Monday, May 14, 2018

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3)Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. So the depth of this series is amazing. It reminds me of the Wheel of Time as far as scope, but seems to be better contained. Sure, there are subplots happening elsewhere at the end, but the main wrap-up is, well, wrapped up. It is like one conflict ended, and then a new one started. He keeps the characters growing and keeps them at the heart of the story. Even with political or religious intrigue (or hints about the cosmic connections), the characters are center stage.

Things that I'm glad about:
- A resolution [for now] to the Adolin - Shallon - Kaladin love triangle. Is it really the end of that issue? I don't know and I don't care. It is wrapped up enough that I don't feel an ongoing conflict for now, which I think would detract from the conflicts that are continuing on. I generally prefer to wrap up interpersonal conflicts at the end of the book, and let the overall plot conflict carry the series from book to book. Does that make sense?
-More explanation on how soul casting works. This came mostly at the end, some in the epilogue I think, but it is a major part of the book, and not very well explained. As long as there is action and the characters keep growing, I can be patient, but I appreciate the explanation when it comes.
-Queen Jasnah. Yes.

Things that I'm not excited about:
Taravangian's diagram. I'd just like to have a better idea of where it came from. I felt like I'm supposed to know more about it, as if the hints were there, but I missed them. The whole negotiation between Taravangian and Odium at the end confused me. I thought Odium was already behind the diagram? So confused.

Long endings. There was a final battle and then the book went on and on. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate the wrap up, but it just felt like it took too long. It is like a really exciting party or event, and then a long ride home afterwards. The excitement wears off and you just want to get home and go to bed.

Finally, I can't not say it again: Brandon Sanderson is a genius. He has such an amazing natural talent, and then he adds dedication and effort on top of it, and shares it with us. Thank you, sir.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Spring by Robert Jordan

New Spring (Wheel of Time, #0)New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year I finally finished the Wheel of Time series, and celebrated the achievement of over a decade. I excluded this prequel in my definition of the series though. The story started and ended just fine without it, I thought, so why bother? Well, it hung around in my to-read list, and finally made it to the top and I found that I really enjoyed it.

I think time made it sweeter. It returned me to a world that I have spent many hours in. Sure, some of those were hours of frustration... ok, many of them. But it is still an experience I enjoyed. This book brought it all back, with new events for the same old characters. If anyone out there is thinking of reading the WoT, start with this book. While it does have pages here and there that show the characteristic slowness of the series, it is worth the extra pages.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone RollingJoseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was educational. I learned some new things about Joseph Smith, a man I have known about and revered most of my conscious life. I leave the book respecting him more, while seeing him as a man as much as a prophet, which was his religious calling. Was he perfect? No, he was a man who made mistakes, misjudged, and sinned at times. Yet, he was the right man to restore the church to the earth. Who else would have moved forward with confidence on the revelations he received? How else would the church have survived his martyrdom?

A few impressions I left with:
-History has compressed his story. He spent years of his life working at what he felt was his calling in life, and it is now presented as a clear path from A to B to C and so on, but the reality of his life was not like that. He wandered a bit, trying to figure things out. Sometimes he seems to have inserted more of himself in the work, while other times he seems to have worked more from external inspiration. The zoomed-out result can be presented as one path, but that isn't realistic.
-Contemporary Mormonism has evolved, and continues to evolve, as it should. As a church member it sometimes seems like the church is slow moving or unchanging because we understand that our doctrines are anchored and immovable in certain places. But when you look over the long run, it is a work that progresses as needs change. It is a challenge for church leaders to both guide and accept progress while seeing to and protecting our doctrinal anchors that are unchangeable.
-I feel like I understand both why Mormonism is hard to accept, and hard to reject. The story of the restoration is very divisive. It is hard to believe that this boy, and then this man, saw what he says he saw, and did what he said he did. Yet, it is also hard to believe that the Book of Mormon, and the church, came from an uninspired farm boy, and the fallible man we meet in this book. Defending either side can be tough, which I why I think it comes down to each person asking for them self, and then developing faith around their position. Interestingly, that is also the advice in the Book of Mormon itself.

This book does address some of the controversies surrounding Joseph Smith, such as polygamy. Those controversies are hard to understand, but that is not without precedent and probably shouldn't be surprising. Many historical figures also have controversy surrounding them, but those quirks don't diminish their contribution to history, and the same is true for Joseph Smith from my perspective. Men such as Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson seem to get more attention for their faults than their contributions these days, and some of their faults are disturbing. But their contributions were real, and the institutions that resulted from their efforts have largely survived in spite of the weaknesses of their founders.