fredag 30 november 2012

If I Had a Conscience..

Oh my how I'd be emberassed. Luckily I don't have one that's bothering me in the main, but I do feel a bit bad for the ones that have been visiting. For some splendid reason I had some 25 hits on the 25th of November, can't really understand it, but thank you guys.

To try and explain, I've had one hell of a time at work. Three people out of the remaining eight quit in a pretty short interval which has meant chaotic times at the office. I'm fairly certain I managed to get started on a draft for my review of Forge of Darkness, which was a great read, so I'll see if I can't get it up sometime during the weekend.

I've also gotten about halfway through A Path to Coldness but it's been pretty slow reading, both because of work and then because Glen Cook has been less direct in his story-telling this time around. I'm sure I'll finish it off in the coming week as it's still pretty light reading.
I'll see where I go from there, I've booked a trip to New York with my girlfriend, so I'm expecting to make some headway in my reading then.

Cheers for being patient so far!

söndag 21 oktober 2012

These are hectic days

I'll get to working on the review of Forge of Darkness as soon as I get some spare moments in front of the computer. As things stand I've managed a brief reflection on what's to come, and I'm having a really hard time avoiding spoilers. But I'll get there, eventually.

Work has been demanding lately, and if that wasn't enough we've entered an october's end that means a lot of birthdays and parties. As if that wasn't enough, my 30th is coming up as well.

As you can see, I just set out upon Cook's final Dread Empire collection, A Path to Coldness of Heart. I haven't gotten that far, and I've had trouble really immersing myself in the story but I'm sure Bragi and his friends and foes will grab a hold of me eventually.

I also noticed Red Country is in stock at my local store so I need to plan my way over there.
Well, back to work!

torsdag 18 oktober 2012

A great moment in time.

I haven't yet decided which book to choose next, and I haven't really had the time of day to get any reading done. What with Sweden cruising to a 4-4 draw with Germany on tuesday and yesterday planning for a friend's website and musical odyssey-project I'm still undecided. There are a fair few to choose from and, as mentioned, Red Country will be out in the next few days.

Speaking of which, I noticed yesterday that the 3rd chapter is available for reading on Gollancz's blog. I've so far managed to contain my curiosity, and hopefully I can keep myself until I get a chance to read the entire book. But if you're interested, don't let me hold you back.

In exactly one week's time I'll be 30. How about that!?

tisdag 16 oktober 2012

On the subject of Stephen Deas..

If you haven't already, be sure to head over to Gollancz and read the exlusive Stephen Deas' short-story the Thief-Taker's Blade. It's a short piece but showing off Deas at his usual.

It's a prequel of sorts to the Thief-Taker's Apprentice, and serves as a sort of PR-project for the release of the latest book in the same series the King's Assassin.

måndag 15 oktober 2012

The Adamantine Palace

I've finally managed to sit down in some peace and quiet to type down my thoughts on Stephen Deas and his wonderfully crafted the Adamantine Palace. It's the first novel, and apparently debut, in a series titled Memory of Flames, but so far I've not managed to learn how many books are planned.
I have to say, from what I've seen so far, Stephen Deas' work this far in my reading experience is one of the finest debuts I've seen, though he's facing stiff competion when compared to Saladin Ahmed and his Throne of the Crescent Moon, even if they are very different in tone and style.
Deas has done a good job breathing new life into one of the most characteristic features of the fantasy genre, the dragon. Deas' breed have more in common with the dragons of Reign of Fire than most generic fantasy dragons, and we see a species that have to be kept tightly in check or they're likely to wrest control away from humanity.
Stephen Deas has a pretty direct and brutal style of writing that's reminiscent of Abercrombie, and even though in quite stark contrast with Erikson's intricate world and enormous cast I saw more of Erikson in Deas' writing than any of the other 'touted inheritors' novels that I've read so far this year.

A torrent of flames poured from the sky, swallowing the white dragon and her Scales in its fury. The river waters steamed. Stones cracked in the heat. Huros stood stock still. He was fifty, sixty, maybe seventy yards away. A little part of him that wasn't paralysed with fear noted that this was too close. At the last instant he turned his face away, as a wall of hot air and steam seared his skin and slapped him back towards the woods. He caught a glimpse, as he did, of the stranded rider, the one who'd been shouting at the Scales, catapulted into the air, snatched from the ground by the dragon's tail. Of the Scales himself, there was no sign.

Gollancz cover
Worldbuilding-wise and character development-wise I'd say Deas and the Adamantine Palace is somewhere between Glen Cook and Paul Kearney. It could definitely do with some added depth but it is a masterful debut that throws you into the action pretty much from the first chapter.

The book has a strong political intrigue with the known world divided into realms ruled by Kings and Queens with their will enforced by the now cowed and domesticated dragons. The dragons are bred for this specifically, carefully plied with poisons and chemicals from the politically independant order of alchemists. An unscrupulous young prince, Jehal, embarks on a mission to grasp control of all the realms as Speaker of the Realms and will stop at nothing to gain his goals.
His path is quickly littered with betrayals and murders and though a highly unlikeable character his chapters are a joy to read as they push the pace up bit by bit.
Standing against him are Queen Shezira and her daughters, Shezira herself grasping for the title of Speaker as well as Hyram, the current Speaker of the Realms. The Adamantine Palace has many twists and turns in the court intrigue and by the last few pages you've probably been led back and forth a couple of times.

Outside the court, but not far from it's influences the two mercenaries Kemir and Sollos do dirty deeds for one of the many intriguing factions setting themselves up perfectly for a seemingly impossible task. When Queen Shezira is marrying off one of her daughters with Prince Jehal as part of a political powerplay the bridal gift, a perfect white dragon, is stolen on it's way to Jehal's family keep. Kemir and Sollos are conscripted into guiding Shezira's dragon knights in their search for the missing dragon. With time though, without the alchemical intervention and far from the dragon roosts, the white dragon Snow is awakened from the drug-induced slumber that the dragons are kept in. And with her awakening, the fury and hunger of the species slowly rears its ugly head.

The book plays out at an amazing pace, and the reader is left with little time for in-depth characterization or wider worldbuilding but at a fully crammed 379 pages the book rarely suffers from this. I can imagine the series having to see some development both of the characters as well as the world into the next book, but Deas has left me fully expectant that he will be able to pull it off.

US Cover - Penguin

I am impressed by Stephen Deas' development of his own kind of dragons, both their history and their general characteristics lead to a wanting to learn more, and the small fact that they are seemingly reborn upon death is an intriguing idea. Kemir and Sollos was a great read for as long as it lasted, reminiscent of many of Erikson's epic pairings. And though Jehal is home to a host of dislikeable mannerisms he is one of the more interesting characters and mainly the one to push the plot on.

All in all Stephen Deas' the Adamantine Palace is a great read, all the more special for being the author's debut, with a crackling pace and no shortage of plot twists. There's room for development in both the as yet unseen King of the Crags, which coincidentally is the name of the next book, as well as the mysterious Taiytakei who we've only seen fleetingly so far. I'd definitely reccomend the Adamantine Palace as a must read.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 6.4

REMINDS ME OF: Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold in that it is distinctly brutal with many of it's seemingly central characters as well as a story that is packed full of violence, sex and intrigue in equal measures. Daniel Abraham's the Dragon's Path in that it's a powerful first novel in a series that does a good job of putting down groundwork and re-working some of the usual tropes. A promising first that will hopefully lead to even bigger and better things in the coming work.

