The first of a two part pentology, The Way of Kings is slow burn high fantasy that mixes standard tropes with a deeper mystery to create something fun and compelling enough to justify the investment. #books
Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.
It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.
Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar's niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan's motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.
The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.
I was a bit reticent to begin The Stormlight Archive, if only due to the massive investment I knew it would entail. Sanderson is a prolific writer, and the volumes in the Stormlight Archive are… substantial. And there’s going to be ten of them. Oh, and he’s only just finishing book four now. So, as with The Expanse, I knew I’d find myself waiting.
However, given I absolutely loved the first Mistborn trilogy, I knew I would probably enjoy Sanderson’s writing and world building, and it’s been a while since I’ve been hooked by a large scale, high-fantasy series (and before you ask, no, I haven’t started A Song of Ice and Fire… someday!), so I decided to take the plunge.
The Way of Kings is a long, slow burner that, I think, is better thought of as a set of four interwoven novellas–Kaladin and the Bridgemen, Adolin and Dalinar, Jasnah and Shallan, and Szeth–set against the backdrop of a grand mystery of the past and a prophesied cataclysm to come. This structure means the book requires a bit of patience from the reader, as rather than taking us through a single character journey Sanderson must set up and execute multiple plots simultaneously. However, I found the overall setup sufficiently interesting, and the final third compelling enough, that I’m definitely going to be continuing on to book two.Continue reading...
Once, in a gods-forsaken hellhole called Koom Valley, trolls and dwarfs met in bloody combat. Centuries later, each species still views the other with simmering animosity. Lately, the influential dwarf, Grag Hamcrusher, has been fomenting unrest among Ankh-Morpork's more diminutive citizens—a volatile situation made far worse when the pint-size provocateur is discovered bashed to death . . . with a troll club lying conveniently nearby.
Commander Sam Vimes of the City Watch is aware of the importance of solving the Hamcrusher homicide without delay. (Vimes's second most-pressing responsibility, in fact, next to always being home at six p.m. sharp to read Where's My Cow? to Sam, Jr.) But more than one corpse is waiting for Vimes in the eerie, summoning darkness of a labyrinthine mine network being secretly excavated beneath Ankh-Morpork's streets. And the deadly puzzle is pulling him deep into the muck and mire of superstition, hatred, and fear—and perhaps all the way to Koom Valley itself.
“What kind of human creates his own policeman?”
“One who fears the dark”
“And so he should,” said the entity, with satisfaction.
“Indeed. But I think you misunderstand. I am not here to keep darkness out. I’m here to keep it in.”
In Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett explored the insanity of war. Here Pratchett shows us the insanity of hate, hate that even our hero Sam Vimes falls victim to. It’s a brilliant turn, showing that even the best of men can be consumed by hate if the circumstances are right. But far from fatalistic, Terry reminds us that there is an antidote: justice.
When brain surgery makes a mouse into a genius, dull-witted Charlie Gordon wonders if it might also work for him. With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance, until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie? An American classic that inspired the award-winning movie Charly.
I was pretty sure I knew how this book was going to end when I started it, but that didn’t stop it from breaking my heart.
This is the book I would hand to someone who was new to Science Fiction. Beautiful, insightful, and incredibly powerful.
I’m writing this long long after originally writing this sparse little review. Two years after reading this book, it continues to haunt me as one of the most emotionally powerful, affecting books I’ve ever read. I suspect if I read the last page or two, I’d start crying once again (after the original read I was sobbing uncontrollably). This book is truly remarkable.
John Wainwright is a freak, a human mutation with an extraordinary intelligence which is both awesome and frightening to behold. Ordinary humans are mere playthings to him. And Odd John has a plan - to create a new order on Earth, a new supernormal species. But the world is not ready for such a change ...
So, just for my wife, I’m rating this a 3.5 rounded up to a 4.
Though, to be fair, I was honestly debating between the two, so a half star is legitimate.
Anyway, I’m being a bit generous here as this book reads as a lot more modern than you’d expect. When I started this book I’d somehow gotten it into my head that this was from the 50’s or 60’s, rather than the 30’s. That is, until I got into the latter third or so, and then there’s a few… let’s call them out-dated cultural and linguistic giveaways… that made it a lot more obvious.
The ubermensch is a pretty common theme, particularly in golden age science fiction, and Odd John is an early example. As a philosopher, Stapledon uses John as a voice for exploring a range of philosophical ideas, many of which remain relevant today (e.g., Stoicism), some of them rather troubling (Odd John and his group engage in some otherwise inexcusable acts that are justified by their intelligence… but does being “super-human” free one to perform acts that would otherwise be deemed immoral?)Continue reading...