Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Roundup: Hobb @ SFFWorld, Abraham @, and Buettner @SF Signal

I haven't posted one of these link round-ups in a couple of weeks. More importantly, this week I posted a new review to SFFWorld, the first in a little over a month.  That isn't to say I haven't been reviewing, but as my plethora (OK, under 700) of twitter followers likely know, I've been posting quite a few reviews to over the past few weeks.  So, what does today's fancy link round-up include?

Let's start with my latest review for SFFWorld, a book that I hadn't realized how much I was looking forward to reading it until I stuck my head into it: Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb.  Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about this one based on how badly I bounced off of her second Soldier Son novel, Forest Mage (more for the story than anything, because through everything Hobb has incredible prose), which was the last book by Robin Hobb I read despite her writing five novels since then. All of that having been said, I was more than satisfied with Fool's Assassin and chances are it will be one of (maybe THE) top fantasy novel for me by year's end.

Years have passed since readers were last privy Fitz’s thoughts, he is now married to his boyhood love Molly, his daughter Nettle (whom Molly’s first husband Burrich raised as his own and is now very much enmeshed in the life of Buckkeep court) has appointed him the Holder of the Withywoods Estate she’s been bequeathed. In short, life for the man many know as Tom Badgerlock is far more bucolic than the courtly intrigue in which he spent much of his life embroiled. Then one Winterfest, a traveling group of minstrels and performers arrive; these strangers are very different indeed and bear little resemblance to any folk to have passed through Withywoods as far as any of the staff and people can remember. Life soon returns to its leisurely pace for Molly and Fitz until Molly boldly proclaims she is pregnant. This is something she and Fitz always wanted for many of the children she bore were from Burrich, her first husband and the man who served as a father figure to Fitz.

Much of the novel from this point deals with Fitz as a father to this new child, a child who appears healthy but much smaller than any child should. This young girl, whom Molly and Fitz come to name Bee, is not very communicative and is very withdrawn. She shirks away from Fitz and bonds immediately to Molly. Because of her diminutive size and silence, she is thought by many of Withywoods to be mentally slow and damaged. As the novel progresses, Hobb conveys the emotional turmoil a parent might experience with a child who is so out of what is considered normal.

Last week, my review of another incredible Epic Fantasy novel went live at - The Widow's House by Daniel Abraham.  Abraham is climbing the ranks of my personal favorite genre writers and this book raises his stature on that list even more.

In The Widow’s House, the fourth installment of The Dagger and the Coin sequence, author Daniel Abraham continues to deftly explore positions of power, and how perception lends credence to reality. Abraham tells the story through the same points of view as in the previous volume, though these characters have evolved quite a bit since we first met them. Clara Kalliam, widow, mother, plotter against the Lord Regent; Cithrin bel Sarcour, ‘rogue’ banker, former lover and scorner of the Lord Regent; the aforementioned Geder, Lord Regent and emotional basket case; and Captain Marcus Wester, a hardened man of war. Abraham bookends the novel with two additional points of view: a prologue from the POV of the last Dragon Inys, and an epilogue from a soldier’s point of view.

What is most fascinating about this novel, and the story as a whole as Abraham has allowed it to unfold, is how he is playing with archetypes, both propping them up and shattering them. War is most often fought in Epic Fantasy with the standard machinations of war—men with weapons. What if the solution to winning a war is to not fight the war; to pull the proverbial rug out from under the war and completely change the rules? It is an intriguing concept that has been simmering throughout the series as Abraham set Cithrin and Geder, as seeming allies at first, and now characters at ideological cross purposes.

Lastly (and most recently), my latest Completist column went live at SF Signal and features a more recent series than some of the recent column installments. Robert Buettner's Orphange / Jason Wander 5 book Military Science Fiction series.

This series is set approximately 40 years in the future with Earth being attacked by aliens who come to be known as Slugs. Many of the people chosen for this interstellar war are orphans, people whose families were destroyed in the attacks, which take the form of large stone projectiles, with no nuclear armaments, hurtling through space, which destroy the surrounding area where they land, most often populated cities like Pittsburgh or Indianapolis. It is with this premise Robert Buettner introduces the reader to the world of Orphanage and its protagonist, Jason Wander whose hometown is the destroyed Indianapolis.

The premise of alien invasion and a humanity that fights back is a familiar one in Science Fiction, and military Science Fiction specifically. Furthermore, the first person narrative Buettner employs is quite common in Military SF. However, it is no less effective. Rather, Buettner builds an effective, empathetic protagonist in Jason Wander. With his experience as a former Military Intelligence Officer, it should come as no surprise how effectively Buettner conveys military life.

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