Wheel of epic fantasy turn, turn, turn
Tell us the lesson that we should learn
And now on to the part of the blog where I present five novels that look. . . well. . . damn near identical. I’m sure there are all kinds of nuances that make them unique, but each clearly references that epic fantasy je ne sais quoi. Which one do you figure as the most likely to succeed?
#1) The Black Guard by A.J. Smith (August)
The Duke of Canarn is dead, executed by the King’s decree. The city lies in chaos, its people starving, sickening, and tyrannized by the ongoing presence of the King’s mercenary army. But still hope remains: the Duke’s children, the Lord Bromvy and Lady Bronwyn, have escaped their father’s fate.
Separated by enemy territory, hunted by the warrior clerics of the One God, Bromvy undertakes to win back the city with the help of the secretive outcasts of the Darkwald forest, the Dokkalfar.
… Read the rest
With Andre Norton’s aged novel Star Guard, Tom Holt’s new novel Doughnut, and Howard Andrew Jones’ Pathfinder tie-in novel Plague of Shadows, I’ve found three authors and books to review that have almost nothing in common. We all have our crosses to bear, do we not?
Andre Norton, a great forerunner (get it? Because she wrote Forerunner.) of science fiction, and considered by many to be the Grande Dame of SF, wrote a novel in 1953 titled Star Guard. It was actually the second novel in a world later dubbed Central Control, in which Terrans, considered to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy, are forced to pay for access to the stars with blood. Of course, the two novels in the ‘series’ have almost nothing to do with one another, making the ending of Star Guard unduly incomplete.
Told from the perspective of Kana Karr, a newly enlisted Swordsman sent to an un-extraordinary planet to quell a common rebellion, Norton spins a story that reminds me of legendary marches across hostile territory from the ancient world.… Read the rest
Of the one-hundred books I read in 2012, nearly one quarter of them were first time authors. I read slightly more last year (28), which makes some sense considering that 2011 was a far better year for debuts than 2012. Regardless, I would happily stack up this year’s Juice Box short list against last year’s. Oddly, none of this year’s best debuts were written by women, a fact that surprised me after reading so many excellent debuts from women a year ago. I’ll chalk it up to noise, especially considering my 2013 reading thus far has included numerous excellent debuts from female authors.
Interestingly, despite some of the harsh criticisms I’ve levied toward Night Shade Books’ 2012 list, two of their debuts make the cut here, matching last year’s number. I lauded them a year ago for their outstanding new author program, and I hope it’s something they can continue to champion.… Read the rest
The Ramal Extraction by Steve Perry
In the 24th Century, the Galactic Union’s Army is stretched thin and mercenary units fill in the gaps. Headed up by retired Colonel R.A. Cutter, the Cutter Force Initiative is a multi-species contractor for training, protection, extraction, or assassination. If the price is right, and it won’t run them afoul of the real Army, they’re game. This time around it’s a kidnapping. Rags’ and his crew are called in to find and rescue the daughter of the New Mumbai rajah. Rest assured, things are a little more complicated, both militarily and politically, than a simple rescue operation.
Unfortunately, Ramal Extraction is about as entertaining as a tooth extraction. That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of action, or things going on, it’s all just very conventional–a small squad military thriller that just happens to be set in science fictional milieu. There’s the expected banter between different members of the squad, some secrets about its leader, and a green recruit or two to contrast how hardened the veterans truly are.… Read the rest
I recently detailed the intricacies of the Shadow Ops magic system over at Fantasy Faction. In that post, I hinted that there was more to magic than the basic authorized and Probe school system I laid out in Control Point.
In this article, I’ve decided to gives a glimpse into the more esoteric, one might even say singular, magical categories, arcane arts so rare, so unique, that they can only be channeled by the writing style of a particular person.
