The last time I read The Wheel of Time was in anticipation of A Memory of Light. The culmination of the series was a big deal for me. I discovered The Wheel of Time shortly after The Shadow Rising (book 4) was released, which means I waited over twenty years for the series to finish. I was a kid when I started reading it and a man when the series concluded. In the interim I lost two immediate family members, graduated from high school, college, grad school, and law school, got my first job, got my first real job, got my first promotion, changed careers twice, lived in four states. The Wheel of Time was a constant through all of that. It may be the only reason I read fantasy today—for the better part of a decade I would not have read any fantasy but for a new Wheel of Time book every two or three years. It was the excitement that the book would be finished that turned me back toward fantasy permanently.
As a kid, I reread the books obsessively, rereading each at least once in anticipation of the next book. Later I would read the newly published book once and leave it at that. Once I even *gas* went months after publication before buying the newest book. A hectic life since A Memory of Light kept me from a full reread. I got married, became a father, changed careers again, and lived in two more states. Oh, and started two blogs. My desire to write reread posts here was part of the delay. Rereading four million words and writing about them is a much bigger commitment.
It was a hectic quarter, even if thinks have started settling down as the baby transitions from newborn baby to just baby. The big wrench in my plans here was my wife and I both finishing leave but only having two days of childcare for the baby each week. I haven’t figured out a sustainable, reliable posting pattern for that new reality (although by the end of the coming quarter the baby will be in childcare five days a week).
Another week, another new series from one of my favorite new writers of the last decade. Last week it was Brian McClellan with In the Shadow of Lightning, this week it is Ed McDonald with Daughter of Redwinter. McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy is one of my favorite fantasy series period. Sadly, Daughter of Redwinter doesn’t begin to live up to that series, although I don’t have much in the way of actual complaints.
Brian McClellan’s opening salvo in his latest series, In the Shadow of Lightning, didn’t immediately grab me. The opening scenes, which take place some nine years before the events in the bulk of the novel and setup Demir’s character arc, were not as effective as, say, the scenes of revolution that open Promise of Blood. The glass-based magic system is clever enough, I suppose, but at some point, you read about so many different magic systems—from McClellan or Brandon Sanderson or whoever—that there are diminishing returns. And it isn’t as distinctive as the powder mage sorcery from Promise of Blood, for example. But McClellan makes great hay out of it, and the story picks up steam as it goes.
I’ve been saying for a while that we need more stories that fall into the overlap between country noir and speculative fiction. The hollers and dark dirt roads that host country noir yarns have their own rich tradition of myths and folk tales. And speculative elements, perhaps especially horror, dovetail well with the bones of a country noir story—better than, certainly, romance or even mystery. In his novel The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones combines supernatural horror and rez noir (a kissing cousin to country noir). Four young Blackfeet Indians committed some great sin on an elk hunt years ago, and an angry spirit of sorts is looking for bloody restitution.
Firestarter is the story of Andy McGee, possessing mild powers of mind domination, and his young daughter, Charlie McGee, possessing very un-mild powers of pyrokinesis. The story begins with Andy and Charlie on the run from agents of a mysterious government intelligence agency called the Shop. We learn how Andy and his wife got their powers and how she died from flashbacks interspersed with the main story. The antagonist the government, as represented by the Shop, and the primary antagonist from the Shop is Rainbird, kind of a poor man’s Anton Chigurh, so loaded with traits and quirks something the whole is less than the sum.
It has been some quarter. If it seems like posting has been slow across both blogs, I have a good excuse! Our son was born in early February. Which has kept me real busy, but I managed to still do some reading and writing (and a lot more TV watching than normal).
Glen Cook’s The Black Company was a milestone work that had an outsized influence on the fantasy genre. Which is probably why Tor decided to reissue it (as a handsome trade paperback with a bland cover) for their “Tor Essentials” line this past Tuesday. That reissue got me to finally read it. I had long since owned The Black Company in mass-market paperback, but I finally cracked it open after Tor sent me a review copy of their new edition, complete with new introduction by Malazan author Steven Erikson.
First published in 1984, The Black Company technically falls after my arbitrary cutoff for Vintage SF. But it isn’t like I was reading much adult fantasy at my tender age in 1984, so it and its peers are as new to me as a book from 1964 or 1944. Also I was lazy and didn’t post a review on Tuesday when the book was released like I should have.
It’s not exactly Vintage Science Fiction Month anymore, but just because I let this one slip last week doesn’t mean I’m not going to post a review of Poul Anderson’s Fire Time. As I remember it, I picked up Fire Time at a used bookstore a few years ago thinking it was a fantasy or sword and planet. It is not, being rather very much hard science fiction. (The High Crusade is the only other Poul Anderson I’ve read, but apparently Anderson wrote fantasy, space opera, and hard science fiction all.)
I’ve said before that John Maddox Roberts is neck-and-neck with Robert Jordan for best writer of Conan pastiches, but that he gets Conan better than any other writer of pastiches I have read. Conan the Valorous helps firm up my conclusion. Setting a Conan story in Cimmeria is a ballsy move, but Roberts is the right writer to pull it off.