That empty feeling again..

And so at long last I finally finished Forge of Darkness yesterday. I've got to say that the pace, at least for me, dropped off a bit towards the end but it's still a huge wow-feeling reading Erikson. He does every little thing that I value the most so well I found myself at times going back to the start of a page I'd finished just to read through everything. Almost like I didn't wish it to end.

There's a lot of familiar characters, frankly, there's a lot of characters period. But this is the part I love the most about the Malazan world. Every little detail is so well thought through that I can't find any faults with this tome. Or wilfully ignoring them I guess.

The awesome art is from PS Publishings' special signed volumes of Erikson's book. Made by David Gentry in a 300 edition. I'd positively love to own one but at 97£ they're a bit steep for me, sadly.
I'm still not certain where to go next. I feel like I have to give Mark Hodder a chance now, seeing the pair of books glaring down at me from their shelf. And with now only a matter of days before Joe Abercrombie's Red Country hit the shelves I'm a bit hesitant to pick any long read up as I will want to get my hands on it as soon as possible.

Well, that's it for the brief update, I'll get back to knocking in words for the Adamantine Palace review that was promised last week. Sorry 'bout that.

onsdag 3 oktober 2012

Adamantine review forthcoming

I need to get started on the review of Stephen Deas's excellent the Adamantine Palace, I just can't help myself though. I'm savouring every line of Forge of Darkness, you get sort of an idea of where we're headed now that I am pretty much halfway through.
But Erikson has that uncanny ability to rewrite the history that we thought we knew, and there have been plenty of brilliant revelations even this way into the book.

Hopefully I can finish the book in the next two days, might be a big ask, and then finalize the review for sunday at the latest. No promises though, we've got guests coming over for the better half of the weekend, as well as a team dinner to get through. And loads of work on sunday as well.
Cheers!

söndag 30 september 2012

Scourge of the Betrayer

Jeff Salyards with his Scourge of the Betrayer has been touted as a future star in the gritty fantasy genre, even mentioned as an heir to Glen Cook. I'm beginning to feel a bit trite with whoever's making these comparisons, but I guess the joke's on me since I keep falling for it.
I'm not saying Scourge of the Betrayer is a bad book, and I'm not saying Jeff Salyards is a bad writer, but to me the style and story feel pretty far off from Glen Cook and his work. Apart from having a narrator and a first person narrative but I'm sure there are others out there like it.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it irritates me some because I expect high paced, direct and brutal fantasy and get a well-planned story-telling approach to the whole ordeal. It's not really a negative side but I'll warn people to take the Glen Cook with a healthy dose of salt.
This is Jeff Salyards debut novel in the fantasy field though, and a fine one it is. The worldbuilding hasn't picked up full steam yet, but you get bits and pieces to show you forward and there's plenty of groundwork made for book two.

Salyards' story is a traditional build-up with the main character, Arkamondos, a wide-eyed youngster bored with his life as a quiet scribe who signs on with a troop of Syldoon mercenaries to see the world and get out of his mundane life. As the mercenaries' mission slowly unfolds Arki, as he is called, gradually feels more and more out of his depth. In a way it feels like a classic farm-boy story, the difference being I can't see Arkamondos finding a magic sword to whisk him out of trouble.

Most of my previous patrons could hardly stop their mouths - they regaled me with mundane minutia and inane stories, most of which involved the glories of mercantile conquest. Hardly riveting, but it was why they hired me. Pollus the apothecary, old wheezy Winnozin the priest, Nullo the foul-mouthed (and foul-smelling) tanner, Lektin the pinched-faced banker. Dull and duller, the whole lot. Even the Lady Anzella, who inherited her husband's shipping business after the plague took him, and managed not only to keep it afloat, but to make it thrive... beyond the novelty that she was a woman entrepreneur and a scuccesful one at that, she was just as mannish in her ability to bore a person to tears.

Captain Braylar Killcoin is an intriguing character slowly unfolded before Arki, and the reader, and we slowly learn more about his legendary Bloodsounder and it's impact on his life. It's a great concept, and a good read that's slightly reminiscent of Elric and his Stormbringer. The Syldoon that he command are a great lot of elite warriors being used as mercenaries in the neighbouring kingdoms, and their relations and dialogue within the group makes for a great read. The Syldoon are a feared people hired for their ruthlessness and effectiveness in battle but as the story goes on it's more and more apparent that the Syldoon have an agenda of their own, dragging young Arkamondos into the middle of mysterious plots and counter-plots leaving him scrabbling for firm ground.
The characters aren't really developed that much since this, the first novel, only stretches for a brief period of time. Salyards shares the trait of many of his contemporary writers in his, if not eagerness, then at least willingness to kill off many of the more central characters without much apparent sentimentality.

Being touted as the re-inventer and new poster-boy for the gritty realistic string of fantasy and being compared to great writers like Glen Cook, Richard K. Morgan and Joe Abercrombie lends to understandably high expectations. I'm not sure Jeff Salyards is quite there yet, he's not quite the finished product and he is still working on the world-building and development of his characters. He's got a fair bit left before I think he'd motivate comparisons to the above mentioned as his general style feels more like traditional fantasy. The combat-scenes are gritty and realistic but I think Salyards story suffers a bit from using young Arkamondos as the focal point. He's not a strong enough character to shape the writing, and his convictions colour too much of the story, at least to me, if he is to be compared to the likes of Abercrombie, Cook and Morgan whose writing is defined by a prominent touch of moral ambiguity, which in itself leads to a darker and bleaker world.

That's not entirely Jeff Salyards' fault though, it's not him drawing comparisons to great writers, but his writing is quite capable of standing on it's own though and it's a fine debut indeed. I just think he comes off lacking when you compare him to writers as direct and focused as the above. He is doing very well in setting up events for book two in the Bloodsounder Arc, and with the world-building on it's way as well I think he can continue to build on this in the way Daniel Abraham has with his Dragon's Path. It will be interesting to see where Salyards will take the still innocent and wide-eyed Arkamondos as the pace picks up and more pressure is applied to the Syldoon.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 5.6

REMINDS ME OF: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham in what feels like a more traditional fantasy set up with a lot of groundwork being made in the world-building and setting of style and mannerisms of characters and settings. Some strong points in the action sequences but a need to show more to justify a higher RMS. It's still a good read.

fredag 28 september 2012

Steven Erikson, my personal hero

I'm a couple of hundred pages into Forge of Darkness now, and I have to say it's definitely restored my faith in personal hero and inspiration extraordinaire Steven Erikson. What he can do with his characters, his worldbuilding and his turn of phrase I have yet to come across from any other author. China Miéville is very close.
After a bit of a letdown towards the end of his Malazan Book of the Fallen I can say he has fully restored my opinion of him as the foremost now living author in the genre. It's intriguing and demanding at the same time, never just a comfortable read but, I would say, almost entirely always a more than satisfying experience.

I can see why some consider his writing a 'heavy' read, but I don't think you would get as fulfilling a ride if it wasn't for great vistas, philosophical interior/exterior debates and believable characters.

