The Lost Gate
By Orson Scott Card
Tor, 2011. 384 pgs. Fantasy.
Danny is something of an outcast among his cousins growing up in a remote family compound where magical abilities are valued above all else. His parents are both powerful and respected mages who are frequently away and seem to care little for their only child. Danny’s lack of magical talents is nuisance, but when he discovers he may be far more powerful than any mage in ages, his life is in serious danger.
Card has built an intriguing new world of magic. Danny’s magical ability allows him to build gates that immediately transport him to another place. But beyond a transit device, gates also possess healing powers and can strengthen a mages powers when the gate is used to travel between worlds. However, I could not help but feel that the whole book was about the magic at the expense of story and characters. I also couldn’t shake the feeling that the entire book was a buildup for novels yet to come, an aspect of fantasy fiction that I struggle to embrace. This could be the good start to a new popular series, though I doubt I’ll be motivated to dive in any further.
By Sarah Vowell
Riverhead Books, 2011. 238 pgs. Nonfiction
Sarah Vowell’s new book provides a look at the events surrounding the annexation and eventual statehood of Hawaii. Following Captain Cook’s discovery of the islands, Hawaii became a popular stop for sailors traversing the Atlantic. And, as could be expected, missionaries soon followed. The overwhelming influence of these visitors on the paradise they came to ‘save’ quickly consumed aspects of the native culture. The Hawaiians who lived through the infestation of European and American germs had little chance of escaping the invasion of capitalism and Christianity.
Colonization always has a dark and tragic side despite the well-meaning intentions of some participants. Sarah Vowell writes with a superb combination of humor and honesty as she tells this part of Hawaii’s history. She has an impressive ability to point out the ironic and ridiculous while maintaining a respectful tone. I would highly recommend this book to anyone visiting the islands or anyone looking for a good excuse to visit the islands (as if anyone actually needed more motivation).
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
By Joshua Foer
Penguin Press, 2011. 307 pgs. Nonfiction
Each day we forget things we intend to remember. Things like our keys, our PayPal password, to pick up a gallon of milk, or why we opened the utensil drawer. And yet, there are individuals who can memorize whole books, thousands of digits of pi, and every name and face they have yet encountered. How? How do they do it? Joshua Foer decided he wanted to discover the secrets of the great mnemonists. So, he joined their ranks and spent a year training for the U.S. Memory Championship.
Foer’s immersive research for this book gives it a personal dimension that takes is far beyond simply science writing on memory. Of course, he includes some fascinating chapters on the science of the brain and theories of memory improvement, but what makes his narrative stand out is his journey toward a potential we all may have inside us. A completely memorable book.
Discovery of Witches
By Deborah Harkness
Viking, 2011. 579 pgs. Fiction
Dr. Diana Bishop has carefully suppressed her magical abilities despite coming from a long and respected line of witches. Instead, she has focused on her career which has taken her to Oxford to spend her days in the library perusing ancient documents. Diana’s self-imposed exile from the magical word becomes impossible to maintain when a mysterious folio finds its way into her hands. She is suddenly attracting a great deal of supernatural attention including that of a vampire with piercing eyes and questionable intentions.
This is the first book in a new series that seems to be a cross between Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark. Readers can’t help but notice that the story is a buildup to further adventures is subsequent volumes. Few would consider this a good stand-alone since there is little closure at the end of the book’s almost 600 pages. However, enough plot advancement and character development occur to provide an entertaining read.
5 months ago