Friday, August 02, 2013

SFFWorld Review & Interview Round up: Micahel J. Sullivan, David J. Peterson, Heinlein and Hearne

Here's a gathering of recent reviews and interviews that we've  have posted to SFFWorld over the past few weeks. Recent interviews include:

David J. Peterson, who created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones

SF Said author of Phoenix.

Most recently, I reviewed Michael J. Sullivan's The Crown Tower (Volume 1 of The Riyra Chronicles.  I found this to be a successful prequel to his Riyria Revelations

Hadrian Blackwater is a former soldier and arena fighter wandering the world, looking for purpose. Hadrian is on his way to meet with his father’s old acquaintance at Sheridan University, when a young boy known only as Pickles encourages Hadrian to board a boat. Along the way, several people are killed on the boat, almost including Hadrian himself. When Hadrian finally arrives at the university he discovers his father father’s old acquaintance is Arcadius, the Professor of Lore at Sheridan University. What’s more surprising is that the mysterious hooded man whom he suspected of killing the people on his boat is waiting in Arcadius’s office. The man, of course, is Royce Melborn whom Hadrian’s father’s friend pair up and assign a mission of stealth – to steal a book from the Crown Tower.

Running parallel to Hadrian’s storyline is that of Gwen DeLancy, the “hooker with aheart of gold.” [WARNING: Clicking that link will send you to the rabbit hole known as TVTropes] As much as The Crown Tower is an origin of sorts for the Riyria (Hadrian more so than Royce), Sullivan devotes nearly as much narrative to Gwen’s story. Here, Sullivan gave the novel its truest villains in the drunk, violent customer Stane and Gwen’s boss, Raynor Grue. When Stane kills a prostitute in The Hideous Head Tavern and Alehouse (Grue’s establishment) and gets away with it, Gwen decides she needs to leave Grue’s employ to start her own brothel, Medford House.

Mark's re-read of Heinlein's classic novels as part of the Virginia Edition. The latest is for Farmer in the Sky:

There’s some nice links to some of the earlier novels and stories. The Space Patrol (see Space Cadet) is mentioned, as too the song The Hills of Green Earth and its blind composer Rhysling. Colonies on Mars and Venus, briefly mentioned, relate to Heinlein’s other tales. Heinlein was clearly starting to make his stories of the future interrelate. He even introduces the idea that there has been in the past a space-faring race that has left their mark in space.

So, what does Heinlein bring to the table that is new this time around?

The first shock is that the first part is written from the point of view of Bill. After the previous books were traditional second-person perspective, this is a bolder stylistic move, and one that creates a more personal standpoint. The second shock is that from the start the book does not read positively. This is a surprise, as the juveniles were stories written predominantly for boys and meant to highlight the virtues of the Scouts, and yet from the beginning this is not the positive characteristics you expect from a Scout. On the first page Bill has to deal with a trainee Scout who he calls a twerp from the outset. There is an argument between Bill and his widowed father George over George’s decision to embark on the Mayflower. The world around them is clearly not good, with food rationing in place and rations often cut, George going without meals to ensure that their nutrition intake is sufficient.

Last week, I reviewed the fifth installment of Kevin Hearne's entertaining Iron Druid Chronicles, Trapped:

Five books deep into a series that appears as if it can go at least double that number provides a writer with a certain level of comfort, as it can for the readers of that series. After all, that’s part of why readers return to successful series and why authors continue to write them. On the other hand, progression and stagnation can enter as the series progresses. Not so with Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, each book builds on the predecessor and most importantly no action Atticus or any other character takes is without consequences. Atticus killed possibly the most recognizable Norse god and two books later, the ramifications of that action (and Atticus’s actions in early novels) and the events surrounding it are plaguing the last Druid. In short, Hearne continues to admirably walk the fine line between safety/comfort and progression/consequences.

An element that’s always been an undercurrent of these novels is Hearne’s reverence for storytelling.  Whether in the backstory of Atticus or the short mythic stories other characters tell to Atticus (the stories Väinämöinen’s told in Hammered, the ‘truth’ about the Svartálfar Norse dark elves revealed here in Trapped), the past always ties into current events and provides powerful, resonant, and layered storytelling. Again, the idea of consequences as a powerful theme in these novels becomes more apparent.

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