I am not psyched about nearing the end of this, the first of his Kharkanas trilogy. Hope he can keep up with his usual high-pace writing!

fredag 21 september 2012

Friday musings at the office

Seeing as A Memory of Light, the final installment in Robert Jordan's epic tale of the T'averen, is to be released january 8 in 2013 do you think it'd be worthwhile to pick up the old tomes again?
I had an idea that I would collect the entire series in hard cover way back when. That was fresh out of authors like David Eddings (Belgariad, Malloreon and Sparhawk), Tad Williams (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which I incidentally never finished) and some Star Wars extended universe.

Can't say I've ever found that the Wheel of Time holds a candle to Tolkien but I found the beginning books quite interesting but seeing as to what I'm reading now, will it feel like a step back?
I might have to put it on my list of series to finish. Makes it easier knowing that the entire collection will soon be complete.

As an aside, can't describe how good it feels to immerse yourself in Erikson again. Forge of Darkness, it's begun. Awesome.

onsdag 19 september 2012

Orb, Sceptre, Throne

I will try again with a review for this, the fourteenth novel of the Malazan series (including Night of Knives but excluding Erikson's novellas and the newly released Forge of Darkness), written by the ever over-shadowed Ian Cameron Esslemont. I say over-shadowed because as part of the dynamic duo putting out novels, novellas and stories in the Malazan world Esslemont will always be second best behind longtime friend and perennial speculative fiction powerhouse Steven Erikson. Esslemont is a fair few books into his own Malazan stories, this being his fourth with a further two contracted.
Together with Steven Erikson he has created the world and the legends of the Malazan world while roleplaying during off-hours in their daily work as archeologists. It's a work that winds back and forth between the two authors and their respective stories and timelines, something that might feel a bit daunting taking on if you haven't tried either of the two out yet.


Esslemont is a writer who has grown with the task for every previous novel, and it is true in parts for this book as well. He takes up the torch following Erikson's massively climactic Toll the Hounds, Erikson's eighth book, and the events leading up to its close. The book sets up in the familiar city of Darujhistan and its surroundings picking up on the loose threads of a storyline from the very first of Erikson's books, the mythic return of a great tyrant from the city's past.

He set the tips of his fingers on the two-handed grip of his longsword and walked out to the middle of the amphitheatre sands. Over the years he had lost count of the many Thirds who had come and gone beneath him. The ranks of the Agatii, the top thousand were like a geyser in this manner - ever throwing up new challengers. And this one was an impatient example of a notoriously impatient ranking.
We see a host of old acquaintances as Esslemont gives his account of Kruppe the Magnificent, as well as the surviving Bridgeburners and hangers on; Picker, Blend, Spindle, Duiker and Fisher. Further in the Darujhistan crowd we see Torvald and Rallick Nom, Lady Envy among others. And finally, after much foreshadowing and building up, we see a more in depth characterization of the supremely skilled Seguleh and their history. It's an action-packed book that doesn't quite reach the level of Stonewielder which I would consider Esslemont's finest hour so far but it does well in removing - or closing if you will - some of the loose threads that have been left hanging by Erikson and Esslemont both.

A side-story sees Antsy travel to the crashed and sunken Moon's Spawn where he comes across several new introductions as well as some old ones thrown in for good measure. The two storylines are interlined with Antsy being confronted by Seguleh, Tiste Andii and notorious mages and necromancers which end in the climactic end to the Seguleh vs Moranth conflict. In a way.

As is the case with most of the Malazan books the first third/half of the book deals with a lot of stage-setting and plot-building which, at times, gets a bit tedious. Esslemont does have a more direct style than Erikson though, even as he can draw on the great sweeps of canvas that they've both prepared for these latter parts in the series. The concept of the Tyrant was a great one, with an awesome ominous feel to it, even if the Council chapters and the inevitable ending seemed a bit anti-climactic. You felt a bit cheated with this whole trying to tie together every loose end when you've seen some, at times, great character building that kind of fizz out due to what feels like Esslemont ran out of words. It is very likely that this puts the Darujhistan-storyline to a rest, and focus will now turn towards the mythical continent of Jacuruku with the Crimson Guard and the rifts therein.

I wouldn't say it's the finest work of the novels and novellas in the Malaz world but it's apparent that Esslemont has kicked on and upped his standard a fair bit since the first novel, Night of Knives. Malazan fans won't be let down; with thunderous battles between the Moranth and the Seguleh, legends from the Seguleh as well as great build-up on the Tyrant and his concept. Brief cameos from everyone's favorite necromancers in the Moon's Spawn was a nice touch as well. But in general the book suffers a great deal from it's rushed ending sequences. I can't really motivate a re-read value, I will most likely do it myself but that's because I'm entirely sold already on the Malazan way of life. Others though, I'll excuse you if you go through the catalogue at least once.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 5.8

REMINDS ME OF: Acacia by David Anthony Durham. I would say David Anthony Durham has a lot more in common with Ian Cameron Esslemont than he has with Steven Erikson, and their works share a lot of similarities in that they have a decent enough ground to build upon but then, at least in my opinon, they rush through everything towards the end which lends an unfinished air to the whole. It's still good reading though.

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan because in a way they share, to an extent, the same direct writing style. Esslemont has the benefit of a fully developed world beforehand but Morgan is the more technically gifted writer, and slightly darker in tone.

tisdag 18 september 2012

Getting my read on..

Just a short update to say I forgot to mention I also got K. J. Parker's Sharps in the latest batch. A novel that comes highly recommended and widely critically acclaimed. I'm intrigued by what I've learned so far, will be a good read definitely. Once I get there I suppose, which might take some time what with the current reading list and workload.

I've also started up on the Orb, Sceptre, Throne review once again and am a fair bit into the author presentation so far. Hope to get it up again soon as I feel I'm dropping behind now that Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards has been finished for some time along with the Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas which I just finished the other night.

Good read, the Adamantine Palace. Stephen Deas has done a great job of combining likeable characters with utterly loathsome ones in a court intrigue that by chance is leading up to a great grasp for power.

måndag 10 september 2012

New acquisitions, G&S and Stephen Deas

I picked up my most recent purchases yesterday. No thundering rains or hurricane-like winds this time around which was a nice change, and as usual I can't wait to get into the lot of them! Sadly, it means my pile is growing at a faster pace than which I can read.
I've been toying with the idea of not visiting as many review blogs and what not for a while, so I won't be seduced into going after more books! I'm also way behind in my reviewing. I need to finish up a new version of the Orb, Sceptre, Throne review that I/blogspot managed to erase as well as get going with the Scourge of the Betrayer notes that I haven't really looked through.

A friend got me started on the Geek and Sundry youtube cast, and while I've only gotten through the first episode; The Story Board, Episode 1: Urban Fantasy, Threat or Menace? I'm positively surprised. Good to see some insightful discussion on plot and settings from working writers and a couple of good shout outs/recommendations. Check them out if you haven't.

I'm now about 130-something pages into The Adamantine Palace and Sollos and Kemir is growing on me. They're a pair reminiscent of many of Steven Erikson's dynamic duos with witty dialogue and good stagesetting.  I'm expecting a lot from Deas now, feel his style is somewhat reminiscent of Erikson's as a whole as well, much more so than other touted heirs Durham and Kearney. You're pretty much thrust into the setting and plot without much background, and I think (as long as you're not overwhelmed) it's something that works for him.

torsdag 6 september 2012

Good days are coming

On september 3rd Richard Morgan released a new excerpt from his upcoming novel the Dark Defiles, the last of his trilogy A Land Fit For Heroes. I still haven't managed to read through it yet, we're moving our office for a couple of months so I've had a couple of busy days.

