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Saturday, April 10, 2021

 This Week, I've Been Mixing it Up With. . .


The Alloy of Law

I was so pleased to see that Brandon Sanderson had extended his original Mistborn Trilogy, as I found the magical system he’d developed for the series, that of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy – processes whereby practitioners burn/employ different metals, and, after blending & activating them with the essence of his or her own body or mind to produce the desired outcome – to be innovative, and somewhat different to other fantasy novels I’ve read of late.

And what an extension it proved to be. This is what the back cover reveals:

 

*******

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history―or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

*******

Now, I don’t know about you, but I found the premise to be rather refreshing. Scadrial has been brought forward in time, and we’re given a glimpse of what has become of the world and its people after our heroes and heroines put things right at the end of the last trilogy.

For the most part, society has drawn together in what is now the Elendel Basin, a prepared and cultivated region surrounding its namesake capital and other provincial towns for many miles in all directions. Life is good. People are civilized. And culture, law and order is an accepted way of life. Beyond the encircling mountains, however, is The Roughs; a wilderness plains area, much like the wild west of cowboys & Indians fame. Life is much harsher there, and people look to gun slinging lawmen and women to keep the peace.

The three metallic arts still exist, though Allomancy and Feruchemy are by far the most widely practiced. (Hemalurgy, it seems, is unknown in the modern world, its secrets being kept by the kandra who survived Scadrial’s rebirth)

Of the populace, there are those who are capable of burning just one of the 16 arcane metals, be it as an Allomancer or as a Feruchemist in a single form, or there are the twinborn. Those blessed with both an allomantic and feruchemical capability combined.

So what happens?

Vin, Elend, Sazed and Spook may have guaranteed the world’s survival and the coming of a new age, but people are still people. And as we see, while society as a whole has advanced – to a degree – there are those still intent on getting what they want by any means necessary. Fair or foul. Lords continue to be aloof. The downtrodden, rebellious. And villains? Oh, they’re always out for what they can get. And when you combine all three?

Great rollicking fun! That’s what.

I’ve often thought it odd when successful writers allow their universes to remain static for so long. Brandon Sanderson hasn’t made that mistake. And by allowing Scadrial to progress over the intervening three hundred years, it injects a breath of fresh air into a well-established world, and a superb slant on his ever-evolving story arc.

The Alloy of Law is markedly shorter. At 325 pages, its half the length of his other Mistborn novels. But that doesn’t reduce the enjoyment. Our protagonists and antagonists are well thought out and skillfully introduced. And the relationship between Wax and Wayne is particularly engaging. (Reminding me, to some degree, of Alias Smith & Jones) – You’ll see. The dialogue is sharp; the slow burn a treat; the action – when it comes – relentless; and that story arc I mentioned? It’s a treasure to behold, as it allows the continuing mystery to establish deeper roots, to develop, and evolve into an appealing murder-mystery-whodunnit-action-adventure.

Or to put it succinctly: Sherlock Holmes meets Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

(And yes, I’m already into the second in this series) J



Saturday, March 27, 2021

 Are You In the Mood For. . .



If so, here's my review:

A Little Hatred

In A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie, we take a trip back to the Angland we first met twenty to thirty years ago in the First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself; Before They Are Hanged; Last Argument of Kings. Though, as you will find out, things have changed.

This is what you can expect:

*******

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.

On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal's son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specialises in disappointments.

Savine dan Glokta - socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union - plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.

The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another . . .

*******

As you will note from the blurb, some of the characters we first met in the previous adventure are still here, so it certainly helps with the continuity. As does the introduction of their offspring. So even though we’re looking at a gap of several decades, we can get right back into the feel of the story ark as if slipping on a familiar pair of old gloves.

