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Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Commentaries on the Novels I have read

I am one of the most avid readers of literature you will come across. I started reading at the age of five and since those early days of reading Sukumar Ray (a great Bengali poet and humour writer and the father of the Satyajit Ray) I could never put down the opportunity to get cozy in my bed with a fantastic novel with soft music playing in the background. And now that I am 22 years old I can safely say that I have read more novels, stories, short stories, poems in English or Bengali than most people of my age. And Yes I am proud of that achievement. So one fine day I decided to write up whatever came to my mind after I have just finished a particularly good novel. (The question is how do I know its good beforehand. The answer simply is that I re-read only those novels which I have found quite good the first time.) This was a fairly recent development and since then I have been penning down whatever thoughts came to my mind regarding the novel I just read. Now I have decided to organize all those thoughts and share them in my blog so that I can influence some people to take up this habit of reading (with the advent of movie and tv-series adaptations this habit has gone down the drain in the recent years). So here are those write ups. This particular blog is by no means comprehensive and Its impossible to put down a list of all the novels I have read. So I will be updating this blog whenever I do another re-read of a particular novel (which might not be soon because I have been too busy reading new releases :D)
Note: The bookmarks aren't used as rankings.
  1. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
This is my favourite series of fantasy novels. I remember a time when I picked up the first book of the series and after perusing through the first ten-twenty chapters I couldn’t find enough interest to carry on because of the similarity of the story with The Lord of the Rings. But a couple of years later I decided that enough is enough. What is there in this series that people keep praising it so much. There are whole sets of encyclopaedias dedicated to the world of Randland. So I forced myself to read the first book till the very end. And I am glad I did it because when I finished reading it I was huffing and puffing and waiting to devour the next book and then the next book and then the next. What followed was a grand experience in my life where I completed the then published twelve books and the three prequels in less than a month. I had forgotten classes, academic studies, exams, projects, my afternoon sports, some of my meals and the company of my friends. And the best thing about it was that I do not regret it. The mega experience was so awesome that for the next few weeks whenever I discussed something with my friends (not many of whom are such voracious readers as myself) I kept bringing up the topic of WOT. So finally even my friends got interested and took to the books. The books are such page turners that despite the lack of hardcopy I couldn’t contain myself and took to reading ebooks which until then I had found extremely cumbersome to do. The books are the ones which got me into the habit of reading ebooks.
Now you would think that what is there so awesome in the story that I am rambling on and on about how much it influenced my life. Here it is:
If you think the Illiad or the odyssey as epic forget it. If you consider The Lord of the Rings as epic fantasy, it is nothing compared to the world of the WOT. This series is epic fantasy redefined with a plethora of intriguing characters, a substantial and well-explained magic system and not to forget the archetypal hero and villains: the good and the evil, the light and the dark. On the first glance it would seem to be the same old story of the peasant boy gains power and becomes the wizard of the prophecy who defeats the dark lord. But the story is so much more that one forgets the stereotype in the complexity and the complicacy of the story arcs. The heroes are not the goody ones but rather gritty, sometimes selfish, sometimes insane and vengeful.
Robert Jordan must have been influenced by the LOTR (let’s face it, who is not?) because there are some similarities between certain characters. But he builds a whole new concept and a world where a reader remains engrossed. I should also mention something about the pacing of the story. The books are full of action sequences and I especially like the sword fights which are awesome.
Therefore all in all it’s a must read. Oh! I forgot to mention my favourite character: Nynaeve-al-Maera.
  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
  3. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
  4. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
  5. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
  6. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
  7. A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
  8. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
  9. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan
  10. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
This book has the slowest pacing of the lot with not much significant events happening here. But despite the ponderous read it was a very necessary book in the series. Still I would have loved if the author put on a few more action sequences in the story. The climax is fitting though.
  1. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
It is my favourite book in the series owing to the fast pacing, tying up of a few loose ends, and lots of action sequences right from prologue to the epilogue. Must mention is the sword fight scene in the prologue between Galad Damodred and Eamon Valda. I was reading the book while lying down. The scene was so engrossing and adrenaline driven that I had to sit up and by the time I finished reading it I was shaking with excitement. It’s a pity Mr. Jordan died and could not finish the work which will make him immortal in the world of the WOT fans. This was the last book written by Robert Jordan and quite fittingly it’s the best of the lot.
  1. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
  2. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
    Read this blog of mine for a review:
  3. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

