Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Windup Girl and Triumff

Another week and we’ve got two more new reviews up at SFFWorld.

I reviewed Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut novel The Windup Girl which shares the setting with a number of his highly regarded stories, including the The Calorie Man

The plot of the novel deals in sociological elements like race, politics, and the status of outsiders and artificial people. In many ways, I felt as if I was reading a Philip K. Dick novel – the timeframe of a near future coupled with the rigid and controlling über-governments gave Bacigalupi’s story just that feel. The setting was balanced very well between familiar and alien – in essence a future that seems scarily possible within the current landscape of the world.

While the setting was the strongest element of the novel, I was unable to completely connect with the plot or remain connected with the characters throughout the novel. After the explosive and engaging first chapter or two, the narrative wasn’t able to maintain my interest completely for the remainder of the novel.

Mark took a look at one of the launch titles form the new Angry Robot imprint, which is from a fairly familiar genre name Dan Abnett. While he is well known in Black Library/Warhammer circles, his offering here is an original, steampunky/humorous fantasy, Triumff - Her Majesty’s Hero:

Set in the time of Elizabeth XXX, we discover that although the date is ‘now’, this is the Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure, where the power is not steam but clockwork. It is ruled by Queen Elizabeth and her Anglo-Spanish Alliance (Unity) with a combination of both military might and magic – sorry, magick, called the Arte. Thus the tale is firmly rooted in Elizabethan style England, with odd twists. There is a mix of ‘old’ with ‘new’. The clothes of the times still involve doublet and hose, yet at the same time there are guns and swords and comments about Visagebook and ThySpace, not to mention the singers Diseased Rascal and Lady Geegaw.

The tale is told through a combination of first person narrative, through the unreliable narrator, William (Wllm) Beaver, and third person. Wllm’s role here is relate the tale of the lead character. Sir Rupert Triumff (‘seafarer, Constable of the Gravesend Basin and celebrated discoverer of Australia’), a real Errol Flynn of a character, drinking and fighting his way through the book, a character with honour, a loyalty to the Queen and a highly tuned sense of self-preservation. Sir Rupert is given the responsibility of going undercover by Cardinal Woolly in order to stop the plot and save old Three Ex herself.

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