Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
While this isn't Stackpole's first published novel, his author's notes at the end make it clear that this was the first novel he wrote. It's interesting comparing this to his last three; the plot is a little more simple and focuses around one character, namely Nolan ra Sinjaria.
Nolan is a Talion. The Talions are an ancient order of peace keepers. Some are trained as soldiers, some as cavalry. Some fly hawks the size of horses. Some learn arcane spells. Some are clerks. But Nolan is a Justice. Justices wander the Shattered Empire and set things right.
The Master of all Talions has a particularly dangerous assignment for Nolan. He has to head to Hamis to stop an assassin from killing the king. But this mission dredges up painful memories from his past, not only from his years before becoming a Talion but also from his days as a student.
What makes this book a fun read is that Stackpole seamlessly jumps from Nolan's mission to Hamis to his past. He always has something that makes the transition fit together (for example, at the end of one chapter, he receives a distressing written message from an ally; at the end of the next chapter, he receives a distressing written message from a former friend).
Nolan is an extremely likable character as well. You almost wish he could patrol your neighborhood by the time the book is done. While he is interested in dispensing justice, he wants to do so in a way that doesn't terrify the inhabitants of the Shattered Empire (a quality that not all Justices share).
If you want a taste of this story, read Shepherd, a short story about Nolan. And then go and read the book.
What has me hopeful is that at the end of Shepherd, Stackpole says that there could be another Talion book in the works. I hope there is. I enjoyed questing with Nolan for a second time and I hope I can do so again soon.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Shiver me timbers! If ye be lookin' fer adventuer on the high seas, matey, then look no further.
Oh, forget it. I can't do a whole review in pirate-talk.
Anyway, the story centers around Packer Throme, a seminary drop-out turned swordsman. He wishes to get on board the Trophy Chase and help Scat Wilkins, notorious pirate, to hunt the legendary Firefish, a ferocious creature known for its exotic meat.
The story is also about Packer's sweetheart, Panna Seline. Panna doesn't want Packer to go and so she leaves the safety of her home and heads out after Packer only to get caught up in an adventure and a plot bigger than her.
Polivka's writing is great. He kept my attention and, during a climactic part of the book, kept me reading. It was as if I had glue on my hands. I simply could not put the book down. He has an eye for swashbuckling adventure and his prose carries you through the action scenes.
Having said that, there were a few things that bugged me.
First of all, there's how Polivka handled point-of-view. Most books I read handles P.O.V. the same way: if the author is going to jump into the head of another character within a chapter, there's an extra return between paragraphs making it clear that a shift has happened.
Polivka didn't do that. Instead, he would jump to a new P.O.V. at the end of each paragraph instead of at the end of a section. That took a little getting used to because we'd suddenly be in someone else's head and I had no idea we were going to make the jump.
But that's not what bugged me. Instead, what bothered me is that even though he was handling P.O.V. shifts in his own unique way, Polivka would still throw in random section breaks at times that didn't feel right. It was the same scene, no major time had passed, but yet a new section started even though we had been bouncing between P.O.V.s in the former.
It's strictly an aesthetic thing, I know, but it bothered me as I was reading.
The second thing that bothered me was the fact that Polivka seemed to be keeping a foot in reality and a foot in the fictional, so to speak. The countries of Nearing Vast and Drammun are obviously fictional. So are the Achawuk and the Firefish. The Christianity, though, is straight out of our world.
I kind of wish that Polivka would have either kept the story entirely in our world, simply inserting the Firefish into this reality (and playing with the history of Europe in a counterfactual historical kind of way) or pulled the trigger completely and invented a Christianity-analogue for his fictional realm, one that would be easily recognizable and relatable.
I'm not sure how easily he could have accomplished this. I'm not even sure if it's a good idea. But for me, personally, it felt awkward.
There is one other issue I had with the book, but I'm not sure if I can or should share it. I'm still processing it mentally. Maybe I'll bring it up in the tour; maybe I'll keep it to myself.
At any rate, don't let my minor pet peeves dissuade you from reading this book. It be a rip-roarin' yarn of adventure on the high seas. Arrrrrrr!
An' be sure to cast yer eyes on what me mateys on the S.S. Blog Tour are sayin' as well.Trish Anderson
Wayne Thomas Batson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Lost Genre Guild
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Daniel I. Weaver
Tomorrow the blog tour will start up for The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka. I'll be submitting my review tomorrow and probably blathering on the other two days. But there's something that occurred to me this past month that I wanted to share with my tourmates. Rather than dedicate one of the three days of the Firefish tour to it, I figured I'd post it a day early so anyone traipsing into my blog can see this and hopefully react.
