Brenner’s been around for a long time. So have his books.

Originally published by DAW in the late ’80s to mid-90s, Brenner’s series of novels, The Dance of Gods, managed to find a core of dedicated fans. Unfortunately the volume of them just wasn’t enough for DAW to keep the novels in print. Fast forward several years, through the advent of the Internet, and Brenner decided it was time to give the novels another chance.

A Good friend of this blog, Chris the Book Swede, liked the first novel:

Catastrophe’s Spell, although extremely humourous is also an engaging, interesting story and an excellent start to the Dance of Gods series. I would very much like to see this book back in print.

So what went wrong?

From his web site:

Why was The Dance of Gods such a hard sell when it came out? Some possible reasons:

• Too much plot and too many characters: the books are built around a sprawling crowd of raffish characters, too smart by half for their own good and more than a little self-reflective, in a series of overlapping and colliding storylines. Some of the cast members who appear in the first book in the series, Spell of Catastrophe (originally published as Catastrophe’s Spell), include:

Maximillian, the Vaguely Disreputable – free-lance adventurer and nostalgic technologist

The Creeping Sword – hard-boiled nom-de-plume

Zalzyn Shaa – physician, occasional bureaucrat, and man with a curse

The Great Karlini – research thaumaturge

The former Lion of the Oolvaan Plain – retired barbarian

Jurtan Mont – youth with an unusually melodic seizure disorder

Haddo – animal wrangler and pilot

Assorted gods, revolutionaries, insurgents, servitors, and cataclysms – the traditional cast of thousands

• Insufficient reverence for traditional tropes: for example, many of the characters are less than impressed by the use of magic. Rather than experiencing a sense of wonder, they’re more likely to respond to a spell casting with a muttered “yeah, whatever,” and try to bang you over the head with a skillet while your invocation is still taking shape.

• An approach to magic more suited to engineers or programmers than mystics: more procedure-based than object-oriented, perhaps, but communing with nature is usually the last thing on these practitioners’ minds. For that matter, I’m not sure the combination of magic-code hackers, molecular nanotech, and network-mediated consensual reality of the gods is something that could ever be summarized on a back-of-the-book blurb.

• No grand battles between good and evil: more of a struggle between self-interest and unintended consequences.

• Too funny to be serious and too serious to be funny: it’s the characters, really, not me! Not my fault they approach their roles with a jaundiced eye and a sarcastic streak…

It may not have worked now, but it certainly seems like the genre has evolved enough in the past twenty years to allow a story like Brenner’s to thrive. And hey, it’s free! You can’t beat that price.

You can read an excerpt HERE and download full electronic versions of the novels HERE.

  • ediFanoB May 23, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Hi Adain,
    thanks a lot for this blog entry.
    I didn’t know Mayer Alan Brenner before.
    I read part of the excerpt and it awakened my interest.
    Now there are four more books to be read on my PC.
    Normally I prefer to read real books – maybe I’m old fashioned – but in this case it is the only opportunity.

  • aidan May 23, 2008 at 11:52 am

    If you’re old fashioned, I must be too! I’ll read stories on a computer when I have to (such as when I’m at work), but nothing beats a good ol’ novel in your hands.

    Hope you enjoy Brenner’s books!

  • Chris (The Book Swede) May 23, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the second book as much :( But thanks for the mention! ;) I hope Meyer gets some good coverage, though.


  • ediFanoB May 23, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I have a lot of contacts with people on Goodreads and they all prefer real books. I meant old fashioned in a positive way.
    To be honest, ebooks are great. I know from libraries in Germany that they started to scan books which are more than one hundred years old. So we get access to very rare and precious.

    And a real book can be read nearly everywhere and without any power except daylight :-)

  • JT May 27, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Just an aside, but I hope everyone realizes you can download these books AND print them off. Again, not quite as good as a nice paperback version, but put it in a binder, or clip it together and its ALMOST the same. Aidan, thanks for pointing out that the third and fourth books were ready for downloading…I read the first two and enjoyed them, so I’m anxious to see the rest of the story now.