I’ve heard a lot about Daniel Polansky – his fantasy novels were praised by many authors I like and value, covering the subgenres and topics I enjoy. But I was tired of grimdark – still am, to some extent – and I put off acquainting myself with his undeniably grim and dark worlds. Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised when I found this little novella :). Well, “novella”: over 200 pages, a solid book in the old times.
The Builders is a work of fun and fancy; it reads like a prolonged joke turned serious and elaborate and, in the process of altering it, dear to its creator. Even its title is an inside joke, as the story it tells is about destruction, not creation. It’s a crossover of western and The Wind in the Willows, with Polansky openly acknowledging his creative debt to Sam Peckinpah, Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone. It’s Tarantino meets Ocean’s Eleven in Federick Forsyth’s world, because at some point we cross the threshold of gleeful wallowing in graphic violence and go a bit beyond into the realm of old, battered and indomitable characters. A bit like Dirty Harry. Can you uphold the law by breaking it? Is there a purpose in destruction?
N.K. Jemisin is probably best known for winning this year’s Hugo award for best novel – The Fifth Season, set in The Broken Earth realm. The Killing Moon is a book set in a different reality, but praised as one of her best works to date. Because I started my acquaintance with her prose with a short story set in the same world as The Killing Moon, and because I had access to Killing Moon, not The Fifth Season ;), I decided this would be my first serious intro into Jemisin’s prose.
The Killing Moon takes place in an alternate, very Earth-like (more precisely, ancient Egypt-and-Nubia-like) setting. It’s basically Earth (actually, Earth-like moon orbiting a gas giant, which has one other moon as well) – where all the beliefs about magical power of dreams, about the four “humors” of human body, are true. The soul is something tangible; a precious essence of a human being, which can be, by metaphysical means, touched, preserved or destroyed. It can be led peacefully to the land beyond the realms of living; it can be ripped away from the body, resulting in imminent, and incredibly painful, death. Ah, but this essence, the soul of a conscious being, is also a source of potent magic. It can give strength, intellect, youthfulness, even immortality. As well as an incurable taste for more.
Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned.
Ain’t that true…
For example, author of renowned s/f series might publish a half assed book that serves no purpose other than maybe diverting his readers from the fact that he can’t advance the main storyline since 2012.
I love Honor Harrington. If it’s military porn for nerds, well, that’s my kind of porn. Wikipedia lists 34 books from the Honorverse, and I’ve read… 24, enjoying most of them. He is Tom Clancy of s/f, and similarly adept at writing excitedly about battles and soldiers while simplifying political issues to a worrying degree. And with that knowledge I delve into worlds of Honor, escaping from the reality of my more and more complicated political views in a world getting rapidly uglier.
Tad Williams, The Dragonbone Chair
It seems to be a sentiment commonly held by history’s prominent rulers. Half the great churches, mosques and other temples were build to bribe gods, and great kings were convinced that common transgressions against morality will be forgiven in return for all they’ve done to further their deities earthly power.
Yes, I’m reading Memory, Sorrow and Thorne, series I’ve had on my shelves for six years. And I like it a lot, safely predictable, but great fun. Oldschool fantasy they don’t write any more. A caveat – I can’t guarantee I won’t change my mind, I’m only 50 pages in…
Just a few pictures 🙂
When I bought a beautiful one-volume edition of Le Guin’s Hain cycle, to put next to an equally pretty Earthsea volume, I expressed hope that this selected works of Le Guin will become collected works. And it seems we’re slowly getting there:
A selection of short stories this time and I hope it’s not the end. One time Polish edition beats all the other’s I’ve ever seen. Well, maybe not Folio’s Earthsea, but that one is only the first volume.
Also, said Folio Society printed some more of their excellent Asimovs:
Life is good today, but there will be hell to pay (next time my bank sends me monthly credit card statement 😉 )
All right, I finally got to the review of the second installment of Brown’s Red Rising trilogy. Golden Son was supposed to get bigger, better and more badass than its predecessor. Together with Darrow we leave the sheltered – even if a bit stifling – confines of the Institute, and are free to roam the big world outside, the whole Solar System colonized by genetically modified races of humans.
It sounds so perfect. The unfulfilled promise of Red Rising, which gave us only a glimpse of the broader world, was to be realized in its sequel, Golden Son. No longer were we to read about cruel games of privileged teenagers, Golden Son was to be the real deal. The teeth and claw of brutal reality, the multi-faceted political conflicts, the economic wars and the grey areas in between. And it even starts with a suitable bang, on a deck of a starship, in the middle of a naval fight, with very Ender-like Darrow tasting his final academic military success and witnessing as it immediately turns to ash.
But does it deliver?
Seekers of wisdom and beauty include lovely lost women, eccentric wizards and man-eating melancholy deodands. Twk-men ride dragonflies and trade information for salt. There are monsters and demons. Each being is morally ambiguous: the evil are charming, the good are dangerous.
A collection of short forms by Jack Vance, his first book and the beginning of one of his most popular series, the Dying Earth. Vance isn’t really that widely discussed these days, but during his long (1916-2013) life he wrote many influential works and is one of the genre’s legends. And this short (only 156 pages!) tome is a good place to get a taste of him.
Then there are further volumes of the Dying Earth cycle and Lyonesse, one of the iconic retellings of the Arthurian myth. They are on my TBR, but, for now, lets concentrate on The Dying Earth.