Review: The Dragon Griaule

The Dragon Griaule
The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolute masterpiece. The stories within this volume constitute an epoch-spanning alternative history of several hundred years, centred round the ominous and possibly-sentient presence of a mile-long ancient dragon, turned to stone and built upon by generations of settlers, and the way they interact with it as landscape, obsession, and possibly, malign active influence in their lives. Shepard paints an epic historical landscape while never letting go of the small stories and personal interactions that drive the narrative. Shepard’s narratives are driven by believable, human characters, and it is that strong verisimilitude that lifts these stories above the ordinary fantasy tale. Griaule may be a complex, unknowable force of nature that intrudes into every aspect of these characters’ lives, but it is the people themselves we remember. Every one of the stories in this volume is a rich, tightly woven tapestry of superb narrative balance. Taken together, they comprise a tour de force of fantasy writing of the very highest order. A superb volume.

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Review: The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2
The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2 by Megan H. Rothrock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Similar in tone to the first volume in the series, this book continues with a central narrative involving minifig Megan travelling through different ‘zones’ in pursuit of an anti-Lego bad guy, discovering different building styles and themes as she progresses from zone to zone. It’s a cute conceit, and serves to highlight the maximum number of different approaches to building in a logical and easily digestible fashion. Each section is well-designed, with a range of photos as well an instruction breakdown to help the reader build a typical example of each builder’s signature model, and an engaging look at the builder in question. Th tone is pitched perfectly for both child and adult readers, with enough character engagement and plot to encourage the kids to keep turning the pages, and builds that encompass a rang of sophistication so that there’s plenty to keep adult builders coming back to use it as a reference text. The ending leaves open the possibility of a third volume, which would be welcome.

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Review: Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life

Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life
Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life by Daniel Lipkowitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a plethora of similar books on the market at the moment– big, glossy, lightly-humorous approaches to building techniques, using a kid-friendly approach with lots of pictures and signifying real-life builders via minifigs that interact with the models thy have built. This is typical of the breed: bright and breezy, but perhaps lacking the depth of other volumes. It’s aimed squarely at kids, and is enjoyable without focusing too deeply upon techniques or step-by-step instructions. Instead it serves more as an introductory tome, with the accent on fun and cramming as many completed builds onto the page as possible. It’s light and frothy, but doesn’t encourage repeated readings.

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I love working a nine day fortnight.

After a few days away from the work, I managed to sit down today and bash out 2300 words on The Hall of Small Questions, bringing the story to just over 7000 words in total. It’s the first of a number of milestones for me: once a work crosses 5000 words, I know it’s going to be something. It may not end up a novel, but the story has gelled enough that I know it will eventually become a complete story, at whatever natural length is right for the narrative. And so it is proving in this case: the narrative is beginning to peek out from behind the scene setting; characters have placed themselves into the setting and are beginning to direct the course of the plot; and my protagonist is starting to take independent action. Th Hall of Small Questions will be completed, in time, I now know that for sure.

So, to mark this crossing of my own personal Rubicon, here’s a little paragraph from today’s writing, to whet both your appetite and mine:

“We are the product of our environment, Wacian.” Broga tapped my forehead gently with his finger. “The world we inhabit is an extension of ourselves. If the world outside that window looks beautiful it is only because the people who inhabit it look beautiful. But we do not concern ourselves with elegant robes and powdered skin. We peel these things away and reveal the corruption below. We cannot immerse ourselves in that beautiful environment, not unless we wish to risk losing sight of the corruption underneath its skin.”
“Truth must remain pure,” Eadward had been waiting for me. Now he stepped forward out of the nearby shadows. “And we must remain pure in order to search it out.”