The second in a planned trilogy, The Bones of the Earth is an able follow up to Dunne’s grimdark debut. Dunne continues to build on her strengths. But if you were frustrated by In the Shadow of the Gods, you will probably remain frustrated by The Bones of the Earth.
The Gunslinger ended with Roland reaching the ocean. The Drawing of the Three opens with Roland at that same ocean. Welcome back to my first read of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series! Last week I finished The Gunslinger; today I start The Drawing of the Three (book 2). The sections in The Drawing of the Three are longer than those of The Gunslinger, and I’m planning to knock it out in three weeks. Today’s post covers The Prisoner (over a third of the book).
The book opens with Roland asleep, dreaming. He thinks he is going to drown, and he is ok with that…until he realizes that his guns and ammunition may be getting wet. THEN he bolts awake.
There is a four-foot lobster monstrosity (“lobstrosity”) just a few feet away from him. Roland loses two fingers and a big toe before he can get away. Now he’s dehydrated, almost out of food, losing blood, and risking infection. He heads down the beach. Where he finds a door.
When you see a new short fiction magazine like Cirsova hit the scene—one that publishes such fresh work—you have to wonder whether the editor can keep it up. Will there be a real pipeline of quality stories, or was there a pent-up supply that will be exhausted? Cirsova’s third issue is the weakest of the first three, but it is only a very small drop-off in quality.
There is a lot of underappreciated talent out there. Issue number three features only one repeat player—the inestimable Schuyler Hernstrom—from the first two issues (though Jeffro Johnson returns with another essay).
The issue features a bit of a nautical theme. Only a bit though. There is a good space pirate story, a few pirate-pirate stories, and a really nice bit of cover art depicting a sorcerer working magic from the deck of a ship, but the rest of the issue branches out. Issue number three is a bit of a departure from the heroic fantasy and sword and planet-heavy first two issues. This issue, much more so than the first two, could almost have been published by, say, The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Which is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because it speaks to the high quality of the stories within. Bad, because it loses some of its distinctiveness.
Jon Del Arroz’s steampunk YA novel, For Steam and Country, shows a lot of promise, but unfortunately it too often typifies what I like least about both steampunk and YA.
In the Shadow of the Gods is well written, remarkably so for a debut novel. It is also extremely ambitious. It sometimes fails in that ambition. But it’s saved from the rather limited action and a somewhat threadbare plot by a quality of the writing and the strength of the characters drawn that leads to an immersive reading experience. It’s gritty and grim without descending into nihilism awash in bodily fluids.
Welcome back to my first read of the Dark Tower series! This week I finish up The Gunslinger, Book 1 in the Dark Tower series, with The Slow Mutants and The Gunslinger and the Man in Black. Roland finally confronts the Man in Black. Or does he?
Roland and Jake follow the Man in Black into the hole in the cliff face. Walking in the dark, they find a railroad handcar (along with railroad tracks). They come to an abandoned station, complete with mummified railroad employees, and survive an attack from “slow mutants.”
More interesting than the passage through the dark tunnel is a flashback to Roland’s youth. He learns that his father’s counselor Marten, who he obviously believes was the Man in Black, cuckolded his father, the lord of Gilead. Roland responds by demanded to complete his apprenticeship, earlier than any other would-be gunslinger. To do so he must defeat his teacher in combat. He does so, choosing his hawk as his weapon, but he is sent away and never gets his chance to confront Marten.
My original concept for Throwback SF Thursday was less #PulpRevolution and more a mix of Vintage SF (including Campbellian science fiction) and modern fiction that is self-consciously retro. Maybe it’s Cirsova Magazine or maybe it’s . . . Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom.
Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis is one of those self-consciously retro works that pokes fun at the source material. But don’t get the wrong idea. This is entirely done from love. Schenck takes the 1939 World’s Fair vision of the future and the pulps and runs with it, having a hell of a lot of fun in the process, if not quite telling a pulp tale.
(Chapter titles are along the lines of The Drunken Tourists of Deception, Battle in the Pneumatic Wind, and Onslaught of the Rampaging Rockets if you’re wondering how much fun.)