Ink and Quill

Book Reviews

UPDATE: Near ten years has gone by. Many more books read. So some are getting bumped.

Another Top Ten List.

  1. The Book of the New Sun – Gene Wolfe
  2. The Book of the Dun Cow – Walter Wangerin Jr.
  3. The Warhound and the World’s Pain – Michael Moorcock
  4. Neuromancer – William Gibson
  5. Wolverine – Chris Claremont and Frank Miller
  6. The Black Company – Glen Cook
  7. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  8. The Foundation Trilogy – Issac Asimov
  9. Coriolanus – Shakespeare
  10. Gates of Fire – Stephen Pressfield

Honorable mentions: A Clockwork Orange РAnthony Burgess (5:2003)The Ililad and the Odyssey РHomer (technically a poem, sue me. 10:2003) Ulysses РJames Joyce (9: 2003), The Last Temptation of Christ РNikos Kazantzakis (6: 2003), Slaughterhouse 5 РKurt Vonnegut, The Sun also Rises РErnest Hemingway, Les Liaisons Dangereuses РChoderlos de Laclos, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliver РStephen R. Donaldson, The Fifth Head of Cerberus РGene Wolfe
*Not in any particular order.

NOTE: For 2012 I decided to add any literary medium that was formative for me. Hence some of the more ‘classic’ pieces being bumped to honorable mention.

Way back in the mid-80s when I was stationed in Italy with a detached unit of the 82nd Airborne, I ran across a book called The Breaking of Northwall. It was a post-apocalyptic story set 1000 years in our future. I remember enjoying the book but otherwise don’t remember a whole lot about it.

Over the years, I ran across other books apparently part of a series. I didn’t pick them up as I passed on them for other things. However, last year, for some reason I ran across my old tattered copy of Northwall and decided I was going to track down the series and give the whole thing a new read; this time in its entirety.

I’ve finished the first and am onto the second now (there are seven in all) but they are fairly ‘short’ compared to most contemporary fantasy/sci-fi books, roughly 200-260 pages a book. The first one was very interesting. It was dry, almost like a text book, but also had a certain something that felt like telling stories around a camp fire. The author doesn’t over-write (as many of the current authors of fantasy and sci-fi can have a tendency to do.) Very Hemingway-esque in the ability to make you fill in the gaps on your own.

I liked it and am looking forward to finally seeing how this 25 year old series progresses. Stay tuned.

Gates of FireI recently finished what has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It has fully inspired and peaked my interest in a time in history that was both breathtakingly vivid and alive and depressingly violent.

The book is Stephen Pressfield’s Gates of Fire. If you’ve never heard of it or know nothing about it, I urge you to pick it up. If you do, then you’ve no doubt already read it and know what I’m talking about.

Oberon turned me onto this book. He said it was something he thought I would really enjoy. He couldn’t have understated it more.

This book is powerful, evocative, inspirational, and sobering. It’s like a strong kick in the stomach from a mule after you’ve been out partying all night. The characterization is nothing short of brilliant. The men are heroic and yet human. They are the things we want all humanity to be even though deep down in are secret places we know humanity isn’t even close. The women, while seemingly secondary to the story, are actually the noblest of all.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. It was so good, I’m actually stunned it hasn’t been a movie yet (even though there is an apparent script called “The 300” based on a Frank Miller comic coming out next year). Especially after the likes of Gladiator and Troy.

The battle of Thermopylae is something I have known bits and pieces of for sometime. I’m sad that I’ve missed out on such a rich and vibrant piece of history. But this will be remedied quickly. I’m already hip deep in another Pressfield novel “Last of the Amazons” and I fully intend to read everything he’s written. I’m also going to begin to track down his source materials to read as well.

Another friend of mine not to long ago convinced me to read “Killer Angels” about the battle of Gettysburg. He’s a bit of a fanatic when it comes to civil war history. I guess you could call it ‘his’ time period. I believe now I have found mine. The richness of ancient Greece is calling.