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  1. #1
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman



    I'm planning on reading this novel over the weekend if I can, next week at the latest. The Left Hand of God seems to have a bit of hype behind it, and from seeing some of the other threads, quite a few here are either planning on reading it or read it already.

    Here's a bit on the author, Paul Hoffman:

    Paul Hoffman is the author of two previous novels, The Wisdom of Crocodiles (2000), which predicted the collapse of the world financial system, and The Golden Age of Censorship (2007), a black comedy based on his experiences as a film censor.
    http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Author/A...063836,00.html

    Published by Penguin Books.

    Short Description for The Left Hand of God
    In one of the Sanctuary's vast and twisting maze of corridors stands a boy. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old - he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Thomas Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming, violent and profoundly bloody-minded.
    http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9...ft-Hand-of-God

    Here's a review by Fantasy Book Critic:
    http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.co...l-hoffman.html

    Well, hopefully we can get some discussion going, I'll join in as soon as I've read it. From what I've seen, it seems like a cool book to read and reviews seem to be overall highly positive.

    Saw a bit of discussion already in the December Reading thread; I think this thread will better serve that purpose.
    Last edited by Bastard; January 4th, 2010 at 01:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Omnibus Prime Moderator PeterWilliam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bastard View Post
    Here's a review by Fantasy Book Critic:
    http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.co...l-hoffman.html
    Yeah, I saw the review, but had already seen Liv's response over in the 'Reading in December 2009' thread. Brightstar was a little down on it though. Liv's recommendations are usually hot hits for me, so I'm sure I'll be picking it up. I'm definitely interested to see others read it and have the discussion play out.

  3. #3
    http://tinyurl.com/363ogv DurzoBlint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterWilliam View Post
    Yeah, I saw the review, but had already seen Liv's response over in the 'Reading in December 2009' thread. Brightstar was a little down on it though. Liv's recommendations are usually hot hits for me, so I'm sure I'll be picking it up. I'm definitely interested to see others read it and have the discussion play out.
    I just got it in the mail it will more than likely be placed at the top of the pile and read sometime in January.

    I saw brightstar's review and I am waiting to pass judgement on it but there has to be a few people that don't like it as the only reviews that I have seen are really positive, which is why I picked it up in the first place.

  4. #4
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DurzoBlint View Post
    I just got it in the mail it will more than likely be placed at the top of the pile and read sometime in January.

    I saw brightstar's review and I am waiting to pass judgement on it but there has to be a few people that don't like it as the only reviews that I have seen are really positive, which is why I picked it up in the first place.
    Very little negativity towards it from what I've seen. My book arrived like 2 days ago, a bit disappointed in the cover jacket, it seems like it's made of construction paper. Seems cheap material to me, don't know if it was something they did on purpose in account of art.

  5. #5
    Dazed Rambler Winter's Avatar
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    I have every intention of getting this book, but I waited a bit too long and found that it was released early, doing away with that very cheap preorder price I do love so much. Will have to wait to get it until I get a decent check. I read the excerpt and really enjoyed it, so I am hoping the rest of the book continues to impress me.

  6. #6
    Registered User BrightStar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DurzoBlint View Post
    I saw brightstar's review and I am waiting to pass judgement on it but there has to be a few people that don't like it as the only reviews that I have seen are really positive, which is why I picked it up in the first place.
    My opinion of the book seems to be a lot more negative than most others. I didn't think it was a bad book, I just felt it had some issues that left me feeling a little dissapointed by the time I got to the end.

    One of the major letdowns for me, I felt, was that having formed a high degree of anticipation for this book after reading the excerpt, (I thought the first few chapters were excellent, and having read them online just couldn't wait to read my copy) I unfortunately couldn't say the same for the majority of the rest of the book. Sadly, for me, that high standard of enjoyment which I'd found in the first few chapters did not last much beyond the first 100 pages.

    For those that are interested, I thought I'd quote the post I made in the Reading in December 2009 topic:

    Just finished Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God this morning. Initially, I was really impressed with this book, and had fast become engrossed in the storyline. Although it felt as though it lagged for a few chapters after about page 36, it soon picked up pace again and rapidly got very good.

    Unfortunately, my overal impressions of the book declined as I read more and more of it. Not that it's a bad book, I just felt there were some weaknesses that caused me to have an overal less positive impression than other readers seem to have.

    I think one of my biggest problems was my inability to really relate to, or accept the main character, Cale, as a believable character. Initially, I thought he was very believable, but as the story progressed, I felt that there wasn't enough of his past hardships reflected in his personality - sometimes he seemed too nice, and too easily able to handle certain situations. Somehow the Cale of later in the book seemed an altogether different Cale to the one at the beginning, and whilst I appreciate characters are supposed to grow and develop throughout a story, I did not feel that this was what happened with Cale in this case.

