His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, #1) by Naomi Novik

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Date Read: January 15 to 23, 2017
Recommended by: book club’s pick
Recommended to:

Simon Vance to the rescue once again as he saves another book for me that I would have set aside for another time or probably indefinitely. Not the book’s fault though since it’s perfectly fine and well written for a historical fiction. It was more a case of bad timing when I picked it up, too much going on and not enough time or energy to spare and all that, but I made it through, with a lot of help from the audiobook which was superbly read by Mr. Vance, and I really enjoyed it.

The story reimagines the Napoleonic War years from the perspective of Will Laurence, an English captain, formerly of the navy, currently of the air force, and the dragon Temeraire which he took from a captured French ship. The pair bonded over a short period of time and grew to become a funny, sweet, interesting partnership by the end of the book. Some of my favorite moments consist of Laurence and Temeraire talking about books, battle tactics and strategies. There’s no magic or magic systems, no mysterious relics or quests, no coming of age farm boy set out to save the world since this isn’t high fantasy; dragons are the only fantastical elements here.

And the dragons in this world are intelligent and can communicate with their handlers and crew, and their interactions are really fun to read, or more accurately, really fun to hear Simon Vance read because he’s got a lovely voice and he has different voices for all of the characters, but the dragons’ voices are by far the best. The historical aspects of the story are well done and really immerse you in the time period, save for the part where there were dragons involved and both England and France used them like fighter jets, intelligent fighter jets with personalities and quirks. But this too, inserting dragons into this part of history, was also well done and really added to the overall historical feel of the story.

The reason I switched to audio was because of the slow beginning. Not much happened following the capture of the French ship as Laurence and his crew waited for Temeraire to hatch, and not much happened afterward when they left the navy to join the air force. While Temeraire was interesting, Laurence was not, unfortunately. Although a captain and in his thirties, he still had a lot of growing up to do and a lot of personal obstacles to overcome, and he didn’t become interesting until he fully gave in to the life and culture of the air force and dedicated himself to Temeraire (and dragons in general). By this point, more than half the book was over, and without Mr. Vance’s reading, I most definitely wouldn’t have made it this far or past all of Laurence’s shortcomings to really get into the story.

I’ve only read one other book by Naomi Novik and that’s Uprooted which was mostly okay, so I went into this book expecting it to also be mostly okay, but found myself enjoying it a lot, especially once more characters and dragons were introduced. They’re all a lot of fun except for Rankin whom I’d like to stab–repeatedly, but that’s another matter, unfinished business, saved for another time. Since there are 8 more books of dragon adventures, I look forward to continuing this journey with them.

“How did you come to see it?” [Laurence] said with interest, turning it over in his hands and brushing away more of the dirt.

“A little of it was out of the group and it was shining,” Temeraire said. “Is that gold? I like the look of it.”

“No, it is just pyrite, but it is very pretty, is it not? I suppose you are one of those hoarding creatures,” Laurence said, looking affectionately up at Temeraire; many dragons had an inborn fascination with jewels or precious metals. “I am afraid I am not rich enough a partner for you; I will not be able to give you a heap of gold to sleep on.”

“I should rather have you than a heap of gold, even if it were very comfortable to sleep on,” Temeraire said. “I do not mind the deck.”

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Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: July 9 to August 20, 2014
Read Count: 2
Recommended by: a lot of people
Recommended for: people who like short stories that weave

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.

Mostly historical fiction with a few sci-fi and fantasy elements mixed in. It’s cleverly done and the overall effect is very interesting. David Mitchell has a wondrous way with words. Highly recommended.

I finished reading for the second time awhile ago, but ended up sitting on this “review” for some time now because I could not find anything to say, other than “highly recommended.” This one of those books you have to experience for yourself. No review can can sum it up or give you an idea what’s inside. How anyone think they could turn this into a big-budget star-studded movie is baffling to me. (“This book defies a lot of things, so let’s turn it into a movie??” Because that always turn out amazing.)

So what is this book like? I’ll try to give an overview. There are six novellas nested inside and each story is set in a different place and time period, with one set in a distant apocalyptic future, which isn’t as strangely out of place as you’d think. There’s a common thread woven through these six stories linking them to each other across time and space, and each story is told by a character from the next story. The writing is unique in that all characters have well-defined voices that reflect their time periods. Mitchell experiments with different styles and genres, and the result is six distinct stories that actually read like they’re written by six different authors.

The beginning was slow for me though, mainly because it’s fragmented and difficult to follow. It wasn’t until I got to the second story that I could sort of grasp what was going on. During the first half of the book, I had to push myself to read on, which I’m glad I did, because when I reached the end of the sixth story and the beginning of the second half of the other stories, things started coming together methodically, almost magically, to form the big picture, and it was at that moment that I finally saw what Mitchell had been doing all along. And it’s beautifully done. I’m still in awe.

There are so many quotable passages–Mitchell really does have a wondrous way with words–that I could fill this whole space with quotes, but I think these will do.

The mind abhors a vacancy and is wont to people it with phantoms.

[…]

People are obscenities. Would rather be music than be a mass of tubes squeezing semisolids around itself for a few decades before becoming so dribblesome it’ll no longer function.

[…]

Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms around the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.

[…]

To enslave an individual troubles your consciences, Archivist, but to enslave a clone is no more troubling than owning the latest six-wheeler ford, ethically. Because you cannot discern our differences, you assume we have none. But make no mistake: even same-stem fabricants cultured in the same wombtank are as singular as snowflakes.

I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway and would like to thank the people at Random House for sending a copy.