Book Review – Second Variety

Those of us that love books tend to have books and authors that feel like home to us.  You all know what I mean, right?  You crack open the spine and immediately a sense of “Oh, yes.  This is exactly what I was missing,” washes over you.  For those of us that are more emotional, just the act of picking up something by a much-loved author can leave us a little choked up.

Philip K Dick is like that for me.  I know, I know – his prose is totally hack-ish and he re-uses all the same names, and YES many of his stories carry similar themes, but I think all of that contributes to my love affair with everything that he’s written.  I have never read anything by him that I’ve hated, not one single thing.  I’m not saying I’ve read everything (I started reading him in high school, when much of his stuff was out of print, still), but I’ve read a goodly amount – enough so that friends who grow interested come to me to figure out where to start.  (The answer – in case you’re wondering – varies from person to person, but I will NEVER recommend the VALIS Cycle to a PKD newb.  THAT BEING SAID, I’d recommend his short fiction to almost anyone because you can get a sense of the PKDness without committing to a full-length novel.)  Gosh, run-ons, sj?  Maybe you need to step away from the PKD and the wine.

ANYWAY.  This volume – I’ve read some of the stories in this volume before, but many of them were new to me.  Not so new that I didn’t instantly feel that favourite author homecoming within the first page of each, though.  These stories are from his earlier years (all of the volumes of his collected short fiction are published chronologically – there are five and this one contained TWENTY SEVEN stories), and fairly typical of his work during the early ’50s.  America was caught up in the Cold War and McCarthyism, so it was a pretty scary period for people with ideas.  That fear and paranoia comes through loud and clear here.  Humans did a lot of bad stuff to other humans during that period (well, when haven’t we really?), and it is pretty clear that our dear author had lost a lot of his faith in his fellow man at that point in time.

For example, in James P. Crow we have a future ruled by robots.  Humans are better at some things (entertainment and butler-y type duties, mostly) but robots are the thing.  To even qualify for an actual job, one must pass a series of tests – and only one human has ever managed to do so.  We think we know how the story is going to go, but it does leave us wondering if humans are even best qualified to govern ourselves.

As I mentioned above, there are 27 stories in Second Variety.  Of those, three have been adapted as films.  I’ve seen ONE – Screamers, based on the titular story – and have doubts about the other two.  Adjustment Bureau had Matt Damon, so I was immediately prejudiced against it.  I read reviews of Impostor when it came out and Gary Sinise+NO, HIS TWISTS AREN’T TWISTY ENOUGH!=Nah, no thanks.  I will never understand why Hollywood continues to mess with the stories of my favourite author, when enough of what he wrote would TRANSLATE PERFECTLY WELL to a screen of any sort.

I was talking about this very thing not too long ago on twitter with my PKD chums @teemcp and @KateSherrod.  We came to the conclusion that the best way to handle Dick’s work would be for a weekly series on one of the cable networks.  His short work especially would translate nicely to 60-minute segments, or even two stories in an hour.  Showtime, HBO – if you’re reading, please look into this?  Please?

Gah, I already mentioned I’d been drinking, so I’m starting to ramble.  This usually means I need to cut things short, but there are a few stories I absolutely must talk about before I shut up for the night.

Human Is  – If anyone, anywhere, reading this makes films of any kind, I beg you to turn this one into a movie/short film/something you make just to make me happy.  Seriously, I can completely picture this one exactly in my head and would LOVE to see that on my television/in the theatre.

Planet for Transients, Survey Team and Martians Come In Clouds – I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more times before I die – HUMANITY SUCKS.  These are all stories worth reading, and none of them are very long.  Of the three, I think Planet for Transients is the one I’d most like you all to read.  Somehow it manages to be sad and uplifting at the same time.

The Cookie Lady, Beyond the Door, The World She Wanted and Of Withered Apples – These stories are straight up fantasy.  I always find it interesting when PKD steps outside of the sf-realism box and writes something different.  Beyond the Door is available for free at Project Gutenberg.   I think you’ll find it both amusing and slightly terrifying.