    I found the world itself to be a little jarring. Though I was initially drawn to the sense of isolation that the Sanctuary created, once the story moves on, I began to feel that the usage of some familiar names
    Spoiler:
    (Jews, Jesus, York, Hungary, Nowegion, Fatima etc)
    in what I had thought to be a fantasy setting were very disruptive. I'm inclined to be in support of those that have theorized that the book's world might well be set on
    Spoiler:
    a post-apocolypic earth
    . Unfortunately, this didn't help me much as a reader - I spent too much time trying to puzzle out the world setting and not enough time enjoying what was there.

    I also struggled to get through more than a few quite large chunks of the book, simply because I got a bit bored because I felt that the plot was tedious. My issue really was whilst I appreciate a book that leaves you guessing what's going to happen next, I felt that the book's lack of direction was due to Cale himself-who oftentimes did not seem to really have a very clear plan about what he was doing. After a while, I felt he'd been led by events one too many times, and I rather wanted there to be some sense of what his intentions were for the future.

    Despite my complaints though, I spent much of the story quite engrossed, and I was pleased to find that there were many twists and turns in the plot that I didn't see coming. I'd definitely read the next book when it is released, though I've no idea when that might be.
    Last edited by BrightStar; December 30th, 2009 at 09:19 AM.

  7. #7
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    I often find that the main problem with reading books, watching movies, and tv shows is managing one's expectations.

    I personally don't put a lot of weight when someone doesn't like something on account of being disappointed, though I myself throw that around a lot too when relevant. Though a highly valid reason to not like something/enjoy something, it's just not something I can relate to since expectations and reading experiences vary quite a bit from reader to reader particularly when a specific book/movie/tv show is concerned.

    It does give some insight though on how I should approach the novel, so hopefully this one won't disappoint me, which I doubt it will. I'm easy to please in the entertainment industry.

    As for your complaints about Cale and the settings, I'll keep those in mind when I tackle the novel, hope I don't find those things as troubling as you did. Thanks for your review.

  8. #8
    Registered User BrightStar's Avatar
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    Typically, I wouldn't go into a book with any particularly high expectations, but in the case of The Left Hand of God I did begin reading with some expectations because I'd read the excerpt. This, I felt, was full of plot twists and mysteries that I just couldn't wait to read more of, and I really loved the atmosphere (which created a real sense of menace and danger).

    This is mainly why I felt dissapointed by the Left Hand of God - the rest of the book just did not live up to what I'd come to expect from the preview I'd read of its first few chapters.

    I'd hasten to add that I think many will enjoy this book - and with good cause, there's a lot there that's worthy of praise - although I do think it has its faults.

  9. #9
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrightStar View Post
    Typically, I wouldn't go into a book with any particularly high expectations, but in the case of The Left Hand of God I did begin reading with some expectations because I'd read the excerpt. This, I felt, was full of plot twists and mysteries that I just couldn't wait to read more of, and I really loved the atmosphere (which created a real sense of menace and danger).

    This is mainly why I felt dissapointed by the Left Hand of God - the rest of the book just did not live up to what I'd come to expect from the preview I'd read of its first few chapters.

    I'd hasten to add that I think many will enjoy this book - and with good cause, there's a lot there that's worthy of praise - although I do think it has its faults.
    Certainly, was simply making a generalization of a pattern of sorts... that in the end, for the most part, what determines if you will enjoy a book or not is how a book lives up to your expectations. Which can explain why for some reason one can enjoy an inferior book more(which one might've had low expectations of) to a superior book (which for some reason didn't meet your expectations). So the question then comes, is the individual at fault or is the book at fault? A combination? A third party (marketing, etc.)?

    Don't know why I brought it up now (and taking the thread off-topic dammit), but felt like making the observation.

    So when it comes to me personally, I often wonder am I simply very good at managing my expectations, do I simply have low standards, or am I simply easy to please? I think it's a combination, with managing my expectations having quite a bit of weight.

    I've always found this an interesting topic, and at times it's the root of many disagreements in the evaluating of a book/movie/tv show I think.

    That's all I'll say about that. Let's get the Left Hand of God discussion rolling once again, if I'm lucky I'll be able to start it tomorrow.

  10. #10
    Cranky old broad AuntiePam's Avatar
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    I started it last night. Writing quality is more important to me than plot, and by "quality", I mean style and polish. I dumped the book after a few pages. I hate unnecessary adverbs -- Hoffman seems to like them. And even though my grammar is far from perfect, I expect better in what I read. Hoffman has Cale saying "I could care less". I'm pretty sure that "None of them was" should have been "None of them were". When Cale finished performing a test for one of the lords, Hoffman writes that "after twenty minutes" Cale was "still" holding his hands in front of him, but Hoffman hadn't bothered to tell us that Cale held his hands out when the test started.

