Monday, March 30, 2009

Review: Buyout by Alexander C. Irvine

People endlessly debate and lament the death of science fiction while Alexander C. Irvine’s newest book, Buyout (US, UK, Canada), quietly proves that science fiction is indeed alive and kicking. Irvine’s view into a foreseeable future shows a disturbing vision where the price of a human life becomes very real.

It’s the year 2040 and things have gone bad. Global warming has ruined much of the land, even destabilizing parts of the U.S. Capitalism continues to run rampant and thanks to the wonders of internet and its evolutions, it is a true surveillance society. But Buyout isn’t really about any of that. Martin Kindred is offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to become a new kind of agent at his restructured insurance company. The cost of incarcerating a convicted convict for the rest of their life is huge and in an age of private prisons, it’s an affront to profit. A new charter system allows ‘lifers’ to take a buyout – a predetermined amount of money, typically in the millions of dollars, and distribute it to whoever they want. The price of the money is literally their life. For agreeing to die, criminals get to give a lot of money away – to atone for their sins, provide for family, or whatever. Life has a price and Martin’s life will never be the same.

Buyout began for me as a concept book – a book much more about the message than the story it was telling. The message of course is both very interesting and provocative enough to carry the book – but without emphasis on the story, it could only carry things so far. Somewhere just past the half-way mark, this changed. I had just figured out the only way the book could sensibly end when extra twist began to show. The ending became much less clear (though it turns out I was pretty close) and an interesting thing happened that just hadn’t been present up to this point – I began to care. While I hesitate to say the characters had been mere caricatures, they had seemed to fill a role in a story rather than live. This turned around fairly quickly – Martin suddenly became someone interesting and more than a series of observations from his best friend, Charlie. The meat of Buyout was as present as ever, but the change was that I now cared about what was going to happen.

I suspect that this wasn’t an intentional effect planned by Irvine, but it turns out to be a powerful one. In the first half of the novel, the message was what mattered and it focused my thoughts. The story was a vehicle. Only later did the story jump to the forefront, but rather than supplant the message, the two were able to coexist. The result makes the book more than an interesting (even important) thought experiment, but a truly excellent story – and happening when it did, it caught me off-guard.

As I indicated above, Buyout is a slow start. The characterization feels rather weak with Charlie, through his observations of Martin, standing out as the only one of the bunch that’s interesting. The approach to show so much of Martin through Charlie is interesting and I think ads to the emphasis on message rather than the people in the story. Martin really does come across as a character in a role rather than a human being – which is a thought that has occupied my head for a few days now. Another curious reaction was my confusion of Charlie and Martin – for a good portion of the book I couldn’t keep the two strait. Is this my own laziness and lack of ability to keep names strait (if I meet you, I’ll probably forget your name within the first second of your saying it) or is it a goal of the author to further his point? Or is this due to Irvine switching view points seemingly mid-paragraph and certainly without a clear break in the writing. This is often one of my biggest criticisms of writing – and oddly one that I continually forget to include in reviews – but in this case, it seems intentional.

So, I keep mentioning the message while avoiding discussion of it. This is absolutely intentional. It’s powerfully provocative (which is only surpassed by its provocative power) and one that deserves deep thought and discussion (neither of which I’m particularly good at). What I like best is that Irvine has managed to frame the book around a highly charged issue that can neither be classified as conservative nor liberal. It’s both at the same time. It’s crime and punishment, it’s the right to life, it’s the right to die, and it’s all about the money.

Framing the entire novel are commentaries from an underground radio host that begin each chapter – the rantings of Walt Dangerfield. I love the name, I love what he has to say, and I love the spin it puts on events of the book while simultaneously showing us some of other horrific changes of Irvine’s new world order. It is indeed a brave new world.

Buyout by Alex Irvine caught me by surprise. I was looking for a change of pace and the obvious message behind this book looked to be the thought exercise my brain needed. It proved to be much more. So, science fiction isn’t dead, though it does beg the question of what kind of buyout it could get. 8.5/10

A Memory of Light - Volume 1 (of 3): The Gathering Storm

So, the big Wheel of Time news that has been anticipated (and somewhat scooped) is now official. A Memory of Light will be divided into 3 volumes - each roughly 250,000 words - and published over a 2-year period beginning with the release of A Memory of Light Volume 1: The Gathering Storm on November 3rd, 2009. You can read the entire press release here and there is an interesting interview with Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan's widow, heir and primary editor of A Memory of Light) at Dragonmount.

My reaction: as a huge Wheel of Time fan (in terms of fandom it brought me to where I am now), I am excited to hear news and excited to get the first installment later this fall. But I'm unhappy that it has to be split into 3 volumes - that is simply too long. One of the biggest issues with Wheel of Time has always been the length and feeling that it needs some strong editing to cut out the fat. 3 volumes tells me that this will continue to be an issue. On the other hand, as a fan this means there will be even more Wheel of Time - more time with characters and a world that I love and have spent a lot of time with over the past 15 years. I suppose that means I'm conflicted.

And on my mystical third hand, I am both excited for and disappointed with how this will effect Brandon Sanderson. I've come to enjoy his writing a lot and I can't wait to see what he does with the Wheel of Time. But this is taking up even more of his time and taking away from his own fiction that I wish he were writing. I also fear that his career will become defined by his involvement in Wheel of Time rather than standing on its own (as it should).

So, what are your thoughts?

EDIT: Brandon Sanderson gives us the breakdown from his viewpoint (long). It's a very thoughtful and informative post and I think the fans should be happy and feel a bit better about things after reading it. My response: Bravo Brandon. Keep writing, hold the course and I look forward to reading it all.

PS: Of course the most important question of all is in which volume will we find out who killed Asmodean - because nothing else really matters ;)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: Foundling by D.M. Cornish

Foundling begins the Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish (US, UK, Canada). Aimed at the YA audience, it achieves that magical ability to cross-over and appeal to adults just as easily through a thoroughly realized world and a heartfelt story that can appeal to pretty much anybody.

Instead of Sue, Cornish names his ill-named male protagonist Rossamünd, who quickly becomes the timeless lovable looser (also an orphan). The story opens with Rossamünd being pummeled by a bully in stick fight at the orphanage called Madam Opera’s Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls. Instead of a dilapidated place of suffering, this orphanage is a place of education and hope that trains orphans to join the Empire’s navy. Rossamünd is at an age when he can expect to be hired out at any time and is disappointed when it is revealed that instead of the navy, he finds himself conscripted into the lamplighters – a soldier tasked with lighting lamps on the Empire’s many long and lonely roadways. The remaining pages tell the fascinating story of Rossamünd’s journey to his new post – a journey fraught with danger as he learns valuable lessons about who and what the real monsters of the world are.

Immediately setting Cornish’s creation apart is its setting – a vast Victorian Empire, reminiscent of Australia in its geography, containing a depth rarely found in fiction of any sort. The Empire is land of united city-states full of their own rivalry yet bound together in their war against monsters. The land and the water are full of monsters (known as bogles, knickers and many other terms) with humans fighting for land and survival. Rather than swords, monsters are fought with chemistry – potions of repellent and all kinds of nastiness – and surgically altered humans that are endowed with spectacular powers (such as the ability to make, store and release huge amounts of electricity). The seas of the world are caustic vinegar and while much is reminiscent of an earlier time, things are equally alien. Supporting this world are Cornish’s own excellent illustrations and a massively informative appendix full of maps and definitions that weighs in at a healthy 121 pages.

Equally important to the success of the Foundling is Cornish’s wonderful characterization of Rossamünd and those he encounters along his journey – both human and monster. Rossamünd is the standard young man-boy in search of his own identity as well as an understanding to how the world around him actually works. Far from a black and white world where humans are good and monsters evil, he finds a complex world that runs the spectrum. In a few words of simplistic dialogue Cornish manages to perfectly capture an evil-appearing monster that may not be so evil after all. Just as in a few short scenes an apparently helpful river-runner becomes more thoroughly evil than any monster seen. Rossamünd faces some real internal conflict as his understanding of the world and its people is challenged. At the heart of this conflict is the mysterious lahzar Europe, a woman with the power of electricity described above. Lahzars travel the Half-Continent slaying monsters, and as Rossamünd discovers, they even slay the monsters that may not deserve slaying. The message imparted may serve to reinforce the YA-aim of Foundling but remains equally applicable to the more mature audience.

