Being, as is previously stated, a list of books I've done gone and read and my miscellaneous thoughts upon them.
The Three Musketeers (Alexander Dumas)
I'd attempted to read this several times before and succeeded in finishing this time. There's a perverse tragic hilarity to the story, most of the characters are often fairly awful people but are nonetheless entertaining. The whole thing meanders about, speeding up in places and rushing along before cooling and wandering once more. This varied between enjoyable and annoying for me, depending on how I felt about the particular chapter.
Milady is perhaps the best character, she radiates palpable fury, the first time we actually get a close look at her and hear her speak in the text she dashes a fan to pieces in rage. I'm not sure if any of her portrayals in film really match up to how I now imagine her.
After Milady, the lackeys are my favorite (and their absence in many adaptations is a tragedy of its own). They are often abused. Often comic. Generally oozing with character. You could very easily drop both one of the musketeers and their lackey into the setting and have an instantly working and dynamic set of npcs.
The bastion picnic scene is fantastic.
Dumas has a love for melancholic endings if the Count of Monte Cristo is anything to go on for comparison. Or perhaps it is merely the modern eye that turns the endings so melancholic? I am unsure.
The Dragonmasters (Jack Vance)
A shorter novella that verges on dull at places but wins the day overall with several excellent concepts, a clutch of interesting characters (personally I found Ervis and his retinue to be the most entertaining), and some segments of engaging prose.
It engages with one of my favorite tropes of humans warped and domesticated into utilitous forms by aliens, and adds a further dimension in classic weird fucked up sci fi fashion by having had the humans do the same right back to the aliens. And then to add to that invents an entire miniature system of warfare utilizing those alien ‘dragons’.
The ending tantalizingly suggests the thought of writing a sequel charting some descendant Banbeck in their newly formed interstellar empire or some such.
I feel that the story would make for an excellent short comic.
Hawks of Outremer (Robert E. Howard)
I found the prose to be lacking in the requisite detail to have it read as historical fiction, instead coming across as a glossed over ‘vaguely medieval’ fantasy style. Which in turn failed to alleviate the prevailing orientalism. A pity, because I was quite hooked by the opening wherein Cormac recounts his various adventures prior to the story. And I find the way Cormac himself plows through the plot like a murdersome, bloodstained 18-wheeler to be quite entertaining. There are hints of a better story within, one that explores the knavish nature of nearly everyone involved in the late crusades through the lens of an amoral but ragefully loyal mercenary. Not Howard’s best, but not the worst either.
Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino)
Calvino is evocatively philosophical, and the text is wonderful to engage in on a surface level of simply pillaging ideas or on a deeper, contemplative plane. I quite honestly need to read through it again, to parse some of the deeper meanings behind the matter of cities and their metaphysical natures. It's not hard, given the short length. I’d really love to get my own copy. The dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo alone is worth the price.
The Stars Are Legion (Kameron Hurley)
I feel bad about not finishing this book, it was actually beginning to get enjoyable but I fell off it due to outside factors and haven’t picked it up to finish yet. The vagueness and angst early on in the story were frustrating, but once it gets rolling along and more details are revealed it's not as bad. There are of course, decaying meat-moons which already puts it on a high grade.
However, the description could have strove for greater decadence, chewiness, rather than the workmanlike prose it had. Perhaps this was intentional to match the barebones material culture (very little metal, everything's meat). But still some nice juicy descriptions of viscera would be good.
Nomads of the Time Stream (Michel Moorcock)
DNF at 2 stories out of 3
I didn’t finish, not for any particular reason, I simply didn't feel sufficiently inspired to wrap it up though I enjoyed the first two stories I read.
I contend that the best bit was the initial introduction which while steeped in orientalism had wonderfully evocative description as well as solid enough motivation on part of the protagonist to keep the story flowing (later on he just drifts about, rather a non-character and more just a viewing scope).
Besides the opening, I found the Land Leviathan to be more compelling than Warlord of Air. Its display of bigotry and atrocity is more direct and upfront, and its super science flows more believably (amusing given that it features giant city sized fortress ziggurats) thanks to the widespread, global altering nature. However, its examination of race and imperialism is still clumsy.
All together a neat little read, not particularly inspiring (except for that opening segment in Teku Benga which was really well put together) but interesting, and certainly displays Moorcock's prose.
Elric of Melnibone (Michael Moorcock)
When it comes to "antiheroes", particularly the kind prone to philosophizing it is often a coin flip whether they are insufferable or enjoyable. Fortunately Elric is the latter. His brooding, while grandiose, never crosses the threshold of frustration and elicits genuine sympathy. Whilst be contrasted deliciously against the cruelties of his station and people.
Moorcock's prose is clear whilst being decadent in detail. The plot is a solid pulp fantasy yarn the way through. The aesthetics and environs are refreshing coming out of the current fantasy milieu, delightfully weird and sometimes incoherent as well.
I'm half way through Sailor On the Seas of Fate as I write this.
The Carpet People (Terry Pratchett)
A re-read. And well worth it.
As time passes my love for novellas and shorter stories increases. Not everything (especially in fantasy) needs to be sprawling multi-tome epics. The Carpet People manages to accomplish an entire drama, with big climatic battles and all in a short space (which I am just now realizing is rather delightfully appropriate to the setting of the novel). It's exactly as long as it needs to be. A practice more books should adhere to (though of course it does require some skill on part of the writer).
There is classic Pratchett wit throughout and the characters are simple but endearing, the same going for the environs of The Carpet, which would make an excellent game setting. Miniature worlds in general are underutilized, perhaps a post is in order.