Entries in fantasy (158)

Thursday
Sep122019

Good Omens

I kind of feel like the last person on earth to have read this book, and my view of it is definitely influenced by having watched the recent Amazon show first, but anyway. If you're not aware, this book is a satire about an angel and a demon teaming up to stop the antichrist from bringing about Armageddon. With amusing results.

To be honest, this doesn't feel like a collaboration. This feels very much like a Pratchett book. It could just be that I haven't read enough Gaiman to recognize his style, but the point remains. The structure and the POV and the sense of humour are all very Terry.

I liked the book well enough but thought the show was SO much better and I'm basically just going to spend the rest of this post comparing the two. My two biggest complaints about the book are the excessive number of characters (resulting in a focus away from Aziraphale and Crowley) and the amount of casual bigotry. I'm glad the show corrected for both.

Because I'm just assuming everyone has either watched the show and/or read the book, I'm just going to talk without concern for spoilers. So if you haven't read or watched yet, maybe look away? And if you read the book and didn't like it, maybe give the show a chance?

Anyway. There are two things I liked about the book more than the show. First, Death in the book was so much better, and of course that's a thing I'd notice because Terry's Death character is one of my all-time favourites. The other thing is at the end where the kids used homemade versions of the Four's weapons against them. I wish they'd kept that for the show, in addition to all the extras. I really thought the book was anticlimactic with Adam just giving his hands a little wave and suddenly Satan is gone. I like understated and subtle, sure, but that was TOO understated and subtle.

And maybe the show is a bit on the nose about things the book is subtle about, but a lot of the show's changes, like the addition of Beelzebub and Gabriel and the trials at the end, leave far more room to explore the book's themes on good and evil and the vast grey area that exists.

I liked that the show brought out more emotion in both Crowley and Aziraphale. If I hadn't watched the show first, I'm not sure the book would have convinced me how devastated Crowley was when Shadwell discorporated Aziraphale. In fact, I'm really not too sure how people managed to ship Crowley and Aziraphale before the show.

It was obvious that Crowley had some minimal fondness for Aziraphale, but Aziraphale didn't seem to have any fondness except for books and food (really though, I can relate). And if that was all a front because he was in denial about liking Crowley (as the show plays with quite well), it's mostly lost in the book. I think the biggest draw is the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale and I'm glad the show brought that to the forefront.

As with my complaints about Discworld's Death novels (stories about Death that don't have enough Death actually in them and gave too much "air time" to side characters and other plotlines), Good Omens the book focuses too much on other characters. I daresay the whole thing could have been done without the Shadwell/Madame Tracy storyline entirely. Shadwell is awful in the show and completely intolerable in the book, and not in a good way. There are plenty of other ways to have gotten Newt into Anathema's path and plenty of other ways to discorporate Aziraphale and have him possess someone.

I mean, wouldn't it have been an absurd delight if Aziraphale had managed to possess Crowley? Can you imagine the arguments!? Has someone written a fanfic about that? I need to read it.

Anyway, I liked Good Omens the book well enough. It was okay. But I think the show, in addition to some modern updating, took all the good things about the book (the themes and the relationships) and distilled them down to their best parts and then blew them up into something magnificent.

Speaking of fanfic, it's not something I write, but I DO take things like this that I love and make them my own. I've started drafting a book inspired by the show's version of Crowley/Aziraphale and playing with the odd couple theme in it. But genderbent and overtly queer. And set in the Dragon Whisperer universe. Wish me luck!

Tuesday
Jul022019

Five Unicorn Flush

This is the second book in the Space Unicorn series and it definitely lives up to its predecessor, Space Unicorn Blues.

This book is zany and dark and fraught and hilarious. It's got the same diverse cast you love to hate and hate to love, with a few new additions and some definite surprises. It's very much like the first book, but with a little more heart.

Still plenty of jokes! And this time no one misgenders Ricky Tang, so that was rad. There's very little set within actual Reason Space and all its lack of reason or empathy. And the few scenes on the Reason ship are hilarious and subversive.

So the bala have their own happy planet now, except it's not so happy and they know the Reason will find them soon. They just have no idea how soon. And they don't have time to both set up their civilization and properly defend themselves, nor can they decide which to prioritize.

Jenny Perata is desperately trying to find the bala and her wife who is with them. But her search for a bit of unicorn horn to power her FTL ship takes her into the ugliest depths of space travel and yields some unexpected gains, including an alien parasite.

My only complaint about this book is that there's not more. And also that the copy I have doesn't appear to be edited. Possibly not at all, and definitely not copy edited. I've heard a couple of horror stories of managing editors sending the wrong file to the printer and not realizing until it was too late, and I suspect this is one of those. Which means the ebook and later printings should be fine.

But despite a lot of jarring formatting errors and spelling mistakes/typos, this book is still super awesome. I really hope there's another book on the way!

Monday
Jun102019

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley

This is another cute kids book I read with my daughter, and it's a lot of fun and super well-written right up until it falls flat on its face with a gimmicky cliffhanger ending. The author tries to hang a lantern on the ending, but it's still a cheap gimmick that takes away from an otherwise excellent book.

