Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Abercrombie, Cobley & Aaronovitch Reviewed at SFFWorld

Nila joins the crew (Mark and me) again this week for three reviews. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I’ve no power and had to wait until I was able to get somewhere with power to post these reviews. Mark looks at one of the top fantasy releases of the year, I review a solid, exactly-what-Space-Opera-should-be Space Opera and Nila continues her back-and-forth jaunt with Peter Grant. …

Members of the SFFWorld Forums (as well as readers of fantasy in general) tend to rate Joe Abercrombie very highly, with each new book being one of the most anticipated in the fantasy genre in the year of its initial publication. Mark was the first of us to review Red Country is a great success:

If you’ve read Joe before, there’s a lot here you’ll like. Red Country is as dark, as cynical, as violent and as grimly-humorous as we have come to expect. The characters are as un-stereotypical as ever. The ‘heroes’ are not your clean-cut type, your ‘villains’ are at times worthy of your sympathy, even when they are quite horrendous elsewhere. For example, Shy is that Abercrombean archetype of ‘feisty female’, a damaged person with a troubled past, a murderer and a thief, but perhaps younger and without the total cynicism of Monzcarro Murcatto (of Best Served Cold). If nothing else, Red Country is the tale of her rite of passage.

Interestingly, this is a shorter novel than most of the Abercrombie canon. (The Heroes is about 50 pages longer, at a quick glance.) This is to the book’s benefit. Red Country reads quickly and well, and, although it dips a little in the middle, is tighter and more focused than many of the previous novels. Here, rather like The Heroes, the events written are relatively small scale – important to those involved, but unlike The First Law books, not exactly world-changing. Which is perhaps Joe’s point, in the same way that The Heroes was one small battle in a bigger picture. Violence is violence, regardless of scale. Red Country should quell those complaints about ‘bloated fantasy novels’ often leveled at genre writers.

Sometimes you are hoping for a specific kind of story when you open a book, in this case, I was hoping for an exciting galaxy-spanning Space Opera. With Seeds of Earth the first installment of Michael Cobley’s Humanity’s Fire, I was very pleased:

What makes Seeds of Earth a novel full of that grand sense of wonder, in part, is the many non-human races who comprise the galaxy. Humans (and the Swarm) are far from the only sentient beings in the galaxy. On Darien, humanity has befriended the Uvovo, a race with mystical, symbiotic ties to their world. Our point characters with the Uvovo are Greg, the scientist who’s been studying the race and its history and Chel, his Uvovo Scholar friend and advisor. The two become friends and confidants before, during and after Chel undergoes a Uvovo ritualistic transformative ceremony called husking (which bears some similarities to the transformative race of the Piggies (aka Pequeninos) in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead).

Seeds of the Earth is a vast-canvas galactic space opera that exemplifies the qualities readers so enjoy in this space opera renaissance – multi-planetary society, dependence on artificial intelligence, alien horde as the enemy, mystical/mysterious alien allies, colonization of humanity, and more importantly he uses these familiar ingredients in a way that is fresh. Cobley packs a lot of ideas and elements into the novel which flows fairly organically. For example, the artificial intelligence utilized by Earth humans is considered the Dreamless by he spirit of the planet Darien.

Working backwards through the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch, Nila reviews Moon Over Soho:

Much like in Rivers of London, Peter Grant gets caught up in the magical underworld of London all over again in Moon Over Soho. We are introduced to a new nefarious wizard that I predict we’ll see more of in the third book, we encounter sexy (and almost sparkly) vampires, and the river gods make a token appearance, as does Peter’s old partner, Leslie – the one with a busted face. The fledgling wizard/constable also has to deal with chimera – the unholy mix of human and animals – sex slaves. Oh, yeah, and there’s something biting off men’s penises.

With that said, Moon Over Soho delivers in magical punch what it doesn’t in the series’ recurring characters. We get to meet shadowy figures in a sinister plot, and a new adversary that will keep Peter on his toes. The relationship between he and Leslie is evolving, and I’m anxious to see where Leslie does with her time off to heal. All in all, a lot of new story questions that will keep you coming back for more..

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