D.M. Cornish’s Foundling focuses on one relatively small corner of the Half-Continent and the story of one seemingly unremarkable young orphan who sets out to find his place in the world. The tale ends as Rossamünd reaches his post to begin the next stage of life as a lamplighter – a tale told in Monster Blood Tattoo Book 2 – Lamplighter (US, UK, Canada). The relatively short portion of Rossamünd’s life shown in Foundling was thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully realized and I look forward to sharing more of his adventures in the future. 7.5/10

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wheel of Time News

So, there is huge Wheel of Time news out today and I know everyone is talking about it. Some of my old friends over at Wotmania have started a new Wheel of Time blog called The Thirteenth Depository, and it is simply spectacular (especially some of the original art work). Since Wotmania plans on closing shop in a few months and future evolution of the site is in doubt, I love to see that the wealth of information is being preserved (Larry has been slowly posting other SFF-related articles and interviews and I may begin to in the near future as well). Anyway, I highly encourage any level of fan to visit.

And about all that other news about A Memory of Light - personally, I think it's a hoax centered around some nugget of truth. I highly doubt that three books is anywhere near reality and that cover art is especially horrendous (and apparently not approved). The title for Volume One seems reasonable enough to me, but is also likely a fabrication. For more info, see Adam's post at the Wertzone and Brandon Sanderson's posts. I'll be waiting to see what Tor's official press release looks like - it's anticipated to come next week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dust of Dreams Prologue Available

I love going to the mailbox because I never know what book(s) I may be getting. Today one of those books that came is the mmpb edition of Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson - which I've reviewed already. But, included at the end is a nice teaser for the next book, Dust of Dreams - the Prologue.

So, I went over to the Malazan forums to see if it was up there and found that it wasn't posted yet. So, I incurred a bit of wrath and envy, but now a version of the Prologue that the admins had been sitting on to see if was final or not has been posted - translation, you can go read it.

The cover art is included as well - I'll see about getting it up since I haven't seen it posted yet. EDIT: included now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

My review of Agent to the Stars is available over at Bookspot Central where I'm an associate reviewer (US, UK, Canada). I enjoyed it - it's pretty much like other Scalzi books with a bit of the first-book syndrome going on.

With the basic premise of the novel being that an alien race has hired a Hollywood agent for representation and to properly introduce them to humanity, a suspension of disbelief is immediately necessary. One could easily nit-pick this novel and its details to death, but when you become tempted to do this, see the first line of this paragraph. This will certainly turn off more than a few readers, so if it sounds dumb and not at all like a proper ‘sci-fi’ novel, then this book isn’t for you. However, if the audacity of the potential stupidity makes you smile, this is definitely a book for you.

Why I love Sy Fy and Other Links

It’s been a while since I shared some links, so here they are. Not many, but enough to stave off boredom for at least 3 minutes.
  • The Science Fiction Channel (SciFi) is now the Sy Fy channel. There is way too much discussion to even try to link – but to some it up: everyone hates the new name. While the title of this post is indeed a blatant attempt to have people click on this post, I agree with the masses on this one. This has to be one of the stupidest moves I’ve seen in a while. In other news, their new slogan “Imagine Greater” is only slightly better than their new name. (Edit: I just heard that Syfy is the plural of a really nasty curse word in Polish that is originally derived from syphillis. How appropriate.)

