Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Great Hunt/Robert Jordan/705 pp.

This is the second book in Jordan's massive "Wheel of Time" series. Rand al'Thor, beset by Morgaine Sedai's claims that he is the Dragon Reborn, sets off with a group of warriors and friends on a quest to regain the Horn of Valere, which has been stolen by followers of the Dark One. The Horn has the magical quality of summoning heroes from beyond the grave to help whoever sounds the horn. In the meantime, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne begin their training to become Aes Sedai; their training is interrupted when one of the Aes Sedai tricks them into being sold to a group of foreign warriors. Rand and the other warriors must retrieve the Horn, rescue the women, and stop the Children of the Light, a fanatical group of warriors who seek to eradicate anyone who is friendly to the Dark One (including, in their eyes, the Aes Sedai).
I enjoyed this book a lot. Jordan does seem to borrow from some of the other standards of fantasy fiction - the warriors called by the Horn are reminiscent of Tolkien's Shadow Host, and there are numerous references to the Arthurian legends. But the book is well-written and entertaining; if it weren't for information about the characters that you have to know from the previous book, this volume could stand on its own as a full fantasy tale. Jordan does a good job of drawing together parts of the story that were started earlier, helping the reader realize that all these seemingly unrelated events are all threads in the same tale's fabric.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories/various authors/576 pp.

Wow, I can't believe there have been no posts since my last one. As long as it took for me to finish this book, I thought for sure some other reviews would have been posted before I could review this one.
As the title implies, this is a collection of short stories, organized by their different points of view. As any English major worth his salt will tell you, point of view (POV) has to do with what relationship the story's narrator has to the events being related. Is the narrator recounting events that happened to him personally? Then he tells the story in first-person POV. Is the narrator recounting events that happened to the reader? Second-person POV is the route he takes. And so on. The anthology's editors go into much deeper division of the various points of view, including interior monologue, diary narration, and anonymous narration, but it all basically has to do with whether the narrator was directly involved in the events. The editors provide several examples of each type, and that's where my interest returns. (This was something that always got me in trouble in high school/college literature courses - I didn't care about things like POV and theme and so on; I just wanted to read the damn stories!)
The nice thing about this anthology is that it collects stories from a wide variety of time periods and cultures. While it leans pretty heavily on pre- and post-WWII America, we also have Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Minister's Black Veil", as well as stories by Poe, Chekhov, Maupassant, James Joyce and Joseph Conrad (including some lesser-known stories by these masters). One of my favorite pieces was Dorothy Parker's "But the One on the Right", which is a dinner party guest's inner monologue about her fellow guests. The collection even includes a story by long-time MU faculty member Tom McAfee, "This Is My Living Room".