Asterix, Obelix is Obelix and that’s just the way they’re going to be.

The names of various Gauls, Romans and Goths continues to be as amusing as ever. It did however make me want to investigate the older translations of these to see what they were then. Because it might be a case of the translators making up their own jokes and that would really color my view of the whole thing.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Poor Folk (The Russians) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Poor Folk
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 201
Words: 54K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Varvara Dobroselova and Makar Devushkin are second cousins twice-removed and live across from each other on the same street in terrible apartments. Devushkin’s, for example, is merely a portioned-off section of the kitchen, and he lives with several other tenants, such as the Gorshkovs, whose son groans in agonizing hunger almost the entire story. Devushkin and Dobroselova exchange letters attesting to their terrible living conditions and the former frequently squanders his money on gifts for her.

The reader progressively learns their history. Dobroselova originally lived in the country, but moved to St. Petersburg (which she hates) when her father lost his job. Her father becomes very violent and her mother severely depressed. Her father dies and they move in with Anna Fyodorovna, a landlady who was previously cruel to them but at least pretends to feel sympathy for their situation. Dobroselova is tutored by a poor student named Pokrovsky, whose drunken father occasionally visits. She eventually falls in love with Pokrovsky. She struggles to save a measly amount of money to purchase the complete works of Pushkin at the market for his birthday present, then allows his father to give the books to him instead, claiming that just knowing he received the books will be enough for her happiness. Pokrovsky falls ill soon after, and his dying wish is to see the sun and the world outside. Dobroselova obliges by opening the blinds to reveal grey clouds and dirty rain. In response Pokrovsky only shakes his head and then passes away. Dobroselova’s mother dies shortly afterwards, and Dobroselova is left in the care of Anna for a time, but the abuse becomes too much and she goes to live with Fedora across the street.

Devushkin works as a lowly copyist, frequently belittled and picked on by his colleagues. His clothing is worn and dirty, and his living conditions are perhaps worse than Dobroselova’s. He considers himself a rat in society. He and Dobroselova exchange letters (and occasional visits that are never detailed), and eventually they also begin to exchange books. Devushkin becomes offended when she sends him a copy of “The Overcoat”, because he finds the main character is living a life similar to his own.

Dobroselova considers moving to another part of the city where she can work as a governess. Just as he is out of money and risks being evicted, Devushkin has a stroke of luck: his boss takes pity on him and gives him 100 rubles to buy new clothes. Devushkin pays off his debts and sends some to Dobroselova. She sends him 25 rubles back because she does not need it. The future looks bright for both of them because he can now start to save money and it may be possible for them to move in together.

The writer Ratazyayev, who jokes about using Devushkin as a character in one of his stories offends him, but genuinely seems to like him. Eventually Devushkin’s pride is assuaged and their friendship is restored. The Gorshkovs come into money because the father’s case is won in court. With the generous settlement they seem to be destined to be perfectly happy, but the father dies, leaving his family in a shambles despite the money. Soon after this, Dobroselova announces that a rich man, Mr. Bykov who had dealings with Anna Fyodorovna and Pokrovsky’s father, has proposed to her. She decides to leave with him, and the last few letters attest to her slowly becoming accustomed to her new money.

She asks Devushkin to find linen for her and begins to talk about various luxuries, but leaves him alone in the end despite his improving fortunes. In the last correspondence in the story, on September 29, Devushkin begs Dobroselova to write to him. Dobroselova responds saying that “all is over” and to not forget her. The last letter is from Devushkin saying that he loves her and that he will die when he leaves her and Now she will cry.

My Thoughts:

This was a very peculiar read. Not only was I dealing with the change in culture due to time (it was published in 1846) but I was also dealing with a “real” cultural change going from America all the way to Russia. I’ve read enough of the Russians to know that some of that change I can accommodate and that other bits are beyond inscrutable for me.

Basically, we have the letters between 2 distant cousins chronicling their ups and downs of fortune. Being happy or sad is universal, but the WHY of being happy or sad is where things just sailed over my head. Why does the older guy care so much about what random people on the street think about him? He is beyond obsessed, to the point where he’s making stuff up in his own head for goodness sake.

I am thankful this was as short as it was. While not unenjoyable it was strange enough that I couldn’t really get into the flow of things. Something would happen or they’d say something that you could tell had more meaning behind it but it simply lost to me.

This was translated by C.J. Hogarth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Asterix and the Golden Sickle (Asterix #2) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Golden Sickle
Series: Asterix #2
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Disaster strikes the Gaulish village when Getafix the druid breaks his golden sickle, as without one, he cannot attend the annual conference of druids, or cut mistletoe for the magic potion which keeps the Roman army at bay. Asterix and Obelix set out for Lutetia (present-day Paris) to buy a new sickle from Obelix’s distant cousin, the sicklesmith Metallurgix.

