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A couple of fantasy titles

Two fantasy books to be briefly reviewed today. Both of them are for Carl's Once Upon a Time VIII challenge. Firstly, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and then Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham.


Ocean


A man is attending a funeral and on a whim decides to visit the area where he grew up. He finds a cottage where he had friends, an old woman allows him to sit by a pond and as he sits he remembers... a young boy who lived with his parents and sister on the edge of a village. When a financial crisis hits the family the parents decide to take in a lodger. Then the lodger dies in a car accident at the end of a quiet lane. At the end of this lane lives a friend of the boy's, Lettie Hempstock. She lives with her mother and grandmother and when he's with them the boy feels as though he is completely safe... a feeling he no longer has at home as his parents have hired a Nanny to look after the children. The boy knows she is not who she says she is but no one believes him and the only place of safety is with the family of women at the end of the lane.

That brief sketch of this book is all I'm prepared to say about the plot and even that might be a bit too much. This is genuinely one of those books that people need to read for themselves; knowing very much about it before you start is not a good thing in my opinion. Let me be honest, I haven't liked every full-length novel I've read by Gaiman, nor all of his short stories... some of those leave me cold, others I find so-so, and a few I thought were terrific. Nevertheless, I still think he's brilliant because when he hits the spot - he *really* hits the spot. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a fine example of Neil Gaimen 'hitting the spot'. It's about family and home not always being the safe haven it ought to be. At seven, very little about your life is under your control and the boy instinctively knows this. He realises that there is little he can do about the terrifying things that are happening, but nevertheless he must try. And take it from me, there's some scary stuff in this book, really scary. Not horror in a gory sense but the kind of chilling stuff that could easily keep you awake at night if you were that way inclined which, as a child, I was. The three females living at the end of the lane are pretty fascinating. I won't go into the origin and ideas behind their characters or existance but for me they were what made the book work as well as it did and I loved the explanation for them. We all need that kind of wonder in out lives and Neil Gaiman is amazing at putting such ideas into writing. Brilliant, brilliant book.

So, one brilliant book and one er... not so brilliant: Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham.

Lost Things


Lewis Segura is an ex-World War one fighter pilot with very few prospects. He gets a flying job working for a small company owned by Alma Gilchrist, a widow, with whom he gets involved. Lewis is an indivisual whose very vivid dreams come true and it seems Alma and the two men who work for her, Jerry and Mitch, also have weird and wonderful talents. Jerry was an archaeologist before the war took his leg. He is contacted by an ex-colleague who wants him to do a job concerned with some tablets that have been dug up out of a lake in Italy. Alma can't understand why they've been asked but all soon becomes clear when someone tries to kill Jerry with magic. The man gets away and an airborn chase across America ensues. It seems some things are better left buried...

I left my first two star rating on Goodreads when I finished this. It should have been two and a half really as it wasn't actually terrible - just a tiny bit *dull*. I bought it for my Kindle just before the start of Once Upon a Time VIII, thinking it sounded quite exciting. Luckily I didn't pay much as it really, really wasn't. Too much detail of day to day stuff and not enough of the magic and different magical lodges that exist in this 1920s world. Everything was described in minute detail... apart from anything really interesting. There was a connection with Roman gods and demons and an archaeology slant. Again not really centred on as it should have been. How frustrating! I kept reading thinking it would pick up and yes, it did a little, but sadly only marginally. Ah well, I've had a run of rather good books and it had to come to an end at some stage.

I've read four books for the Once Upon a Time VIII challenge now and am pretty happy with my progress so far.

Comments

I can offer no sensible comments on this, but I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I do have the first book, and I am definitely going to give it a go now I have read this!

Thanks so much!
I can unreservedly rec The Ocean at the End of the Lane as a brilliant read. Do give it a go. It tends to be a book people read in a day. *g*
Given the poor quality of Death By Silver, I'm wondering if Melissa Scott should stop writing with other people and try flying solo. Perhaps she no longer can.
I've seen mixed reviews for Death by Silver, some have liked it and others, like yourself, have not. I'll probably see if I can find it at the library instead of buying it.
I disliked it for more reasons than I felt comfortable stating in my GR review. It was mediocre fan fiction - a few nice ideas (one of which reminded me of a Harry/Draco story I read ten years ago), poor world-building, trite m/m romance. Scott's earlier books are very good as are the ones she wrote with her partner, Lisa Barnett.
Not everyone thought Death by Silver was poor quality - I'm very much hoping she does continue with that series... *g* (Could it have been better - probably, but I read alot of books that could have been better, and I enjoyed this one!)

ETA - didn't see your second comment above, interesting... I didn't think of DbS as fanfic at all, although I can see the parallel.

Edited at 2014-04-29 04:30 pm (UTC)
The fanfic vibe was due partly to the plot elements that (weakly) echoed fan fiction I've read but also to the forefronting of the relationship between the protagonists to the detriment of the world-building. Perhaps now that they have that out of their systems they can get on with telling a good story in the sequel. Griswold, a fan fiction writer by any other name, might have been responsible for what I didn't like - and I don't intend that as a criticism of fan fiction, merely an observation on genre-specific characteristics in the writing. I'm very fond of Scott's Points series and expected a book of that quality and subtlety. Without her name on the cover, I wouldn't have bought DbS.