  • Oh, and this blog is fabulous - thanks to Blood of the Muse for the nod. This is meme I'll not take up directly, so if you feel that you are fabulous, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Review: A Magic of Nightfall by S.L. Farrell

A Magic of Nightfall (US, UK, Canada) is the second volume in the Nessantico Cycle trilogy by S.L. Farrell. Picking up twenty-five years after A Magic of Twilight (US, UK, Canada) it continues the story of Nessantico – city and heart of an empire in peril. This series embraces epic fantasy, utilizing rather than subverting clichés to tell a great story.

The empire of the Holdings is coming apart – Firenzcia has seceded from the Holdings, there is war across the sea with the Westlands, and even the Concénzia Faith has split with rival leaders declaring that they are the true Archigos. With a twenty-five year gap between volumes, A Magic of Nightfall feels different from A Magic of Twilight – more mature and darker. Some of the same point-of-view characters are followed, new characters are introduced and others are killed. Turmoil reigns over it all.

As with A Magic of Twilight, politics rule A Magic of Nightfall and set it apart from most of epic fantasy– very few attain the sophistication here that would have Machiavelli spinning on his (albeit dead) head. In the course of A Magic of Nightfall, 6 heads of state die – due to natural causes, assassination, combat, and even suicide. In all this countless shifting factions are in play – allying, betraying, conquering and dying. Through all this there really aren’t all that many true battles – the politics themselves more than suffice.

As with his previous effort, the characters, which really are at the center of the book, are generally realized rather well. Even when surrounded by seeming larger problems, there’s a human touch at work – mourning for a lost lover, the advent of new love, infidelity, guilt, rivalry, madness, and hope. Some are better realized than others and almost all character development seems to stop just short of how far it could have gone and others serve as a mere plot device to deliver an important event to the reader. Through it all, the characterization does its job – the reader cares to know what happens next.

As with
my review of A Magic of Twilight (at BookSpot Central), A Magic of Nightfall suffers from its use of what I’ll call jargon. Names, titles, places and other things are loaded down with apostrophes and other combinations that are somewhat confounding to the English-speaking tongue. In many ways I find this an enjoyable distinction, but there is no denying the negative effect it has on the pace of the book. While the glossary and appendices at the back of the book help, they can’t speed up the pace or ease of reading. Along these same lines, this book weighs in with a hefty 585 pages that actually seem longer than that.

In reading A Magic of Nightfall, the aims of Farrell become clearer for the Nessantico Cycle. This is the story of a city as much as anything – the first book is twilight, the second nightfall, and the third will be dawn. Another way of looking at this is that we are seeing the decline, death and rebirth of a great city. I find this an interesting approach that I’m mostly enjoying – but I do have some issues. The city of Nessantico, the central focus, doesn’t come alive enough – I’d love to see its personality take over, for it to be the binding character of it all. Instead, Nessantico really is just a setting, with the focus on the people. Now I do enjoy the focus on the people, but the connection of these people to Nessantico isn’t strong enough to bring it all together and to match Farrell’s vision. I love the aim, but the execution comes off only about half-cocked.

As I hinted at above, Farrell doesn’t really do anything new with this book – it’s not what I’d call ‘gritty’ and I can’t say that it aims to subvert the genre in any way, it simply utilizes an epic fantasy setting to tell a story. They key is that it’s a good story and that it’s well told. Farrell’s work seems to get passed over too often and too easily because it doesn’t strive to be on the cutting edge of epic fantasy – do yourself a favor and don’t fall into that trap.

A Magic of Nightfall chronicles the events of Nessantico’s decline through its people and politics. The middle book of the three-book Nessantico Cycle, it is a self-contained story-arc in a series that will conclude with the forthcoming A Magic of Dawn. I highly recommend this series to fans of epic fantasy – particularly fans looking for strong political workings. 7/10

Related Posts:
S.L. Farrell Interview
Point of Interest: My review of A Magic of Twilight at BookSpot Central (FantasyBook Spot) was blurbed by Daw for A Magic of Nightfall and the paperback printing (this is only the second time I’ve been blurbed that I’m aware of).

