Obviously I meant to finish reading and review this before Christmas Eve, but I spent too many evenings drinking and on Christmas Eve itself I fell asleep watching Howl’s Moving Castle instead. So never mind that.But anyway! Christmas! Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is one of his most well-known and influential works, and indeed one of the most well-known and influential pieces of literature in the human canon. We all know how it goes. Even if we haven’t read it, we’ve picked up bits and pieces from the dozens of films and parodies and cartoons and retellings (if I have to think, probably the first version I remember is A Muppets Christmas Carol). Ebeneezer Scrooge is a miserly old rich man who sneers at the concept of Christmas, is visited by the ghost of his old business partner on Christmas Eve, is subsequently visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and learns to change his ways for the better. Timeless.I’ve been avoiding reading Dickens because he’s one of those authors you feel obligated to read, but whom you fear will also be dry and dull and tedious – I mean, he was born more than two hundred years ago. Apart from it being timely, I read A Christmas Carol because it’s slim, and if I hated it then I could at least say I’d read Dickens. I was pleasantly surprised to find his prose accessible and readable and even witty. “At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.” “Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge. “Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again. “And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?” “They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.” “The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge. “Both very busy, sir.” “Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”Dickens’ literary legacy is obvious, but I was fascinated to learn that much of what we associate with a modern Christmas – feasting, merriment, family gatherings and generosity of spirit – is a relatively recent trend, as the holiday morphed from a purely religious observance in the early 19th century to something more broadly festive. It’s a stretch to say that Dickens invented modern Christmas, but the massive popularity of A Christmas Carol was certainly an enormous influence on it.I enjoyed A Christmas Carol quite a bit. It’s a charming, pleasant story about generosity, love for your fellow man, and redemption. It deserves its enduring, iconic status, and I’m relieved to find that Dickens is a relatively approachable writer. I’ll next read his first full novel, The Pickwick Papers.
A Dance With Dragons is the fifth and most recent of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, so I’m now up to date. I can’t help but wonder what the TV producers will do when they inevitably catch up to Martin in a mere three years’ time, unless they pull a Peter Jackson and decide to stretch some books out into multiple seasons.A Dance With Dragons was initially meant to be one book, along with A Feast For Crows, but it grew too large and unwieldy to fit in a single volume. Rather than ask his editor to do his job and reduce some of the bloat, Martin split the story into two volumes in the most convoluted way possible – they run chronologically alongside each other, except A Dance With Dragons has all the best characters, and also runs maybe an extra 400 pages chronologically past the end of A Feast For Crows, so some characters from that book start popping up again. Not much, though – there’s only two chapters each from Cersei and Arya, and merely one from Jaime. Martin had some weak excuse about not wanting to cut the big book in half without a momentous climax, but neither of the two new books really has one anyway, apart from the end of Jon’s story in A Dance With Dragons. It’s not a huge issue, but it is irritating that he chose to split the book in the worst way possible.Anyway. A Dance With Dragons is a better book than A Feast for Crows, simply because it has the better characters in it. Tyrion is on the run and in exile after murdering his father, and has probably the best arc in the book, as he copes for the first time in his life without access to power and wealth and learns what it truly means to be a dwarf. Daenerys is attempting to maintain her control over a city she has conquered in the east, Jon has been named commander of the Night’s Watch, and Stannis is marching south to take Winterfell from the usurpers of the North. The novel flags somewhat towards the end, as the focus largely shifts to Daenerys and the east, while I was always more interested in what was happening in the North – but overall it’s a solid book, probably the best in the series since A Clash of Kings.There were two aspects of the novel that didn’t sit right with me, apart from its drawn-out conclusion in the far east which didn’t actually conclude anything. The first is Jon being commander of the Night’s Watch; this occurred at the end of A Storm of Swords, but it’s in A Dance With Dragons that we see him actually giving orders and making decisions and uneasily carrying the burden of leadership etc. I just couldn’t buy it. The guy is, what, 17? And he’s in charge of hundreds of men much older and with far more experience? Nope. The second issue I had was an egregious bit of retconning which seemed to stem from Martin deciding that he’d killed off too many of the kings in the War of Five Kings, and deciding to introduce a new claimant without a speck of foreshadowing.Aside from these flaws, A Dance With Dragons is a solid iteration in an excellent fantasy series. I can’t wait to read The Winds of Winter in 2017.
