Servant of the Shard by R.A. Salvatore

I’m happy that these characters have their own series as they’re too interesting to just be left as side characters.

3/5 stars
Hardcover, 348 pages.
Read from January 2, 2019 to January 8, 2019.

I said to myself that I wasn’t going to touch this series and just stick with the ones about Drizzt but I couldn’t help myself. Especially with how the Neverwinter series went, I just had to know more about these supposed bad boys Jarlaxle and Artemis.

This novel takes place while the companions are all still together and instead of following Drizzt and his crew you see what’s happening on the other side with Jarlaxle and Artemis. This story shows what happens to the infamous Crystal Shard when it lands in Jarlaxle’s hands. Artemis has found himself within the company of drow, a precarious situation, but he has learned much about how this aggressive race of elves work and think. He is also aiming at robbing a highly guarded sword with which he hopes to have the help of his questionable ally, Jarlaxle. Jarlaxle, however, has found himself in a bit of bind as he doesn’t realize that the precious Crystal Shard is manipulating him. To make matters worse, Bregan D’aerthe, his own family, is trying to turn on him. Both Jarlaxle and Artemis have managed to be successful in their assassinating and scheming endeavours because they never trust anyone but in order for the two of them to come out of this situation alive, they’re going to have to address some of their trust issues.

entreri_and_jarlaxle_by_whiteelzora_dnbdtq-pre
Artemis and Jarlaxle by WhiteElzora on Deviant Art

This book was exactly what I expected. The characters are consistent with what I have read in the Drizzt books. I’m also happy that these characters have their own series as they’re too interesting to just be left as side characters. It’s intriguing to see Artemis as a parallel to Drizzt and reading this book helps define Artemis’ character further within Drizzt’s story, especially in the Neverwinter books. Artemis has his own moral compass, it’s just not aligned the way Drizzt’s is, which of course, Drizzt comes to see in the Neverwinter books.  Having read those books first, I am curious as to what happens between Jarlaxle and Artemis at the end of this trilogy as the Neverwinter books allude to an event. I enjoyed reading about these two rogues and look forward to reading the remainder of the trilogy.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

You think, “Great, I understand this. I got this. I can understand Stephen Hawking, damn I’m smart!”. It is a false hope.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 280 pages
Read from September 26, 2018 to October 5, 2018.

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant man, I don’t think there are many that can deny that (well, maybe a few religious fundamentalists). All over the world, the science community mourned the loss of Hawking this last spring when his struggles with ALS came to an end. Hawking made powerful contributions to the realms of physics, he was also an accomplished author and was one of the most recognizable faces of a modern-day genius. After his passing, I meant to finally read one of his books and while it’s a bit delayed I did finally manage to. I clearly did not know what I was getting into.

Despite being an English major, I have always enjoyed the sciences. That is, except for physics because I fucking suck at it. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the questions that physicists have, it’s that my brain isn’t capable of doing the equations to solve them. I’m still interested in the process and the conclusion, just when someone else does them and then I can read about it later. Having said that, this book was by no means a cakewalk and I would be lying if I said I understood it all. The first part of the book gently sucks you in as the content feels like a nice refresher on high-school level physics. You think, “Great, I understand this. I got this. I can understand Stephen Hawking, damn I’m smart!”. It is a false hope. sh I do not know the target audience that Hawking was aiming for as some parts of this book break down the concepts so well that any beginner can grasp them but the once the quantum physics comes in and Hawkings starts talking about black holes, he just assumes that his brief intro to physics basics will be enough to understand the hard concepts and theories he then elaborates on for the rest of the novel.

Would I say this book is enjoyable? Not really. Is it worth reading? Yes. Is it important? Yes. Despite its challenges this book is probably as simple as these complex concepts are going to get and it’s mind-blowing to look at our world, space and the universe from this perspective.

“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.”

 

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

“Everyone may be ordinary, but they’re not normal.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 416 pages.
Read from August 14, 2018 to September 11, 2018.

Further down the rabbit hole I go as I try to read all of Murakami’s extensive list of published works. I picked this one up because a friend had read it an enjoyed it and well, the title; it’s definitely peculiar but it is an understatement to the strangeness of this plot.

There are two parallel narratives with many unnamed characters that take place in this book; The End of the World is full of whimsical beasts and a town where everyone is content, though neither joyous or unhappy because they do not have shadows. The End of World is narrated by a newcomer who is trying to figure out how to rejoin with his shadow while also continuing his work as the dream reader at the local library. The other realm, Hard-Boiled Wonderland, is set in a futuristic world and the narrator is a divorced loner and data processor who comes to help a rogue scientist with his data while meeting his chubby, attractive daughter. The curious and scandalous events with the scientist, bring the data processor to his local library to try and learn more about his experiences, in which he meets the attractive librarian that will help him unravel some of his questions. Little does the data processor know, that the events that take place with the scientist will alter his reality and leave him with an unfathomable choice. As this extensive metaphor unfolds, you come to realize that the choice the data processor makes mirrors of that of the newcomer in The End of World…

Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Micah Lidberg
Image created by Micah Lidberg. Source: Paddle8

I’ll just say this now. This has been my least favourite Murakami novel so far. While I appreciate what Murakami was trying to draw on with the conscious and the subconscious mind, he failed on delivering it in an enjoyable and cohesive manner. Murakami literally spent pages, trying to explain all the details to get the reader to understand his complex metaphor and the differences between the two worlds. The setting and the characters were not that engrossing and the metaphor was too forced and waaaaay to drawn out. The End of World was the most fascinating place but I also found the nuances and complexities of Hard-Boiled Wonderland less so. I also got really tired of the way the data processor viewed the chubby underaged daughter of the scientist (especially with the emphasis on her weight) and the sexualization of the librarian. I know it wouldn’t be a Murakami novel without weird sex, that is something I like about Murakami, but this scenario just did not work for me.

I still enjoyed enough aspects of this book to give it a fair rating but it is not a book I would partake in again (even if it meant potentially understanding and appreciating it more) nor would I recommend it as a go-to Murakami read. It is a whimsical read with fun and intriguing aspects but it is also an ambitious read as it’s literally a 400+ page metaphor. If you’re up for the challenge and are prepared for its intricate strangeness and philosophy you might find more enlightenment and enjoyment from this book than I did.