The Trouble with Bubbles – This…this may be one of my favourite things he’s written.  It’s difficult to discuss impartially (but isn’t that often the way with the works we claim for ourselves?), but if I could force everyone I know to read one Philip K Dick short story, it would be this one.  In my oh-so-very-humble opinion, this is my favourite author at his very best.  The concept behind this story is something I remember discussing in the dark, under the stars at a young age – it’s certainly not anything groundbreaking (maybe it was at the time, I can’t say since not even my parents were alive at the time it was written), but the way it’s handled is truly Dickian.  Don’t bother reading the wiki summary for it, the person who wrote it obviously missed the entire point.  It is, hands down, one of the best pieces of short fiction I’ve ever read.  When I’m King of the World, this story will be required reading for everyone.  So…get started early, ‘kay?

Okay, enough.  Thanks for sitting through my ramblings, it’s always appreciated.  Have you read this book?  If so, do you agree with the stand-out stories I’ve chosen, or do you have other favourites?  Honestly, I’m not sure what it says about me that PKD is my comfort author, but I’d love to know your thoughts.

(post script I:  I wrote this accompanied by ieatpant’s The Empire Never Ended, an album inspired by the work of PKD.  You can check it out here.)

(post script II:  I was talking to my husband as I wrote this, and he insisted that my closing line be the following:  “If you don’t know Philip K, you don’t know Dick.”  Done – love you, baby!)

Trashy Tuesday – Zombies vs Unicorns

I’m going to try something new this week, and because alliteration amuses me I’m calling it Trashy Tuesday. Here’s the deal – I usually try to read things that have at least some sort of value, even if only in my own mind. From now on, I’m going to make an effort to read and review at least one book each week that has zero literary merit whatsoever. The initial offering is…Zombies vs Unicorns!

grrr argh!

I’m not going to lie to you lovely folks. I saw this book and thought to myself “oh, hell yes!” …but then I actually started reading it. I’ll start right off by telling you that there are no battles between zombies and unicorns in this book. Not. A. Single. One. [super sad face] Instead we get a bunch of short stories written by today’s ‘hottest’ YA authors (I assume they are, anyway, because I see teens gushing over their books all over goodreads and other forums), all of which are written from the viewpoint of Team Zombie or Team Unicorn. Each story has an intro, with some witty banter between the two editors (Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier), each taking turns trashing the favourite of the other.  I guess the back-and-forth was supposed to be funny, but it mostly fell flat.  There was one humourous bit about not needing to be a virgin to get a piggyback ride from a zombie, but really – if you read it, feel free to skip the story intros, you won’t be missing anything much.

Individual Stories:

The Highest Justice by Garth Nix –  The only story in the entire book to feature both a zombie and a unicorn.  This was supposed to be a unicorn story, but…actually, I know there was a unicorn but I’m having a difficult time remembering much of what it did.  This story obviously left a great impression on me.  [insert image of me rolling my eyes here]  **

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson – Yay, an actual Team Zombie story!  I was stoked when I started reading this.  Joy Division in the title!  [swoon]  Mentions my favourite band!  [swoon, thud]  Talks about the Pizzicato Five!   True love!  Wait…what?  Zombie love?  (gay) Zombie sex?  Er…not that there’s anything wrong with that because Ms Johnson’s zombies aren’t your typical got-infected-rose-from-the-dead-now-must-eat-BRAINS kind of zombies.  Sure, the kid in the story still eats brains (and refers to them as macaroni and cheese, so I kind of love him for that) – but he’s not dead, it’s just some sort of infection that gave him a hunger for grey matter and he broke free from a soopersekrit government facility to become a serial killer.  Who wouldn’t want to bring this guy home to meet the parents?!  Once I realized that, the ick factor went down quite a bit and I was actually able to enjoy the story.  Woohoo for no necrophilia!  ***

Mmmmm, brains!

