Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
With the help of random.org, I have the winners for the Fantasy Firsts contest curtesy of Tor. Each winner will receive a copy of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) and Mistborn: Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound).
The winners are
- Oren D. of Herndon, Virginia
- Mark J. of Grenada Hills, California
- Joel J. of Spring City, Utah
Contrats again to the winners and thanks again to Tor for sponsoring the giveaway. With only 17 entries, the odds on this were pretty great.
Monday, October 26, 2009
So, what makes a late series book such a big deal beyond the much needed fix for fans? This is the first book of the series published since its author and creator, Robert Jordan, sadly and prematurely left this world after a battle with terminal illness. Honoring Jordan’s wishes that someone complete the series, his estate asked Brandon Sanderson if he was willing to take on the task. Full of mixed emotions (after all, Sanderson himself was a fan before he was a writer), he accepted the job. Armed with hundreds of thousands of pages of notes, completed, semi-completed and outlined text, dictation from Jordan’s last days, two extremely knowledgeable assistants, Jordan’s widow and long-time editor, and the passion of both a fan and a writer, Sanderson offers our first view of how he will complete the series – honoring Jordan’s style and plan while not pretending to be Jordan, and offering a bit of himself to the story.
The Gathering Storm is the 12th book of a series, so any discussion will contain some few ‘spoilers’ of previous books. Nothing big is revealed of past books, but the discussion alone allows clues of what has happened before. Likewise, with a story of this magnitude and fans as passionate as Wheel of Time fans, any spoiler (perceived or real) of The Gathering Storm is quite controversial. This review does not contain what I would consider a single spoiler, however, it does discuss the characters of the book, I address the story-arcs of these characters, I discuss how these characters add to or take away from this book, and I even include a few teases that don’t spoil, but can add to speculation for those that haven’t read the book and should be recognizable to those that have. Some will consider such things to be spoilers, know that no plot revelations occur – but read at your own risk. This review is intended to be ‘safe’ territory and along those lines, if you do choose to comment, please refrain from including spoilers – I will remove any comments that I feel violate the spirit of this being safe territory.
It’s also appropriate for me to say that I’ve been one of those insane fans endlessly discussing these books on the internet. I’ve been reading The Wheel of Time since the mid-1990s and I’ve re-read the series multiple times. I think true objectivity in reviews is a fallacy, but I do believe that reviews need to be thorough and fair. So know that I’m a biased fanboy but also someone striving to write a decent, holistic view of The Gathering Storm that won’t come off feeling liked the biased praise of just another blind fan. It’s also worth knowing that I did not re-read the series before reading The Gathering Storm and the last Wheel of Time book I read was Knife of Dreams (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) when it was released several years ago. I come into this book as a fan who knows a lot about the series but not off a fresh re-read of events that have come before with a strong feel for the tone of Jordan’s world.
The Gathering Storm is primarily the story of Rand and Egwene. The last few books have typically only given us bits and pieces of Rand’s story through the view of others. Here, Rand is front and center. Likewise, the other primary story we follow is that of Egwene and the divided White Tower. Mat and Perrin both make appearances, but their time is limited and Elayne is absent altogether.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Wheel of Time is how it presents archetypes. Many of the characters and events of the series are distant interpretations of the archetypes of various cultures of our own world, often twisted and nearly unrecognizable. The Gathering Storm takes a step back from this – this is not a big picture book. Instead, it turns inward – the threats are not as external, but primarily threats from within. This approach is exemplified by the two story-arcs concentrated on – Egwene and Rand. Rand is The Dragon Reborn, the man destined and cursed to save the world (or destroy it). Rand’s decent into darkness and madness has been well documented throughout the series, though mainly approached through the view of others. In The Gathering Storm, much of the time is spent in Rand’s own view. And the resulting interpretation has to be that things are even worse than we suspected. Rand is dark, as dark as the Shadow he’s destined to battle, and events in this book only push him further. A victory at the hands of Rand may be no victory at all. The primary battle fought is within Rand – will darkness or light reign? Sure, along the way he may tangle with a Forsaken or three, but the primary battle is internal, with the few external forces present fighting for one outcome or the other.
The same internal conflict is present in Egwene’s story. The White Tower is divided and must stand united to face the coming Final Battle. The rebel forces loyal to her lay siege and she’s captive to her rival in the White Tower. Her focus is inward – in healing the White Tower, whatever the cost to herself.
Rand’s story is dark, depressing and often seemingly devoid of hope. Balancing this is Egwene, who’s story is hopeful, even inspiring. As Rand descends further into darkness, Egwene shines. It’s appropriate that the pivotal moment in Rand’s internal struggle, indeed the final moment of The Gathering Storm occurs in relative close proximity to Egwene.
