By Sherwood Smith
I have to say, I'm a little surprised by how much I liked Inda. The story is fairly commonplace--a talented young man trains to become a military commander, and in the process he gets swept up into the world-shaking events of his time, destined to become a hero. I've certainly read that one several times before, and I'm sure I will again. What's more, the writing isn't all that great. The author, Sherwood Smith, has this strange tendency to shift perspectives from one character to another abruptly and without warning, which is often jarring.
Despite that, though, I was absolutely riveted, and when the book came to its abrupt ending I was upset that I didn't already have the sequels. (Indeed, the fourth book isn't even coming out until August.) I have, of course, always been a sucker for a coming-of-age story, but, more than that, the world and characters of Inda were quite compelling. The cavalry-based military culture of the Marlovans combined with their language (several words of which you're introduced to throughout the book) evoke images of the Mongols and the Germanic tribes of medieval Europe. But there's more than that. Much of the history of this world is lost to the characters, but a huge backstory is hinted at that seems really interesting--magic, other races, fallen kingdoms, and so on--and perhaps important in later books.
I mentioned changes in point-of-view before, which are odd and often annoying. But they are also a big part of what make the characters so interesting. By seeing so much of each character's internal thoughts, each one is invested with a depth you don't normally see in minor characters. The only problem is that I wound up getting attached to a few characters who didn't end up making it through the book.
It's rare that I read two books in a row that I enjoy so thoroughly, and since I have a good chunk left in both this series and the Black Company series, it looks like I may have a hard time deciding what to read next. Which, when you come down to it, isn't such a bad problem to have.
Started: 1/13/2009 | Finished: 1/20/2009
Chronicles of the Black Company
By Glen Cook
I heard about Glen Cook's Black Company books via a discussion in the forum, wherein Raja (of Strobelight Review fame) thanked another member for recommending it to him. Now I, in turn, have to thank him for turning me on to this series, because it's the best fantasy I've read in quite some time.
Chronicles of the Black Company is a collection of the first three of Glen Cook's Black Company novels, which follows the exploits of the titular mercenary company over the course of a war between the forces of good and evil. That description makes this seem like just another standard fantasy series, though, which couldn't be further from the truth. To begin with, the Black Company is on the wrong side of the war--they work for the bad guys. But there's more to it than that, because the sharply defined morality that you're used to seeing in fantasy worlds isn't present. There sometimes seems to be little distinguishing the two sides in the conflict, other than that they are fighting each other. The whole thing is presented from a ground-level view with a gritty realism that has more in common with Vietnam War fiction than Tolkien.
I can't recommend this series highly enough. The collection containing the next three books is already out, with the following collection coming soon, and I can't wait to get my hands on them.
Started: 12/12/2008 | Finished: 1/8/2009
Marley and Me
I had some serious misgivings about this one when I first heard it was going to be made. I loved the book, but I just didn't think it was the sort of thing that Hollywood would handle right. When I heard that Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston were going to be the leads, my suspicions deepened. With that kind of cast, I figured the movie would turn out to be a slapstick-y mess--pretty much Beethoven with a lab. But, I am happy to say that the movie exceeded my expectations.
I still don't think that the movie really should have been made--nothing is really added to the experience in the transition to film. They also changed the story in ways that I thought were quite unnecessary, turning John Grogan into a man trapped in a domestic life he doesn't want, dreaming of being a hotshot reporter. Still, the filmmakers managed to capture a lot of what I really loved about the book and, sure enough, I cried at the end. Owen Wilson particularly surprised me by turning in a performance with some real emotional depth to it beyond the normal bumbling comedic hero he usually plays--though, in retrospect, I shouldn't have been all that surprised, as some of his work with Wes Anderson has also been pretty heartfelt.
All in all, it was a pretty good movie, and I think if you like dogs and haven't read the book, you'll probably like this version of Marley and Me.
Viewed: 12/26/2008 | Released: 12/25/2008 | Score: B-