Book Review: Immortal at the Edge of the World

Immortal at the Edge of the World, Gene Doucette

Immortal at the Edge of the World, Gene Doucette

Finally! I’ve been looking forward to the final book in the Immortal series by Gene Doucette. You could read my review of the first book, Immortal and Hellenic Immortal. I had an advance copy of the book, courtesy of the lovely people at The Writer’s Coffee Shop, but to be honest I would have gotten it anyways, because I love this series!

Blurb

“What I was currently doing with my time and money . . . didn’t really deserve anyone else’s attention. If I was feeling romantic about it, I’d call it a quest, but all I was really doing was trying to answer a question I’d been ignoring for a thousand years.”

In his very long life, Adam had encountered only one person who seemed to share his longevity: the mysterious red-haired woman. She appeared throughout history, usually from a distance, nearly always vanishing before he could speak to her.

In his last encounter, she actually did vanish—into thin air, right in front of him. The question was how did she do it? To answer, Adam will have to complete a quest he gave up on a thousand years earlier, for an object that may no longer exist.

If he can find it, he might be able to do what the red-haired woman did, and if he can do that, maybe he can find her again and ask her who she is . . . and why she seems to hate him.

“You are being watched. Move your loved ones to safety . . . trust nobody.”

But Adam isn’t the only one who wants the red-haired woman. There are other forces at work, and after a warning from one of the few men he trusts, Adam realizes how much danger everyone is in. To save his friends and finish his quest he may be forced to bankrupt himself, call in every favor he can, and ultimately trade the one thing he’d never been able to give up before: his life.

From the author of Immortal and Hellenic Immortal comes Immortal at the Edge of the World, the breathtaking conclusion to the best-selling trilogy. Will Adam survive?

My Review

First up, I think I need to let you know I haven’t been in the right headspace lately to read a book. It might influence my impressions a little bit, just because it’s currently harder for me in general to finish a book.

On to the book, what I have always loved from this series is Adam’s sense of humor. He is somehow ancient, you could see from his perspective of the world, with plenty of sarcasm, which I suspect helped him (sort of) being sane. I think I said this every single time I reviewed the book, so I’m just reporting happily that it didn’t change. I am going to miss Adam!

This time around, we get to explore a little more of Asian culture, with the introduction of one of Adam’s friend, Hsu, faeries, and the trade world to the Orient. Perhaps it was also because my lack of interest of this topic that made it slightly harder for me to read it, so it does feel slightly lackluster in the middle… BUT I am so glad I do carry on because it picked up and become immensely good in the end. I love the conclusion of the trilogy.

I do think you would need to at least know what’s going on in the previous book to be able to completely enjoy this one. Although it does have a good intro into the recurring characters so you won’t be completely lost… It’s just much more fun to read the first two.

I like how the author weaves the past and the present into this book. I think it made much more sense, especially because it’s all Adam’s point of view, and it’s always amusing to me to see his perspective on the past events. Like what he said about the beginning of Islam… (no, I won’t give you the spoiler, you’d have to read it).

Would I recommend this book? Hell yes, I always recommends all of them. If you like a sarcastic, sometimes half drunk, always real main character who happens to be immortal, then you should read this. The only downside is you probably couldn’t find this easily in a bookstore in Germany. There’s always Amazon though. And kindle edition! I don’t get a cut or anything for this. I just think this is a good book!

 

Notes:

Thank you Cindy at The Writer’s Coffee Shop, who gave me a chance to review this book and participate on the blog tour.

 

Book Review: Life of Pi

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Sometimes in life, you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a sign, a small token which made you realized how much you’ve changed. A book is a perfect small token, something unchanged by time, and yet, I, the reader, might change.

The first time I read this book, in 2007, I was simply unmoved. I remembered being fascinated by the story of the zoo animals, but nothing more. I was bored the minute Pi was in the water. I didn’t really get the “magical” part of the adventure (I still didn’t get that much of it now, but I like the book in a different way, so it’s perfectly alright).

This time, I found something about it. Something that resonates with me. Not so much about the mood I was in when I was reading the book, but more of my standing point. I like Pi more. I like how observant he is with the zoo animals, and I love how he would embrace religions without judging them. In a story where the main character is so dominant, I found I have to love them in order to want to read the whole book.

The Review: Life of Pi – Yann Martel
There are many ways to describe the story. Some said it was a proof of finding God, restoring the faith to God, some said it was a magical journey. I chose to view it as a survival adventure, and a very compelling and colorful one at that.

Pi Patel, the main character, was an unusual boy. He was the second son of a zoo owner, an avid observer of animals, and someone who was fascinated by God and religion (in fact, he took up three at once: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam).

The story started in Pondicherry, India, giving a lush description of the fragrant life there. It was all good until one day the father decided they were to move to Canada, along with some animals on a big cargo ship. We all know what happened. On a stormy night, the ship sank. Leaving Pi as the only human on a lifeboat.

