Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review - The Way of Shadows- Brent Weeks

Rating: 4/5
Why I read it: Had seen good reviews for it and was able to get the trilogy for a little more than a single paperback.
Azoth is a street urchin who sees becoming the assassin Durzo Blint’s apprentice as his only chance of a better life.   
I’m a tad conflicted about how much I like this novel. It was fast-paced, engaging, and very entertaining. I really liked and cared for Azoth/Kylar and Blint but I didn’t really care all that much for a number of the other main characters. As an avid fantasy reader I’m used to scores of characters with odd names and twisting plot lines but occasionally with this novel I felt lost and I wondered what the point of including certain scenes was. This occurred most with the Solon/Dorian/ Feir group. I’m sure their purpose will become clearer in the following books.
There was some exploration into the human condition when Weeks examined the depths of depravity people will dive to in order to survive and the potentiality to redeem oneself afterward.    
There were a couple things I was a little incredulous about and some plot points that seemed like they were supposed to have a bigger impact and just fell flat. Overall it’s an entertaining and relatively quick read (for its 645 pages). I’d recommend it for fans of gritty fantasy and assassins. If you enjoyed this book I suggest reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

"Assassination is an art, milord. And I am the city's most accomplished artist."
"Do you know what punishments I've endured for my crimes, my sins? None. I am proof of the absurdity of men's most treasured abstractions. A just universe wouldn't tolerate my existence."
“Every man worth a damn is a hypocrite.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

“Two things I learned a long time ago. Keep opinions on religion and politics to oneself.”

            That was the sole line of a recent email from my mom. It was in response to something to do with an upcoming election that dealt with politics and also with the fact that I’m pro-choice. She also knows my outspokenness about atheism. You may guess that I’m of the diametrically opposite opinion. Most of the most interesting, engaging, and awesome discussions contain one or both of those subjects. Last week I had an amazing conversation with a group of friends/ acquaintances, a couple were various forms of Christian and a couple were unknown. We discussed things like abortion, teen pregnancy, the upcoming election, religion (specifically the upcoming day of reckoning on May 21st- mark your calendars!), and a couple other things. It was great- there were a couple things we disagreed on but in most we had common ground or a funny experience to share. I don’t know if this has something to do with university life but this kind of in-depth conversation was not really unusual for me. I just got into a conversation in a facebook thread about Richard Dawkins on my professor’s wall whom I know is religious (Mormon I believe) and I know one of the commenters is Jewish. Another one of the commenters is atheist and I actually disagreed with his comment the most. I regularly post religious-themed links on my facebook and get a varied response and I love it. I think the world would be much duller if people didn’t talk about religion or politics at all or only with people they know have the same thoughts.
            I also think there’s an element of danger in the ‘keep your opinions to yourself’ mentality. That is simply because there are people that want to spread their religion and if you don’t discuss and explore your own opinions about these issues, how are you ever going to learn how to critically examine your own and others’ beliefs. This critical thinking is crucial to an informed life though it seems like so many are content to continue ignorant and blindfolded. The proponents of radical Islam would love for people not to discuss or criticize their religion but it is the discussion that needs to happen most of all. When I mentioned my plan to participate in “Everybody draw Mohammed day” to my mom she urged me not to because she didn’t want to me to become a target for extremists and referenced Ayaan Hirsi Ali whose book I made her read. But she and others like Theo Van Gogh and Salman Rushdie make it clear to me how crucial this conversation is. Things like the draw Mohammed day stem from the idea that if enough people do it it’s impossible for the extremists to target everyone and more and more people will realize that nothing should be excluded from the critical gaze; that freedom of speech is more important than anything else.
Time to go back to reading Steppenwolf.