Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Sandman Reread: The Wake

Tim Callahan is finishing up his reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series with The Wake:
But if you’ve sat through the extended editions of Lord of the Rings, you know that the endings upon endings feel properly paced and well-deserved. The same is true for Neil Gaiman andSandman. Though it sometimes feels as if the entire second half of the series is about saying goodbye, “The Wake” and the two single-issue stories that follow are earned and resonant. And while they may not be strictly necessary—I think you could end your reading of Sandman with The Kindly Ones, drop the book, and strut away like a champ, though that would be weird and unnecessary unless your name is “Neil” and “Gaiman”—the stories collected in The Wake provide closure to the larger story and additional flavor to the Sandman mythology.
Full Story: HERE


Tomb Raider by Joe Abercrombie

I was all set to ignore the latest Tomb Raider game. I'd read some comments by one of the developers which turned me off (something about a near-rape, and Lara framed as a 'cornered animal') but now that Joe Abercrombie has put his seal of approval on it (and I trust Joe's radar for sexism and misogyny more than any game reviewer) I may have to look at it more closely. 
It was connection with the character where it really shone. Just a great and very cunningly calibrated central narrative, as Lara goes from helpless innocent to hardened survivor. Initially she’s stumbling about coughing, shivering, horrified.  When she first gets her hands on a gun it trembles as she aims.  But steadily her skills and yours improve.  And the stakes feel high.  The action is crunching, visceral, unforgiving.  At times there’s a resident-evil like nastiness and threat about it.  Lara’s hung upside down among corpses, impales herself on spikes escaping, slides down mountains, falls out of wrecked planes, is beaten up, and gets progressively more scratched, torn, battered, bandaged and dirty.  You never fear for Nathan Drake, and though you might be wowed by the cinematics in Uncharted, I don’t know if you’re ever emotionally affected in the way you are by Tomb Raider.  You really find yourself rooting for Lara, and that sense of immersion just ups the ante on everything. When you make a long jump over a dizzying void and she just clings on by her fingertips – you feel it. When she dodges a goon’s machete and rock-axes him in the head – you feel it. When she parachutes down a mountainside and impales herself on a tree because you were too busy watching the landscape swoop past – you feel that too.
Full Story: HERE


The Folding Knife Reread: Ch.4

Jared Shurin (at Tor) has the latest chapter in the reread of K.J. Parker's The Folding Knife:
This chapter is unusual in that we have passages from someone else’s point of view. Previously, we’ve alternated from a tight focus on Basso to a more impersonal, historical view. But with Basso tucked away in the Vesani Republic, the narration follows Aelius—ostensibly to get a view of the Auxentine action. This mostly involves staring at maps and going “ah-HA!”
But, we also follow Aelius before he goes to war. He’s informed by Basso’s Cabinet that he’s about to lead a campaign against the Auxentines. So he walks over to Chez Basso to see exactly what is going on. Aelius, as we’re frequently reminded, isn’t a Vesani citizen—even though he’s lived there for most of his life, he’s still an outsider.
Full Story: HERE


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Joe Abercrombie Call & Answer

Mr Joe is answering reader questions over on his blog and has posted his response to the query "Why so cynical?":
Occasionally I hear people say that the world is full of light, humour, and love, and books that don’t include those things are just as unrealistic as those which feature nothing but.  Well, no book contains every aspect of life, they all emphasise some things over others.  But I think it’s fair to say that commercial epic fantasy in the wake of Tolkien, through the 80s and 90s, was generally very much on the simply heroic, trope-filled and predictable side of the scales (with some important exceptions, of course, with gaming stuff written in the Warhammer world and Martin’s Game of Thrones being important influences on me).  It seems to me that some books which examine those tropes and present a different take on life are not only unsurprising but deeply necessary.
Full Answer (with spoilers for The First Law Trilogy): HERE