Sam Sykes — Author of The Skybound Sea
A special sub-species of Hydromancy. Sykes has the ability to cause any person to find themselves suddenly moving across the surface of the ocean, where they shall remain for at least 150 pages.… Read the rest
I hear two main complaints among those who read Myke Cole’s debut novel, Control Point. First, the novel’s protagonist Oscar Britton was an indecisive and unlikable whiner. Second, that the writing and dialogue lacked polish. Personally, I didn’t find either of those items to be true, but I can say without a shadow of doubt that both are improved in Cole’s second novel, Fortress Frontier.
Given the ending of the first novel, I anticipated that the story of Oscar Britton taking on the establishment to bring rights to Latents — a Magneto figure, if you will — would continue. While Oscar does make an appearance, Fortress Frontier isn’t about him. Instead, Cole replaces him with Col. Alan Bookerbinder, an Army bureaucrat who comes up latent, tearing him away from his comfortable suburban life and throwing him to the wolves. . . or goblins as it were. The novel is better off for it.… Read the rest
Jack McDevitt wrote a story for Lightspeed Magazine in 2010 titled ‘The Cassandra Project’. It features the same protagonist and concept as his new novel with Mike Resnick by the same title. The short, told in the first person as opposed to the third person used in the novel, would not be recommended reading prior to The Cassandra Project novel. It’s essentially a 5,000 word spoiler. Nevertheless, I think it informs the review.
Based on my experience, it seems McDevitt and Resnick might be analogized as the science fiction equivalent of Lays Potato Chips whose famous slogan reads, “betcha can’t eat just one.” Both have strong followings who turn out time and again to buy their novels, many of which seem to have similar premises and styles. Having not read either at novel length, Cassandra Project was, I suppose, my test ground to see whether the analogy holds up.… Read the rest
November is almost here, which for those of us in the United States means election time. It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric that’s espoused at the conventions. What springs from that is a crazy notion that the two American political parties are separated by a legion of issues from abortion, to fiscal responsibility, to same sex marriage, to defense policy.
While it’s certainly true that the extremes of the two parties disagree on most of these items, many of those who identify closer to center find themselves separated by one fundamental ideology. Democrats believe government creates opportunities, and Republicans believe it restricts them. Who’s right? I’ve no idea and both parties often find themselves in hypocritical boxes (Pro-life policies for example seem more big government, than not). But, I often wish the debate could center around this issue because there’s a lot of great academic work that’s been done from both perspectives.… Read the rest
Having been on a work trip, I find myself spending a lot of time in the car commuting and driving to various meetings. The result is a lot of time with audio books. It’s been a nice break and an opportunity to catch up on a few things I haven’t been able to get into in print. The following three books are what I’ve recently finished. Before my trip is over I suspect to finish two more, John Steakley’s Armor, and probably Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint.
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty much done with World War II. It’s just been done to death, hasn’t it? The History Channel might as well be Hitler Channel for crying out loud. Or at least that’s what I said before I listened to Ian Tregellis’ Bitter Seeds.
Beginning in the early stages of World War II, Bitter Seeds shows the secret history of the conflict between Germany’s Gotterelektrongruppe (Nazi mutants, a la X-Men) and Britain’s warlocks.
… Read the rest
Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence’s 2011 debut novel, was not well received in all corners, occasionally offending reader sensibilities. Jorg, the protagonist and narrator throughout the series, is a self interested often bloodthirsty teenager who’s ruled equally by his emotions and lack thereof. Those hoping for a redemptive tale, or an ultimately apologetic tone from the author, found themselves woefully bereft. Deeply disturbing, and written with a haunting elegance, I called it the best fantasy debut of 2011. To say I was eagerly anticipating its sequel, King of Thorns, would be an understatement akin to George R.R. Martin sells a few books.
Jorg, no longer a wandering prince in search of revenge, has taken a throne. Not his father’s or the Empire’s, but it’s a start. The path he carved has made him visible to those who share his lust for power, and now a six nation army marches toward his gates, led by a man far more suited to rule than he.… Read the rest