Tuesday, March 13, 2012

David Constantine and Mark L. Van Name Reviews at SFFWorld

Back to normal on Tuesday here at the ‘o Stuff with a review from me and a review from Mark.

Let’s start with Mark’s review, which is the first of a new series and the first novel by a previously published author under a new pen name. The novel mixes Ancient Greece and Macedonia with steampunk, David Constantine’s, The Pillars of Hercules:

The story starts straightforwardly. Lugorix is a Gaulish soldier with a sword called Skullseeker. His best friend is Grecian Matthias, an archer. The story begins by the two being hired to protect and travel with Barsine, a mystic witch, on her journey from Athens with her retainer Damitra.

In another storyline we have Alexander and his relationship with Philip, his father, as told through Eumenes, one of Alexander’s officers and Aristotle. And of course we also have the increasingly paranoid Alexander, who kills previously trusted friends whilst trying to overthrow his father..

The Ancient World is a rich tapestry of resources that is ripe for the use of Fantasy novels. However this is not without its complications. Trying to explain the complications of Macedonian and Grecian politics from a standing start isn’t easy, and then getting accustomed to the names can take a while: knowing your Diocles and Xanthippus from your Hephaestion is quite important. Unfortunately here there’s a lot of characters who all speak with similar voices and it was at times difficult to differentiate between them, even those we are meant to care more about.

I continued my “catch-up-with-books-that-have-been-on-my-looming-to-read-stack-for-well-over-a-year” quest with Overthrowing Heaven, the third Jon and Lobo novel by Mark L. Van Name:

On to the novel at hand…Jon decides to help a woman (Pri Suli) find her missing child, but soon after he agrees to the job, he comes under the lens of one of the governmental bodies of the galaxy who wishes to secure Wei, the man responsible for kidnapping her son. Wei is conducting illegal experiments on children on the fantastical planet Heaven. This hits very close to home for Jon, since he was once a young boy upon whom doctors like Wei experimented. His conscience overrides his frustration with government and he agrees to help Suli find her son, and in turn to find the mole the government placed in Dr. Wei’s staff, and bring Dr. Wei to justice.

Overthrowing Heaven is mostly a Space Opera, but it also has flavors of Military SF and posits some very thought provoking philosophical arguments. I found the ending to be very satisfactory as it brought to a close the full arc of the novel. There’s indeed a promise of more stories for Jon and Lobo and I for one will be following these protagonists on their next adventures.

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