And familiar it is. The Union still struggles to maintain stability in a land where potential invasion is an ever-present threat. This time, from the North, where new leaders want to test themselves against oppressors of old. Additionally, conquered enemies test the limits of Angland’s patience by sending a never-ending flow of refugees into Union territory. And as the population rises and the wheels of industry put increasing numbers of laborers and farm workers out of work, tensions spiral out of control. Revolution threatens!

How do the powers-that-be handle it?

Joe Abercrombie style! That’s how.

It was great fun revisiting Adua, as Abercrombie expanded on the history of his creation to give us an engaging new set of circumstances to enjoy. And as so often happens in the real world, so much trouble on a grand scale can be fomented by the smallest amount of misunderstanding, and just a little hatred.

An apt title, therefore, to a story that is as rich with emotion and cutting-edge commentary as it is as sparing with mercy. It’s brutal, in-your-face fun, and wonderfully entertaining. I’d love to reveal more, but never spoil things with untimely reveals.

Content to say, Abercrombie weaves a complex set of circumstances and a grand cast of characters together with skillful dexterity and considerable panache. You’d be a fool to miss it, and I, for one, can’t wait for the series to continue.


Monday, March 22, 2021

 Heroes in Hell



For those of you who have might not be familiar with the Heroes in Hell universe, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

*************

Heroes in Hell is a series of shared world fantasy books, within the genre Bangsian fantasy/horror, created and edited by Janet Morris and written by her, Chris Morris, C. J. Cherryh and others. The first 12 books in the series were published by Baen Books between 1986 and 1989, and stories from the series include both Hugo Award winners and Nebula nominees.

*************

Janet resurrected the series through her own publishing company – The Perseid Press – in 2011 with Lawyers in Hell, and the universe has continued to expand with six anthologies and four novels since then:

 

 

 

As you can see from this quick glimpse, there’s a wealth of dark and despicable delights to delve into. And what a choice! Bent lawyers; devious rogues; hopeless dreamers; cursed poets; censured doctors; dastardly pirates, and hapless lovers.

But why so many?

Ah, that’s what you have to understand about hell, it’s an ever expanding smorgasbord of shameful deviants with all sorts of perverted desires that ends up dooming them to eternal suffering.

Here’s a little equation I like to use to explain why Heroes in Hell keeps getting bigger and better.


dS >> 0ᵑ

Now, some of you might recognize this equation, as it’s the satanized version of the second law of thermodynamics. Or, as its better known in the underverse, the Law of Infernodynamics.
Let's break it down a little:
Let's break it down a little:
Basically, the sum of each condemned soul’s damnation, (d),
Combined with (S), Satan’s all-pervading unholy will,
Is vastly greater, (
Combined with (S), Satan’s all-pervading unholy will,
Is vastly greater, (>>) than anyone’s chance of escaping or being happy again, aptly represented by, (0ᵑ), that’s zero to the nth degree!

Ouch!

So, what’s in store for those who end up in one of the many levels of hell?

Ah, for that I’d encourage you to stop by, either at The Perseid Press

 


 Or at your favorite online book retailer to find out more.

 

And if you’re unsure as to where might be a good place to start, why not pick a theme that appeals. After all, there are plenty topics to choose from, and the choice is only going to get bigger.

Stay tuned, you’ll find out what I mean in the next post.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

 My Review of. . .
Demon in White





Demon in White

I’ve been itching to get to Demon in White, the third installment of the Sun Eater Sequence, as it’s been a journey of discovery, following along as Hadrian Marlowe, the young man who wanted nothing more than to travel the stars in search of knowledge and peace becomes the tyrant the galaxy needs.

Here’s a hint of what’s in store from the cover blurb:

**********

Hadrian and his Red Company have been serving the Empire in military engagements against the Cielcin, the vicious alien civilization bent on humanity's destruction. And they've been successful: a cult-like fervor building around Hadrian following a particularly impressive victory. But popularity comes at a price: an assassination attempt, triggered by those within the Imperial government who are scared of his rise to prominence.