But there's no reason you shouldn't have a look see. You can find it on Morgan's own blog, here, it's the entry called Visitation Rites.

I'm also expecting a new shipment, fingers crossed for tomorrow, in the next few days. I've got the Forge of Darkness, Sharps, King's Blood, Shadow and Betrayal, Seasons of War and finally a new graphic novel. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Awesome stuff. And the pile grows again.

måndag 3 september 2012

No reads today.

Adamantine Palace
It's been ages since I last had a read, work as well as tons of other obligations have kept me busy lately. I'm a few pages into Stephen Deas' The Adamantine Palace, and it's been a good read so far.


What I did notice today on Twitter though, was the mention that there's a free read from Gollancz for Joe Abercrombie's greatly anticipated Red Country. Find the extract here, I'm reading it almost as I'm writing this!

lördag 18 augusti 2012

Slump dot com

I've been in sort of a slump ever since blogger/blogspot managed to delete the entire review I had finished on Orb Sceptre Throne. While not entirely catastrophic to the main function of this blog it set me back quite a lot in wanting to have a sit down and go again.

I finished Jeff Salyard's Scourge of the Betrayer the other day as well but have yet to start on another book, knowing that eventually I will want to go back and re-do the review for Orb Sceptre Throne so I get the reviews done in the right order again. But I'm not expecting to have it finished by early next weekend, I don't really want to set a deadline. But it will be done.
As will the review of Scourge of the Betrayer once I get my thoughts properly in order.

Footy season starts again today in the Premier League, have to wait until monday for Everton though.

For my next read I'm thinking either the Adamantine Palace or either of the Hodder books that I got a back while. Still shocked every time I realize I have yet to pick up Erikson's Forge of Darkness. The sample reading available seem epic enough and I can't really wait to get my hands on it. Just a bit mad that work and what not conspires against me.

I've been doing a bit of writing myself but it's hard to find time for everything both wanting and needing to be done.

måndag 6 augusti 2012

Orb Sceptre Throne

Bullshit Blogger just managed to delete the entire review that took me the better part of the day to write. I am neither amused nor in a mood to start working on it anew since it now shows a completely blank page where my draft is supposed to be.

Piece of crap. I am very, very frustrated right now. If not mad. Can't say if I have the willpower to get going on a review again. I will probably scrap the Orb Sceptre Throne reviewing and get to reading.

Sorry guys. But I blame blogger.

torsdag 2 augusti 2012

Finished reading, and slow progress

Just a small bit of news in the middle of work work. I've started putting together my FINISHED READING page where my entire reading catalogue will (eventually) be shown, with their ratings as well. Of course I'll have links to the eventual reviews in time, but so far I haven't gotten that far down the list.

How stoked is everyone for the olympics? They're definetely interferring with my reading time, as well as it being summer of course so I try to spend some time outdoors.

I'm roughly halfway through Scourge of the Betrayer and it's a good enough read, but kind of slow going so far. The review for Orb Sceptre Throne is coming along slowly, computer time is not a priority right now but I'll have it up maybe by sunday at the latest.

torsdag 26 juli 2012

The Dragon's Path

I wasn't familiar with Daniel Abraham, apart from seeing his name bandied around as one of the present-time great up-and-comers with his Long Price Quartet, before picking up the Dragon's Path after many recommendations. After some research I found that he had also written, under pseudonym, Leviathan Wakes together with Ty Franck which is another book that's been hailed as a second coming recently. But as I am more of a fantasy man myself, I chose to finally dip into this tome of Abraham's imagination.

Set in a fairly typical fantasy world, the Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham introduces a measured approach to what, at least I believe, will be an epic series of books. The world is revealed in small bits and pieces along the way as the characters progress. The world in itself seems loosely based upon the old italian principalities of post-medieval times. I've seen complaints that people feel the world-building has been stood to far in the corner, something that usually irks me, but I was swept away by the story so thoroughly that I hardly noticed. I've snuck a peak through a few reviews of the King's Blood (book 2) and the general conscensus seem to be that everything (well, mostly the parts you need) will be revealed in time.
Abraham's world map
“Stop!” the man cried in a deep and resonant voice. “Stop now, and come near! Hear the tale of Aleren Mankiller and the Sword of the Dragons! Or if you are faint of heart, move on. For our tale is one of grand adventure. Love, war, betrayal, and vengeance shall spill out now, upon these poor boards, and I warn you . . .”
The actor’s voice seemed to drop to a whisper, though it still carried as clearly as the shouting.
“. . . not all that are good end well. Not all that are evil are punished. Come close, my friends, and know that in our tale as in the world, anything may happen.”

Abraham writes a story beginning both in the city of Vanai as well as in the Kingdom of the Firstbloods, Antea. In Vanai the Medean bank faces a mercantile problem in the city's Prince who is at war with a neighbouring state and needs all the funds and men he can acquire. The Vanai angle gives us the POVs of both Cithrin Bel Sarcour, a half Cinnae girl of 17 and a ward of the Medean bank, and Marcus Wester, a cynical mercenary who's had a long fall from fortune and seeks a way out of Vanai without being pressganged.

In Antea we see factions vying for the King's favour one being led by Dawson Kalliam, the King's old friend and ally. Together with his allies he seeks a way to discredit his opponents at court before the power balance shifts.
In the field but heiring from Antea we also follow the young nobleman Geder Palliako's rise into prominence inspite of his own best efforts.

Abraham leads us on a chase as Cithrin and Marcus travel from Vanai and then into bank intrigues as they arrive in Porte Oliva. Cithrin's character goes through a dramatic progress from frightened teenager to a young woman who uses her wits and knowledge drummed into her as a ward to prosper in the new city. Marcus remains the stalward mercenary wounded and still tormented by his past. I've seen many reviews claiming this makes him a somewhat one-dimensional character but I believe part of this is because he is coupled with Cithrin who together with Geder Palliako goes through the book's most dramatic changes. He serves his purpose as a father-figure/reliable to give Cithrin something to cling to, some security which would seem essential to her eventual growth.

The court intrigues of the Antean court with  the Baron Dawson Kalliam at their heart are well written and somewhat reminiscent of George RR Martin's court, they do lack quite a few of the twists and turns though. Dawson is a traditionalist, something that gives his character that much more depth in the context of the story. You find yourself rooting for someone who to all appearances is an elitist bigot, but somehow you feel he is fighting for a just cause. Even if that cause is his King's life and trying to keep Antea what it is and always has been. The two, well not entirely, story focal points are tied finely together in short cameos and mentions along the way.

