Tuesday, November 27, 2012

King's Blood by Abraham & A Feast Unknown by Farmer at SFFWorld

We are winding down 2012 with only a few weeks remaining and while I’ve enjoyed a good portion of what I read, the book which I review in today’s post is my top Epic Fantasy for 2012.

Readers of my blog would like surmise that if any author has impressed me this year, based on the quantity of books I’ve read by him in 2012, it would be Daniel Abraham. Though published in the spring, I read The King’s Blood; the second installment of The Dagger and the Coin:

The King’s Blood builds on the strengths and foundation Abraham has thus far displayed in The Dragon’s Path, the first installment of The Dagger and the Coin. The races and politics of these divergent children of the dragon can be seen in greater detail; the threat hinted at in the first volume of the Spider Goddess gains more traction; the conspiracy against the nation of Antea becomes more of a plot element. As characters discover the deeper conspiracy taking root, it isn’t always easy to uncloud one’s judgment to find the heart of the conspiracy. Small thoughts lead to larger decisions, which can lead to war. Something Geder, Dawson (and his family) learns as The King’s Blood builds momentum with each page and chapter.

Through Geder’s eyes, Abraham evokes a great deal of sympathy for his plight, that ultimately, Geder seems to be trying to do what is best for the Prince under his watch and the land the Prince rules through him. His motivations come across as plausible outgrowths, particularly the less-than-savory aspects of his persona – his frustration, his anger, his jealousy, and his inadequacies. I’m not sure quite what Abraham is building with Geder, it is possible he is being whittled into something of a Big Bad for the series. On those aspects, I find a great deal of similarity between Geder and Walter White of Breaking Bad. Both characters are initially meek and weak, both characters struggle to overcome their fears in what might not be the best of fashions, and through various developments grow out of that shadow into something much more menacing.

Mark reaches into the past through the help of a re-issue of one of the early novels of the late Philip Jose Farmer with A Feast Unknown:

The story, as you might expect from its pulp foundations, is fairly simple and straightforward. Told as if from Volume Nine of the journal of Lord Grandrith (a surrogate Lord Greystoke), it tells of the conflict between Grandrith aka ‘the Apeman’, and the Lord of the Jungle, and Doc Caliban, Man of Bronze. They are clearly two opposites – the Lord of the Jungle is the epitome of man based on Nature, whilst Doc Caliban is a man of Science – although with the same father, Jack the Ripper. Both have been given an elixir that makes them near-immortal through the secret society known as The Nine. .

Farmer doesn’t stint on the details of this. There’s explicit sex, homosexual rape, bestiality, lots of talk about men’s genitalia, ejaculation, blood-drinking and cannibalism, castration, and throughout some quite odd sexual habits. Farmer’s clearly having a lot of fun with this. Through the Man of Bronze and He-of-the-Apes, we see a difference between rational Science and more emotional irrationality. Part of this is claimed to be because of the longevity elixir, though really perhaps what Farmer is emphasising is that often unspoken societal link between sex and violence, and that the two can be related.

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