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Folding Knife Reread: Ch.3

Tor tackles Chapter 3 of K. J. Parker's The Folding Knife:
Are we led to believe this is the “right” way of looking at Basso’s story? I don’t think so—if anything, what we get in this chapter is a precarious balancing act. It begins with the historical picture, then focuses in on a few key actions. Is Basso a man or a “Great Man” in the way he handles the war, or the shipyard or the cockfighting? By the end of the chapter, Basso’s questioning his own motives. The shipyard is an immediate success and incredibly significant to the Vesani Republic. Does it matter that Basso only hit on the idea as a thinly-veiled “homage” to his own father’s failures? The question of intent—how much we can ever understand how a character thinks—is critical throughout The Folding Knife, but only in this chapter do we start to see it on such a vast scale.
Full Story: HERE


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Sandman Reread: The Kindly Ones

The Kindly Ones is my favourite chapter in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and Tor has the reread:
Rereading The Kindly Ones this time, I was fascinated by the confidence it seemed to have as a story. So many other Sandman arc are exploratory, playful, and we can feel Gaiman learning new things about storytelling as he tries to layer in all the things he’s loved about stories in the past. EvenWorld’s End felt like Gaiman getting something out of his system, as masterful as that collection was. With The Kindly Ones, Gaiman—and Hempel, and others—seemed less interested in exploring various avenues of story and more interested in telling this one, specific story. The story about Dream facing the consequences of his previous actions. The story about Dream’s past coming back to kill him.
Full Story: HERE


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jeff Noon: On Experiments in Writing

It's not strictly fantasy, and who except marketing drones gives a fuck about labels anyway, but Jeff Noon's first novel Vurt remains a powerful force in my reading history. One of the few books I've read which felt fresh and inventive and familiar simultaneously.  In advance of the anniversary edition, the wizards over at Tor have posted a lengthy and fascinating interview with Mr. Noon:
In many ways, Vurt is a typical first novel, in the sense of it being a depository for all the stray ideas that had built up over the previous years. At the time, I was passionate about becoming a playwright, and had a lot of rejection slips from theatres to show for that desire. Many of those very theatrical ideas went into Vurt, the novel. So, once again, a weird process. Over the subsequent years, I’ve realized that, at least for me, there is no one correct way of writing a novel, or even one easy way to do it. Every novel is journey in the writing. So, although in purely formal or thematic terms there is very little experimentation in Vurt as such, its creation was one long experiment; with no recognized or even hoped for result in sight.Vurt in so many ways was my indie-produced first album: my Slanted and Enchanted or my Murmur or my Surfer Rosa; that first blind leap into the unknown, driven by the urge to escape.
Full Story: HERE


Monday, March 18, 2013

The Folding Knife Reread: Ch.2

Tor tackles chapter two of K.J. Parker's, The Folding Knife:
Knives! Antigonus has a “silver-handled penknife that nobody else is allowed to use” (42). Palo has a “dress dagger, jeweled-gilded hilt and a bit of old tin for a blade” (56). Basso’s own knife is everywhere—cutting both cake and people. The knives fit the characters, too. Antigonus is elegant but restrained, distinguished but always useful. Palo is gaudy, appealing and, ultimately, blunt and useless. So what does Basso’s knife make him?
Full Story: HERE


Friday, March 15, 2013

Joe Abercrombie Takes Questions

Over on his blog, Joe Abercrombie has begun answering reader mail:
When did you know an idea was good enough to pursue and when you started writing, at what point did you realize your novel was good enough to go public? 
Good enough, good enough, when is it good enough?  I think the quick answer to this is that every writer worth their salt always thinks their writing is the best thing evah.  And that every writer worth their salt always thinks their writing is worthless shit. 
The task of writing a novel is huge, complex and challenging far beyond any writing that most people will ever take on.  When I sat down to write The First Law the longest thing I’d written before was my undergraduate dissertation.  The First Law is some 50 times longer.  There’s a certain arrogance required to think, ‘yeah, I’m going to have a go at that.’  There’s also a certain arrogance required to expect you can grip the attention of a fickle reader through the awesome power of you words alone, and to keep them entertained for hours, days, weeks at a stretch, to make them want to expend their valuable free time listening to you rather than watching X-Factor, or playing with their kids or, I don’t know, moaning about the ending of Mass Effect on the internet.  You’ve got to think you’re one pretty goddamn entertaining motherfucker to pull that off, right?  If you didn’t feel pretty damn clever about what you were doing you’d never get past page 1.  You’d never deserve to get past page 1.  If you don’t love your work, how can you expect anyone else to be even mildly entertained by it?
Full Answer: HERE


