|Books Received: February 27 - May 3, 2013|
Saturday, May 04, 2013
So, I only managed 1 post in April. Hopefully May will be better, though life is just crazy. Work is as busy as ever, which is a good thing, though it doesn't leave much time for blogging. I'll probably do some travelling for work in the next few months which could cut things back even more. And the usual personal/family challenges have kept me away as well. But I do hope to get more than 1 post in May. In the very least I'll do a post for book that I'm being published in because I do like talking about myself. I've got 3 reviews partially written and hopefully one or two of them will be posted this week.
Anyway, below are the books I've received in the last couple of months.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
So, news has broken that Night Shade Books is in serious trouble. They are looking to sell all of their assets to avoid bankruptcy and at least get some of the owed for their authors. This is a good summary, follow other links (mainly in comments) from there. I'm not going into the details because I don't know them and a some searching on the web will provide. But I do find it unfortunate in large part because Night Shade has published some really good stuff over the past few years and I hate to see that go away.
So, I did some poking around. You CAN still buy books published by Night Shade. There are still physical books at places like Amazon and B&N, and probably your local Indie books seller as well. You can also still buy digital copies of the books - I just bought And Blue Skies From Pain by Stina Leicht (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) - my first electronic book from a local Indie store through KOBO for what it's worth. I assume dead tree books will be there until they all sell. I assume digital books will be available until the legal limbo of a sale of assets or bankruptcy. So, the take home message is if you want to support the authors of Night Shade, or if you've been meaning to buy one of their books, or if you're looking for some good books, now is the time to buy them since they are still available. NOTE: I would not suggest preordering books that aren't published yet, as I doubt we'll see them for a long time and probably not from Night Shade.
Anyway, below are links to reviews I've written for books published by Night Shade (at least since I began tracking that a few years ago). Go get some good books and support some very worried authors!
EDIT: And, I think it's probably a good idea to consider stripping the DRM from any Night Shade ebooks you own at this point. Who knows what will happen in accessing those books once Night Shade enters legal limbo from a buyout or bankruptcy. Ebooks have been locked in other publishing bankruptcy proceedings. FYI - Baen Books sells all Night Shade books with no DRM.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
For some reason I still manage to be surprised when the book I’m reading tends to fit in with whatever conversation is currently going on in the SFF-intranets world. The conversation of the moment is all about grimdark, the term that seems to have emerged to describe the ‘gritty’ fantasy that maybe even could be called its own sub-genre (here are a few links to get you started on the discussion). But, I’m not going to quibble about the definition of grimdark, how appropriate it is attach the label to author X or Y’s books, or any of that. But, the book I am here to discuss – The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) – arguably falls right in with the new kid dressed all in black at the back of the genre party who is buy angrily staring down everyone while (s)he trims his/her fingernails with a large knife.
The Folly of the World was wholly unexpected for me – I had heard good things about Bullington’s writing, but really didn’t know anything about it when I started the book (I hadn’t even read the back cover). So, it took me quite a while to figure out how felt about the book – honestly it took until after I finished reading it. The first thing that literally slaps the reader in the face is the very coarse language of the book, particularly in the first half. In the context of the book, it works, though it is above and beyond the coarseness of 99% of the books in fantasy. The dialogue is harsh, ugly and offensive. The descriptions are dark, evocative and unpleasant. And there are graphic descriptions of sex – man on man sex – that is needfully violent rather than sensual and loving.
After adjusting to the ruthless writing style I began to wander just where this novel was going. First, it’s not epic fantasy or even second world fantasy. It’s really much more historical fiction, or gothic horror (if gothic horror can apply to a setting in medieval Holland), with only the barest hints of the supernatural. In fact, I have no idea if there really is any supernatural element in the novel – and it doesn’t matter. The hints serve to increase the horror, set the mood, and relentlessly drive home the inevitable and hopeless end – or at least the perception of an inevitable and hopeless end.
Throughout this review I’ve used words like ruthless, horror, relentless, hopeless, harsh, coarse, dark, and …grimdark. The world is violent. There is death. There are battles. Horrible things are said and done. One could choose to describe things as tragic, and they wouldn’t be wrong, though I think folly is the better choice as the title itself clearly alludes to. The story shown, the actions and thoughts undertaken are often far too absurd to be anything but folly. The story at its heart is about a bastard seeking his noble birthright. Or perhaps it’s two highwaymen working a con to become noble. Or maybe it’s a rags to riches story. As expected, things don’t go as planned, but one of those cons does become noble, a peasant is lifted to the heights of society, and the fall from the edge is precipitous.