Civilisation has collapsed. A superflu killed off a huge chunk of the population and a blood disease wiped out some more not long after. The planet is warming, drying up the rivers and snows and killing off some of the fish. Hig, our noble protagonist in this familiar post-apocalyptic world, lives in a fortified airfield in Colorado with his loyal dog Jasper and his aggressive, semi-trustworthy neighbour Bangley.Hig is a hunter, fisher, builder and a pilot. Bangley is an ex-military survivalist gun nut. Hig scouts the land in his ageing Cessna while Bangley keeps them safe with his formidable arsenal of weapons and his shoot-first mentality. One of the first tip-offs that this is going to be a really good book is how skilfully Heller sets up the relationship between the two: they have little in common but depend on each other for survival, with an uneasy edge of mistrust, as Hig somewhat suspects Bangley might one day kill him and has contemplated doing the same.Hig’s skills and interests reflect the author’s own, and you can tell Heller knows what he’s talking about. There’s lots of hunting and fishing and flying and poetic descriptions of the landscape, and I couldn’t help but be envious of Heller – in true Hemingway style, he’s not just a great outdoorsman, but a great writer too. (It occurred to me several times throughout the book, as Hig and Bangley built sniper platforms and fixed engines and grew crops, that for all my post-apocalyptic reading and writing habits, in the event of the real thing, my sheer lack of technical knowledge would leave me dead within months.)Bangley protects them from other survivors, rag-tag clans of wanderers and killers who roam the post-apocalyptic wasteland looking for victims and supplies. Bangley is entirely hostile, while Hig sometimes tries to negotiate, usually to his peril. (One particularly intense scene details Hig trying to get back to the airfield after a hunting expedition with nine pursuers after him, Bangley guiding him on the radio.) Hig holds out some faith in the goodness of others, still, and when he picks up a faint control tower transmission from the airport at Grand Junction, beyond the range of a two-way trip in the Cessna, he decides to risk everything and sets out to investigate.The Dog Stars is a beautiful book, told in a semi-stream of consciousness manner with lots of paragraph breaks and sparse punctuation, memories of the past combining with wistful reflections on the present. I often find this irritating in novels, but here it works – although Heller does employ my pet peeve (originated I believe by Cormac McCarthy) of dropping quote marks for dialogue. It’s as enjoyable to read about Hig fishing up in the Rocky Mountains as it is to read about a heart-pumping, adrenaline-filled escape from murderous pursuers. He’s a likeable character and you quickly come to care about him.What I felt prevented The Dog Stars from being great rather than merely good was that it follows the tropes of post-apocalyptic fiction fairly predictably. It’s interesting to note that every post-apocalyptic tale always brings with it limitless hordes of brutal, violent men – call them raiders or bandits or scavengers or whatever – who are unflaggingly hostile. (I suspect this was taken directly from Mad Max 2 and absorbed into the genre without close examination, but if you can think of an earlier example, let me know). Now, I have no naivete about human nature, and I’m well aware that in most cases the collapse of civilisation would lead to human beings killing each other for a can of beans. But in the event of a superflu – which, in The Dog Stars, is said to have killed off more than 99% of the population – there would be canned goods and bottled water aplenty and no need to fight over them. I’m not saying people would band together into utopian communes, but nor do I think literally every single person you met would be out for blood. I always find it annoying when – as in, say, The Road – the main characters are presented as Good People who would never kill for resources, and who luckily never have to make the choice. In both The Dog Stars and The Road the only killing the main characters ever do is in self-defence or vengeance, always against those bandits/marauders/scavengers who have magically turned into Bad People. The only book I’ve encountered thus far where the characters realistically have to choose between killing for resources or dying themselves is John Christopher’s The Death of Grass. It seems an underutilised area of examination for a genre that’s supposed to be all about hardship and brutality.That doesn’t, mind you, prevent The Dog Stars from still being a really good book. Heller clearly leans more towards literary fiction than post-apocalyptic fiction, and the issues I have with The Dog Stars are my problem, not his. Highly recommended.
