Saturday, 31 October 2009

What Next?

Lined up, I'm planning for several guest blogs, a review of Talyn (Holly Lisle - my review of Hawkspar here), The Quiet War, by Paul McAuley and my belated Toll the Hounds review soon, but in the meantime - and afterwards -, you tell me: what should I be reading? And what are you reading?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Response: Why no love among the SFF fandom?

Yesterday, Pat made an excellent point regarding the "holier-than-thou" attitudes adopted by some areas of SFF fandom. It's certainly true, and we're every one of us fallible here. Although I'd like to say I don't take part in the main part of looking down on areas of SFF apart from books, there are areas of SFF I don't enjoy so much - naturally. It's also true I wouldn't feature or recommend them, because I can't. But to take a derogatory standpoint on SFF movies, comics, and tie-in-novels would be stupid, and pointless to boot (this isn't my viewpoint - it's an example of the most common), because you have no experience in these areas, and can't appreciate the distinctions that fans of these mediums will want to hear. I'm glad that Pat let this out, because SFF, diverse as it is, deserves to be appreciated for this: a genre that can become anything. We should give this diversity merit, rather than castigating SFF outside our preferred area - because SFF is a growing field, and it's only to the better that we appreciate more of it.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Review|Hawkspar - Holly Lisle

An entirely unexpected choice, Hawkspar turned out one I regretted - to an extent. But positive reviews of its prequel, Talyn, compelled me to give it a try. Set initially in a convent - albeit a unique one -, Hawkspar focuses around a young acolyte, whose name, like most there, has been forgotten. However, the Ossalene Order's sanctity dwindles in comparison to its power: for most acolytes within will have their eyes replaced with those of stone, imparting to them extraordinary powers - for a price. And ruling the Order are the Oracle Eyes - final creations, seven pairs of eyes with the ability to sense the currents of time: and first among these equals, Hawkspar, the Oracle Eyes of War. But all is not - quite - as it seems. For some within the order, the past is not as distant as the order's doctrine would mandate - for the acolytes formerly belonging to the Tonk, a fiercely loyal, clannish people, have banded together in a concerted attempt to wield power within the order. Our nameless protagonist is one such, and, initiated into the conspiracy as the choice of the Tonk Oracle - Hawkspar -, her magical call for aid is heard by a slave liberator. It's only unfortunate that this interesting premise - oracular intrigue - takes up so little of the novel, and the "nameless, faceless evil" so much. Apparently, she has seen a large threat to the Tonk, and one that only the Eyes' manipulation of time can prevent. Okay, fair enough. Cliche, but a useful device. But the actual threat bears no connection whatsoever to the remainder of the book, and the resolution of it - and the book - is slightly, well, laughable. It's a deux-ex-machina to the extreme, insipid, and meanders slightly.

There are several contradictions paining the novel as well - our protagonist has fallen in love with the slave liberator from afar. Fair enough - they're cloistered, and she's about to be rescued. But he is under the impression that she is a young girl, and for him to suddenly turn around - in internal monologue - and confess to have loved him from the first call is simply a mistake, and repeated as it is, you're forced to wonder about the editing - mistakes profligate. However, although the deux-ex-machina finale is to be avoided, Lisle must be lauded for one aspect: her heroine suffers for her actions. The new Hawkspar Eyes certainly isn't an "author's darling"

Conclusion: 5.25/10


Many apologies to all - I've had problems with electricity, and then an unfortunate absence. Back now, though!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Where am I?

Easy answer: I'm on page 592 of Reaper's Gale, by Steven Erikson - and the elucidation upon major themes is beginning to become clear. It's great - intensely moral, fascinating, and almost lyrical in the rhythmic quality of prose. It's raining. Again.

Otherwise, I'm looking at SFF Chat - another new blog, well worthy of attention. If you're interested, you can find it - here.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Review|Glass Dragons - Sean McMullen

A few years back, I found on my bookcase a specimen of one of fantasy's rarest creatures: a comic fantasy named Glass Dragons. Initially enjoying it, I resolved to pick it up again - and review it with my newly critical gaze. Does it stand up to a reread? The answer is most probably an emphatic "no".

Comic fantasy is admittedly a difficult genre to carry off well. Plenty have failed. Some, like Joe Abercrombie, have carried the trick with remarkable flair - and it's only a pity that Glass Dragons, by Sean McMullen, can't be numbered amongst them. Our two protagonists - a Laurel and Hardy-esque pair - are one trick ponies. Wallas is fat. Andry is thin. Wallas is aristocratic and crass. Andry is lowborn and noble. Wallas has luck with women. Andry doesn't - but later they turn round and love him anyway. *Cough* Excuse me? Just how long ago was it that they wouldn't speak to him? Ah, yes. Two minutes. Wallas, a Master of Royal Music accused of assassination (despite the steadily proliferating evidence to the contrary), flees the Emperor's palace to a nearby tavern, there meeting Andry, surviving a night's carousing though the waterfront - and then accompanying him the next day. Meanwhile, an etheric device is being constructed: the Dragonwall - and it's only a matter of time before one of the involved sorcerers realise that the entire capability of Dragonwall is available to anyone. It's a thin premise, and as Andry and Wallas stumble from slapstick into misjudged love, it only becomes less believable. They're torn from political conflict to etheric machinery in laughably little time - whereupon nobody mentions the previous events. Granted, there are moments of genuine humour - dialogue is amusingly plotted, fast-paced, and hilarious - but insipid, generic characterisation and reused reactions - women to Andry and Wallas, for example - quickly become repetitive. I'm sorry I couldn't like it on reread - but it's a world that works on first try, and it's worth a look for fans of the genre. Otherwise, Glass Dragons won't be making my recommendations.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Blog Discoveries: SFF

