Friday, April 11, 2014

SFFWorld & SF Signal Round-up: Moon, Edwards, and McCarthy plus Links!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had some new content posted; two reviews to SFFWorld and my regular (as it turns out twice-per-month) Completist column at SF Signal. I’ll start with the oldest (if a week ago can be considered “oldest”) first and my review of Elizabeth Moon’s Echoes of Betrayal. I returned to her fiction earlier this year after not having read anything from her in a few years, for reasons I can’t fully explain and I feel somewhat bad for that because I’ve connected with everything I’ve read from here. This third installment of her Paladin’s Legacy series is no exception

Moon begins the tale with the thief Arvid Semminson a jail cell. That setting doesn’t last long as he and his gnome companion Dattur escape. Arvid was the enforcer of the Thieves Guild, but was betrayed by them which led to his incarceration. As much as the novel focuses on Kieri and Dorrin, perhaps Arvid undergoes the greatest change and character development over the course of the novel. Soon after Arvid escapes, he assumes the identity of a merchant, all the while searching for a lost necklace from Dorrin’s crown and jewel set. Dattur is his constant companion, a result of the gnome thinking he owes Arvid a life debt. Arvid begins hearing a voice in his head that he comes to realize is Saint Gird. Arvid does not consider himself a good person or a religious person, after all he spent much of his life as a thief and an enforcer for thieves, so much of his narrative journey in Echoes of Betrayal is an examination of his past and the struggle to redeem himself, even if such a word or change is never fully admitted or quantified. Moon captures the internal struggle Arvid is going through at this juncture in his life, he’s fighting against himself, who he was and who he wishes to become.
I’ve had this book for a couple of years and just never got around to reading it, as such, the last time I ventured into the series was with the second book, Kings of the North, nearly three years ago. Because of this, the longer I waited to read Echoes of Betrayal, the more trepidation I felt picking it up. I wasn’t sure how much I would remember from the previous installment or how easily I would slip into the world and narrative. I shouldn’t have worried nearly as much. The names began ringing bells as did their plight and Moon’s narrative connects with me so well that I was soon right beside Arvid, Kieri and the other characters during their plights/journeys.

Earlier this week, I posted my review of a book that took me by surprise. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected (and the premise looked enjoyable). The mystery couched in a historical/mythic setting Talus and the Frozen King by Graham Edwards: 

Edwards works with a very straight-forward mystery structure, murder, investigation, solution, but what happens between those pillars of the structure make for a very entertaining read. The island of Creyak through the absolute rule of Hashath, has all but cut itself off from the world, shrouding itself in privacy and superstition. Now that the king is dead, his eldest son is in line for the throne. Of course, things are not that easy. Tharn, the king-to-be, is at first very untrusting of Talus and Bran considering their arrival coincided with the king’s death.

Part of what makes a good mystery enjoyable are the characters because frankly, going in, the reader pretty much knows the mystery will be solved when the book is finished. In the case of Talus and the Frozen King, I thought Talus and Bran were both engaging characters who had a deep past that was hinted at from the start, but in the case of Talus, becomes only minimally clear by novel’s end. The people of Creyak felt genuine and the king-to-be Tharn stood out as a man torn between duty to his people’s traditions and how he wants the village to live on in the future.

Yesterday, my Completist column featured a superb, recently completed Military SF trilogy, The Subterrene War by T.C. McCarthy:

While I haven’t read every Military SF novel out on the shelves, I’ve read my fair share and nothing I’ve read in the subgenre feels so filthy, dirty and uncomfortable as do these books by McCarthy. McCarthy is, after all, telling a story of war and nothing is spared – the death, the blood, the sickness, even the pure discomfort of having what is essentially power armor which includes a system to get rid of personal waste – there’s the rawness, and that is merely one fraction of it. Some people may consider disjointed a negative comment, but here, the disjointed feeling of the narrative is, I gather, completely intentional on McCarthy’s part.


McCarthy’s claustrophobic feel extends to personal freedoms. When ‘out’ of the theater of war, at home, or in civilian life, Stan, like all citizens, is constantly monitored. He is unable to have any private discussion with his estranged wife and only when he is in the deepest, least civilized sections of the jungles does Stan come close to feeling unsurveilled. This ratchets-up the paranoia level and lack of privacy that pervades the narrative.
Also at SF Signal:

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