Honestly, and bluntly, the few chapters devoted to Perrin and Mat are unnecessary bulk to this already long book. Neither fit in well with the internal struggles discussed above (though arguments could be made) and they feel out of balance in an otherwise well-balanced story. The only justification for their inclusion in this story is that fans would have been outraged at their absence, particularly in the case of fan-favorite, Mat. However, I will admit, that Mat’s meeting with Verin Sedai leaves me wanting, no needing, to know more (particularly after events that occur later in the book).
I feel that the pace of The Gathering Storm generally shows some very real improvement over recent volumes of The Wheel of Time. The internal battles described above are well presented, with little wasted space. As mentioned, the pace stumbles a bit with Mat and Perrin, but fans will likely react favorably to seeing old friends again. The beginning is where Sanderson is frustratingly true to Robert Jordan. The first few chapters are full of infodumps – yes, with the length of this series and time since the reader last saw these characters, it’s good to get a bit of a reminder, but as with other volumes in the series, it quickly annoys. This is perhaps the only glaring example of where I could sense Sanderson striving to be like Jordan. Thankfully, such blatant infodumps are rare later in the story. Otherwise, Sanderson succeeds by blending in – this does feel like Robert Jordan’s world. I’m sure many a fan will see (or imagine that they see) Sanderson’s imprint on their beloved series and find complaint. But, from my viewpoint, which is one where I haven’t read the other books in the series for several years, I think that Sanderson does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of The Wheel of Time, (generally) without reading like a simple copy.
In all this, The Gathering Storm comes across as I expected – this is a book that those who are still excited about The Wheel of Time will love and it’s a book that will have plenty to complain about for those seeking it. Sanderson does an admirable job of picking up a series at its climax and staying true to it and its fans. Exciting events occur, longstanding mysteries revealed, plots and arcs come to fruition – some scenes in this book will become iconic to the series as a whole. But, the Last Battle hasn’t yet begun, the characters still haven’t been brought together, and major anticipated events remain. All in all, I couldn’t be happier – reading The Gathering Storm brought back my love for these characters and this world. They’ve been a part of my life for nearly 15 years and getting more was a joy. The series is on the right track and Sanderson has proven to me that he deserves to be in the driver’s seat – I simply can’t wait to read what comes next. 9/10*
*remember, I’m a fanboy and these ratings reflect my overall enjoyment of book, which in the case of a Wheel of Time book, will always be high.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
So, within a few hours of my previous post on The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound), Tor comes out with a newsletter dedicated to the TGS that includes new stuff. So, I’ve included it below (I didn’t include all of the link just because it would take too long).
With one more week to go, we are very excited for Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson’s The Gathering Storm, Book 12 of the Wheel of Time®. We are headed towards the Last Battle!
This book would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication from Team Jordan: Robert Jordan’s amazing widow and editor Harriet McDougal, long-time friend and publisher Tom Doherty, the incomparable Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk (to both of whom the book is dedicated), and the extraordinary Brandon Sanderson. Many others also contributed to this incredible journey (you know who you are) and deserve a special thanks.
So in this edition, you will find Tour Dates! Storm Leaders! Exclusive WoT Items! Bonus Videos! And more.
Without further ado, we kick things off with a few words from the unstoppable Team Jordan:
“To say that I’m excited about the release of The Gathering Storm is like saying Mat is a little lucky. I can’t wait!” —Maria Simons
“Now perhaps Elaida will stop yanking at my stole.” —Harriet McDougal
“I’ll be happy when this book is released, so that the bloody dice can stop rolling around in my head!” —Alan Romanczuk
* Tom Doherty was bursting with spoilers and could not be reached for comment. As he was hurrying away, he could be heard muttering something that sounded suspiciously like, “RAFO.”
And of course…“Let the Dragon ride again on the Winds of Time.” —Brandon Sanderson
Wheel of Time® Bumper Stickers!
Something fun—pick up one of these Wheel of Time bumper stickers, available almost exclusively at any of the live events on the national tour!*
For those unable to make the events, do not fret, as there will be opportunities to win some of these online soon.
We are pleased to introduce the inaugural Storm Leader program! Born out of the incredible WoT community that has grown for almost two decades around the world, the program has hand-selected a group of Storm Leaders in each tour city to head up community outreach and gather fellow WoT fans for the special occasion. (Remember, I'll be a Storm Leader in Scottsdale/Phoenix, AZ)
This October and November 2009, say hello to your local Storm Leaders, as they will be handing out WoT material and taking photos and blogging about the events for those who couldn’t make it. You’ll recognize SLs by their TGS Storm Leader Tour™ t-shirts!
