Friday, October 24, 2008

Book Review: Dune, Ender's Game and American Gods

Dune by Frank Herbert
1966 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel and 1965 Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel

Frank Herbert, at least in Dune, is a masterful world creator almost on par with Tolkien. Dune is fantastic in its exposition (which is about the first 95% of the book) but falters quite a bit during the finale.

In many ways, it feels like the epic background of the book boils down to a few confused moments in a room, but despite this fact I could not help but leave the book with a high opinion of Herbert’s craft. The textures of his world are rich and deep and you truly feel the living, breathing culture of the Fremen. Unlike many fictional cultures, that of the people of Dune feels genuinely shaped by the world around it.

Ultimately, Dune indisputably deserves both the Hugo and Nebula awards that it won. Not only is it well written, it also contains rich thematic depth. Sadly, Herbert’s fiction seems to falter in the stories that follow after.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
1986 Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel and 1985 Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel

Ender’s Game  is one of the best of the award-winners I have read so far. What makes the story so strong is not so much the world Orson Scott Card creates, but the characters he inhabits it with. That’s not to say the world Card creates in not interesting. The foe humanity faces is both interesting and menacing and the way in which Card unravels the truths about his fictional future is brilliant in execution.

The character’s are amazing, however. Amazing for their intelligence, for their loyalty and most of all for the fact that they are all children. Card treats children with respect. No more needs to be said for the surprising portrayal of children in Ender’s Game than the fact that it forever changed my friend's perspective on children when she read it.

Ender’s Game is a fantastic piece of fiction and one that everyone should read.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2002 Hugo and Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel

I've always had an interest in mythology, particularly that of the Vikings, so reading a book like American Gods, I feel like a kid in a candy shop.

American Gods is a brilliant exploration of mythology and of the nation of America, and has a fantastic plot that will keep you turning the pages and catches you with brilliant twists.
If your tastes are anything like mine, you will be drawn quickly into the compelling characters, vivid locations and thrilling story of American Gods. 

One thing I appreciate very much about the tale is the fact that, unlike many modern tales involving the ancient pantheons, Gaiman's doesn't sugarcoat the personalities of his deities; they are as oversexed, Machiavellian and brutal as their original myths portray them.

I would caution, however, that this is not a book for the young or easily offended. The book has quite a bit of vulgar language, brutal violence and overt sex (including a homosexual encounter) and can also be frightening in parts.

If I had any criticism of American Gods it would be that some of the vignettes dispersed throughout the story don't fit into, or even complement, Shadow's journey.

American Gods is, hands down, one of my favorite books and one I would recommend in the blink of an eye to anyone who thinks they could handle the more disturbing content of the book.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10