Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elizabeth Moon

It has been some time since I read The Deed of Paksenarrion. When I read it, though, I was struck by how it captured the essence of esprit de corps, the comraderie developed among a group of soldiers bending their efforts towards a common cause, often with life itself on the line. I have, at a previous point in my life, been an infantry medic. Well, it was no surprise to me, after reading Elizabeth Moon, that this author had prior military experience. In fact, she was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps in the late '60's. Now that's something you can wear on any sleeve.

Elizabeth Moon is accomodating and gracious, however. How do I know? Because she gave a lightweight blogger (yours truly) the time of day and an interview. This being my first such interview, I bear an indebtedness and gratitude to Elizabeth Moon that I will never forget.

Elizabeth Moon has returned to the world of Paksenarrion. The first book to her new series, Oath of Fealty, will be released next spring. Without further ado, the interview:

PW: I have read that your upcoming series will chronicle Paksennarion's former commanders (Dorian, Arcolin and Phelan). Can you give a thumbnail preview of the new series?

EM: When a paladin comes in and does great deeds, there's always fallout...always change. Combined with the activities of the other people (which also has consequences) this means lives disrupted and re-directed in ways those involved never imagined. In the first book, out next March, the political situation in Tsaia has been destabilized by both the loss of Kieri Phelan to the kingship of Lyonya--his domain and his mercenary company now have no commander--and the treachery of the Verrakai family. The South, Aarenis, has been less than stable since the wars depicted in the original Paks books. Instability both north and south of the mountains makes for interesting times, in the worst sense of the term. The main POV characters are all mature people who thought they knew how the rest of their lives would play out. ("Mwah-hah-hah-hah!" cackles the evil author.) It will all come out in the end, but I'm not there yet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Once upon a debut,

I just finished reading The Adamantine Palace, by Stephen Deas. I've a lot of loose pieces still floating through my mind here. Let's see if I can put it all together.

The Bad: The characterization can be thin at times. Thin enough that the characters are unbelievable. As in the suspension, of. Particularly Jehal. Jehal is the perfect villain. No reasonable person could possibly defend Jehal. If the author hopes to, authentically, blur that line a bit, it's going to take some serious work. Otherwise, one need only predict that Jehal will continue to act in the most devious, underhanded and traitorous manner to understand where this story is going.

The plot twists are very intuitive. As the reader, you will know where this is going before you get there. The author, in telling his tale, leads the reader too close to the truth for it to have that thrilling flavor of surprise to it. Which is strange, since so much of the tale built upon political intrigue and betrayal. In such a tale, I would not expect to be able to see so much of what transpires behind the curtain.

The world-building is good enough to make my next point properly classified under "the bad." Let me first say the author did include indices listing the genealogies of the leading families of the realm. However, no map??? Seriously, with four or five realms, kings and queens, to say nothing of the Worldspine mountain range, the Adamantine Palace itself, the coastline, the Crags and the Sea of Salt and Sand, you really must have a map. A story carried by better than average characterization can get by without one. A story built upon political intrigue and betrayal necessitates a map.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Revelation, by Carol Berg

I finished Carol Berg's Revelation last night. This was another good book in the Rai-kirah series. Thankfully, the cover art wasn’t repulsive, as was the case with the previous installment.

The Bad: The middle portion of the book. The protagonist, Seyonne, is convinced that the key to knowledge he is searching for lies somewhere within the genesis of the demon war. He decides to descend into Kir’Vagonoth, the demon world stronghold. Once there, Seyonne is captured, tortured and enchanted. Through a long and excessively winding trail, he ultimately comes to the knowledge, and position in the story, that makes the ending possible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

got book blog?

If you blog about books, then you will want to check out Book Blogger Appreciation Week. One of my favorites, Dark Wolf, was kind enough to put up the link. I'm assuming that there are many more smaller review sites out there (e.g. yours truly) than people expect. I don't know that smaller review sites like this have much impact, but it can't hurt to let your presence be known. At the very least, it will be a way to find some sites you might really like, that would've gone completely unnoticed otherwise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Release Dates

What an ugly topic, eh? I've recently been embroiled in one of the constant, inexorable and inexhaustible grievance debates re: release dates, over on sffworld. That particular debate had to do with Martin's A Dance with Dragons. While I'm not sure that I could ever be a fan of the man, I buy and read his series in hard cover. There is no doubt that it is one of the very best such series published.

