Release Date: 20131001
Publisher: Orbit Books
On a rural, backwater ice planet, the individual known as Breq is searching for a weapon that shouldn’t exist when her quest yields an unexpected find: Seivarden, a former lieutenant aboard the Radchaai ship Justice of Toren, dying alone in the snow. But Seivarden ought to have been dead for centuries – and Breq should know, as she used to be Justice of Toren, a powerful AI controlling not only a warship, but thousands of once-human ancillary bodies repurposed as Radchaai soldiers. Now, confined to just one body, Breq has a single plan: to take her vengeance on Anaander Mianaai, the many-bodied leader of the Imperial Radch. But when she takes Seivarden under her wing, the decision proves to have dangerous consequences for both of them: for Seivarden is an addict, untrustworthy and desperate, and Breq is pitting herself against the most powerful person in the galaxy.
Sometimes, books sneak up on you. They’re like papery leopards lurking in the darkness, unseen and unheard, until – WHAM! Suddenly you’re pinned to the lounge beneath several hundred pages’ worth of sleek, muscular prose gloved in velvet plotting and set off by a hypnotic, staring premise. This is what happened to me with Ancillary Justice, a book I bought – rather oddly, in hindsight – after seeing it given a rare double ten out of ten by The Book Smugglers, but without having actually read the review itself, meaning that I came to it with an expectation of quality, but lacking any notion of what it was actually about. Continue reading
“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”
Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.
But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.
Like the Terry Brooks cover revealed yesterday, I quite like the stylistic choice to use a rough, textured illustration reminiscent of more traditional hand-painted fantasy covers, like Darrell K. Sweet’s work in the ’80s (which was, despite modern opinion of his work, pretty darn cool.) Above that, it’s gritty (sigh) and in your face without falling entirely victim to the tired formula of hooded-man-looks-cool that I like to complain so loudly about. Continue reading
Tips for Writing Locked-Room Mysteries
I’ve been a fan of crime fiction probably for as long as I’ve been a fan of fantasy books, even though I’ve not delved into the heritage of the genre as much. So for Drakenfeld – which is every bit as much a crime book as it is a fantasy novel – I wanted to use part of the crime genre’s heritage as a vehicle for the plot. I didn’t want to write hardboiled fiction, nor did I want to write a thriller – even though I enjoy both. Also, I wasn’t writing the type of urban magical crime, so I couldn’t rely on those things to carry the narrative. So I decided to make it not just a whodunnit, but a howdunnit by using one of the crime genre’s great formats: the locked-room mystery. Or rather, in my case, a locked-temple mystery. The set-up is a lot of fun – because it’s not just about an unreliable narrator, it’s about a manipulative author. Continue reading
Terry Brooks’ next novel, The High Druid’s Blade, isn’t even out yet, but the cover for the follow-up novel, The Darkling Child, is already loosed on the world. (See what I did there? It’s like a demon from the Forbidding.) And, it’s just as pretty as the previous cover. I really like the rough, impressionistic quality of the painting they’ve used.
The Darkling Child is the second in The Defenders of Shannara, a loose trilogy of standalone Shannara novels that follow the events of Witch Wraith, Brooks’ most recently published novel. The High Druid’s Blade and The Darkling Child will be released in 2014.
The Extreme Ways of War Stories
I’ve recently been thinking of science fiction as literature of the moment, an examination of how we look at the world and all of the many changes that pass us by. Given the state of the world, military science fiction has long struck me as a way to make sense of the global impact of the ‘war on terror’ and other related actions across the world.
Rugged individualism and a sense the edge of the world is an opportunity, no matter who’s already there.
Predominantly, Military Science Fiction as a distinct subgenre comes out of works published in the 1950s by American science fiction authors, namely Robert Heinlein and Gordon R. Dickson, whose respective books Starship Troopers and Dorsai!, have spawned an entire industry of imitators. Steeped in the fears of the Cold War, these novels were written at a time when global annihilation appeared imminent, held back only by the raw power held by the United States Armed Forces and the inherent greatness of the American way. This lines up strongly with other trends one sees in American strains of Science Fiction: rugged individualism and a sense that the edge of the world is an opportunity, no matter who’s already there.
Science fiction tends to carry along its baggage for a long time. While there’s been an incredible evolution of outstanding stories, the genre’s frequently saddled with a pulp characterization; the incredible changes from the so-called Golden Age to the New Wave and beyond simply doesn’t register. Military SF, in many ways, has a similar history: it remains, in many people’s minds, a relic of the 1950s, when the Cold War raged between the politicians and armies of the US and USSR. In retrospect, it’s appears to be a simpler conflict than what we face today. Continue reading