Monday, March 09, 2009

Jasper Kent Answers Questions Five

Jasper Kent’s Twelve (US, UK, Canada, my review) hit the stores a couple of months ago to much fanfare – in fact it’s already been through several reprints. In Twelve Kent combines Napoleon’s invasion of Russia with Eastern European-style vampires in an excellent novel that’s part historical fiction, part horror, and part war-novel and ads up to something all its own. While it easily stands on its own, it is also the first book in a planned 5-book series titled the Danilov Quintet that will combine Russian history up to the October Revolution – the second book, Thirteen Years Later, is currently under development.

I’m very pleased that Jasper took the time to answer
Questions Five (and as always, reading the author’s bio may help you understand the origin of some of my queries).

If I were going on holiday to Brighton and I can only visit one pub, which pub do you recommend and why?

JK: The Shakespeare’s Head. It has good beer (of the warm, brown variety), serves about a dozen different kinds of sausages (except Sundays – boo!) and it’s within spitting distance of me. It’s not to be confused with the other Shakespeare’s Head, on Spring Street, which is good but not as good.

Joss Whedon, Anne Rice, Steven King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Bram Stoker, and Jasper Kent each walk into a pub with their version of a vampire. What happens next?

JK: I think Anne Rice’s vampires would be a bit snobby about my voordalaki; they’d probably be sitting in the lounge bar while mine were in the saloon, spitting in the sawdust. Joss Whedon’s lot, having lived the past few decades trying to pass themselves off as good, red-blooded American vampires, would suspect mine of being commies, regardless of the geographical and chronological niceties. Dracula would want a quiet word with at least one of my chaps, regarding the unconscionable past behaviour of one Pyetr Alekseevich Romanov. Everyone would laugh at the way Joss Whedon’s creation’s face’s went all funny whenever they were about to bite anybody, with the exception of Stephen King’s, who looks funny all the time.

A fight would undoubtedly break out fairly quickly, in which Dracula would have a certain advantage in not being utterly destroyed by sunlight, but the disadvantage of being vulnerable to a bowie knife, where the rest require a wooden stake. Joss Whedon’s vampire’s might do well since their natural enemies tend to be teenagers and so wouldn’t be allowed in the pub in the first place. My boys would be looking around for anyone French to attack, but if they couldn’t find any they wouldn’t be too fussed.

Luckily, Laurell K. Hamilton’s creations wouldn’t turn up, so I wouldn’t have to reveal I know nothing of her works.

What is the algorithm of Twelve?

JK: The nature of the voordalaki came about by evolution rather than design – intelligent or otherwise. That’s to say I didn’t plan anything much in advance. If the plot requires a particular vampire facet, then they get that facet, and I have to be consistent with it from then on. It’s worked pretty well so far, but by the end of the quintet I’ll be working in a rather tight straitjacket of my own creation.

Does this algorithm allow for vampiric rats in future novels of the DANILOV QUINTET?

JK: As far as I know, for the voordalaki it’s human blood or nothing, so there would be little chance of cross-contamination with another species. On the other hand, that doesn’t preclude an entirely separate but parallel outbreak of vampirism to occur within the rat community. On the third hand, for my vampires the rule is that only a willing victim can be transformed into a vampire and thus the transformees have to be evil in the first place. Since rats are inherently incapable of evil, none could ever become one of the undead.

Why should Twelve be the next novel that everyone reads?

JK: A recent survey in the UK revealed that War and Peace is second most common book for people to say that they have read when they really haven’t (behind 1984 of all things). Twelve is the perfect book to read if you want to bluff you way through a conversation about War and Peace. Just leave out the vampire stuff and everything else is pretty much the same. Honest. And even if it’s not, don’t worry; whoever you’re talking to probably hasn’t read War and Peace either – but they’ve almost certainly read Twelve!

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Warm and Fuzzy Moment

John Scalzi lead me here via Chris Roberson.

I was always a fan of Calvin & Hobbs, so this image really made me feel good this morning. I know, fatherhood has made me a complete sap - and I'm OK with that.