The Sea, winner of the 2005 Booker Prize, reminded me Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending. They’re both short, dull books about old men reflecting on their childhoods. Maybe that’s all you need to write about to win the Booker. Barnes’ is in any case the stronger book, dealing as it does with the unreliable nature of memory itself. Banville’s The Sea is an unremarkable novel following an elderly art critic as he returns to the seaside holiday house of his childhood after the death of his wife from cancer. The Sea is told in a fragmented style, jumping back and forth between his childhood and his wife’s slow death and his present existence in solitude on the Irish coast.Sometimes I read an acclaimed book and don’t enjoy it, which was the case with The Sense of an Ending, and I feel like the fault is mine – that I missed something, or that I wasn’t smart enough to appreciate it. Not the case with The Sea, which is boring, plain and simple. It’s mostly blather about Max’s boyhood crushes and sexual repression expressed in tiresome, pretentious prose:One moment she was Connie Grace, her husband’s wife, her children’s mother, the next she was an object of helpless veneration, a faceless idol, ancient and elemental, conjured by the force of my desire, and then something in her had suddenly gone slack, and I had felt a qualm of revulsion and shame, not shame for myself and what I had purloined of her but, obscurely, for the woman herself, and not for anything she had done, either, but for what she was, as with a hoarse moan she turned on her side and toppled into sleep, no longer a demon temptress but herself only, a mortal woman.I suppose Banville gets points for realism – reading The Sea is exactly as entertaining and enlightening as listening to an old man pontificate at length about sexual memories from his childhood. There’s also an unlikely ending to his childhood tales, a boring twist, and a non-climactic climax as where gets drunk on the beach. And I often wonder why authors who write in such overwrought prose style, and who insist on seeing deep portents in every glance and comment and plastic bag flying down the street, don’t stick to poetry.On a final note, this was shortlisted alongside Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which is the far superior novel. A shame, but neither the first nor the last time the Booker committee made a terrible decision.
How George R.R. Martin must rue the afterword he wrote for this book, which includes the line:All the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance With Dragons.In fact, A Dance With Dragons was only released this years, six years behind schedule, and Martin became a figure of bizarre, obsessive hate by many fans.A Feast For Crows and Dance With Dragons were originally meant to be one book, but it grew so long that he was forced to make it two. Rather than chopping it in the middle, he opted to focus A Feast For Crows on some characters, and reserve A Dance With Dragons for the others. The two books take place chronologically at the same time.The problem is that he left all the best characters for the follow-up. A Feast For Crows contains no Jon, no Davos, no Daenerys, no Bran and – worst of all – no Tyrion. Arya and Sansa are here, but have only a handful of chapters each. The vast majority of the book is devoted to Cersei and Jaime, with Brienne and Sam also getting a slice. There are also, unfortunately, a number of newly introduced characters in the Iron Islands and Dorne, who seemed to exist mostly to lay the groundwork for future plot lines and were always terribly uninteresting to read about. In retrospect these chapters were probably less than 10% of the book, but they felt like a lot more. I finished the book a few days ago and I’m honestly hard-pressed to remember any of the characters, power struggles and plot developments in either of these story threads.Overall, the best option for Martin – rather than splitting the book in two – would have been to heavily trim and edit this one. In my review of A Game of Thrones I said that it was one of the best-paced 1000+ page books I’d ever read. Those days, sadly, are long gone. A Feast For Crows groans under the weight of unnecessary characters and meandering storylines.It’s still a good book, but I doubt there’s a single reader of the series anywhere in the world that would call it their favourite. I’m particularly impressed with how Martin has managed to make Jaime – initially a villain that I utterly loathed and wanted to see brutally killed – into a relatively likeable hero, and the conclusion of events in King’s Landing is quite satisfying. Nonetheless, A Feast For Crows is a classic example of a mediocre book that serves merely as an iteration in a series, and hopefully A Dance With Dragons will be much better.