On the way there, they encounter bandits, but easily defeat them, and learn from a fellow-traveller that “sickles are in short supply in Lutetia”. In the city, they find Metallurgix missing and make inquiries at a local inn, but the landlord professes to know nothing. He later gives a description of Asterix and Obelix to the devious Clovogarlix, who in turn directs them to his superior Navishtrix, who tries to sell them a sickle at an exorbitant price. They refuse, and defeat Navishtrix and his followers, only to be arrested by a Roman patrol. They are released by the Prefect of Lutetia, Surplus Dairyprodus, and learn from a Centurion that Metallurgix may have been kidnapped by sickle traffickers.

From a drunkard imprisoned by Dairyprodus, they learn Navishtrix has a hideout at a portal dolmen in the Boulogne forest. In Navishtrix’s underground store-room, Asterix and Obelix find a hoard of golden sickles, but are attacked by Clovogarlix, Navishtrix and their minions. Upon defeat, Navishtrix escapes, and Asterix and Obelix follow him to Surplus Dairyprodus, who – in front of the Centurion – freely confesses to having sponsored the illegal sickle monopoly for his own amusement. The Centurion releases Metallurgix and imprisons Dairyprodus and Navishtrix; whereafter Metallurgix gratefully gives Asterix and Obelix the best of his sickles. With this, they return to their village and celebrate their achievement.

My Thoughts:

As fun as this was, I am realizing that it truly is meant for a younger audience. I think that for me to appreciate it to its fullest I’d have to read these just one a year instead of one a month. However, that just isn’t going to happen.

There is a formula to these books that goes something like this: There is a Problem that somehow involves the Gaulish village. Asterix and Obelix get roped into Solving the Problem. Violence and Jokes Ensue, Repeat as Necessary until Solution(s) are reached. Everyone has a Feast at the Village to celebrate. The End.

That formula works and it works well. You simply cannot beat (pun intended) Asterix drinking the magic potion and kerpow’ing scads of roman legionnaires with one punch. And don’t forget the random stranger who gets a swig of the stuff and adds to the chaos. And the banter, don’t forget the banter. It is like combining the Three Stooges with Laurel & Hardy. The problem with a formula is that at some point a reader (ie, me) expects something new and the older you are and the longer you’ve read, the harder it is to find new things. And formula’s aren’t well known for coming up with new things but with successfully re-using items that have worked before.

Of course, it might just be that I’m an old grump (get off my concrete lawn, you stupid kids!) and I want to complain about something and poor little Asterix “won” the lottery. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Asterix the Gaul (Asterix #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix the Gaul
Series: Asterix #1
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 53
Words: 3K





Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

All of the Gaul area is under Roman control, except for one small village in Armorica (present-day Brittany), whose inhabitants are made invincible by a magic potion created periodically by the Druid Getafix. To discover the secret of the Gauls’ strength, Centurion Crismus Bonus, commander of a Roman garrison at the fortified camp of Compendium, sends a spy disguised as a Gaul to the village. The Roman’s identity is revealed when he loses his false moustache, shortly after he discovers the existence of the magic potion; whereupon he reports his discovery to the Centurion.

Crismus Bonus, hoping to overthrow Julius Caesar, orders Getafix captured and interrogated for the recipe; but to no avail. Protagonist Asterix learns of Getafix’s capture from a cart-seller; infiltrates the Roman camp in the latter’s cart; and hears Crismus Bonus revealing his intended rebellion to Marcus Ginandtonicus, his second-in-command. Following Asterix’s suggestion, Getafix pretends to agree to the Centurion’s demand of the potion when Asterix pretends to give in to torture, and demands an unseasonal ingredient: strawberries. While Crismus Bonus’ soldiers try to find strawberries, Asterix and Getafix relax in relative luxury; and when the strawberries arrive, consume them all, and console Crismus Bonus that the potion may be made without them.

After all the ingredients are found, a potion is prepared that causes the hair and beard of the drinker to grow at an accelerated pace. The Romans are tricked into drinking this potion and before long, all of them have long hair and beards. When Crismus Bonus pleads Getafix to make an antidote, the druid makes a cauldron of vegetable soup (knowing that the hair-growth potion shall soon cease to take effect), and also prepares a small quantity of the real magic potion for Asterix. As Getafix and Asterix escape, they are stopped by a huge army of Roman reinforcements commanded by Julius Caesar. Upon meeting Asterix and Getafix, Caesar hears of Crismus Bonus’ intentions against himself; deports Crismus Bonus and his garrison to Outer Mongolia; and frees Asterix and Getafix for giving him the information, while reminding them that they are still enemies. The two Gauls then return to their village, where their neighbors celebrate their recovery.

