to read, or in one case reread three things with cover art that I liked.
First up is a reread of Mercedes Lackey's Magic's Pawn. I haven't had the time to reread this is a few years. Partly because my last copy died after several rereads, and spilled drinks, and partly because I've been busy. This is truly one of her best works, and one of the better pieces of fantasy of the last quarter century. Very few people have the skill to take a whiny, self centered, and rather well damaged individual and make him carry a story. I think I respect this story more now than I did the first dozen times I read it.
Second up is Caitlin Kitterdge's Night Life. My only real hesitancy about this book is my inability to call it either an urban fantasy or paranormal romance, fortunately it's not that important in a story that's done well. I've decided to call it a mystery with dark fantastic setting and romantic elements instead. Sure it'd make the buyers and marketing critters at the major chains a bit loopy if they ever saw a slew of books get sent to them labeled that way, but it fits. Night Life is well told, and gently sidesteps the peril of being a generic fantasy female who kicks ass story. Very nice.
And last, Joshua Palmatier. In The Skewed Throne half a dozen rules of good writing are broken along the way. I like this story for the unwavering fidelity to the character and the matrix of things that made the character. A great many writers decide to take their diamond in the rough character, pull them out of the hard scrabble ways that created them and a few turns of the page later we have a perfect member of the upper class. A perfect member of the upper class, only harder, sharper and more cunning. In general, those stories make me want to gag.
For those who haven't read these books yet, it's probably past time you did.
In epic fantasy there are so many larger than life characters that it has become nearly as much of a cliche to create smaller, weaker heros with pluck and luck to counter what they don't have in brash and brawn. Still, there are a couple of the world beater class I'd enjoy meeting, Marcos the Black from Ray Feist's Midkimea
has such a twisted mind I don't think I could resist the urge to try and burrow into it. He'd probably turn me into a goat or something, but I'd adore the opportunity anyway.
What I refer to as middle fantasy is even richer with fascinating people. Mercedes Lackey created Valdermar, and it and it neighbors are home to quite a few people worth the time to enjoy a few drinks with, Kerowyn was always a fun person to follow the life of. Vanyel despite needing the occasional slap certainly qualifies as well. I think if i could pick only one person from the world I'd want to meet the adept Ma'ar (who's name I've probably butchered). Dianne Wynne Jones made me love fantasy again when I read Deep Secret, I probably hadn't read a single fantasy in over a year before that book and with it the balance of what I read took another of those periodic tacks that have less to do with what's popular than with what is good. Deep Secret introduces one after another of Simon's brothers, in-laws and coworkers and each of them has that genuine it that makes you take notice. Robin Hobb writes probably the darkest fantasy I read for fun and makes the bloody minded perseverance of her characters an unspoken but palpable motive force of her works.
Urban fantasy has its own fun, and quirky characters which I adore. C.E. Murphy wrote about the first cabbie who was drawn as a real person and not a cardboard cutout since Taxi, and I can never wait to see what he'll do or say next. Laura Resnick's Disappearing Nightly stars a prima donna cast of an off Broadway play that has you gobbling pages half hoping something unpleasant will eat them, and half hoping they'll live to be a wiser head some, distant, day. Dave Freer and Eric Flint have one of the most effective social satires of the genre with Pyramid Scheme and the follow on Pyramid Power and while cheerfully assassinating the character of government agencies and agents, mangling mythology with a thoroughness rivaled only by the cartoon Fractured Fairytales, and setting a breakneck pace put characters in front of you that are fully drawn and deftly executed. Cal and Nik Leandros are brothers with the type of relationship that will instantly click with anyone lucky enough to have a relationship that close. Rob Thurman takes this foundation and uses it to build the two separately and together and a world that is nearly intense enough to rival them. Richard Kadrey's regard for the conventions of fantasy are best described as scant, but Butcher Bird takes us on a hell ride with the gritty and gripping Spyder Lee. Spyder's probably not the guy most of us would pick to perform emergency surgery on us, but he's not boring.
All in all, for me it doesn't matter if the character is a good guy, a bad girl, or somewhere in between, they just have to feel like someone who is genuine and if I couldn't imagine meeting them here in our world, they need to be a real product of the universe they life in, and not someone from the here and now shoved into a world that just makes them look absurd.
