The Stupidest Angel is another entry in the set of books that can be read over the course of a mostly lazy midafternoon, or a one timezone flight, say. On top of which, it’s reliably funny almost throughout. It’s recommendable on those bases alone, but it even has a few other things going for it, such as quirky characters who, due to the length of the book, cannot possibly have time to wear out their welcome, plus a plot twist tailor-made for my personal enjoyment.
By and large, though, the plot isn’t the point; the point is just the laughing along the way. In sum, it’s a week in the life of a forested NoCal village on final approach toward Christmas as the characters deal with murder and the romantic problems it can bring to couples, the violent and bloody loss of a child’s seasonal innocence, a dysfunctional nod to O. Henry, and of course an angel with perhaps the worst plan ever to fix things. If you have an empty hour or three, check it out. Sometime later, I’m going to glance at the author’s (Christopher Moore) other books, I think.
This time, light and fluffy fantasy by Dave Duncan, at the recommendation of Mike Kozlowski. Without any recommendation but that the author was good, I started with the first series I happened to find at Half Price Books, A Man of his Word. The opening volume, Magic Casement, follows the parallel adventures of Princess Inosolan as she is shipped away from her small kingdom to spend a year in Society learning to be a noble lady, and of Rap, her childhood companion and resident stableboy, as he comes to grip with magical powers he has only just discovered he has.
There’s a lot of good and very little bad here, so far: An engrossing system of magic with lots yet to be revealed. An Eddings-esque number of nationalities and nationalistic quirks (I haven’t decided if the nationalities are as internally homogenous as Eddings’ are, due to not enough information). A system of religion that may or may not be tied directly to the magic in some unrevealed way. A fun quest rife with danger. (Okay, that makes no sense. Plenty of danger, but fun to read about rather than oppressive.) Interesting companions and foes. A rollicking good cliffhanger.
My only real complaint is that the main character is unforgiveably dumb at a couple of key moments. I blame the author for poor information distribution. He provides info to the reader via the character’s internal thoughts, at a time when the info is useful to solving a puzzle. And then has the character not solve it for a while thereafter. If it had been provided early on, before the character had the puzzle to solve, then either the reader would notice when the character did and nod sagely, or notice early on and have a sense of accomplishment. As it was, though, the info solved the puzzle to my satisfaction and made me want to shake the character for being so blind. (I’m making it sound worse than it was, really.)
I look forward to reading the rest of the series. It’s nice to have the occasional non-doorstop fantasy to look forward too, and nicer yet to have it not obviously be trash, as with all the Buffy or Resident Evil or Shatner books that I read.
Another week, another Pratchett. Although I expect that ratio to drop off a bit now. This time, Equal Rites, the story of a young girl trying to make her way in the world as a wizard. Which should be no problem, except for how only men can be wizards. (And suddenly, the title makes all kinds of sense.)
Here’s the thing. I know these are funny. I’ve read at least three of them, even before this latest spate. And the common knowledge is that ER is substantially better than even The Light Fantastic, but I found that they were mostly equivalent. Well, for the humor value, at least. ER had the better story, but it was a little too obvious for me, I guess.
Except, that’s not it either, exactly. It was more travelogue than battle of the sexes. So I guess part of my complaint is that it failed to meet expectations, and then once they got to the part I was expecting, it seemed rushed and simple. After a fairly contrived ‘nobody else could have accomplished this!’ moment that seemed to have nothing to do with gender, suddenly girls are allowed. Maybe I just didn’t get it.
Disclaimer: Still very enjoyable light reading. I think it suffered from inflated expectations more than any other single problem. I’m ready for the series to be as funny as I remember, though, and am starting to fear it’s the age difference. (That part probably shouldn’t have been in the disclaimer, but I’ve been trying to get this written for almost a day, and I’d rather be done than clear or concise.)
Just as I predicted, The Light Fantastic removes most of the complaints I had about The Colour of Magic. Despite being published three years apart, it’s clear that these are one book split in half. Which is nice for me; I’d intended to read something else in between, but there was an unfortunate circumstance whereby I got called away on my weekend suddenly and forgot to grab a new book to read. Luckily, tLF was still in my trunk from when I borrowed it, though.
So, over the past five days, I’ve gone through that at a pretty quick pace. (Quick for me, anyway.) In addition to making up for the abruptness of the previous book, it’s also much more internally coherent and rather a lot more funny as well. Pratchett certainly improved between the two books. Not only that, but the lead characters became less inscrutable (Twoflower) and more likeable (Rincewind). On the whole, then, this was the perfect fluff book to read while hanging about in hospital rooms. I look forward to more of them.
Weird. I’ve read a few Discworld books, mostly in high school, and I’m quite sure that one of them included Rincewind and the Luggage. But it wasn’t this book, and it doesn’t seem to be the next one either. So I’m a little puzzled on that score, but it’s okay. For one thing, this is brand new, completely uninfluenced by my memory, so that’s good, I guess.
Unfortunately, I can’t really add anything that’s not already been said on the topic. It was amusing, but not nearly as funny as I remember Pratchett being. Rincewind is a barely sympathetic character, the Luggage is more menace than lark, and Twoflower is okay, but he’s written as too mysterious to really get into him.
The plot was fine, but great sweeping swathes of it were missing for no clear reason and it ended with essentially no resolution. The Light Fantastic appears to be a direct sequel, and perhaps he already knew he was writing it when The Colour of Magic came out, but it was a bit jarring of my expectations since I know that these are traditionally stand-alone.
Mostly I’ve complained, so I will say that I got the occasional laugh and never regretted the time I was spending reading it. Plus! Now I understand the Tourist from nethack, so that was worth the price of admission.