My Thoughts:

I read many of the Asterix & Obelix stories growing up because my father collected these and we would buy them for him as birthday and Christmas presents. Since we were allowed to read them, very carefully, it was almost like we were getting ourselves a present too. Score! It was a hap-hazard reading journey though and I never bothered to read them all. Since I was looking for other comics to read besides Spawn and I really wasn’t interested in most of the Marvel or DC lineups (not even the old stuff), I recalled this series and jumped on it. Most of the books are only 50’ish pages long and each story is a self contained one, so it works out really well.

There are 38 of these stories. This story was published originally in 1961 in French and the translation I am reading was done in 2004. I might have to check with my pops to see who did the translations of his editions and see what the differences are. That type of thing is interesting to me so it’s worth exploring.

This type of comic is written for both adults and children. The kids will love the bright colors, the funny violence of tiny Asterix beating up four Roman soldiers at once, the contrast between Asterix and his giant friend Obelix. The adults will enjoy the very funny word plays and jokes in latin and the names of places and characters.

The beginning of the book introduces us to each character, the situation (that all of Gaul except this one village has been conquerered by Rome) and what the plot is for this particular book. We’re talking a One Stop Shopping kind of deal. Rather refreshing to be honest.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anna Karenina (The Russians) ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Anna Karenina
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1287
Words: 350K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Part 1

The novel opens with a scene that introduces Prince Stepan Arkadyevich Oblonsky (“Stiva”), a Moscow aristocrat and civil servant who has been unfaithful to his wife, Princess Darya Alexandrovna (“Dolly”). Dolly has discovered his affair with the family’s governess, and the household and family are in turmoil. Stiva informs the household that his married sister, Anna Arkadyevna Karenina, is coming to visit from Saint Petersburg in a bid to calm the situation.

Meanwhile, Stiva’s childhood friend, Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin (“Kostya”), arrives in Moscow with the aim of proposing to Dolly’s youngest sister, Princess Katerina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya (“Kitty”). Levin is a passionate, restless, but shy aristocratic landowner who, unlike his Moscow friends, chooses to live in the country on his large estate. He discovers that Kitty is also being pursued by Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky, an army cavalry officer.

Whilst at the railway station to meet Anna, Stiva bumps into Vronsky who is there to meet his mother, the Countess Vronskaya. Anna and Vronskaya have traveled and talked together in the same carriage. As the family members are reunited, and Vronsky sees Anna for the first time, a railway worker accidentally falls in front of a train and is killed. Anna interprets this as an “evil omen”. Vronsky, however, is infatuated with Anna, and donates two hundred roubles to the dead man’s family, which impresses her. Anna is also uneasy about leaving her young son, Sergei (“Seryozha”), alone for the first time.

At the Oblonsky home, Anna talks openly and emotionally to Dolly about Stiva’s affair and convinces her that Stiva still loves her despite the infidelity. Dolly is moved by Anna’s speeches and decides to forgive Stiva.

Kitty, who comes to visit Dolly and Anna, is just eighteen. In her first season as a debutante, she is expected to make an excellent match with a man of her social standing. Vronsky has been paying her considerable attention, and she expects to dance with him at a ball that evening. Kitty is very struck by Anna’s beauty and personality and becomes infatuated with her just as Vronsky. When Levin proposes to Kitty at her home, she clumsily turns him down, believing she is in love with Vronsky and that he will propose to her, and encouraged to do so by her mother, who believes Vronsky would be a better match (in contrast to Kitty’s father, who favors Levin).

At the big ball Kitty expects to hear something definitive from Vronsky, but he dances with Anna instead, choosing her as a partner over a shocked and heartbroken Kitty. Kitty realizes that Vronsky has fallen in love with Anna and has no intention of marrying her, despite his overt flirtations. Vronsky has regarded his interactions with Kitty merely as a source of amusement and assumes that Kitty has acted for the same reasons. Anna, shaken by her emotional and physical response to Vronsky, returns at once to St. Petersburg. Vronsky travels on the same train. During the overnight journey, the two meet and Vronsky confesses his love. Anna refuses him, although she is deeply affected by his attentions to her.

Levin, crushed by Kitty’s refusal, returns to his estate, abandoning any hope of marriage. Anna returns to her husband, Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin, a senior government official, and her son, Seryozha, in St. Petersburg. On seeing her husband for the first time since her encounter with Vronsky, Anna realizes that she finds him unattractive, though she tells herself he is a good man.

