Friday, November 08, 2013

SFFWorld Round-up: Bach, Dalglish, Robertson, Paolini, and Wexler

Another round up of what's been posted to SFFWorld in today's blog post....

Last week, I posted my review of a contender for my favorite Science Fiction novel of the year, Fortune's Pawn, the first Paradox novel by Rachel Bach:

Devi meets and interacts with the motley crew of the Glorious Fool, – Captain Caldswell, who runs the ship with near military precision; Rupert who is “just a cook” (not); the bird like aeon pilot Basil who literally navigates from a nest; the tall lizard-like xith’cal doctor Hyrek (right, a doctor from a race which enjoys the taste of human flesh); the captain’s daughter Ren who is protected by Rupert; Cotter, the other security mercenary who joined the ship with Devi; and Mabel, the ship’s engineer who has the longest relationship with Captain Brian Caldswell; and Nova, who oversees the ships diagnostics. . Amidst this backdrop, the Glorious Fool is a trading vessel, not unlike the Serenity of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Of course, we’d have very little story if the vessel were a simple trader. The character with whom Devi has the closest relationship as the novel progresses is Rupert; he is the love interest. He is the unconquerable man who doesn’t give into Devi’s charms immediately; Rupert is initially something of a stonewall. If anything, he may be a little too perfect. The romance between the two takes up a significant portion o

f the narrative energy.
I was a fan of the Eli Monpress novels written under the author’s real name Rachel Aaron, so when I learned she was shifting to space-based science fiction (so far, these books seem an equal mix military science fiction, space opera, and adventure SF), I was excited. That excitement was fulfilled. In the Eli Monpress novels, Aaron played with some genre conventions, but here writing as Bach she does much more upending of the genre tropes. For starters, the protagonist is a woman where a majority of protagonists in military SF have been male. That said, Devi is as aggressive on every level of her character as any male protagonist who preceded her in the genre. She goes after the men she wants, goes after the targets at which she aims, and tackles just about every obstacle in her way. She names her weapons and her power armor. Point being, she’s larger than life and in your face and I felt as if I got along well with her voice.

Mark had a look at self-published sensation turned newest Orbit fantasy author, David Dalglish and his fantasy novel, A Dance of Cloaks:

As a debut book in the series, A Dance of Cloaks is a ting-out-the-stall’ kind of book, where the reader is introduced to characters and places that it is clear will all be developed later, and undoubtedly with paths that will cross at some point. There are quite a few different characters to follow here, some major, others minor, but who may become more important later. Of the families, much of the plot deals with the life-changing events around two main characters. In the Trifect group, Alyssa Gemcroft, is the main heroine, the heir to the Gemcroft family fortune, used as a political device by her father Maynard, available for marriage to the right suitor. As you might expect, she rejects this.

Whilst the characters are nothing really new, and the plot admittedly rather generic, this is a book that revels in, and can be enjoyed for, its familiarity. With such a book, a reader does not need to spend time wrestling with deep concepts or revelatory stylistic touches. Readers can be assured that what they expect is what they get, to enjoy the plot developments as they happen, feel engaged with a story that uses straightforward language and enjoy a tale that basically is done well. Its purpose is to entertain.

Most recently, I reviewed Freya Robertson's debut novel, Heartwood. Robertson also recently provided SFFWorld with a guest post. Here's the cover, link, and review snapshot:

Robertson introduces many of the players at this gathering including the Holy Knights of the Heartwood, elite defenders of the Arbor as well as the many nations gathering to meet for a potential halt to hostilities. The protagonist, at least for the first third of the novel, seems to be Chonrad, a man who tried but was unsuccessful at becoming a Holy Knight and is sent to represent his nation at the Congressus. The Knights are led by Procella, a woman with whom Chonrad feels a great connection. Other knights include Beata, another female knight and Dean at Heartwood; twins Gravis and Gavius. Additionally, members of other nations, such as Fionnghuala of the Hanairean and Grimbeard, of the Wulfian where war rules all and men just take women are introduced.

What started as a novel with great potential conflict and interesting, if familiar, world and story fell under the weight of info-dumps and backstory. I liked the characters, I liked the world, but after the ample world-building in the first third of the novel, I felt ready for the story, particularly since it seemed to be pointed in the direction of multiple quests, to move at a more brisk pace. With each of the quests the characters were split up to undertake, we learned more about the characters. Too many weighty details are revealed about the characters by the characters themselves as inner monologue to allow for narrative the move along at a good pace.

We've also got some new interviews, including:

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