Purity Test by Naomi Novik – Drunken homeless girl meets smartass unicorn in an NYC park.  The best part of this story were the Harry Potter and Star Wars references.  Unicorn tells girl to pretend to be a virgin so they can rescue the baby unicorns from an evil wizard.  Okay, fair enough.  [shrug]  **

Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan – Probably my favourite of the Team Zombie stories in this book, definitely the least trashy.  The language was lovely, and I really enjoyed the setting.  Explored one of the fairly unused (but often suggested) zombie tropes – set yourself up on an island that you can defend and try to rebuild a semblance of civilization.  Particularly creepy were the images of the pirates lashing zombies to the hulls of their ships.    I might have to read some more of her stuff.  *****

A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan – This was a very sad and creepy unicorn tale (heh, totally punintentional – I swear).  I really thought I knew where it was going when the peasant boy found the princess bedraggled and knocked out in the woods.  Hoo, boy!  I could not have been more wrong.  While we aren’t forced to read about it, there’s, um…some bestiality in this one.  Traaaaaaaaaaaaashy!  Really, this is YA?!  Holy crap.  ***

The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson – Mmmmm, ‘famous actress’ with many tattoos, kooky religious beliefs and a passel of adopted children…I wonder who she could be referring to?!  This story had potential – zombie kids are always creepy – but it just didn’t do it for me.  I enjoyed the weird Lazarus cult bits, but other than that…meh.  *

My very own creepy zombie kid.

The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund –  This story is set in a universe I have only a passing familiarity with.  What I mean by that is, I’m aware that there is a series of books out there that contain giant, venomous killer unicorns and that there are girls that are pre-destined from birth to be vampire unicorn slayers, but I haven’t actually read any of them myself.  Based on this one example, I will likely be removing said series from my ‘might read sometime’ shelf, and adding them to my ‘probably will only read if there is nothing else left on Earth’ shelf.  Just not my thing at all.  *

Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld - I thoroughly enjoyed Scott Westerfeld’s (non-trashy) YA series Uglies, and reading this story makes me wish he’d write a series centered around the zombie apocalypse.  I would totally read that (in a non-ironic way, too).  The problem here is that it feels like we’re stepping into either the beginning or the end of a book, not like it’s a self-contained story.  Trash factor comes from the slutty girl who hooks up with another girl and then a few nights later with a boy.  I guess in a post-zombieapocalyptic world, a girl’s gotta take what she can get?  Still, very solid effort.  ****

Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot –  This story wasn’t really great, but it did have some highly amusing moments.  Teenage girl receives a birthday present from her aunt (you know, the aunt/grandma who always gets you the weirdest possible presents?) and it’s a rainbow farting unicorn.  Yes, the unicorn really does fart rainbows, and I believe she said the kids were posting videos of it on YouTube.  I would definitely watch them if they were real and not just Mr Toots.  My son has a turtle that we refer to as Princess Purty Turtle, so that gave another giggle because if I had a unicorn I would definitely name her Princess Prettypants.  ***

If your unicorn's gas doesn't look like this, demand a refund.

 Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare – I read this one without paying much attention to who had written it, but thought the writing style seemed familiar.  I looked up the author when I’d finished it, read the name and thought “NO WAY!  Surely it isn’t…?”  Yup!  This is the same Cassandra Claire Clare that used to write LotR and HP fanfic…she wrote The Very Secret Diaries, which are very hilarious.  I wonder what happened here, then?  I was unable to figure out when/where this was taking place.  The city is a duchy of some sort, but it’s like they’re entirely independent and left to their own zombie infested devices.  There were cars and limos…but hangings and burnings as well.  Weird.  This was another (ugh!) zombie love story.  Straight zombie love, but still – what’s the deal with ZomRom, is this a new thing I’m not all up-to-date on?  I think it’s one thing when the *ahem* love is between two zombies (like in SG Browne’s Breathers), but zombie/living shipping is just gross.  Please, authors – make a mental note.  Zombie sex (even if it’s only implied) with non-zombies is GROSS.  *

