Friday, October 17, 2014

Underappreciated Authors: Part Two

Friday, October 17, 2014 0
Back in August I wrote about some authors I felt were a touch underappreciated, which really has nothing to do with sales numbers but rather with my perception.  I acknowledged that I may only be looking through a very narrow lens and all sorts of wonderful conversations are occurring in places I don't see, but that's the only lens I'm able to look through right now.

I knew then that I wanted to continue to highlight more writers who I have enjoyed, but don't too much conversation about.  

The first of those is Daniel Keys MoranI wrote a bit about Moran in 2007, which is to say that some time during high school I stumbled across The Long Run, the second novel in his Continuing Time setting (which had an ambitious 33 novels planned) and I was absolutely hooked.  I've come back to The Long Run from time to time over the years.  He has published seven novels, though only four in The Continuing Time.  Honestly, his fiction has been a bit hit or miss for me, but The Long Run was one great chase of a novel and The Last Dancer was solid and opened up the scope of the story he was telling.  I'd probably skip Emerald Eyes (or just understand that it's rather rough / raw compared to the next two).  I sound a bit conflicted about Moran, and I suppose I am, but I know that I'd be quite happy if he was able to keep publishing his Continuing Time novels because I would absolutely love to read them. 

The only work I've read from Jennifer Roberson is her multi-generational Chronicles of the Cheysuli series featuring a race of shape changing humans dealing with all sorts of prejudice, love, prophecy, lineage, and expectations.  Cheysuli is an 8 volume completed series and, if my memory serves from high school, is quite good and worth reading.  Years ago, Roberson announced she was going to write three additional Cheysuli novels (two interstitials and a prequel), but that they would be written after three other books which have not yet come to fruition.  Roberson is also the author of the Tiger and Del Sword-Dancer novels. 

Katherine Kurtz is most well known for the long running Deryni series, and has also written the Adapt and Templar series.  I first discovered her novels because of King Javan's Year and then the earlier set Camber of Culdi novels, and what I most appreciated was how Kurtz blended religion and magic - and the ceremonies and traditions of each.  The details were richly written and, despite the nastiness of what is going on, there is beauty in the description and in the faith. Wonderful, wonderful novels.  My preference is the earlier Camberian era novels and not the later set Kelson books.  Kurtz is wrapping up the Childe Morgan trilogy this coming December and with luck, she really will write the 948 novel or the Orin and Jodotha novel she hinted at years ago. 

Any writers you feel have not had enough attention these days?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Books Read: September 2014

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All apologies for the delay in my monthly Books Read post and also for the overall lack of content.  There's been a number of things happening on the homefront.  First, we moved into our new house (from apartment), so there's been a plethora of home related items to take care of.  Second, I have a test coming up next week that I would really love to excel at, so that's been taking a good chunk of the remaining time.  Third, life's just been extra busy.

So, I'll probably need a little bit more time to sort this stuff out, but we're close to being through this busy patch.  After which, I'll resume the Memories Of series with Pern and Midkemia, plus at least one more after that.  We'll see.

The link below is to the one review I managed to write. 

1. Landline, by Rainbow Rowell
2. Bravo, by Greg Rucka
3. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
4. Hurricane Fever, by Tobias Buckell
5. The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley
6. Book of Iron, by Elizabeth Bear
7. The Diamond Throne, by David Eddings
8. Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest (unfinished)

Best Book of the Month: I was completely caught up in both The Mirror Empire and Words of Radiance.  If you're a fan of the massive tomes of more traditional epic fantasy, you really can't go wrong with Words of Radiance.  But in the same vein, I kept needing to know more about what's going on in The Mirror Empire.  I couldn't review it and do it justice, but that's a landmark fantasy that I hope will be recognized as such for some time.  There's a lot to unpack in it, but it's worth the effort.

Disappointment of the Month: This may be the only time I ever put one of Elizabeth Bear's books in the Disappointment category, but I struggled to engage with the novella.  Given that I nominated Bone and Jewel Creatures for the Hugo a few years back, it's not the setting of this prequel I struggled with.  I don't know.  Whatever it was, it's me.

Discovery of the Month: None.

Unfinished of the Month: I've plowed through most of Cherie Priest's novels, and there is seriously nothing wrong with Maplecroft, but I had to force myself to keep picking the book up.  I'll give this one another try in the future.