Part 2

The Shcherbatskys consult doctors over Kitty’s health, which has been failing since Vronsky’s rejection. A specialist advises that Kitty should go abroad to a health spa to recover. Dolly speaks to Kitty and understands she is suffering because of Vronsky and Levin, whom she cares for and had hurt in vain. Kitty, humiliated by Vronsky and tormented by her rejection of Levin, upsets her sister by referring to Stiva’s infidelity, saying she could never love a man who betrayed her. Meanwhile, Stiva visits Levin on his country estate while selling a nearby plot of land.

In St. Petersburg, Anna begins to spend more time in the inner circle of Princess Elizaveta (“Betsy”), a fashionable socialite and Vronsky’s cousin. Vronsky continues to pursue Anna. Although she initially tries to reject him, she eventually succumbs to his attentions and begins an affair. Meanwhile, Karenin reminds his wife of the impropriety of paying too much attention to Vronsky in public, which is becoming the subject of gossip. He is concerned about the couple’s public image, although he believes mistakenly that Anna is above suspicion.

Vronsky, a keen horseman, takes part in a steeplechase event, during which he rides his mare Frou-Frou too hard—his irresponsibility causing him to fall and break the horse’s back. Anna is unable to hide her distress during the accident. Before this, Anna had told Vronsky that she is pregnant with his child. Karenin is also present at the races and remarks to Anna that her behaviour is improper. Anna, in a state of extreme distress and emotion, confesses her affair to her husband. Karenin asks her to break it off to avoid further gossip, believing that their marriage will be preserved.

Kitty and her mother travel to a German spa to recover from her ill health. There, they meet the wheelchair-bound Pietist Madame Stahl and the saintly Varenka, her adopted daughter. Influenced by Varenka, Kitty becomes extremely pious, but becomes disillusioned by her father’s criticism when she learns Madame Stahl is faking her illness. She then returns to Moscow.

Part 3

Levin continues working on his estate, a setting closely tied to his spiritual thoughts and struggles. He wrestles with the idea of falseness, wondering how he should go about ridding himself of it, and criticising what he feels is falseness in others. He develops ideas relating to agriculture, and the unique relationship between the agricultural labourer and his native land and culture. He comes to believe that the agricultural reforms of Europe will not work in Russia because of the unique culture and personality of the Russian peasant.

When Levin visits Dolly, she attempts to understand what happened between him and Kitty and to explain Kitty’s behaviour. Levin is very agitated by Dolly’s talk about Kitty, and he begins to feel distant from Dolly as he perceives her loving behaviour towards her children as false. Levin resolves to forget Kitty and contemplates the possibility of marriage to a peasant woman. However, a chance sighting of Kitty in her carriage makes Levin realize he still loves her. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Karenin refuses to separate from Anna, insisting that their relationship will continue. He threatens to take away Seryozha if she persists in her affair with Vronsky.

Part 4

When Anna and Vronsky continue seeing each other, Karenin consults with a lawyer about obtaining a divorce. During the time period, a divorce in Russia could only be requested by the innocent party in an affair and required either that the guilty party confessed—which would ruin Anna’s position in society and bar her from remarrying in the Orthodox Church—or that the guilty party be discovered in the act of adultery. Karenin forces Anna to hand over some of Vronsky’s love letters, which the lawyer deems insufficient as proof of the affair. Stiva and Dolly argue against Karenin’s drive for a divorce.

Karenin changes his plans after hearing that Anna is dying after the difficult birth of her daughter, Annie. At her bedside, Karenin forgives Vronsky. However, Vronsky, embarrassed by Karenin’s magnanimity, unsuccessfully attempts suicide by shooting himself. As Anna recovers, she finds that she cannot bear living with Karenin despite his forgiveness and his attachment to Annie. When she hears that Vronsky is about to leave for a military posting in Tashkent, she becomes desperate. Anna and Vronsky reunite and elope to Europe, leaving Seryozha and Karenin’s offer of divorce.

Meanwhile, Stiva acts as a matchmaker with Levin: he arranges a meeting between him and Kitty, which results in their reconciliation and betrothal.

Part 5

Levin and Kitty marry and start their new life on his country estate. Although the couple are happy, they undergo a bitter and stressful first three months of marriage. Levin feels dissatisfied at the amount of time Kitty wants to spend with him and dwells on his inability to be as productive as he was as a bachelor. When the marriage starts to improve, Levin learns that his brother, Nikolai, is dying of consumption. Kitty offers to accompany Levin on his journey to see Nikolai and proves herself a great help in nursing Nikolai. Seeing his wife take charge of the situation in an infinitely more capable manner than he could have done himself without her, Levin’s love for Kitty grows. Kitty eventually learns that she is pregnant.