The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey – Trash.  Seriously.  Sado-masochistic unicorn.  I don’t really think I need to say any more.  *

Prom Night by Libba Bray – Imagine the adults are the first to go, and only teenagers are left.  [sigh]  Yeah.  Bonus point for reference to semi-obscure Zoroastrianism.  **

To get my total stars for this book, I’m going to average what I gave each individual story (thank goodness this wasn’t timed like GoogleGoggles!):  2.4/5

Sadly, we’ve reached the end of the first ever Trashy Tuesday.  Join me next week when I revisit one of the trashiest authors ever – VC Andrews.  See you then!

Book Review – Grey

I'm really not even sure what's going on here.

Book blurb: In a world pushed beyond the moral simplicity of black and white, all that survives is Grey.

High fashion, corporate malfeasance, celebrity culture, and an obsessed media collide with exuberant violence and volatile intensity in Grey, the explosive debut novel by newcomer Jon Armstrong.

For Michael Rivers, life is perfect. Michael has everything; tall, handsome, and famous, he is worshiped by billions of fans around the globe. He is wealthy beyond measure, the heir apparent to RiverGroup, one of the handful of high-tech corporations that controls the world. He is fashionable, setting trends with his wardrobe of immaculate designer suits, each a unique and celebrated work of art. And Michael is in love, perfect love, sharing a private language based entirely on quotes from the latest fashion magazine advertisements, with Nora, his beautiful, witty, and equally perfect fiancée, the only woman with whom he can see surgically-altered monochromatic eye to eye.

Thoughts: I finished reading Grey last night before bed, and had a difficult time falling asleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I suppose that could be taken as a good sign, but my primary concern was trying to figure out if I’d actually, y’know, liked it.

There were elements of the book that I absolutely loved. The descriptions of the clothing and people were quite vivid, and I had no problem visualizing the entire book as a movie playing out in my head. Grey takes place in a futuristic world where corporate mergers are signaled by marrying off the children of rival companies. Competitive ironing is a televised sport, family security/assassins are known immediately by their garishly coloured leotard-uniforms, one (quite literally) needs protection when watching a band play live and there’s an entire sub-culture of those who’ve had illegal surgery to burn out the cones in one eye so that they can only perceive the world in shades of grey – these are all interesting ideas and visuals that I had no problem getting behind.

The thought of your status as a company being determined – not by the type and efficiency of the service you provide – but by your favourite bands, fashion designers and what magazines you read…well, it hit a little close to home. In an era where everything we do can be cast into the public eye and the distiction between classes is greater than it has been at any time since the feudal ages, Armstrong’s ‘fashionpunk’ dystopia seems all too plausible.

The ‘commoners’ live in an extremely poor area referred to as the Slubs, where odd forms of prostitution and drug use are the norm. In an attempt to better themselves, they have some seriously weird forms of elective surgery (There’s a prostitute at the beginning who has had a second set of genitals added to her belly button. She charges extra for that. O.o), and all aspire to one day be part of the Families. The intense squalor they live in is further emphasized when we visit the Family Compound, which is encased in a bubble that keeps carbon dioxide out. Hugely intricate carved facades, oxygen gardens…just some really strange stuff – but, again, great visuals.

Against this backdrop, we follow the semi-love story of Michael and Nora. They are the children of two of the most influential Families/businesses and are set to marry to seal a merger. They fall in love on their first date, speak in a code derived from the ads in their favourite high-fashion magazine, and gaze lovingly at each other through their cone-less right eyes. In true dystopian fashion, their love simply cannot be – but they will be together, or die trying.

