Monday, December 12, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
I judge books by their cover all the time. As was the case at LTUE this year when I saw someone carrying a hardback copy of Servant of a Dark God. The cover just looked great, and well I happened to be sitting in a presentation by the author, of whom I had never heard. John Brown was funny, but he didn’t strike me as thoughtful as many of the authors who presented at LTUE. I did not expect his book to be as good as it was.
Brown crafts a solid political fantasy with a good antagonist triangle. There are good guys, bad guys, bad guys, good bad guys and bad good guys. The beast that is roaming the countryside is wonderfully conflicted, he is the servant of the dark god, but also a confluence of the souls of goodly folk. At times he rails against the evil that he serves and at others he follows it with doglike loyalty. The idea of the monster becoming in part the people which he destroys gives the story its uniqueness. Brown does political twists very well in the book. The idea that crystalizes about the Divines and that which they serve is stunning.
I enjoyed many of the characters. Talen is supposed to be the protagonist, but it was fairly clear to me that Argoth was driving the book from the beginning. Argoth is a character so well developed that I found myself waiting to read another of his point of views, Argoth’s scenes drive the action and further the plot and the hints of his true story are tantalizing. Hunger is a close second, the monster that is not even alive is the most dynamic character in the story as he shifts and changes with each new soul.
I really enjoyed the status of the world. An abandoned people in flux, clinging to the last hope for survival, cut off from those who are supposed to protect them. It is clear from early on that this is a land on a precipice. but no matter how much danger they face from the invading bone face hoards they cannot unite as a people, and instead their continues clan oppression, hatred and mistrust. This is the backdrop for Servant of a Dark God, and it works very well.
The first hundred pages of the book was a bit confusing. Brown’s world building in the early chapters of the book is solid, but it often feels as if he is starting in the middle. He writes about several features of the world without first providing proper context. While it comes out later in the book, it can leave the reader scratching his head early on in the book. I also had a few problems with the scale of the world. Sometimes places were described as closer or farther than they had been previously. The towns at times seemed hours apart, and later only a few minutes. This is exasperated by the modes of travel, someone walking can reach something as fast in the story as those riding. Originally the home of a friend is described as “across the creek” but later it takes a whole night and part of a day to reach, the travel includes crossing 2 creeks and a river.
There is so much room for this series to grow and evolve. I am eagerly awaiting the release of a second book, I cannot wait to see where Brown takes his tale. This is a book I highly recommend.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
OK so last month I did a things to read list, and well I finished some of the things on it. Not true, I finished The Maze Runner, and read a bunch in Ghost Hunting, but never finished it. Then I went to LTUE and got sidetracked by some of the books there. After hitting up a couple different Barnes and Noble stores I now have a stack of books which I cannot wait to dive into.
Reading Now: Servant of a Dark God – John Brown.
I met John at LTUE and he was a great and funny guy. His panel about killers tory ideas was fantastic. He sold copies of his book directly after the panel and I had to rush in and snag one. It looks fantastic, and after about three chapters I am quite enjoying it.
Up Next: The Warded Man – Peter V. Brett
The Desert Spear was recommended to me a short time back and when I picked it up yesterday I saw it was a 2nd book in a series. So I had to visit another B&N location in order to find the first book, and here it is sitting in a stack of books waiting to be read.
Following Those: Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson
This first book in the Malazan series was on last months list and I totally intend on reading it this month.
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Everyone in the world is going crazy for the second book in this series, so I figured I better get on the bandwagon before it is too late.
The Curse of Chalion – Lois McMaster Bujold
On twitter I mentioned that The Final Empire was the best fantasy book I had ever read, someone responded asking me if I had read this. No sir, no I have not, but I soon will.
Monster Hunter Vendetta – Larry Correia
After reading MHI I am jonesing to read the second book in the series. MHI was a damn fun read, and I was lucky enough to get my copy signed by Larry himself. The B&N where I bought my copy of Vendetta had signed copies! wooo, 2 for 2!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
PoseySessions has been ranting and raving for an entire year about LTUE, and to be honest for most of that time I had no idea what she was talking about. Only as it grew closer did I bother to check out the website. From the get go it looked pretty good and I started to get excited about it. Tracy Hickman was going to be there and I figured the highlight of the experience would be meeting him and getting a few of my books signed. While that was definitely one of the cooler moments, LTUE just got better and better the longer it went on, and capped with one of the coolest experiences of my life. (skip to the bottom for that)
I attended several panels during LTUE, the first was Mormons and the Paranormal. This panel was interesting, but the panelists (Blake Casselman, Eric Swedin, Nathan Shumate, Scott Parkin) Spent way more time talking about Mormons and vampires and werewolves than anything I was interested in. I thought they would address something about spirituality and hauntings, nope, nothing at all so I left a little downtrodden.
