Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The "Write" Time (WW? #17)

I’m late with my reply to Jess’ latest Writer’s Weekly Question, so let’s get right to it.

Writer's Weekly Question# 17:
What season do you find to be the most distracting for you as a writer? Why? Conversely, when do you find that you accomplish the most as a writer?

I really don’t know that I have a worst time of the year as a writer. Hard as I try to think of a time that’s worst for me, I just can’t find this answer. Does this mean I’m consistent year round? No, not a bit. In fact, I’ve done almost no writing at all this month. The reason has nothing to do with the time of year, though. That reason is owed more to random stress that could have struck at any time of the year.

Now, that said… I think summer might be my most productive time. I say this for a reason Jess actually highlighted as one of her distractions. Summer movies often inspire me as a writer. Since much of what I write is action adventure in nature, the summer movies fire my imagination with interesting images and concepts. When I see a movie like “Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” I just get jazzed about trying to create something equally exciting. It motivates me to get writing and bring my own creations closer to completion. Perhaps it’s seeing other people bringing their visions of fantasy to life… knowing that if they did it, then so can I.

The reverse was probably true back in my high school and college days. During that time, the school year made writing a welcome reason to ignore homework. Oddly enough, going to class also inspired me to write. The creative spirit didn’t come from any success enjoyed in the classroom. My writing flourished because it was technically me being bad and neglecting my responsibilities, something every teenager enjoys. As I consider this, I have to wonder if that’s a lot of why Jess finds summer more distracting as a writer than I do.

Monday, May 29, 2006

DUST JACKETS: The List of Seven

Perhaps one of the weirdest and most interesting takes on the legendary Sherlock Holmes came from a co-creator of “Twin Peaks.” In the early nineties, Mark Frost’s first book The List of Seven was published, and the subject matter was too good for me to pass up.

The main character is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the physician and writer who created Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson. Set in 1884 London, Doyle’s writing career has not taken off and his most noteworthy exploits are as a demystifier of the occult. With that in mind, Doyle finds himself invited to a séance to make sure a beautiful and mysterious young woman is not being hoodwinked. The séance turns into a murder, and as Doyle flees for safety, he falls into the company of the heroic Jack Sparks. Sparks claims to be a secret agent serving the British Crown. Together, Sparks and Doyle uncover an occult group of conspirators with plans for world domination, and their only lead to the dark brotherhood is a list of seven names. Doyle doesn’t quite trust Sparks, though, and the longer he stays with the supposed spy, the more he questions whether the man is all he claims.

The book didn’t seem to make the splash Frost and his publisher had hoped. There’s little doubt, they were hoping to cash in on the “Twin Peaks” crowd. According to one source I found in my online refresher course for this book, Universal Studios had planned to release a film based on the book back in the summer of 1994, but obviously, that never materialized.

I recall enjoying this book a lot. The mix of mystery and the supernatural made it a real pleaser for me in my college years. I’d enjoyed “Twin Peaks” quite a bit, even though I came in on that series late in its last season. Was it a well-written book? I’m not so sure of that. It’s been too long for me to remember much of that, but as mystery thrillers go, I was satisfied at the time. I even liked the book enough to buy its sequel The Six Messiahs. The sequel is why I question whether The List of Seven was well written. I tried to read The Six Messiahs and could never get into it. That probably had something to do with the story being set in the “Old West,” since I’ve never much cared for westerns. It’s noteworthy that a third book was never published in this series, and I think even for my part, I didn’t see much point in the characters going beyond the first book. Some stories really don’t need a sequel.

Other Books by Mark Frost:

What’s most surprising about Frost is that he has found success as a writer… but not within the strange genre that put his name on the map on television. Within the past few years, he’s published a pair of books on golf. One of these, The Greatest Game Ever Played, was recently made into a film directed by Bill Paxton. He hasn’t totally abandoned fantasy and science fiction, though. He also helped script last summer’s film adaptation of the comic book “The Fantastic Four.” Whatever you might think about Mark Frost and his work, he’s certainly proven himself a writer who refuses to be pigeonholed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wildcat and the "Blue Bookstore"

Well, it’s taken me more than a month to finally make good on my bet to Frank. If you’ll recall, I lost our bracket battle for the NCAA Tournament. That meant I had to read three cat-related books and take him to the bookstore for a café mocha... something I'd basically sworn to never do again after the last time I took him to a bookstore.