So, this first book sees no-nonsense Sebastian thrown into absolute nonsense when a pig in a teeny hat enters his life. His begrudging involvement with The Explorers Society introduces him to Evie who has some very big problems, including some terrible men trying to kill her.

Sebastian has just discovered the first clues to unravelling the mystery of all the trouble Evie is in. The two become fast friends as they search their home city for exiled members of the Society who can help them out of the trouble they're in, and maybe rescue Evie's grandfather, who is her only surviving relative. They might even save the world.

The story is full of danger and whimsy and friendship with a heartfelt, well-written style that is fast-paced and zany. I enjoyed it and my daughter loved it. The only failing mark is the cliffhanger, which is just so out of place and also so unnecessary. This book is excellent and leaves enough questions unanswered to propel readers into the next book. I really wish the author had trusted the story and not ended with a gimmick.

Friday
May032019

Markswoman & Mahimata (The Asiana Duology)

I just finished the second book in this duology, Mahimata, but somehow failed to post a review of Markswoman, the first book, despite having finished over a year ago. I was in the midst of Hugo reading at that point and finishing multiple books in a week so it appears to have gotten lost in the chaos.

Which is unfortunate, because it was a fantastic book and I nominated for this year's Hugos (though the competition is super fierce this year and it didn't make the final ballot). So I'll just do my best to review both right now.

Markswoman
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is healing from past trauma, and where science and magic mingle in fascinating ways. This world is governed by the Orders, most of which are made up of women who are healers and scientists and, above all, assassins. With magical blades called kataris, they maintain peace in their lands, acting as law enforcement. And there is one Order made up of men, the Order of Khur, but they're isolated from and ignored by the other Orders.

The story follows Kyra Veer, a newly minted markswoman in her Order (the Order of Kali), as she navigates her new duties while yearning to seek revenge on the warlord who slaughtered her family and village. But her life is thrown into chaos when the Mahimata of Kali (their leader) dies suddenly, leaving Tamsyn, a woman Kyra loathes and fears, in command.

Grieving and afraid, Kyra flees her Order, taking her beloved mentor's katari with her. She finds a secret door (basically a teleport) in the mountains and takes it, ending up in the desert just outside the Order of Khur, where she is taken in by the men, shown courtesy and trained, and finds love, before making her way back to her Order for an epic showdown with Tamsyn.

I really loved this book, even if it started out a little slow for my liking. I preordered the second book as soon as I learned about it. It's review, below, will contain spoilers for this first book.

Mahimata
Kyra returns to her Order, victorious if broken, having beaten Tamsyn in a duel. Once home, she nearly-accidentally becomes the Mahimata of her Order, despite her inexperience and persisting injuries. And through it all, she yearns to be with Rustan, the marksman she fell in love with. But through her long recovery, the world beyond her Order's caves is growing darker as the warlord, Kai Tau, slaughters everyone in his path with kalashiks, a kind of magical gun.

As Kyra heals, she begins to make unconventional allies with other Orders as well as with the feared wyr-wolves that have long been considered a plague in the mountains. But Kyra learns they are far more than they seem. Allying with the wyr-wolves isn't the only way that Kyra bucks tradition and rankles members of her own Order as well as others.

Her adventures and allies lead her closer to the final confrontation with Kai Tau, but also reunite her with Rustan. And through it all, the world-building continues to unfold, showing this post-apocalyptic land to be an alternate future of Earth.

This was a fantastic finish to the story that began with Markswoman, and it left me both satisfied and wanting more. The love these characters have for each other is refreshing, as is the capacity for forgiveness. And I really liked the commentary on the disease of gun culture. Kai Tau's fate was both horrifying and fascinating.

I highly recommend picking up these books!

Tuesday
Apr162019

Novella!

So I haven't updated here in a while because I haven't finished reading anything in large part because I've been writing instead. It's Camp NaNoWriMo and I've been feverishly working on a new project.

I'm stoked to have finished the first draft of my first attempt at a novella. I'm happy with how it's turned out, even if it needs a proper title, some research and a lot more work before I'll start looking for beta readers. But it's sitting just under 30k words and it was a lot of fun to write.

I thought the process for writing a novella would be different from writing a full length novel, but it really wasn't. I studied the structure of All Systems Red as a starting point and built the plot of my novella from there. This novella differs from my novels in that it's got a simpler, straightforward plot, and no B-story or side quests. But unlike a short story, there's more room for the world-building, characters and setting to breathe.

As my reading time diminishes, I find myself opening up doorstoppers less and less and I've been reading novellas more. I might just do the same with my writing.

Anyway, some people have asked what the novella is about, so here's the rough draft of the query letter I've started for it:

What would you do to keep your children safe? Serri was a simple mage working as a government safety inspector until creeping fascism and an unhinged Empress brought war to her doorstep. Now she’s learning just how far she’ll go to prevent her powerful teen daughter S’ryja from being ground up by the war machine. Serri barely hesitates to seek the help of a rebel network, committing treason, and fleeing with her daughter.

But she must leave her wife and youngest child behind, and that soon becomes the least of her worries as the Empress’s forces close in on the rebels. With the royal guard on her heels and a hundred leagues of dangerous wilderness ahead of her, Serri must grapple with whether she’s made the right decision as she and her daughter run for their lives.

(Agents, call me)