The next panel was one of my favorites: Writing Action with Larry Correia. I had never heard of him until his name came up in the previous panel. then I saw him talk about writing action ( and have since read his book and realized he was perfect for that presentation) Larry put on a great presentation, a lot of what he had to say was pretty straightforward (as in “action would be awesome”) but there were a few gems.
The next panel, and the one from which I felt I took the most information was How to Scare People with Dan Wells. Wells laid out some basic techniques for writing horror and displayed them with clips from famous horror movies. Some of them had pretty dirty words and situations for BYU, I couldn’t believe it.
Friday morning was a presentation by Tracy Hickman a deconstruction of The Lord of the Rings as a way to display elements of a story and literary theory. It was excellent. Tracy laid out the Campbell Monomyth and the 8 character archetypes. I took so many notes in this presentation and I learned a lot about story and characters. I also loved this quote.
It is nothing to be published. It is everything to be read.
- Tracy Hickman
Then Saturday morning was Killer Breakfast, which was NOT breakfast. It was a session of Dungeons and Dragons run by the legend that is Tracy Hickman. This was a fantastic experience. Tracy was extremely charismatic as he went on a murderous rampage killing players left and right in his Dungeon Master bloodlust.
I also attended a tutorial on using photoshop to draw fantasy maps, a presentation by David Farland on self-editing, a panel on plot and foreshadowing, and a blast of a panel about story ideas with Correia and John Brown (whose debut novel Servant of a Dark God I am reading right now.)
Another great part of LTUE was the author signings. I got books signed by Farland, Correia, Hickman, John Brown and James Dashner. All of the authors were very friendly and seemed happy to be there. We had a chance to talk with James Dashner for a few minutes as he signed our books. He told Megan and I that we were a perfect couple, that made me happy, and it set the stage for what would happen alter that evening.
So, the cool experience?
LTUE concluded with a banquet which Megan and I attended. We entered the mostly empty ballroom which held about 20 round tables with seating for 6. We picked a table on the left side of the room and settled in watching as people filter in and choose their seats. James Dashner (the guest of honor) walked in with 4 women. I tracked him to see where he would sit. He hung his coat on the back of a chair then turned and looked at Megan and I.
“Lets sit with these guys it should be fun”
And he walked over and took a seat right next to me, for a moment I was twitterpated. I guess I should tell you about Dashner. he is the author of The Maze Runner, which will be a major motion picture directed by the woman who did the Twilight movies (hope it is better!) The sequel The Scorch Trials released last year, and the final book of the trilogy, The Death Cure is due out later this year. I read The Maze Runner and quite enjoyed it. I have also read the first book in his 13th Reality series, which I also thought was pretty good.
So there we were, Me, Megan and a New York Times best-selling author sitting at a banquet table in a room in the BYU conference center. I am usually pretty calm when meeting famous people. I think I did well, I tried to be respectful, we said hello and I thought we would probably spend the night listening to him talk to the 3 other people who entered the room with him. Not the case. He engaged us in conversation almost immediately and we spent almost 2 hours chatting about books and movies. At one point he asked me about my writing and I told him some of my story ideas. He responded sincerely saying some of them sounded very interesting. Then he told me something that I will not soon forget. “You have what it takes, you are a good storyteller.” Or something along those lines. I don’t think he knew how much that meant to me.
All in all it was a fantastic evening. Later he tweeted about it, and made Megan and I feel even more special.
Even though Brandon Sanderson was not there LTUE was an amazing experience and I cannot wait for next year!
** PoseySessions and I took a ton of pics but she has them all on her computer, so these google image pics will have to do**
I knew about 20 pages in that Monster Hunter International was going to keep me turning pages until I finished it. It is a 700 page book I started on a Sunday and finished on a Wednesday. Now that is not my personal best, but it comes quite close. This book is an addicting thrill ride from page 1 through 700. Corriea takes horror action to the next level and I appreciate how he broke tropes of the Urban Fantasy genre.