Frank didn’t quite get his café mocha, though. My son decided to tag along and insisted we go to the “blue bookstore.” Fortunately for me, Frank was willing to allow the concession as long as he got something with caffeine in it.

I could quickly see these two were going to get into a lot of trouble, because it was taking a long time to find what I was looking for. They were a little tired, so I let them take a nap while I kept looking.

Unfortunately, they didn’t sleep as long as I thought they would and well… you can probably guess the rest.

My search for a book was finally successful, and having found my son and Frank, we made our way to the café for something to drink.

Despite what Frank thinks about the book, my next read is Cat Seeing Double by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. The book was recommended by a friend of mine in the Ten Page Club, the writing group my wife and are part of. And yes, the cats in the book do talk to the people. Weird... but it supposedly works. We’ll see.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Assassins Gallery

This entry marks a first for my blog… the first time I get to review a book before its even been published. This entry is your sneak peak into Random House’s big book for the summer, The Assassins Gallery by David L. Robbins.

As the Lair’s loyal readers know, my wife and I know David pretty well, so I’m probably not the most objective reviewer. Even so, I feel prettysafe in saying David’s written a great thriller that a lot of you will enjoy.

The hardest thing about writing this review is not giving away too much, because there’s a lot of good twists in The Assassins Gallery. We’re introduced to Mikhel Lammeck, a professor who specializes in the history of assassinations. That’s his day job. With World War II still raging, he’s keeping busy training spies for the Allied forces. One of his old students, who is now a Secret Service agent, shows up to ask for his help. His former protégé has found evidence that an assassin has entered the United States with President Roosevelt as the target.

The book isn’t told just from Lammeck’s point-of-view, though. We also get to follow the assassin, a woman going by the name “Judith.” As assassins go, she’s the real deal, and David did his homework to give her some ingenious methods to kill.

Unfortunately for me, I entered this book already knowing quite a few plot twists. My wife had already read it, and I overheard a few things as she told David what she thought about the book. Even so, I still enjoyed The Assassins Gallery as much for the story as the writing. My wife and I both agree that David’s writing is damn solid in this book, some of his best. Last year, I wrote an entry discussing how I’ve struggled with writing chase scenes. Well, David delivers one great car chase scene within this book that goes through Washington, D.C. Talk about good action writing! I’ll probably be reading over that scene more than a dozen times to pick apart how David makes it work.

One of the things I really loved about this book was David’s character development. Judith stands out the most. He gives her a rich and credible history to explain why she is an assassin. The best touch is how she sees others. While her views about the people around her are always cold-blooded, there’s also a touch of humanity that makes her insights very real and not the two-dimensional thoughts all too often applied to serial killers.

Other Books by David L. Robbins:

Last week, my reply to Jess’ Writer’s Weekly Question mentioned how Bernard Cornwell takes time at the end of his Sharpe books to offer details about the actual events that inspired each story. David does much the same with The Assassins Gallery, and I appreciated just how much he relied on facts to build this cat-and-mouse chase that explores a great “What if?” regarding the end of World War II. This book didn’t just entertain me. It also taught me a few things about World War II and President Roosevelt.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

HIGH NOTES: Revenge of the Sith

While John Williams produced some incredible music for the “Star Wars” prequels, I don’t think the prequel scores proved as enjoyable as the original trilogy. The only prequel score that managed to outdo the original trilogy’s scores was the last one, “Revenge of the Sith.”

Within the original trilogy, Williams used a thematic approach, applying certain melodies to characters and ideas as they appeared within the film. For Episodes II and III, he abandoned this approach. I can’t say it worked so well for Episode II, but with “Revenge of the Sith,” he delivered an amazing score.

The standout piece would of course be “Battle of the Heroes.” Just as this song should, it bridges the prequel trilogy with the original as this music contains echoes of Episode I’s “Duel of the Fates” and Episode V’s “The Imperial March/Darth Vader’s Theme.” This might well be the best piece from the entire “Star Wars” saga. A slightly faster version of this piece appears in a second track entitled “Anakin vs. Obi-Wan.”

This score also offers some unique pieces such as “Padme’s Ruminations” and “Palpatine’s Teachings” both of which can probably be best described as eerie. Nothing else within the saga resembles the prior piece, which clearly marks the turning point in not just the film but the series as a whole. “Palpatine’s Teachings” bears a slight resemblance to the Emperor’s theme, which is of course appropriate given Palpatine will become the Emperor. My only real complaint about these two tracks is how soft they are. To hear anything, you have to turn up the volume on your player to a ridiculously high level.

