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


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.


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;

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.


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.