I am going to make a comparison between this novel and The Dresden Files, it is probably not a really good or fair comparison but it is going to happen anyway. from the get go some of this story reminded me of Butcher’s accounts of Harry Dresden. Our world, plagued by monsters, overbearing authority with lots of complex rules about what the protags can and cannot do when fighting them, etc. Where MHI diverges is in one small but extremely important area. Correia never cripples his characters. I appreciate the fact that the good guys are rough and they are tough and they are capable of fighting anything that comes their way. They don’t simper and complain, they don’t spend pages of the book whining. They kick in the door and kick monster butt. Too many authors today think the protag has to be vulnerable or weak to get people to identify with them. Not Owen Z Pitt, he is a straight BAMF from the first page to the last, and I loved it. Sure he gets beat up, sure he loses some fights, and sometimes monsters get the best of him. But I never felt that he was getting through every encounter based solely on his luck. Pitt made his own luck. As opposed to Dresden who spends the whole of each book barely escaping from events by happenstance, then complaining about it. I loved reading about the good guys fighting evil with nearly limitless resources. There was very little of the “omg yay we are getting saved by something out of nowhere that we never thought would happen” bullcrap and a whole lot of “empty your shotgun into its face then cut off its head” moments. I can never help but sigh when Dresden is captured by a couple of weak easily killable monsters, those monsters don’t have a chance against Pitt and MHI.
Corriea makes the danger come from the strength and power of the evil dudes. Rather than writing one semi tough vampire being fought by a few unprepared sheep not ready to face its strength, Correia gives us 7 amazingly powerful vamps facing off against the collective might of modern weaponry carried by the Army, the Feds and MHI. This feels so much more epic to me.
I did have a slight problem with a bit of the wacky magical stuff toward the ending, and the way Pitt ended the threat (not a spoiler there is already a second book out) I don’t like that “magic saves the day” stuff, but Pitt did all he could with his guns, knives and fists before he resorted to it, so I am not gonna complain much.
Monster Hunter International is rip roaring good read. it is so much fun that I could not put it down. I highly recommend it if you like horror or action.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Ok so I have that out of the way, what more is their to say right? Well, I guess I should tell you why I loved it.
First off, amazing, fantastic, deep rich character development. Kelsier, Vin, Dockson and the rest of the gang stood out to me as individuals, I worried about each of them and pulled for them through the entire story. I could say more about it, but suffice it to say this was really well done, but not the best thing in The Final Empire, not by far.
Sanderson is a smart man. He is nearly fanatical with the care and level of detail he puts into the systems in his book. Not just that magical systems for which he is highly acclaimed but the political systems and the bureaucratic systems as well. At its heart Mistborn reads like a political novel. It repeatedly brought the tales of Charles Dickens to mind as Sanderson described the bleakness of the world, the harsh social realities of the ska and the drudgery of everyday life in the Final Empire. Smokey, grimy Luthadel often reads like the London of a Dickens novel. It is a familiarity that brings Luthadel to life in the mind of the reader. I admire the painstaking way in which Sanderson details such a hopeless society, there is no wiggle room left for the underclass, they are trapped and they know it.
The first time I met Brandon I asked him about The Final Empire, I wanted to know if he considered it a dystopia, and his reply was an emphatic yes. Fantasy readers have encountered many bleak, terrible places in their journey through various novels, but Sanderson is the first person that I have read who has really treated his work like a dystopia. The political elements are strong and well thought out. There are distinct class elements in The Final Empire and they intertwine so well with the fantasy story that is happening among them.
Along with politics, I was enthralled by the economic system in the novel and how it hinged on a single precious commodity that was basically the lynchpin of the entire system. I was fascinated with the idea of the way the Lord Ruler controlled the substance and the consequences for the nobility if that supply were lost. Sanderson does something that so few do: he gives us reasons. He tells us why everything matters, he makes everything important. Mistborn is the story of a seemingly impervious empire built on the backs of an oppressed underclass and funded by a single precious element.
It is all held together by the awesome power of the Lord Ruler. Never in my life have I read a more interesting, and downright scary bad guy. Another way in which Sanderson excels, the Lord Ruler is a mystery, a figment, a secret font of dark power, never flaunted, but always felt, like a beating heart at the core of the Empire, the only thing giving it life. He is the shark in Jaws, scarier because we never see him, and when we finally do it is concludes one of the strongest scenes of action I have ever read in any novel.
Sanderson is a master of nuance, The Final Empire reads like the masterwork of an author who has perfected his craft. Ok was this review glowing enough? Shall we wrap it all up by saying I loved this book? Ok? Good.