(DO NOT READ STEPHEN KING’S INTRODUCTION – SEE BELOW)The Long Walk is the second of four early novels Stephen King published under the pen-name Richard Bachman (because his output was well over one book a year, more than his publisher was comfortable with for his “brand”) but apparently it’s also the first novel King ever started writing, long before even Carrie.The Long Walk, apparently like the other Bachman books (it’s the first of them I’ve read) features no supernatural elements, but is still rendered so clearly in King’s unmistakeable, humble, small-town American prose that I’m surprised his pen-name wasn’t scuppered in the first review. It first appears to take place in a dystopian future, but it’s gradually revealed as the book develops to be a sort of alternate present where World War II played out very differently – there are passing mentions of German air-raids on the eastern seaboard of the US, and another war in California in 1953. King makes the references sparingly, and always in passing, successfully employing the technique of hiding the grand changes in small details.In any case, The Long Walk takes places in some past or present or future America, fascist and dystopian, an America in which every year 100 teenage boys participate in the Long Walk – “the national pastime.” It begins in Maine (of course), on the Canadian border, with the 100 boys walking south along Interstate 95. There are no rest breaks and the Walk does not stop for any reason, including bad weather or nightfall. They’re supervised by a group of armed soldiers riding alongside them in a half-track. If a participant lags below four miles an hour, he receives a warning. After three warnings, he is “ticketed” – a euphemistic phrase which is unclear at first, but is soon revealed to the reader when a boy named Curley gets a charley horse and becomes the first walker to get his ticket:Four carbines fired. They were very loud. The noise travelled away like bowling balls, struck the hills, and rolled back.Why would anyone participate in an event where failure means death? The last remaining walker wins the Prize – “anything you want for the rest of your life.” At least, that’s the ostensible reason. At least some of the boys are suggested to be suicidal, or to not have fully understood the ramifications and the reality of the Walk. One, a boy named McVries, confesses to the protagonist that he’s in the Walk partly out of spite because his girlfriend broke up with him.The protagonist is a 16-year-old Maine native (of course) named Ray Garraty, but King wisely narrates the book in third person, so it’s entirely up in the air as to whether Garraty will be the last man standing or not – and I won’t spoil it.There are no twist endings, no grand escapes, no sudden changes. The novel begins with 100 walkers who are gradually whittled down to one, and it’s horrifying. Truly and utterly and viscerally horrible. Stephen King is obviously renowned as a horror writer, but I’ve never found his books frightening, exactly – I’ve enjoyed them because they present fascinating speculative scenarios, like The Stand or The Mist or the Dark Tower series. Even some of his lower rate work like Cujo or Firestarter I’ve enjoyed, not because I was ever at any point horrified by it, but just because it presented an unusual and gripping scenario.The Long Walk, though, is a non-horror book that’s genuinely horrifying. Part of it, I suspect, is because we all know what it’s like to feel sick of walking – I was exhausted just the other day after trawling around the Melbourne CBD doing Christmas shopping. The concept of being forced to walk on and on and on, for 72 hours or more, even as your calves are burning away, even as your feet swell with blisters, walking forever down and endless road, knowing that if you stop you’ll die – that’s horror. That’s immediately identifiable. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to die of the superflu in The Stand or be killed by one of the spider-monsters in The Mist, but I can very easily comprehend how it would feel to be forced to walk non-stop with a gun at my head. And it’s not just the strength of the concept – The Long Walk is a very readable, fast-paced and well-executed book.The Long Walk is clearly, to some extent, a war parable. King’s early drafts were written in the mid-1960s, and the spectre of Vietnam looms large – the televised draft lottery, the act of making new friends only to watch them die soon after, the jingoistic support from the nation at large, and the pointless nature of the whole fucked-up scenario. From a vantage point in 2012, it is horrifically inconceivable that young American and Australian teenagers were conscripted to fight in a civil war in South-East Asia, and – this is the kicker – that they would watch it happen on television, on a knife-edge, sitting on the couch with their families as their numbers were drawn out of a barrel like a fucking Powerball to see if they’d be sent off to die. That’s absolutely sickening, yet it happened. Every chapter in The Long Walk begins with a quote from a game show, including one from Chuck Barris saying, “The ultimate game show would be one where the losing contestant was killed.” There’s a definite sense in The Long Walk of the worlds of entertainment and violence colliding, of bread and circuses in a terrible time and place. The walkers gradually grow to hate the crowds that line the highway, knowing full well that the people of America are baying for their blood. (I doubt Battle Royale or The Hunger Games ever would have been written without The Long Walk.)I read the first half of The Long Walk interspersed with Around the World on a Motorcycle, which I think was a mistake. This is the kind of book that should be read quickly and exclusively – maybe even in one sitting – to best mirror the relentless, onward march of the characters themselves. The Long Walk is one of the best books King has ever written, alongside The Mist and the better books of the Dark Tower series. It’s a book that’s just as powerful today as when it was written, a book that’s excellent for both adults and its target audience of teenagers, and a book that I can highly recommend to everyone.(One final note, unfortunately a negative one – the particular edition I read of this book, the Signet reprint from 1999, includes an introduction from Stephen King called “The Importance of Being Bachman.” On the third page of this introduction he casually spoils the ending of The Running Man, another novel he published under the name of Richard Bachman, and one that I intend to read. I was flabbergasted that an author would do this to one of his own books. I stopped reading it at that point, so for all I know he also spoils the ending of The Long Walk – and, hey, maybe the endings of The Stand and The Dark Tower and The Mist. Just don’t read the introduction, even after you finish the novel.)
