I write this post with trepidation It’s a gross departure from what Staffer’s Book Review has been about since day one. Nevertheless, the new job, the death of my father-in-law, Christmas, an increasingly needy three year old, and my general slacking of my duties as a blogger, has found me desperately far behind in my reviewing. In an effort to catch up, and get back on top of my pile, I present my “as-yet-unreviewed-reading-log-from-late-November-to-February”, or at least half of it:
Rapture by Kameron Hurley — Of all the books on this list, Rapture is the one I’m most comfortable reviewing in a few sentences. That’s mostly because I’ve done nothing but sing Kameron Hurley’s praises with the previous two volumes God’s War and Infidel. Rapture continues the pattern and provides a tremendous ending to the series. I can’t help mentioning that there are moments in all of Hurley’s books that will scour your soul with moments of utter bleakness.… Read the rest
My 2012 Juice Box Awards hit a bit of a snag called a new job. I quite underestimated the challenge of moving into a new work environment after ten years. But, I’m going to do my damnedest to get my 2012 awards done this week!
One of my favorite awards is recognizing books from years past that I only recently read for the first time. These novels get forgotten too easily with the shiny new releases that come by every month. Unlike last year, I tried to make a point of reading more out of year novels, and I succeeded with twenty of the one-hundred books I read this year. Not bad, right?
So, which was the best? Below are my five favorites from 2012, with published years ranging from the early 1980s to 2011.… Read the rest
What separated The Warded Man from the detritus of epic fantasy was that it was written with intent. Not only intending to tell a wide ranging and intricate fantasy story, Peter Brett wrote a novel about fear, and terror, and how people respond under those circumstances. At least partially inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, it’s my contention that the positive response to his first novel had more to do with that resonance, and his execution of it, than any particular fantasy epicness. It would also be my contention that the progression of the narrative, beyond that theme, has fundamentally diluted that theme, leaving subsequent volumes to rely far more on how effectively they engaged as epic fantasy.
By that statement I’m not implying that there’s something wrong with Desert Spear, Brett’s follow up to the Warded Man. It is in many ways a better book, but Arlen can’t always be the brave boy daring to go into the night, and his father can’t always be too afraid to save his wife.… 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
I read a lot of young adult fiction in 2012. This was new for me. Nancy Kress was new to me too, although not remotely new to pretty much everyone else. Her newest novel, Flash Point, is the story of Amy, a teenage reality television star in a not-quite dystopia. Beneath the poverty line, with no means of supporting her sick grandmother and younger sister, Amy has no choice but to put it all on the line on national television.
While the world awaits the flash point that could lead it into economic and sociological ruin, or turn the corner into a new age of prosperity, Amy’s show Who Knows People, Baby — You? catches attention. Seemingly a souped up version of John Quinones’ ABC show What Would You Do? it forces teenagers from different levels of society into uncomfortable and often dangerous situations to elicit a response.… Read the rest
Rumor has it Miles Cameron, author of The Red Knight, is a pseudonym for historical fiction author Christian Cameron. I’ve no idea if it’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Orbit’s new novel has a ring of authenticity that fantasy often eschews, particularly with regards to combat and tactics. It’s also woefully unoriginal, layered with ideas and elements that I’ve seen dozens of times before. In the end, Cameron has written a novel that promises different, but fails to live up to it, instead delivering the same expected narrative that fantasy fans have ‘enjoyed’ for a generation.
Billed as the story of a dragon hunting mercenary, the cover of my advanced copy reads,
“Forget George and the Dragon. Forget fancy knights and daring deeds. Slaying dragons is a bloody business.”
I’m sure it is, except no one slays any dragons in Red Knight. There is a dragon, and it plays a significant role eventually, but there’s decidedly no slaying.… Read the rest
The Desert of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones’ debut novel, and The Bones of the Old Ones, his second novel out this week, should be considered the gold standard on two counts. One, I haven’t read anyone who feels as in control of his first person narrator. Two, no one writing today has a better understanding of what sword and sorcery is and how it should work. While Bones of the Old Ones isn’t quite as inspired as Desert of Souls, something I’ll discuss more in a moment, it remains at the peak of the mountain, something both young and old should read. The former to discover how much grace there is in simplicity. The latter to rediscover the kind of fiction that inspired a generation of fantasists.
In Bones of the Old Ones, Dabir and Asim have a new mystical challenge before them. A young woman shows up in Mosul, running from ancient wizards who would use her to unlock an ancient power.… Read the rest
Raymond Chandler, considered one of the greatest crime writers ever, was not always considered as such. He was once quoted as saying about his critics,
The thing that rather gets me down is that when I write something that is tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, I get panned for being tough and fast and full of mayhem and murder, and then when I try to tone down a bit and develop the mental and emotional side of a situation, I get panned for leaving out what I was panned for putting in the first time.
I think that quote may bear some relevance to Daniel Polansky when I finish this review.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
-Roy, Blade Runner
Fan fiction is a dirty word, isn’t it? It carries with it a connotation of corrupting someone else’s intellectual property. Unfortunately, that connotation tends to ignore homage, an allusion to previous work on which a current project is based. To call Rosa Montero’s Tears in Rain fan fiction is a bit of a stretch. There’s no inclusion of characters from another’s work or a continuation of any particular plot point, but it is, as the quote above indicates, fundamentally based on Blade Runner, the Ridley Scott film sourced from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Montero posits a world in which Blade Runner the film existed and also came true.… Read the rest
Ask me what the I think the most impressive work of fantasy is, and I will answer — The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Steven Erikson’s ten novel series is astounding, challenging, interesting, riveting, and it’s often an awful mess. I say that last with a smile on my face. Erikson meanders through points of view, intersects plots, forgets plots, leaves others intentionally dangling, and rarely provides satisfying conclusions. His answer to this charge would be: history’s a mess too. That’s a perspective he embraces like never before in his newest novel, The Forge of Darkness.
I’ve heard Forge of Darkness referenced as a new entry point into Erikson’s work, and a prequel to Malazan. Such classifications are problematic. To begin, it’s quintessential Erikson — not easier to read, or more direct in its approach. There are also seemingly infinite numbers of points of view characters, so many in fact that keeping track of them often requires note taking.… Read the rest