Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Mrs N's Been Reading - Here There Be Dragons and Streams of Babel

As usual, I'm a little behind on posting and have finished 2 books, this time 2 very different ones. The first was James A Owen's Here There Be Dragons. The prologue gets us started with the murder of a British professor. We are then introduced to John, a young man on leave from the British army during WWI, who had been studying obscure languages with the professor. He has been entrusted with the Imaginarium Geographica, which turns out to be magical atlas of sorts, of a parallel world known as the Archipelago of Dreams. He and 2 other young men that he meets when he responds to a summons from the professor, but arrives after his death, are taken by a mysterious stranger, to the Archipelago. The Archipelago is in the midst of political upheaval and a struggle between various races of beings for control. You see hints of references to famous classic fantasy stories, that at times don't seem to flow quite smoothly. However that makes a lot more sense at the end of the story. It wasn't a favorite of mine, but it wasn't bad, and it did take some unique views of some classic fantasy novel features. If you like it, it's the first in a series.

The second book was Carol Plum-Ucci's Streams of Babel. I've liked all of the Plum-Ucci books that I've read. (I think the only one I haven't is The She. I'll have to get around to that one.) She does a wonderful job of drawing you into the characters, and keeping up suspense. In this one, chapters alternate between the perspectives of about half a dozen characters, all teenagers. Some are residents of a small town in New Jersey where 2 women have died, with similar, odd symptoms, and a few teens seem to be developing those same symptoms. Is it a new disease, or is it some sort of terrorist activity with a bio weapon? One of the other characters is a teenager in Pakistan, who has been working as a v-spy for the US government, attempting to track and translate terrorist chatter on the web. All of the characters are gradually drawn together. As usual with Plum-Ucci, the suspense is kept up, and you quickly come to like and care about the characters. It's also an interesting look at terrorism and the strategies being used to try to fight it. Highly recommended.

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