Jonathon Lethem’s second novel, Amnesia Moon, centres around a man named Chaos living in the post-apocalyptic town of Hatfork, Wyoming. The bombs have fallen, society has crumbled, the sky is tinted with radioactivity and the mutated townsfolk are reliant on a tyrant named Kellogg for their food. Less than 30 pages into the book, after making him admit that he can’t remember how long ago the bombs fell or what he was doing when they did, Kellogg convinces Chaos that the truth of their world is “a little more complicated,” and Chaos sets out on a post-apocalyptic roadtrip to uncover the truth.Lethem’s first novel, Gun With Occasional Music, felt like a neat concept for a short story that had been stretched out into a novel. Amnesia Moon feels more like a collection of short stories patched together to make an extremely surreal novel, and I was unsurprised to learn, after finishing it, that this is precisely the case. Chaos travels across an America devastated by wildly different apocalyptic events – everybody agrees something bad has happened, but it appears to be different everywhere he goes. The only unifying element is that each location is dominated by a “dreamer,” somebody forcing their version of reality upon others. The different locales are all drawn from various unpublished short stories Lethem had written.This is a lazy way to write a novel, but I found Amnesia Moon readable enough, and it has a particularly good ending which suggests that one of the more disturbing realities is in fact the truth. It deals quite a lot with dreams and memories and amnesia, which I normally find tedious, but Lethem is a skillful enough writer that Amnesia Moon is rarely tiresome. I didn’t see much point to it, as a novel, but he’s a good writer and I’ll keep reading him. I look forward to when I get to the point in his career when he’s actually writing novels rather than short stories in disguise.
A good portion of my to-be-read pile comprises of the various classics one is obligated to read, ranging from traditional classics, to Booker and Pulitzer prize winners, to science fiction watersheds. Ringworld is a seminal science fiction novel which spawned the concept of a ring as a space habitat, used later in works such as Iain M. Banks in his Culture series, or – most obviously, for my generation – the Halo series of video games. It’s what’s apparently known as a Big Dumb Object, the only other example of which I recall reading was Arthur C. Clarke’s enjoyable but forgettable Rendezvous With Rama.Ringworld follows the fortunes of four interstellar explorers who set out to explore the titular object, which encloses a star and has trillions of times the surface area of Earth. Shot down by the ring’s automated defences against space debris, the crew find themselves stranded on the surface and have to try to escape. It’s a good basic concept, muddied a little by the introduction of alien politics and a fairly odd idea relating to one of the human characters, regarding the idea of genetic luck, which actually comes to dominate much of the book’s final act.Unlike a lot of the novels I have to cross off the classic list, Ringworld wasn’t too bad. It’s pretty typical mid-century science fiction: it’s full of exposition, it sacrifices character for setting, and the protagonist is accompanied by a young, beautiful and ditzy woman who has sex with him all the time. Comparing it to the Big Three, it has more in common with the cartoonish sense of humour of Robert Heinlein than the stiff, wooden sci-fi of Clarke or Asimov.Ringworld is a readable and fairly enjoyable sci-fi adventure, even if it does drag a little towards the end, and has a couple of good scenes and ideas – I particularly liked the way the crew eventually escape the ring. But I didn’t find it worth writing home about, and I won’t bother reading any more of the series (which apparently goes downhill anyway.)
