Tuesday, June 30, 2009

between books

I'm still finishing up Enge's Blood of Ambrose. Aidan Moher has a review of it up on his blog. My review will probably be a bit more favorable than his, but his criticism of the book is solid.

I just saw a review I really liked. I had seen the author's name (James Maxey) before, but wasn't sufficiently piqued to put it on the wishlist or investigate further. FBC is my favorite review blog, however. This review was more than enough for me to look a little deeper.


I then went and poked around Maxey's blog a bit, as well as looking a bit further into his Novels of the Dragon Age series. It's definitely going onto the wishlist. If you've read any, or are more familiar with Maxey than I (which wouldn't be hard), let me know. I'd love to hear more impressions.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Legendary

When reviewing books, I normally begin by listing and explaining the items that I found, or think others might find, detracted from the work. Then I get on to the fun part, which is talking about the things I enjoyed and had fun with. In this particular case, we’re just going to skip to part two since I have no criticism at all. I predict this book, and it's author, will endure the testing of time, much the way Tolkien has. Contrarians come and contrarians go, but they still line up to talk down Lord of the Rings. I think the same will occur for David Gemmell as the years pass.


Gemmell’s Legend is something I should have read years ago. Living in the United States, I had not heard of David Gemmell. In all fairness, I grew up in the 80’s under extremely rural circumstances. I’ve had no exposure to the SF&F community until lurking around, and then joining, Mark Yon’s forum boards on sffworld over the past couple of years. Gemmell is fabulous. Previously, I had read his Sipstrassi Stones/Jerusalem Man series. As has been said/written elsewhere, Gemmell excels in ‘badassery.’ A main character by David Gemmell seems to be cast in the mold of Clint Eastwood, a la spaghetti westerns.

Legend is no different. The title of the book actually refers to a man named Druss, Captain of the Axe. There is a phenomenal cast of supporting characters as well. The story is of the most primal of struggles. The emotional range covered is complete and intense. Gemmell’s characters plumb the depth of human personality. Each ‘hero’ is sorrowfully aware of their own fatal flaw. Each ‘villain’ is one the reader can empathize with. While reading Gemmell’s Legend I was reminded of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Seriously, David Gemmell is legitimately described as Homeric. What Tolkien did for epic fantasy, David Gemmell has, for my money, done for heroic fantasy.

As an aside, I love everything that has been done with the award given in his name. Truly a fitting tribute to one of the genre’s ‘A-list’ contributors.

Currently starting Blood of Ambrose by James Enge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reflection and introspection

There is a bit of a storm sweeping through certain corners of the blogosphere. I won't spend any time here recapping the issue, but if you track the evolution of the issue from Aidan Moher's post, you should be able to find the significant portions of the discussion, debate or whatever you want to call it.

For me, it was great to get Aidan's thoughts on the matter in such a frank and honest manner. As is obvious from any examination of this blog, the experience is new to me. In that context, I struggle with precisely what direction to take this rudderless ship. Having had some time to digest Aidan's post, I've reflected upon my own efforts here. I'm comfortable not having Pete's Blog of the Fallen or Pete's Fantasy Hotlist. I realize, I don't necessarily want to be on publisher's ARC lists. I would prefer to read the books that have captured my attention and talk all the nonsense that's unfit to print.

After all, I never expected, or sought, a wide readership. This was just supposed to be an exercise designed to enforce some regular writing discipline upon my lazy backside. To sit on story notes, characters and plot threads for twelve, fifteen, even twenty years, is no way to tell that story. While it may be easier for me to daydream such nonsense, the rubber must hit the road one day if I will ever be the kind of storyteller I want to be.

Thanks to Aidan Moher for reminding me of what my original target was. I'd love to have that journey end with this.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Supernatural Space Opera

So I finally finished The Reality Dysfunction. I've had last night and most of this morning to digest the experience, and I'm still hedging on it. First, the caveat. I've never read any 'good' science fiction before, aside from the kind of dystopian things one reads in high school literature classes (e.g. Huxley's Brave New World). So, my impressions here will be those of someone relatively new to the experience.

There are elements of potential negativity for some readers. Hamilton's descriptiveness reminds me of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. In his descriptions, Hamilton seems to have a fixation with units of measure (metric, of course). Moreover, the exercise in assimilation that this book demands is higher than most. I'm not sure I would use the term 'info-dump' to define it, but it's as close as I can come. At nearly 1100 pages, it is a very long set-up to a trilogy. The characterization starts out two-dimensional and improves a little further into the story, but I found only one compelling character. To be clear, only the length got to me. After 1100 pages, I thought the plot would be more developed.

I really liked this book though. The direction of the overall story has me very curious, interested and filled with anticipation. We have a science fiction tale, trending it's way across issues of a supernatural, or metaphysical, nature. There is a dash of horror, and a smattering of fantasy, thrown in as well. The technology presented throughout the story seems plausible and accurate. I had no difficulty in suspending disbelief. While The Reality Dysfunction may have dragged a bit for me, I am still thinking about different elements of the story throughout the day. In holding my attention like this, post-read, I can only conclude that it was good. I fully expect the remaining installments of this trilogy to intensify my level of engagement.

In the spirit of last night's awards (The David Gemmell - Legend Award), I'm reading Legend by Gemmell. Congratulations to the finalists, especially the winner, Andrzej Sapkowski for his winning efforts on Blood of Elves.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anti-Rothfuss whisper campaign

While examining posts over on sffworld's forums, I found this post. The post is by Adam Whitehead of The Wertzone. If you're reading this blog and haven't heard of Adam or the Wertzone, you've got problems.

Anyway, I wanted to do whatever part I could to make sure Rothfuss got whatever publicity he could from this cheap-shot. Is it because I like his book? I don't know; I haven't read it yet. What I do know, however, is that this attempt to railroad someone enjoying success and acclaim is male bovine excrement. Even should I end up loathing Name of the Wind, I now feel slightly biased towards the book because of the under-handed swipe at it.

A scathing column regarding these tactics and the suspected perpetrator (I've no interest in repeating their name) is up over on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

As an aside, cheers to Henry Allingham.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Which writer are you?

Ken had a link to this meme over on NethSpace. I'm not sure how the answers compute, but I took it anyway. The results....

China Miéville

"Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Romantic! These concepts are defined below.

China Miéville writes in the British fantasy tradition of authors like Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock, a tradition which is a little darker than the Tolkien kind, but Miéville is also a great renewer, as he has taken care to challenge, for example, race-related (or, to be exact, species-related) stereotypes in fantasy. His great breakthrough came with the award-winning novel Perdido Street Station (2000), which is set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon in the secondary world Bas-Lag. Apart from its urban setting, Perdido Street Station also differ from Tolkien-style fantasy by taking place in an era reminiscent of the Victorian age rather than the typical quasi-medieval setting of so-called high fantasy. This means that Miéville has the opportunity to explore his socialist beliefs in a fantasy environment, even if both Perdido Street Station and its two sequels also feature monsters, adventures and such.

Setting his book in a rather dictatorical society and occasionally spinning his sories around resistance against an oppressive government means that Miéville's books sometimes contain rather horrible violence, made all the scarier because it's often conducted legally by a ruling government. This also makes the boks rather romantic; although the struggle is difficult, the struggle continues and whether you are a socialist like Miéville or not, it's easy to sympathize with the message that the world can be changed for the better. It should also be pointed out that although Miéville is often inventive and has a love for spicing up his prose with archaic words, his books are, narratively speaking, traditional adventure stories. Actually, Miéville has made a point of taking genres such as the pirate story and the Western story and retelling them in a fantasy environment.

Still, Miéville has brought fantasy to new literary heights and can be said to represent hope for the genre's future.

You are also a lot like Michael Moorcock.

If you want something more gentle, try Susan Cooper.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Orson Scott Card."


I hate to admit it, but I haven't yet read any of Miéville's works. This test has at least sold me on picking up something and giving it a try. Maybe Perdido Street Station. I'll have reviews for Hamilton and Gemmell coming up soon. No, really, I will. I'm serious.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blitzball

The reading, and thus the blog, is suffering due to my involvement in playing Final Fantasy X. That's right. Years after everyone else has played, I'm just starting. You see, the 'ole Pedro is slow to get out there and buy platforms, hardware, peripherals, software and games, because if I'm just patient, I can get them a few years later at greatly reduced prices and maximize the fun:dollar ratio.

The Blitzball side-game has been occupying vast swaths of time. My proficiency (thank you NHL '95) is such that I've not yet lost a game (50+ played). I am having a great time, winning the division, repeatedly, as well as every tournament entered.

Between the obligations of day-to-day life and playing Final Fantasy X, my reading of Peter Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction is suffering. Worse yet, I'm now considering reading David Gemmell's Legend, concurrently. So far, I've only read Gemmell's Sipstrassi Stones series, so I am fairly excited to start out Gemmell's Drenai series. It'll be Hamilton at night and Gemmell during the day.