I had a brainstorm the other day about marketing Christian speculative fiction. Obviously we are all hoping to call attention to this worthy field. The way I see it, we basically are trying to reach out to two groups:
1) Established Christian fiction readers
2) New Christian fiction readers, perhaps people who like sci-fi, fantasy, and the rest but are unaware that there is a Christian version of it.
My idea deals with how to reach that second contingent. There is a place where sci-fi and fantasy aficionados gather on a yearly basis, a place where the powerful are flocking to see and be seen, a Mecca of sorts for those who might appreciate a good speculative read.
I'm talking of this place:
That's right, I think the Christian speculative fiction genre should invade Comic-Con International!
Even if you're not a comic book geek at heart (or a closet comic book geek like me), I'm sure you've seen the press that Comic-Con has been getting lately. This is the place where Hollywood goes to premiere their big ticket projects like the upcoming Iron Man movie or the fourth installment of Indiana Jones. Apparently this past year, somewhere around 10,000 people crowded through the doors for one day.
Could you imagine if we could get a booth at Comic-Con? I'm not saying that all 10,000 would pass by our booth. Some may even give us the fish eye. But there might be a few people who would stop by and give this well-deserving genre a look-see. They may even buy some books. They may even become fans.
So what would we need for a booth? Well, off the top of my head:
1) Money. And lots of it unfortunately. According to this form, it costs $1,800 for a bare-minimum 10X10 booth. I don't know if that's per day or just one flat fee.
2) Swag. I've never been to Comic-Con before, but my brother-in-law is a veteran. He says that the way to get people to your booth is to give out free stuff. Posters, tote bags, that sort of thing. If we're going to attract any attention, we would need to be able to shout, "Free stuff over here!"
3) Books. We'd need a stack of books to sell to the convention goers. Probably not that many, but we would want to be able to sell whatever we could.
4) Volunteers. People would need to man the booth. Probably a few shifts of people. That way it's not just one person trapped in a 10X10 space for hours on end.
5) Authors. It'd be cool if authors would come to sign their books. They could talk to potential readers and that might help a little.
6) Booth babes. Well, maybe not...
Now granted, this might be a little ambitious, but maybe it's time we think a little out-of-the-box. Even if we connected with a few new readers, it could be the start of something good.
So what do you think?
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Third time's the charm, I guess.
I'm a big fan of Michael Stackpole. At first it was just because of his Star Wars novels (which, in my not so humble opinion, are better than those of Timothy Zahn. Yes, I went there!). But I finally decided to read his other books such as Talion: Revenant and the DragonCrown War Cycle. So I was extremely excited a few years ago when this book came out.
But I had a little trouble with A Secret Atlas the first time I read it. Lots of characters, lots of place names, and a very complex plot. I read it a second time when the second book in the series, Cartomancy, came out. And now I've read it a third time since the third book, The New World, came out.
I'm glad I did. I didn't fully appreciate how rich a world Stackpole created the first time around.
The story revolves around the Anturasi clan, the royal cartographers of Nalenyr. They are charged with charting the world around them, a world emerging from the throes of what they call the Cataclysm, when a massive release of wild magic brought about an ice age. The charts created by Qiro Anturasi, the clan's patriarch, allows the merchants of Nalenyr to prosper greatly, much to the envy of their neighbors.
Qiro sends his two grandsons, Keles and Jorim, out on expeditions into the unknown. Keles is sent to explore the Wastes, a place where wild magic still reigns. Jorim is sent south on a ship called the Stormwolf to discover new lands. Both men are accompanied by interesting companions as they put themselves in danger, trying to appease their tempermental grandfather.
But other forces are afoot. Prince Pyrust, the regent of Deseirion, is intent on building an empire for himself and threatens Nalenyr. And on top of that, sinister forces are building that could easily tear apart the world as the Anturasi's know it.
Like I said, I had to read this book three times to truly appreciate it. The world that Stackpole has created for his characters to inhabit is so rich and densely layered with cultures and history that it took me that many times to become truly comfortable with it. Don't let that daunt you, though! Maybe I'm just slow.