In Europe, Vronsky and Anna struggle to find friends who will accept them. Whilst Anna is happy to be finally alone with Vronsky, he feels suffocated. They cannot socialize with Russians of their own class and find it difficult to amuse themselves. Vronsky, who believed that being with Anna was the key to his happiness, finds himself increasingly bored and unsatisfied. He takes up painting and makes an attempt to patronize an émigré Russian artist of genius. However, Vronsky cannot see that his own art lacks talent and passion, and that his conversation about art is extremely pretentious. Increasingly restless, Anna and Vronsky decide to return to Russia.

In St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky stay in one of the best hotels, but take separate suites. It becomes clear that whilst Vronsky is still able to move freely in Russian society, Anna is barred from it. Even her old friend, Princess Betsy, who has had affairs herself, evades her company. Anna starts to become anxious that Vronsky no longer loves her. Meanwhile, Karenin is comforted by Countess Lidia Ivanovna, an enthusiast of religious and mystic ideas fashionable with the upper classes. She advises him to keep Seryozha away from Anna and to tell him his mother is dead. However, Seryozha refuses to believe that this is true. Anna visits Seryozha uninvited on his ninth birthday but is discovered by Karenin.

Anna, desperate to regain at least some of her former position in society, attends a show at the theatre at which all of St. Petersburg’s high society are present. Vronsky begs her not to go, but he is unable to bring himself to explain to her why she cannot attend. At the theatre, Anna is openly snubbed by her former friends, one of whom makes a deliberate scene and leaves the theatre. Anna is devastated. Unable to find a place for themselves in St. Petersburg, Anna and Vronsky leave for Vronsky’s own country estate.

Part 6

Dolly, her mother the Princess Scherbatskaya, and Dolly’s children spend the summer with Levin and Kitty. The Levins’ life is simple and unaffected, although Levin is uneasy at the “invasion” of so many Scherbatskys. He becomes extremely jealous when one of the visitors, Veslovsky, flirts openly with the pregnant Kitty. Levin tries to overcome his jealousy, and briefly succeeds during a hunt with Veslovsky and Oblonsky, but eventually succumbs to his feelings and orders Veslovsky to leave in an embarrassing scene. Veslovsky immediately goes to stay with Anna and Vronsky at their nearby estate.

When Dolly visits Anna, she is struck by the difference between the Levins’ aristocratic-yet-simple home life and Vronsky’s overtly luxurious and lavish country estate. She is also unable to keep pace with Anna’s fashionable dresses or Vronsky’s extravagant spending on a hospital he is building. In addition, all is not quite well with Anna and Vronsky. Dolly notices Anna’s anxious behaviour and her uncomfortable flirtations with Veslovsky. Vronsky makes an emotional request to Dolly, asking her to convince Anna to divorce Karenin so that the two might marry and live normally.

Anna has become intensely jealous of Vronsky and cannot bear when he leaves her, even for short excursions. When Vronsky leaves for several days of provincial elections, Anna becomes convinced that she must marry him to prevent him from leaving her. After Anna writes to Karenin, she and Vronsky leave the countryside for Moscow.

Part 7

While visiting Moscow for Kitty’s confinement, Levin quickly gets used to the city’s fast-paced, expensive and frivolous society life. He accompanies Stiva to a gentleman’s club, where the two meet Vronsky. Levin and Stiva pay a visit to Anna, who is occupying her empty days by being a patroness to an orphaned English girl. Levin is initially uneasy about the visit, but Anna easily puts him under her spell. When he admits to Kitty that he has visited Anna, she accuses him of falling in love with her. The couple are later reconciled, realising that Moscow society life has had a negative, corrupting effect on Levin.

Anna cannot understand why she can attract a man like Levin, who has a young and beautiful new wife, but can no longer attract Vronsky. Her relationship with Vronsky is under increasing strain, because he can move freely in Russian society while she remains excluded. Her increasing bitterness, boredom, and jealousy cause the couple to argue. Anna uses morphine to help her sleep, a habit she began while living with Vronsky at his country estate. She has become dependent on it. Meanwhile, after a long and difficult labour, Kitty gives birth to a son, Dmitri, nicknamed “Mitya”. Levin is both horrified and profoundly moved by the sight of the tiny, helpless baby.

Stiva visits Karenin to seek his commendation for a new post. During the visit, Stiva asks Karenin to grant Anna a divorce (which would require him to confess to a non-existent affair), but Karenin’s decisions are now governed by a French “clairvoyant” recommended by Lidia Ivanovna. The clairvoyant apparently had a vision in his sleep during Stiva’s visit and gives Karenin a cryptic message that he interprets in a way such that he must decline the request for divorce.

Anna becomes increasingly jealous and irrational towards Vronsky, whom she suspects of having love affairs with other women. She is also convinced that he will give in to his mother’s plans to marry him off to a rich society woman. They have a bitter row and Anna believes the relationship is over. She starts to think of suicide as an escape from her torments. In her mental and emotional confusion, she sends a telegram to Vronsky asking him to come home to her, and then pays a visit to Dolly and Kitty. Anna’s confusion and anger overcome her and, in conscious symmetry with the railway worker’s death on her first meeting with Vronsky, from ground level at the end of a railway platform, she throws herself with fatal intent between the wagon wheelsets of a passing freight train.

Part 8

Sergei Ivanovich’s (Levin’s brother) latest book is ignored by readers and critics and he participates in the Russian commitment to Pan-Slavism. Stiva gets the post he desired so much, and Karenin takes custody of Vronsky and Anna’s baby, Annie. A group of Russian volunteers, including the suicidal Vronsky, depart from Russia to fight in the Orthodox Bulgarian revolt that has broken out against the Turks, more broadly identified as the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878).

A lightning storm occurs at Levin’s estate while his wife and newborn son are outdoors and, in his fear for their safety, Levin realizes that he does indeed love his son as much as he loves Kitty. Kitty’s family is concerned that a man as altruistic as her husband does not consider himself to be a Christian.

After speaking at length to a peasant, Levin has a true change of heart, concluding that he does believe in the Christian principles taught to him in childhood and no longer questions his faith. He realizes that one must decide for oneself what is acceptable concerning one’s own faith and beliefs. He chooses not to tell Kitty of the change that he has undergone.

Levin is initially displeased that his return to his faith does not bring with it a complete transformation to righteousness. However, at the end of the story, Levin arrives at the conclusion that despite his newly accepted beliefs, he is human and will go on making mistakes. His life can now be meaningfully and truthfully oriented toward righteousness.

My Thoughts:

Before I talk about this book in particular, I want to discuss this “series” in general. In my quest to be more generally well-read I have included “The Complete Works” of several authors like GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, The Bronte Sisters and now, four different Russian authors. Included are Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev and Nikolai Gogol. I shall be cycling through these four russian authors. Obviously, this particular little literary project, much like my Dickens Project, will take years to complete. Given what I am learning about myself as a long term reader, I suspect there will be breaks to prevent burnout and boredom. But that being said, I have read enough russian classics before to know that I have a russian soul and these stories resonate with me just like Dickens’ stories did.

On to this book in particular.

When I read this for the first time in 2004, I summed it up in one sentence and gave it 3stars. Looking back, I can understand my casual dismissal of this book. Massive (at over 1200 pages this is one big book!), sprawling in scope (over 12 main characters) and chock full to the gills with russian culture, it is easy to think “lets just get through this”. Ahhhh, what a callow youth I was in those days.

Considered by “them” to be one of the greatest novels ever written, Anna Karenina is a study in fallen humanity. Tolstoy was a Christian and while Jesus is never mentioned nor the Bible itself, the church is explicitly talked about. At first it bothered me but I just realized it was one of those “cultural” things. I suspect as I read through these russian authors that I’ll be experiencing a lot of that.

This took me over two weeks to complete. Not because I didn’t pick it up every day (because I did) but because I actually just slowed down and enjoyed reading this instead of consuming like I do so much of my SFF books. I didn’t take any notes but I think when I start the next russian book that I’ll grab some sort of notebook and scribble stuff down as I go along. I don’t do well with taking notes on my kindle and remembering to look them up afterwards just doesn’t happen. I need a physical notebook. Even if I end up not using 99% of the scribblings, at least I will have gotten them out of my head and onto a page. Some books deserve to be thought about and mulled over instead of just inhaled.

Thinking about this book, I’d love to be one of those people who can write pages on the meanings of everything in the book. It is a rich, complex and fulfilling book and I want to do it justice. That being said, I know I simply don’t operate that way. I hardly ever write long reviews, much less even medium reviews.

