Tag Archives: high fantasy

First Monday Book Day: A Song of Blood and Betrayal

Happy Independence Day, Citizens. In celebration of a holiday born of revolt, I bring you Book Two of George R.R. Martin's magnificent A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings

Martin paints on a grand canvas, maintaining threads for each of the Starks as well as a small handful of others. Don't be fooled. I'm most of the way through the third volume Everybody Dies. Martin has no compunction whatsoever about sucking the reader in to a character and storyline, only to snuff it out.

Joseph Campbell, in his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes the classic "hero's journey" thusly:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

This volume gets the "fabulous forces" and "mysterious adventures" in gear, larding on layers of myth, macabre and magic only hinted at in the first book. But who the hell are the heroes in this series? I've identified several potentials, only to see them offed. Other characters who, to all appearances seemed to be cast as villains, he rehabilitates with a change of perspective and/or circumstances.

I'm smitten at the same time. Martin is a brave and compelling writer. The stories twist and turn in unexpected ways, while maintaining a dramatic tension often lacking in Robert Jordan's more ponderous Wheel of Time series. The characters are more real, more engaging and more bloody too. Just what a day of ice (in the drinks), fire (on the grill) and fireworks needs!

What have you been reading?

First Monday Book Day: The age of recycling

The oldest trick in the literary book is to re-write somebody else's story. And of course, it helps to steal from really good stories.

This month's selection, James Lovegrove's The Age of Odin, is the third in his non-trilogy threesome of godpunk/military scifi retellings of ancient mythological stories. Here, it is Ragnarök with M16s and RPGs.

I was suckered into purchasing this number by the back-cover blurb from The Guardian (actually about another of the three books), "The kind of complex, action-oriented SF Dan Brown would write if Dan Brown could write."

Seriously. I was so amused that the publisher (Solaris Books) had the balls to take such a swipe at another writer on the cover of the book that I gave this one a chance. Now that I have, I will offer my own version of the plug: "The kind of pulpy, shallow action-oriented SF that Neil Gaiman would write if he were 15."

Ok, that's a bit harsh. I found this book mildly entertaining, if derivative (some of the ideas appear to be lifted from -- err, homages to -- Gaiman's fantastic American Gods; in both, the protagonists meet up with more-than-he-seems-to-be old man after a car accident; Gaiman's kills the protagonist's wife; Lovegrove's kills his ex-army buddy; etc. etc.). Lovegrove isn't overly interested in developing either story or character, but he seems to be pretty good at writing blood-and-gore fight scenes. Pretty much the whole book is fight scenes.

This is beach reading, perfect for a teenage boy who has already seen Thor and X-Men: First Class, waiting eagerly for Green Lantern to open. Disposable, largely devoid of any effort to raise Big Ideas, and somewhat hampered by a rather clumsily done development of the bad guy (Loki) as a thinly veiled Sarah Palin. Oooh, so topical! But it reads quickly for its 585 pages. And, perhaps most importantly, it got me in the mood to start George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.
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