RSVP here for your local tour event.
Oh yes, and don’t miss next year’s JordanCon!
And some new videos:
The buzz is building. I’ve gone into my relationship with The Wheel of Time before, so I won’t repeat myself here – but I will say that this is the series that got it all started for me, so the nostalgic value alone is priceless to me.
So, what’s a fan to do? Well, Dragonmount.com has lots of info on the series, where to buy it, and signing events that Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet, will be at later this month and next month. I’ll be volunteering to help out as a ‘Storm Leader’ at the signing event in Scottsdale/Phoenix, AZ next month on November 16th and I’m very excited about that.
Another resource I that I highly recommend is the Thirteenth Depository Blog, which has numerous resources for fans including and absolutely incredible FAQ series, a thorough recap of the series, prediction contests and they have just opened their very own discussion forum. I’ve known Linda and Dominic for a while now from our days at Wotmania and I daresay that you won’t find anyone more knowledgeable about The Wheel of Time short of ‘insiders’ who write and support the writing of the series.
Tor has also been posting numerous promotional videos and interviews that many fans will find quite interesting. Several of these are embedded below.
Enjoy, and I can’t wait!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Leviathan (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound) is a steampunk alternative history re-telling of World War I where all the conspiracy theories on the cause of the Great War turn out to be true – along with more than a few ‘embellishments’ that that earn the alternative label. The Archduke Ferdinand has a teenage son named Aleksandar who is on the run from the Germans and Austrians who want him dead. A young girl in Britain enters the British Air Service disguised as boy so she can serve. These two are set on a collision course while war rages around them and conspiracies at the heart of WWI slowly unravel.
Leviathan is a YA story and the protagonists are indeed YA. The plot embraces some pretty standard tropes – a young, displaced noble suddenly on the run for his life accompanied by loyal, wizened, and sarcastic retainers, a young commoner who distinguishes herself amongst her piers and betters, a girl that pretends to be a boy, etc. Tropes become tropes because of universal appeal – and while they can be extremely tiresome when the portrayal is uninspiring, when they are done right, that universal appeal stands out. Westerfeld does tropes right. His writing is fully engaging in a way that should make all writers envious. His pace is electric. His characters are real and heartfelt that you can’t help but cheer for. And all this isn’t even the best part of the book.
Westerfeld’s vision of WWI is stunningly iconic – this is steampunk upped an order of magnitude. Huge walkers reminiscent of Star Wars’ Imperial Walkers rush to battle. Enormous zeppelins ply the skies for dominance. Mechanical scout vehicles put horses to shame. And this is just one side of the battle – the Clankers.
On the opposing side we have the Darwinists – where Clankers excel at mechanical prowess, the Darwinists excel at biology. DNA along with the ability to manipulate it was discovered by Darwin leading to society where engineered living beasts largely fill the role of mechanics. Submarines are engineered Krakens, dirigibles are engineered hydrogen-filled whales, beasts of burden rival any truck/tractor, bats shit fléchettes on the enemy, messaging lizards actually speak – basically whatever can be imagined can be engineered.
Westerfeld’s imaginative world of Clankers versus Darwinists with all the wonderful potentials made me feel like a kid again. Few books truly stoke the imagination the way Leviathan did for me – it easily rivals the best of Harry Potter. While all this set my imagination running, it was invaluably aided by the evocative illustrations of Keith Thompson. Westerfeld fought hard to get illustrations in Leviathan and they absolutely add an extra dimension.
For the most part, I just grabbed on and enjoyed the ride. However, I should warn that this book is but the first of a trilogy. I found no mention of this fact on the book jacket, which is certainly annoying and rather misleading. As a result, the book doesn’t end all that well – you could call it a cliff-hanger, but it doesn’t really feel that way. The end doesn’t really come at the end of a true story-arc, but rather the end of a part of an arc – I suppose it could be considered the end of the beginning. While perhaps appropriate for the first book of a trilogy, that’s little comfort if you didn’t know Leviathan was part of a series going in. Book 2, Behemoth, is expected in about a year with book 3, tentatively titled Goliath, about a year after that.
