Friday, September 28, 2007

Winner of River of Gods by Ian McDonald

With the help of random.org, I have a winner of the copy of River of Gods by Ian McDonald that I had up for grabs. Congratulations to Chris M. from St. Catharines, Ontario (I prefer not to give out last names due to privacy concerns – i.e. it annoys me a bit when my full name gets out on the internet). Thanks again to the folks over at Pyr for making this happen.

Stay tuned for future giveaways – I’ll be announcing a giveaway of The Metatemporal Detective by Michael Moorcock (my review) a bit closer to its publication next month.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Review: The Metatemporal Detective by Michael Moorcock


Michael Moorcock is a legend in the SFF world, mostly as a result of his Elric stories, written in no small way as a (critical) response to the fantasy tropes most often associated with J.R.R. Tolkien. Beyond his stories of Elric and the development of the multiverse, Moorcock has penned well-regarded literary novels, such as Mother London and Byzantium Endures, and is an acclaimed musician. So, it is with some amount of embarrassment that I admit that The Metatemporal Detective is the first work of Moorcock’s that I’ve read.

The Metatemporal Detective collects the stories Sir Seaton Begg as he faces off with his with his counterbalance in the multiverse, Count Zenith the albino. Begg is often joined by his ever faithful partner, Dr. “Taffy” Sinclair as Moorcock pays homage to the crime fiction he loves – not only to the likes of Doyle’s eternal Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but more directly to his childhood favorite, Sexton Blake.

The crime fiction Moorcock creates in The Metatemporal Detective imagines worlds only possible in the multiverse. At times Moorcock achieves a steampunk-noir quality, where air ships and electric cars dominate a book without the internal combustion engine. The loose mosaic is brought together with the only new story, “The Flaneur des Arcades de l’Opera”, with implications to other events of Moorcock’s multiverse, while being entirely enjoyable for those who, like me, are not familiar with exactly what these implications are.

My immediate impression of Moorcock’s writing was one of awe and appreciation for someone who clearly is a master of language. The writing was an absolute joy to read while never becoming flippant. In mere moments, the mood was set and characters brought to life. This man knows how to write.

Interwoven in the mysteries of such varied settings as England, France, Germany, and an independent Texas are deeper issues. Moorcock’s multiverse is a struggle between Chaos and Order where things must be in balance. Begg seeks to right the wrongs of his nemesis, Zenith, even while respecting and sympathizing with his foe. Internal conflicts arise at times when Begg represents the likes Nazis and even Hitler himself; working for justice for all, even some of the most reprehensible people of any history.

Included at times is pointed political satire, most sharply realized in “The Mystery of the Texas Twister”. Moorcock portrays an independent Texas Republic slipping into an expansionist fascist regime run by a corrupt government headed by the likes of “King” George Putz and “Dicky” Shiner. At times I wanted to laugh and cry with such exaggerated satire while being reminded bit of home (having been raised in Austin), with my only disappointment in Moorcock’s homage to Shiner Bock beer and its attachment to “Dicky” Shiner.

While some are more memorable than others, there isn’t a bad story in the bunch. Moorcock demonstrates his mastery of language, sets the mood, and takes the reader on a trip through the multiverse, guided by the great metatemporal detective, Sir Seaton Begg. The Metatemporal Detective is one of the more enjoyable books that I’ve read in a while – 8.5/10.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Passing of Age

I would not be here if it weren’t for Robert Jordan.

Growing up, I was always an avid reader, but the tastes of my youth were more attuned to action-adventure, spy thrillers, and horror best sellers – I read very little in the way of true SFF. Shortly after I went away to college, I finally bought The Eye of the World after seemingly every member of my extended family recommended it to me.

I was completely and totally hooked. This was reading unlike any I had ever experienced before. I immediately bought all the books that were available in The Wheel of Time series to that point (The Lord of Chaos had just been released in mass-market paperback). Then I re-read them just in time for the release of A Crown of Swords – the release of which first brought me to the internet world in search of books.

As the years have passed, I continued to read and re-read the series. In 2000 I once again searched out information on the web for news of the soon-to-be released Winter’s Heart. This was neither the beginning nor the end of my SFF journey, but a beginning as I became a true internet SFF geek shortly thereafter. The culprit was the huge on-line community at Wotmania that celebrates and discusses the books of The Wheel of Time endlessly. This eventually led me to the newly-formed OF Section of Wotmania. This was yet another beginning in my life as a reader.

By this time I had of course read Tolkien and a handful of classic sci-fi, but through the guidance of people more knowledgeable and better-read than myself I had a whole world to discover. I was introduced to the likes of George RR Martin, Steven Erikson, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, Kim Stanley Robinson, and so many others. I even picked up the Harry Potter books as early as I did in part due to my involvement with on-line communities.