Scott Lynch's 'Republic of Thieves' Publication Date

Gollancz has announced a publication date for The Republic of Thieves the third part of Scott Lynch's excellent Gentlemen Bastards sequence, which began with The Lies of Locke Lamora:
The Orion Publishing Group (UK & Commonwealth) and the Random House Publishing Group (US) are thrilled to announce the publication of the third instalment in Scott Lynch’s popular fantasy series that began with The Lies of Locke Lamora. THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES will release on October 10, 2013 in the UK and Commonwealth and October 8, 2013 in the US. 
Scott Lynch’s first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, was a critically acclaimed hit when it was published in 2006. Bestselling author George R.R. Martin called it “a fresh, original, and engrossing tale by a bright new voice in the fantasy genre.” Publication rights sold in more than 20 countries. The second book in the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies, followed in 2007 to more critical acclaim. Since then, readers have anxiously awaited the next installment. Scott has now delivered the final manuscript and we are able to confirm publication date. 
In THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, readers will reunite with con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora—and meet the only female Gentleman Bastard. With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or, at least, Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison which no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious visitor offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all. 
Simon Spanton, Deputy Publishing Director at Gollancz, said ‘Some of you will know about the real difficulties that gathered around this novel for Scott. I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Scott for sticking with it. I know that he was always painfully aware of the delays and what those meant both for his publishers and his fans. So I’d also like to thank Scott’s readers for their patience and for the immense support and the profound goodwill towards Scott that they have shown during this time. It’s been a long wait but I have every faith that their patience will now be rewarded with The Republic of Thieves.’
Gollancz Blog: HERE

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Sandman Reread: World's End

Tor continues its reread of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series with World's End:
But, as I’ve mentioned many times in my reread of Neil Gaiman’sSandman, the series is as much about stories and the art of storytelling as it is about the specific adventures of a pale king of dreams, and what World's End gives us is a nest filled with tales of all types. In his introduction to the collected edition Stephen King says, “It’s a classic format, but in several of [the chapters] there are stories within the stories, like eggs within eggs, or, more properly, nested Chinese boxes.” King calls it “challenging stuff,” and he’s right. It’s similar to what Gaiman had done before in previous short arcs that collected one-off tales in the corner of his Sandman mythology, but Gaiman’s narrative ambition in World's End pushes it to ever farther extremes. The stories—and the storytellers—comment upon themselves and their own traditions, while fitting into an elegant framework that ties the whole bundle of lives into the larger scope of the Endless adventure.
Full Story: HERE


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tor Reread: The Folding Knife - Ch.1

The reread of K.J. Parker's The Folding Knife is done with Chapter 1:
Again, we have KJ Parker mucking about with the structure. The first line of the chapter is a spoiler: “On the morning of the day when Basso (Bassianus Severus, the future First Citizen) was born...” Arguably, this is also a tip of the hat to I, Claudius, which begins with Claudius explaining that the purpose of his book is to show how he got caught up in the “golden predicament” of leading an Empire. More on Clau-Clau-Claudius and his relevance next week.
Full Story: HERE


Friday, March 1, 2013

Tor Reread: The Folding Knife

Oh deep joy.  Tor is doing a reread of one of my Top Five, All Time Favourite Novels: The Folding Knife by K.J. Parker:
Why bother with this (relatively) slim, (relatively) young volume from a (relatively) unknown writer? 
First, the structure of The Folding Knife is rereadtastic. (If you’re actually going to join in this mad project, please be aware that I do make stuff up.) K.J. Parker is hell on traditional narrative structures. If you’ve read the Scavenger series or even Sharps, you’ll know what I mean: these aren’t books with beginnings, middles and ends—they’re books that spiral and loop. 
Don’t worry though—this isn’t a wacky modernist “who needs a plot?” thing. There’s story aplenty, but, as you’ll see, you start the book knowing how it ends. In fact, within the prelude, you learn a) who Basso is, b) how powerful he becomes, c) what haunting mistake he makes and d) what becomes of him. The book is all about the how, and that makes it perfect for a reread: whether you’ve read it six times or none, we’re all on the same page. It is a book nearly impossible to spoil.
Full Story: HERE