Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paul S. Kemp and Isaac Asimov at SFFWorld

As it is Tuesday, I present to you, my faithful readers, two new SFFWorld reviews. The usual suspects this week: me and a review from Mark.

I’ve been enjoying Paul S. Kemp’s brand of Sword and Sorcery through his Erevis Cale novels (here’s my recent Awesome Omnibus feature) and was very pleased to learn we wrote, The Hammer and the Blade an original (non-shared world) novel and it would be publishing later this year from Angry Robot Books. So, with all that, Paul was kind enough to pass along a super early advance e-copy of the book to me, the the review of which I posted today:

Through an engaging prologue Kemp introduces the readers to Egil and Nix through a quick dungeon adventure whereby the Priest (Egil) and Thief (Nix) rob the tomb of an ancient entity. The prologue would work excellently as a short story but also sets a solid foundation for the story Kemp will tell in The Hammer and The Blade by giving a sense of the relationship between the two protagonists. Egil and Nix planned on using the payout from their treasure to buy their favorite tavern so they could retire and live out their days in relaxation rather than fighting and adventuring.

Revealing too much more would rob the potential reader from enjoying the novel themselves, though I will say the final quarter of the novel was exhilarating, leading to an extremely satisfying conclusion. What I will speak to, in general terms, are the elements that worked, didn’t work, etc. First and foremost, what comes across very strongly is how much fun Kemp seemed to have writing this story. The protagonists are old chums in the greatest sense of the word and their humorous, sarcastic rapport provides for a smooth way to reveal story elements. This sense of camaraderie extends as Egil and Nix become more acquainted with Rakon’s ‘crew’ over the course of their journey since our heroes and Rakon’s men don’t exactly see eye to eye with the sorcerer’s means and goals.

The ‘catching up with the classics’ theme for Mark continues with a classic novel from Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel:

A book that tackles issues of race, bigotry and hatred, written before the US race riots of the 1960’s? This still has a narrative drive and the power to shock. Whilst it is a mystery story, what makes it work is the matter of fact placing into a future regulated society where atomic war has led people to live in vast regimented ‘caves of steel’, where food is regulated (and mainly yeast-based), travel is not by car but by walkway, living space is a premium and jobs are increasingly scarce and under threat of being given to a robot at any time.

What was amusing in my teens - Lije's use of 'Jehoshaphat!' as a swear-word - is a little annoying now and the need to end some chapters on a grand reveal ("Your honour, it was the butler that did it!") belies its pulp origins. The singular view of the Bible as the most important religious book in the world may also jar in today’s more secular global network, though perhaps understandable from a 1950’s viewpoint. So too the use and acceptance of tobacco in social circumstances.

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