The rest, as they say, is history– I was off. I’ve since read hundreds of books recommended to me and have become one of those more knowledgeable and well-read individuals (though I’m still way behind so many others out there). In early 2006 I decided to start a blog to catalog some of the few reviews I had written. And now my blog has had over 30,000 visitors and I’m constantly surprised and amazed at just how many ‘industry insiders’ and authors are familiar with it. All of this is due to my love of The Wheel of Time books.

Thank you Robert Jordan for writing The Wheel of Time and having such a positive impact on my life. I’m just one of your many fans, and the way my life has been touched is just one of many. I struggle to find the right words of gratitude.

My voice is only one of many celebrating the life you lived.

James Oliver Rigney Jr. (a.k.a. Robert Jordan)
October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007


R.I.P. Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr.)

He fought the good fight but the inevitable happened - Robert Jordan died of complications from the amyloidosis he's been suffering for some time. It's a sad day. I've been a fan of The Wheel of Time for for almost 15 years now - I consider it the 'gateway book/series' that brought me into my love of the SFF genre. It may not have been the best written series out there, but for me it holds a special place and will always remain one of my favorites. My thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathy go out to his family and friends as they morn his passing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

VanderSale

The VanderMeer's are clearing out their books and selling them off to good, loving homes. I'm so very tempted to go after some these gems, but now is just not the time for me to be buying books. Anyway, you will find great deal on great books of all kinds and you'll probably get a few freebies thrown in for good measure. Details on Jeff VanderMeer's blog - Ecstatic Days.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Brian Ruckley Answers Questions Five

Brian Ruckley is the author of Winterbirth (my review), the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy that has been garnering a bit of attention lately. It’s been out in the UK for some time, but was released this month in the US as the debut book in the SFF imprint, Orbit US. Brian Ruckley was born in, raised in, and currently resides in Edinburgh after a few adventures around the world ranging from London to Borneo. The second book in The Godless World trilogy, Bloodheir, is written and planned for release in June 2008.

I’m very pleased that Brian has taken to the time to answer Questions Five – his enthusiastic answers are perfect for following the huge attention the GRRM interview has received.



Brian, as a Scot, I can only assume that you eat haggis 3 or 4 times in the average day. How do you think haggis is best served?

BR: You do know every year in Scotland several tourists who are flippant about haggis get hunted down and slaughtered like curs by howling, kilt-clad, claymore-wielding mobs, don’t you? It’s virtually a national sport.

When I was but a wee lad, I loathed haggis with a passion. I considered it a vile concoction, developed for the sole purpose of torturing children in general, and me in particular. Fast forward to 2007, and the best night out I’ve had all year was when eight or ten of us gathered at a friend’s house back in January for a Burns Supper (a noble Scottish tradition it would take too long to explain in detail). The company was good, the alcohol was flowing, ‘The Ode to the Haggis’ was delivered with enthusiasm, and the haggis itself was devoured with unseemly gusto. I long ago overcame my aversion to the “great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race”, for the simple reason that it is the finest, most characterful national dish to be found anywhere on the planet, and its offalish splendour can brush aside even the most deeply ingrained childhood trauma.

How to serve it? The first task is to select your haggis. What you really want is not one of the widely available ones that is sealed in plastic, but the proper, original form which comes encased in the pale sheath of a sheep’s stomach. Never ask your supplier exactly what bits of the sheep are used to make the filling, as the answer may render you incapable of eating the thing.

The traditional accompanying vegetables are tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and mashed swede/turnip), and in this case you will not go far wrong by sticking to tradition. When eating haggis at home, I personally tend to leave out the neeps, and instead indulge myself with a gigantic heap of potato and parsnip, mashed together with plenty of butter and salt and pepper.

The above is not the whole story, of course. If you find yourself stumbling out of a pub in the small hours of the Scottish night, in a state of intoxication, with an urgent need for fast food and a temporary lack of interest in the potential consequences for your coronary arteries, the only way to serve haggis is coated in batter and deep fried, with a good serving of greasy chips beside it. Pretty much every fish and chip shop in Edinburgh stands ready to provide just that, as a public service.

Incidentally, the second verse of the Ode to the Haggis begins (there’s a little bit of translation involved here, for those not up on the old Scots language, which includes me):


“The groaning platter there you fill
Your buttocks like a distant hill …”
Masterful.

If I were going on holiday to Edinburgh and I can only visit one pub, which pub do you recommend and why?

BR: This is my kind of interview. It’s obviously absurd to try to narrow Edinburgh’s titanic array of drinking establishments down to a single recommendation, but given how long I spent on the haggis question I should probably try.

