Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Couple Books

I got a book of short fantasy stories from the library, Legends II, just to read a story by Tad Williams that was set in what is probably my second favourite fantasy series, Otherland. It wasn't a bad story, but I really think that when an author completes a good story, it is a mistake 9 times out of 10 for him to go back and try to write sequels. Or perhaps, it is simply a mistake for me to read them. The characters are not the same (I know, I shouldn't expect them to be), new characters have to be added, etc. And my enjoyment is never what it was from the original. Or nearly never. I can't think of any sequels written at a remove that I liked as well as the original, but why lock oneself out from the possibility?

By sequels written at a remove, I mean ones that are meant to continue from where the original book or series ended. Moreover, to continue with a story that was not originally conceived as part of the story arc intended for the characters. I almost always am left with a "tacked-on" feeling. I may enjoy the second story, but I find that it generally diminishes my enjoyment of the first, retroactively, if that makes any sense.

Finally finished Donald Kagan's The Peloponnesian War. It was a very interesting book, it was a book I enjoyed reading, but it was one that I had difficulty concentrating on for extended periods of time for some reason. Anyway, I have finished and I am now much more knowledgeable about that point in history than I was before. Before this, I was even ignorant as to who had won the war; yes, it's true. Now that I've finished, I have a much greater understanding of who certain people were whose names I had heard before (Lysander, Pleistoanax, Pericles, Demosthenes, etc), more familiar with Greek geography and politics, and generally have a better understanding of classical antiquity. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about this war. Kagan knows what he is talking about and writes quite lucidly. He's actually also written a larger four-volume history of this war, so he's a true scholar of this period.