I shall be reveiwing two books, Ender's Game and Wit'ch Fire, since I read them recently. I also read American Gods recently, but I already posted about that on my own lj. And anyway, I have less to say about it.
As with many book reveiws, there is always the possibility that these may contain spoilers, but I tried not to have anything major.
Title: Ender's Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Ender's game is a really, really good book. I'm just gonna start by saying that. Whatever crtiticizms I have, it doesn't change the fact that this is a really good book. It seems to start slow, but looking at the book as a whole, it has to be done that way, for the mounting emotional tension to be apparent. The story basically follows a boy named "Ender" (his real name is Arthur Wiggin, but he calls himself Ender.) Ender was born for one purpose: to be a genius fleet commander. Humanity is engaged in a war with a superior race, and the millitary command knows that their only chance for survival is a commander whos tactical inteligence is better than that of their enemy. The book follows Ender through millitary school as he is unwittingly prepared for this monstrously difficult task. Basically, the story follows Ender as he is slowly diven nearly insane by the demands of his education. The plot is fairly straightforward, and the conclusion hardly unpredictable, but Card wrote this book a long time ago, when you could get away with less surprizing conclusions to science fiction stories. Anyway, the plot isn't nearly as important to the success of this book as the characterization, which is stunning. Ender is a child but not a child, petty and small-minded but also vastly inteligent and possesed of an almost godlike understanding of the motivations and actions of other people. Neither he, nor any other of the characters are really entirely good or evil (although MOST of the characters seem more evil than good, even Ender himself to some extent.) and there really isn't an actual villan, no matter how it may seem. I like psychological/philosophical science fiction a lot, and anyone else who ALSO likes philosphical science fiction would probably also enjoy this book. It is pretty dark, though, certainly not a light read. Also, if the idea of young children being endlessly emotionally abused is too unnerving for you, I'd avoid Enders Game. (not that everyone is okay with the abusiveness, but it is there)
The sequel to Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead is also a pretty good book, even though it takes place on only one planet and there isn't really very much interesting violence. Ender travels to a distant planet to figure out why the indegenous aliens (the first encountered PEACFULLY by humans) have killed the man who was studying them. This book is very different from Ender's Game, which was much more character driven. Speaker is far more plot driven, and in fact that plot is a lot more in-depth. I don't know, though. I didn't enjoy it as much as ender's game. And the hint of romance is rather sadly ignored, but I was expecting that. All science fiction authors of a certain generation are incapable of writing romance into their books.
The third book, Xenocide, I still haven't finished, and I probably never will. It was really, really talky. I just wanted to know what was going to happen, and was tired of reading so much dialog, and it wasn't really going into anything the other two books hadn't already done better. Perhaps my opinon would change if I actially finished it, though, so I'm not going to say any more.
Title: Wit'ch Fire
Author: James Clemens
So Tom loaned me one of his favorite books, Wit'ch Fire, and I did like it. It's a pretty good book. But it's not going to be my favorite fantasy sereis ever or anything like that. The setting is interesting, but really, this is a fantasy story I've read many, many, MANY times before. Tell me if this sounds familiar: "The land has been subjugated by a dark lord and his demon minions for a long time. There's a really old prophecy that only a few people know, that someone will come along and save the world. The prophecied savior appears, but she's just a kid, and doesn't want to save the world anyway. The minions of the dark lord want to capture her, but there's a group of unlikely heroes who are determined not to let that happen."
It was a good book, but in the end, it's nothing I haven't read before. There are lots of characters, and I already know what's going to happen to quite a few of them. I know who's ultimately going to betray the party, but then realize his mistake and help win the battle in the end. I know who might be going to die. I THINK I know who's going to end up shacking up, though I'm less certain of that than I am of the other things. I dunno. In a fantasy story, where the plot isn't anything terribly new, the characters are always key. Or perhaps that's just a personal thing with me. In any case, there are so many different characters, I feel like none of them really have much depth. It would be okay for some of the peripheral characters to be sketchy, as long as there were a few core characters who were really deep. But there aren't. Really, I just wish the MAIN character was deeper. Exagerating this fact is the way the book takes itself so seriously. There's very little humor of any sort in this book. Granted, there's little opportunity, since it's rather dark.
BUT, this is only volume one. I am perfectly aware that the characters may, in future books, surpass all my expectations. The characters may get deeper, and plot may develop some unexpected elements, and I may be more impressed than I am.
It wasn't a BAD book, though. The setting is incredibly detailed and wonderful, description and such is lovely but not overdone. The different races are all quite interesting, all with interesting traits and features. The action and fighting was really quite excelent, the demons were properly horrific, and things moved along well. It was a very easy read, which is always good. I have read some REALLY bad fantasy books, and this was not one of them. I feared for characters lives, and worried that someone was going to get captured by the dark lord, I was sad that some bad things happened. The fact that I knew what was, basically, going to happen was somewhat beside the point. I just wish I had been able to like the characters even MORE. I'll still read the second book, though.
I think my favorite part, in the end, was the forward, where the "publisher" stated that the author was a liar. I could have done with a bit more humor of that sort.