I think the best I can come up with for you is the Bow Bar. There are two reasons: one, it’s a small, friendly pub with a mix of locals and visitors (but mostly locals), good beer and a startling array of whiskies if you’re into that kind of thing; two, it’s just round the corner from Edinburgh’s sf/f bookshop, Transreal Fiction, so on a rainy afternoon (it rains a lot in Edinburgh, but don’t let that put you off visiting) you can potter around the bookshop, have a chat with the owner, buy a few books and then retire to the pub to settle into a corner with a drink and read. Lovely. Also, if you lose track of time and end up drunk, there’s a chip shop within staggering distance to supply you with haggis and chips: a perfect end to a perfect day.

Discuss one reason why Winterbirth may inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the forest?

BR: If read backwards, very slowly and with just the right accent, certain sections of it are liable to summon the Great Old Ones from the vastly deeps or wherever they’re hanging out at the moment. Stripping your clothes off and running away screaming is a perfectly rational response to such a manifestation. That’s the most plausible reason I can think of. I’d certainly like to think it’d be an over-reaction to any perceived shortcomings in the text itself. Hopefully.

What other peculiar qualities of Winterbirth should readers be aware of?

BR: It is, to the best of my knowledge, unique amongst all fantasy novels ever published in containing the phrase ‘muculent saliva’ (I stand ready to be corrected on that, by the way). It’s also probably the best novel I’ve ever written. That’s maybe not so impressive when you consider that the only other novels I’ve ever written were done when I was still the wee lad who hated haggis (and probably were only long short stories, come to think of it, though they felt like novels at the time).

Why should Winterbirth be the next book that everyone reads?

BR: If you like Winter, it’s the book for you. If you like Summer, it’s also the book for you because it’ll remind you of all the reasons you don’t like Winter, and why Summer is a good thing. More importantly, I’ll be grateful, my publisher will be grateful, my agent will be grateful. My parents will probably be grateful, because they’re nice like that. Even my accountant’ll probably be grateful, since if no one buys the thing he’s a bit redundant. All that gratitude’s got to be worth something in the cosmic scheme of things, hasn’t it? Plus, you might like it. You never know.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Review: The Orc King by R.A. Salvatore


Let me admit upfront that The Orc King by R.A. Salvatore is the first Forgotten Realms book that I’ve ever read and that my opinion of it will be colored by this fact. For those not familiar with them, the Forgotten Realms are a highly-developed and comprehensive fantasy world originally created by Ed Greenwood as a campaign setting for the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Since its creation, the Forgotten Realms’ popularity has exploded among gamers and readers alike, with over 40 200 novels written.

The Orc King by R.A. Salvatore is the first book in the new Transitions trilogy and it follows Salvatore’s infamous dark elf, Drizzt Do’Urden. It’s a time of war – huge forces of orcs led by the orc King Obould have nearly ended the dwarf kingdom of Mithral Hall led by King Bruenor. However, Obould has the very un-orc-like goal of settling into a peaceful kingdom, living side-by-side with the dwarves. This new, progressive idea does not sit well with other orcs who launch a conspiracy to overthrow King Obould and escalate the war by bringing up a clan of huge and terrible half-ogres from the depths of the underworld. Drizzt is left questioning the zealousness of King Bruenor and his hatred of King Obould while he struggles with his past and future and the treachery of another dark elf.

Salvatore chooses to begin his new trilogy in a very interesting way – he gives away the ending. The prologue is set 100 years in the future, revealing that the orc King Obould succeeds in the creation of a kingdom of orcs existing in a strained peace with surrounding peoples – and Drizzt supports this kingdom. Curiously absent are many of Drizzt’s friends and companions. For me, this is a brilliant way to begin the trilogy – I know the outcome, now I can watch with interest the internal struggles of Drizzt and others as they transition from enemy to friend of the long-hated orcs. However, Salvatore overplays his cards with epilogue, lessening the impact, and showing the reader a bit too much. Some will no doubt dislike this opening, and others will be even more pleased than me – I know numerous people who read the end of a book first (this still isn’t for me, but I now can better see why this can enhance a reading experience). This framework sets the stage well and creates even more questions than a reader may have already had in spite of the fumbled epilogue.

The introspective feel of much of the prologue is continued throughout the book when Drizzt reflects in essay-like form at breakpoints within the book. This is where The Orc King is strongest as reflections of the conflicts in our world appear and Drizzt struggles with his own hopes, dreams, and hatreds in a changing world.

Unfortunately, the remaining aspects of the book do not work nearly so well for me, with the negative eventually equaling, or even exceeding, the positive. When entering the Forgotten Realms I knew that I was dealing with a world of intentionally created and developed fantasy clichés – many probably wouldn’t be cliché if they weren’t in Forgotten Realms. Much of this creation was simply unoriginal – again this was intentional as a goal was to take what was liked and loved and play with it in a new setting. Even knowing all this in advance, the annoyance level was high for me.

