Few books are as enjoyable and as simultaneously able to make me uncomfortable as Peter Brett’s The Warded Man and The Desert Spear. Sexuality and sexual politics are not aspects I immediately sit down to think about when reading an epic fantasy but when an author weaves those aspects so closely into the narrative of their world they deserve some discussion. The world of Brett’s Demon Trilogy is one nightly besieged by vicious demons bent on eradicating life, human or animal, that stands in in their path. Humanity is trapped, clustered together into frightened huddled masses desperately clinging to life during the daylight hours and cowering in fear during the night. Death is rampant thanks to the demon and as such breeding is maintenance of the population has become not only a biological imperative but cornerstone of the social lives of the people that inhabit Brett’s world.
Canticle by Ken Scholes follows up the author’s debut novel Lamentation. Canticle opens up six months after the desolation of the city of Windwir with the various characters we were introduced to in the previous novel having moved forward into their new roles in the suddenly changed world. Like Lamentation before it Canticle splits the narrative into several pieces each following one of the main characters in the story while most of these perspectives follow the overarching thread of a single cohesive plot several branch into different directions that help give both characters and the world they inhabit greater depth. Continue reading “Review: Canticle by Ken Scholes”
I don’t remember seeing this posted on the various SFF blogs I visit, but I could be mistaken. Tales from Earthsea was originally released in Japan back in 2006 and is finally getting a US release this August. The film is synthesis of plots from A Wizard of Earthsea, Tehanu, and the Farthest Shore. Oddly we seem to be the last market getting this film as it has already seen the light of day in Spain, Australia, the UK. Also interesting this is the first animated film rated PG-13 to be released by Disney (Ghibli’s US distributor). Check out the US trailer below.
Vanguard Press, 2010 (orig. Pocket Book, 1997)
While I planned on dedicating all of my vacation reading to getting through a number of sequels to series I’ve been reading the serendipitous discovery of Clegg’s Neverland in the New Fiction section at the library put that task off for a bit. Oftentimes, for reasons I can’t quite explain, the desire to read horror fiction strikes me during the height of summer. There is a part of me that equates the thrills and chills of a good horror novel with the bright sun and oppressive heat of a summer afternoon. In truth many of my favorite horror novels have taken place during the summer, notably Caitlin Kiernan’s Red Tree and Dan Simmons Summer of Night make excellent use of the summer months to enhance their settings. Thus when I settled down at the beach last Saturday the book I first grabbed was Neverland.
The Comet’s Curse
I’ve been on something of a YA kick of late. Having plowed through Catching Fire and put away the penultimate volume of Percy Jackson and the Olympians on audio (The Battle of the Labyrinth) I remembered Dom Testa’s entertaining talk as part of the Science Fiction and Fantasy: Informing the Present by Imagining the Future
event hosted by Tor and LITA at ALA 2010 the swag bag for which contained the first of Testa’s Galahad books: The Comet’s Curse.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of The Comet’s Curse is the initial premise: an event of awe and wonder that is transformed into one of horror an destruction. The idea being that a comet skimming Earth’s atmosphere, a beautiful and awe-inspiring event, leaves behind mysterious and unidentified elements in the atmosphere that soon cause widespread and ultimately fatal disease amongst the adults of Earth. A testament to both the beauty and randomness of the universe that marks a neat twist to the end-of-the-world scenario.
Backlash (Aaron Allston) and Allies (Christie Golden)
March 2010 and May 2010 respectively
Read by Marc Thompson
The Fate of the Jedi arc rolls onward with Backlash as Luke and Ben are sidetracked from from their quest to follow Jacen’s footsteps after their encounter with Vistara Kai at Sinkhole Station in the Maw. Luke, using some force technique that involves tracking his own blood, follows Vistara to Dathomir. A brief interlude in which Leia and Han appear allows for some entertainment as the “Old Crew” (minus the droids) is back together again. The missing droids are left guarding Han and Leia’s granddaughter Alanna who has been left on her own while grandparents jaunt off into the jungle to help Luke. Awesome parenting there. Alanna and the droids, as is typical of recent Star Wars, serve as a diversion from the main plot of the story offering very little in service to Backlash’s plot or, in this instance, to overall story arc of the Fate of the Jedi.
Backlash is a case where all the things I’ve liked about this series so far work against the novel. It isn’t a bad book by any means and it does keep up the pace and tone of the political tension between the Jedi and Galactic Alliance on par with the rest of the series but the diversionary feel of the novel is hard to ignore. While characterization and tone are as top notch as usual the fact that this feels more like a side-trek then a natural evolution the various plotlines examined so far makes this, for me at least, the weakest novel so far in the series.
I still enjoyed the hell out of it though. There are some neat character moments and some gripping set pieces and Allston is extraordinarily adept at making Vistara into a charismatic and likeable figure managing to sow doubts about her feelings and motives despite her adept use of the Dark Side. Allston introduces Dyon Stadd a failed Jedi who has parlayed his abilities with the Force into a career as a negotiator between Dathomiri Tribes and merchant traders. I’m always a fan of alternative Force users and Dyon’s inclusion is nice touch given the novel’s lack of an in depth examination of non-Jedi Force Techniques.
Almost two weeks into July and I realized I never posted a June Summary (I also missed May…oops). I’m sure no one but me cares but I find it somewhat useful to take a look at what I read over the previous month. So in June we had:
A continuation of the consistently great and awesomely epic series started in The January Dancer. This is great character driven space opera that deserves a look from a broader audience.
A dark, twisted tale of the titular genre that makes bizarre and engaging use of the second person narrative voice.
A comic fantasy set in an alternative 2010 where magic has kept Elizabethan England alive and well. Occasionally a bit too humorous for my tastes but something a bit different your adventure fantasy norm.
