Seems I let some time lapse since I last did a round up. This one features latest round up features Aliette de Bodard, Jason M. Hough, and Fran Wilde. Let’s have at it…
We’ll start with de Bodard’s angelic post-apocalyptic novel, The House of Shattered Wings:
Much of the novel focuses on House Silverspires, the head of which was Lucifer Morningstar. Stress on the “was” since he disappeared years prior to the events of the novel. The head of the house is his one-time protégé Seline, who is struggling under the weight of his shadow, the post-war state of Paris, and people in her House dying. This struggle becomes even more challenging when two new people are brought into her House – a newly Fallen (Isabelle) and a mysterious man named Philippe who knows many things about the politics of this supernatural world. Though not a Fallen, he is immortal and soon comes to realize he is as haunted as is House Silverspires.
The strength of the novel is the atmosphere and world building. I thought de Bodard did a wonderful job of contrasting the beauty with the horror, giving much of the novel a dark sinister feel. The magical elements were also quite potent and well-drawn. The apocalyptic supernatural and religious elements are dressing on what is essentially a murder-mystery, which adds weight to the familiar story/plot. de Bodard’s prose is ethereal, magical and brings a great deal of weight to a story that is weighty by its nature. Despite that excellent prose, I found myself detached from the pacing and story itself. This is a case where I’ll definitely notch it up to “it is me and not you,” as life was in a bit of a transition stage for me while I read the novel. I’ve also seen a great deal of positive response to the novel and I recognize what Aliette is doing with this novel and admire it a great deal.
Up next is an action-packed Spy-Fi novel of lost memories and parallel worlds. Here’ the standard link to the review, cover shot, and review excerpt of Jason M. Hough’s Zero World:
Zero World is a high concept SF novel that takes the multiverse/parallel world theory to an ambitious, exaggerated degree and places at its center Peter Caswell, an operative of a highly secretive organization tasked with finding a woman named Alice who was thought to be dead when the vessel on which she was a crew member crashed a little over a decade prior to the events in the novel.
Hough’s plotting is terrific in this novel, the pace and action pieces in Zero World make for a page turning thrill-ride set against an epic backdrop. We are immediately thrust into Peter’s plight as his mission is thrust upon him. His limited knowledge base allows for the reader to be more attuned to Peter’s disorientation and how he absorbs his surroundings. When he arrives at the parallel world, his limited understanding of who he is comes into greater question when he realizes his target – the woman thought dead for over a decade – has set herself up on this parallel world as a scientific genius and global figure. That is of course a relatively easy task since the parallel world is a few decades behind Earth from a technological standpoint.
Lastly, and most recently, Fran Wilde’s stunning debut novel, Updraft:
For such a relatively short novel (350 pages), Wilde packs a great deal of detail into her world and the consequences of living in such a strange place. It seems clear that Wilde put a enormous effort and time constructing this world, but she does not dole out those details with reckless, word-dumping abandon. The world-building comes as the plot comes, in the adequate amounts to round out the characters and push the story forward. There’s enough detail about the flying equipment to give a good understanding of the challenges Traders/fliers face without dragging down the narrative. The Spires themselves are harrowing constructions, and even more harrowing are the lower levels. They are made of bones, but bones of what? It isn’t clear (and that’s a strength of Wilde’s storytelling), so in that sense there’s the right amount of detail leaving me wanting more. The spires and a (once?)-living environment constructed of bone, reminded me of Mike Underwood’s highly enjoyable Shield and Crocus. There’s a vein of mysterious darkness in Wilde’s fantasy world that echoes some of the darkness underlying the New Weird just as it did in Mike’s novel.