I continue my classic Sci- fi kick by reading the Zero Stone. The gem of the title is a dull gray stone set in a ring sized to fit over a space suit glove. It is an ancient and mysterious artifact made by a long vanished race, and a family heirloom owned by apprentice gem trader Murdoc Jern. On the run from religious fanatics he manages to bargain his limited resources into escape with a Free Trader ship. This is when things turn weird. On a planetary stopover the ship's cat eats a strange rock and shortly gives birth to Eet, a feline maint that can communicate with Murdoc telepathically. Betrayed by the Free Traders, Murdoc and Eet begin a desperate race to find what the secret of the stone is, and why some will kill to find out its secrets.
This novel is classic space opera; we visit a desolate desert planet, a jungle planet, we meet space pirates and the Space Patrol, explore a derelict spacecraft, and zip through space without examining the physics too closely. The novel concentrates more on the mystery to be solved, though the mixture of irritation and confusion with which Murdoc approaches his relationship with the arrogant Eet is amusing. The characters are done in broad strokes, though they are consistent- the author avoids contradictions or plot holes. And really, when it comes to describing interesting scenery and action, Andre Norton delivers. The resolution is satisfying, though obviously a set-up for a sequel. Which I shall tackle next.
Sometimes I get a hankering for old-fashioned space opera- when I do, I generally turn to Andre Norton. This is a bit different from her other space opera novels, in that there's relatively little space travel- only between two planets. It's what happens on those planets that's the important thing.
The book is divided into two parts: after a major disaster blamed on scientists, a repressive anti-science regime called Pax has come into power. As the brother of a hidden scientist, Dard Nordiss has to watch out for those who would condemn them for the slightest suspicion of scientist sympathies. Forced to flee by a peacekeeper raid, Dard and his sister make his way to a hidden enclave of scientists, who are planning to flee earth by using a cold-sleep starship. First though, Pax has found the scientists' lair and is planning to wipe them out for good.
In the second part of the book, after a several hundred year flight, Dard is awakened in time to witness the landing on a new planet. Fortunately this one appears to be a garden world, with plenty of water and breathable air. The rest of the book consists of the new colonists exploring this world, and finding out that the planet was inhabited by a race that evidently blew themselves to extinction. They explore an ancient city, deal with various natural threats, and in the end, make contact with a native race that was once the slaves of the masters of the planet. Who may still be around....
This is a pretty straight-forward bit of storytelling. there are no psychological depths to be plumbed character development is limited, and the only great truth dealt with is that dictatorships arise and fall. Likewise the dialogue is a bit awkward and old fashioned. All of which can be related tyo the fact that Ms. Norton was writing for an old-school SF audience. On the other hand, it has some pretty decent moments of suspense, and the exploration of the new planet, with it's similarities and differences to earth, is interesting. All in all, this is a pretty decent and fast reading entertainment.
So stop me if you've heard this one before. A young man is horribly betrayed, spends years in durance, acquires a fortune, and sets himself up as a noble, while looking for revenge. Yes, Dragon Weather has strong references to the Count of Monte Cristo, enough so that in places it could be said to be a fantasy version of CoMC, from the perspective of the Count. It's more than that though, it goes it's own way, both plotwise and in the nature of the character.
In Dragon Weather, Arlian witnesses the destruction of his village by dragons, and then is sold into slavery by the looters who follow them. He spends years as a slave in a mine before a good deed sets him free. By chance he efriends a prostitute at a brothel, and learns the location of a small fortune. He manages to parley that fortune into a large one, and begins planning his revenge against men and dragons, not only for the injustice done to him and his village, but also for the cruelties inflicted on the prostitutes. In the process, his sense of justice and desire for revenge collide, and he learns secrets about the dragons and himself that will potentially change the world of men. Having found he too has the heart of a dragon, will he retain his humanity, or become as cruel as the people he opposes?
I found this book one of the more enjoyable of Lawrence Watt-Evens' books. Mr. Watt-Evens is an expert at starting off characters with practically nothing, and then sending them off in a direction to improve their lot, and it was as interesting to see how Arlian comes into wealth by luck and cunning, as it was to see him duplicate parts of the Count of Monte Cristo. While the author's writing is workmanlike, and lacks the lyrical and emotional quality of the original Count of Monte Cristo, he is very good at plotting, and I was alsways interested in seeing what would come next in this book. Several of the plot developments were genuinely surprising, and I couldn't predict where the book would head next. The only complaint I would have about it is that the treatment of most of the female characters is very triggery- the prostitutes are mutilated to keep from escaping, and even the one strong female character (admittedly of a nonstandard type for fantasy) has rape in her background. I don't quite appreciate women characters existing mainly as focuses for the main character's sense of justice.
Despite this I would recommend this book; it showcases a rather dark (for Watt-Evens) situation, a hero who finds justice is more complicated than he thought, and an engaging plot involving revenge, magic and dragons.
