the Little Red Reviewer

two books I enjoyed

Posted on: September 14, 2019

instead of a some long drawn out reviews, howsabout a few words on some books I enjoyed recently?   You’d like that?  yeah, me too.

 

 

They made a movie out of The Prestige by Christopher Priest, and all I remember was i think Hugh Jackman was in it? And there was some scene at the end where there are like 30 top hats just blowing away?   I’m pretty sure another Illusionist/Magician movie came out around the same time, and I might be getting them mixed up.   Anyone remember the details of this, or even what year these movies came out?

From seeing the movie, I pretty much already knew the “big reveal” in the book. But friends had told me that the reveal is treated totally different in the book,  and boy were they right!!!   if you like slow-ish moving historical dramas, this is the story for you!  The beginning was a bit slow, and then it ramps up and the drama ramps up, and at the end I couldn’t put the book down.  If you’ve not ever read any Christopher Priest because everyone says his book are weird AF (they are!), this is a great book to start with because it’s completely readable and keeps you turning the pages, even when weird shit happens.  The further you get into the book, the more weird shit happens.  Also? Nikola Tesla has a cameo!

Both main characters, the guys who are feuding, neither of them are sympathetic characters.  They are both shit heads, they both feel bad for the shitty stuff they did, and at the end of the book I wasn’t sure who I felt more bad for. I pity them both.

 

The Prestige is a great place to start with Christopher Priest  and Vallista isn’t a good place to start with Steven Brust.  Vallista is the 15th book in Brust’s Dragaeran series (but like, the 13th book, chronologically?  i’m really not sure).   I love this series.   When I am feeling stressed out,  these are the comfort books I turn to.  This series is basically about a guy, Vlad. I’m not going to get into it more than that, because if I did I’d be blathering on forever.  If you are that interested, start here, and from there there is about a million directions you can go.

 

I lovethis series so much because, well, the writing and the story and the characters, they are all fantastic.  I love first person POV, i love dialog banter, I love snark, I love long running jokes, I love slow world building. This series has all of that.  I love that this series is just about people trying to live their lives, and people who care  about their families.  Knowing I have a stack of Steven Brust books (many of which are Vlad books) that I can read whenever I want is therapeutic for me.  Just knowing they are there,  like, it works for me, ok?  Being alive at the same time that Vlad’s life is being created, like, it’s a good time to be alive. and yes, I know Loiosh is giving me side-eye right now for not making him out to be the main character.  I earned that side-eye!

 

ok, anyway, Vallista.  What a fun book!   Devera shows up and asks for Vlad’s help (she doesn’t tell him with what, exactly), and of course he’s going to help her!  She runs into a house on a hill (YES, the house from the end of Hawk! eeeeee!!!!), he follows her,  and the door locks behind him.   This  house doesn’t follow any rules of physics or architecture, and when Vlad meets the ghost of the architect, her explanation doesn’t help any.   The book gave me Doctor Who vibes, in the best way.  The people who Vlad meets in this weird house,  he’s got to figure out  how to get them to keep talking, because the more he learns about what the hell is going on,  the more likely he is to figure out how to get out of this weird screwy house!

if you’re not caught up in the series,  so long as you have met Devera, you’re good to read Vallista.  I know she shows up in Tiassa,  I don’t remember if she shows up prior to that.

I dig this series,  because the world building happens slowly.   Like, you remember when you were young, and you started collecting books, or comic books, or whatever?  You had a little bookshelf in your room, and it slowly filled up.  When it filled up, you were really excited – your bookshelf was full!  then you got a fullsize bookshelf.  and that filled up.   fast forward ten years, and you’ve rooms full of books. and you are happy, because they are full, and you are happy because you keep buying more books.   that’s what the worldbuilding in this series feels like – just the right amount at a time, at just the right speed.  I didn’t explain it well.  #sorrynotsorry

 

A question to my fellow Dragaeran readers: Who is your favorite character in the series?

 

Stay tuned,  one of these days I’ll post about two books I read recently that didn’t wow me!

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6 Responses to "two books I enjoyed"

Yeah, I remember another magician movie coming out at the same time as The Prestige too, and have no idea what it was called. As it was I never watched either film, but I did read The Prestige because of the movie. It’s been my only Christopher Priest read … I enjoyed a lot of things about it, but man, those two assholes did nothing to help! 😀

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those two guys really were assholes! it must have been excellent writing, because i don’t usualy enjoy reading about jerks, and i couldn’t put this book down!

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The Prestige (the book) is brilliant – one of the most impressive books I’ve read in the last decade. It doesn’t exactly do anything perfectly, but when I came to review it, it was hard to find anything it didn’t at least do well. I mean… as you say, it’s a thrilling page-turner. It’s, at times, intensely emotional. It’s really, REALLY clever and forces the reader to think about every line (and occasionally go “ooohhh!” and go back and reread something that now means something different to what you thought it did originally…). It’s fun, with stage magic and vendettas and Tesla and a touch of horror and, although you obviously disagree, two very sympathetic protagonists (which isn’t to say they’re NICE, of course, but I think they’re sympathetic…). The prose, while clean and not too baroque, is elegant, and it’s also amazing in how deftly it catches a voice. By which I mean, Borden and Angier are both late-Victorian stage magicians writing in an elevated voice… and yet you could probably take any paragraph from each narrator and immediately know which one had written it. Their personalities and social background shine through so distinctly in the prose – which is easy to overlook, but so, so difficult for an author to do. (it’s hard for an author to convincingly inhabit even ONE narrative voice, let alone two in one novel). And needless to say the novel is totally original, and frequently surprising.

Really, aside from it being a little cold (it’s fun, but it’s maybe not a fireside comfort read), it’s hard to know what more one could want from a book!

[I had a few quibbles, mostly with the framing story, which I don’t think integrated well enough into the whole, and lacked the strong sense of character that the main story had… but given that it is just a light framing story, I don’t think that seriously harmed the novel as a whole]

The film, as I recall, is not brilliant, but is good. What IS brilliant, however, is the way the film adapts the novel. It is simultaneously completely unfaithful to the novel (different things happen, things happen in a different order, the plot twist from the end of the novel is revealed halfway through the film and vice versa, and the entire framing story is stripped away), and yet completely faithful to the spirit of the novel (the changes are all appropriate to the themes and style of the story, and done for reasons that are true to wanting to tell that story in a different medium)… I felt that it seemed less like what a hack would write when commanded to produce a screenplay from the novel, and more like what Priest might have written if asked to produce, not a transcription, but a genuine adaptation, a new version for a new format. The end result is admittedly not as good as the novel, but I think the filmmakers deserve a lot of praise for the inventive, sensitive, risk-taking way they went about adapting it.

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thanks for your input!

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The other movie was The Illusionist with Edward Norton.

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yes, thank you!! I sort of remembered that one of them had Edward Norton (who I adore), but couldn’t remember anything beyond that. I know what I’m adding to my Netflix queue!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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