    Minor quibbles, maybe, but enough to put me off the book even before I got into the plot.

    Maybe the book is intended for YA readers, but that doesn't excuse the sloppiness. I read a lot of YA fiction and have found it to be just as polished as adult fiction.

  11. #11
    The excerpt actually put me off the book for reasons very similar to those AuntiePam describes. The story might be great, but the writing didn't flow at all for me, so I was never tempted to get into it. Also the Sanctuary just seemed to be such a dismal place that I didn't want to spend hundreds of pages in it, and the worldbuilding didn't convince me (the boys were desperate enough for food that they prized ratmeat, but still managed to complain about overcooked cafeteria food? lack of butchering skill on a rat -- which people commonly eat near-whole -- was so significant that it was worth losing half of one's tiny food supply to have more neatly cut meat? oookay).

    Nonetheless, I'm glad other people liked it, and grateful that the publisher saw fit to make an excerpt available so that I could take a peek for myself.

    EDIT: I think "none of them was" is grammatically correct, though. As I understand it, the rule is that "none" is treated as "not one," and since the correct formulation would be "not one of them was" XYZ, the sentence is correct as written.
    Last edited by Cranky Hamster; December 31st, 2009 at 12:03 PM.

  12. #12
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntiePam View Post
    I started it last night. Writing quality is more important to me than plot, and by "quality", I mean style and polish. I dumped the book after a few pages. I hate unnecessary adverbs -- Hoffman seems to like them. And even though my grammar is far from perfect, I expect better in what I read. Hoffman has Cale saying "I could care less". I'm pretty sure that "None of them was" should have been "None of them were". When Cale finished performing a test for one of the lords, Hoffman writes that "after twenty minutes" Cale was "still" holding his hands in front of him, but Hoffman hadn't bothered to tell us that Cale held his hands out when the test started.

    Minor quibbles, maybe, but enough to put me off the book even before I got into the plot.

    Maybe the book is intended for YA readers, but that doesn't excuse the sloppiness. I read a lot of YA fiction and have found it to be just as polished as adult fiction.
    Actually, "None of them was" is the correct form, since "none" has the meaning of "not one" and "was" is modifying it, so the singular form is quite correct here. People around have used both "was" and "were" and there are many debates about it around; but to take it as an example of grammatic ineptitude is absurd in my opinion. You might not like it, which is fine... but it's not a grammatic problem.

    Similar the "I could care less" debate is ridiculous in my opinion. Both versions are quite accurate. What people always ignore is the "Why?" question, and that "why" is what is assumed by the usage of "could care less" or "couldn't care less". The intrinsic meaning of the words in the phrases are meaningless here.

    You don't like it? Fine, but please don't make this about an author being a grammar inept because the examples you have used are not good enough to warrant it.

  13. #13
    Registered User BrightStar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntiePam View Post
    And even though my grammar is far from perfect, I expect better in what I read. Hoffman has Cale saying "I could care less".
    I have to admit that Hoffman's use of "I could care less" almost had me abandoning The Left Hand of God right there and then when I first saw its usage. There is just something about the usage of that phrase that, for me, felt very jarring. It made me cringe and it really, really bothered me. (I think this is just a pet peeve of mine, though-and not a complaint aimed at the writer himself)

    I've had it pointed out to me that "I could care less" is technically correct grammar usage, but to be honest I found it too "real world"-ish and felt it didn't fit in with the fantasy setting at all.

    However, as I read through the book I noticed that Hoffman uses many real word phrases that might seem out of place in a typical fantasy setting. I found it jarring (as I've mentioned in previous posts) as it did make me stop and question whether The Left Hand of God's setting was supposed to be that of a typical fantasy world, or was meant to have roots in the real world.

  14. #14
    Cranky old broad AuntiePam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bastard View Post
    You don't like it? Fine, but please don't make this about an author being a grammar inept because the examples you have used are not good enough to warrant it.
    I'll give you the "none" example, but if "could care less" and "couldn't care less" are both considered to be correct, I'm not sure I want to live in this world.

  15. #15
    Jack Bauer Bastard's Avatar
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    If not mistaken, even Oxford accepts it as correct at the moment. And if true, I implore you, please don't do anything rash lol.

    Edit: Also, if not mistaken "I could care less" was used when a character was speaking right? Should only characters that talk with perfect grammatic rules make it to a book?
    Last edited by Bastard; December 31st, 2009 at 12:45 PM.

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