Kingsley Amis and Martin Amis (father and son) are two major writers of the 20th century, yet more names on the list that I need to tick off, and Lucky Jim is Kingsley’s most famous novel. It’s a comedy of manners revolving around a young university lecturer who is shambling his way through life in a manner reminiscent of George Costanza – silently loathing those around him, perpetually analysing the motives and opinions of everyone he interacts with, and getting involved in ridiculous social traps.It’s a 60-year-old novel, but I still found it quite amusing, full of clever turns of phrase and witty dialogue. My favourite moment comes when Jim is speaking to Bertrand, an artist he hates, and entertains the notion of “devoting the next ten years to working his way to a position as art critic on purpose to review Bertrand’s work unfavourably.” The book suffers when it moves out of comedic territory and wander towards serious romance, which it does quite a bit of in the second half. I didn’t find it a struggle to read, but it was certainly slow to grab my attention, and I suspect it’s the kind of mid-century novel that will fade from my memory.
This is the first volume in John Christopher’s “The Sword of the Spirits” trilogy, which is aimed at young adults. I count Christopher’s Tripods trilogy among the best young adult science fiction I’ve ever read, so I was interested to see him do fantasy. The story begins with Luke, a young man, visiting a colony of dwarves who work with arms and armour at a great forge. We learn some more about the city where he lives, a medieval-sounding place with a Prince and his captains, wagons on the roads, horses in the fields, etc. Before the chapter is out, Luke idly traces the faint outlines of old words written on a piece of wood: RADIO & TV DEAL.Surprise! This is another post-apocalyptic story, which is kind of a shame, because it ends up echoing a lot of the ideas in the Tripods trilogy. The city itself is Winchester, which is also where the protagonist in the Tripods trilogy comes from – I suppose it’s Christopher’s hometown. The book follows Luke as Winchester’s ruling Prince is deposed by the gods known as the Spirits, and Luke’s own father is raised in his place. A number of campaigns and events and battles come and go, and without spoiling the ending (which is clearly just the end of the first part in a series, anyway) Luke eventually leaves the city.I didn’t enjoy this as much as The White Mountains, the first book in the Tripods trilogy, but I was probably about 15 when I last read that. When I re-read that trilogy, which is on the to-do list, maybe I’ll now see the same flaws present in The Prince in Waiting – wooden characters, and Christopher’s oddly stiff narration. This is just his style, I think – it was definitely present in The Guardians and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it when I revisit the Tripods trilogy. It’s a strange style of prose, not so much in how it cleanly lays out the circumstances on the table and analyses the characters’ emotions, but the way it does so in a polite, refined British manner. There are echoes of it in The Death of Grass, Christopher’s brutal apocalyptic novel for adults, though not as much – maybe he felt the need to spell things out a bit more for kids.One thing that sets this book apart from Christopher’s others is how unlikeable the protagonist is. Luke is arrogant, proud, lacks curiosity about the world around him, and is often cold:I was too bitter and wretched to realise what he was offering: having weathered his own grief and disappointment he would still go into exile with me as a companion to me in mine. Later I understood. Friendship meant much to him, more than it could ever do to me.Beyond that, however, I felt that The Prince in Waiting rehashed too many elements from The White Mountains – the ruins of a great civilisation, a young protagonist going in to exile, and (most blatantly) a secret organisation that remembers the old ways. And in comparison with its predecessor, this book suffers from having a static setting and an larger cast of ancillary characters. The White Mountains had only three major characters, undertaking a road voyage. Characterisation is not Christopher’s strong suit, and I lost track of who was who to some extent towards the end of The Prince in Waiting.I was fairly ambivalent about The Prince in Waiting and have no doubt this will be an objectively weaker series than the Tripods trilogy. But I’ll read the next two books nonetheless, because they’re not big or time-consuming, and I’m interested to see where Christopher goes with it.