In regards to the translation. I have one of those 99cent “Complete Works of Tolstoy” that I got from Amazon so I don’ know if the translator was even listed. * heads out to check * Nope, no translator is listed. I noticed nothing egregious though so that shouldn’t b a worry for anyone.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Labyrinth of Reflections ★★★☆☆

labyrinthofreflections (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Labyrinth of Reflections
Series: ———-
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 271
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A Diver, a person who can exit the Deep at will, is caught up in something much bigger than he can imagine. It starts with him stealing the information for a new “cure for the common cold”, which leads to a job offer by the company he stole it from. He is then kidnapped and given the same job offer by a mysterious Man without a Face. This job? To go to the 33rd level of a first person shooter game and rescue a user who has somehow become stuck and who the company hired Divers can’t rescue.

The Diver has adventures, finds the love of his life in a virtual brothel and rescues the stranded user, only to find that the User isn’t a human. He might be an alien, a human from the future, a human from a parallel universe or a newly emerged computer mind. Nobody knows but they all want a piece of the action.

Leonid, the Diver, takes the rescuee to a safe place and allows him to make his own choice. In the process. Leonid is attacked by all the forces the Deep can muster as well as by the creator of the Deep itself. With the help of the rescuee, Leonid fights them all off and somehow gains the ability to connect to the Deep without a modem (hahahahahahaa). The visitor leaves and Leonid leaves the Deep and decides to meet his virtual love in real life.

 

My Thoughts:

This was originally written in ’96 or ’98 I believe and my goodness, does it show. Lukyanenko waxes eloquent about the tech of the day and it isn’t pretty. Pentium computers, MEGS of ram, 28800 modems, Doom. Then he mixes it with non-existing tech like full virtual reality body suits and the Deep, which works on the unconscious as a way to get around the horrible graphics of the day. It was such a mish-mash that it kept throwing me out of the story. You just can’t DO the things he writes about on a 28.8K phone line.

This was pre-Matrix and the ideas are pretty cool, when Lukyanenko isn’t waxing full on melancholic Russian that is. That gets old really fast. And I mean, really, really fast.

This felt more like a book where Lukyanenko was writing out his ideas of what it means to be human (while denying God and Communism in the same breath) and it felt rather sophomoric. At the same time, several of the ideas here were carried over almost wholesale into his Nightwatch series.

Overall, I don’t feel like this was a waste of my time but I certainly wouldn’t want to introduce anyone to Lukyanenko’s writings with this book. I’d definitely steer them towards the Nightwatch.

★★★☆☆

 

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The Algorithm of Power ★☆☆☆☆

algorithmofpower (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Algorithm of Power
Author: Pedro Barrento
Translator: Craig Patterson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 701
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

In 2061, the world decides to be run by a computer program instead of governments and to divide the world up into 100 regions where various ideologies, religions, philosophies and whatever can have their own little place without needing to elect anyone or be in contact with anyone who disagrees with them.

One storyline, in 2300, follows a young woman who leaves her region after her sister’s death and in the new region comes across a young man who has unfettered access to the network. She falls in love with another man and through machinations, ends up on a boat with both men heading for this Control Center.

The second storyline is about the rise of the Network and how the world we are introduced to in the beginning of the book came about.

 

My Thoughts:

Pig Ignorant Eurosnobbery.

North Korea, China, the US Army, they’re not all going to just sit back and let something like this happen. A lot of individuals wouldn’t just sit back and let this happen either.

And the passive energy field that separate the regions? Beyond handwavium, their application is completely ignored. That kind of tech would have gone into somebody’s military and then gone to the world’s militaries. World War III was much more likely of an outcome than what is shown.

Don’t even get me started on the lack of Religious intelligence here. This author obviously doesn’t understand ANY religion. I know that Christians wouldn’t accept being corraled into one little part of the planet. The whole point of Christianity isn’t to live with people you agree with, but to spread what you believe to others. You can’t do that, there is no point in being a Christian. Then the muslims and their jihads? You think they’re just going to lie down? Ahhh, the lack of understanding in this book was appalling.

I also didn’t like a single character.

The writing. I’ve got conflicting data here. Antao, in his review, states that this was originally in English. The kindle edition I got states:

Translation: Craig Patterson

So, was that translation of certain phrases in the book, translation from English to Portuguese or from Portuguese to English. Mr Barrento lives in Portugal, so I wouldn’t think he would need help translating his book to that language? I couldn’t find which language this was written in first, nor did I look that hard. Not worth it.

Either way, no matter, the writing was choppy, didn’t flow and kept me at arms length. I always felt narrated AT while reading this book and that was off putting.