Recently, however, I've seen similar grievances regarding Rothfuss, Lynch, Brett, et al. I still don't get it. I've so much stuff to read that waiting for the release is no more difficult than waiting to wake up in the morning. It gets here when it gets here. I can't help but see the level of criticism, anxiety and vitriol over release dates and updates as having crossed the border into the obsessively unhealthy. To read some of the statements made regarding the issue, one might think that the author is some kind of narcotics dealer intentionally withholding a drug from it's wealthy and withdrawal ridden client base for the sheer enjoyment of inflicting pain.

One of the common realities of life that one faces and, hopefully, learns to accept when transitioning from pre-adulthood to adulthood is that life rarely goes according to plan. Since I understand it is rather gauche (pun completely intended) to be virtuous, let us just say that patience is the best of all coping mechanisms.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Book v. The Cover

I just finished reading Carol Berg's Transformation, the first in her Rai-Kirah series. I'm already heading into Revelation, the second book, so I need to get Transformation off my mind before I get too far along.

The Bad: The cover art. That's right. The lousy, putrescent, unmarketable cover art. Don't believe me? Check this out.

Exactly. I have no idea what Roc was thinking with this cover, but perhaps someone over there really had it out for Ms. Berg.

Monday, July 13, 2009

With an eye on, or waiting for

Books. Books, books, books, books. Mmm, I love shopping around for books, and I don't even need to step away from the keyboard. There's always some books I'm looking at, or waiting to hear about. Aside from the releases we all generally are waiting for, here are ones of special note (to me, that is):

One of my favorites, Elizabeth Moon, is returning to the eight kingdoms and the world of Paksennarion. It's set to be a trilogy and Oath of Fealty's cover art came out just this month.

Recently, I reviewed Blood of Ambrose. Soon, James Enge will be coming out with his next installment.

The concluding two novels of P.C. Hodgell's Godstalker series, in an omnibus edition entitled Seeker's Bane, is now out. I picked up the first omnibus based on the recommendation of a person on the sffworld forum boards whose opinion I've come to trust. Even though I've yet to read it, I'll be picking this up soon enough, as well.

Before The Desert Spear gets out, Subterranean Press will be publishing Peter V. Brett's The Great Bazaar, and Other Stories.

I've got my eye on a couple of books that have my interest due to buzz I've read in different places about the particular authors, and in Mickey Zucker Reichert's case, the series itself. Reichert has Flight of the Renshai due for release in September (yes, this year). The other book I've read some things of interest about is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin.

Check out this blurb for Company of Liars, by Karen Maitland:

On this day of ill omen, plague makes its entrance. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is spreading inexorably toward them.

Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller... from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all, propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.

Also, Glen Cook now has, arguably, the best cover art of the current day.

I'm interested in picking up the refurbished edition of Swordbearer, also.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Hogan and Del Toro’s The Strain is a refreshing addition to current vampire fare. Generally, books set in the current day, involving vampires, are things from which I run. I don’t stop running. The difference, for me, with this book was it's internet buzz, as well as the name Guillermo Del Toro.

The Bad: The characterization got me riled on one occasion. The CDC sidekick, Nora, goes from being a physician/epidemiologist to a woman holding a hand over her mouth, stifling a terrified cry and sobbing afterward. Really? Our physician/epidemiologist’s first truly stunning and shocking exposure to the gross, disgusting, hideous, etc., is a newly turned vampire (newly turned = more zombie than vampire)? C’mon. I'm certain that the real article (Nora’s real-life counterpart) would be far more hardened, as a result of career path alone, than that. Other than that one truly glaring error, the characterization was still sub-par, running in the shallow end of the pool.

Something niggles at me concerning the story. It’s not bad, but seems like a road we’ve all been down before. Don’t get me wrong, the story is well executed, for what it is. It’s not daring or stunning in any kind of innovative way. I don’t mean for it to be a criticism, because I liked the story well enough, but it seemed to be an amalgam of books/movies/games I’ve experienced before.

The Good: Newly turned vampire/zombies running rampant through NYC as the first cascading shockwave of a possible extinction level event for humanity. Think I am Legend mixed with Resident Evil, except with vampires. The vampires “mature” in a matter of weeks into rather sentient, cunning and collaborative little buggers it would seem.