Something of an homage to the great military sci-fi classics of yore stands tall on its own as one of the newer sci-fi classics of the aughts.
The sequel to Old Man’s War is deeper and more intense then the first volume and explores the nature of identity an future leaning steeply towards post-human.
A bunch of my time in June was consumed by Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings, but I won’t say anything until the book is out for masses. I have a couple of audiobook reviews just about ready to go since it has been a while since I’ve posted one of those so stay tuned for that. If it wasn’t already obvious from the couple of reviews I’ve posted already this month I’m trying to work some more YA titles into my reading; particularly when I’m busy in other areas since I can fly through them pretty easily. Next week I’m on vacation (yay!) and hopefully I’ll get some posts done and scheduled to go up while I’m away. While I am away, however, I hope to work my way through a number of sequels to titles I’ve read in the past. At the very least I’d like to makes some headway with The Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd, Canticle by Ken Scholes, and The Desert Spear by Peter Brett (with Heretics by S. Andrew Swann thrown in to shake things up a bit). So stay tuned!
A while back I picked up a read The Hunger Games. In a bit of an overprotective jealous streak I shared neither my thoughts or opinion about the book. A fact I’m about to rectify. The Hunger Games is set in the future, a postapocalytpic future, where the world we know has seemingly been devastated and society has been reduced to 12 isolated Districts rigidly controlled by the authoritative Capital. Every year to “honor” the memory of the districts’ failed rebellion citizens are forced to suffer a Reaping where every child over a certain age is entered into a lottery and two names, one male and one female, are chosen to compete in the titular Hunger Games where the competitors for each district are pitted against one another in a last man standing, no holds barred, battle to the death.
In the opening novel in the series readers are introduced to the fiercely independent Katniss, a young women who has taken on the responsibility of caring for her family after her father’s death in a mine explosion. Her love and caring for her friends and family is one of her most defining traits and it those notions of love and responsibility that see Katniss volunteering to take her sister Prim’s place in the Hunger Games. What ensues is an exciting, tragic, and horrific journey through a dark dystopian future with a dash of teen drama. Despite being a young adult book The Hunger Games pulls no punches when it comes to violence and horror. The competitors kill one another in creative ways while the environment offers further danger in the form of traps and rapid switch ups in temperature and climate. The violence isn’t the only horror and sick manipulation and callous actions of the Capital are both surprising and absolutely chilling. The Capital itself is thrown into stark contrast with the Districts it rule. Where the latter are impoverished that formers is opulent, decadent and rife with excesses. With surprising deft strokes Collins manages to craft a believable world made so less because of the details of its existence, which are in truth quite scarce, but thanks to the people who inhabit.
None of this would matter one bit if Collins hadn’t populated The Hunger Games with characters who manage to stir the emotions of readers. The aforementioned main character Katniss, with the responsibility of caring for her family weighing on her young shoulders is still in a teen girl with all the emotional hang-ups, drama, and uncertain that are rife during ones teenage years. The only difference being that the teenage drama is heightened by the very real threat of death. Along with Katniss is her adorable and innocent younger sister Prim, her best friend and potential love interest Gale, and her fellow District 12 competitor Peeta. Katniss and Peeta, particularly their relationship, forms a major focus of the novel in both the life and death competition in the arena and the competition to win the adoration of the audience.
I’m only skimming the details here but the bottom line is that The Hunger Games is a remarkably exciting and engrossing read no matter what age you are. It, excuse the pun, leaves you hungry for more despite it’s satisfying conclusion. Which is a good thing since the second book of the series, Catching Fire, has been out for some time now. What isn’t good is that fact’s effect on my sleep since I managed pick up a read that sequel in a single evening of frenetic reading. If you don’t want to spoil The Hunger Games now is the time to stop reading (to be fair also recommend skipping the blurb for Catching Fire).
Legacies (The Shadow Grail #1)
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Every once and a while the fine folks at Tor will send me a title which doesn’t quite jive with my demographic. This time around I decided to give one of those titles a chance. Legacies is the start of a new YA series by collaborates Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey, who previously worked together on the Bedlam’s Bard Series over at Baen. The series opens with heroine Spirit recovering in the hospital after a car accident which left her as the only surviving member of her family. It isn’t too long before she finds out that her parents, themselves orphans, were once wards of the mysterious Oakhurst Academy and, now that she too is an orphan, Spirit has been charged to their care. Of course, Oakhurst isn’t your everyday orphanage, the students there all have magical powers and, in addition to their everyday schooling, must learn to control their powers in order to survive in the world. As if being an orphan and being confronted with the reality of magic isn’t enough Spirit, and the friends she makes at Oakhurst, but face a unknown threat that has been praying on the students of Oakhurst.
City of Ruin
Mark C. Newton
Tor UK, 2010
The ice age that loomed over Nights of Villjamur has begun and with it a new, and unprecedented threat has arrived at the empire’s edges. Dispatched to the crumbling city of Villiren Commander Brynd, the albino leader of the elite Night Guard, must unite the Jamur military with the desperate, destitute, and shady citizens of the titular City of Ruins in order to stave off the coming invasion. As if things weren’t bad enough something stalks the people of Villiren and it is up to the hardworking inspector Jerryd, now relocated to Villiren after his unfortunate discoveries in Villjamur, to track down whatever is hiding in the shadows of the disreputable city. Elsewhere Randur, Eir, and Rikka flee the forces of the Empire and run headlong into revelations that will rewrite everything they think they know about their world. Much like the previous book in the Legends of the Red Sun, Nights of Villjamur, City of Ruin is a fascinating mix of fantasy, science fiction, and straight up detective fiction. It is a strange combination that plays both to the novel’s strengths and its weaknesses.
Continue reading “Review: City of Ruin by Mark C. Newton”