Tales of India: Folk Tales from Bengal, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu

By Svabhu Kohli

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve felt my lack of knowledge of the Indian side of my heritage over the years, so it was interesting to read this book, and compare it to the folk- and fairy-tales that I’m familiar with. In some ways, the stories were different, as reflecting their background, with kings with multiple (sometimes mutually jealous) wives, and very different animals. But in other ways, tropes that I was familiar with did pop up, such as the hero with his friends who all had their own power and who helped him at the opportune time (Prince Lionheart and His Three Friends), or the battle of wits between two friends/rivals (Eesara and Caneesara).

The illustrations in this edition were absolutely delightful. Stylised and distinct, the illustrators (the only ones credited with working on this book, by the way, no mention of the editor) have a style that really fits with the stories. The stories themselves are divided into three sections: animal tales; outwitting and outwitted; live and death; although, of course, there’s quite a lot of overlap between the sections.

These aren’t stories that I grew up with, but the tone is similar enough to something like Grimm that they have the feel that they could have been. It’s an interesting book and if these stories were old friends, then I would treasure it, but as it is, I’m content to have just read it and move on.

Book details

ISBN: 9781452165912
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Year of publication: 2018

Endymion (Hyperion, #3)

By Dan Simmons

Rating: 3 stars

Picking up the story a couple of hundred years after the end of Fall of Hyperion, this book immediately cuts through the hope that the previous book ended with. A new Pax, enforced by a resurgent Catholic church that has embraced the immortality granted by the cruciform parasite, has spread across the worlds of the old Hegemony, and any hope for unity with the Ousters against the machinations of the TechnoCore was soon shattered, as the Pax continues a war against it. Our protagonist is a young man, Raul Endymion, sentenced to death, who awakes after his execution, in the home of the old poet Martin Silenus. Silenus charges Raul to go to the Time Tombs, get past the elite warriors of the Pax, retrieve the girl who will step out of the Sphinx and flee with her to the stars, to let her develop into the Messiah, The One Who Teaches.

The book is structured effectively as a travelogue, with Raul and the girl (Aenea), along with the android, A. Bettik, who accompanies them, travelling the worlds of the former Web looking for something, something that Aenea will recognise only when she sees it; all the while being pursued by agents of the Church.

For those, like myself, who had forgotten all but the broad brush strokes from the previous two books, there is a handy plot device in the form of a (forbidden, of course) poem, written by Silenus, that Raul has handily read and memorised, which summarises the entire first two books. So when we need to be reminded of something, a character will conveniently pipe up, saying that it was in the Cantos and provide a summary. Some people might find it a slightly clumsy device, but it’s definitely useful.

The Church doesn’t come out of the book well, especially Father Lenar Hoyt from the first book. It’s shown as reactionary and intolerant of any deviations from its own point of view, so the Ousters, and their worldview of adapting themselves to space, rather than the other way around, are seen as heretical. It also bans literature (such as Silenus’ Cantos) which has a different historical perspective than officially sanctioned history. It’s not really a surprise when we discover that Hoyt, now Pope Julius, and who has been for several hundred years, through the immortality of the cruciform, has become a tool of the TechnoCore, who are using him, and the Church, for their own ends, to try and capture and kill Aenea.

I don’t know if Simmons had children at the point that he wrote this novel, but the character of Aenea really doesn’t read like a child. She’s supposed to be eleven years old at this point, and even for a future messiah, she sounds too adult to me. And the relationship between her and Raul is slightly disturbing as well. Aenea’s dreams of the future tell us that they will become lovers at some point, which might be eyebrow-raising, but (just about) acceptable in a decade, but now mentions of that just feel icky.

The Shrike also makes appearances in this novel, and from very early on I made the comparison in my head with the T800 between The Terminator and Terminator 2. While it is never exactly friendly, it does now protect Aenea rather than try and kill everything indiscriminately. There’s no equivalent of the prologue to T2 to explain the change in its behaviour though (although I’m hoping that the final book in the Cantos might explain that).

So a decent addition to the Hyperion Cantos, but not as good as the original two books. I’ll still definitely read the final book in the series to finish the story.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747238263
Publisher: Feature
Year of publication: 1996

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