Other aspects where I’m likely to differ from much of the fans of the Forgotten Realms, and Drizzt in particular, are the fight scenes. To me they were overly long and tedious, uninteresting, and gratuitous. Descriptions were mechanical, confusing, and at odds with the rest of the text – especially the more interesting introspective scenes. It seems that half the book is nothing but long, drawn-out fight scenes between various beasts and long-standing enemies, where the good guys should be beaten but miraculously defeat the bad guys without any real injury – and just how many people in the world have a magical weapon of some sort.

As I mentioned at the start of the review, this is my first foray into the Forgotten Realms. There is a long history to the world and characters, and I knew none of it. References are made to much of the past, but the book is written under an assumption that the reader is familiar with the world, its history, and the various characters the book follows. While this will be viewed as a positive aspect by those knowledgeable fans of the Forgotten Realms, it leaves the rest of us at a distance that is just too great to overcome.

The framework Salvatore creates for The Orc King (Forgotten Realms: Transitions, Book 1) is promising, interesting, and relevant while the rest of the book fails to support it. I could never get past the inherent cliché and unoriginality of the Forgotten Realms themselves, the assumption of previous knowledge, and the numerous badly written fight scenes. Will I read book 2? Ultimately I’m undecided, but the outlook is not so good. 5/10

Monday, September 10, 2007

LOL Cover Art Reviews

Neth Space on Livejournal

Well, I know a lot of you out there are on Livejournal and prefer its format to those of other blog/social networking sites. I've had an account for a while, but since I don't pay up, I can't syndicate my blog. Well, Valashain was kind enough to do the syndication for me, so now all you LJ people can get Neth Space syndicated. Just add me (well the syndication) as a friend and enjoy reading.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Win a Copy of River of Gods by Ian McDonald

A while ago I wrote this blog post about contests, where I declared Neth Space to contest free…until someone offered me a contest. Well, the good folks over at Pyr are the first to offer a book for a giveaway here (which is appropriate since they were the first publisher to send me review copies). So, now Neth Space can totally blend in with all those other blogs doing giveaways – which of course is great for those of us who like free books.

So, the giveaway is for the Pyr trade paperback version of River of Gods by
Ian McDonald. This Hugo-nominated book has received high praise from numerous sources (unfortunately I still haven’t gotten to my copy yet, but I hope to remedy that soon).
As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business — a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj — the waif, the mind-reader, the prophet — when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.

In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.

River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures — one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. Ian McDonald has written the great Indian novel of the new millennium, in which a war is fought, a love betrayed, a message from a different world decoded, as the great river Ganges flows on.
So, the rules are basically the same as you see elsewhere. Send me an email at

nethspace [at] cox [dot] net

You’ll need to appropriately edit the email so I can avoid the spambots, or you can click on the email link in the sidebar which is coded ‘special’ to block the bots. Use RIVER in the subject and include your full name and mailing address (no P.O. boxes please). Only one entry per person. This contest at least is open to all, since I haven’t been told that international entrees are off limits. The contest is open for a couple weeks – I’ll cut off entries on September 24, 2007 and announce the winner shortly thereafter.

Good luck to all.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

George R.R. Martin Answers Questions Five

Well, he hardly needs an introduction – George R.R. Martin is a best selling author who has won most of the SFF awards out there at some time or another throughout his long career. He has become most well known for his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and his rabid fans eagerly await the arrival the next book in the series – A Dance with Dragons. The newest book in his bibliography is Hunter’s Run, a collaboration with Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham that was expanded from the novella Shadow Twin (my review).

I am very pleased that GRRM has taken the time to answer Questions Five.



As a resident of Santa Fe, I imagine you have an opinion on a uniquely New Mexican issue – do you prefer red, green, or Christmas chili? Why?

GRRM: Xmas, of course. Red and green both have their own unique flavors, so why not get both? (“Red or green” is the Official New Mexico State Question.)


If someone was forced to make a decision between reading Hunter’s Run and watching a Cowboys vs. Giants football game, what would you advise?

GRRM: Xmas! I mean, why not get both? That’s why god invented (1) bookmarks, and (2) TIVO.


Please describe one reason Hunter’s Run would inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the forest?

GRRM: Uh… to get away from the cupacabra? Actually, trying to read while running naked through the forest is dangerous.


What other peculiar qualities of Hunter’s Run should readers be aware of?

GRRM: We’ve been working on it since 1977. So it’s bound to be really good.


Why should Hunter’s Run be the next book that everyone reads?

GRRM: Dreamsongs won’t be out until this fall, Inside Straight not until January, and A Dance with Dragons… uh… later. Hunter’s Run will help with the wait
.

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