Disappointing, but Hobb nonetheless

I bought this book, mostly to see the end of the trilogy. I love Robin Hobb, the Farseers and tRenegade’s Magic by Robin Hobbhe Liveship traders trilogy are two of my favourite fantasy series of all time.

*Aside – The cover art of this series and all of Hobb’s books are fantastic.*

This series has been essentially about a clash of cultures – the western style Gernians vs the American Indian style Specks. The Gernians are pushing trade routes and “civilisation” into the forests, unknowingly killing the Speck’s ancestor trees. The Specks’ magic takes hold of Gernian Nevare, and drives him to betray his people.

If you have read any of the other books in this series, it continues along the same track, Nevare/Soldier Son is thrust along a course he doesn’t want, he hates himself and for most of the book is a hostage in his own body.

The forest scenes and descriptions are lovely, very visual and inspiring, they make me want to get ‘back to nature’. They definitely bring that spark and serenity of the forest to life.

All in all, I found this series disappointing. (As do the majority of Amazon reviewers). It is depressing with hardly a glimmer of light. Well written with great characters, magic and awesome forests, but the main character just doesn’t inspire and brings the whole series down.

I have to agree with Eyeris, the ending is a big fat ‘what the? THAT was all the magic wanted!’. It is so convenient, all wrapped up withn a few pages, the ruthless magic that had all but destroyed Nevare’s life wanted something so small. Sigh.

Anyway, it has made me go back to the Farseer trilogy. I love it. Soldier Son just doesn’t compare.

Renegade’s Magic (Soldier’s Son Book 3), Voyager, Jul 2007.

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Ditmar Awards for Aussie SF

The nominees include some of my faves from last year including Saturn Returns and Dark Space. Extras by Scott Westerfeld is there.His Risen Empire is one of my all time favourites. I think a visit to the bookshop is in order…

Check out the list.

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a quality sf novel

Iain M Banks Matter“In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one – maybe two – people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.”

Matter is a slow burn (plot-wise). It’s set in his familiar Culture universe, but manages to mix in medieval fantasy with the sci fi that Banks does so well. The extract publicised by Orbit is actually the whole first chapter, so will give you an idea of the pace. It takes a fair amount of back story/ scene setting before the plot really gets moving. For detail hounds like me though, it’s not really a problem and the subsequent race to the finish gets your blood moving.

Prepare yourself for some lengthly discussions of ‘Shellworlds’. I had to re-read one section a few times where Banks is describing the Sursamen Shellworld. But the artificial planet/Shellworld is fascinating and deserving of much scene setting. Worlds within a world, built by some mysterious and extinct race.

The Ship names are as hilarious as ever, my favourite being Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill. The scenes in the Culture are full of Culture gadgets, environments, Culture versions of holosuites, glanding and AI.

The feudalism of the Eighth [level] on Sursamen is a refreshing counter to the Culture ‘verse. The Sarl are a blood thirsty war race, determined to conquer nearby levels/worlds. They use gunpowder, flying beasts, horses, swords, chariots and pistols.

The dialogue, in usual Banks style, is fabulous. The Sarl are, unsurprisingly, old English in style, while The Oct, a species who are supposed to mentor The Sarl and believe they are descended from the original creators of Shellworlds, speak in a lyrical, philoshophical extreme Yoda style. Confusing, bizarre and completely alien.

I liked Steven Poole’s review in this weekend’s Guardian - cheeky and critical. I didn’t notice the links to Lord of the Rings, 2001 or Raiders of the Lost Ark. But I do agree that the ending leaves a bit to be desired and seems unbalanced compared to the first few acts.

However, Matter is well worth reading and persevering with, this is satisfyingly good sf.

Iain M Banks, Matter, Orbit, Jan 2008

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Neil Gaiman – online giveaway

For his birthday, Neil Gaiman has announced that he will give away one of his books online and for free. He’s asking you to help him decide which of eight books you would choose to give to someone who has never read his work before, to get them excited about his writing.

What a great marketing idea!

I had a look through  the selection and I have read a few of the titles. I voted for Smoke and Mirrors. It was the very first Gaiman I read, passed to me by a good friend. I loved it and it started me on more Gaiman. Smoke and Mirrors is a collection  of Gaiman’s short stories and is a great introduction and teaser I think. It’s low risk, low commitment  but easy to read and a really great set of short fantasy stories.

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Jennifer Fallon – The Demon Child Trilogy

Medalon by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is another one of those authors, who I’ve heard of but yet to sample. Over Christmas I got seriously stuck in to her first trilogy:- Medalon, Treason’s Keep and Harshini. If you’re looking for some quality medieval magical fantasy then this is it! And don’t just trust me, Medalon was nominated for the Aurealis Award.

Medalon is a world where four countries live very different lives. Medalon is ruled by the Sisters of the Blade, female atheists who abhor religious ‘pagans’. They have spent years purging their country of paganism and a race called the Harshini. To the north there is Karien, a country of religious fanatics. To the south and south west smaller pagan fiefdoms. The gods are at war and so are their followers. There is a prophecy of a Demon Child who will be half Harshini and who will kill a God.

Treason’s Keep by Jennifer FallonJennifer Fallon is a great writer and storyteller, her characters have depth and irrationalities – they change their minds and they create animated and sparring relationships with each other. There is magic and atheism in her world, gods who behave like stubborn children, politics and strong female characters. The books kept me awake and I just had to get to the end.