Interview with Ken Scholes

Ken Scholes is an author I'm seeing mentioned quite often these days. He’s become well-regarded for his short fiction, but it’s the release of his debut novel, Lamentation (US, UK, Canada, my review), that has everyone buzzing and kicks off a planned 5-book series called the Psalms of Isaak. The language used is bold – Jay Lake proclaims that Scholes is poised to “step into the shoes of the late [Robert Jordan]”and Booklist hails Scholes for his “rare gift for inventive storytelling that invites comparisons with the genre’s leading practitioners.” Whatever you think of the buzz, I strongly recommend that you give Lamentation a try – for the record, I really liked it.

As I prepared for my earlier
Questions Five interview with Ken, I quickly realized that the questions I wanted to ask just didn’t fit in with the Questions Five format. I’ve generally stayed away from the longer interview (though I collaborate with other bloggers regularly), but this is a case where I felt that a long interview was appropriate. Thankfully, in spite of the rollercoaster ride of Ken’s life these days, he agreed. So, on to the questions…

Neth Space: In your biography, a myriad of past jobs are listed, including sailor, soldier, preacher, musician, retail manager, nonprofit administrator, and label gun repairman. How have these jobs influenced what you want to say in your writing?

Ken Scholes: Good question. I'm not sure how they influenced what I want to say in my writing because the "want to say" isn't usually something I'm aware of until after I've said it. But certainly, the variety of experiences has given me a wide base to draw from. Beyond just how those experiences shaped me, I also draw from them in my fiction. I look back to my time at the merchandising company, where I repaired label guns and assisted the sales team, in my short story "Soon We Shall Be Saunders." My time in the army helped inform "The Night the Stars Sang Out My Name" and my time in the ministry certainly added to "That Old-Time Religion." "The Doom of Love in Small Spaces" has a bit of my day job working for local government showcased in it. These are just a few examples.

I think as writers we tap into all our life experiences when we're crafting fiction. Beyond just our jobs, we tap into the things we love, the things we fear, the losses and gains we've experienced, the people we've loved or been loved by along the way. It all goes into the soup and becomes part of the stories I tell.

Neth Space: With that said, do you want to be a full-time writer? Do you feel that this may limit the life experience that you’ve found so valuable?

Ken Scholes: I do want to be a full-time writer though that's a fairly recent realization. I think there's certainly a trade-off in that transition but ultimately, the writing career is growing fast enough that at some point I'm going to need the time and energy that is going into my day job in order to keep up with everything. And life experiences go much deeper than the jobs we work so I'm not too worried about that. Losing a parent, becoming a parent, seeing an important relationship through troubled waters -- these are all critical life experiences that go on around us regardless of how we spend our workdays.

Neth Space: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Are they?

Ken Scholes: I tend to agree, yes. I think knowing where we come from both as individuals and as a species -- and understanding that history as best we can -- can help us chart a better present and future.

Neth Space: I feel that Lamentation addresses this point in interesting ways – it could be equally interpreted that the fall of Windwir was the result of either learning too much from history, or not learning the ‘right’ lesson from history. How do you feel this old saying applies to Lamentation?

Ken Scholes: I think the Androfrancines learned the wrong lesson from history and at some point, became so focused on the past that they no longer clearly saw the present or the future. They also overestimated their own power and underestimated the power of others.

Neth Space: Lamentation is rich in religious themes and imagery. You were once a Baptist preacher (honesty I had you pegged for an ex-Catholic). How has this experience shaped the book that became Lamentation?

Ken Scholes: Well, it shaped me and because of that, it shows up in my writing and shapes it. I actually studied Roman Catholic history as a part of my BA at Western but the inner workings that we see, for instance in the character of Petronus, are reproduced from my own experience of having served as a minister within the Baptist belief system and then having chosen to leave that role and faith behind in what was a long, sometimes painful process over years. I draw from that both in this series but also in a lot of my short fiction. But then again, I think people are shaped from all of their experiences -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- and writers in particular draw from those experiences in shaping their fiction.

Neth Space: What reaction does the word ‘lamentation’ evoke from you?

Ken Scholes: A song rooted in grief and loss. Sackcloth and ashes. A sense of profound sorrow.

