Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent reading, and ‘reading’

Okay!

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I read GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett. This finishes up ALL the Sam Vimes books, which I either read or listened to in the past few months. As it happens, I started with SNUFF, so then I went on and listened to / read the rest of them in reverse order, which in case you’re interested is:

SNUFF
THUD
NIGHT WATCH
THE FIFTH ELEPHANT
JINGO
FEET OF CLAY
MEN AT ARMS
GUARDS GUARDS

I’d read NIGHT WATCH before, several times, but I was saving most of the rest to get as audiobooks because I discovered that Terry Pratchett is fabulous in audio format, easily the best author I’ve ever listened to. (Though it turns out that GUARDS GUARDS is not available in audio format, at least not in this country, so I wound up getting that one in paper.)

And btw, you want the ones narrated by Steven Briggs, who gets everyone’s voice exactly right; I really did not like the narrator for MEN AT ARMS, who gave Vimes a weird nasal voice and Angua a terrible stuffy deep voice that didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t think the narrator would make such a difference, but it did.

These books span quite a time period, right? Actually, a nice even decade. GUARDS GUARDS came out in 2001 and SNUFF came out in 2011. I thought I would very likely like the later books better and I was right. I think the social-satire-disguised-as-fantasy thing, which Pratchett has patented, is indeed better developed in the later books. Though there are signs of it in the early ones, definitely.

What I didn’t expect: who would have guessed, working backwards, that Sam Vimes is actually not the main character for GUARDS GUARDS or MEN AT ARMS? Did everybody know that but me? Maybe if I’d gone in forward order, I would have liked the early books better, rather than being a little disappointed in them?

I mean, I did like both the earliest books. I really did. And I liked Carrot well enough as a main character. But the basically incompetent Sam Vimes of the early books, the man who shows flashes of competence when sober, is NOTHING compared to the competent, dedicated, teetotaler Sam Vimes who takes over as the main character starting in FEET OF CLAY.

Also, I had a particular issue with MEN AT ARMS, which I didn’t expect. Because the idea of guns as evil doesn’t resonate with me at all. I can see how a British author might go that way, but really, this feeling that weapons that depend on your personal strength are fine but weapons that anybody can use are evil? Are you kidding me? I’m much more into the the “God made men, Sam Colt made men equal” idea. Believe me, I’d much rather depend on my gun than my black belt if I ran into an ax murderer while hiking. MUCH.

And I like Vetinari much better in the later books, too. He doesn’t seem quite right to me in the earlier Vimes books. Actually, I think Vetinari reaches perfection in GOING POSTAL and MAKING MONEY, which I would grab in audio format now except I’ve already got them in paper.

So, too bad I’m out of Vimes books! But I also have the Death ones now, all in audio except for REAPER MAN which I’ve had for years and just love; and the Tiffany Aching ones, all of which I have in audio. Those will get me through quite a lot of dog show driving! Though I think I may take a break and listen to something non-Pratchett this coming weekend.

I’ve given some thought to what I appreciate in audiobooks and I think that what matters to me is a) the book must actually be good, but also b) it must be fast-paced, and c) it helps if it has snappy dialogue.

For audio other than Pratchett, I’ve therefore turned to YA. I have two YA downloaded right now: THE PRINCESS ACADEMY and I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS. I’ve burned both to cds so I can use the navigator on my phone and listen to a book at the same time. Each is a mere six cds, which is actually about perfect for the relatively short drive to this weekend’s show. Don’t know which I’ll listen to. Both the reviews linked above make their respective books sound excellent.

In the meantime, though, and taking a break from audio, I’m definitely reading CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE, which arrived last night.

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7 Comments Recent reading, and ‘reading’

  1. Elaine T

    GUARDS, GUARDS came out in 1989. We have a copy from 1991.

    I greatly enjoy seeing Sam’s growth over the Watch books. He certainly changes, and the looks at him (and Carrot, for that matter) from the outside as in the Moist Von Lipwig duo are interesting as well. Ring true, too. It could well work that way. They both look harder and less approachable than they do when we’re in the Watch POV.
    I really like the look at young Vetinari that we get in NIGHTWATCH. He doesn’t map on to the earlier book’s Vetinari completely, but he does show the later one.

    My favorite bits of the GG book is all Sybil and the dragons, though.

    On Men at Arms, while I enjoy it, I’m with you – yay Sam Colt.

