Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Orullian, Mandel, Nagata, and SFFWorld's Top 20 Epic Fantasy

Another link round-up for SFFWorld….

Silly me, I neglected to include in my last two Round Ups, an interview I conducted with Peter Orullian went up at SFFWorld. We discuss his storied path to publication including the “Author’s Definitive” edition of The Unremembered

Not many authors have the opportunity to reboot their debut novel in the fashion you did. Do you feel better placed within the genre community now to spread the word and song of your work?
I feel, at least, that the book is closer to what I’d originally intended. That’s a good feeling.
Beyond that, I’m also really excited for readers to discover Trial of Intentions, too. I go deep into the music-magic system I’ve built, which reviewers (as well as other pro writers who’ve read it) are saying is unlike anything they’ve seen before. There’s also a whole new science element that crops up. I’m an amateur astronomer, and readers will find an entire society dedicated to science—and it’s relevant to the plot. Plus, I deal with some sensitive topics by way of character motivation. For example, suicide. It was always part of the narrative development of the series. But I had a friend commit suicide recently, and I think subconsciously it wove its way deeper into the text. There’s some pain in a few of my characters’ story that grows from this. And generally, I thinkTrial of Intentions turns many genre conventions on their heads. I mean, I have a main badass character who’s trying to avert war—that’s where the whole science thing comes in—rather than escalate to war. We’ll see if he succeeds, or is drawn inexorably to confrontation. But it fun as hell to write.

Last week, my review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel went up at SFFWorld. Put simply, one of the best books I read in the past 5-10 years:

One of the most prevalent genre stories is the Post-Apocalyptic tale; our world transformed irrevocably by disease(s), war, nature, zombies, or threats from beyond the globe. One might even suggest that Post-Apocalypse stories are so popular and prevalent they’ve become its own genre , separate and existing along-side Science Fiction. Into this fray enters Station Eleven, Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel and in an understatement, her break-out novel. As of this writing, the novel recently received the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was short-listed for the National Book Award. In a multi-threaded narrative that, for me, evoked the best elements of the television show Lost, Mandel’s novel begins on the eve of the apocalypse and spins out in both directions, following characters in the years prior to the apocalypse and characters living after 99% of humanity has been killed by the Georgia Flu.
I “read” Station Eleven as an audio-book, and I am fairly new to consuming books in this fashion. I’ve listened to about a half-dozen audio-books prior to being addicted to Station Eleven, and that addiction is in no small part thanks narrator/reader Kirsten Porter. She subtly modifies her voice through inflection and/or accent to differentiate each character’s voice through which she speaks. I would have enjoyed the novel a great deal had I read the dead-tree version, but I can’t help but emphasize that Porter’s narrative skills enhanced my enjoyment of the novel; she brought a haunting tone to the novel I likely would have been unable to hear in my own voice.

Most recently, my review of Linda Nagata’s spectacular (and Nebula Nominated) Military SF/Thriller novel The Red posted earlier this week. (A strong contender for top SF read of the year at this point):

The action takes place across the globe as seen through Shelly’s eyes and his point of view; he is our first person narrator. Nagata builds a great deal of empathy with him and his plight; when Shelley reunites with his girlfriend Lissa, after being in the field the emotions come through very strongly. When Shelley ruminates on his squad mates, both whose lives were lost and those who he still counts as part of his squad, he does so with a full intimate knowledge of those people. It has been said that the mark of a good book is that it comes across as a conversation between reader and writer. As such, Shelley’s intimacy, interactions, and thoughts transfers seamlessly to the reader, building a connection between the reader and writer that comes across as a pure conversation.
I also felt a nice kinship between Nagata’s posited future in which defense contractors running “the show” to the future of Matthew Stover’s Acts of Caine sequence where corporations like Dole are essentially nations. Additionally, the death defying “adventures” of the two protagonists (Nagata’s James Shelley and Stover’s Hari Michaelson/Caine) become popular movies/videos people enjoy a great deal. A big part of what I, and many people, enjoy about SFF is seeing familiar elements spun in a new way so I guess what I’m saying is that Nagata manages to bring a many familiar elements together (and few SF frameworks are as familiar or popular as Military SF) into something that manages to echo great stories that preceded it while still engaging in a powerfully refreshing fashion. In The Red, Nagata manages one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and enthralling meldings in SF of that familiar and “new spin.” I am excited to read the further exploits of James Shelley, The Red and wherever this story goes.

Lastly, our forum members over at SFFWorld took an informal poll to vote on the The Unofficial Top 20 Epic Fantasy Series/Books.  I'll say this, the list is not in the least bit surprising.  FWIW, my ballot from the voting thread looked like this (but it might likely change a bit next time I was to be asked):

  1. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams
  2. The Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover
  3. The Farseer by Robin Hobb
  4. The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman
  5. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  6. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  7. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  8. The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
  9. Mistborn (the original trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson
  10. DragonLance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (for sentimental value!)

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