Williams makes greater use vocals within this score than any other “Star Wars” film, and that might have something to do with my love for this score. Not only does Williams make greater use of vocals here, but he employs them with greater variety than ever. “Padme’s Ruminations” uses a female soloist. A full choir is used within “Anakin’s Betrayal,” “Battle of the Heroes” and “Anakin’s Dark Deeds.” A male choir is used for “Palpatine’s Teachings.”

The one track on which I remain undecided for this score is “The Immolation Scene.” This music accompanies the scene where Anakin is burned alive after having his legs cut off by Obi-Wan. The score was released shortly before the film arrived in theaters, and I don’t recall giving this piece much thought at the time. After seeing the film, I recognized what a powerfully somber piece of music this is, but is it really the music I’m reacting to or the scene in the film that it accompanies? I can’t say for certain. Regardless, this piece remains one of my favorites.

The low points on this score, for me, are the songs accompanying General Grievous. The tracks “General Grievous” and “Grievous and the Droids” remind me too much of Williams’ work on “Jurassic Park,” so I find them distracting.

The most notable thing about this score is the epic feel to it. If you listen to the scores for Episode I and Episode II, you get the impression Williams purposefully held back on those two films as the saga built up to “Revenge of the Sith.” Of course, one of the most enjoyable things about this score and the film is to see how it does indeed bridge the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. The last track is clearly intended for this purpose with its title of “A New Hope and End Credits.” “A New Hope” is, of course, the title now associated with the original 1977 “Star Wars” film. Within the end credits, we’re also treated with the same music that closed out the original film, “The Throne Room.”

Other Scores by John Williams:

This particular CD came along with a special DVD, celebrating Williams’ work on the “Star Wars” saga. The DVD entitled “Star Wars: A Musical Journey” pulls more than a dozen notable pieces from all six films and turns them into music videos using clips from all of the movies. I can’t really fault the musical selections. I think it’s interesting that out of the sixteen tracks, only four are drawn from the prequel scores. That says something about the weakness of the music in the prequels compared to the original trilogy.

This musical DVD isn’t without its own problems. Each video is introduced by actor Ian McDiarmid, and while some criticize Lucas for his stilted dialogue, he’s got nothing on whoever scripted these lame introductions. Even McDiarmid’s delivery is terribly weak. Fortunately, the DVD offers an option to play the videos without the introductions. I also think this DVD falls short on delivering what it promises, a musical journey through the saga. Yes, the music selected is the best stuff, but several of the videos combine video from both prequel and original trilogies with mixed results. A good example of a less successful one is the video for “The Forest Battle” from “Return of the Jedi.” The video starts of with material from “Return of the Jedi,” as it should, but then clips from the Gungan battle for Naboo in Episode I are added, which makes even less sense when McDiarmid’s introduction only makes mention of the Ewoks. If the DVD itself had cost the usual price of a DVD, I’d have been miffed about the quality, but given we’re getting this DVD and CD for the usual price of a CD alone, it’s not that bad and does deliver some creative visuals.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hindsight Isn't Always 20/20 (WW? #16)

Leave it to Jess to craft not only a timely Writer’s Weekly Question, but one of her best yet. She hits on the furor surrounding the release of the film adaptation to The Da Vinci Code.

Writer's Weekly Question #16: Is there a point where authors of historical fiction cross the line and need to be rebuked? Is it wrong to fiddle around with historical events and make the story less than accurate for the betterment of the overall story being told (does this make sense?)?

This is such a difficult question to answer, but it’s also doubly timely for me as I’m reading another historical fiction thriller, David L. RobbinsThe Assassins Gallery. I’ll come back to David’s book in a moment, though. First, I’ve got to give Jess credit for crafting a really compelling entry that offers a great comparison between Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Alexander Dumas’ The Three Muskateers. If you haven’t read her entry yet, then you really should. Hopefully, I can offer one as interesting here.

Let’s get to the point I plan to make. Yes, I do think a writer can cross a line when it comes to tinkering around with events within historical fiction. I think most historical fiction writers choose this genre out of love for a certain time period. When a writer enters into a work of historic fiction for reasons other than a passion for the setting, that’s where I think we’re likely to see a writer cross a line they shouldn’t. I think it’s fine for a writer to change events within history for the purpose of a story, but such changes need to be made with a certain level of respect for the subject matter.

