FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
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Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
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Clarke, Susanna
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Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
Herbert, Frank
Herbert, James
Hine, David
Hobb, Robin
Howard, Robert E.
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Jeter, K. W.
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Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
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Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
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Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
McIntyre, Vonda
Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
Milligan, Peter
Moench, Doug
Moesta, Rebecca
Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
Nylund, Eric
O'Neil, Dennis
Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
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Quinn, David
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Reed, A. W.
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Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
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Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
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Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
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Truman, Tim
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van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
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Reviewing Literature
The Books of Robert Jordan

Born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, Robert Jordan began writing in 1977 (by all accounts a good year for the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres).  He is most famous for his protracted Wheel of Times series that is somewhere between masterpiece and the financial rape of the reader.  Jordan died in September 2007 without ever completing the 12th and final book of the Wheel of Time.

Average Review Score: 3.7 out of 5

New Spring
The Wheel of Time prequel.  Based on the short story published in the 'Legends' anthology, at first I was worried that this would just be a word for word waste of money, like the Sword of Truth one ('Debt Of Bones') turned out to be.  Thankfully, Jordan has gone to a lot of trouble to expand the original story to include Lan's actions at the end of the Aiel War and Moiraine's training at the White Tower.  What I enjoyed most about this book was the characters seen here before their personality amputations that leave them boring in the series proper.  Also, the irritating village folk of Emon's Field never appear, meaning that characters here are more interesting and endearing by far.  I particularly enjoyed reading about Moiraine and Siuan's youth, about their pranks and how they begin their secret mission to find the Dragon Reborn.  It lacks the epic scale of the other Wheel of Time books, but I happily sacrifice that in exchange for a book at a nice 423 pages long.
4 out of 5
The Eye Of The World
The first book of the Wheel of Time.  I've always thought that an epic series should begin with a story that grabs hold of you, slaps you around the face and says "Pay attention!".  Jordan clearly doesn't think the same.  I found this book to be boring and repetetive and a massive disappointment.  It involves a group of country bumpkins (don't all fantasy stories) who set off on a quest, except the quest seems simply to involve wandering from place to place and getting separated.  The characters are very difficult to empathise with; Rand is a sulky baby, Mat is an idiot, Perrin is rather bland, Egwene is snooty, Nynaeve is sharp and as for Lan and Moiraine, they hardly seem to have characters at all.  Pursuing these 'heroes' are the Fades, a severely lacklustre imitation of the Nazgul, and the Trollocs.  Jordan clearly couldn't figure out what type of creature to make the Trollocs, so he made them all types of creature and they just come out sounding daft.  This book's biggest crime, however, is the immense anticlimax.
2 out of 5
The Great Hunt
The second Wheel of Time novel.  This book shares a lot of it's predecessor's failings but manages to offset them slightly by adding the interesting new characters of the Seanchan and by actually having a climax to the story.  Still, the bulk of the book does simply involve travelling, making camp for the night, getting up, travelling some more, making camp and so on.  Another fault is that the characters are becoming more difficult to like.  At least in the first book you could empathise with their connection to one another, but here they're hardly even friends anymore.
2 out of 5
The Dragon Reborn
The third book of the Wheel of Time.  A much better book all round, this.  Although it still involves alot of repetetive travel scenes (at one point all the characters are on boats on the river and their experiences are all but identical), the characters are actually beginning to develop, with Rand, Perrin and Mat actually beginning to show some backbone.  Egwene, Elaine and Nynaeve get on my nerves though, partially because of their constant bickering and partially because of their treatment of Mat, even though he travels the length of the country to help them.  Jordan has also managed to make a perfect climax too, with all the characters arriving at the Stone of Tear separately, but being drawn into the same battle.  I would however, like to pull Jordan up on one thing; I'll allow him the Artur Paendrag thing (clearly a reference to King Arthur Pendragon of British myth), but did he think we wouldn't notice that Rand fulfills a prophesy by removing the sword from the Stone (even if the Stone is a fortress instead of a rock).