So, I’ve finally read New York Times Bestselling Author Scott Westerfeld, one of the most successful and exciting SFF authors out there today and an author that far too many adult SFF fans have not heard of. I’m impressed and I’ll definitely be reading more. 8/10
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
So, I saw that a nice indie bookstore that I sometimes frequent (Changing Hands) was having a signing event with Scott Westerfeld. I’ve heard the name and heard good things about him, but I haven’t read anything by him before – primarily because Westerfeld is best known as a YA writer. Having nothing to loose (except perhaps $25 for a copy of his new book), I decided to go. I had a wonderful time (even if I was one of the few lone adults – most were accompanying their teens). Oh, and the room was filled to the brim with teenage girls – I have recommendation to teenage boys, read Westerfeld’s books, it will give you something to talk about with girls.
I’m always (pleasantly) surprised when I go to author signing events. I suppose I have an image of authors of insular people more at home with words than people. But pretty much every author event I’ve been to has lead me to question that assumption. The authors I’ve met in person have all been fun, dynamic people who are surprisingly entertaining and funny. Perhaps they just get used to the dog and pony show and have prepared their ‘material’ well, but there is often a real enjoyment shown by the authors that seems very genuine.
While I was waiting for the event, I decided to dive into my newly purchased book, Leviathan (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound). And after 70 pages, my reaction was largely ‘why haven’t I been reading Westerfeld’s books?’ Yes, they are YA, and as I’ve talked about before, there is often a stigma for adults reading YA. But, if what I’ve read so far of Leviathan is any indication, these are YA books that adults can (and should) be reading and enjoying.
Leviathan is simply made of cool. This is re-telling of WW1 where all the conspiracy theories are true in a steampunk world that really takes things to a new level (complete with spectacular illustrations). Imagine the steampunk equivalent of Imperial Walkers marching to war against huge genetically engineered creatures. It’s the Darwinists versus the Clankers, and it’s awesome! Sure, the plot is YA, but so far it’s well executed and easily enjoyable to adults. This book is steampunk on steroids and a lot fun. And it has a really cool book trailer:
So, go read some Westerfeld and don’t let you adult ‘sensibilities’ get in the way.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Eyes Like Leaves tells the story of dueling Gods – the summer god versus the winter god – through human pawns. The world is directly analogous to the British Islands, with a distinctive Celtic feel complete with Viking raiders and the displaced and nearly extinct Pict-ish peoples and elves. Tarn is the young wizard, Puretongue the wizened mentor, and Carrie the one with the potential to save the world. Creatures of the Winterlord stalk the land, magic is fading from the world, and the Summerlord the underdog.
Eyes Like Leaves feels both old and new – in many ways it is yet another Tolkien-spawn that so populated the fantasy of its day. Yet it also feels more real – the gods flawed and even the good guys are cruel. The people are truly human – they are not fantasies, but actual people caught up in what we would consider fantasy. And while the Celtic and Norse influences dominate, in typical de Lint fashion, it’s combined with Native American-style shape-shifting.
The almost poetic and reverent writing that I so love about de Lint is only hinted at in this early work – things feel raw and unpolished compared to his later writing. de Lint intentionally resisted the temptation to revise and update this manuscript – he felt it was important to honor and remain true to his nearly 30-year younger self, a man in an entirely different place in his life with a different message to send. The younger generation in Eyes Like Leaves gets pounded on by the gods – definitely the tale of a younger man who feels the world is out to get him.
In all honestly, the whole of the book simply feels unremarkable. The story is good, if a bit familiar. The characters are worth following, though a bit cliché. The world and its magic are both clever and tired. This is far from de Lint’s best work. But none of that matters all that much.
The greatest value of Eyes Like Leaves is probably in its story – not the story within the pages, but the story of the pages themselves and how they came to be. It’s a glimpse backwards in time, the view of a great writer before he was great. This story will be packaged a high-quality limited edition that Subterranean Press has become known for – by book lovers for book lovers. de Lint’s books are hugely popular at Subterranean, so this one will likely sell-out early and become something of a collector’s item. If you are so inclined, it’s unlikely the words of this review have influenced you one bit, but if you are the fence, hopefully I provided a nudge one way or another. 6.5/10
Friday, October 09, 2009
I’m happy to say that I was selected to be one of the Storm Leaders. I’ll be at the Phoenix/Scottsdale signing on November 16th. It’s celebration time.
Before I get into why the book is so awesome that words cannot contain the awesomeness, I must explain some of the extra benefits the book bestows. So, let me count the ways my life has improved from reading The Way of Kings.
- I lost 25 pounds by reading this book – this is the best diet plan you can possibly buy!
- I no longer need blood pressure medication (and it lowered my cholesterol too!)!
- My penis is now 12 inches longer, no condom can contain me now!
- My wife immaculately conceived!
- It cured my baldness!
- My erection can last over 4 hours I don’t need to call a doctor!
- A brand new Mercedes Benz showed up at my house in appreciation of reading the book!