    not yet released
New Spring

  1. The Lord of The Rings by JRR Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring

The Two Towers

The Return of the King
  1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Need I say something about how good these books are. One of the praises about the LOTR was that the English speaking world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who have read it and those who are going to read it. In today’s world the same praise applies for this multimillion dollar franchise. Some people think that watching the movie is enough. But I would say after the third movie the movies have failed to do justice to the awesome stories thereafter. So if you are conversant with the language English you should read these books.
Comedy, mystery, horror, thrill, detection, magic, action, teenage romance, misunderstanding, sacrifice, death, tragedy – you mention it, it is there in the stories blended in an enthralling unputdownable plot by Rowling.
  1. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone
  2. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and The Order of Phoenix
  6. Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
It is quite fitting that the final book of the series has the best storyline in the series. Packed with mysteries and action sequences it is quite simply a world in which a reader would happily let himself lose.

  1. Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
I will be the first one to admit that it is really my fault to expect so much from this series after I read the first book way back when I was in school, because I hadn't watched STAR WARS then. I was so excited with the story of the first book that it immediately became one of the best books I had read till then. However I came to college and then watched STAR WARS. I was so enraged by the shameless copying of some of the plot lines of STAR WARS by the author that I decided to skip the rest of the books of the series.
Later on however I found time to read them. And to tell the truth except for the magic system and the sword fighting there is nothing special to the series. The last book is the worst of the lot with a Deux-ex-machina ending 100 pages before the book ends. There are a lot of deliberate tying of plot threads which is indigestible to the reader. One would do better not to read them. The first book is however good enough for younger readers.
  1. Eragon
  2. Eldest
  3. Brisingr
    IV. Inheritance
  1. Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

  1. Storm Front
  2. Fool Moon
  3. Grave Peril
  4. Summer Knight
  5. Death Masks
  6. Blood Rites
  7. Dead Beat
  8. Proven guilty
  9. White Night
  10. Small Favor
  11. Turn Coat
  12. Changes

  1. The Sword, The Ring and The Chalice by Deborah Chester

  1. The Sword
  2. The Ring
  3. The Chalice

  1. The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist

  1. The Riftwar Saga

  1. Magician: Apprentice
  2. Magician: Master
  3. Silverthorn
  4. A Darkness at Sethanon

  1. The Empire Trilogy
  2. Krondor’s Sons

  1. Prince of the Blood
  2. The King’s Buccaneer

  1. Sword Dancer Series by Jennifer Roberson

Ah! The delicious Sword and Sorcery story with my all time favourite female character: Delilah. What can I say about this bitter sweet story which I despise because of its feminism and love it still. A strong plot, mysterious magic and not to mention the awesome sword dancing. Wish I met a woman like Delilah in real life.

  1. Sword Dancer
  2. Sword Singer
  3. Sword Maker
  4. Sword Breaker
  5. Sword Born
  6. Sword Sworn

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

  1. Artemis Fowl
  2. The Arctic Incident
  3. The Eternity Code
  4. The Opal Deception
  5. The Lost Colony
  6. The Time Paradox

  1. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

  1. The Amulet of Samarkhand
  2. The Golem’s Eye
  3. Ptolemy’s Gate

  1. The Belgariad Series by David Eddings

  1. Pawn of Prophecy
  2. Queen of Sorcery
  3. Magician’s Gambit
  4. Castle of Wizardry
  5. Enchanter’s Endgame

  1. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

The Trilogy is a good enough story with an innovative magic system and a feel of a different kind of fantasy but it left me disturbed. I am not much for the tragic hero types and I guess that is what left me without a good sleep the night I finished the book. Nevertheless It managed to make a good impression on me. The most amazing aspect of the stories are how every little plot thread ultimately fit in the climax. There was no loose thread left as is often the case with big series of books. (Not that it is bad to leave some things to the reader's imagination). I should say watch out for Brandon Sanderson who seems to be a master in his art. And if he says his upcoming series The Stormlight Archive is going to be epic I would rather believe him.