Allow me to present Exhibit A: Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series. My wife loves these books, and her passion for these books has infected me, as well. Cornwell does a great job of presenting the Napoleonic wars through the eyes of a lowly soldier named Richard Sharpe. Cornwell does a lot of research for these books, and the attention to detail shows… as does his love and respect for the subject matter. I was truly impressed by his historical note at the end of Sharpe’s Eagle, perhaps Sharpe’s most famous adventure. In this historical note, not only does Cornwell detail the first time British soldiers really did capture a French “eagle,” but he even asks forgiveness of the soldiers’ ghosts for altering history to let Richard Sharpe capture the first eagle lest the dead soldiers haunt him!

Again in Sharpe’s Company, Cornwell stretches historic events a bit to place Sharpe at the site of two separate sieges, the first as a crash course of sorts for how a siege works so the reader is better able to understand what’s ahead for Sharpe when he gets to the more significant siege on Badajoz. As with Sharpe’s Eagle, Cornwell takes a moment at the end of his book to explain how unlikely it is for Sharpe and his men to have been at both sieges and offers a brief detail on how actual events did play out within the siege on Badajoz in 1812. That Cornwell takes the time to offer this confessional shows a respect for the history and a desire to not only entertain the reader but to educate them on the history itself.

Exhibit B: William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Easily my favorite Shakespearean play, “Macbeth” has something of a checkered past. Back in college, I took a class on Shakespeare’s tragedies and was surprised to learn some of the truths behind this play. For example, while now considered one of his tragedies, it was sometimes grouped within… get this… his historical plays. That’s right. This weird tale with its three witches and scheming thane offers one warped view on this bit of Scottish history. The play portrays Macbeth as a villain who is tempted by his wife and a trio of witches to defy the will of the king and seize power for himself. Sounds plausible, except that by the law of the time, the king was the one violating the rule of the land by proclaiming his son as heir instead of Macbeth. The point is that the real Macbeth was the good guy. The play also adds the character of Banquo, a person the Stuart line fabricated to justify their royal claims. So why does this play warp these facts? England’s ruler at the time of Shakespeare’s play was King James I who was part of the Stuart line. In other words, Shakespeare purposefully rewrote history to appease England’s James I. Not only that, but the inclusion of the three witches was another bit owed to James I who wrote a text on the evils of witchcraft entitled Daemonologie. Much as I love this play, I can’t deny Shakespeare appears to have played loose with the facts and with the intent of coloring, if not rewriting, history. Certainly not the great playwright’s brightest moment.

So there are my examples of historical fiction done right and wrong. So where does The Da Vinci Code fall within this range? Like Jess, I also subscribe to the idea that all this brouhaha is much ado about nothing. It is indeed fiction, a detail Dan Brown has pointed out quite often since the success of his book. I do have to differ with Jess a bit on how the book presents itself, though. Yes, if one reads between the lines, they will realize Brown isn’t claiming this is how the past truly is but merely an interesting exploration into “What if?” Still, the tone of the book’s opening statement gives a false impression that we are being given the true facts.

Despite this, I’m truly baffled by Christians who feel the need for protests at movie theaters, because of the film version of The Da Vinci Code. I admire their passion for their faith, but I think it’s misdirected. Such an extreme reaction only makes them look as if they’re on the defensive and do in fact have something to hide. On the other hand, the churches that have taken the opposite tactic of using The Da Vinci Code as a learning tool to actually draw interest into Christianity have impressed me. These groups have recognized the potential to use this book as a talking point, a way to make the past relevant to the present. I’ve been reminded of how Christians reacted to the film “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and it seems some Christians have learned from how many foolishly handled that challenge to Christianity.

So should Dan Brown have included some kind of closing historical note, in the fashion of Bernard Cornwell? I don’t think so. The story itself isn’t technically historical fiction, even if it does offer a fictional perspective on history. Brown already presents his facts about the past within the book, so any historical notes at the end would be redundant. I do think the introductory blurb needed to be reworded or eliminated. That little bit at the beginning is what empowers the rest of that book, because it gives the story’s theory a credibility it really doesn’t deserve. Why wasn’t Brown more careful with this? Well, had the book not turned into such a blockbuster, this wouldn’t even matter. The debate wouldn’t exist, and based on his previous books, he had no reason to think this time would be any different.