I'm looking at getting The King's Blood, book 2 in the series, with the next batch of books I buy. I would say for a first book in an epic series Daniel Abraham may have let a few people down with his world-building. Me, however, I was to caught up to notice. I can't wait to see the development of the anti-hero that is Geder Palliako with his new position at the court of Antea as well as Dawson's struggle in the face of the changes which are roiling underneath. I would recommend the book to most of my friends, and I feel that it's particularly good in that it serves quite well as an introductary book as well as being a must read for someone who reads a lot in the genre.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 6.8

REMINDS ME OF: At a glance I would say the Dragon's Path is similar in style to the Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. They share traits in the introductory style even if Lynch sets a far higher tempo towards the latter parts of the Lies of Locke Lamora.
It is slightly reminiscent of parts of George RR Martin's work with the focus on characters and the sparse use of magic but it reads more like an adventure story than a court intrigue in its entirety and is far from as brutal as a Song of Ice and Fire.

söndag 22 juli 2012

A long weekend

It's been a long weekend, and lots of time wasted that could have been spent writing or working on this blog. I suppose it shows that my priorities are somewhat in order.
I've done quite a lot of reading, and finished Orb Sceptre Throne earlier today, and I have to say Esslemont's writing is still evolving and it's been great going back to these familiar characters. Didn't realize how much I had missed them until I got a few pages into the book.

Can't say I'm entirely done with either review (The Dragon's Path or Orb Sceptre Throne) but I'll continue to plod away. This week I will be house-sitting for my girlfriends grandparents so no internet for the computer so will have definitive trouble getting them togheter but I bet you can wait for a bit longer.

Still deciding on which book to start on now!

onsdag 11 juli 2012

Anyone else excited?

Saw it on Twitter from Gollancz and confirmed myself on his website. Who can honestly say they're not excited about Abercrombie's upcoming Red Country?


I'm crazy with anticipation, in spite of the massive pile already giving me the evil eye.
Check it!

måndag 9 juli 2012

Throne of the Crecent Moon

I started Saladin Ahmed's debut novel on a whim as I had just finished Embassytown. The prologue pulled me in easily enough after I had fairly written Throne of the Crescent Moon off as a pastische on a sub-genre that has not seen many new talents lately.

But Throne of the Crescent Moon is so much more than that, in fact it is a quite lovely take on classic old Sword & Sorcery.

Saladin Ahmed has managed to create something new and entirely enticing with his characters Adoulla Makhslood and Raseed bas Raseed that works with the same dynamics as those which (at least my own) Grand Master of the Sword & Sorcery genre, Fritz Leiber, managed to create with his characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.
The pair of world-weary Doctor and fiercely devout Dervish does well in giving a varied viewpoint of the story as it progresses. Their dynamics, though lacking some of Leiber's pairing's humorous moments, are encouraging enough. The backstory, the unfolding plot in the middle of threatening civil war as well as the eerie nemesis of the great Doctor are done admirably and I found myself having a real difficulty putting the book down, even with family calling from the pool.

Ahmed does really well in keeping the tone light-hearted enough in places but with dread overbearing in the presentation of the sinister characters and their bloody plans for the city of Dhamsawaat. While the ages old nemesis might feel like it's been done to death I would say Saladin Ahmed has done admirably in breathing new life into this old cliché as well. But I particularly liked the evil side-kick that is Mouw Awa, the manjackal, with a brilliant madness and fleshed out evil backstory.
The box opened in a painful blaze of light. The gaunt man in the filthy kaftan appeared before him. Beside the gaunt man stood his servant, that thing—part shadow, part jackal, part cruel man—that called itself Mouw Awa. The guardsman screamed. As always the gaunt man said nothing. But the shadow-thing’s voice echoed in the guardsman’s head.
Listen to Mouw Awa, who speaketh for his blessed friend. Thou art an honored guardsman. Begat and born in the Crescent Moon Palace. Thou art sworn in the name of God to defend it. All of those beneath thee shall serve.
The book begins as a murder mystery story where the Doctor and the Dervish is compelled to investigate the murders of a family out in the marshes outside the great city. Adoulla, being the last great Ghul-slayer, is sought out by an old lover's nephew who was witness to the ghuls even as he is contemplating his retirement from what he concistently calls a young man's fight. They hunt for traces of the man behind the ghuls, a magician of sufficient strength to make Adoulla genuinely scared for the future of his city. They are joined by another sidekick as the story unfolds. Zamia Banu Laith Badawi is a lion-spirit shapeshifter who acted as the Protector of her band, when they were slain by an ally of the man creating the ghuls stalking the city.
Zamia and Raseed serve as the muscle behind the Doctor's magic, depicted wonderfully and mysteriously in flashes of light and potency, which drains him thouroughly once he uses it.
There's a mythos behind the lion shape that ties Zamia's mission to Adoulla and Raseed's, they are all tools of God and the Ministering Angels in their war against the Traitorous Angel and its evil servants.

There are several further memorable characters of the cast, among them the Falcon Prince in open rebellion against the despotic Khalif secluded in his palace. We see the old couple of Litaz and Dawoud, alchemist and magician, who are previous partners of Adoulla though now retired in the city. As the story unfolds Adoulla and his now two side-kicks must call on the help of the old pair as the evil opposing them is too great.

Towards the end of the book events unfold at a rapid pace with Pharaad az Hammaz, the Falcon Prince, planning an attack on the Khalif's palace which conincides with the revelation of the power and legacy of the Throne of the Crescent Moon/The Cobra Throne amid the emergence of the Doctor's true nemesis, who is the master of Mouw Awa and a prolific servant of the Traitorous Angel. Everything seems to happen at once. I was a bit amazed at Saladin Ahmed's willingness to conclude the plot so quickly and with mostly everything wrapped up, but it definitely left a thirst for more even as you struggled to put into place everything that happened.

For me Saladin Ahmed's novel debut was a very good read and gave a much needed gust of fresh air into the Sword & Sorcery and Adventure sub-genre. I'm looking forward to seeing the second book in the series, which will hopefully build onto this debut and further add to the scope of Ahmed's vision.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 6.7

REMINDS ME OF: Ill Met in Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber in it's engrossing depiction of a sprawling city just waiting to be explored by vivid adventurers and a plot that although light-hearted in nature delivers on the suspense and well-developed characters.

Sung in Blood by Glen Cook in that there are conspiracies within conspiracies as the fate of a city is determined not just by what is contested in the opening but also in mysteries slowly revealed along the way.

torsdag 5 juli 2012

Whoops! Where did the time go?

My humblest apologies, I had planned to have the review of Throne of the Crescent Moon up by monday or tuesday but life is still conspiring against me. I was hoping to get lots of things done this week since my significant other has been away working but, alas, I fell into Orb Sceptre Throne with what precious time I had over. Tomorrow morning (early) I will be leaving for Malmo and Copenhagen for a friend's stag party so no precious time.

I promise to have it as soon as I am able though, hopefully at the start of next week. I've begun on the draft for the review of the Dragon's Path as well.

Thank you for your patience, peace!

söndag 24 juni 2012

Steven Erikson news that I had somehow missed!

It would seem the next Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella has been finished and is out from PS Publishing, since the middle of june apparently. The title The Wurms of Blearmouth does little to explain the continued story from Lees of Laughter's End but the blurb is as wonderfully whimsical and with the comedic turn of phrase that you've come to expect from the novellas. I found it on the A Fantasy Reader blog, with cover pictures from PS Publishing as well.

While browsing my local sci-fi and fantasy bookstore to see if they had a pre order available I noticed that they have the first book in Erikson's Kharkanas trilogy available, and slotted for a july 31 release date. Forge of Darkness is a definite read on my 2012 radar.

Back from Mallorca!

