Steven Wu's Book Reviews
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September 2003

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Upcoming series
September 25, 2003 (4:10 AM) ( link )

Sorry for the long absence: I plead work.

Nonetheless, I've kept reading. Currently I have three books waiting to be reviewed. And I'm reading Daniel Keys Moran's The Long Run, another book in his Tales of the Continuing Time (of which The Last Dancer was a part).

I just wanted to note down (partially for my own purposes) some books coming out that either continue or nicely round off some of my favorite series:

October 20, 2003 (UK edition): Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate, the third book in her Tawny Man Trilogy. I've read Hobb's first two trilogies (the Assassin Trilogy and the Liveship Traders Trilogy), and they were fantastic. The Tawny Man Trilogy promises to tie the previous two trilogies together and also complete the story (I hope). The first two books of the trilogy are already out; I've been manfully refraining from reading them for now, so I don't find myself dying to find out what happens next.

November 4, 2003: Stephen King's Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book in his strange but wonderful Dark Tower series. King, bless him, is churning out the last three books of this septology in a row--I think they're separated by something like two months (perhaps more). I'm not as fond of the Dark Tower series as I am of some other series, but it's still a delightful read--and it'll be nice to see King finish it.

Whenever: George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows. I have been staring at the same goddamned message on his website for ages: "STILL SORRY. STILL NOT DONE YET." I'd be even angrier if I weren't 100% sure that Martin will deliver. The first three books of A Song and Ice and Fire have been phenomenal stuff. The next few books of the series (two more, I think) should be even better. This, my friends, is destined to be an immortal classic of fantasy.

Whenever: Robert Jordan's next book. It's true that Jordan's Wheel of Time series has suffered a remarkable decline--the first four books (possibly even the fifth) were superb, but the last few have been slow-moving and terrible. So what? I know that when the last book comes out I'll still sit down and read all gazillion volumes in a row.

Two-year anniversary and Top 10 List (2002-2003)
September 7, 2003 (7:07 PM) ( link )

This month marks the two-year anniversary of this book-reviews page. In the past year I've read only 50 books (compared to 73 last year) and written 47 reviews. In the last month I had the biggest reading splurge, perhaps because it was the last month of summer vacation: 11 books, and 11 corresponding reviews.

This year was a fairly poor one for reading. But here's what I considered to be the Top 10 books I read last year. (Just a brief note: some of the higher-ranked books here might have lower ratings than the lower-ranked books. It's hindsight's fault.)

Steven's Picks for
The Best Books of 2002-2003
That I Read

10. Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow
Though not without its flaws, this novel nevertheless made you care so deeply about its characters--and their terrible dilemmas--that you ignore all of its blemishes.

9. Patrick Suskind's Perfume
A very strange novel, but written very well. You'll never smell the same way again.

8. Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory
Surely the most respected novel on this list, The Power and the Glory should have been powerfully dull; instead, its intense portrait of a religiously troubled priest enthralls.

7. Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire
A short novel, but an affecting one. I'm not sure why Eskridge writes science fiction; it's the fiction part, not the science part, where she shines.

6. Alastair Reynolds's Chasm City
A slam-bang space opera set in a single city. Reynolds is a wonderful science-fiction writer with a great feel for plot and suspense.

5. Daniel Keys Moran's The Last Dancer and Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward (tie)
Over-the-top science-fiction extravaganzas. Seldom have two books made less sense, or been more fun. (Smith's later books are not as good.)

4. Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen
One of the best portraits of an imaginary city ever. VanderMeer writes with a sure and steady style that effectively evokes the macabre and decrepit feeling of Ambergris, his sickeningly lovely creation.

3. China Mieville's The Scar
Mieville is an ever-reliable author: Perdido Street Station was a favorite of mine last year, and The Scar, its sequel, also impresses.

2. Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time
It starts off annoying but, for some reason, I found the central relationship between the two protagonists appealing.

1. Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders Trilogy (1. Ship of Magic, 2. Mad Ship, 3. Ship of Destiny)
Robin Hobb is one of the single best writers of fantasy out there today. Her first trilogy, The Farseer Trilogy, was by far one of the most intense, riveting fantasy series out there. This, her second trilogy, is not as intense, but just as good. I still remember reading the last book into the early morning, feeling a giddy sense of excitement as she pulled her characters together in one of the most rousing conclusions I have ever read.

Also notable:
Jeffrey Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
Tim Powers's Anubis Gates
Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring

Last Year's Top 10: Steven's Picks for the Best Books of 2001-2002.

New Review: Iain M Banks's Inversions
September 7, 2003 (6:42 PM) ( link )

ADDED a review of Iain M Banks's Inversions. A disappointing and bland novel, especially from Banks.

I am currently trying to figure out my Top 10 list. I imagine I'll post it in only a few more minutes. The pace of reading has now slowed: since school is starting, I probably won't be able to get through more than 3 or 4 books a month. That's pretty sad.

New Reviews: Three of them
September 7, 2003 (2:28 AM) ( link )

ADDED reviews of Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen, Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire, and Robert L Forward's Dragon's Egg. Two good ones, one bad one. Guess which is which!

The only book from the summer I have left to review is Iain M Banks's very polished Inversions. I'm still not entirely sure what to think of the novel. Once I figure it out, though, I'll put up that review, then look over the past year and figure out my favorite novels. That Top 10 list should come out within the week.

Right now I'm poking my way through Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon still. It isn't great--a little bit sterile, in fact--but that may be because I'm reading about 10-15 pages a night, rather than consuming the whole thing at once. The way you read the book is so important in shaping your perception of it; sometimes I think authors should include a page at the front, advising you how you should read their book for maximum impact.

New Review: Alastair Reynold's Chasm City
September 4, 2003 (7:10 AM) ( link )

ADDED a review of Alastair Reynolds's Chasm City. An excellent novel.

In fact, Chasm City marked the beginning of an entire run of excellent novels that I read over the end of summer vacation: Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen, Kelly Eskridge's Solitaire, and Iain M Banks's Inversions (which was somewhat less excellent). In between I also read the much less interesting Dragon's Egg, by Robert L Forward. Reviews of these latter four books will be released during this week.

It's been a busy time at the start of law school. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some reading nonetheless. (And, of course, at some point I'll have to make my Top 10 list for the year. Depressing thought.)

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