I think it would be far more interesting to get a reaction to Jess’ question from an actual historical fiction writer... and a successful one at that. With that in mind, I still hope to talk David L. Robbins into a “Wordslinger” interview for my blog once I finish reading his forthcoming The Assassins Gallery. If he’s up for it, then you can rest assured I’ll see what he says to this Writer’s Weekly Question.

Friday, May 19, 2006

DUST JACKETS: Cardinal of the Kremlin

Perhaps one Tom Clancy novel guaranteed to never find its way onto film is Cardinal of the Kremlin. This isn’t to suggest it’s a bad book, because it’s definitely a good one. The story picks up where the popular The Hunt for Red October left off.

Set in the midst of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union are both racing to develop a “Star Wars” program that works. The key to the U.S. beating the Russians is one of their highest placed double agents, codename “Cardinal.” Few people can capture the down-to-earth world of espionage as Clancy can and keep it intense, and he does a nice job here.

This book introduced a lot of key players within the “Jack Ryan” series, chief among them the husband and wife spy team of Mary Pat and Ed Foley. As for Cardinal, he actually gets a small mention in The Hunt for Red October. Part of the fun of this book is to see Clancy building on that idea to create something epic. We’re given everyone’s point-of-view within this book, and it’s fascinating to watch Cardinal’s own self-destruction that his life of lies has made inevitable.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is in the beginning where we see the end of the infamous Russian stealth sub Red October, which the U.S. has picked apart to little more than its framework. Captain Ramius (a role played to perfection by Sean Connery in the film) even makes an appearance alongside Jack Ryan. One almost gets the feeling this scene is little more than an indulgence on Clancy’s part, but he’s not indulging himself here. The reminder of Red October is important as is a look at Ramius, because the events from The Hunt to Red October do influence the plot to Cardinal of the Kremlin and Ramius’ defection offers an interesting comparison to Cardinal’s existence.

I will admit there is a certain, “We’re great, and the Soviets suck” mentality that pervades the book and much of Clancy’s work. Cardinal’s betrayal to his country is played out a little too honorably, and I think we’re given a more realistic idea of a Russian traitor within Clancy’s recent novel Red Rabbit.

Still, no one else really crafts the cat-and-mouse spy game quite like Clancy. I think much of his work could use some stronger editing to improve the pace, but he does a nice job of keeping the story focused given the scope. What probably makes Clancy’s work so effective is that he spends a lot of time getting into these characters’ heads and his risky willingness to make the hero Jack Ryan something of an incidental character throughout much of the book.

Other Books by Tom Clancy:

About the time I was reading this book in 1997, Hollywood was trying to make it into a movie, but the project never got anywhere. By the late nineties, filmmakers just didn’t think moviegoers would find a cold war movie interesting, and they might be right, and I think that has a lot to do with the cynicism many Americans have for their country these days.

It wasn’t until last year that I finally read another book of Clancy’s, the aforementioned Red Rabbit. Many of his books have collected dust on my bookshelf, and for whatever reason, I just haven’t been able to make myself crack into them. You wouldn’t think someone who would willingly pick up a thick fantasy novel would be intimidated by the length of Clancy’s books, but for whatever reason, the sight of his books has always made me hesitant to tackle them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The New Wildcat's Lair

Even though I’ve posted a few entries to this “Blogger” version of “The Wildcat’s Lair,” I haven’t really done an introduction or an explanation for why I’ve started a parallel blog to the one I’ve been doing on AIM Blogs for many months.

I am the Wildcat, a nickname given me by a co-worker many years ago. As for why, the best explanation I’ve ever gotten out of the young lady is, “You just seem like a wildcat to me.” Since I started blogging, “Wildcat” has turned into my online identity.

I started “The Wildcat’s Lair” in July 2005 as a reading journal of sorts, but it quickly took on a life of its own. The blog expanded to include what I call “sub-blog” series and a mascot named by the readers of the original Lair.

My first sub-blog series was “High Notes.” These entries offer reviews of movie scores. Not those cd’s with the rock ‘n roll songs… I’m talking about the orchestral music. Originally, I just planned to highlight some of the older scores within my music collection that have stood the test of time, but since then I’ve also done a few reviews for more recent releases.