I really like how this book shows vampires as they ought to be: horrifying monsters – not the hot boy in high school. They smell disgusting. They relieve themselves while ‘feeding,’ or, pretty much, at any other time with no concern for sanitation or hygiene. These vampires have a hive intellect and no verbal communication, or need for it.

The whole phenomenon becomes more interesting when considered in terms of an epidemic outbreak. The vampires themselves are the vectors. They transmit the blood worms to infected prey. They can be exterminated by ultra-violet irradiation or decapitation. Silver can cause them pain. Otherwise, run! Forget the garlic and holy water.

Also, there seems to be a long standing arrangement concerning the existence of vampires. Prey are customarily beheaded so that no new vampires are created, unless necessary or desired. Among the ancient “Masters” (seven in all), the one central to this story has gone rogue. Moreover, it appears that there is an alliance between the rogue Master and a wealthy financier. The unlikely alliance between an ancient and a human is designed to throw the old arrangement out and boldly initiate a head-on conflict.

Overall, a fun read even though it’s not profound or innovative. For those who can live without owning their reads, wait until it arrives in the library. For those who must own, wait for the mmpb.

Next up: Transformation, by Carol Berg.

P.S. There is a more recent interview of James Maxey, over at FBC, than the one I referenced in an earlier post.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bloody Ambrosia

I finished Enge’s Blood of Ambrose last night. I’m still turning it over in my mind. As previously noted, Aidan Moher had a review of it up on his blog. While his description/criticism of the book is accurate, it is something I find interesting about the book. More on that later; let’s get down to the ugly first.

My only complaint on the story concerns the banter. Seriously, does banter ever come off well. There are all kinds of great dialogue devices, but I’ve yet to see banter that added anything to a story. I am willing to concede that it could possibly work, but I’ve yet to read an example of such. Also, I’ve a tangential complaint, and it centers around, “What’s next?” At the end of the novel, I was left wondering if we would see any of these characters again. There is no mention of any forthcoming works at the end of the story. There is nothing in the beginning of the book that hints towards any further adventures of Morlock. Indeed, I had to go scrounging through the net to discover anything. I found this interview, by Mirhir Wanchoo, over at FBC. It isn’t until question 8, do we find out what’s to come.

Alright folks, prepare the rotten fruit, because this is where I write about what I liked. Yes, I’m going to use a comparison that everyone universally loathes and snickers about. This book reminded me, in it’s way, of The Hobbit. It’s an introduction to a cast of characters, with one key character (i.e. Morlock) that the author has been writing about for over 30 years (cf. FBC interview). Other than Morlock, Enge doesn’t promise us (again, cf. FBC interview) any future regarding the other characters. Enge himself, is also a language scholar. Enge’s dedication to this world, and it’s various cultures, can be seen in the appendices, brief though they are. Look, I’m really not equating Enge with Tolkien, but with the amount of back-story unexplored and the volumes Enge could fill doing so, leaves Enge plenty of room to go in a more epic direction, if he so chooses.

Oh, but it would make for a very dark version of The Hobbit, indeed. With legions of zombies, necromancy and plenty of the expected, associated gore; the unrivalled skill of a Master Maker and his manipulations of phlogiston, aethirium, cloaks of invisibility and arachnoid automatons; and a political power-struggle with a great-great-great-ad infinitum, ad nauseum-grandmother, who seems to be in a battle for sole possession of her body with her sister who is long dead (usually they prescribe meds for that), this story has gone well beyond more “polite” versions of fantasy fiction.

Regarding criticism that Enge has received regarding his writing style, I’ve two takes on the matter. I’ve read Aidan’s review, as well as some others, that have difficulty with Enge’s style of stringing short-stories together and calling it a novel. This is no accident, nor is it (my opinion only here) as a result of an inability to write anything other than short stories. Indeed, as one will note from the interview of Enge over at FBC, this was intentionally done. Enge refers to this book as an ‘episodic novel.’ Enge also states that many colloquially refer this style as “fix-ups.” One might refer to this explanation as a well conceived cover for a lack of proficiency with any other style. Another take on it would be to laud the author for getting away from the formula, being daring, innovative or what-have-you. Personally, I liked it, but well after I had completed the book and had a while to mull it over.

I look forward to purchasing, and reading, future installments of all things Morlock and Ambrose. Next up, Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain.