Two mini-reviews this week of two books I hopefully downloaded from the library and, alas, did not finish, both for the same reason.
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay DNF (9%)
To begin with, this is a fantasy story, which is not my usual forte, I have read good things about Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing, so I decided to give it a try. Kay is indeed a good wordsmith. The story is set in a world similar to the 14th century Mediterranean Sea area, with a focus on an alternative Venice. The story begins with the musings of a new Venetian ambassador to the court of, well, let’s say alternate Constantinople as he waits to be presented to the ruler of this alternate Constantinople. These musings serve to start the world building for the story. From this point of view we slide to a young ship owner of Venice, a want-to-be girl pirate some months later who has her dead grandfather’s spirit some how living in her head. She sets out in a boat ambush a Venetian raiding party that is blockading her city, but before she begins, we cut to a meeting of the ruling body of Venice discussing her success sometime later… This is the first 9% of the story. I don’t like multiple points of view stories to begin with, though no doubt Kay will draw all these threads together at some point. However, I found none of the characters engaging enough to care or continue reading about.
Embers of War by Gareth L Powell DNF (11%)
Powell is a British science fiction writer of, I gather space operas. At least this story is a space opera. It opens with a prologue of a war where the commander decides to nuke an entire world. We then jump three years forward to the first person narrative of the captain of a crew of 4 who man a sentient ship, one of the warships from the side that nuked the planet that has been decommissioned, and which is now used for search and rescue missions. Their current mission is saving what they can of a space ship’s crew that mysteriously crashed into an ocean. While doing so, one of the team is snatched away by a sea creature. We then skip to the first person point of view of a veteran of that war who is now a famous poet on a space liner that is going to inspect some strange alien artifacts. The space liner comes under attack by forces unknown. And then we are back to the captain on the water planet. As they leave, one crew member short, they are requested to go to the aid of any survivors of that attack on a space liner. With this we switch to the first person view of the sentient ship which, as a warship used to have a crew of 300 people, and who now has a crew of 3. (What with one redshirt getting dragged down to the depths by a tentacled monster.) The ship then tells us a little abut itself, and then how it moves through space… which covers the first 11% of the story. At this point I gave up.
In this case it wasn’t just the multiple points of view, but the, in my opinion, over the top effort of Powell to make this an exciting story. I tend to like understated things, and this story was so pulpish in its frantic effort to create what? Mystery, danger, interest? I don't know, save that it completely turned me off. That and the whole improbability of the premise – a sentient ship with a crew of 4 humans, all of which were off ship standing on a sinking wreck cutting through the hull to get at any survivors in the waterlogged wreck. Really? Not to mention a dedicated rescue space ship that takes days to get to the scene of the wreck. And this is a traditionally published book? Still, I guess this is the stuff readers like. Oh, well.