“Dust Jackets” turned into a necessity to keep my blog active. I write reviews of the books I’ve just read, but sometimes a book can take weeks to read. To keep my blog active inbetween books, I write entries about books I’ve read in the past. Why distinguish between a recent read and an old one? Well, as I’ve grown as a writer, my tastes in good writing have changed (I like to think matured). That said, something I loved back in say 1996 might now make me cringe, because it wasn’t really that well-written of a book. The “Dust Jackets” banner kind of covers my happy, little wildcat arse.

Then there’s the most recent series and the least frequent of the three: “Wordslingers.” These are interviews I do online with authors. I’ve not done many of these but the authors have included thriller writer Kyle Mills and young adult writer Ben Jeapes. I hope to see this part of my blog grow more active with at least one Wordslingers entry per month. We’ll have to see how that turns out.

Then of course, there is Frank “Skywhips” Orion. Every so often I let Frank out to play. These entries don’t really have a banner. They’re more like an online comic strip. I might could milk Frank into an entire blog, but I doubt I’d have time to do anything else, so I keep the little, furry critter in check most of the time. He and I have had some interesting adventures, including his “Café Mocha Adventure,” a Christmas visit from his family and our “Bracket Battle” for the NCAA Tournament this past march (which included several entries that month).

I hope you’ll enjoy visiting the Lair here on Blogger. For now, I plan to maintain the blog on AIM Blogs, as well. Every so often, they might differ, but they will typically act as parallel blogs.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tailchaser's Song

You would think a guy saddled with the nickname “Wildcat” would not wait until his thirty-third year to read Tailchaser’s Song. Was it worth the wait? I suppose so. I’ve entered into this book with some high expectations. The book ranks among my wife’s childhood favorites. Will it now stand among my favorites, though? We’ll come to that.

First, I must confess that despite having had more than one cat over the years (not counting Frank), I’m not much of a cat person. Then again, maybe that’s proof of just how “catty” I really am… that I just don’t like sharing my den with another cat, Frank being the obvious exception. I do know enough about cats to say that Tad Williams definitely captures their nature dead-on within this book. From the way they move and interact, every cat comes across true to form.

One thing I found most fascinating was how cleverly Williams crafted the setting so that it could remain timeless. If not for a reference to cats being neutered, you could just as easily place this story somewhere hundreds of years ago or even within the future. A child of today could read this book and find it as fresh and original as my wife probably did when this book was released in the mid-eighties.

The cat sub-culture in this book fascinated me. Williams gives these furry creatures their own history and mythology. Some of the most interesting stuff in this book comes when the cats discuss their many fables. This book is all about the journey, letting the reader discover this world Williams has created. From that standpoint, I loved this book. As for the story itself, I thought that was just “all right.”

I won’t say Williams gets the story wrong, because he gets it right. That story centers on the many unexplained disappearances of cats in a place that’s home to a cat by the name of Fritti Tailchaser. His beloved has also vanished, and his search for her leads him into an adventure that starts off more fanciful than anything but takes a turn for the horrifying as he learns the truth behind all the missing cats.

Now that I’ve had a few hours to process everything I’ve read, I realize how much this book resembles J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit. The main character isn’t some dashing hero; he’s a small fellow with a heroic spirit and a talent for finding trouble… and getting out of it. There’s also the way in which Tailchaser misses out on some of the key moments in the final battle, which very much resembles how The Hobbit’s Bilbo must also have key parts of the final battle in that book told to him after the fact.

Another interesting thing that stood out to me is Williams’ obsession with caves. In Shadowmarch, he spends an inordinate amount of time having characters travel underground. My wife has told me that he does much the same in the beginning of The Dragonbone Chair. A large portion of Tailchaser’s Song also takes place within an underground cavern, and after a while, I found that frustrating. The story feels like it’s just spinning its wheels as characters are slowly positioned as needed for the big showdown. Part of that is owed to the fact only a handful of scenes (if that many) aren’t told from Tailchaser’s point-of-view, so the reader gets a very limited perspective on events. I don’t think the story would work better if it did change point-of-view more often, but that doesn’t change that this part is somewhat slow.

Other Books by Tad Williams:

I can’t say that Tailchaser’s Song will go down as one of my all-time favorites, but I can appreciate why this book put Williams on the map. What he accomplishes with this book is a marvel. The writing is sharp and inventive. He also creates a world rich with characters, history and a multitude of societies built around all the little creatures most of us never give a second thought. Some of the best authors make us see everyday things from a new perspective, and Williams proves himself one of the best with this book.