May 29, 2012

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Title:  The Crystal Cave
Author:  Mary Stewart
Format: HC
Pages:  519

Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow, 1970
ISBN-13:    Pre ISBN
Series: Merlin, Book 1

Favorite Quote:  Do you think Uthur is a King, Cadel?  He's but a regent for him who went before and for him who comes after, the past and future King.

Synopsis (PBS):  A big novel of sheer enchantment, this is the story, told by himself, of Merlin, man of magic and eventual guardian of King Arthur.... — Almost everyone knows Merlin as the dark brooding figure mysteriously associated with Camelot and King Arthur's court. — But who, really, was Merlin? Was he the enchanter of fairy tales, the magician in the black robe and pointed hat and wand? Or was he the king and prophet of old legends of Brittany and Wales? How did a man reputed to be the bastard son of the Prince of Darkness, and condemned to death as a child of the Devil, become the chief architect of the first united Britain?

Mary Stewart's answers to these provocative questions form a spell-binding novel that catapults the reader into fifth-century Britain- a land uncertainly emerging from Roman rule and divided by conflicting loyalties, political and spiritual; a land riddled with rumor real and planted, and spear-alert with superstitious fear.

Into this strange world was born Merlin, bastard son of Niniane, daughter of the King of South Wales, and an unknown father. The novel opens in Wales when Merlin is seven, and closes in Cornwall, at Tintagel, with the begetting of Arthur.

Mary Stewart is one of the most widely read novelists writing today. Her great gift as a story-teller, her enviable flair for making places and action come alive have never been more clearly defined than in The Crystal Cave.

This is not a story to be read once, however eagerly, and forgotten. Its imaginative truth will stand the test of time.

Review:  One of the best Merlin stories I've ever read.  I applaud the fact that it is both believable and magical.  The characters are fabulous.  Old Britain is described in almost painful detail.  It is really almost perfect, although I admit I'm a sucker for anything related to Merlin and King Arthur.

Rating:  10 / 10

May 20, 2012

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Title:  Digital Fortress
Author: Dan Brown
Format: PB
Pages:  372
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin, 2000
ISBN-13:     978-0312263126 
Series: Stand Alone


Synopsis (PBS):  When the NSA's invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant, beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage--not by guns or bombs -- but by a code so complex that if released would cripple U.S. intelligence. Caught in an accelerating tempest of secrecy and lies, Fletcher battles to save the agency she believes in. Betrayed on all sides, she finds herself fighting not only for her country but for her life, and in the end, for the life of the man she loves.

Review:  Okay, pretty standard high-tech thriller with romance tossed in just for fun.  I wasn't as impressed as I wanted to be.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

May 11, 2012

Ancient Light by Mary Gentle

Title:  Ancient Light
Author: Mary Gentle
Format: PB
Pages:  555

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Signet, 1990
ISBN-13:    978-0451450135     
Series: Golden Witchbreed, Book 2

Favorite Quotes: "...And because you were here before you went back to Tathcaer, and found out what I'd done, I saw myself through your eyes, as you saw me, a friend."

"I won't wait any longer," he said.  "You've delayed and delayed, arykei, and I have thought the cause Ruric, alive or dead, or one of your Company men; and now I've done with waiting, and will have an answer."

"You can leave worlds behind you," he said.  "Where can we go, who can't leave this earth and live?"  His face twisted with disgust.

Synopsis (PBS):  This gracefully written sequel to Golden Witchbreed powerfully depicts the impact of a high-technology civilization on a decaying planet. Ten years after having served as Earth's first envoy to Orthe, which is struggling to survive after a planetwide holocaust millennia ago, Lynne de Lisle Christie returns there as an advisor to PanOceania, one of Earth's giant multinational companies, which is seeking to discover the technological secrets of the Goldens, the ruling race that had destroyed itself while almost obliterating Orthe. Christie seeks to help the native people, some of whom have been her friends, some her enemies, but all closely bound in her memories and loyalties. Instigated by the last of the Golden, a madwoman seeking domination, war between the poor and starving hiyeks of the Desert Coast and the land-loving telestres of the north is aggravated by smuggled high-tech weapons.

Review:  Argh!  I loved this world and Ms. Gentle wrote the ending so that we humans have destroyed it.  It isn't dead yet, but well on its way and the people will all die with it.  I can't even begin to tell you how disappointed I am.  I tire of Sci Fi sometimes for this very reason.  We humans *always* ruin everything in most of these stories.  While it may be true in some cases that we are careless and thoughtless, couldn't we just this one time not ruin everything we touch? 

Still, grudgingly, I admit I loved all of the book except the very end, although I didn't like it quite as much as the first.

Rating:  9 / 10

May 1, 2012

Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle

Title:  Golden Witchbreed
Author:  Mary Gentle
Format: PB
Pages:  478

Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Signet, 1985
ISBN-13:    978-0451136060     
Series:  Golden Witchbreed, Book 1

Favorite Quotes:  For my part, I prefer aliens that look alien.  Then when they eat their first-born, or turn arthropod halfway through their life-cycle, it isn't so much of a shock.  You expect it.  Humanoid aliens, they're trouble.

"Christie," he said, "are we to be arykei?"

"I wanted to know if you'd come.  You understand me, Christie, better than my own people.  Did the Goddess birth us on the wrong worlds, do you think?"

Synopsis (PBS):  Orthe - -half-civilized, half-barbaric, home to human-like beings who live and die by the code of the sword. Earth envoy Lynne Christie has been sent here to establish contact and to determine whether this is a world worth developing. But first Christie must come to understand that human-like is not and never can be human, and that not even Orthe's leaders can stop the spread of rumors about her, dark whisperings that could cost Christie her life.

And on a goodwill tour to the outlying provinces, these evil rumors turn to deadly accusations. Christie is no off-worlder, Church officials charge: she is a treacherous and cunning descendant of Orthe's legendary Golden Witchbreed -- the cruel, ruthless race that once enslaved the whole planet. Suddenly Christie finds herself a hunted fugitive on an alien world, where friend and foe on alike may prove her lies in saving Orthe itself from a menace older than time.....

Review:  This is one of my all-time favorite Science Fiction novels.  I can't believe I've never read a novel by this author.  I will be reading many more of her stories, I'm sure of that.  The details and the characters are just incredible.

This story takes you deep into another world, another culture.  The Ortheans are so like us and so not like us.  It's an amazing ride and the paradox just makes it more so.  I want to go there and see the bright sun on the city of Tathcaer and ride a marhaz through the land.  I want to learn to play ochmir.  In other words, I want this story to be true.  I am starting the second (and, sadly, last) book in this series today.

Rating:  10 / 10

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