Now the Empire has turned dangerous, Hadrian and his crew leave to pursue his true interest: a search for a long-rumored connection between the first Emperor and the Quiet: the ancient, seemingly long-dead race. And he will find the next key to unlocking their secrets in a massive library on a distant world.

The coordinates for their origin planet.

A planet that no longer holds life, but may still contain answers.

**********

Now the scene is set, what did I think?

Awesome! Absolutely awesome.

And it has to be at close to 750 pages long. But this is the thing. Although Demon in White covers the sweeping vista of a number of planets spread throughout the immense expanse of a galactic empire, it doesn’t lose the personal touch. The story keeps its center by concentrating on Hadrian Marlowe’s transition from hero to legend. And from legend to virtual godhood in the eyes of the people that follow him.

And therein lies the rub.

If there’s one thing you need to understand about heroes, it’s that there’s no room for them in the Empire. For heroes build a reputation of invincibility, and such reputations attract the worst kind of sedition: Followers. Zealots who believe more in the object of their fervor than Caesar himself. And the Emperor mustn’t be challenged, for he is jealous of his rule and the Chantry are ever willing and able to make an example of those who fail to tow the party line.

Yes, Hadrian Marlowe learns to his cost the consequences of victory.

His rank, his success, his devotion – to duty and uncovering the truth about ancient beings both vast and incomprehensible – has ramifications he couldn’t possibly have imagined. And not only does he end up fighting against an evil from beyond the veil of time; not only must he contend against the worst and most powerful of the Cielcin overlords, but he must fend off multiple death threats from members of the royal family, the government and the Chantry, all of who want to see him dead.

As I noted at the outset, this is an awesomely epic extravaganza of far future science fiction. The pace is well judged throughout; the battle scenes precise, bloody and brutal; the gradual reveal of just what it is behind the events taking place, mind bogglingly spectacular; and the story arc, superb.

And THAT’s what I’ve really enjoyed about this series. As I mentioned in my review of Empire of Silence and Howling Dark, this far-fling operatic production carries all the scope of Frank Herbert’s, Dune; The scale of Arthur C. Clarkes, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the poignancy of Barry B. Longyear’s, Enemy Mine. It’s huge. Yet Christopher Rucchio has managed to avoid wasting time with ‘filler material.’ Everything you read is relevant, and one of the best metaphysical journeys you will ever take in the discovery of the past, present and future of the human race.

Do yourself a favor, and enlist in the Red Company!





Saturday, February 27, 2021

 This Week's Review Of. . .
Be Afraid . . . Be Very Afraid!



Howling Dark

In this, the second book of the Sun Eater Sequence, Hadrian Marlowe’s life begins to spiral out of control. Seeing what happened to him in Empire of Silence, that’s saying something.

Here’s the blurb for Howling Dark:

*******

Hadrian Marlowe is lost.
 
For half a century, he has searched the farther suns for the lost planet of Vorgossos, hoping to discover a way to contact the elusive alien Cielcin. He has pursued false leads for years among the barbarian Normans as captain of a band of mercenaries, but Hadrian remains determined to make peace and bring an end to nearly four hundred years of war.
 
Desperate to find answers, Hadrian must venture beyond the security of the Sollan Empire and among the Extrasolarians who dwell between the stars. There, he will face not only the aliens he has come to offer peace, but contend with creatures that once were human, with traitors in his midst, and with a meeting that will bring him face to face with no less than the oldest enemy of mankind.
 
If he succeeds, he will usher in a peace unlike any in recorded history. If he fails, the galaxy will burn
.

*******

Hadrian Marlowe wakes from cryo-sleep to find himself light-years further away from the Empire’s clutches, and one step closer to discovering the location of elusive Vorgossos. And therein lies the rub. On every occasion he thinks he’s gained vital information, he discovers those clues to be nothing but smokescreens and illusions that do nothing but lead him along divergent paths.