4 out of 5
The Shadow Rising
The fourth Wheel of Time book.  I'll start with what I liked about this book (it shouldn't take long).  I enjoyed Perrin's growing into a strong military leader as he attempts to save the people of the Two Rivers from their own stubborness and complacency in the face of danger.  Now, for what I didn't like (brace yourself).  Perhaps I'm abnormal, but I don't spend every minute of every day obessing about how indecipherable the opposite sex is, which is what the characters here do.  You'd think their mind would be focused on the whole 'world about to end' thing, but no, all they do is stand around wondering why so-and-so is upset and then rolling their eyes with a shrug of "Women!" or "Men!".  The repetition in this book gets really annoying too.  There's only so many times you can read 'she folded her arms under her breasts' or 'Nynaeve tugged on her braid' before you want to yell 'SHUT UP AND GET ON WITH THE STORY!'.  Then there's the thing where Rand, who is let's not forget the Dragon Reborn, says something cryptic and all of his best friends think he's mad.  If my friends say something I don't understand, I ask them to explain themselves.  I think this is my basic problem with Jordan; rather than confronting issues, he unnecesarily drags them out for another couple of hundred pages.  This book could have been made twice as good by removing half the pages.
3 out of 5
The Fires Of Heaven
The fifth book of the Wheel of Time series.  The story arc here dealing with Rand, Mat, Egwene, Moiraine and the Aiel is actually quite good, as Rand's new Aiel allies attempt to destroy a rogue clan and conquer the troubled land of Cairhien.  The other major story arc is somewhat less satisfying, with Elayne and Nynaeve constantly bickering, constantly belittling the men who're helping them and constantly worrying about 'plunging necklines'.  If women really do think like Jordan's characters, then it's wonder anything ever gets done.  Perhaps most irritating about Jordan's women is their undying hypocrisy; particularly Egwene who goes on and on about Rand's arrogance but is far worse herself.  As ever the author suffers from an infuriating inability to get to the point, meaning that, once again, much of the book is superfluous.  However, taking the story as a whole and taking into account it's better moments (Rand and Aviendha finally acting like adults and getting it on, for instance, or Nynaeve's enslavement of Moghedien) I'd say this book is reasonably good and an improvement over most of the previous ones.
4 out of 5
Lord Of Chaos
The sixth book of the Wheel of Time series.  I can't help but suspect that Jordan didn't actually write this book, primarily because something actually happens in almost every chapter!  Furthermore, this book also advances the series' story by leaps and bounds, which none of the others really have done so far.  When I first started the book I was horrified to realise that it ran to an astonishing 1010 pages (!) but to my surprise, at no point did I feel that I was struggling to get through the book, which I have done with most of the previous ones.  Jordan manages to minimise the factors that have so annoyed me in the past (I can only remember one 'she folded her arms under her breasts') although the interaction between Elayne and Mat is a bit of a backslide when Jordan was doing so much better with his male/female relationships.  As I've said elsewhere, I can't stand imprisonment storylines but Jordan manages to make the one here tolerable by focusing on those attempting to rescue Rand, rather than on describing every single repetetive moment of the captivity.  And so the book leads up to a brilliant battle-scene climax.  My favourite element of the book was the creation of the Asha'man and the tense relationship between Rand and Mazrim Taim.  Taim's character is excellent and he comes into his own in the aforementioned climatic battle, as the battle leader of the Asha'man (there's something very impressive about Taim's command "Asha'man, kill").  This is undoubtably the best book of the series so far, but some may be put off by it's sheer size (1010 pages, 54 chapters).
5 out of 5
A Crown Of Swords
The seventh Wheel of Time novel.  Jordan manages to maintain the quality shown in the previous volume here, once again avoiding the pitfalls that plagued the earlier books in the series.  Rather than meandering around for no apparent reason, Jordan and his characters are more focused now, meaning there is decent story to be read here.  The characters have lost most of their more irritating habits and are now much easier to empathise with and connect to, making the story that much more compelling.  So, generally speaking, another very entertaining read with plenty of depth and complexity (and finally a bit of sex too!).  The one thing that I can fault this book on is that, as a transitional chapter in the series, there are no spectacular set-piece moments (like Dumai's Wells in the previous book) and the climax of this book leans towards the anti- variety.
4 out of 5
The Path Of Daggers