The view that Bullington chooses to tell his story through is important. The two conmen I mention above are front and center, though the real story is that of a peasant girl who is literally bought and paid for to help them recover a lost object. These three make up a motley trio representing the worst of the worst in society and genre alike. The two men are homosexual lovers, one is a bastard and the other is severely mentally ill. Both are killers. One will do and say anything to achieve his goals while the other is madly unpredictable. The girl is an uneducated peasant sold into service. She is harsh, violent, and a survivor. Horrible things happen – yet the girl is never raped and remains ‘pure’ through to the very end. It’s all gritty, dark and grim. There are very real conflicts, there is betrayal and death. Characters are wounded and they rise and fall from tragic archetypes to simple folly, though the usual, the obvious, doesn’t happen. There is much that can be said to all this – Bullington’s writing is layered with thematic depth and historical context. And frankly, I didn’t get it (at least not all of it). I typically consider that a good thing as it shows the book has deeper context and meaning than can be easily gained. And for that context, I recommend reading Indrapramit Das’s review over at Strange Horizons, it goes farther and deeper than I could ever hope to.
So far this review has meandered, only hinted at plot and character, and gained and lost momentum. In this, it mirrors The Folly of the World. The Folly of the World starts out fast, slows in the middle, only to pick up pace again toward the end. In all honesty, I almost did not finish this book. I kept waiting to see where the book was going, when that twist would occur. One twist occurred, and the second I kept waiting for felt like it never happened. Yes there were events and happens of importance to the story, but not at the level I was expecting (or hoping for?). With less than a hundred pages until the end I put the book down and seriously questioned whether I should bother continuing. I wish I could say that I felt that I had to know the end, but really I only continued because I felt that I had put in a lot of time already and just a bit more to finish it off made sense. I simply didn’t care – the title indicates that it’s the folly of the World, perhaps indicating a story of great significance to the world itself. It’s not. In fact it’s barely even significant in the dusty forgotten historical context it’s presented in. It’s only significant to the actual characters of the book.
Upon reflection I think this fits with the book. The book is folly, it’s the folly of humanity. It’s about unexpected love and dedication. It shows that what is important and significant varies greatly by perspective. It’s a book that the reader must love to hate and hate to love. It’s a book that works best when one can’t decide if it should be finished or not. That’s the folly of the book as well as the story within.
Did I enjoy The Folly of the World? That’s an answer I’m still searching for, but overall I think I can only say marginally. Do I appreciate The Folly of the World? Yes, Yes, YES. What Bullington does in this book is masterful, especially in the context of the conversation occurring in genre right now around grimdark, what it is and what, if any, value it brings. It’s a harsh truth, it’s a lot of harsh truths, it’s folly, it’s no easy journey to take, and not everyone will finish it. This only increases the ultimate value, if not necessarily its overall appeal.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Last week I wrote this post, where I point to this post that shows some statistics for SFF Review blogs about how many male authors are reviewed vs. female authors and compares those results with the gender of the bloggers. It's a good post and it's an important thing to remember, so I once again encourage all to read it.
Today I was bored, or more correctly procrastinating. So, I wanted to look at things a big differently. Basically, I looked at all the books I've received digitally and physically over the past 6 months or so and I noted the gender of the author. Now, this is not a good sample in that some of these books were requested, though the vast majority are not. Some of the digital books were purchased rather than provided, and with the digital books I often do more selecting rather than simply receiving. Also, there is some overlap where I have both digital and physical copies of books. None of those factors were controlled for, but I think that it doesn't take away from the overall numbers that certainly prove interesting.
In the last 6 months I've received 79 digital books and 103 physical books, for a total of 182 books.
Total = 79
Male Author = 51
Female Author = 28
Percent Male = 65%
Percent Female = 35%
Total = 103
Male Author = 77
Female Author = 26
Percent Male = 75%
Percent Female = 25%
Total = 182
Male Author = 128
Female Author = 54
Percent Male = 70%
Percent Female = 30%
There are some interesting trends to note - the books that publishers choose to physically send me are overwhelmingly male authored, and more so than the digital books that I take a more active role in selecting. But, looking at the numbers here, it's not surprising that I read more male authors than female authors (last year I read about 65%-35% male to female authors). I'd have to work pretty hard to do otherwise. Now, obviously that statement comes with a lot caveats and such and does not take into account the hundreds of books I have at home to select from and such, but I still think it's not a coincidence.
Of course, if I read more male authors than female authors, it only makes sense for publishers to send me more books written by men, doesn't it? So, we come to a chicken/egg issue - do I read more male authors because that's what is sent to me, or do I get sent more male authors because I read more male authors? Sure, the answer is way more complicated, but I still think it's an important issue to look at.