I'd never recommend that read_warbler or anyone else not read it. My GR reviews are entirely personal.
The fanfic vibe ...but also to the forefronting of the relationship between the protagonists to the detriment of the world-building.
Oh, interesting - that's actually one reason I liked the novel. I like character and relationship development, because I like to know and feel who I'm rooting for (in a readerly kind of way). I don't want a story that's only about that, but I didn't feel the world-building was lost to it in this case - I thought the balance was pretty good. (But then if you prefer the world-building to the relationships I can see how you'd feel the opposite!) I'll only be happy with a sequel if the characters of Mathey and Lynes are front and centre again (in fact I might go so far as to say they could have built their characters rather more than they did - and I'm hoping that might come out in a sequel).

I like the Points books very much too (looking forward to May!), and I agree, I don't think DbS is there. Mind you, Astreiant is something to live up to! *g* I'm hopeful that it'll be even closer next time. I guess different combinations of authors are always going to work differently...

And it's okay - I didn't for a minute think you were telling anyone not to read it, I just wanted to note an opposite opinion! *g* I quite like hearing about why people don't like things that I do, and vice-versa, too, so I hope you don't mind that I jumped in on your comment. Which of course I should have said up front, not after I'd done it...
Been reading the discussion between you and semyaza, about this book, with interest. Not having read it I can't really comment but I love to see folk discussing books. :-) I checked to see if there's copy in any Devon library and there isn't... which is a nuisance. I'll see how much the Kindle or Nook versions are and think about buying it as I'm intrigued now. *g*
I didn't pay much for the Kindle edition. I wouldn't say that it's not worth buying but if I'm going to pay for genre fiction - and I'll be blunt - I expect it to be at least as good as the best fan fiction available. Some of the writing on AO3 is of very high quality indeed. DbS isn't in that league.
Book discussion is always very cool! I must do more of it... *g* (I must try to get my comments working on other blog-types too - maybe I'll need to resurrect my blogspot after all - or create an lj-attachable equivalent...).

If you'd like to borrow DbS, then I'd be happy to send it down - I know you'll take care of it, and in the worst postage scenario I know it's still in print! I can't seem to find any Melissa Scott in our libraries either - but then she seems to be hard to get via bookshops over here too (but not impossible - bookdepository seems to work best, even better than amazon.co.uk, which is weird now that they're the same thing (I wonder how that works...). Anyway, let me know and I shall parcel it up!
I never mind comments. The only reason I mentioned telling others not to read a book is because there's too much of that at Goodreads (that is, I hated this book therefore no one should read it). There are objective elements in a review - or, at least, I believe that a book has or lacks certain qualities and I might say as much - but my tastes are my tastes and they're bound to enter into my final judgement on a work.

Character development is the most important thing for me as well but I'm not a fan of the romance genre. I prefer a romance, if there is one, to be subservient to story, setting, world-building and so forth and to arise naturally from them. In other words, I'm not the target audience for m/m romances such as DbS. If the romance had been embedded in a longer book with a more thoroughly realised world and a stronger sense of place, I might feel differently.

I suspect that Scott and Barnett were a perfect writing partnership and I doubt whether Scott's other collaborations will be as good.
I don't really hang out at Goodreads, just pop in to read the odd review now and then, but I don't like the idea of anyone telling me not to read a book... as you say, everyone has their own tastes, and why should we assume that other people won't take something completely different from a story, something that doesn't mean anything in our life experience, but does in theirs...

Oddly enough, I don't really think of DbS as a "romance" book. There's obviously that element to it, but I took it as a... a what? I guess a murder-mystery with a magic Victorian London twist. I suppose if I naturally want to know more about the characters, then it won't seem like it's focussing on them to me. I don't really read m/m romance as a genre at all - I had a go a while back, and found myself no more interested in it than I was in m/f romance, mostly because of the plot assumptions and characterisations - and the horrendously poor writing... I like various m/m books, but on that basis I don't call them "m/m romance genre". Marion Husband's books come to mind, such as Paper Moon, the Astreiant books of course, and I've just read Forster's Maurice) - they all have m/m and they all have romance, but that's not the same thing, to me. DbS wasn't quite at that level, and I do want to know more about its world, but it still worked for me. *g*

ETA - sorry, coding inadequacy!

Edited at 2014-05-01 03:36 pm (UTC)
Well done on your four books for the challenge!

So glad you liked Ocean too - and yes, aren't the villains chilling! Gaiman does do wonder well, doesn't he...

Sorry to hear you didn't like Lost Things though - I've been eyeing that up (paper version) for a while now, cos in theory it's just my thing. Shame too that I can't find it (or Scott at all) in my library catalogue... I do have The Kindly Ones on my Kobo, because it was being given free, but to be honest I didn't warm to it when I started it (so I stopped *g*), so I do know not all Scott's books are as appealing as the ones I like...

Shall cross my fingers that your next book is a goodun again!
Yeah, quite pleased with four so far. On;y five required of course but will probably read more than that as there's another seven weeks to go.

It could be that you might like Lost Things more than me. There's a fair bit about flying in it and you're more interested in that than me. If the characters had more about them I might suggest you try it but as it is I can't with good conscience recommend you spend good money on it, even though the eReader price is only a couple of quid.

Now reading a sci-fi by one of Jo Walton's favourite authors, C.J. Cherryh - Cuckoo's Egg. Intrigued by it.