However, those trials and tribulations serve another, just as important purpose. They notify ‘strange & terrifying powers’ of Hadrian’s existence. Drawn into a web of dread and shocking potential, Hadrian Marlowe is beset by doubts and indecision. Yet he is matured by his experiences. So much so, that when hard decisions have to be made, he isn’t slow in stepping up.

The thing is, stepping up puts him directly in harm’s way. And in this adventure, Hadrian Marlowe is ever beset by the potential for great harm. From the Empire, who view him as an embarrassment to be silenced; from the Cielcin, who, despite his earnest desire for peace, look on all humans as chaff to be reaped; from long-dead legends who have no right to be alive; from diabolical nightmares who have never known the fragility of flesh and blood; and even from his closest friends.

Yes, death is Hadrian Marlowe’s closest friend. And it’s astonishing how things work out for him when that specter comes-a-calling, for ‘something’ has Hadrian in its cosmos-spanning eye, and he has a task to accomplish before it’s/they’re done with him.

As I mentioned in my review of Empire of Silence, this awesomely epic space opera portrays the scope of Frank Herbert’s, Dune; The scale of Arthur C. Clarkes, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the poignant message conveyed in Barry B. Longyear’s, Enemy Mine.

It’s magnificent stuff, is better than the first book, and will keep you engrossed from beginning to end.

Bravo, Christopher Ruocchio. Bravo indeed!



Amazon Review

Monday, February 15, 2021

Lockdown Distractions

Still Completely Sane



 This coming week's diversions are:


Something Old



Something New

Should be fun!


Saturday, February 13, 2021

 Where No Man

(Including Simon and Garfunkel)

Has Gone Before



Empire of Silence

This is the first book I’ve read by Christopher Ruocchio. And if the Empire of Silence is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be the last. Take a peek at the introduction to this story:

*******
It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

*******

Yes, Hadrian Marlowe is a man born to power and privilege. Yet, he sees such things as a living hell, and yearns to break free of the shackles chaining him to an unbalanced institution that panders to a privileged elite, while fighting a 300 year old war against the Cielcin. The society he was born into is rigidly indoctrinated by the elitism imposed by the Chantry, and enforced by the Emperor and his legions. Such elitism does nothing but to rob everyday citizens of their humanity and simple decency.

Hadrian realizes this, for he possesses something rarely seen in this far-future empire. A conscience. He knows things need to change and longs to travel the vast expanse of the stars in order to seek answers to questions that should have been asked long, long ago.

So he decides to do something about it . . . or at least, he tries to.

As a result, he is rendered excomminicado, his inheritance as first in line to his family’s wealth and power simply wiped away; he’s sent into exile; sold into slavery; ends up begging on the streets of an impoverished backwater planet; fighting as gladiator fodder in the colosso.

And just when he’s on the verge of throwing in the towel, discovers something that truly captures his heart and soul: clues as to the origins of life in the universe. And far from the rhetoric spouted by the Chantry, it isn’t anything to do with humanity. Oh no. Something more ancient and vaster than mankind can possibly imagine once used the cosmos as its playing ground. And humans?

Well, that remains to be seen.

Be warned. Empire of Silence is a lengthy tome. But it’s well worth the commitment it takes to read it. Ruocchio is an accomplished world builder, and weaves a rich tapestry of far-future, galaxy spanning expansion that maintains a brisk yet steady pace throughout, without losing the personal touch.

The main characters are detailed and credible. You can relate to – or hate – them in equal measure, while the supporting cast, though many and varied, add attention to detail that adds credibility to the star system spanning arena in which the story is set.

While reading, I was distinctly reminded of the scope of Frank Herbert’s, Dune; The scale of Arthur C. Clarkes, 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the poignant message conveyed in Barry B. Longyear’s, Enemy Mine.

It’s great, epically proportioned stuff, and will keep you turning the pages in your haste to find out what happens next. (And in all honesty, it’s a great way to while away the never-ending lockdown hours)