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This part down you might not want to read if you haven’t read the book. It’s not much of a spoiler, because we already know what happened anyways, but you might want to have your opinion first before reading mine.
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If this book had a main character of a straight forward, rational, National Geographic-y adventurer, then it wouldn’t be half as interesting. But we’re talking about a boy who was used to so many colors, smells, and people. The sea was vast, food and water were scarce, and his only company was a bengal tiger. (PS: I absolutely love the part where he discovered the joy of Norwegian biscuits 😀 )

The interesting part was, Pi was never mentioned as a storyteller, a fiction writer. So when he told his story of survival, you would believe him. Until the end, when he told another version of the story. A more realistic one, perhaps, because it consisted humans rather than animals. Then you’d wonder if Pi had made it up all along. True, he was not a writer. But on the other hand, he loves religious, metaphorical stories. So, was it possible? That all of his journey, the creatures he encountered and the survival was also metaphorical?

I guess, for me, that was why I like this book a whole lot more this time around. The vagueness with a hint on reality of it made it a more compelling story after I chose to see it as it is. It is a great journey. And sometimes, in order to make life more interesting, you just need to add a tiger so you would focus on the more important things instead of worrying about that small tore in your clothes.

Would I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly yes. Unless you’re looking for romance, because there’s absolutely none in here. Also I have a hunch the movie would be even better than the book (which is rare). I’ll be looking forward to it in the next days!

My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk

Pre-Book Ramblings

Despite the picture above, My Name is Red is not my typical summer read. Usually summer means vacations, easy reads, breezing through the pages and that kind of thing. I had this book for a long time, possibly even more than two years. I picked it up back then, hoping to appear smart and impress people, because the author, Orhan Pamuk, won a Nobel Prize in literature in 2006. I gave up reading it more than twice. For me, this book was really hard to get into.

And then, this summer, I was somewhat in the mood to read something heavy (and I wanted to read the unread books laying around my bookshelf) so I took up the challenge again. This time I’m determined to finish it! As you see, I sometimes fell asleep after 15 minutes of reading (although that turns out to be quite relaxing ;)).

The Book

The first chapter of My Name is Red started very interestingly with: “I am a Corpse” and then went on describing the world from the corpse’s perspective. Very intriguing. And there’s also the perspective of a tree, a dog, a coin (this one was especially funny), and the color red, which give you some sort of understanding on the title.

It was a beautifully written book and filled with elaborate descriptions. I’m not a fan of descriptive books but Orhan Pamuk managed to do it in an unexpected way, saying things that I couldn’t even imagined being said to describe something before. But the book progressed quite slow. I only realized this book was not just about romance but also about murder mystery, when I’m at page 100ish (book is 500 pages long). I know it should be obvious being the first chapter was a corpse, but somehow I thought it was “just” a description *ouch*. I also felt that after a while, I got really overwhelmed with all the details and the new characters to keep track of. I almost gave up again.

Then I realized something. My Name is Red is about Ottoman Empire’s miniaturists in the 16th century, people who painted illuminated manuscripts with painstaking details (to the point of blinding themselves). Both “Miraj” and “Khusraw Discovers Shirin Bathing in a Pool” were examples of the work.

Miraj by Sultan Muhammad

Khusraw Discovers Shirin Bathing in a Pool by Nizami

Compared to those, the same period of Italian Renaissance were taking forms in a different way, like in these two paintings (click on the pictures for bigger sizes).

Assunta, by Tiziano Vecelli

Jupiter and Io, by Correggio

Jupiter and Io, by Correggio

Notice the difference between those two sets? The lack of depth and perspective on the first set made it harder for the eyes to focus on the important events. I’m not saying one is better than the other, my point was just that we’re used to things with depth now, it’s harder to digest things without them. The book kind of feels like that too, with everything being described in great detail, it’s like looking at a delicate painting without knowing where to focus. Once I realized this, I decided to read it in a different way. I would just soak in the details and taking breaks to digest it. This way of describing things turned out to be very appropriate for the subject.

Surprisingly to me, in the end, the story itself became somewhat less important than the details. I did find myself kind of rooting for the romance to happen, but I didn’t really care about the murderer. It’s really weird, actually, because I usually wouldn’t want to finish the book in such case. But I did.

The Verdict

I think I like the book because it intrigued me. It’s a great book and the author made me think I could never be able to write like that. Ever. (But it’s alright). It might even be amazing because it opened new ways of looking at things. I also liked how the story felt honest, it felt real to the time frame, and also it was not afraid to raise issues sensitive to Islam (which is the main religion in Ottoman Empire).

Would I recommend this book? Depends, but you should read it only if you really want to read it. Okay, perhaps if you love descriptions and history, it has really excellent details of the lives of miniaturists and the Ottoman Empire. I haven’t came across other books on this subject. So, yes, if you decide to read the book, do it. And persist.

Hellenic Immortal

Book Review and Interview with the Author, Gene Doucette


Hellenic Immortal by Gene Doucette

Hellenic Immortal, written by Gene Doucette, is a sequel to Immortal. I have reviewed Immortal, with an interview with Gene Doucette here. It’s one my favorite book from last year, as you could see from the my Goodreads rating here.