So, as I’ve already stated – I really appreciated the attention to detail in the world-building that went on in Grey, that being said…it still needed a lot of work. Editing problems aside (someone relied far too heavily on spellcheck and had a difficult time maintaining continuity – especially with regards to which eye was supposed to be greyed out), the story seemed to kind of fall flat in places. It was like the author knew where he wanted to go, but wasn’t quite sure how to get there so he just threw in some more bizarre descriptions to distract us from the lack of plot. Another issue I had was with some of the dialogue. There were many times where I felt like I was reading a transcript of an old Speed Racer cartoon. This could have been intentional, though – the author did say that he started building the idea for this book while living in Japan.

everyone-talks-really-fast-with-no-pauses-for-breath-haHA!

Grey could have been great. Instead, it reads like a bit of a rough draft with promise. I can see where Mr Armstrong was headed and I really like that place. I just think it needed some fine tuning and a little more time in the editing bay. This is one of the few books I’ve read that I think would be better as a movie. I can see everything clearly in my head, and it would be a spectacularly gorgeous film.

As an aside – if you have issues with strong language (there are times when the eff bomb is dropped 10 times on a single page) or gore, this really isn’t the book for you. Heather, I’m looking at you.

3/5 stars: Weird, but in that good weird kind of way. If it were a little better paced, and a little more attention were paid to the editing process, it would have been a four or five star book.

Book Review – Delirium

 

Gah. So shiny. It burns!

Book Blurb: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I feel the need to state once again that I really had zero interest in ever reading this book. I completely heart post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories, but usually hate them once TRUE LOVE is thrown into the mix. I read this because I got a stupid java update popup on my computer when I was voting for Book of the Year in the GoodReads Choice Awards and when I went to close it, I accidentally voted for this book (I’m sure you’re all thinking that’s a likely story, but I hope that people who actually know me can accept that this really isn’t my thang at all). I was consumed with guilt by voting for a book I hadn’t actually read, so forced myself to wade through it. Luckily, it wasn’t intellectually taxing at all and it took less than two days.

On to the review!

I wish I could say that the premise of this book was highly original, but while I was reading it I took a look at my recommendations based on my Currently Reading shelf. There were at least 10 books there with almost exactly the same blurb. Change the location, change the name of the main protagonist and why exactly she can’t be with her One True Love and you have the other books it was suggested I check out. In this one, love has been determined to be a fatal disease. Nearly all of humanity’s ills and woes are brought on by this terrible affliction and since scientists came up with ‘the Cure’ (essentially a partial lobotomy) things are pretty damn close to perfect.

We follow the story of Lena, a girl approaching her 18th birthday who is eagerly anticipating her procedure date, the one that will remove from her brain the ability to love. The population is required to wait until they’re 18 because I guess it doesn’t always take if it’s performed on someone younger than that. At first we’re told that it’s never performed on minors, but later the author backpedals and tells us that sometimes (in extreme cases of deliria) it’s okay to perform the procedure on those that haven’t reached the age of majority. Lena is an orphan, whose father died when she was young and her mother committed suicide when she was small because she was one of the few the operation didn’t work on. Her mother had the procedure three times and it never took, so instead of letting them strap her down to the table the fourth time, she walked off of a cliff.

I’m not going to recap the whole plot, because it was super predictable and just the little bit I’ve mentioned above should give you a pretty good idea of how things go – I’ll just get straight to bitching about the stuff that was really horrible.

(Do I need to tell you that there will be SPOILERS ahead?)

Every single bit of this story was completely banal. Of course Lena meets a boy shortly before she turns 18. Of course he turns out to be one of the wild people from beyond the borders of the city. Of course she falls truly, madly, deeply in love with him. Of course her mother isn’t really dead, and of course she escaped from the prison where those who won’t submit are held. That is (of course!) the final straw in Lena’s decision that she can’t – nay, won’t – go through with the lobotomy and she must escape to reunite with her mother again. The book ends on a supposed cliffhanger where Lena escapes from the hordes of police that are chasing her and her OTL, but he’s left behind and she’s on her own.