Book 2 suprises with some fantastic new characters and subplots. Book 3 is a satisfying conclusion and keeps the tension running high.

Looking forward to diving into a few more Fallon books. Luckily for me she has got a few more books up her sleeve. Hooray!

Harshini by Jennifer Fallon
Her blog is great reading as well, check it out. I particularly enjoyed these entries: Must Love Dogs and ‘The great debate of our time’. She also tips for aspiring writers, movie reviews, author’s notes and all sorts of extras about the world she created.

Will definitely be reading more Fallon

These covers are the best and I think for the latest UK edition.

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SF & F News

Lot’s of Orbit news today. The publishing house has a few of my favourite authors including Marianne de Pierres, Iain M Banks, Sean Williams, etc.

  • Sean Williams’ Saturn Returns has been nominated for the Philip K Dick Award. Fantastic space opera, read my review.
  • Iain M Banks’ new culture novel Matter is due out in February, you can read an extract here. The extract didn’t really grab me, I’ll wait for the complete book.
  • Karen Miller apparently shot to the top of the UK charts for The Innocent Mage in 2007. This is a great series, looking forward to more from this author. I’ll be posting a review of the series shortly.
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best of 2007

A quick round up of 2007, from my perspective…

best sci fi author

neal asher (narrowly beat marianne de pierres and sean williams)

neal asher was a new discovery in 2007. He wins my best sci fi author of the year, for having a great style, galaxy and a multitude of stories to read.

best fantasy author

naomi novik

naomi blew me away this year with the Temeraire series. Enthralling medieval fantasy writing, each book has its own complete story. It’s a great alternate history earth with fantastic dragons I’d like to jump on. Plus muskets, ships and battles. What more could you want? I’m looking forward to the new release due later in 2008.

I also hope Peter Jackson gets on and does the movies! Read the article.

biggest disappointment

william gibson, pattern recognition

This book was an ordinary mystery. I was expecting some sci fi blow your mind stuff. It’s not to be. I think the biggest disapointment was being recommended this book by so many esteemed friends and colleagues. Boo. 

Also, as a marketer and generall ‘spread the word-er’, the brand and ‘cool hunter’ aspects were weak in my opinion.

(william gibson narrowly beat out trudi carnarvon for the black magician series).

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Aurealis Awards

The nominees for the Aurealis Awards (Australian sci fi and fasntasy writing awards) were announced back in December. If you’re looking for a reading list then this is a good one to start with.

The winners will be announced on 26 January.

A few of my fave books for 2007 were on there including Dark Space and Saturn Returns.

-David says- Hey Taryn, good to see you’re back. I’ve listed my own favourite books read here: http://icantstopreading.blogspot.com/

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Marianne de Pierres – Dark Space

This is a fabulous book by a great author – Marianne de Pierres. If you like any of the Parrish Plessis novels you will enjoy this one. It’s very different from the Parrish Plessis world, but like those novels rich in its details, its culture and technology.

This is a riverting space opera with an italian edge. Capisce! Politics, action, masses of strange aliens and a good dose of sci-fi theory make it a fast-paced and intelligent read.

Amazon’s synopsis is not bad:

“While drifting in space, lost, due to navigational failure, a mineral scout discovers God. When word gets out, academics from the studiums across Orion scramble to gain the Entity’s favour. However, not all the sentients of Orion hold this ‘god’ in awe – some, like the philosophers of Scolar and the Transhuman’s of Extropy are deeply suspicious. Onto the grand stage of inter-planetary academic politics, intellectual conceit and dubious theology walks Baronessa Mira Fedor. Her planet has been torn apart by the invasion of a race of giant tardigrades. Only the Orion League of Sentient Species can lend aid, but OLOSS are preoccupied with communicating with god. Mira, together with the larrikin, misogynist Jo-Jo Rasterovich, is left to her own resources to find help. In doing so she unmasks a galaxy-size intrigue. But will she live long enough to tell anyone…? ”

She’s done an interesting trailer for Dark Space. But, it doesn’t really give any teasers for the book’s plot at all…
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpdrbNXRxc4&rel=1]

She also has a very cool website, great illustrated design.

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Trudi Canavan – Black Magician Trilogy

black-magician.jpgThis series was a true disappointment. There were some great threads in the story, but the dialogue and prosewas so simple, dull and obvious. The voice of the heroine didn’t come through a all.

I didn’t hate these as much as I hated Kylie Chan and I managed to read through the entire trilogy. Afterwards I felt a bit used, a bit bored not excited or inspired that I have recently after reading Neal Asher, Naomi Novik or Marianne de Pierres. It was also a disappointment as I usually like the Orbit authors.

In its defence, this is the first fantasy/magic series I have read to include a homosexual character and explore the issues of being a homosexual magician in a conservative atmosphere. Also, younger readers might find it much more enjoyable than I did.

This is a classic rags to riches, urchin to master magician, nancy drew type story.

Sonea is a poor commoner whose family have barely managed to escape the slums of the city. During the annual purge of the city, when the less desirable are swept from the city by the magicians she discovers an inherent magical power which sets the guild of magicians after her. The first book follows her as she discovers her powers and suffers in school, book 2 sees her getting into more trouble than she can handle and book 3 culminates the ‘black’ part of the story with a dose of romance along the way.

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