Worth Noting: David Eddings, man.  Writing up the Memories of Riva column had me feeling nostalgic and while I'm still not sure the Belgariad will hold up for me, The Diamond Throne mostly did.  Mostly. So much of the book is obvious, but it's good fun if you don't think too much about what's going on or examine any of the issues too seriously.  But for Eddings, it's damn near adult and it's a piece of my teenage years that happily I can still enjoy.  I'll finish up the Elenium before putting Eddings back to bed, possibly for good. 

Gender Breakdown: Four of the eight novels I read (or attempted to read) were written by women. Half isn't bad, though I suppose one could argue with me over Maplecroft.  This brings me to 43/100 for the year. 

Previous Months

Monday, September 22, 2014

Memories of the Four Lands

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It begins with a novel that is remarkably influenced by The Lord of the Rings, almost as if Lester Del Rey approached Terry Brooks and said, "hey, what if you just re-wrote Lord of the Rings instead?"  There are now 26 published novels in the Shannara milieu with more to come.  What started as being heavily influenced by Tolkien quickly became its own thing.

I grew up in a small town with a small public library.  It has since undergone a remodel, but I can clearly picture how the library was laid out when I first discovered it and where I spent so much time browsing its limited shelves. At the time, though, the library was big because I was small.  I was in eighth grade and randomly choosing what to read next.  I know the librarian was formative in introducing me to a handful of fantasy authors, but the memory I have right now is of browsing the shelves and finding a small hardcover of The Sword of Shannara.  It was casebound (the art was printed and laminated to the cover, so there was no dust jacket), though I didn't know what that was at the time.  It was different, and I was entranced by the glowing sword and the closed door looming behind those awkward characters.  I wanted to know more, so I borrowed the book and started reading.

This isn't so much about The Sword of Shannara, though.  As vital as the discovery was, and as interested as I was to read more of Terry Brooks, the book felt a bit stilted and older than the 1977 publication would suggest.  What was important about The Sword of Shannara was that it was the beginning of something.  I would say it was the beginning of my interest in epic fantasy, but that honor belongs to David Eddings.  It was more than just the beginning to the Shannara series, though it is also that.  I think The Sword of Shannara did two things.  It helped me realize just how many worlds there were to discover, and it also introduced me to The Elfstones of Shannara.

Oh, the story of Wil Ohmsford and Amberle Elessedil.  Stee Jans.  The seige.  If I was ever to re-read the Shannara novels, I might skip over the first book and go right to Elfstones. Elfstones of Shannara is the novel with which Terry Brooks showed the most growth and development as a writer and and storyteller.  It also is where Brooks hooked me for the next twenty years, even when later novels did not hold up to the level of quality I expected from Elfstones through his Heritage of Shannara series and the Word / Void novels. 

Like many others, Elfstones was a novel of great adventure, but unlike a number of the fantasy novels I was reading at the time, it was also a novel of great loss and sacrifice.  While this is something that is reasonably common for those who have read widely, it was a new thing for me and it sealed Elfstones as a novel I would come back to, seek out, and recommend. 

I have been reading the Shannara novels for a good twenty years or more, but it is the battles, last stands, and the Ellcrys that I remember so clearly. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lou Anders Leaves Pyr

Friday, September 19, 2014 0
(Via Rob Bedford)

I learned today that Lou Anders is leaving Prometheus Books.  Anders is both the editorial director and art director of Pyr, and imprint of Prometheus. Anders is leaving to focus on his writing career. I wish Lou and Pyr nothing but the best, with good fortune to follow on both sides.

In my mind, Lou Anders IS Pyr.  I understand that there is and was a team in place making everything happen, but Lou was the face of Pyr, a public advocate for the fiction he was publishing, and he was the editorial director. It was his vision and guidance that drove the sort of fiction published at Pyr.  The reason I am familiar with and fans of James Barclay, Justina Robson, Kay Kenyon, and Joe Abercrombie is because I was introduced to them by Lou Anders. There are another dozen or so writers I haven't read yet, but they are on my radar simply because Lou published them.  They have to be good.  Not only did he publish good books, as art director, his books looked good, too.  They looked sharp.  They looked like something you'd want to pick up. 