Way back in '04 I won/purchased the first five Dresden Files books, autographed. Since then they have remained on my top shelf untouched, and something I wasn't sure I'd ever get too. Fortunately, I snagged the first one to read after going through a couple of my favorite rereads. I've since read three of them, back to back. Really fun books. Readers may find the tone similar to Gaiman in the incidentals.
The two rereads were Lois Bujold's Curse of Chalion, and David Weber's Shadow of Saganami. What great books. Two very different styles of character creation, two very different worlds, and two books that have insinuated themselves at the top of my fave books by those writers.
Julie Czerneda's A Thousand Words For Stranger came highly recommended, and has been pimped at various times by Lois Bujold. This of course made me highly nervous. Fortunately, the book lives up to tall the hype. And Julie is wonderful woman to meet.
Patricia Briggs wrote the wonderful "Steal the Dragon" all the intrigue and drama of the uber-fat fantasy's in a slim volume complete with characterization done with efficient flair.
Ilona Andrews wrote the gritty, gripping "Magic Bites", no saccharin sweetness to this skiffy morsel, and no pretentious literary nonsense either. Just good writing first to last.
As for where I've been. Rather sick. Nothing serious, just a nasty virus that put me in bed for a couple days and has made catching up an interesting proposition.
First up was a YA novel that I'm pretty certain was in my WFC gift bag. Magic or Madness . Justine Larbalestier's is an entertaining yarn about a young girl who had been raised by her slightly loopy mother and moved all over Australia never staying in one place for long. Reason, our young heroine finds herself in the clutches of the person her mother feared most. Reason's Grandmother. All of Reason's young life has been spent avoiding the woman she has been raised to believe is evil incarnate. There are one or two very minor things in this I could live with having been buffed down a bit, but then I'm not the intended audience. All in all this was an excellent read and held up better to a critical adult reader than most of the YA on the market.
Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey was something i wanted to read since the first time i saw the cover. While the main characters aren't the sort of people some would ever give anything except a nervous glare, they are the right characters for the story and the setting. If you're looking for a typical formulaic fantasy novel, go elsewhere. Butcher Bird is anything but another cookie cutter fantasy novel. Kadrey smoothly take your expectation and slaps you in the head with them in this twisted tale. Fun.
I got the immense pleasure of reading my first Elizabeth Bear book recently. Undertow is really a top notch novel. It has that dim, smoky aura thats right out of a prohibition era speakeasy that has all but gone by the wayside in todays science fiction. Undertow is set on a corporate colony. The levels of tech in the book are a very interesting mix, the culture is very solidly drawn and despite never drawing a single parallel to our world today has relevant things to say and better still relevant questions to ask. One of the things I like best about this book is that Elizabeth wastes not even a single sentence. Undertow, like the dangerous pull under the surface of the water will suck you in so smoothly you won't know it's even happened until its too late.
The last of todays books was C.E. Murphy's Heart of Stone. I was almost afraid to read this book, and its certainly the one I had the highest expectations and hence the largest worries about. Having read all three of the books in Catie's The Walking Papers series, and having read the first three chapters before interviewing her at Pi-Con last August, I knew this was going to be very different. I knew Margrit was unlike Joanne, and that she wasn't gifted with a octogenarian cab driver to remind her to either look before she leaped or sprout wings. The differences between the two ladies were stark, as was the tone. To me, the Walker Papers all have a lighter tone.Heart of Stone is by no means dark, but for those of you who haven't yet read it (go do so) expecting a carbon copy of the other series will lead straight to disappointment. On the other hand this book clearly demonstrates the breadth of Murphy's story telling ability. Magrit is fun in a completely different way than Jo is. The internal monologues are different, the women have no physical resemblance, and lead different types of lives. But the important thing isn't what separates them, its what binds the two together. That tie is simply the exquisite way they are written. This is an excellent read in and of itself and will make Murphy many new fans.
History, Political Science/Commentary and Psychology
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Alan Dean Foster was quietly conversing with someone who's name i didn't catch when we got on the elevator. He doesn't look like your typical fan/author or editor.
Tempest accosted me and insisted i buy and read a book by a lovely lady at the con, i accomplished the first and am working on the second.
Jay Lake is dressed in his usual subtle hues and reserved finery.
Oh yes, and my body dislikes being this far from the ocean, the air here is way to dry.
