Trasand’s CBR5 Book Review #3 Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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I chose Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for my third Cannonball read. I thought I was purchasing the audiobook version, when in fact, iTunes tricked me into purchasing the e-book version. I didn’t even know you could buy e-books through iTunes. A word of caution: don’t attempt to buy a book on your phone while sitting in traffic.

Neverwhere was apparently Gaiman’s first solo novel, and others have said that you can clearly see that Gaiman is still making the transition from comics and screenplays to the more respectable form of novels. I find these thoughts to be pretentious and ridiculous. I’ve read (and watched) plenty of Gaiman’s other works, and I instantly recognize the style and tone as Gaiman’s. Perhaps I’m uncultured swine, but it all reads the same to me. Neverwhere is actually a novelization of the television series of the same name, in case you wanted to know. I haven’t seen it, but after reading the book, I would like to.

The book opens with Richard Mayhew, an average young man, working an average job, living an average life in London. On his way to dinner with his pushy fiancée, they come across a young girl splayed out on the pavement, bleeding and weak. Richard chooses to help the girl, picking her up and taking her back to his apartment instead of going on to dinner to meet his fiancé’s boss.

This single act of kindness throws into motion an entire chain of events, which are a bit spoiler-y if I really get into it. In short, Richard suddenly finds himself in world he never knew existed – London Below. In sewer tunnels, abandoned tube stations and the occasional roof top is a world darker, dangerous and much stranger than he ever imagined.

London Below is a city of shadows, of people, places and times that have “fallen through the cracks.” The world building, in my opinion, is full of potential. Admittedly, I would have liked to learn more about how society in London Below functions, the further details of certain customs and exactly how London Below came to be. Frequently I found myself more interested in the back stories of minor characters than that of the protagonist, Richard Mayhew. Again, so much potential, but I wish the author had taken more time to thoroughly explore the world he created. I would happily spend another dozen or so books adventuring through London, New York, Tokyo or even New Delhi Below.

I will admit that I’m probably being picky. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and like all his works, I found Neverwhere a treat to read. A wonderful fantasy adventure, though probably not a classic. I would recommend the book to any Gaiman fan that hasn’t read it yet, and anyone else in the market for a good fantasy romp.

Trasand’s #CBR5 Review #2: Unspoken Abandonment by Bryan Wood

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Unspoken Abandonment by Bryan Wood is the story of the author’s time spent serving combat operations in  eastern Afghanistan and of readjusting to life at home. The first part of the book is presented in journal format, and is taken from the journal he kept during the first part of his deployment. The writing is simple and straightforward, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s the occasional issue of conflicting tenses during the journal sections, but it only serves to make the entries more authentic.

“Thirteen hours earlier, we were yelling and excited, but now not a single word was being spoken on the same plane… All of our briefings to this point told us we were just minutes away from stepping foot in a country filled with landmines, a hostile and motivated enemy, an unwelcoming civilian population, and a long uphill battle.” From the very first journal entry describing their arrival in Bagram, Wood puts a finger on exactly how terrifying war can be

There are many sections I highlighted to read over again and to ask questions about later, but one stood out as something I’d heard echoed before by my friend and other veterans I know. Concluding a journal entry describing a mortar attack that missed the compound by only a hundred feet or so, Wood writes, “Once again, hours and days of utter boredom sandwiching seconds of pure terror; that is life in Afghanistan.”

The latter half of the book deals with Wood’s return home, and at times was difficult to read. It was by no means shocking, but I think it simply hit too close to home for me. I have many friends who have served overseas, and a few that have returned with Post Traumatic Stress and are currently doing daily battle with it. It was hard to read some of the passages without constantly thinking, X must be feeling this way, this is exactly what X does.

Wood wrote this book coming from a place of extreme emotional duress, and I believe that it takes an incredibly amount of courage to not only put those thoughts to paper, but to then publish those thoughts for thousands to read. My own emotions aside, I think Unspoken Abandonment is a powerful book that most people should read. While I can only imagine the horrors of war from the safety and comfort of my living room, I think Wood’s book does an excellent job of opening the door.

Trasand’s #CBR5 Review #1 Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Trapped  My first Cannonball book is a bit of a guilty pleasure. I started reading the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne during a beach outing with my mother. I’m not exactly the urban fantasy type, but it was there, and how bad could it be, right? Except like anything bad for me, I shortly became addicted and read four books in a weekend.

Trapped is the fifth book in the series, following the 2000 year old druid, Atticus O’Sullivan and his new apprentice, Granuaile. Possible spoilers ahead for anyone who might want to read the series, or who is currently reading the series and not quite caught up yet. Atticus has been training Granuaile in secret for the past twelve years, and is finally ready to complete the process by binding her to the earth, making her a full druid. Due to events from the past books, this process is interrupted several times by various Gods and Supernaturals. Hijinks ensue as the pair, travel across the globe, and to other realms and planes of existence, trying to figure out who is after them. Accompanying the pair is Atticus’s faithful Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, who can always be counted on for comic relief and is often the highlight of the book.

Trapped is by no means a classic, but you can certainly do worse. I rate it mostly as fluff, but it’s fairly well-written fluff. I’m not drawn to spotting errors, or finding myself irritated when the author uses the same adjective for the 500th time in a row. By itself, I will say the book is enjoyable. Comparing it to the rest of the series, it just seemed slightly… less. Trapped wasn’t a bad read, but it did seem fairly short compared to the other books in the series. I blew through Trapped in about four whiles, while I think it took me 6-8 to read the others. Having an expectation from reading the of the series, I also thought this book had less action than the others. I don’t know what Mr. Hearne is planning for his next installment, but it felt like Trapped ended too early. When I reached the end, I honestly wondered if I’d skipped some chapters and missed something, because I felt it came too quickly.

Obviously, if you’ve never the Iron Druid Chronicles before, don’t run out and buy it, it’s part of a series. Also, don’t let my review of trapped turn you away from reading the first few books in the series, they’re pretty amusing. If you’ve read books 1-4 and you can’t wait to get your hands on trapped – eh. Go ahead and read it, but so far I’ve found it the weakest book in the series.