Books selected by Lou would, from the first year, be nominated for the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Hugo, World Fantasy Award, Compton Crook Award, The John W Campbell Memorial Award, Sideways Award, Philip K Dick Award, and the Locus Award. Among others.  The art that he selected would be nominated for and win the Chesley Award. Short fiction he edited would invariably be nominated for awards, and Lou himself would be nominated for the World Fantasy Award and win the Hugo and Chesley Awards.  It isn't an exaggeration to say that if Lou Anders published a book, I could assume right off the bat that it was going to be worth checking out.  Lou Anders built the Pyr brand and knowing that a book was published by Pyr, I'd give it a second or third look. 

I almost wrote that it is sad to see Lou leave Pyr, but that would only be the selfish thought of someone whose reading life has benefited from and been enriched by the work that Lou has done with Pyr.  Lou Anders is leaving to focus on his own writing.  His first novel, Frostborn, has been published and has been well received and if leaving Pyr gives him the opportunity to fully embrace and chase his dream and his personal goals, then that's the right decision and the right call. 

I have never met Lou Anders, though I hope one day our paths cross and I can buy him a beer and sit down and talk books with him for a few minutes, but he has my sincere best wishes in this next stage of his career. 

On his blog today, Lou has some poignant words about Kermit the Frog.

Somewhere along the way, it became less about his own dreams and more about facilitating others' dreams, about accruing and enabling a group of like-minded individuals to reach their own potential.

As an editor over the last ten years at Pyr, Lou Anders has done exactly that.  While the nuts and bolts of editorial work is largely invisible to the reader, to a very real point, the job of an editor is to facilitate the dreams of others and to enable them to reach their potential.  And like Kermit, he has been remarkably successful at bringing those voices forward and making them known.  He has been the public face of a company's brand.  Now he is stepping forward himself, making his own dream a reality, pushing his own vision and stretching to tell his own stories.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Forthcoming Books: October - November - December 2014

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Coming to the end of 2014's third quarter, it is time to look ahead towards some interesting stuff being published in the final three months of the year.  I'm using the Locus Forthcoming list because even though it may not be exhaustive, it is a fairly representative list of what is coming out over the course of a year.  My list below is based simply on that which strikes my own fancy, and I'm sure I'm overlooking all sorts of excellent stuff that if only I knew more about it or was familiar with the author's work, I would be excited for it.  But, alas, I am not.

October: I'm a huge fan of Brust's Vlad Taltos series and he simply cannot write them fast enough for me now that I have finally caught up with the series.  After the year Ancillary Justice has had, I'm not sure any explanation is needed for Leckie's follow up.  I'm behind on my Hamilton, but I wanted to note this one anyway.

Hawk, by Steven Brust
The Abyss Beyond Dreams, by Peter F. Hamilton
Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie

November: What Baxter I have read has been fantastic, and this seems to be an impressively ambitious new novel.  I'll read everything Stephen King writes, same with Modesitt's Recluse series, and I'm interested to see where Mira Grant takes the Parisitology series.  It's not as impressive, thus far, as the Newsflesh novels, but it's still a good read.

Proxima, by Stephen Baxter
Symbiont, by Mira Grant
Revival, by Stephen King
Heritage of Cyador, by L. E. Modesitt

December: It's been 8 years since Katherine Kurtz published Childe Morgan, the second volume in her trilogy of the same name. I haven't loved this trilogy (so far) the way I have many of her other Deryni novels, but new Deryni is always cause for celebration. I only hope that, now that the trilogy is complete, she might work on either the 948 novel or the Orin and Jodotha novel which she hinted about years ago. I've also never read Nora Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, so what better time than a new omnibus?

The Inheritance Trilogy, by N. K. Jemisin
The King's Deryni, by Katherine Kurtz

Monday, September 15, 2014

Memories of Riva

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I was fourteen or fifteen when I first tried to write a novel. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure I made it a good ten or fifteen pages before realizing this was a horrible decision.  Ten or fifteen pages was a fairly big deal for me at the time and it gave me hope that I would be able to push forward and write the whole thing.  It would be epic, I would sell a gazillion copies and would become rich.  I was set.  The only problem, besides not being very good at telling a story or having any idea what I was doing, came when I realized I was more or less re-writing Pawn of Prophecy.  What can I say?  It was influential.

