Third Monkey, Hear Evil
Thursday, November 27, 2003
  Just a quick one: Of the people who read this blog, did any of you borrow a Women's Weekly 'Best Ever Cakes and Slices' (or some similar title)? I can't find it anywhere, and I've just discovered that all of the cake recipes I use are in it. Given that I bought it about 10 years ago, I'm not very hopeful of finding a new copy (and it won't have all of my helpful notes on the variations I've made, especially which ones work with what flours and milk substitutes). Blah. I probably wouldn't notice any other cookbook being missing! 
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
  McCaffrey, Anne

(warning: to understand some of this post, it would help to have at least encountered the titles of some of Anne McCaffrey's works, as I'm not going to necessarily discuss them explicitly)

Having been talking in the previous post about books that I do and don't reread, I thought I'd discuss one of those authors that many of my friends love to hate. Now, I wouldn't object to this too much if I hadn't discovered some months ago that one of them does so without ever having read any of McCaffrey's works!

Other peoples negatives on McCaffrey seem to boil down to : She's set a lot of stories in the same worlds, and there are dragons in one of them. Oh, and she seems to be milking the franchises for as much as she can get.

Personally, I don't mind the fact that there are several sets of books that McCaffrey has written. Take the Pern series (or multiples thereof). Dragons there are, but they are incidental characters. There is also some subtle politics. But what really gets me are the characters, and the depth of the society, although this has developed over the novels - when rereading several over a short time frame, there is a sense of the author's personal political stances changing, which means that it is much better to read the stories in the order they were written, rather than the chronological order they end up in.

And, I must admit, that I'm a sucker for reasonable science fiction or fantasy that has a good musical element. I'd have to pick the first two of the Menolly trilogy (which yes, are part of the greater Pern whole), because of the character, the music, the despair at losing her music that the main character feels, and the running away from it all to try and do something different, against the odds.

Actually, this against the odds thing is a fairly strong theme - she writes headstrong characters well, ones who know what they want, and sometimes have some problems with getting it, even to the point of never really achieving it in one or two cases (e.g. 'Masterharper of Pern', where Robinton is trying to get his father's approval or notice, he never really gets there). And sometimes, the dangers of getting what you think you want (the Crystal Singer set, where having got what she wants, the main character gradually loses her memory of what it is that she had, and who she is. Not a good set for people terrified of dementia, methinks).

To state the main thing I like about most of McCaffrey's stuff - I can read it over and over again, without a feeling of being jaded. And I always get sucked in to the stories (with a couple of exceptions). Brain candy, quite probably. But it makes me feel good, even when the section of the story is unhappy. Rating: varies, depending on the books, nothing below a C (not even 'Crystal Line'), with the Menolly series of Pern books ('Dragonsinger', 'Dragonsong', 'Dragondrums', not necessarily in that order) being A+. 
  'Magician' by R Feist
Raymond Feist, ex-RPG designer, short-to medium bibliography of fantasy (won't say trashy, I've only read the one, and a horror one). The blurb to 'Magician' tells us that he is a great new writer, and mentions the RPG history. The next book in the series, which is a reprint from much later, doesn't describe him in nearly as glowing terms, fails to mention the RPG history, in fact fails to mention much about him at all, and lists near on a dozen books. I think I liked the first blurb better.

Anyway, I wasn't intending to critique the blurbs, I was going to comment on the novel. Fits neatly into a category of books I like entitled 'why the hell did they bother to write a sequel?' Good book, wraps up nicely, leaves lots of things unexplained, but it would be nice if they stayed that way. Am finding that I will have to drag myself to read the sequel.

Well written, but is really a war book with some fantasy elements mixed in (okay, so that is probably overstating the situation, but there was an awful lot ofwar). Not having read it before, I didn't skip bits, but would probably find that should I ever reread it, I'll miss large chunks of the text. So, if I'm going to skip lots, why reread? Because I really liked the characterisation (and to some extent the characters). Nobody is truly demonised, although lots of groups that are never encountered are slandered frequently, it is all well enough portrayed that the prejudicial aspects come through.

Will I reread it? I'm not sure. I read 'Faerie Tale' (which I believe to be by the same author) some years ago, and greatly enjoyed it, but have never been tempted to read it again. I would however recommend it to people as a great book. 'Magician' is not as great a book, probably not memorable enough for me to think 'but what happened after ' some impressive section and pick it up again to refresh my memory. However, it is possible that I will reach a time where I think 'ah, I enjoyed that one, what was it all about?' So, the answer on rereading, is maybe.

Rating: B 
Life and times of someone who should know better....

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