FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
Adams, Douglas
Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto
Allen, Roger MacBride
Allie, Scott
Allston, Aaron
Anderson, Kevin J.
Barclay, James
Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
Bear, Greg
Bendis, Brian Michael
Bischoff, David
Bisson, Terry
Blackman, Haden
Bova, Ben
Bowen, Carl
Brooks, Terry
Canavan, Trudi
Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
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.
Jacques, Brian
James, Charlie Hamilton
Jenkins, Paul
Jeter, K. W.
Johns, Geoff
Jones, J. V.
Jordan, Robert
Jurgens, Dan
Karpyshyn, Drew
Kennedy, Mike
Kerr, Katharine
Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
Knaak, Richard A.
Kube-McDowell, Michael P.
Lawhead, Stephen
Layman, John
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
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.
Perry, Steve
Pratchett, Terry
Pullman, Philip
Quinn, David
Reaves, Michael
Reed, A. W.
Reed, Brian
Rice, Anne
Richardson, Nancy
Roberts, Adam
Rowe, Matthew
Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
Shelley, Mary
Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Stewart, Sean
Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Traviss, Karen
Truman, Tim
Turtledove, Harry
Tyers, Kathy
van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
Windham, Ryder
Wolverton, Dave
Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
Yeovil, Jack
Zahn, Timothy
Collaborations A - F
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Collaborations S
Collaborations T - Z
Anthologies A - R
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Anthologies T - Z
Still to come
Reviewing Literature
The Books of J. K. Rowling

The story of Joanne Rowling's (the K, short for Kathleen, is an affectation adopted so as not to alienate young male readers) rise has become quite a famous one.  Born in 1965, she grew up in Chewpstow, England.  She was a single mum living in a Council flat when a certain young wizard, as she puts it, 'strolled into my head fully formed'.  Now she's a millionaire and the Harry Potter phenomenon has swept the globe, popular with children and adults alike (but not some religious groups in America who burn her books for promoting witchcraft, along with Shakespeare and Tolkien).
Average Review Score: 4.4 out of 5 (9 books)

Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone
For a very, very long time, I was a dedicated Potter-phobe.  The merest mention of the character brought a sneer to my face and a derogatory comment to my lips.  Then, finally, curiosity (and a paperback bargain) got the better of me and I found myself reading this book.  To my shock, horror and shame, I was an instant convert.  Rowling reveals a wonderfully vivid world lurking just below our own as her hero is dragged from a miserable suburban life into the world of wizardry.  There's plenty of light humour throughout, interspersed with moments of wonder at some new bit of magic, but Rowling also manages to create a sinister air that gives tension to the book.  Above all else, this book is fun to read, even if some of the names are a bit too childish to sit well (I mean, 'Hufflepuff'?!)
5 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
This book is much like the first.  In fact, too much like it, which is why I've deducted a point.  However, this book goes even further to establishing the sinister nature of the secrets of Hogwarts (not to mention Voldemort).  Again, this book is fun to read but I do feel that once you've read one game of Quidditch, you've read them all.
4 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
The story of the boy wizard matures as he himself does.  This book has far darker undertone, with a convicted mass murderer on the loose and soul-sucking Dementors at Hogwarts, as well as a more intricate and detailled plot.  I particularly enjoyed reading the backstory of Harry's father and his friends when he was at Hogwarts.  Also we get a few more pieces of the puzzle of Harry's own origins.  I still feel, however, that the Quidditch matches are all pretty much the same and therefore superfluous.  Also, 'Dementors', what a crap name.
5 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
By the time I got to this book, I was really starting to enjoy the series and looked forward to more of the same.  Astonishingly, this book goes far beyond any of the others in the series and I enjoyed it so much that I'd say it's gone straight into my top five reads of all time!  Rowling continues to weave the clever, twisting plots she exhibited in the previous book, but to this she adds a remarkably accurate depiction of a teenage boy's mindset.  But where the book truly comes into it's own is in the last third in which the sinister tension built throughout the series in regard to Voldemort comes to a head.  I was genuinely surprised to see how far Rowling goes to show how bad things are (Harry sees a friend die!) and the final stages of the book, where preparation for the coming conflict begins, are so well written that I shot straight on and read the next book in the series.
5 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
Rowling plows straight on into the story as Harry discovers a select group of wizards preparing to oppose Voldemort, the Order of the Phoenix.  I thought it a wonderfully insightful idea that the Ministry of Magic tries to discredit Harry and Dumbledore rather than deal with the harsh possibility of the Dark Lord's return.  It's truly surprising how accurately the mindset of a teenager is represented and there's a great deal of amusement to be had in recalling your own fits of aimless rage and gut-wrenching crushes on members of the opposite sex.  Rowling uses her best ability, being able to create truly vile characters, to dramatic effect in this book as we are introduced to Dolores Umbridge, the worst kind of beauraucrat, a cruel one with offical authority.  The book rushes to a stunning climax in which Harry and his schoolfriends face a group of Dark Wizards in the Department of Mysteries.  I do have three complaints, however.  The first is that I had hoped to see some development to Ron and Hermione's relationship.  It seemed to be going somewhere in the previous book, but here Rowling completely ignores the subject.  Second, the death of a 'main' character was rather poorly handled (I mean, cause of death: fell through a curtain), leaving you with none of the hollow feeling that a well written death scene gives you.  Finally, the revelation that it's Harry's destiny to confront Voldemort was about as shocking as the revelation that eating MacDonalds is unhealthy.
5 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
The sixth and penultimate Harry Potter book.  This book has been criticised for being plot-deficient and that is a fair comment.  Rowling introduces various story threads, like the Slug Club or the Half-Blood Prince's book, that don't really go anywhere of any significance.  There is no gradual build-up of clues leading to a final and dramatic pay-off like there has been in previous books of the series.  This can be partly explained by the old 'setting the scene for the next one' cop-out, which holds no water with me.  However, the larger explanation of the way the story progresses is that it's more about Harry's coming-of-age than it is about events.  This book sees Harry mature rapidly as Dumbledore begins to prepare him for his final confrontation with Voldemort.  This is done through a series of magical flashbacks that allows Rowling to piece together Voldemort's past for us, which reveals the circumstances of Tom Marvolo Riddle's birth, entrance to Hogwarts and subsequent fall from grace.  This coming-of-age is completed by Harry's loss of innocence at the end of the book which leads him to decide to abandon Hogwarts and go on a quest for vengeance.  Throughout the book I constantly thought of Harry as a child, but by the last page Rowling had managed to make me think of Harry as a man.  The death that causes this turn around is much better handled than the one in the previous book and Rowling does a fairly good job of capturing the sense of unreality and ensuing emptiness that comes with the death of a loved one.  Another plus is that the author finally stops dodging the Ron/Hermione issue, as well as having Harry's love life take a more mature turn too.  On the downside, is Harry's constant and annoying (albeit justified) vilification of Malfoy and Snape.  He's obsessed.  Finally, I just wish I'd first encountered Harry's world two years from now, because then I wouldn't be in the same boat as so many Potter fans; already drooling for the final installment!
5 out of 5
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
An unprecedented era in the history of fantasy literature ends with this, the seventh book in the series.  Book five was the beginnings of the war between the forces of good and evil and book six was Harry's coming of age, so that here the final battle begins in earnest.  The book begins with Harry being taken into hiding by the Order of the Phoenix, many of whom suffer and die in the young hero's defence.  As the Ministry of Magic topples to Lord Voldemort's control, Harry, Ron and Hermione become fugitives, with only the task of destroying the horcruxes driving them on.  As the body-count rises, the three heroes discover disturbing secrets about Dumbledore's past and learn of three powerful magical artifacts known as the Deathly Hallows; an unbeatable wand, a flawless Invisibility Cloak and a stone which resurrects the dead.  Eventually, the parallel quests for the Hallows and the horcruxes comes to a head at Hogwarts, where those resisting Voldemort make a stand against his dark army.  Although I very much enjoyed this book, there were elements which spoiled it slightly for me.  The first was Rowling's insistance on referencing every single aspect of the previous six books, be it Victor Krum's reappearance or the acromantulas.  I know this was intended to give the sense that this book ties all the disparate threads together, but I doubt anyone's forgotten the previous books, so we don't need reminding.  Another element which I wasn't keen on was the endless (and often pointless) wandering which Harry, Ron and Hermione do.  I got pretty sick of reading about how the set up a tent in the woods and talked about horcruxes over and over.  The final problem I had with this book was the way in which the character deaths were handled.  I liked that Rowling never lets us get too confident that a character will live to the end, but the sheer number of deaths means that none of them gets quite the emotional exploration it should (particularly the death of one of the Weasleys).  For reasons I can't quite articulate, the epilogue didn't sit well with me either.  I guess, realistically, this book could never live up to the high expectations I, and everyone else, had placed on it.  To end this review on a positive note (don't forget that I DID enjoy the book overall) Rowling didn't disappoint me over the reality of Severus Snape and, to a lesser extent, Draco Malfoy.  With these two characters, and Dumbledore's dark past, we are shown that nothing is as simple as good and evil even in the world of Harry Potter.
4 out of 5
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
A companion to the Harry Potter series which I've decided to include due to the fact that it's written in-universe (as it were).  Basically this is a bestiary of the unsual creatures which inhabit the wizarding world and is preceded by a very cleverly written introduction to the history and politics of said creatures.  Here Rowling shows off the depth of thought that has gone into her world-building whilst maintaining the humour that characterises her magical wonders (such as the ferret-like creature attacking a medieval monk whilst shouting 'get lost baldy!').  What I enjoyed most was the fact that the book, supposed to be a Hogwarts textbook, has been graffitied on by Harry and Ron.  This graffiti ranges from wry comments about the creatures they've encountered in their adventures to the wonderfully accurate (for a teenage boy, that is) highlighting of the word 'bum' within 'Grumbumble'.  Overall, this book is not much more than a curiosity for Potter fans, but it only costs a couple of quid and most of that goes to charity, so why not get a copy?
3 out of 5
Quidditch Through The Ages
The companion to 'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' and another book written in aid of the charity Comic Relief.  Quidditch was always one of my least favourite aspects of the Harry Potter books and this book lacked the humourous notes by the characters that 'Fantastic Beasts...' had, so I didn't have high expectations when I began reading it.  However, I was surprised to find myself enjoying this fictional history of the wizards' sport from it's rough beginnings on Queerditch Marsh to the World Cup (featured in '...The Goblet Of Fire').  Amongst it's charms are the parallels with football (yes, 'football, not soccer!), such as the derivative game Quodpot which became more popular in America than the original game.  Aside from anything else, this book helps to illustrate the depth of backstory that Rowling has created for her fantasy series (although it's no Silmarillion!).  Cheap, entertaining and for a good cause.  Who could ask for more?
4 out of 5

If you liked Rowling:
Then perhaps you should read 'A Wizard Of Earthsea' by Ursula K. Le Guin, in which a similarly gifted youth struggles with the pressure of unusual power and schoolroom rivalry.

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