Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The 306 Greatest Books #160 - The Big Sleep

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The book can be found on the Observer Book List.

The Big Sleep returns me to the detective noir genra, taking place during the Great Depression with a detective named Philip Marlowe. The feel of the novel was very similar to The Maltese Falcon, however Hammett has something that Chandler lacks. In The Big Sleep I never felt this overwhelming urge to drive on through the novel like I did with The Maltese Falcon. I definitely had the voice-over effect in my head though. Marlowe was narrating the entire story, and that part was enjoyable, with his random quips being generally pretty funny. However, I had a problem with the general premise of the story. This is likely because of my time compared to civilization back then, but it still irked me and I would likely have put the book down never to be picked up again if it weren't for this list. The story begins with Marlowe being asked to find out information on an extortion racket. This later gets expanded upon with multiple murders, fights, and the sneaking around that you would expect from a good detective thriller. However, the overall misogynistic and anti-homosexual context of the story was too much for me to bear. The women in the story were either hyper-sexualized, dumb as rocks, or pointless. The attitude towards the gay characters made them out to be seen as less than dirt who didn't deserve any justice that they may need or want, and it made me angry and sick while reading. So overall, while I could have seen that this novel may have once had a place in history, that is where it now belongs, in the dustbins of history.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The 306 Greatest Books #159 - Magician

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Magician by Raymond E. Feist. The book can be found on the BBC Book List.

After having read a few of the more historical fiction novels, I was in the mood for a fantasy novel. Looking through my list I found Magician, which even though it was a rather long book (at over 800 pages), it seemed like it would be a fun read. The book itself is set on the world of Midkemia in an age that resembles our Medieval time period mixed with the world of Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings vibe actually struck a little too strongly. There is a land of elves, who are all very long lived, dwarfs, who live under mountains, goblins, wizards, and even a dragon on a pile of gold. It was so jarring at times that it seemed that Feist took the premise and characters of Lord of the Rings, placed them in a jar, shook them up, and spilled them onto the page for his set dressing. This was all disturbed when a race of aliens comes in through a rift in space. They begin to attack Midkemia, prompting a war that encompasses nearly the entire novel. I don't know if this rift in space was so different from the Lord of the Rings vibe that was set up but it felt off. I had a hard time reconciling this alien world with the medieval one already set up, and it took me a very long time through the story to feel like they belonged together. Looking at the characters in the book, there are many who appear throughout most of the story, however the primary character is Pug, a magician's apprentice. The story ends up taking place over more than a decade causing us to witness Pug go from apprentice to a full-fledged magician. It was Pug's interactions with both worlds on either side of the rift that made this novel enjoyable. While it took me a while to get into many of the other characters, I picked up on Pug the quickest. It was Pug's journey that made me care about the other characters and it was once he comes into his own that I really started to enjoy the book. Since the book was so long it felt like a slow crawl at times to get through, even though it is a fairly easy read and rather quick, but the Lord of the Rings aspects kept pulling me out of the story. It took until about 3/4's of the way through the book until I became fully enraptured and really started to plow through it. Even though I had a slow start to the book I am excited now to continue the series through the large number of sequels that have since been published.