But anyway, I think the take-home point should be this. If a goal is to get more reviews for SFF books authored by women, particularly for the case of male reviewers, then the problem become clear. No improvement will be made if the publishing machine (publicists, authors, editors, etc.) sends out books as they do now with 75% of them being authored by men and only 25% authored by women.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Lady Business has done a study of author gender and SFF review blogs again for 2012, as she did for 2011, though this time her sampling methods are more statistically robust and should paint a more representative picture of the state of things. The results are not surprising or mind boggling - if you are a male reviewer, you almost certainly review way more books authored by men then women. If you are a female reviewer, you are more likely to review a near equal number or more women authors than male authors. The numbers are striking and telling. Unfortunately it's the same old story.
And, yes, my blog was included in the study, and yes, my blog mirrors the overall trends. According to her numbers, 35% of the authors I reviewed were female (which is at least better than the average of 25% percent female authors for male reviewers). And just as a general FYI, for the 7+-year life of this blog - I've only reviewed about 20% female authors versus 80% male (so, the numbers show that my awareness of the issue is leading to change - which is good).
Anyway, I suggest that you read her post and think on it. It's an important issue and she does a great job of showing why. Especially if you are a male reader/reviewer - think on it.
Anyway, I suggest that you read her post and think on it. It's an important issue and she does a great job of showing why. Especially if you are a male reader/reviewer - think on it.
Monday, March 11, 2013
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) defies easy classification. On one hand it is a standard sort of second-world fantasy that somewhat fits the definition of epic fantasy– though the standard quest is shared by 2 enemies and manages to sweep up an innocent bystander. On another hand, it’s a sort of fantasy western with a modern take on Manifest Destiny-style attitudes, unchecked development, indigenous rights, etc., and with the inclusion of machine-based technology, The Half-Made World is made for slapping the __punk label to it, though I’ve most often seen cyberpunk or steampunk thrown about, which is a bit disappointing as I’d expect it to be more of westernpunk, petropunk, six-shooterpunk, or some other more creative punkness attribute. But most often The Half-Made World is considered Weird, or perhaps Weird Western. I can’t help but agree that the weird label fits it best, though I must admit that it chafes a bit that I’ve decided to utilize labels to frame start of this review.
In The Half-Made World physical laws don’t really exist to same extent as in most second-world fantasy, instead Gilman builds his world based on thematic laws. The world is only half-made, and the world only becomes made when ‘Western’-style development occurs, when humans expand their control of the world, and the world is most fully made once control moves from the hardy (and unsophisticated) pioneers of the frontier to the full order of the Line. The world is less made, or even un-made where humans haven’t yet penetrated, where the Folk (think indigenous people) exist with their indefinable magic and symbiosis with the land. Opposing the order of the Line is not the disorder of the un-made, but the near-nihilistic (or perhaps anarchistic or libertarian) Order of the Gun.
It’s in this worldbuilding that Gilman really shines – yes, this is a wonderfully built world in the sense of second-world fantasy, but it’s also thematic building. Gilman makes the worldbuilding so much more than just a setting, but a literary exercise in its own right. And at the same time, he playfully subverts himself – for his fully-realized and built world, is only ‘half-made’. The resisting force to order, is the Order of the Gun. This playful use of language to subvert the expected and even what Gilman is attempting to achieve, occurs throughout the book, but is perhaps most recognizable in the first half or so.
Balancing the study on worldbuilding is a study on character, with three focus points, and arguably a fourth. Liv is the equivalent of psychologist focusing on madness who unexpectedly (and irrationally?) journeys west for an opportunity of study. Of course, she is recovering from her own mental illness and has an unrealized addiction to opium. Creedmore is a charming, charismatic, and deadly Agent of the Gun. He fills the role of anti-hero as at times he has an apparent heart of gold, yet he kills with abandon, destruction follows his path, selfishness rules whenever possible, and yet he’s always beholden to his the spirit-like force of the Gun and their agenda. Lowery is member of the Line, he is order, he is conformity, he is the face of the unstoppable force. He struggles with self and the paranoia of completely controlled environment. The wild-west doesn’t just unsettle him and the Line, but is its antithesis. A fourth character is the focus of the quest – The General. The General is mad and damaged beyond repair from the forever war waged by the Line. The General also is in possession of the MacGuffin – something that the Line and the Gun both need to win their ever-ongoing fight and both need to keep out of the hands of their bitter enemy. This knowledge is buried inside his madness.
