Books read in April
A strange combination of literary parody, epic high fantasy finales and pretentious teens.
Eric by Terry Pratchett
Sometimes also called
That is because this book is a parody of the Faust legend. There are many versions of it and it is older than Goethe’s Faust. It comes out of folklore, the story of the man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for certain wishes, whether riches, a woman or power. And then the devil comes back after some years to claim his own and the end is very sticky.
I haven’t read the Faust version, but I have read Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Mostly what I remember about it is how hard it was to remember the spelling of the demon Mephistopheles’s name for the exam. But it must have been worth it because I still remember.
Anyway. Obviously nothing can go wrong when you ask a demon to grant your ridiculous wishes. Especially not if it happens in a parody fantasy story. Especially-especially not if you try to summon a demon and instead get a very inept wizard not able to do the most simple of spells.
Eric is not as funny as some of the other Discworld-series parodies. This one is probably only funny if you’ve read some of the original stories – the serious ones, the cautionary tales – and can compare them to the ridiculousness of this romp where absolutely everything goes wrong.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
An Abundance of Katherines is my third novel by John Green. First I read The Fault in Our Stars, jumping on the bandwagon after everyone else had already got on. Then I read Paper Towns. Both five-star reads. They deal with similar themes, with humanity and how we treat those around us. If you expect something similar from Katherines you will be disappointed, though it still has some of the familiar themes. Or, rather, as it is an earlier novel than the above-mentioned, it already has some of the familiar themes.
From what I’ve seen of the noise that Green novels attract on the internet, this one seems to be the least popular of the bunch. Or, at least, the people who dislike it make more noise. I can see their point; the main character is exceptionally pretentious and annoying. If people like that annoy you, Colin will annoy you. Fortunately for me, fictional people like that do not annoy me. I see pieces of myself in them.
Colin was a child prodigy (not a genius) and he has trouble adjusting to the fact that he has lost that advantage. He was definitely not particularly well-adjusted to begin with. He tries to arrange his life around symbols, metaphors and equations. And girls named Katherine. What started as a coincidence – that the first couple of girls Colin dated were both named Katherine – soon developed into a full-blown obsession and at the start of the novel Colin has been dumped nineteen times by a Katherine.
That is the point where he takes off for the summer to look for answers somewhere else. And all the while he works to find the perfect mathematical formula to predict whether any fledgling relationship will last. He thinks people can be regulated and predicted in this way.
You will have to read the book to find out if Colin ever realises that people are not little binary numbers dancing in rows, going where you send them; that you can’t treat people like mathematical formulas.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
The Hero of Ages is the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn-trilogy. Years ago I read the first book (The Final Empire) and it landed firmly in my favourite-books-of-all-time-pile. And I pegged Sanderson as what I call a “brave writer”. A writer not afraid to push the envelope, break the stereotypes, and – in this case – kill off very important characters. He is also a NaNoWriMo author and I always have a soft spot for those.
Maybe it is his willingness to sacrifice his characters that made me put off reading the finale for so many years. I had a feeling that as soon as I picked up this last book a lot of my favourite characters were going to die and I just didn’t want to face that. I had a feeling that the finale was going to be carnage and tears.
I was not wrong.
What is the Mistborn-trilogy about? Mainly it asks the question that no other fantasy series I’ve heard of has ever dealt with in detail. What happens after you kill the Dark Power/Dark Lord/nasty baddie? What happens to the world after he’s gone? What if he had a really good reason for doing what he did? Well, then you have a well-formed villain and a really engrossing trilogy ahead of you.
The worldbuilding in this series is so tight you hardly have any questions. The plot is equally tight and tiny things from the first book finally comes into play in this one. I spotted a few of the red herrings before I quite got to their reveals, but still missed some others. And all the way through you have to ask yourself, “Do I actually know who this world-saving hero is? Will there even be a save-the-world-moment?” Because in this series there are no guarantees.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