I hope nobody minds if I share two of my latest finds with you. First, I'd have to recommend Sirayn's blog, University of Fantasy - who's recently featured some book reviews, along with excerpts from her WIP urban fantasy, The Infernal Fantasy - and from what I've seen so far, it's a read to expect sometime in the near future. I've also stumbled across Atsiko's Chimney, another new blog devoted to writing: but with some truly excellent posts on the art of the title and magic systems.

Check them out!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Review|Memories of Ice - Steven Erikson

Yes, it's time for your daily dose of incoherent Erikson-praise. Well, maybe not quite that extreme, but I concede the point: I like Steven Erikson. However, the fact remains - Memories of Ice deserves its acclaim, proving a worthy successor to both Gardens of the Moon (admittedly the slightly weaker book in the series, according to most fans) and Deadhouse Gates. Directly continuing the story arc discovered in Gardens of the Moon, Memories of Ice elucidates upon our key conflict, in addition to that at hand: the war with the Pannion Domin, a people led on a religious war by the Pannion Seer. But not all is at it seems, here, and inhumanity may be just that: inhuman. Onearms Host, united with its former enemies - Anomander Rake, seeking a motive - a reason - for his people, the Tiste Andii, to live, and Caladan Brood - will go to war for reasons not entirely their own: for Empress Laseen's hands may not be as empty as they appear. Ganoes Paran, Captain of the Bridgeburners - a regiment notorious for their unwillingness to follow a man of noble birth -, fights an endless war against himself: but his role will be needed, and the Deck of Dragons, too, is driven by necessity. And as the T'lan Imass, champions of an eternal war against tyranny, converge, a chained god seeks to fetter others. But freedom is a cruel promise, and the House of Chains grows...

Erikson's intensely moral, poignant tale will enthrall, an epic of breathtaking proportions. It's evident that the reader doesn't - and shouldn't - understand Erikson's world, a collaborative composition between Erikson himself and Ian C. Esslemont. The term convergence is definitely appropriate, here, as Erikson is seen tying the threads from the preceding novels together into a tapestry that is altogether unexpected; still, he possesses smalls. Albeit minor ones - even sappers have a tendency to launch into philosophical discussion of war, rather than its practicalities. Worldbuilding, however, aided by Erikson's archaeological propensities, is deep, and the numerous texts glimpsed throughout the book provide enthralling, if flawed, glimpses of Erikson's future vistas.

Find it here: UK US


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

My Reading List: What's Next?

So, what's coming up this week? My shortlist currently consists of these, but I'd welcome any suggestions! Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, science fiction... It'll do for me!

1. Memories of Ice, Steven Erikson
2. Reaper's Gale, Steven Erikson
3. The Quiet War, Paul McAuley
4. Glass Dragons, Sean McMullen
5.(Belated Review!) Toll the Hounds, Steven Erikson
6. You choose!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Review|Night Watch - Sergei Lukyanenko

I'd heard a lot about Sergei Lukyanenko, and - if the hype was any judge -, Night Watch would be nothing short of sublime. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm didn't quite extend to learning Russian, and so I was forced to wait until a copy - in English - found its way to my door. And it was well worth the wait. Even taking into account the considerable hype around Lukyanenko's work, Night Watch truly is nothing short of sublime.

In Moscow, it's not only humans who walk the streets. It's an open premise, indeed. In Night Watch, these are Others, bearing allegiance to Light or Dark - but these are far from the absolutes you'll see in other works. For when an Other first enters the Twilight, that shadowy half-world that only the truly inhuman can enter, his mood - his feelings - force a choice: the Light, or the Dark. The distinction, after all, is far from close cut, as we'll see. But the Others now owe allegiance to a third force, too - a Treaty, between Light and Dark, to prevent the wars of the past. To prevent unrestrained Light and Dark. Now, for every act of "Good", there must be one of "Evil" - and who can enforce this against potential lawbreakers - with magical abilities beyond comprehension? The answer is, or are, the Watches. Night (Light), and Day (Dark), each watches and regulates the Others of the opposite allegiance, constantly in conflict. And playing a role in this conflict, our protagonist, Anton Gorodetsky. An Other of average talent serving in the Night Watch, Gorodetsky's boss, Gesar, has pushed him away from his role as the head programmer for the Watch - because Gesar wants Gorodetsky, there's a rogue vampire on the loose, an Other of incredible power, and a curse that threatens to destroy the city with its victim. But not all plots belong to the Dark.

And that, though complex, is only story one - of three. For, at its heart, belying the excitement and the urban flair, is an intensely moral conflict - of what is justifiable, what is necessary. Of inherent qualities, and those earned. And... Well, you'll see. But Night Watch is an unforgettable story, with a not-always-sympathetic protagonist in Anton Gorodetsky - a rare trope -, and Light and Dark where the former's plots are just as deadly as the latter's. To Anton Gorodetsky, our unwilling protagonist, they're more so.