[sigh]

No explanation is really given as to how amor deliria nervosa came to be thought of as a disease, nor how the scientific procedure actually works to remove a feeling from the brain of those that undergo it. We get little bits from textbooks and government documents at the beginning of each chapter, but no real insight. Those book blurbs were the most interesting part of the story for me because I kept thinking some clarification was on its way. Nope.

The uncured wildlings are referred to as ‘Invalids,’ which I found pretty confusing for the majority of the book – unsure which pronunciation and definition was being used for the word. Were they non-valid since they refused to conform or were they crippled/disabled because they hadn’t submitted? I chose to believe the latter since it seemed to fit with the general tone of the rest of the book…only to find out near the end that I was wrong when it’s mentioned that “their entire existence would be invalidated.” OH! Ooops!

I suppose I could have forgiven the terrible plot and awful predictability if I had enjoyed the author’s style at all, but she lost me fairly early on. In one of the first chapters, Lena opens a window, and the humidity is described as the air feeling “as thick and heavy as a tongue.” No, I’m not kidding. That was the point for me where I realized there wasn’t any way possible I would take pleasure in this book. Ugh. I guess lots of people are bumping this book up an additional star because of Lauren Oliver’s ‘beautiful, brilliant, elegant’ prose, but I’m not one of those people.

1/5 stars. Truly terrible…but I will probably read the sequel, just so I can mock it further.

Book Review – Inheritance

Book Blurb: Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

Non –spoilery thoughts: What a complete and utter disappointment. I really don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it surely was not this. I am amazed I finally finished it, because it was really just that bad. I sighed every time I picked it up, and couldn’t bring myself to read more than 50 pages at a stretch.

I noticed that in the acknowledgements, the author thanked no less than FIVE editors. I feel like each and every one of those editors should be fired and never allowed to work in the publishing industry again. Harsh? Perhaps. Unfortunately, this is a book where the run-ons run on and on, the punctuation is atrocious and there are so many misspelled and misused words it will make any lover of the English language want to weep. There were so many extraneous parts of the story – I feel like the book could have been half the size and still managed to tell the same tale. If it had been half the size, it might actually have been enjoyable. Here’s an example of one of the worst sentences in the book: “Of warmth and growth they sang, of muscle and sinew and pulsing blood they sang, and of other, more arcane subjects.” First of all, you can see how it just goes on and on. Secondly, you can also see where he loses interest in what he’s writing about at the end and just…finishes. I feel like he had no idea what else they could possibly be singing about, so he gave up. If any of his (FIVE) editors were remotely competent, they could have fixed that for him. There were moments where he used the same word five times (hey, same as the number of editors he had!) in about 7 lines. Of course…those 7 lines were really only two sentences, so…

On to the plot. Blech. I suppose I should be grateful for the recap of the first three books at the beginning because reading it made me feel like I hadn’t read them at all. I realize it’s been a few years since the last one came out, but c’mon! I know I’m not that forgetful! Many, many pages of battles that could have been more succinctly described. I swear, there was one instance where they were trapped in a storm over the sea for at least 20 pages. TWENTY PAGES! OF FOG! What the…?! [sigh]

Closure for characters? I guess-ish. We revisit most of the important people we met throughout the series, but I have a feeling that Eragon/Arya shippers are going to be sorely disappointed (I say this, assuming that there are such shippers, even though I’ve never visited an Inheritance message board). Just…dissatisfying to the nth degree.

I’m warning you right now, if you have not read this book (or have any intentions of reading this book) you should probably skip the rest of this review. Things are about to get spoileriffic.

Okay, I made five pages of notes on this crap while I was reading it, but I’m gonna ignore those for now and just wing it – I’ll talk about the stuff that bothered me the most.