After Piers Anthony, David Eddings and his five volume Belgariad series was the second major step in my discovery of science fiction and fantasy.  Unlike the various characters of Xanth, I was pretty much of an age with young Garion, a farm boy destined for so much more. Where Xanth was my gateway to fantasy, the Belgariad was my hook. I would read these five books over and over again, probably more times than I could even guess.  Sure, I would venture out into other fantasies and continue to explore new worlds, but I would keep coming home to this particular world.

It was the simplicity that brought me back.

When you're first discovering a genre, you don't know what the tropes are.  You're a kid reading about a boy your age with a quiet and boring life on a farm who is pulled away on an adventure for reasons that don't quite make sense. That adventures begins to grow and grow and you, through the rather bland protagonist, discover new lands and new magic and find out that your destiny is so much bigger, that perhaps you might be a lost scion of royalty, an inheritor of magic, and you're probably going to marry a princess and become king. 

It's easy to dream of these characters and put yourself into Garion's shoes, to perhaps wish that you would be pulled away on that adventure. You'd forget about the fear Garion must have faced and sure, you'd probably miss things like electricity, plumbing, and your family - but what an adventure!  What dreams! 

I sometimes spend time thinking about what books I want to introduce to my kids. They'll be surrounded with all sorts of books and I'll probably read wildly inappropriate books to them at a very young age, but who knows. My wife is pregnant with our first child, a boy.  I've got a number of years to figure out what I might want to slide his way, but would I give him the Belgariad?  I don't think I would push him towards Xanth, but on the off chance I think of this in the future, I might be willing to share this one with him.  It's such a simple story, but it's perfect for hooking a young boy.

My memories of David Eddings extends beyond just the Belgariad, though they start there. I'm still, somewhat, a fan of The Mallorean, which is the five volume follow up series to the Belgariad.  And by "follow up", I mean the same exact story told with twice as many pages in each book.  It is.  Eddings plays with that idea a little bit with "didn't we already do this?" comments and weaving the ideas of the first series into something different in the second.  The Belgariad stands well enough on its own, and while I think I'd prefer it without the second series, if you're still young enough, you can latch onto the Mallorean.  I distinctly remember receiving a copy of Guardians of the West for my birthday and eagerly awaiting each subsequent volume.  It was a chance to spend more time with Garion, Durnik, Belgarath, and Polgara. And friends.

But the one series which I think I most want to revisit is the three volume Elenium, which is set in a completely different world and features a world and war weary older knight Sparhawk. There is a similar interplay with mortals and gods and kings and queens, and it is clearly written by David Eddings, but overall the novels (beginning with The Diamond Throne) feel more serious and intense. Despite all the books I need and want to read for the first time, I think I need to revisit this one.  I'm feeling nostalgic. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Catching Up: The 2014 To-Read List

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Back in February I posted a list of 19 books I wanted to read this year, the list ordered by presumed publication date.  I meant to do this update post a couple of months ago, but time got away from me, I completely forgot, and here we are.  I'll update this again at the end of the year. 

So far I have read 7 of the 19 books from the list, which for me is actually pretty good. Even better, I have a copy of Steles of the Sky at home, and expect to get through One-Eyed Jack, Lock In, and Hawk in the near future from the library. 

I'm at least one book behind on three of the series volumes, so I won't get to Valour and Vanity, Cibola Burn, or The Thorn of Emberlain until I catch up.  

Feist's King of Ashes has been pushed to next year.  Going Gray has already been published, but Traviss has self-published the volume so my ability to get a copy might be a bit more limited as my book buying budget is very low (hey, we just bought a house and we've got a baby on the way) and my library carries few self published titles.

So far, so good. 

1. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer (Feb)
2. Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega, by Joe Hill (Feb)
3. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson (Mar)
4. Steles of the Sky, by Elizabeth Bear (Apr)
5. Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Apr)
6. King of Ashes, by Raymond E. Feist (May)
7. Cyador’s Heirs, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr (May)
8. Defenders, by Will McIntosh (May)
9. My Real Children, by Jo Walton (May)
10. Cibola Burn, by James S. A. Corey (Jun)
11. Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King (Jun)
12. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine (Jun)
13. One-Eyed Jack, by Elizabeth Bear (Aug)
14. Lock In, by John Scalzi (Aug)
15. Hawk, by Steven Brust (Sep)
16. Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest (Sep)
17. The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (Nov)
18. Symbiont, by Mira Grant (Nov)
19. Going Gray, by Karen Traviss (Dec)
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