- Current Mood: accomplished
In Tiassa, Brust has crafted a book that covers all of these bases in an enjoyable manner. The book is divided into three parts, all involving the disposition of a small artwork crafted by a god - a silver stature of the winged wolf known as a tiassa, which has the habit of moving from owner to owner. In the first story, set back when Vlad was a minor crime boss, a scam is conceived regarding traced coins and the statue. Naturally as anyone who's watched Leverage knows, the scam isn't what it first seems, and there's schemes within schemes afoot.
In the second strory, the Imperial household has to deal with a prospective invasion by the mysterious progenitors, the Jenoine. The invasion may be forestalled by the alleged powers of the tiassa statue, evidently in possession of Vlad Taltos, currently on the run from his former Jherig masters. But again, things are not as they seem...
The third story is "narrated" by Paarfi, the loquacious chronicler of the Khaavren Chronicles. It follows the investigation by Khaavren, the hero of The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years Later, of the assault on one Count Vlad Taltos, which again comes to involve the possession of the silver Tiassa. In this case, the plots are not so much the focus of the story as Khaavren's solving of the mystery.
This novel is enhanced in my opinion by being divided into three stories. the shortness of the stories means that Brust is required to write his stories very tightly, and avoids the tiredness I sensed in some of his later Taltos books. The romantic style phrasing of the Paarfi section also contrasts nicely with the straightforward noirish manner of the first two sections, helping to keep the interest level up. for all that though, the events do not feel like they have great emotional depth- the plot is written almost dispassionately, even when it is narrated by Vlad.
In short, this is one of the better books in the series, though it hasn't hit the emotional heights of books like Issola. It's a nice, competently written and entertaining diversion until Brust either wants to do do an emotional climax to the Taltos series, or until he writes another Phoenix Guards sequel.
In short order Bob is stuffed onto an airplane, and finds himself in the Carribean, where he apparently is expected to take the role of a famous British secret agent from literature, complete with slinky Bond girl at his side. Needless to say the role doesn't fit Bob very well, and he can't see why he has to play a part that he's totally unprepared for. The answer lies in a really clever use of sympathetic magic designed to further the plans of a mad industrialist, and Bob has an unexpected part to play in a scenario that could wipe out the human race...
I liked this book, though I didn't think it quite had either the humor or the horror of The Atrocity Archives. The central conceit, of making James Bond meet geekdom is amusing though, and Stross continues his mix of Cthuloid horror and snarky commentary about modern bureaucracy. I don't recommend it for anyone who hasn't read the previous book in the series, since it follows on from the previous events. But all in all, it's a solid, fast read.
Everblue: On a world covered by water, a young shipbuilder encounters a vagrent sailor who turns her world upside down and catapults her into adventure. Very well drawn, with engaging characters.
Dead Winter: It's about a zombie apocalypse, friendship, and being awesome.
Derelict: in a post apocalypse world where a deadly miasma hides monsters, Deng lives on a boat and tries to survive alone. Excellent drawing.
Walking on Broken Glass: "a Supernatural Office Dramedy Romance about Murder. It’s about a man dealing with a dark fate looming over his future and his quest to make up for the wrongs of that future in the present. It’s about a woman with enough strength, determination, love and stubbornness to stand by his side through thick and thin. It’s about monsters. It’s about magic. It’s about werewolves! And witches! And vampires!"
Little Guardians: "Little Guardians tells the story of two young people switched at birth and now unknowingly living each other’s lives. Subira was supposed to be the next Guardian of Yowza Village, but she was born a girl. Instead she lives a quiet life working at The Item Shop never knowing what should have been. Idem trains to be the next Guardian and tries his best to be the warrior he was never meant to be. How will the next generation survive the choices made for them as strange incidents start plaguing the village and demon attacks appear to be on the rise?"
Kinnari: Difficult to describe- a journey using Indian mythological themes. An absorbing read with excellent artwork.
- Current Mood: sick
This was originally intended to be a Metafilter post, but since Metafilter won't take posts about current kickstarter projects, I'm posting it here.
The Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment (FATE) system has produced notable games ranging from the pulp themed Spirit of the Century, to the hard science fiction Diaspora, to the adaptation of the urban Fantasy series Dresdin Files, to the high fantasy Legends of Anglierre. However, there's never been a basic, official version of the system. Until now. A kickstarter has been launched to fund a FATE core system, and as of this writing, it has exceeded it's goals by some 70,000.dollars. So it's looking like by March, there'll be a hardcopy of the FATE core rules. One of the nice things about the kickstarter is that any contribution gets immediate access to a PDF rough draft of the rules.
Other official FATE products include the space opera Starblazer Adventures and Sci-fi Bulldogs. Unofficial FATE products include:Tri-Fold FATE, a simple version of FATE designed to fit in three pages. Tri-Fold Fantasy, An version of Tri-Fold FATE designed for fantasy games, Aspect only Tri-Fold: and Compact Fate, an expanded version of Tri-Fold FATE. There's also Strands of FATE, a variant version of FATE desgned for adventures ranging from street-level to superpowered heroics.