- This book did my taxes! (and I got a great refund!)
- I’ve discovered the cure for cancer (and global warming)!
- I’m pretty sure this book is the actual reason Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize!
*Of course this all completely bullshit, but due to some asinine regulation I must state the obvious anyway. Hell, this book doesn’t even exist yet, so clearly it wasn’t provided by the publisher, though I do hope they will provide the book when it does exist, because I’m all about the quid pro quo and I am clearly on the forefront of a brilliant viral marketing campaign.
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Canticle picks up nine months after the closing events of Lamentation. The Named Lands still struggle to piece themselves back together after the horrific destruction of their greatest city, Windwir, the seat of the now disbanded religious order, the Androfrancines. Just as hope is really finding a foothold, as string of assassinations utilizing long forbidden blood magic strikes the lands. Further instability results as long-laid strategies reveal themselves, and the threat to the Named Lands may be greater than any imagined.
As I discussed in my review, one of the weaknesses to Lamentation is its slow start – it takes a lot of time and effort for momentum and any attachment to characters to build. In Canticle, Scholes is free from the shackles of set-up and it shows. Events start with bloody knives and roll on from there. Scholes’ seems much more comfortable in his writing and at times you can feel his enthusiasm. In short, his writing shows noticeable improvement in Canticle.
Approaching each chapter as a single point of view allows the reader to really get to the larger players of the game – these eight points of view show the variety of the lands and different pieces of the overall puzzle. In Canticle, the feeling of an over-arching puppet master increases, as those who thought they were in charge become further enlightened to their ignorance. More is revealed, yet with each revelation, more questions appear. Always dangling bait, occasionally allowing a nibble, Scholes leads the reader on an irresistible chase, a chase that will continue beyond Canticle.
Where Lamentation literally laments loss throughout, Canticle delves deep into the wonders of parenthood. Throughout Canticle, the wonder, joy, fears and sacrifice of all manner of parenthood underlies everything. A great king’s life is forever changed by the birth of his son – his perspective cannot help becoming centered on that tiny life, and he will sacrifice anything and everything for that wonder. A strong patriarch horrifically realizes that his only weakness is his family. An adopted father is killed, a religious leader sacrifices for his ‘children’, a dead and gone father’s plans and betrayals are revealed, a Queen learns what it means to be both Queen and mother…it all comes back to that very special love and its corresponding fears of parenthood. The religious overtones are present but not overwhelming, certainly not didactic, and tend towards universal truths that all can relate to. This exploration touched me on a deeper level due to my own relatively recent advent into the wonders of fatherhood, helping Canticle stand out even further.
Scholes’ second book, Canticle, shows significant improvement over his already impressive debut, Lamentation. This is an epic fantasy series that all fans should be reading – this is a series that should be talked about – this is something special. The song that is Canticle demands a response, a response that will come in the forthcoming Antiphon, a response that I cannot wait to see. 8-8.5/10
Related Posts: Review of Lamentation, Ken Scholes Answers Questions Five, Interview (long) with Ken Scholes, Review of Antiphon
Monday, October 05, 2009
So, how does this affect me? Well, the FTC isn’t going to be after small-time individuals like me, so I don’t have anything to worry about. However, I already abide by these new rules and have as long as I’ve been getting books from publishers and other sources. I’m squeaky clean J. For those interested in full discloser for this blog, check out my Books I’ve Received post (also permanently linked in sidebar). It shows all the books I’ve received from publishers and similar sources and names the source – both books I’ve already reviewed and that I haven’t. Heck, I even categorize them based on how likely it is that I will review them. I update as I’m able every week or two.
So, no sweat for me around here – though I suppose others should get their houses in order just to be on the safe side.
I am a bit conflicted on whether I think this is a good or bad thing. Honestly, I haven’t devoted much though to it and I haven’t been following the reactions that I’m sure are flooding the web today. But, I am curious to hear what the good readers of Neth Space think, so please share.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
So, if you want a chance to win, just shoot me an email at nethspace ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com (replace the ‘at’ and ‘dot’ as needed or follow the link in the sidebar). Be sure to include your mailing address in the email and the subject line: EYE OF MISTBORN. The deadline of course is October 27th, the release date of The Gathering Storm and it’s limited to addressed in the US, Canada, and the UK and only one entry per person.
Friday, October 02, 2009
I've also decided the Something Completely Different photo series will probably be bumped back to somewhere between every other week and whenever I feel like it. Fall has definitely arrived here in the mountains with trees changing a low temps well below freezing. In honor, this photo is grey, cool, wet and urban from a wonderful autumn trip through England, Scotland and Wales back in 2006.