I doubt I’ll ever come across another book by this author, but if I some how do, I certainly won’t be reading it.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

Spring Snow (Sea of Fertility #1) ★★☆☆☆

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Spring Snow
Series: Sea of Fertility #1
Author: Yukio Mishima
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Japanese Lit
Pages: 399
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Kiyoaki, son of a wealthy samurai family, has been raised in the Ayakura household. The Ayakuras are an ancient royal family and the Matsugae’s hope that some of the Ayakura’s polish will rub off on Kiyoaki.

The Ayakura’s have a daughter who is in love with Kiyoaki. However, Kiyoaki is the forerunner of the emo-goths and so self-absorbed that he ignores or repels anything having to do with anyone else. He rejects Satoko’s love and she is then affianced to a direct descendant of the Emperor.

Kiyoaki loses it, starts a torrid affair with Satoko without thinking about any of the consequences. Satoko becomes pregnant, is forced to abort the baby and in response joins a nunnery. Kiyoaki refuses to believe that Satoko would spurn him and in the process of trying to get her attention, catches pneunomia and dies.

 

My Thoughts:

Ugh. And that pretty much sums up every single feeling I had about this book. It was “Literature” with a Capital L.

It was beautifully written and the translator did a fantastic job of keeping that beauty intact. However, nothing could disguise the pathetic, childish, self-centered, disgusting character of the main character. Kiyoaki was a typical young man but without getting any of his sharp corners ground down by his parents or his friends. So at the end, he cracks and breaks.

This was reading about the worst of people, just because the author felt like writing it. In the introduction, by the publishers, they give a little history of the author. He killed himself at the age of 45. If his mindset continued like this book, it’s no wonder.

This was supposed to be a tetralogy, but I’m not sure how this can be a series since the main character dies. From the tone of the book, I’d guess that the series is all tied together by some esoteric “Idea”. Ugh. Again.

I will NOT be reading any more by Mishima.

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) ★★★☆ ½

rivers (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Rivers of London
Series: Peter Grant #1
Author: Ben Aaronovich
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 396
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Peter Grant is a constable in good ol’ Merry England. Of course, he’s not actually a very good constable. In fact,he’s being shuffled over to the section that deals with all that nasty paperwork stuff, because there, he’ll be “making a contribution”.

Until the night that he sees a ghost while guarding a murder scene.

He then is taken as the apprentice to the apparantly sole magical cop and starts hunting down the killer from the murder scene. With the help of the ghost, Father Thames and Mother Thames (who are having a turf war at the moment), his friend who he wants to be more than a friend and his “Master”.

Peter Grant solves the case, but not without several instances of random people beating each other to death with a 4foot club and then having their faces fall off. Oh,and don’t forget the riot filled with all the cultured people from the opera, who go out for a night of looting, vandalism and a little murder on the side.

Along with all this, it is up to Peter, as part of his apprenticeship, to solve the problem of the Thames’.

That’s asking a bit much from a loser like Peter who can’t concentrate on one thing for more than 10minutes.

 

My Thoughts:

I read the Gollancz edition of this book, which is the proper English release. I kind of wish I had read the American release entitled Midnight Riot. One, I think that Midnight Riot is much more of an apt title for this book’s specific villain and two, I would hope that some of the slang would be changed to make actual sense to someone who doesn’t live in downtown London. It might have been English, but it wasn’t the Queen’s English, that is for sure.

And that was about my only complaint.

I don’t enjoy Urban Fantasy for the most part, not even Harry Dresden. But every once in a while a book or series will transcend the inherent weakness in this sub-genre, the cliched banality, the soap opera level pointless dramatics, the “makes no sense whatsoever” so called romance and impress me. So I tend to be rather hard on the poor book when it comes from “that side of the tracks”. Oh, all those “quotes”? Another thing I hate about UF.

But this isn’t a rant about me hating on UF. It is a review of a book that I rather enjoyed when I wasn’t sure I was going to or not.

There was a lot more dry humor than I was expecting. For about the first 75% anyway. I enjoyed the style of humor and never found it boring or over the top. Then things got serious and the humor went away. I missed that. The magic system wasn’t explained, but since I’m not a huge “give me the details” kind of guy when it comes to spaceships or magic, I was pretty ok with that. I know some people thrive on “world building” like that though, so be aware.

The Rivers of London bit was well done too. Every river having its own little godling? And it all being a family thing? Top notch. We’ll see how, or if, it plays into the series in a bigger way or not. But considering that one of the nyads has a thing for old Petey and he’s not saying no, and his friend/dream lover that will never be, is potentially out of the picture and that Peter pissed off one of the older nyads, well, there is just too much potential story there to let it all go to waste.

Glad I started this and I hope it continues strong. If the series stays as good as this story, I’ll probably be bumping my ratings up to at least a 4star.

★★★☆ ½

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