Neth Space: So, how were you lead to Lamentation as the title?

Ken Scholes: To be honest, I can't recall the exact moment that I realized that was the title. I kicked around a few titles: A Lamentation for the Light, A Lamentation for Windwir, but I think the word "lamentation" was already in place the day I started drafting the book. It just sounded right and I knew that a one word title would be strong. Later in the book, there's a point in one of Rudolfo's scenes where it says "and he saw how a lamentation could become a hymn." Re-reading that after I wrote it is what ultimately gave me the final title in the series, Hymn. All of the titles come from terms used in sacred music.

Neth Space: In this more flippant interview you were asked “If Lamentation were a fortune cookie, what its fortune be”. You responded with “change is the path life takes”. Would you please expand on this thought?

Ken Scholes: Surely. It's a precept from P'Andro Whym, founder of the Androfrancines. It basically means "Evolution Happens." Change is the path life takes. Certainly, we see it in the macrocosm of our world and universe. And we see it in our own individual lives, I think, if we have some perspective.

Neth Space: Well I can certainly see how this precept works in our daily lives, as I can see it at work in Lamentation. With that in mind, what are you willing to share about the anticipated evolution of the Psalms of Isaak?

Ken Scholes: Well, it's definitely evolving as I go. So far, the main story arc remains the same as I imagined it though there's potential for a major change in it as my characters grow. I let the details of each book develop as I'm writing it, based on how my characters are growing. I go into each book knowing where they are and where they need to be, then I take them through the experiences I've lined out for them to see how they handle them, how they are changed by them.

And of course, once I've wrapped this series, the world and characters will evolve even further into whatever next story I tell in this place.

Neth Space: So, what is the current progress in writing the Psalms of Isaak? Any updates on anticipated publication dates and when you expect to finish writing?

Ken Scholes: I'm nearly finished drafting the third volume, ANTIPHON, coming next Spring (ideally). CANTICLE's been copyedited and we're looking at an October publication for it. The rest of the series -- REQUIEM and HYMN -- should follow shortly after but my Magic Eight Ball is sketchy on dates given everything else that's happening. Certainly, my goal (and Tor's) is to not have people waiting too long to know what happens next.

Neth Space: That’s quite an ambitious schedule (and selfishly, it’s one I hope you keep).

You’ve mentioned before that you are expecting twins (congrats – that is wonderful). As a relatively new father myself, I’ve been confronted with the reality of just how much of a life-changing event fatherhood is. Do you think you can keep up your current schedule?

Ken Scholes: Thanks -- we're excited about it, though also daunted. I don't expect to keep the schedule quite as well as I've been able to up until now. Then again, I've had a lot of Real Life interruptions. My Mom and nephew both died during my work on CANTICLE. My Dad died during ANTIPHON. So I've been making headway despite some pretty big life events.

I have no real idea of how the twins are going to impact my writing process but I know they will. Still, I'll do everything I can to keep production going. I've cut back hours at the day job and my hope is that I'll wrap ANTIPHON shortly and get a running start at REQUIEM so that most of it is finished before the babies show up.

Neth Space: Wow, it sounds like the last few years have been a pretty rough time for you. I hope they improve.

Fatherhood is a wonderful thing. Just watch that delete button – it’s amazing how fast those little hands can hit the single worst possible button on a keyboard.

Ken Scholes: Thanks. They've been rough years but punctuated with lots of joy and delight alongside it all as we've watched the book take off and as we've watched our family start to grow.

Neth Space: Do you think that this new life experience could radically (or less dramatically) change your vision of the conclusion to the Psalms of Isaak?

Ken Scholes: I don't think it will change my vision for the conclusion but it's hard to say. I think if my vision changes it will be because the characters moved in a new direction and surprised me.

Neth Space: Ken, thanks again for taking the time to answer a few (more) questions from me. Is there anything you else you’d like to add in closing?

Ken Scholes: Not off the top of my head. I hope folks enjoy the story and keep coming back for more.


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