So I got back from Mallorca yesterday, jetted off to the inlaws vacation house for some belated Midsummer's eve celebratory dinner and Kubb and am now finally home in the apartment again after roughly two and a half hours of work as well.
The weather was fantastic in Spain, and the only thing that I've really reflected on is the amount of time a niece of two years can swallow in a week's time. I've gotten through Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon and am nearly finished with Daniel Abraham's the Dragon's Path and I've been very positively surprised by both writers. Granted both have come critically acclaimed and highly recommended but with a few recent letdowns in the 'new generation' of writers that have been mentioned in the same breath I've been more sceptic and maybe more critical as well when picking out new books.

I'll try to have a review of the two as soon as possible, I'm supposed to have time off the coming week as well but already know that I will have to work monday morning as well as wednesday until lunch so we'll see how that goes. I also finally received Orb, Sceptre Throne so will start that as my next project instead of Railsea which was my back-up plan.

Thank you for your patience!

torsdag 14 juni 2012

Frustration and time slippage.

I'm a bit frustrated by my lack of time to read Throne of the Crescent Moon. I've barely managed 50 odd pages because of work, training and the european championship. But I've definitely taken a liking to Saladin Ahmed's more traditional style and find his writing oddly inspiring. I say oddly because my main inspiration recently have been Steven Erikson's books of the Malazan as well as some of China Miéville's New Crobuzon books.

Ahmed sure has a flair of his own, more in the style (at least to me) of Leiber and Moorcock, he doesn't get in the way of his own storytelling by having to be revolutionizing the whole genre a page at the time. Something that seems to have afflicted the wide terminology of fantasy lately. Sometimes a good story needn't be longer than a few hundred pages containing nothing that we haven't really seen before. Sometimes the only thing you need is a new perspective for something that might seem to have been done previously to feel fresh and interesting. I am a bit stumped by the many reviews hailing it as a spokesnovel for the middle-eastern perspective though, and labelling it a fantastical arabian nights is a bit of a disservice to Ahmed's writing, choosing only to highlight his heritage. Glen Cook's El Murid was a tremendous read also set in an arabic/middle-eastern setting and was a fresh change of perspective in itself.
But Throne of the Crescent Moon is so much more than just a middle-eastern viewpoint on fantasy, it's a throwback to early sword & sorcery blending wonderfully with new genre tropes and breathing new life into a subgenre that has been a bit lacklustre lately. I'm intrigued, and very frustrated by time slipping out of my hands. Early saturday morning I am leaving for Mallorca for one week though, so I am hoping to finish maybe 2-3 books in that time.

söndag 10 juni 2012

Embassytown

On Arieka, for lifetimes, the last two megahours, our representatives hadn't been twins but doppels, cloned. It was the only viable way. They were bred in twos in the Ambassador-farm, tweaked to accentuate certain psychological qualities. Blood twins had long been outlawed.
Again I am sat in awe by China Miéville's story-telling skills. I had read some pretty poor reviews of Miéville's Embassytown regarding a slow tempo and tedious writing and feared that he had finally proven himself just human. But upon starting the book I quickly fell into the flowing prose that is one of Miéville's trademarks, together of course with his innovative imagination and extensive scientific descriptions, which widen his scope and define his style.
I've read mostly anything and everything that has been put out by China Miéville and make no pretense about him being one of my absolute favorite authors. Perdido Street Station is an absolute epic masterpiece in my mind, and while Embassytown is pretty far from the gritty urban fantasy depicted there, Miéville's genius is still on display with this work.

Embassytown, more science fiction than fantasy, depicts the story of Avice Benner Cho, a young girl growing up in the slum of Embassytown, being a colony of  where humans (as far as we know) live a quiet life far from the hub of the universe and tradelanes. They interact with the local population, Hosts or Ariekei, through ambassadors that have been bred specifically to commune with them through the indescribable language spoken. Miéville does a superb job of setting the scene with detailed history of Embassytown as well as building up the main character Avice through her coming of age.
The story starts off in a slow enough pace but I feel it's more a case of building up the world, the characters and the general atmosphere than a failure to build up suspense.

The theme of Embassytown is a reoccuring one with Miéville. Through a series of events, whether by choice or conincidence, Avice stumbles upon facts that slowly yet inexorably push the story forward. When a new Ambassador (EzRa) arrives in Embassytown, not created within the controlled labs of the city, the previously slow-paced linguistic mystery story is thrown on its back and the pace quickly steps up piece by piece. Avice, our main protagonist, is forced to choose sides in a power struggle that ensues when the impact of EzRa's control of Language wrecks havoc among the Ariekei's previously placid and mostly non-violent culture. In true Miéville-style there are several plot twists that seemingly shifts the focus of, not only the story but the entire focus of the novel when the narrow mystery story morphs into a guerilla-like war for survival in a society that is falling apart. It's been explored in several of Miéville's previous novels, Perdido Street Station, Kraken and The Scar but never in quite the same way and always with different motives.
As usual he manages to tie everything together after we, the readers, have been taken on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns. The conclusion sees a revolution/evolution of the Ariekei's Language and their abilities to communicate with their surroundings as well as a future for Embassytown as something more than a backwater colony-world.

I read through Lavie Tidhar's thoughts on the book and feel they summarize most of what feelings and thoughts I had on the book, as well as nodding heavily towards me trying to get my hands on The City and the City in the near future. Even if Embassytown felt heavier than previous novels in its analytical approach I feel good knowing that China Miéville can keep up his avantgarde approach to writing, still being as innovative as when I first started reading his works, and that I have some of the best still to come.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 7.2

REMINDS ME OF: Kraken by China Miéville in it's depiction of a small-scale mystery story, even if the motives are different, turned revolutionary detective story turned desperate fight for survival.

Amid weddings, football and work

I fell into Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon this morning. I read a few lines yesterday and was both intrigued and subsequently hooked.
Nine days. Beneficent God, I beg you, let this be the day I die! The guardsman's spine and neck were warped and bent but still he lived. He'd been locked in the red lacquered box for nine days. He'd seen the days' light come and go through the lid-crack. Nine days. He held them close as a handful of dinars. Counted them over and over. Nine days. Nine days. Nine days. If he could remember this until he died he could keep his soul whole for God's sheltering embrace. He had given up on remembering his name.
So starts the Throne of the Crescent Moon, and among other short excerpts I've seen around the net I found myself reading along before being entirely aware that I had begun on the book. From the first impressions it doesn't seem as if I will be disappointed.
But of course there's also a review pending on Embassytown, you know the drill.

torsdag 7 juni 2012

I finished Embassytown!

And so, a couple of hours ago I finished Embassytown. I had time for a short reflection before I went to a work function, and mainly marvelled at Miéville's ability to once again cobble together a great read. I'm stricken with some of the similar themes in his books, and would have likened Embassytown to the Scar before I realized that the occuring theme is one that comes with most of the Miéville novels I've read.


Revolution and evolution become one as his main characters drive the plot forward through genius, intuitivity or just proximity to great individuals. The catharsis when either the worldview of one of the viewpoints, or you as a reader, realize the greater picture is something I've found many authors lacking. Especially on the scale that Miéville manages it.

I admire Miéville for his great innovation and the scope at which he projects his ideas and then summarily ties them up with great aplomb. Who'd have known a novel on linguistics could be this enticing?

I've no idea what to read next though, Orb Sceptre Throne still hasn't arrived.

söndag 3 juni 2012

And also before I forget..