    On audio books, I’ve mostly heard kids books, and narrative voices make a huge difference. I hated one Winnie The Pooh narrator, even if it was the one Christopher Milne said was best. And the cast for Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest series doesn’t all have the right voices, either: Telemain shouldn’t sound like a kid. Kazul shouldn’t remind me of BBC announcers (not that I’ve heard any for real lately, but you probably know what I mean). I love Rob Ingles’ reading of Tolkien, though, and whoever did the Silmarillion reading was also quite good. I’ve decided I prefer one reader doing voices to full cast versions.

    My mom, who is currently in rehab recovering from being hit by a car, is listening to non-fiction, a reading of historical diaries, logs, etc., of New Amsterdam -> New York. She’s finding it fascinating. It’s got a lot of disks to keep her busy, which is good.

    I’ll be interested in your opinion of the Bujold. My take was that it was a minor effort – appropriate, in a way for an Ivan book. he doesn’t DO drama.

    BTW I grabbed HOUSE OF SHADOWS the other day and reread the ending. I really like what you did with darkness in it. Not evil. Not safe. But valuable in its own right. Still like Taudde best of the characters, although the king and prince came into more focus this time around.

  2. Michelle

    The audioversion of Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkle is very good. Also Megan Whalen Turner’s books are excellent.

    You should also try Diana Wynne Jone’s Conrad’s Fate. Lovely British accent.

    I have been on a PG Wodehouse kick lately.

  3. Mary Beth

    I’ve heard really good things about the audiobooks of Holly Black’s CURSEWORKERS series (WHITE CAT, RED GLOVE, and BLACK HEART), but haven’t heard them myself. However, I loved the books. Magical mafia!

  4. Rachel

    Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions! I will look up the CURSEWORKERS series, which I’ve never read. I’m sure the MWT books are great in every form; I just about have the print ones memorized, I think.

    Oh, it makes much more sense to know that Guards Guards came out in 1989! It felt SO much earlier than 2001, I was really surprised to see that date when I looked, but I didn’t think about there probably having been earlier editions. I liked the young Vetinari in NIGHT WATCH, too. I try not to notice minor inconsistencies spread out over a long series. Doesn’t seem fair to hold an author to strict continuity if he changes his mind about how he wants something to work.

    Not finished with the Bujold yet, but yes, it’s not going to go up to the top of her works, for me. It’s very quiet right through the whole middle, isn’t it? Which I don’t actually mind, though. I certainly see echoes of Fawn’s relationship with her family in Tej’s relationship with hers, don’t you?

  5. Elaine T

    another kids audio book worth looking up: Just So Stories read by Boris Karloff.

    Agreed on the echoes from Fawn’s famiy to Tef’s. They love their families, but they don’t fit.

    My final take on CAPTAIN VORPATRIL was that it read rather like a farewell to the series. At least cameos from everybody, life goes on, but no big issues lurking. I enjoyed seeing everyone under less pressure, it just felt like she’s done with them.

  6. Mary Beth

    I finished CAPTAIN VORPATRIL last night. Thought it was fluffy and fun and very appropriate for Ivan. I saw someone somewhere criticize him for not being suave enough, which amused me; that’s kind of the whole point of Ivan, that’s he’s NOT suave, but that people like him anyway, because he’s nice and calm and funny and charming and content to take life as it comes. Which drives Miles nuts, of course, but I loved spending half a book in Ivan’s head.

    Tej and her family did remind me quite a lot of Fawn and hers. I did find myself vaguely dissatisfied by her in some ways, but I liked her a lot in others.

    I agree that the book certainly does seem like a denouement to the series. Giving Ivan the happy ending we’ve always hoped for… What more is there to do, other than pick up after CRYOBURN, which she doesn’t seem terribly interested in? As much as I love the Vorkosigan books, I’m happy with the characters where they are. I’d really rather see the last two Five Gods books next. (Lots of people rag on THE HALLOWED HUNT, but it’s actually one of my favorites. My sister and I stole a copy back and forth from each other, until I finally gave in and bought one of my own.)

  7. Elaine T

    HALLOWED HUNT is my favorite, too. Not that I have anything against CHALION, but it’s HH that haunts me most. Yes, the villain almost takes over, but he’s such a splendid character, and there’s so much interesting stuff going on, and unlike other people I think Ingrey and Ijada and Biast and all are also wonderful fleshed out characters. Not to mention Jokul.

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