I don’t know why the story kept reminding me of the Matrix Trilogy of films though they are poles apart.
  1. The Final Empire
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

  1. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  2. Earthsea by Ursula K Leguin

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea
  2. The Tombs of Atuan
  3. The Farthest Shore
  4. Tehanu
  5. The Other Wind

  1. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

  1. Northern Lights
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

  1. Septimus Heap by Angie Sage

  1. Magyk
  2. Flyte
  3. Physik
  4. Quete
  5. Syren

Science Fiction

  • Dune Series by Frank Herbert
I don’t know why this series is always classified under science fiction. I see more of fantastical elements in the novels. All over the world the series is acclaimed as the best of the science fiction genre, often cited as “Dune is to science fiction as Lord of the Rings is to fantasy”. It’s a pity that such a widely acclaimed book should rank so ordinary in my view. No doubt it is definitely a good story which introduces certain awe-inspiring concepts but still I find it quite ordinary compared to some of the other science fiction novels I have read. Nevertheless one should always read the series if one loves fantasy or science fiction.
  • The Foundation Saga by Isaac Asimov
I have always wanted to ask this question. Which are the best books of Asimov? Having read most of his popular novels that I still can't decide on a particular one, says a lot about how good he is. No doubt Isaac Asimov is considered the master of the genre of science-fiction. Its often said that he is to Science fiction as Tolkien is to Fantasy.
The Foundation Saga is one of the best works of Asimov, and unlike the Dune Series by Frank Herbert, it actually lives up to the hype and more. I sincerely believe it when Asimov said that Carl Sagan and Marvin Minsky are the only two people he met whose intellect surpassed his own. Yes, going by his amazing solutions to the crisis that arises in the Foundation saga, he definitely possessed an unnaturally gifted amount of intelligence. The saga might be science fiction, set ages into the future, but it derives its material right from mankind's history. What is most amazing about the saga is the amazing details in the plot that rock the reader. One is forced to reflect on the similarity of the developments in the novel with human history. It takes an excellent observer of the history to concoct such a plot. Whether one likes science fiction or not, it is definitely a must read- one of those things you must do before you die!

Thriller, Detective and Crime Fiction

  • Sherlock Holmes Novels by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Hercule Poirot Novels by Agatha Christie

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles

This is no doubt a wonderful story of detection and logic told in beautiful words. But I have a few complaints regarding the plot- there were a few coincidences incriminating the villains which should not be there in any detective novel. And the explanation by Poirot at the end of the novel is not enough to cover all details. Some of the interesting events have been left out to the reader’s imagination. This being Agatha Christie’s first novel hopefully she matures later into a better story teller where the puzzles fit in at the climax.

  • Tommy and Tuppence Novels by Agatha Christie

  • The Secret Adversary

The novel is definitely a good read just like any other Agatha Christie novel and has its fair share of thrill, mystery and adventure. Though the author seems to rely too much on coincidences to further the plot. And I must mention here that having read too many of detective novels and thrillers I had already known the “adversary” much before the climax. Nevertheless this fact should not deter the author’s fans to accompany her in this glorious ride.


  1. write about how many times u have read LOTR ..

  2. Well, in hindsight, that wasn't a good decision to read one book so many times. I could have read so many other books instead. After all the treasury of English Literature and fiction is too large for one man to enjoy in a lifetime. And I overused one gem some 40 times! It was a waste of time.

  3. A load of thanks for coming up with such a great list of novels.
    In the thriller section Ludlum & Forsyth could also be mentioned.

  4. Yes. Ludlum in the field of techno thrillers and Forsyth in political thrillers are the best in that business. Apart from their obvious books I would recommend The Janson Directive which is my personal favourite.