I received the second batch of new books on friday afternoon, didn't get the time to collect them until saturday though. I had to brave the cold winds and pouring rains to collect them though, but I was steadfast in the face of adversity.

I am really eager to get started on these what with all the rave reviews they've been getting, but now that they've arrived I'm a bit shaken by the size of the pile. And I'm still expecting Orb, Sceptre Throne which I had planned to be my next read after Embassytown (I've about a hundred pages left).

I got a head's up from The Wertzone's that there's an excerpt out of Richard Morgan's The Dark Defiles on Morgan's blog, and some news regarding the work being done on the grand finale. There are good feelings concerning this book! I will probably have a look through when at work in the morning.

Readster Magnitude Scale

So I finally decided on a grading system for the books I've read and reviewed. I'm gonna base it on the Richter Magnitude Scale for earthquakes, as it gives some depth to the grading while being able to sort several books into the same scale, well mostly without all the fancy logarithms of the Richter system. I'm still working on the specifics but it will look something like this;

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE
Magnitude - Description - Effects
0.0 up to 2.0 - Avoid, always - Not worth suffering through
2.1 up to 3.0 - Time waster - Even if you finish it, there were always better alternatives
3.1 up to 4.0 - Underwhelming - Once read you won't remember much of it
4.1 up to 5.0 - Decent read - Decent, but not really worth a re-read
5.1 up to 6.0 - Good read - Should be on everybody's radar at least once
6.1 up to 7.0 - Must read - Go out of your way to read these
7.1 up to 8.0 - Reread ad infitum - Books that will have you returning as soon as possible
8.1 up to 9.0 - Genre (re)definer - One way by which you will measure other books
9.1 up to 10.0 - Life changer - The sheer awesomness will make you a reformed person

Hopefully, I won't come across any of the RMS 0.0 up to 3.0's but you never know. I will try to give examples of books that I'd categorize in each of the Magnitudes. Barbara Hambly's Planet of Twilight is a good example of something that you'll typically find in the RMS 0.0 to 2.0 (lets give it a 0.7). I was far into the Star Wars extended universe and gems such as the Han Solo trilogy meant you'd swallow mostly everything set in the same backdrop. But Planet of Twilight is one of the worst reads I've had, and we still reference it when citing our most awful books of all time. It's hard to put a finger on just what it is that fills me with revulsion, but I also know that I can't be bothered at all to even try. I did actually finish it though.


Try as I might I cannot find another example of a low magnitude book than another Star Wars extended universe story. How Vonda M. McIntyre's the Crystal Star got to be a New York Times Bestseller I will never know, but I do know that it was one of the most tedious books I've ever had to read.
I'd rate it a Time Waster-magnitude of RMS 2.1 to 3.0 based on the fact that already there were other more interesting books to be found, even if the Del Rey books of the same period struck you as more mainstream sci-fi than Bantam's books. I'll give the Crystal Star a whopping 2.2 on the Readster Magnitude Scale. It's simply not worth the trouble you'll get from trying to plow through several pages of dullness. I wonder if the author was aiming for suspense, because the only feeling I got was to finish it as quick and painless as possible.

I might be incredibly harsh on Paul Kearney but with the accolades of Steven Erikson and most of the blogging holy rollers I expected a lot more from someone who was touted as a successor to both Erikson and Glen Cook. What you got was something that felt unfinished and rushed through. There were some good moments, but they were drowned in a story that hurtled along in a break-neck speed, something that isn't always a problem but with Kearney I felt that everything about the story, characters and the world suffered because the author was in such a hurry to finish the two books in the Monarchies of God. As things stand I rate Paul Kearney's Hawkwood and the Kings an underwhelming RMS of 3.1 to 4.0. Because there were interesting moments, mainly with Hawkwind and later with the development of the faith I'll give The Monarchies of God, volume 1 a 3.8 roundabout.

Another of the touted heavy-hitters of the new batch of fantasy writers David Anthony Durham was critically acclaimed and listed as a great debut into fantasy after his exploits in historical fiction with award wining books about Hannibal you'd be expecting a rich reading experience. He was mentioned for his world-building skills and developed characters, something I can't really get my head behind. To me, both Kearney and Durham have a flavour more reminiscent of Glen Cook's clear-cut and cleanly-shaven approach to writing, but both fall far short of creating the same kind of atmosphere and realistic milieu that Cook seems to create effortlessly (at least in his Black Company series). I'd say both remind me of the worst moments in Cook's new Instrumentalities of the Night-series. Would be epic battles just roll by uncommented, and the character development that I've seen so far seems pretty linear and predictable. I wasn't as disappointed in this novel as I was with Hawkwood and the Kings but it wasn't far off. I'd give David Anthony Durham's Acacia an RMS of 4.1 to 5.0 and probably landing it square in the middle at a 4.5.

Struggling to come up with something close to Durham's Acacia I'll go with a novel of the previously mentioned series of Cook's, the Instrumentalities of the Night. With Glen Cook I always know I will get something that I will hunger to finish, and I'm yet to be disappointed. The one problem I have with Glen Cook's Tyranny of the Night is that it, much like the two novels above, feels rushed through and seems to have much lacking in between in terms of character development, plot drive and world building, something that, at least to me, is astonishingly rare with Cook's writing. I haven't followed through the series yet though, so it might well be that the series will grow on me as a whole. But with the high standards Cook has previously set I'm a bit let down and will label this novel a Good Read-rating of an RMS of 5.1 to 6.0, and probably fixed at a 5.2.

Scott Lynch's the Lies of Locke Lamora sent him hurtling to the spotlight with a debut that was both traditional in it's tone and with it's setting. Pretty standard story of a young thief growing up on the city streets with close companions and struggling against mightier nemesises and wrenching plot twists. A genuine good read that shouldn't be missed by anyone who still appreciates more traditional fantasy stories, but Lynch has injected bottlefuls of rejuvenation in the usual tropes. What you get is a pacy, witty and action-packed story that unfolds piece by piece with brilliant characters fully realised and added depth to by the backdrop. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a prime example of a Must Read-rating with an RMS of 6.1 to 7.0 and if pressured I'd fixated it at a 6.7 probably. It actually reads a bit like a crime novel.


For those books that you find you can just read and re-read over and over again I will go to an old classic of mine. Glen Cook's the Silver Spike sees his second mention in the lists, and it's not through any fault of me not reading a wide enought assortment of books. I could easily have placed any of Fritz Leiber's stories here as well, and probably most of the Malazan Books of the Fallen as I've probably re-read them just as many times. But the Silver Spike is a novel of between 300-400 pages and it manages to do what most others need a collection of works to accomplish. It's a free standing novel within the world of the Black Company and features a wizards Gossamer, Spidersilk and Exile as well as Toadkiller Dog and Old Man Fish, characters that are so cool they might well make your eyes melt. There are so many shades, so much depth that adds to the other installments that I find I can just immerse myself however many times and still not feel the need for maps, poetry or wonderous prose. Glen Cook delievers on an RMS of 7.1 to 8.0 and I'd gladly give it a 7.8.

