Having placed a recent Amazon order full of books I really, really want to read, the main criterion for a book to read in the interim was that it be short, so I could be certain to be done with it by the time the Amazon package arrived. Scanning my shelves for short books, my eyes lit upon Tad Williams' Caliban's Hour , which certainly fit -- a 200 page, small-format, big-print hardcover.
I've liked those Tad Williams books that I've read (the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy and the first Otherland book), but they suffered from a terrible case of rambliness -- if Williams had cut out a thousand pages from each of his series, they would have been immensely improved. So, faced with a novella-length book, I was curious to see if a shorter format would work to Williams' advantage.
I can definitively report: No, it does not. Caliban's Hour is a sequel/prequel to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" -- it takes place in Milan many years after the events of the play, when Caliban tracks down Miranda to take revenge for his mistreatment. This, though, is really just the framing device for Caliban to tell his life's story. Which he does. At length.
Well, at 200 pages of length, but it sure as hell seemed like a lot more than that. The shortness of this story didn't force Williams to remove the pointless rambling -- it forced him to remove the plot, so he'd have room for the pointless rambling. All the interesting story bits take place in Shakespeare's work; Caliban's Hour consists, in its totality, of all the pointless bloat that Williams would have put in if he'd been writing "The Tempest."
Awkward prose (there's one really horrendous paragraph that can be paraphrased accurately as "You have called me a savage, but having seen your so-called 'civilization', I think it is you who are the savages,"), dull characters, and no story worth speaking of, all combine to make this an eminently skippable book, unless you're really into Shakespeare fanfic.
But it was short, and my Amazon package should be arriving imminently.