Nasuada – at the beginning of the book, we spend forever talking about her stupid scars. Yes, I get that she did the whole battle of the knives thingy to prove how badass and worthy of leading the Rebel Allia…er, Varden she was. Seriously, though? Do we really need to lovingly describe the blemishes on the “belly of her forearms” (for realsies, that’s where they are) for two pages? TWO PAGES!

THEN after a bunch of pages where nothing happens, she gets kidnapped by the big baddie of the series. His über-ridiculous name is Galbatorix and he’s kidnapped Princess Leia in order to force her to swear fealty to him in the old language. She refuses. He tortures her. There are many, many pages where nothing much happens. Hot irons are applied. Her jailer/guy who feeds her and takes her to the bathroom has nice fingernails (at least 500 words are spent describing this dude’s fingernails – he’s never given a name, but he has really well manicured hands). More hot irons are applied, still she refuses. You go, girlfriend. Galby brings out a box. Whatever is in the box is making some skree-skree, skree-ska! noise. At this point, I had a feeling I knew what was in the box and if it went in her ear and wrapped itself around her cerebral cortex, I was going to throw a freaking fit. Luckily, it didn’t. Look, Christopher Paolini – you can call it a stupid Burrow Grub all you want, but I freaking know it’s a Ceti Eel!

Ceti Eel

So, while she’s being tortured, Eragon takes off to find the soopersekrit Vault of Souls. This is where we encountered the endless fog I mentioned earlier. BlahblahFOGblahblahWINDblahblahblah. We finally get to the island where the aforementioned vault is, but Eragon can’t get in because he doesn’t know his true name. He spends, like, fifty pages meditating on the subject and WE NEVER GET TO FIND OUT WHAT IT IS! Oh, and the Vault is guarded by GIANT ATTACK SNAILS and some kind of creepy shadow bird…I think there were more Ceti Eels hiding in the forest, too. He gets into the vault to find a ton of hidden dragon eggs and some souls of dragons that are no longer with us. They’re going to lend him their strength so he can take on the evil tyrant king and (maybe) vanquish him. Okay, I will admit it. This part wasn’t so bad. Just the entire book leading up to it…and everything that came after.

Eragon takes off back to the Varden and carries a bunch of the former-dragons in this magic hyperdimensional pocket thingy that follows him around. No one else can see it, no one else knows it’s there. To make sure he doesn’t blab to everyone about the egg clutch, they wipe his memory. He will somehow remember they’re there if/when he defeats Galbatorix, but not before. Eragon returns, the peasants rejoice, and they lay siege to the city in the morning.

There’s a lot of fighting, most of it is just gratuitous violence that I really wanted to skip. I didn’t, though, just on the off chance that something might actually happen that I needed to know. There was this one character that I wanted to know more about – she saved Roran (Eragon’s brother/cousin/whatever) from being killed. She referred to herself as a helpful stranger, but we never found out any more about her. She was in the book for about a paragraph and I liked her more than the majority of the characters we spent hundreds of pages on.

Eragon and friends head deep into the fortress to face off against the big bad evil tyrant king who has held the land with an iron fist for over 100 years, but OH NOES he has learned THE NAME OF THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE, which somehow makes him able to stop other people from using magic with that language. So, he’s trying to get into Eragon’s mind and our hero finds that his only defense is to use all of his force (and the powers of all the dead dragons he’s got hanging out in his pocket) to send back a feeling of all of the death and destruction he’s caused during his rule.
He cries out NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO a few times, realizes he’s a complete tool…and spontaneously combusts. End of big evil baddy. Yes. Really. They hurt his feelings and he exploded.

I wish that was where the book ended, but it went on for another hundred pages. Really, though – nothing else happened.

1.5/5 stars. He finished the series, so he gets a star for that. The half star is for allowing me to take five pages of notes on this crap. I do enjoy note-taking.

Next up: Delirium by Lauren Oliver I really don’t even want to read this book, but I accidentally voted for it in the Goodreads Choice Awards semi-finals, so I feel kind of obligated.