As we draw closer to the ultimate book (which I am quite sure I have not yet seen, nor think I will ever do) we've gotten to the books at an RMS of 8.1 to 9.0, the Genre (re)definer. I would say you need to turn no further than to the absolute king, and probably co-creator, of the Sword & Sorcery genre. Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar, the first volume in the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is a lesson in economic writing with fantastic prose, a richly detailed world and characters that quickly become like good friends. You get to know their ins and outs, and in the background you have a wealth of supporting cast at whose faiths you wonder whenever you get a moment to reflect and absorb the stories. The likeable combination of a towering barbarian who is by no means a dull slugger and the quick little thief has been borrowed or blatantly stolen many times over the years, but no one does it quite as well as Fritz Leiber. I'd put Lankhmar; Tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser at a solid 8.8.

Throughout my reading I've gone through maybe a hundred books and a very select few have come close to what I would consider giving me as close to a life-changing experience as I would think possible for a book. China Miéville's Perdido Street Station is definetely one of those books. Everything about the story is simply enthralling; starting out with Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, theorist and researcher taking on a job from an exiled Garuda who has lost its wings. The story spirals out of Isaac's control when his studies result in the break out of a vicious predator, the Slakemoth, which sets in motion a chain of events that might spell the end of the entire city of New Crobuzon and it's inhabitants. The book turns into a  race against time where the stakes are raised with every passing chapter and Miéville keeps the suspense going until the very last page. And throughout we see a development both of the main characters as well as of the world of Bas-Lag as a whole with a richly detailed background of cities, races and the characters that we meet. Miéville has a unique talent for combining the scientific with the fantastic that gives a rich detail as well as an immersive world that is wholly believable in its unbelievability. Presently Perdido Street Station is the finest book I've read and definetely consider it having broken into the Life-changer RMS of 9.1 to 10.0. I'd rate it a record-breaking 9.5.

lördag 2 juni 2012

Kell's Legend

So I think I average a review something like every two weeks, even though I promise to have them out and about maybe a week earlier. This time I blame Embassytown. It was far more engrossing than I had expected, and I was right in going in with low expectations (for a Miéville book), because now it feels as if I'm experiencing his writing for the first time again. But that's not to be the topic today.

Kell's Legend is one of those books that I stumbled upon when roaming the few bloggers I regularly visit, and most seemed to think Andy Remic was on to something special. So I googled it, and rummaged through what spoiler-free info I could find and decided to order the book. There are many comparisons to David Gemmell, of which I've actually read only one book, but you instantly feel the connection between Druss the Legend and Kell as older heroes sharing many similar traits. The cursed weapon-bearer is given a bit of a fresh Moorcock-feel as well with Illana, the bloodbond axe that Kell carries. Touted as the great successor to Gemmell though I think Remic will need a bit more time, and development to fully realize his potential for the world and characters of his books.
Remic has a habit of ending each chapter with a sort of mini-cliffhanger that leaves you struggling to put down the book at each chapter's end.

There are moments of vividly imagined history and world-building, and the Vachine are nothing short of race-building genius. Clockwork vampires of a layered society with albino foot-soldiers, the Vachine nobles and then the Harvesters. There's so much potential there you get a bit downhearted when Remic goes on to the rather flat characters of Kat and Nienna and the small world they seem to inhabit. The lands of Falanor are woefully under-developed and places like Stone Lion Woods and Jajor Falls get nothing of the introduction or depth of detail being just checkpoints along the way to what should have been a climactic battle between the King's Eagle Divisons and the Iron Army of the Vachine.

Kell and his along-the-way-acquired sidekick, the dandy Saark, are rendered more deeply and developed partly throughout the book but there are several pretty easily penetrated plot mechanics. But then again, you don't go into a Gemmell-book expecting a wealth of pretty prose and deep-loding philosophic meandering. You look for action, bloody battles and siege-mentality, and this is where Andy Remic's Kell's Legend delivers. He throws a fast pace, with a story that hurtles along, of blood, grit and some gratuitious sex thrown in for good measure. The main character turns into a duo a few chapters in when Saark gains a bit more space, and they are the two characters who see the most development. Events in the Black Pike Mountains get some time as well with Anukis and Vashell, and we see some of the best world-building in the events unfolding in Silva Valley, the home of the Vachine.

All in all I see Remic's first book in the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles as a promise not quite fulfilled. I don't think he steps out of the shadow of Druss the Legend, the mantle being a tad to big, but he has set the stage for a thrilling second book with Kell on the way to confront his past in the Black Pike Mountains. Anukis, the degenerate Vachine, now outcast from her society is poised to seek out her father Kradek-ka in the fabled Nonterrazake.

READSTER MAGNITUDE SCALE: 4.7

REMINDS ME OF: Legend by David Gemmell in the depiction of a lone warrior fighting back a surging invasion with axe and fury. Lots of blood, grit and severed limbs.

Conan, the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard with a charismatic lead character that rises to overcome any foe, with a flimsy of followers or supporting cast that kind of fall by the wayside.

torsdag 31 maj 2012

A new batch of books

Since I've been entirely too lazy after work, and had a few prior commitments to work out, I haven't gotten the review of Kell's Legend done yet. I've been working a bit on a new grading system, in exceptionally poor taste, and received one of my book orders just yesterday!


So far I received a bunch of Glen Cook books since I managed to lose them on a trip through customs in the US of A some years back (the man must be positively cursed, what with his stolen manuscripts and my disappeared books) as well as Beaulieu's Winds of Khalakovo and the Straits of Galahesh.

torsdag 24 maj 2012

Combining the best of two worlds

I don't intend to make this a blog about my music tastes or anything like that. But if it was, it would feature massive amounts of the National (along with Bloc Party, Final Fantasy and many others). There's something about Matt Berninger's voice that just suits my every mood.

And now apparently they will feature on Season 2's the Music of Game of Thrones. Their rendition of the Rains of Castamere is excellent, and brings even more to the setting and the history of the Lannisters.
Go listen, it's excellent! Winter is coming on tumblr.

onsdag 23 maj 2012

And so I finished Kell's Legend!

Well, I did it on monday actually. Yesterday I started on Embassytown but I'm only a few pages in so far. I'm happily surprised with Remic's Kell's Legend, I wouldn't call it prose since most of what he writes has little to no poetic or fine-lit meaning, but it is downright hard-core minimalistic fantasy of a higher level. The invention of the clockwork vampires with their culture and plot mechanics is brilliant even if I find the battles and depth of character in Kell a bit lacking. Still a good read though, and as mentioned a great change of pace. I'll have a review up towards the end of the week most likely.

I also watched the Avengers last night, and have to say I was pleasantly surprised. A lot of good action and fine acting on behalf of most of the actors. I've never really been a fan of Iron Man but Robert Downey Jr's take on him is growing on me. Hulk was his usual likeable self. I nearly missed the ending though, great foreshadowing which probably passed a few of the more uninitiated movie goers by.

I'm not really one for Marvel's updating of their entire universe as I haven't followed what's been happening in the comics since early 2000's, I just get frustrated. I read a bit about the black Nick Fury which I think is a poor substitute for having an actual black super hero available. It's not like there aren't any, even if they have been few and far between. Samuel L Jackson did a decent job of catching the character of Nick Fury the elder though. My main irk though is the many different takes on the Hulk, and even if he didn't feature here the Spiderman issue. There are several more plot-driven parts of both characters' development that you can't need to rehash the same story two or three times. Get a grip Marvel, if I get to see one more Spiderman origins movie I'm having a pyre of the old magazines.