The mass autograph session last night was chaos incarnate. While nearly everything else here has been well organized, one or two people reported that it would have been a might easier on those not signing if things were alphabetized. As it was, David Hartwell was sitting next to Lois Bujold, George R. R. Martin was sitting next to David Anthony Durham, J.V. Jones and David Coe were rubbing elbows, and David Duncan was sharing air with Sarah Hoyt, Dan Hoyt and Kate Paulk.
More news when (and if) i wake up.
Then too, there is the problem of doing it right. I have almost the same grievances with chapter quotes as i do with prologues. Either A) they are not done right, either spoiling the entire book and or chapter, or B) they are totally opaque and just distract the reader and make them think the are missing something that just isn't there.
This hopeless ramble was spurred by nothing in particular...
I don't think, for various reasons I'll comment to much on the last couple of categories, but I'll say that the books I've recommended to others don't always fall into the field of favorite, although I obviously don't hate them.
And what books do you think are good for introducing people to the SF/F spectrum? Some people are of the opinion that its the "classics" like Tolkien and Heinlein, I'm not so sure. The world view of some of the writers of their era is entirely alien to many today. And for the science fiction of the day some of the science was, well let's just say i hold it in the same esteem I do the pop psychology of the last decade or two.
A couple great kids books: Tony's Hardwork Day, The Boxcar Kids series, The Dark is Rising series, Madeline L'Engle's books, and of course My side of the Mountain. There's also a couple wonderful books that I can't recall that featured a kid (probably a girl) and a flying crocodile. My rather deplorable memory suggests the first book (iirc there were two) starts with the kid arriving at a summer cabin with their family.
(odd note, apparently the spell checker knows how to spell both Heinlein and Tolkien)
In this case the fantastic Sarah Hoyt is making a couple points more than a few need to consider.
Part one: http://sarahahoyt.livejournal.com/
Part two: Http://sarahahoyt.livejournal.com/11566.
Anyone got a good writer of ensemble casts they'd like to recommend? Well, other than Dave Freer, although y'all can recommend him too.
*Note, this does not mean send me everything you've written with seventy nine viewpoint characters, it means (as always) send me the best you've written.
What creatures in fantasy (including urban fantasy) are you just plain sick of?
Are flashbacks annoying, sometimes needed, or just the most wonderifous things eva! ? (Ok, so i need to listen to my nieces friends less.)
Which is more entertaining to read about: The sappy sidekick supporting the substandard star or the reverse?
Which publisher is doing the covers that you think are most attractive right now?
These links are not safe for work.
I repeat NSFW!
The first is a link to something every writer, editor, and agent should be required to read yearly.
The second is a review and critical analysis of a history on American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
The third is a video that is just plain funny.
In my last entry I asked what have you learned about writing this year? I was hoping for brilliance among my LJ readers, and per usual was not disappointed. The intellectually incandescent sartorias said:
"When you (meaning me) think you're done, you're not. Then you have to go through and search, sentence by sentence, for this grindingly tedious list of goddamn irritating phrases that you use way too much."
One of the first things I pick up on when reading is how often a phrase, is repeated. It just screams at me. Assuming I get that far I can normally tell you how many times a particular phrase or set of phrases have been used within one or two instances without having consciously counted them.
While most common in dialogue, phrase over repetition is not just a problem in dialogue. A well respected writer most famous for their Mil-SF/Space Opera who’s work I like for example was once ribbed politely by a few fans for using “snorted like a moderately irate boar” or something similar not just once or twice for the same person, but to describe two or three dissimilar people in a book. Granted in tomes the size this individual turns out not everyone is going to catch it, but it looks sloppy when it is caught.
...the green sashed servants....
...the green sashed servants....
...the green sashed servants....
...the green sashed servants....
...the green sashed servants....
...the green sashed servants....
Ya me too. Why in the hell do some otherwise enjoyable authors feel the need to to repeat the same information dozens of times in a relatively short span of time? I was reading a reasonable first novel put out by one of the major houses that had a character describe the group of people who did the manual labor in the building he was in, in the exact same way at least a dozen times in three or four chapters. I'm pretty certain that this was done every time they were mentioned. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm not done with the book, or even sure I'll finish it but I didn't pick up any of the authors under-subtle hints that these people would be important to the story.
What a waste of verbiage, time and glaringly jarring.
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