Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hamilton, Abraham & Anderson/Peart at SFFWorld

Mark happened to post a couple of reviews since last week (one the day after last Tuesday’s post), so I’ll sandwich my review of second installment of Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet between his reviews.

Being in the UK, folks like Mark get to read UK authors like Peter F. Hamilton before folks like myself here in the US. Here’s what he had to say about Great North Road:

To deal with the crime issues, instead of Paula Myo, superspy, we have the slightly less active but still quite effective Sidney Hurst. Sid is basically the new Paula Myo, although whereas Paula was a kind of James Bond super-spy with a broad jurisdiction, Sid is more of a super-cop, a family-man following the same type of actions in a much smaller pool (even allowing for the large planet of St Libra.) I suspect his down to earth approach dealing with crime in a systematic fashion will make him quite popular and he’s about as solid a hero as we’re going to get here.

I was pleased that the book is a standalone, although there are many themes from Peter’s Commonwealth books than fans will recognise. There’s lots of big machinery around, with plenty of what I call ‘Thunderbirds’ type moments: huge (and perhaps improbable) pieces of technology that are there for display and explained in enormous detail. People are still able to lengthen their life-spans. Cloning is possible. Crime still happens. Old men still lust after young women (see Misspent Youth.) Aliens (and nasty ones at that) do exist (see the Commonwealth Saga /Pandora’s Star books). Clearly there are ideas here Peter likes, and his typical readers do too, and they are dealt with as well as we would expect.

I trek ahead with my first read through of Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet, and it continues to impress me a great deal. Another subtle, yet engaging volume in a series that grows in my estimation with each volume: A Betrayal in Winter

So, taking a bit of a step away from the first volume, Daniel Abraham gives readers what is essentially a fantastically infused murder mystery set in the imagined city of Machi. Though the events in the previous volume were indeed climactic, Abraham’s story illustrates how far ranging the consequences of one’s actions can be. From the moment Otah renounced the robes of a poet to the events in this novel, nearly everything he’s done has grown out of that one act. Otah is perhaps the character who plays the most roles throughout these first two installments - he’s a prince in exile, Itani the laborer, a courier, father, and lover.

Gender politics become more prevalent in A Betrayal in Winter with the character of Idaan, the Khai’s daughter. Daughters cannot rule in the land of Machi and it is something which Idaan covets knowing it is something she cannot attain. The consequences of her actions as a result of her justifiable frustrations, again, have a very large ripple effect. As those consequences become steeper, Idaan has difficulty coping with all the changes being wrought. The women’s roles were pretty clear in A Shadow in Summer, but though they may be clear in Betrayal, the primary female character is not content by any means.

The band Rush has a long history as one of the most influential and popular rock bands in the past thirty years. Their lyrics have often had the feel and influence of science fictional and fantastic themes. Their drummer Neil Peart enlisted Kevin J. Anderson to bring themes from their latest album Clockwork Angels

Plot Summary: In the world of Albion, Owen Hardy, assistant orchard manager in the small village of Barrel Arbor, is, at the age of sixteen, about to become an adult. In his safe, ordered world, known as the Stability, this means settling down in a secure lifestyle knowing where he is and what he will be, managing the apple orchard and being married to his sweetheart Lavinia.

As a piece of genre fiction, it is as you would expect from that synopsis above – a fairly straightforward tale, well written, that looks at some great big ideas but shouldn’t scare off the casual reader. We’re not talking intense Mieville-ean debate here, more Terry Brooks entertainment. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in its use of the carnival as a place of security as well as fear, a smidgen of techno-magic in its coldfire energy, steampunk airships and clockwork guardians, a hint at quantum universes along the way. It would work well for a Young Adult audience, though it’s entertaining enough for adults.

Having these quite well known ideas is not too important; it’s what the authors do with them that counts. Though some of the ideas are used and then dropped without being developed too far, generally it is a great page-turner.

No comments: