Thursday, March 31, 2005

GemQuest & Clarkesworld

Finished up Gary Wassner's first novel Gemequest: The Twins the other day. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect and I entered reading the book with some trepidation, Gary and I are forum moderators at SFFWorld and I'd consider him a friend based upon that alone. I wanted to enjoy the book, but I also didn't want to like it just because Gary is a friend. His publisher, Windstorm Creative is a small relatively new publisher, or at least one I'm not to familiar with. All that said, by book's end, Gary had me hooked into his story and the world he created.

While I enjoyed the book, it isn't without it's faults. Some occaisionally repeated words and phrases cropped up, and times, some passages in general were a overly wordy. Gary's style is almost lyrical, and as I became more entrenched in the world he created, things either became less wordy and evened out, or I simply became more acustomed to the style. The occasional wordiness is perhaps the only negative about the book, so I figured I'd get that out of the way first.

The blurb/TV Guide version of the book is this: The Lalas, sentient trees who have acted as protectors to the land and the people, are dying. The dark wizard Colton wants to hasten the death of all the Lalas, which will further him towards his goal of disollution. In order to see his goal, Colton must kill the prophesized saviour, the heir to the kingdom which he destroys in the beginning of the novel. While this is a familiar formula to most fantasy readers, its in what Gary does with this theme, adding different flavors and his own voice that make the story work. I think writers, fantasy writers in particular, walk a pretty fine line between dumping too much information about the world they created and balancing that with providing a truly immersive reading experience. One good way Gary showed his world was through the characters and their reactions and feelings about the world. By the end of The Twins I felt I knew the world pretty well, but there were still more things I wanted to discover. The world of GemQuest is both familiar and fresh, that's why I like Epic Fantasy so much, I think. I enjoy some of the familiar trappings of the genre and style, but I also like seeing a new flavor thrown in, a new twist on things - something Gary has been able to do.

Though the early parts were a bit slow, about halfway through, things really picked up for me and I became wrapped up in the plight of these people and fully immersed in the world. Gary did some really interesting things in the book, some things I haven't come across in reading alot of the fantasy I've read. One of the greater strengths of the story is how Gary managed to craft a story in the tradition of the genre, specifically the quest and struggle against Dark Lord, that both honors the tradition and forges something fresh and entertaining. I think he did a nice job with the characters and found it particularly interesting that by novel's end, one of the titular Twins, while on stage for many scenes, was still unconcious. Some characters come across more genuinely than others. Tomas is quite intriguing and I'm looking forward to being the fly on the wall when he meets his twin, Davmiran. While Baladar fits the Gandalf role in some respects, I like that he doesn't quite have all the answers. Baladar is trying to bring all these people together, but he certainly doesn't know everything and is playing within rules he doesn't completely know. I think Cairn fits the Gandalf role in some respects, too, but I think he is much more than that, as well. I'm getting good sense of how important Tomas may be through Cairn's eyes. Thus far, Colton seems like the typical almost faceless, Dark Overlord, I'm hoping more is revealed about Colton in later volumes. Gary conveyed a good sense of connectivity between the people and the trees and the importance of the trees to the land itself.

Despite a bit of deus ex machina towards the ending of The Twins, the price the defenders of Pardatha was quite high. At one point, I was almost expecting Gary to somehow return the characters to the status quo, a lesser writer may have indulged in the happier ending. I think Gary took the proper fork in the road there, not that writers should indulge in shaking up the status quo just for hell of it. If it serves the story, then fine. Here it did.

To sum it all up, while a bit flawed as most debut novels are, GemQuest: The Twins was an enjoyable reading experience and I'm looking forward to reading more about these characters and the world they inhabit.

Goddamned is South Park fast. Last night's entertaining episode managed to bring the newly released PSP, Lord of the Rings, and the Schiavo case together into one story. Of course it was irreverent, but like many of their more politically flavored episodes, it was pretty good and showed important issues in a different light.

Because my local Barnes & Noble sucks, I figured I'd place an order at Clarkesworld Books, which happens to be in my state of residence, the order arrived yesterda: The Risen Empire & The Killing of Worlds (together they make up a whole novel: Succession) by Scott Westerfeld, published by Tor. Over at SFFWorld, The Risen Empire is our Science Fiction Book Club selection for April. Westerfeld's two books are actually one book split into two, something Tor is on is doing with more frequency. Jacqueline Carey, Gene Wolfe, Charles Stross and John C. Wright are four authors who's books have been split in the same manner by Tor. This isn't an old rant by any means and in his Agony Column, Rick Kleffel covered this trend much more concisely in one of his recent posts.

I also received Black Gate magazine. Subtitled Adventures in Fantasy Literature, publisher John O'Neill puts together a good looking magazine, packed with good stories. I've been very happy with the two issues I have (5 & 6), and I may even pick up some back issues. Problem is, I always have a tough time finding the magazine at any of the 10 Barnes and Nobles & Borders near my home or work. The magazine has a rather erratic publishing schedule, too. I will probably pick up some back issues through Clarkesworld Books, which I'm learning is a great store.

Newsarama's got a decent interview up with Scott Allie, Dark Horse Comics editor for Conan. Also on Newsarama is a press release about Devil's Due plans to produce comic adaptation of R.A. Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy the Forgotton Realms story which tells of Drizzt Do’Urden's origins and how he left the Underdark. The only Drizzt story I've read was The Icewind Dale Trilogy, which I enjoyed.

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