This character study is not as fully built as the world in terms of the thematic laws that govern Gilman’s creation, though it’s strong enough to support a balance. And it throws into view, something I haven’t really discussed yet – plot. Yes, there is a plot. The plot is strong enough to drive the story, motivate the characters and survive the world, yet it’s arguably not the point. Perhaps the plot is the actual MacGuffin here, I’m not sure. It sort of makes me want wonder what M. John Harrison would think of it all – after all, this book is either a giant ‘FU’ to Harrison’s views on fantasy and genre, or it’s the logical next step. It’s probably both, and it’s a bit weird as well, which generally makes his sort rather pleased. But I digress.
Since The Half-Made World was originally released in 2010, there are quite a few reviews and other reactions that can be found. After looking through a few I noticed that the ending is often panned, or at least highlighted as a relative low point in the book, with almost every one working in the ‘clever’ half-made ending (or similar) comment. I can sort of see why, though I think mostly it’s simply that people want an ending to be a resolution rather than the beginning of yet another adventure. However, remembering that the building blocks behind the world, the characters and even the plot are truly thematic blocks, I think that the ‘half-made ending’ can only be considered entirely appropriate. Though perhaps it functions as a third MacGuffin to which I can only react with maniacal giggling. Anyway, it’s worth noting that The Half-Made World is not a stand-alone and the sequel, The Rise of Ransom City (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), is available, so hopefully the half-made ending will now just be an enticement to continue on that much sooner.
Gilman is an author I’ve been hearing good things about for a number of years now, and The Half-Made World has shown me why. It encompasses much of what it means to be genre, yet subverts the stereotype by thematically building everything such that everything has meaning – and the craft that it takes to make it all work is impressive. And work it does – The Half-Made World can function as a fun, fantastically weird western and as a stylistic novel with great thematic depth to be delved, parsed, examined, and even re-made. In that, the appeal is wide and this book should be widely read. So what are waiting for … punk!?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Wow, it's been weeks since my last post. I suppose that's mostly the result of how crazy busy I've been, but then I'm always crazy busy. I've been doing some travel for work and I've got some more travel coming. Then Spring Break for the kids. Then...who knows, I just hope it's good news rather than bad. And I hope congress pulls their heads out of their asses and does their job so my wife doesn't go on furlough. But I digress.
Things will continue to be quite around here. I still owe reviews on The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) and Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) . And now I'm reading The Folly of the World by Jesse Bullington (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) - this one is so far not what I expected. I think that's a good thing, as it's my first Bullington book, the style is a bit different from the typical SFF novel. Certainly night and day compared to the book I read immediately before by de Lint.
Anyway, I may find time this week to wrap up a review and I may not. Time will tell and the next book review will be written and posted when it's ready. I've long ago gotten past the need to post as regularly as 'they' say I should.
I'll leave with the books I've received over the last month or so. As usual, it doesn't count the electronic copies I've gotten, which are near as many (with a few duplicates). Ciao!
|Books Received: January 24 - February 26, 2013|
Monday, February 04, 2013
Well, yesterday was the 7-year 'blogday' for Neth Space, so this is the obligatory blog post celebrating just how great my blog is. In all seriousness, it has been a great run and I plan to move forward and see where the blog takes over the next few years.
OK, carry on. Back to doing things far less imporant that this blog post.
Friday, February 01, 2013
After reading Myke Cole’s debut, Shadow Ops: Control Point (my review, Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) in 2012, the sequel, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) immediately became a must-read for me. However I can’t help but notice that everyone else seems to think as highly of Cole as I do – a quick check of blogs that I follow will find that most have reviewed Fortress Frontier already. And generally, I agree with what they say – it’s a great book. It’s an improvement over Control Point, and the new protagonist is one I like a lot better. The world is bigger, the adventure more epic, and the depth of thought is still there. I called Shadow Ops this generation’s The Forever War, and with the sequel, these books really are a story for the current generation, one that struggles with the might of the government, the threat of terrorism, and the loss of freedom. These books make me think.
But, the review saturation had sapped my enthusiasm for writing a review. I couldn’t find anything new to add to the conversation. Yep, Cole is awesome, the book is awesome, go read it. Do I really need to say it too?
So, I’ve thought about things and then my contribution to the conversation finally clicked into place. I imagine I was somewhat inspired by this review over at Tor.com. There is a short discussion of criticism of the book, which stands out because of the relative lack of them in reviews for Fortress Frontier. The discussion mentions that Cole’s world is a man’s world with relatively few female characters (dare I use the word ‘token’?). Well, that’s not my focus here, but it’s certainly worth noting and discussing in its own right.
