Tag: amazing themes

The Alchemist

thealchemist_front

I enjoyed the Alchemist quite a lot! It had quite a range, both creating believable, sympathetic characters as well as creating a harsh world with pockets of tenderness. Khaim is a city on the brink of destruction in a world sliding towards catastrophe, and the daily struggle and the sense of loss is palpable. Nonetheless, people continue on as best they can. It was quite impressive how much the world shapes the societies, the societies shape characters, and the characters’ actions feed back in at each of those levels. I found the resulting scenes very impactful.

Bacigalupi handles the plot and pacing very well, although towards the last third of the story the pacing falters as the summary becomes too thin. However, the story’s climax and conclusion regain the excellence of the beginning, and also left me simultaneously horrified for and excited by the future of Khaim and the characters.

Bacigalupi’s writing is excellent. The narrator’s voice is gentle and easy to follow, the descriptions often lengthy but still sharp, clear, and vivid. The word choice was also an absolute joy.

Additionally, reading this story was a very strange experience, because I had an incredibly strong feeling that I had heard of these locations and nations and terms before. And then I connected it to Tobias Buckell’s novella The Executioness, but was uncertain until I realized what the bramble was referring to, and then I knew they were in the same world. Apparently these novellas were released together, but were listed as separate stories on my Kindle, and I happened to read this a week after the Executioness. This metafictional surprise lent a really odd feeling.

P.S. The concept of the bramble and its relationship to magic brought to mind Larry Niven’s short story “The Magic Goes Away”, a 1976 story / 1978 novella investigating the consequences of magic. I was excited to read another story that explores the consequences of magic.

Obligatory Kindle Notice!

The Executioness

The Executioness (Front Cover)

Having read this novella a few days after A Stranger in Olondria, I must confess being predisposed against the Executioness simply because it lacked the beauty of language present in A Stranger in Olondria.

While I enjoyed reading the novella, there were parts that made me struggle to enjoy it. The concepts were compelling – the role of women in life, politics and power; the consequences of magic and the resulting political pressures; the personal cost of geopolitical struggle; tragedy as a motivating force – and I was very excited to see them explored. However, the execution of these concepts often cooled that excitement.

I found Tana’s perspective unconvincing. However, the dialogue of other characters also frequently thrust me out of the story, even though I enjoyed the characters and found them acceptable. Additionally, the story proceeds at a breakneck pace, with little description or evocation of the world. Whether that is a net positive or negative is a matter of preference for the reader, but the chosen style inhibited my ability to feel the world and be immersed and take it seriously. It also resulted in some plot hole moments. There was also a general absence of believable human reactions that struck me as quite odd in several moments.

P.S. The concept of the bramble and its relationship to magic brought to mind Larry Niven’s short story “The Magic Goes Away”, a 1976 story / 1978 novella investigating the consequences of magic. I am excited to read another story that explores the consequences of magic.

Obligatory Kindle Notice!