August 2016 BotM Review Roundup!

In August we read The Three-Body Problem by Cixi Liu and Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan. We also finished off the Mod Special of Blood of Elves (Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Sci Fi

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

1967: Ye Wenjie witnesses Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution. This singular event will shape not only the rest of her life but also the future of mankind.

Four decades later, Beijing police ask nanotech engineer Wang Miao to infiltrate a secretive cabal of scientists after a spate of inexplicable suicides. Wang’s investigation will lead him to a mysterious online game and immerse him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredicatable interaction of its three suns.

This is the Three-Body Problem and it is the key to everything: the key to the scientists’ deaths, the key to a conspiracy that spans light-years and the key to the extinction-level threat humanity now faces.

There was such a mixed response to this book. From a few members who absolutely loved it, to those who DNF or who finished and hated it. We saw the full range of 1-5 stars being given, though most hovered at 2/3. Even a lot of those who rated 2 or 3 stars came away not actually truly liking it the book. Most criticisms stated that generally it was just pretty boring, that the characters were not well written or interesting, and that it didn’t translate well (having originally been written in chinese). However there were positives! Members enjoyed the unpredictability of events, and the Trisolaran game world, as well as Ye Wenjie as a character, and her backstory.

Here is a review from member Audrey Hammer:

★★☆☆☆ 2/5

I liked parts of this book, but the whole thing didn’t enthrall me. I’m so glad to be finished.

I think the translation is fine; the writing style is fine. The characters were very undeveloped, so there was no emotional connection to them. That made it feel like reading a textbook. The jumping around of time periods also felt disjointed. It was designed to maximize the mystery and suspense, but it was still jarring. Key events were told after they happened, which robbed the events of a “here-and-now” urgency.

I did like the physics stuff — the three-body gravity problem and the signal transmissions and the dimensional quantum stuff was interesting to me. The virtual reality game was just weird. I didn’t see why people would want to play it, though I understand the point was to weed out the non-serious science types.

The ending was very abrupt. It just stopped. Even typical cliffhangers leave you with something that was resolved. Not here.

Finally, I like to have a little comic relief in my books. Even Les Misérables cracked me up occasionally. There wasn’t one teensy-weensy funny one-liner here.

You can find Audrey’s original review over on GoodReads

Fantasy

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The first novel in an epic new fantasy series for readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch.

Age of Myth, inaugurates an original six-book series, and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

Generally enjoyed by the members of the group, with ratings ranging from 3 – 5 Stars but with quite a number giving it a solid 4 star rating.

A general consenus seems to be that the characters weren’t quite as likeable as in Michaels previous series , specifically Royce and Hadrian of the Riyria books. There was also a general agreement hat the book was a simple straight forward read , but generally not in a negative sense with the book being well done for that. The book managed to be entertaining even without being over complicated. Most members seem happy to continue with the series.

See Michael’s Q and A over on our group on GoodReads

Here is a short review from mod Paul:

★★★★★ 5/5
Theres a lot to be said for Michaels writing style. He tells a story so well.
For epic fantasy he focuses on a smaller number of characters than some other writers so you become invested in them and don’t get lost in the flood of names.
This is a great start to a series, setting up the main characters very well, and world building done very well.
Elven type characters contrast with humans as everything looks to descend towards a war foretold by a young mystic. The interesting twist is how the author shows where myths and legends might merely start as tall tales and exaggeration.
Told very well and with a fun twist at the very end well worth reading.

Mod Special

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski

For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.

Geralt of Rivia, the cunning assassin known as The Witcher, has been waiting for the birth of a prophesied child. This child has the power to change the world – for good, or for evil.

As the threat of war hangs over the land and the child is hunted for her extraordinary powers, it will become Geralt’s responsibility to protect them all – and the Witcher never accepts defeat.

The Witcher returns in this sequel to The Last Wish, as the inhabitants of his world become embroiled in a state of total war.

Reviews ranged from 3-5 stars on this one. With a few people saying it didn’t live up to expectations, whilst others enjoyed it for what it was. Everyone who had read it had played the games which was based on the books. However, all felt that you might not know what was going on in the books unless you had played the games.

Here is member Niles’ review:

★★★☆☆ 3/5

“Blood of Elves” is set in the fantasy world popularized by the Witcher video game series. Unlike many of it’s counterparts, the books preceded the video games, thus this series gives a deeper perspective and understanding to the world portrayed in the games.I have enjoyed playing the video games spawned by these books, and was hopeful the books would be even better. To say I was completely underwhelmed would be a massive understatement. Perhaps my expectations were set too high to ever be completely attained.

The book starts out in chaos – disjointed segments and memories from Ciri, the princess Cintra, whose capital had been decimated by the invading Nilfgaardians. Normally, starting a book like this isn’t a problem as the gaps are filled in during the course of the novel. Not so in this book. There were questions aroused in the first chapter that were never answered to my satisfaction.. Who was the Black Knight? What did he do to Ciri? How did she end up with Geralt? Why did Geralt think she was the child prophesized to change the world, for good or evil? What is the connection between Dandilion the bard and Geralt?

Also, there is very little action in this offering. The title not withstanding, there is only one small skirmish with the elves. Instead, the book concentrates more on Ciri’s training and Triss’ providing her the mothers touch she so obviously is lacking, as well as the political machinations of the various factions involved. Still, I think these mundane portions had to be included for a greater overall understanding, but maybe less of these would have sufficed. Also, my copy did not have a map, which would have been especially useful when the differing factions were making their plans I had no idea where these different areas were or what factions were in close proximity of them.

And then there is Geralt. His actions did not disappoint. Possessed of uncanny fighting ability, his quiet demeanor made him seem all the more dangerous. Also, I never realized just how much of a stud he was. It seemed his mere presence would cause many a wench to drop her knickers. Triss, Yennefer, and Shani all succumb, and Ciri is also willing even though she is only 13.

Overall, only an average read in my opinion. Not enough action and too much politics. Also, the ending was so very much unsatisfying for my taste, screaming “sequel” so loud it hurt my ears. I don’t mind books in a series so much, but the good ones can be read as stand alone novels if one chooses not to read the whole series. Not so with this book. With the ending and so many unanswered questions, one must definitely read further for the story to be satisfying. I don’t think knowledge of the video games is critical to enjoying this novel, but familiarity with the games would certainly add to the enjoyment. I did enjoy the video games, and this book did help somewhat with the background to those games, but I felt it could have been handled much better.

You can find Niles’ original review over on GoodReads

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We hope you enjoyed reading along this month, what did you think of the books? Let us know. Or check out what we are reading in September…

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One thought on “August 2016 BotM Review Roundup!

  1. Greg

    Well done Kirsty! – you did a great job of capturing/summarizing the range of opinions on these books. A very accurate representation of the group’s opinions and an interesting read as well. I hope you do more future group read reception roundups!

    Like

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