The eighth Wheel of Time novel.  Sadly, Jordan takes a massive backslide here.  He avoids the irritating elements of the earlier books and, in fact, the prose quality here is quite high, the problem is that the book is fairly boring.  After the leaps-and-bounds progression of the overall story in the last two books, I was sorely disappointed to discover that this book largely just consists of Jordan unnecesarily overextending story threads (I mean, do we really need all that stuff with Cadsuane - who is a really arrogant and irritating character, by the way - ?).  I was initially pleased when it became apparent that we were going to see Rand lead the Asha'man against the Seanchan, but was again disappointed.  Jordan had proved, with the Dumai's Wells scene, that he can write truly awesome battles, but it seems that talent doesn't extend into writing ongoing campaigns.  When held up against the campaign-stories of Raymond E. Feist, Jordan's boring, repetetive attempt pales in comparison.  So, a fairly well-written book that is severely lacking in actual story.
3 out of 5
Winter's Heart
The ninth book in the Wheel of Time series.  It's increasing curious the way in which Jordan seems to alternate between being rubbish to being one of the best writers in the field of fantasy.  With this book he proves himself the latter for the time being.  We finally get some major issues addressed here, not least of which is Rand finally confronting the three women he loves in one go (not to mention subsequently bedding Elayne!).  This finally gives a bit of progression to a story thread that interested me (hopeless romantic that I am) but which had been a dead-end for the last few books.  There are large portions of the book where, as usual, very little happens, but for once Jordan manages to make these lulls tolerable.  Hell, even the captivity storyline involving Faile managed to rise above being a boring repetition of previous events.  This book also has the single best finale of the series so far, outstripping even 'Lord Of Chaos'.  As Rand and Nynaeve attempt to clease the taint from saidin, a small army of Aes Sedai, wilders and Asha'man have to fend off the Forsaken.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that much of this battle is told from the point of view of the Forsaken themselves (whose roles in the narrative usually bore me to tears).
5 out of 5
Crossroads Of Twilight
The tenth (!) Wheel of Time book is another downswing for the series.  Jordan's prose continues to go from strength to strength and he has almost completely eliminated the annoying repetition (except for excessive amounts of skirt-smoothing).  The problem, however, once again lies in the story itself.  At the beginning of the book Egwene is besieging Tar Valon, Elayne is attempting to secure the Lion Throne, Mat is attempting to escape the Seanchan and Perrin is attempting to free Faile from the Shaido.  All those things remain unchanged nearly eight hundred pages later.  Rather then beginning to draw the story threads together for the final couple of books, Jordan seems determined to drag them out further (so perhaps he won't stop at book twelve, as he claims).  It wouldn't be quite so bad if it weren't for the fact that Egwene and Elayne's stories seem far too similar to one another to be worth being told separately.  As for Rand, apparently, he's hardly even worth a mention any more.  I think that what disappointed me the most was that the stunning climax of the previous book, in which the taint on saidin is cleansed, is barely even referred to and when it is, it is only for characters to voice their belief that it hasn't been cleansed after all.  I'll be getting book eleven ('Knife Of Dreams') soon and if Jordan hasn't addressed these problems, he's in for a slap!
3 out of 5
Knife Of Dreams
The eleventh and (hopefully) penultimate book of the Wheel of Time series.  Luckily for Mr. Jordan, he's managed to dodge that slapping!  This time around we get closure on several major story threads that were really beginning to drag.  Those things being wrapped up nicely include both Faile's captivity and the Shaido in general, as well as Elayne's bid for the throne of Andor and Mat's dual dilemma of marrying Tuon and escaping the Seanchan.  There is more resolved in this book than in any other single book of the series and I'm very grateful for it.  Another thing I liked about this book was the fact that, through various events, it is made perfectly clear that the Last Battle is very nearly at hand, with everyone starting to ready themselves for it.  The best of this is something I hope to see a lot more of, the start of Lan's mission through the Borderlands, gathering men to stem the tide of the enemy at Tarwin's Gap (an excellent battle scene in the making if ever I heard of one).  Also, despite my fears, it is made clear that the taint has been removed from saidin, so Jordan won't be dragging out the uncertainty any more.  There is a curiosity to be noted in this book, though.  In the early books of the series the author took a very chaste 1950s approach to sex, but in the latter few it seems clear that someone told him that sex sells.  Here, rather surprisingly, Jordan introduces the concept of Aes Sedai as lesbians!  Well, he uses the term 'pillow-friends' but there's no doubt what he's talking about.  I just thought this turnaround was worth mentioning.  So, in general, another upswing for the series.  Let's hope Jordan maintains this sort of quality in book twelve (and that he won't delay that book by bring out his other planned prequels first, the way he did with this one and 'New Spring').
5 out of 5

If you liked Jordan:
You should definitely try Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.  Although Goodkind nicks quite a few of Jordan's ideas, I think his books are the better stories.  You might also like to give Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series a try.

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