Tigana was written by the Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay in 1990. It was the first time I read one of his books. Kay is known for his fantasy fiction that resembles real historic places and even historical events, but transformed into fantasy. It seems like alternate history with fantasy elements in it. Tigana has lots of fantasy elements but I read that Kay's earlier books gravitate more towards alternate history.
Tigana is a stand alone fantasy novel which is extremely rare these days. It tells the tale of a people that lost their identity since their kingdom was conquered by two powerful tyrant Wizards. It's a story about lost names and culture and how a group of brave rebels prepared themselves over years to overthrow the tyrants and reclaim their homeland. The two tyrants split the kingdom into two and one of the provinces was put under a spell to basically transform it into another place and make its past forgotten.
It's a slow burn story that develops leisurely and in an almost dream like state. The writing is poetic, almost to the point where it is too flowery, but then it isn't. Some chapters are a deep dive into the characters memories and emotions that later helps us understand their motivations and their actions. The characters are not good nor bad. There is ambiguity in their actions. Even the tyrant wizard Brandin is portrayed as a conflicted villain and at times he seems unsure about his decisions. But for me, he is evil.
There is a lot of world building and it almost feels like the world he created could exist on its own and many other tales could be told about it. The newest editions of the book have a foreword in which the author explains his Italian inspiration for the Peninsula of the Palm. The author was inspired by the Italian Renaissance history. The powerful wizard Brandin of Ygrath was inspired by a proud and arrogant Borgia or Medici of the 1500's.
Best and worst characters:
Best character: I loved Catriana, the red head woman who is brave and basically makes the story less boring.
Second best character: Devin, the bard/singer.
Worst character: Dianora, who lived in the saishan (kind of a harem) with the wizard Brandon. She wanted to defeat him but Stockholm's Syndrome got her and she just couldn't do anything against him.
I enjoyed it but it's not on my “best books of the year list”. I thought the pace was too slow. Until 40% of the book we just get background story and not much action. Not really my cup of tea. But the writing is beautiful. Not sure if I'm going to read another book from this author.
I really enjoyed this book by Matt Haig. It's part memoir, part essay, part blog post.
First of all, the author does a great job at narrating it. It felt like I was having a conversation as I nodded and sighed at various passages.
His personal stories add a lot of depth to the discussion: how can we be sane in a world that bombards us with information.
It's a call to quieter lifestyle and makes us think about our standard behaviors. And it's all in the little things: watch the stars, observe the clouds, listen to the birds, read a book, appreciate music, have a conversation in person without looking at your phone.
I loved a chapter where he talks about books and reading:
“Reading isn’t important because it helps to get you a job. It’s important because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. It is how humans merge. How minds connect. Dreams. Empathy. Understanding. Escape. Reading is love in action.”
― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet
And there is a look of talk about self image which is particularly relevant in today's Instagram's selfies:
“Remember no one really cares what you look like. They care what they look like. You are the only person in the world to have worried about your face.”
― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet
It was a refreshing read (or should I say “listen”?). It's about living. And being happy. And embracing what is important. Letting go of the burden.
This was a surprisingly weird book. It's a mix of urban fantasy, light science fiction, nonsense and disastrous near futures. There's an AI, witches and mad scientists (sort of...). There is romance. Childhood adventures. Nerdy hipsters. Birds and trees talking. There are philosophical discussions about life, universe and everything. A clash of magic and science.
It's one of those books that can't really fit in one genre box. It's multi-genre (if such a classification exists).
I enjoyed reading it mostly because of the unusual dialogues and crazy ideas. It reminded me a little bit of Douglas Adams's style (like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
The AI Peregrine was my favorite character. And in my head I was sure the AI was a female. But then later in the story I realized they actually called her with a masculine noun. Anyway, the genre doesn't matter at all, the AI was cool. I thought the best portions of the story were when Patricia and Laurence were having some existential discussion, like the end of the world.
At around 70% I thought the story dragged a little bit and it became a little depressing. But then the story picks up and extraordinary things happen.
It's an interesting mixed bag of magic and “sciency” near future story.
I have always loved stories about robots, AI's, bots or any sentient like machine.
This book reminded me again why I love these stories. It is excellent!
One thing that happened to me while reading the first chapters is that I automatically assigned a female gender to Murderbot. I don't why I did it, but Murderbot was so relatable to me, I created empathy for all its fears, anxiety and social awkwardness. But then it is clear that Murderbot doesn't have a gender, because it is a security bot, not a sexbot. I wonder if the book cover led me to think that. Although I showed it to my husband and he told it was a totally gender neutral bot in that cover.
Maybe that is proof of how engaging and well written the character is. It's all about what it means to be alive, what it means to exist and think, no matter what or who you are. It was so interesting to be inside this bot's head and find out that it doesn't know what it wants, kinda like a human mind, all confused and asking why the universe existed:
It’s wrong to think of a construct as half bot, half human. It makes it sound like the halves are discrete, like the bot half should want to obey orders and do its job and the human half should want to protect itself and get the hell out of here. As opposed to the reality, which was that I was one whole confused entity, with no idea what I wanted to do. What I should do. What I needed to do.
I loved that Murderbot enjoyed watching television series:
And in their corner all they had was Murderbot, who just wanted everyone to shut up and leave it alone so it could watch the entertainment feed all day.
And I already started reading the sequel, because this is one of those “Hell, yeah” kind of stories.