Part of the reason I had trouble with the density of the backstory is that I missed some details the first time through. For example, at the end of the book, a character reveals himself. This character is a major bad-guy who gets mentioned in passing once or twice earlier in the book. But because it was only in passing, I had forgotten about him completely when he finally popped up. I was completely confused the first time when I got there. The second and third time, though, I caught the earlier references.
That's only a minor criticism. Really, go read these books. They're a good magical romp set in a world that is slowly being discovered.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Anyway, Jenga recently sponsored a contest at the Jengajam's website. He wanted witty, articulate comments on his posts. The winner would receive some airtime to plug whatever he or she wanted. I made a comment that was basically nothing but a silly sycophantic rant.
Which kind of put me in a quandry. I'm not some Internet celebrity with an impressive project in the works like some of Jenga's previous guests or even future guests. I'm just a barely published author who hasn't quit his day job of being a Lutheran pastor. What projects could I plug? It felt like something of a waste.
But then I put my mind to it and I realized that there were a few projects of mine (or in two cases, projects I'm remotely affiliated with) I could plug. The list started to grow and, before long, I realized that I had so much I could plug, I would run over. What to do, what to do?
So I decided to simply plug my blog and leave this entry for whoever decides to come along. Sorry for the long explanation for those who tuned in to the Jengajam, but here are the projects I could have plugged:
1) "Adventures in Dating" -- This is a machinima series produced by a lady named Decorgal. I provide the voice for one of the characters, namely Elijah. It's done in the Sims 2 and, to put it bluntly, Decorgal is a wizard with the Sims. She is. If she weighed the same as a duck, she'd be in trouble. As much as I enjoyed the Strangerhood, this is so much better.
I could try to sum up the series, but Decorgal did that already in this handy dandy video:
So watch the video, then go download the series and keep an eye out for me.
2) My TEW Diaries -- About a year and a half ago, someone introduced me to the Total Extreme Wrestling videogames (the current game is TEW2007). Entirely programmed by one wrestling fan in England, the TEW series puts you in charge of a wrestling promotion. You are the head booker. You hire, you fire, you book the matches, plan out the storylines, and try to bring your promotion to dominate the business.
For copyright reasons, the game isn't released with real world data (but the dedicated TEW community has crafted numerous mods that allow you to control the WWE/F and the rest at various times). Instead, the game is released with data for the Cornellverse, a fictional universe with over a dozen different promotions you can control. To put it bluntly, the C-verse is incredible. The backstory is rich and densely layered and fans can and do get lost in it easily.
What got my attention about this game is the "dynasty" or diary forum. People will tell stories about what's going on in their games.
Needless to say, that piqued my interest.
So I created a diary about a year and a half ago called "SWF - This Means War!" The SWF, or "Supreme Wrestling Federation," is roughly analogous to the modern WWE. I tossed in a few characters of my own and I was able to build something of a following with it.
When TEW2007 was released, I started a new diary called "MWA - This Means War!" It's basically a sequel to the first.
I won't lie to you, the diaries are long (especially the SWF one), but I'm proud of the work I've done in these.
3) The Christian Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog Tour - I'm a writer who loves sci-fi and fantasy. I've even written a Christian sci-fi trilogy. Problem is, Christian sci-fi and fantasy is kind of a dead genre. There's not a lot out there and what little there is often gets overlooked.
To combat this, some people put together a blog tour. Every month, we blog for three days about a chosen book, magazine, and/or website. The idea is to generate buzz about the genre and raise awareness so there can be more opportunities for writers like me.
Believe it or not, it actually works. One way to gauge this is by checking out Technorati's Popular Books page. This ranks books by how much they're being discussed in the blogosphere (or, at least, the portion of the blogosphere that Technorati tracks).
This past month our blog tour took place immediately after the last Harry Potter book was released. Guess what books dominated the Technorati Popular Books page. That's right. Potter everywhere! But because of our concerted effort, we were able to get our book up to number 12 by the end of the week.
I've been participating in the tour for about a year or so. It's been fun. Here are a few of my favorite posts that I've made:
An interview with author Sharon Hinck -- Part One, Part Two, Part Three
Sin Boldly! - an essay in which I discuss whether or not Christian authors should portray "big sins" in their writings
Fearless Day Three - From our last tour. I hadn't read the book but I did some fast tapdancing on the last day of the tour and I think the results came out all right.
So there you go. This is why I couldn't fit it all into five minutes! Yes, I need to work on brevity. I'm well aware of that.