Monday, April 12, 2010

The Alchemist

Most of the time I already know what the next 4 or 5 books I'll be reading are. I just sort of plan things that way. But this time I decided to just see what popped off my shelves. Interestingly, it was The Alchemist, by Donna Boyd. I had purchased this book several years ago when I needed just one more book to hit the Amazon free shipping threshold. It looked good on the web page and it looked good on my shelf but my fantasy fiction tends towards series and thus a stand-alone book such as this one often gets forgotten. So this was my opportunity.

And it was a fabulous read! The premise is that a charismatic man enters a therapist's office in New York City after having committed one of the most hi-vis murders in history. But he claims he is not of our modern era, instead he is an immortal, born into ancient Egypt and going by the name "Han". He proceeds to tell her the story of his long life, and indeed, this is the vast majority of the novel. Han was a student of the House of Ra, where the secrets of magic and science, alchemy and engineering are learned. Along with his two best friends and co-students, Akan (a boy) and Nefar (a girl), they discover that the power than can jointly wield has unsurpassed potential. They discover the secrets of immortality and though they know they have the power to be gods, they desire to use their power to bring about a better world. But of course when you have three such great friends, that tends to be one too many, particularly when one is of the opposite sex. Their ideal world never comes to be because of their inability to resist their own power, jealousies, rivalries, and thick-headed stubbornness.

The plot was filled with intrigue and open-ended possibilities. I had no clue as to how it would turn out; I just knew I wanted to know what happened next. That for me is the mark of a great read. Ms Boyd used a style in her story telling which is very picturesque, almost poetic even, that was very refreshing. That sort of thing has turned me off before but this time it was absolutely the right way to go. It made Han’s story even more believable because it was like this man really had lived through several centuries, really had been near the seat of power in different cultures, etc. Han has a “voice” here like few other novels I’ve read. Interestingly, Ms Boyd writes under several different pseudonyms, presumably for different genres or sub genres, including romance and I can see that influence here in this work. If there is one thing I wished for in this book it would be for more of the historical eras to be fleshed out. Instead of skipping 2,000 years, I would have loved to read about Han’s adventures during that time…but then I suppose the real story would have gotten lost in the sheer size of such a novel (or series). Anyway, this book was a very pleasant surprise; perhaps I should consider more random acts of reading in the future.

“The Man Who Came Early,” was the next entry in The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century. Written by Poul Anderson, another of the great science fiction writers of the “Golden Age” I was a little worried about this one. I had struggled through a novel of his many years ago when I was too young to grasp it’s concepts and thus I found it simply boring. I’m glad I’ve had an opportunity to revise my opinion of him now because this story is probably the best of the batch so far. This time the story begins in the past, in Iceland, and a time traveler from present day, who happens to be a US Army soldier/engineer assigned to Reykjavik base in Iceland appears, having been struck by lightning in his time. No other explanation of time travel is attempted which lets the story happen. Despite the soldier’s assumption that his knowledge and experience would lead him to greatly contribute to the local society of the past, he soon discovers that he is almost helpless. The story is at once comical, intriguing, educational (Mr Anderson certainly did his homework on that era in Iceland), and sad. This one’s a keeper.

Next up: The Sculpter by newcomer, Gregory Funaro.

1 comment:

  1. I like the look of this one. Might have to go on my reading list... and you've reminded me that I still have "The Alchemist's Cat" on a shelf waiting to be read! :-D


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire