Mini Reviews: Eastern Standard Tribe, The Demon's Lexicon, Fly By Night, Heroes of the Valley

Eastern Standard TribeEastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow
Publication: ebook, 2004
Genre: Fiction
Find free @
First sentence: I once had a Tai Chi instructor who explained the difference between Chinese and Western medicine thus: “Western medicine is based on corpses, things that you discover by cutting up dead bodies and pulling them apart. Chinese medicine is based on living flesh, things observed from vital, moving humans.”

In one sentence: Decent enough, but kinda weird and maybe only makes sense to programmers.

I’ve liked other books by Cory Doctorow, so I reasonably sure I’d like this one. And I did, kind of, but some parts of it read like a blog post written for computer programmers and some other parts were just weird. For instance, the scene where the main character compares his girlfriend’s body parts to various foods while they’re having sex. I find that disgusting, actually, and yet it’s the kind of thing that’s popped up in a few books I’ve read by male authors. Wtf, male authors? Why must you continuously compare women to food? Are all the stereotypes about men and food true, or are you just trying to gross me out?

Anyway, I overall liked the book, but not as much as I’ve liked some of Mr. Doctorow’s other stuff. People who aren’t hardcore internet users might have a hard time understanding the book (heck, even I had a slightly difficult time figuring things out, and I’m online at least 8 hours a day!), and the way the timeline has been cut up and stuck back together is a little confusing. Nevertheless, I finished it, and some of the ideas in it were interesting and thought-provoking. I do think it’s work checking out if you think it’ll be something you’ll like– plus, it’s free! No reason not to check it out, really.

Demon's Lexicon The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication: Margaret K. McElderry (June 2, 2009), Hardback, 336 pages / ISBN 1416963790
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge (#24)
First sentence: The pipe under the sink was leaking again.

In one sentence: Like Supernatural, except set in Britain and with younger characters.

I was previously familiar with Sarah Rees Brennan from her Livejournal blog, so I was a little worried about reading her new book. It’s always weird reading a book by someone who’s told you what color underwear she’s wearing (or whatever), and it didn’t help that the first part of The Demon’s Lexicon is simultaneously boring and misleading. It starts off with a joke-y attitude, but that’s cast off somewhere in the third chapter and then continues to plod along until about the last fourth of the book. Then it gets really exciting, ceases to be boring, and completely makes me want to read the next book. I feel a bit tricked, actually.

There are a few problems, such as Mae-the-Mary-Sue, but the twist was very well done, and by the time I got to the end I was having a lot of fun. I also couldn’t help thinking that it might have been more effective if it had been written first person POV instead of third– it very nearly reads that way anyway, just with “Nick” in place of “I.” Of course it’s reminiscent of Supernatural, nearly uncannily so, but if you like Supernatural, as I do, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not entirely sure if I’d still give it 4/5 birds if I reread it now, but the rush I got from the end of it was so large that I temporarily forgot how much the first part of the book bored me. Is that good? No idea. But I would recommend The Demon’s Lexicon for anyone who’s looking for an exciting summer book and/or something to tide them over until the next season of Supernatural starts.

Fly By Night Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge
Publication: HarperCollins (April 25, 2006), Hardcover, 496 pages / ISBN 0060876271
Genre: Fiction, YA/Chiildren’s
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge (#23)
First sentence: “But names are important!” the nursemaid protested.

In one sentence: The world is creepy (no books but those approved by a committee!) but the characters (and story) are lovely.

I recently read Ms. Hardinge’s Well Witched and loved it. Fly By Night maybe wasn’t as magical/creepy as Well Witched, but it was just as good and just as enjoyable. Mosca, the protagonist, reminds me of Lyra from His Dark materials except less cold and unfathomable. Though I wouldn’t want her as a friend, I admired her tenacity and she was an excellent character for a book set in violent, oppressive world. The story itself is a little slow, but it builds up to a wowzer of an ending.

Heroes of the ValleyHeroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
Publication: Hyperion Book CH (2009), Hardcover, 496 pages / ISBN 142310966X
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, YA
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: 2009 Pub Challenge (#7)
First sentence: Listen then, and I’ll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock.

In one sentence: Just as good as the Bartimaeus trilogy, and, in some ways, even better.

I keep thinking I’ve already written a review for this, I’ve talked about it so much in Real Life. Basically: excellent story, excellent character, excellent writing. I’m so happy it wasn’t another Bartimaeus #3, and I’m even happier that it has such a strong female almost-lead in it! The ties to Norse mythology were done well, and it was interesting to see things that seemed familiar (vikings, heroes, etc) but weren’t necessarily what we’re used to.

It’s not as funny as the Bartimaeus trilogy, but it has a much better ending and much less tragedy. The world seems a little better set up and detailed, but that’s probably because it’s confined to one valley. The writing seems a little more…flow-y, too, which was very nice. I think if you like Neil Gaiman you’ll like Heroes of the Valley, as it reminds me a lot of Stardust. Huzzah!

Bookmark and Share

4 thoughts on “Mini Reviews: Eastern Standard Tribe, The Demon's Lexicon, Fly By Night, Heroes of the Valley”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.