A common thread through all of those reviews I’ve mentioned above is that they like the protagonist (Colonel Bookbinder) that Cole focuses on in Fortress Frontier a lot better than the protagonist (Oscar) from Shadow Ops. I share this feeling – I enjoyed Bookbinder much more. If you go back and search out reviews of Shadow Ops, the biggest criticism that you’re going to come across is a dislike for Oscar. Take another look at all these reviews I’m mentioning – they are written by white people*. Take a look at Bookbinder (white) and Oscar (black). Now, there are lots of reasons why I think Bookbinder is a character that more can relate to. There are lots of examples of Cole simply improving as a writer. But I’m not going to talk about any of them. I’m simply going to point this out – the near-universal opinion that Bookbinder is a more enjoyable protagonist than Oscar is essentially has a direct correlation to race.
Tell me I imagining things. Tell me that it’s a coincidence and not real (after all, remember, I’m a white guy who likes Bookbinder a lot more as well). But, the more I think on it, the more troubled I am about it.
And do you know what? This is just one way that Myke Cole’s books have got me thinking. It may not be what he intended (or hell, maybe it is), but it’s there. And it’s yet another reason why people should read his books. In my review of Control Point I compared Cole with Haldeman. I’ll make another comparison now (and I try to never make comparisons in reviews, but I’ve got to mix things up too) – Myke Cole is the most exciting SFF author to come along since Joe Abercrombie. And considering all the great authors that have entered the scene over the past few years, that’s high praise.
*Admittedly, just how many SFF review bloggers out there aren’t white?
For a while now I've been thinking on my attitude toward 'indie' books and authors. Back when I began writing it was pretty straightforward - avoid them at all costs. The truth is that I still generally feel that way. I simply don't have the time to sort through the dross to find something that is any good. And there are no trustworthy sources that I know of that do that sorting for me.
But, the face of self-publishing is changing. Established authors do it for some projects, for their back list, charity anthologies, etc. It can no longer be said that self publishing is synonymous with crap. It's harder and harder to sort out a traditionally published author from self-published authors. And it's becoming increasingly clear that there are some self-published books that are indeed very good - for example, at least one made the 2012 Locus Recommended Reading List - Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey (Amazon).
So, basically, I don't think I can outright refuse to read self-published books anymore. Now, I'm not changing my review policy (and for now the harsh language will remain). And generally speaking, review inquiries for self-published books will continue to go into my spam folder, or get deleted unread, etc. But, when I hear about exceptions often enough, I'll certainly consider them.
Over the past few months I've started to head down this road - I've ordered a few self-published collections/anthologies (mostly for charitable causes). However, over the past few days I've gotten copies of a few, truly self-published books. They are now lined up in the insanely long queue with all the other books I receive. But, I do imagine I will try one or two of them soon. And for me, that's a big change.
Monday, January 28, 2013
In case you haven't heard, the classic magazine Amazing Stories is being rebooted, by long-time SFF personality Steve Davidson. He has enlisted a whole bunch of familiar names (bloggers, fans, authors, etc.) to provide great content daily. I've agreed to periodically contribute (monthly) and my first post went live the other day: A New Generation of Star Wars.
Yes, it's another post about Star Wars and the forthcoming new movies. I don't discuss potential directors, writers, or plots. I take a step back and look at what Star Wars was to me in my youth, and then I look to what the new Star Wars could be for my young children. Basically, it doesn't matter to me (much) whether or not the new Star Wars works for me, but I can't wait to see how it works for my kids.
Friday, January 25, 2013
I love that brief time that happens when I’m between books (I tend to only read one at a time) – when I search my mood, search my bookcase and Nook and try to figure out just what I want to read. I’m never without good options and the decision is often challenging. After the exhaustion of reading the last book of a 14-book series that I have invested nearly 20 years in, I wasn’t sure what I looking for. Then I came by The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). It’s fantasy but not epic. It’s historical, but not really. It’s set in an out of the way town bordering a desert in Nevada where the local silver mine has gone bust. I live in the West, spend a lot of time in the desert, and occasionally work at mines in Nevada – so, it just seemed to fit.
Golgotha is town where odd things happen – and usually people die as a result. The sheriff is rumored to be immortal, bears the scars of multiple hangings, and keeps a supply of silver bullets handy. His deputy is the son of a coyote trickster, the local tinkerer reads Mary Shelley way too literally, the local land baron has been around a long time, mysterious things happen over in Chinatown and a new kid stumbles into town, hiding from a wanted poster and carrying the eye of his dead father.
In The Six-Gun Tarot, Belcher seemingly throws everything he can think of into the mix, and it somehow works. On one hand this is standard western with a mysterious kid coming to an even more mysterious town. One another hand it’s tale of religious fervor and the end of the world with a bit of Lilith mythos thrown in for good measure. On yet another tentacle, it’s the horror of zombies and a Cthulhu-like mythos that includes Mormons, the Chinese and even a Fallen angel or two. It’s the battleground between creation and the void. It’s been likened to steampunk, weird westerns and ‘Buffy meets Deadwood’ – and as cringing as the last one sounds, it sort of fits in a good way.
Of course, throwing so much into the book is also one its biggest flaws. Belcher has a lot of points of view in this book, and especially in the beginning, and this can lead to confusion. Some points of view seem to reveal info they shouldn’t know, and the info dumps are often a bit to clumsy. In combination with the pacing issues common in debuts, the story can abruptly grind to a halt and jarringly pick up again.
As I often see in first-time writers, their enthusiasm can get ahead of them. Belcher has a tendency to over-write in some areas, seemingly showing off. Occasionally it’s eye-rolling bad. But, overall, the prose is good. There is subtlety that is played well. The town of Golgotha, a character in its own right, has a history. A history that is often mentioned off-handedly, yet the in a few lines deep meaning is portrayed. Those are stories I’d like to hear about, but appropriately, those stories aren’t told in this book.
Belcher also creates some endearing characters. If there’s a main character, it’s probably Jim – a young kid on the run. He’s one you can cheer for, even if he’s probably the weakest of the lot. His back story, told in flashbacks, is one tragedy after another – literal punches in the gut. However, it’s Sheriff Highfather that is probably my favorite – his complicated past is only hinted at – a man with a just and open mind, a man who does what needs doing. Whether that’s keeping up the supply of silver bullets or salting an unmarked grave. The others are well done too – Maude and her history, Mutt, Augie and the Widow Gillian, and the mayor – who’s battle with his sexuality and religion, is well done side-plot.
By the end of The Six-Gun Tarot, the pacing issues and point of view confusion were forgotten. I was completely immersed in the story and I couldn’t not put the book aside. I loved the crazy, anything can happen in this town vibe. I love the way people banded together, often in spite of very real differences. I love the history of the town that we only see hints of. The fact that I stayed up late to finish is one of the biggest complements I can give a book – I’m nearly always sleep deprived and when I put a book before needed sleep it’s saying something. Belcher’s debut surprised me in just how much I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next out of Golgotha – but I’ll be honest, I hope it’s not too wrapped up in the Frankenstein hints that populate the novel.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
This post is going to be all over the place. An update of what I'm up to, a few links of potential interest, and the usual photo of books I've received. So, let's get to it.
- And I'm behind on reviews again, which is a surpise to know one who actually reads this blog. I owe my review for Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) soon, though he's getting so much press from pretty much every other blogger that I may make it pretty brief. I also need to write a review for The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) , which I liked a lot.
- I just finished up The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon) which was honestly a rather pleasant surprise. This may be the next review I write just so that it gets some press it deserves - it was released on Tuesday the 22nd. But until then, I'll throw out a couple of links - a guest post by Belcher and a interview with Belcher.
- Today Brandon Sanderson did a Tor Chat over on Twitter, mostly about A Memory of Light and The Wheel of Time (the transcript is here). Of course I asked a few questions and he answered a couple, but the most interesting to me was that he revealed the identity of the point of view for the deleted chapter that will be published as a short story in the forethcoming Unfettered anthology (details here). That point of view is Bao the Wyld - those who have read A Memory of Light know the other name we know him as. I'm excited! (my review of A Memory of Light, a spoiler reaction, and an interview with Brandon about it) Edit: below is the quote from the TorChat:
“River of Souls,” the forthcoming Wheel of Time short story featured in Unfettered is a collection of scenes that illustrate Demandred/Bao the Wyld’s story leading up to A Memory of Light.
- Along those lines, Jason over at Dragonmount has been good to me over the years with throwing a lot of traffic my way. So, I'll potentially throw some back at him - he's doing a Kickstarter for fantasy movie he's producing - it just needs the final touches at this point and the goal has just about been met. Consider giving it some support.
- The rebooted Amazing Stories is live now. I'll actually be contributing periodically.
- I've been fan of the Wheel of Time audiobooks for a while now - I use them as re-reads for the series and it's a great way to pass the time during my weekly 2.5-hour commute that I do for work. The folks over at Macmillan audio gave me a sample of Chapter 3 of A Memory of Light - check it out.
- And finally, below is the photo of books I've received in the last month or so.
|Books Received: December 24, 2012 - January 23, 2013|
Monday, January 21, 2013
2012 was another busy year here at Neth Space. The real world has kept me from reading as much as I’d like – but that’s nothing new, just a bit extreme as life at home and work keeps me crazy busy. I only managed to read 22 books in 2012, a disappointment, but I still count it as a victory. A few interesting stats are summed up below.
- 22 books read
- 13 Published in 2012
- 3 Published in 2011
- 2 Will be published in 2013
- 2 are what I consider YA (up from 0 in 2011)
- 16 are part of a series
- 15 were provided by the publisher
- 4 are debuts
- I read more books published by Random House (7) and its various imprints than any other – 4 from Del Rey, 1 from Doubleday, and 2 from Transworld (which is UK, so I’m not sure if it counts). I also read 5 from Tor and 3 from Night Shade.
- 4 books were published by ‘small press’ (same as last year)
- None were anthologies or collections (down from 1 last year)
- 7 were written by female authors (up from 4 last year and counting K.J. Parker as female) and 2 were written by a person of color or other distinct ethnicity from my own (up from 1 last year) (possibly more since this is a difficult thing to keep track of)
- 3 are what I consider science fiction (same as last year)
- 9 are what I consider epic fantasy (up from 8 last year)
- Only 1 is what I consider steampunk (same)
- 8 are what I consider urban fantasy (up from 6)
- 1 is what I consider sword and sorcery (down from 2)
- Only is what I consider alternative history/historical fantasy (same)
- I conducted only 1 interview and helped out with a couple of others
- There have been approximately 53,000 site visits this year (not counting RSS) from 144 countries. About the same as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that … – I’m quietly happy as a mid-list blogger.
- The Westeros Forums, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist and Twitter are the top referring sites (other than Google).
- My post about the release date for the next book by Scott Lynch was the most popular post (when’s it going to be published, Scott?), followed by my review of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson. Third place goes to my review of The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie – a series that has been out for a while now and a review that is several years old (this was 3rd place last year as well). This tells me that Joe has a strong staying power (or that my Google-fu for that post is particularly good).
- And I posted a bunch of reviews of the scotch/whisky that I enjoy drinking while I read.
So, the best books I read this year are listed below. With only 22 total books read this year, I’ve limited it to the few that managed to stand out.
For all its flaws, I’d been waiting for this one for almost 20 years and I thought it paid off. Laughter and Tears. (review)
Just wow. In any other year this would have been tops. A spectacular debut and I can’t wait for more. (review)
I had to see what all the buzz was about. It turned out that I really enjoyed it. (review)
Of course there are quite a few very good books that didn’t quite crack the uppermost tie – the 2 below just missed the cut. But really, I only read 2 or 3 books that I wouldn’t recommend for one reason or another.
Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick (review)
Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover (review)
And for kicks – the worst book I read in 2012
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte (review)
Please read the review – it was so awful that everyone should have a taste.
And the most disappointing book I read in 2012
Orb, Sceptre, Throne by Ian C. Esslemont (review)
After the big improvement that I thought Esslemont had with Stoneweilder (review) I was very disappointed by the step back. This one was a mess that I can only recommend to the hardiest of Malazan fans.
Monday, January 07, 2013
One advantage of having a blog like this is that over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. And when the fan in me finishes reading a book I’ve been waiting almost 20 years to read, I know who I can email to possibly have a few questions answered. While, I suppose that this is an interview, it may be more helpful to view this simply as a conversation that I’m making public. These aren’t questions that I thought long and hard about and these aren’t questions that are designed to serve as a resource to fans, etc. These are simply some questions/reactions that I had while reading A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (my ‘non-spoiler’ review, Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon), which I assume that you all know is the 14th and final book in The Wheel of Time (WOT) series. Ideally, this would have simply been an in-person conversation that I had with Brandon, but of course that wasn’t in the cards. So, they probably aren’t the questions you would have asked, but they were questions that I had.
Beware the spoilers! This short Q&A discusses A Memory of Light (AMOL) and there are spoilers in the questions and answers. Some of the spoilers discussed are pretty big reveals – the details may not be discussed, but a few significant events are revealed.
Thanks to Brandon and his assistant Peter for making this happen. Enjoy!
Neth Space: How much have ideas that you or other members of Team Jordan first saw in fans discussion influenced the book? Spoiler follow-up: Such as the tactical use of gateways?
Brandon: Tactical use of gateways is honestly all me. I hadn’t even played Portal before I wrote these books. I have since went back and played it, and they’re doing some of the same fun stuff. That was me from years and years ago as a guy who likes magic systems reading the Wheel of Time books and saying, “If I had gateways, this is what I would do.” In fact, I had built up some magic systems using things like gateways that I will never be able to use now, because I got handed the master magic system with gateways.
Team Jordan was somewhat uncomfortable with my use of gateways, in a lot of ways. They felt I was pushing them. But my response back was that I didn’t want to push the magic system in other ways; I didn’t want to be inventing a lot of new weaves. I didn’t want to be doing a lot of things like that, because I felt it would be taking the system too much in the directions I take the Brandon Sanderson systems. I really do like Robert Jordan’s magic system, but I wanted to take some of the specifics that had already been done, such as gateways, and say, “Here’s where you can extrapolate with them.”
As for other things that have been discussed in the fandom—I certainly wasn’t as big a part of the fandom as I am now, not anywhere near it. For instance, I didn’t care about Asmodean until I started talking to other Wheel of Time fans, and it was a big deal to them, and so it became a big deal to me. There are certain things that through fandom and talking to other fans you tend to rally around, that I kind of wanted. One was a reunion between Tam and Rand. There are other things like that, that for a long time we’d been waiting for and we’d talked to each other about, and we’d imagined what they’d be like. Those sorts of things did influence me; I had to be really careful not to be too influenced though. Being too influenced would lead me to put in lots of inside jokes, things like Narg—that would have been letting the fan in me run too wild. So I did have to rein that in.
It’s hard for me to separate the years of talking about the Wheel of Time with friends and reading about the Wheel of Time from what I eventually ended up doing in the books. Once I did start working on the books, I didn’t go plumbing through fan forums looking for things that should be included. I specifically stayed away from things like that, though I did suggest to Maria at times that she should watch and see what people were expecting, so that we would know what things we were not going to end up fulfilling, and could be prepared for them.
Neth Space: You have a tendency to break the 4th wall at times in your WOT writing. How did you come to this choice as it’s not a technique that Robert Jordan used? How have Team Jordan and fans of the series reacted to this?
Brandon: My answer is that I disagree with you. I don’t think any of those things break the fourth wall. Robert Jordan put fan names in the books; he named things in the books after streets in his hometown; he named characters after people he knew. That’s how he wrote these books, and it’s how I’ve written all of my books. It’s just how you get inspired as a writer. With Roedran, I honestly think that’s what Rand would think and say; it’s what he would come up with. It’s one of the big theories I felt was really what Rand would consider in-world. So I just have to disagree with you; I don’t think that any of this is breaking the fourth wall.
Neth Space: As I was reading AMOL there were many times where I was fairly overcome with emotion – which is not too common of a reading experience with me. To use a WOT phrase – laughter and tears. Sometimes I just had to set the book aside for few minutes to let the motion calm down. I’m not novelist, but through this blog and my day job I do write a fair amount. I’ve experienced that sense of pride, that sense of emotional overload that happens when the writing feels right, when my emotions for what I’m are writing cross over onto the pages themselves. I imagine that as you’ve written the final three WOT books you’ve experienced similar feelings. That you sometimes sit down to dinner with your family after writing and are overcome with your love for them as a result of what you had just written. That you have that urge to hug, love and be comforted as events from you’re writing stick with you. Assuming you can relate to this, please share a moment or two.
Brandon: Boy, that’s a hard one, because those are going to be personal moments. You describe it quite well, but it’s the sort of thing that happens with writing any series. The most personal moments for me honestly happened when I read the ending years ago. For me, the series has been finished already for all of that time. It has been an emotional experience, and I’m certain it will continue to be one.
You also have to remember that writing this was very draining, and that has kind of the opposite emotional effect. But I’m not a terribly emotional person. I’m not sure I can come up with anything specific other than that night sitting and reading the ending that Robert Jordan had written.
This is spoilery, but there’s also the moment when I wrote Egwene’s death scene—that was probably the most emotional scene I wrote. I finished it, and then it was like a “wow, so that just happened” sort of moment. I don’t know if I can describe it in the same way.
For you, reading the book, these moments are going to come like unexpected smacks to the face. For me, I spent five months working on the outline for this book specifically, after I had spent months outlining the other two books. So I knew what was coming, and that makes it a different experience.
Neth Space: Spoiler follow-up: What specific scenes in your writing proved to be the most memorable? What are a few of your favorites from the final three books in the series?
Brandon: Perrin forging his hammer is probably my favorite that I worked on extensively. My favorite that Jim worked on extensively would be Verin’s last scene. Rand atop Dragonmount at the end of The Gathering Storm is a pretty big one for me. In the last book, my favorite would have to be Lan’s charge right at the end, which is a scene that I worked out years ago, that I pointed a lot of things toward, and specifically in this book built a lot of things around. For a fun scene, getting Mat on the back of a raken was a pure joy for me to be able to do.
What other scenes really stand out to me? Robert Jordan’s last scene, which I’ve mentioned before, is a great one because it’s become the focus, for me, for the entire sequence that I have written. From the beginning, that was the ending that I was working toward. So I was very excited to be able to actually get there.
That’s just a few scenes; there are a lot of them in this book and the series.
EDIT: Thanks to the folks over at Macmillan Audio I have an audio sample from Chapter 3 to share with (no big spoilers). I love the audiobooks and have been using them as 're-reads' for years, so give it a shot.