About Hellenic Immortal

An oracle has predicted the sojourner’s end, which is a problem for Adam insofar as he has never encountered an oracular prediction that didn’t come true . . . and he is the sojourner. To survive, he’s going to have to figure out what a beautiful ex-government analyst, an eco-terrorist, a rogue FBI agent, and the world’s oldest religious cult all want with him, and fast.

And all he wanted when he came to Vegas was to forget about a girl. And maybe have a drink or two.

“I am probably not the best source when it comes to who invented what. For a long time I thought I invented the wheel.”

–Adam the Immortal

 

My Review

I am always a bit skeptical about sequels. Especially if it’s the second book. Most times, it failed my expectation by either being a preamble to the amazing conclusion for the third book, or just plain boring. I am happy to report this is definitely not the case with Hellenic Immortal.

It continues on the adventures of Adam, some years after Immortal. It follows a Greek cult and mythology background, some crazy environmentalist, packs a lot of action and a little bit of romance.

The beginning sold me right to it. Adam is as sarcastic as ever. He said the craziest things that made me laughing out loud:

“… instead I was drinking in Las Vegas and quietly wishing for a nice plague or two to make the planet a bit less crowded.”

It just shows how honest he is. He definitely says what he thinks, and when you are sixty thousand years old or something, I do believe you would have such confidence. I would be lying if I said I never had any bad thoughts crossing my mind when I came across annoying people, so I find this part very refreshing.

The story picks up nicely after that. I especially love the Greek cult background to this book. It ties the story very well and it gives a nice blend of historical and current events. It also adds a sense of realness to it, making Adam’s character felt very present. It seems like he could be the next guy you saw in a bar. (No, please don’t try to pretend you’re Adam when you met me.)

Continue reading

Book Review & Author Interview: Immortal

Immortal tells a story about Adam, a man who existed (most likely, according to Adam) since the beginning of mankind. He was not your typical immortal superhero guy with superpowers nor was he the most handsome man in the universe. Adam was more or less like a normal human; except that he stopped aging at thirty-two, has a super immune system, and a whole lot more story to tell.

To me, it was a modern book about being immortal. It’s funny and sarcastic (which I love!), and at the same time it’s also mysterious and gripping. I love the author’s take on it; I personally believe it’ll take a whole lot sense of humor to survive centuries on earth (plagues, natural disasters, wars, …!).

I love the story so much, it’s such a privilege for me to feature a special interview with the author, Gene Doucette.

You wrote a fantasy book, yet your main character is adamant that there is no such thing as magic. How do you reconcile that?

At first I wasn’t even going to put any “magical” creatures in it, like vampires. But I couldn’t get past page five without caving. So I compromised by using the creatures from your average contemporary fantasy (plus one or two of my own) without any of the magic. And this was surprisingly liberating. For one thing, by discarding the aspects of the beings I considered “magical” it somehow made these beings more “real” which made it easier to fit them into history. For another, it enabled me to put my own stamp on otherwise overused creatures. Again, like vampires.

 

But Adam is immortal. Isn’t that magic?

Only if you feel like calling it that. I don’t; I’d rather say he’s human but with a particularly unusual biology.

I remember being a part of a 48 hour film project once. The director—I was the writer on the project—was worried about the possibility of getting “fantasy” as a category. I told him the only difference between a fantasy film and a sci-fi film was how you explained something impossible. I approach the “magic” in Immortal the same way.

 

Adam comes off as very much a modern man in most of the book.

Yeah, I cheated a little. By my reckoning he’d have to be capable of adapting very quickly. And he’s a natural storyteller, so of course modern vernacular would be important. I’ve gotten a few interesting comments about the decision to have the flashbacks told from a modern perspective, by which I mean that while the period described may be ancient, the voice describing it is a 21st century voice. It’s jarring, I guess to not see more stilted descriptions for a period one would expect lots of “thee”s and “thou”s.

The problem is I’m not a linguist, and any attempt I might make to accurately depict a conversation that took place a thousand years ago is going to have anachronisms in it. (Simple example: the word “hello” wasn’t invented before the telephone.) By arguing that my narrator is consciously adjusting the story to fit the modern reader, I can get away with a whole lot more.

 

Your story made me laugh a lot. Are you just writing novels now, or do you still write humor?

I haven’t written a humor column for quite some time. I used to crank them out regularly and put them up on my (long since dead) website, and wait for accolades that didn’t really ever come. Some of them made it into my 1999 humor collection Beating Up Daddy, and I recycled more later in the e-book Vacations and Other Errors In Judgment. I also found time to write a parody of The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook. But After Immortal I stuck to just blogging for a long time, and then I stopped doing that too and closed out my old website. I didn’t start blogging again until it became important that I do so in order to promote myself. I kind of missed it.

Which is not to say the novels aren’t funny. It’s just that the humor isn’t necessarily a conscious choice on my part. I gave up trying to NOT be funny; it’s just my voice.

 

I would recommend this book for everyone who likes a funny twist on a fantasy story. Even if you’re not usually into fantasy stories, I’d still recommend this book. Adam will entertain you and make you laugh!

For more information on the book and where to buy it, visit the Immortal page.