Joss Whedon, eat your heart out. We arrived at the cabin last night, and besides a quickly resolved plumbing issue, no complaints. Today we’re going over to Luray, followed by the series finale of Doctor Who tonight. Yes, the Doctor is part of our vacation plans, because this family parties in style.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The fourth Lukien novel John Marco has published, “The Forever Knight” is a break from the format and story of the previous books, giving new readers an excellent opportunity to dip into this saga. Cursed with immortality by the spirit living within his sword, Lukien begins this novel restless and aimless. He’s a man who lives a life without consequence. When the ancient spirit in your sword can heal you of any wound, mortal or benign, what challenge is there in living?
Despite the teaser for this book, this book does not dwell on the Inhumans or Lukien’s roll as their protector. With the usual grace of a fantasy novel, Lukien is cast out into the world on a quest, sword in hand and companion at his side. While the stated goal of the quest is to find answers to his companion, Cricket’s, past, it’s obvious what is really the objective – to find a purpose and challenge to satisfy an immortal knight.
In my mind, two things set this novel apart from many fantasy novels. The first was the decision to present this tale in the first person. For new readers especially, this can be daunting in second world fantasy, where there is no frame of reference for understanding the environment and cultures around the POV. Marco succeeds here by painting with broad strokes, sketching a world and people we can almost see, without lingering on the details that aren’t relevant. Not a common choice, but the first person worked well for this story.
The second factor that set this novel apart from so many other epic fantasy novels these days was breadth. At 282 pages, it’s a relatively light contender compared to other tomes available. I would continue to argue that this isn’t a bad trend to see in books these days. Presenting readers with a single, well drafted adventure can be so much more satisfying than a collection of adventures sewn together for the sake of bulk.
In both efforts I think Marco succeeded with “The Forever Knight.” An entertaining adventure story that was extremely accessible for a first time reader, and a well written introduction to a new chapter in this character’s journey.
Well, I’m not dead, though there are days I question that. Believe it or not, I’ve been working on a plan. Not an outline, but a plan, a guide. And beginning May first, I started writing off that plan.
Well, almost. Actually, May first dawned with me still at the office from the day before, so that day was a bit of a wash when it came to writing, but the next day? All over that. Well, by “all over,” I mean I put a few words down. The next day, now that was more successful. And the day after that? Twice as much more successful, which isn’t saying much if we look at actual totals, but we’re looking at trends here, don’t get lost in the actual numbers!
A lot of it is because in watching writers I respect (and some I don’t), there is at least one common thread among all of them. Every day, they write. Maybe it’s 10 words, maybe it’s 10,000, but every day they sit down and make that effort. Most set out with goals – whether it be 500 or 2,000 words, or a dedicated time frame – writing for 4 hours a day, etc. That’s really something I’ve been missing in my life of late – I write in spurts, but I haven’t been making the concentrated effort to sit down and write. I’ve also been a little all over the map in what I’ve tried writing. Variety is fine – it’s the spice of life, after all – but I’ve been flipping between short stories and novels all year-long, and the demands of each are really quite different. Lately, I’ve been working on novel length writing, which is a different set of challenges than short fiction. There’s less to show for it and a greater chance of failure, but it also gives me the opportunity to create a complete world.
Plus it’s damned fun.
Now I won’t be posting my word counts up here, not for now. The old adage is that it takes 21 days for something to be a habit, and I’m only on day 5 (really 4) of daily writing (plus the 21 day thing is an unfounded myth). For now, imagine these great voids are because I’ve been lost down a well, and not because I’m struggling to get a couple dozen words down to be able to say I made an effort today.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Despite being a Peter F. Hamilton fan, I have a confession to make – I never could get into the Reality Dysfunction. I loved the tech, I thought the characters were great, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the dead coming back through a dimensional rift. It just smacked of cheesy, especially when Al Capone made his appearance.
I started the Great Road North was some trepidation – Hamilton can be hit or miss in my experience – and was pleased to find a good story, if a touch repetitive of previous works. Hamilton has returned to the kind of story that made Paula Myo so awesome. Blending crime and aliens is a successful formula for Hamilton, so it’s only natural that he would return to those roots in this story. The setting for this tale is familiar – set a century or so into the future, the advent of a portal technology has allowed man to spread across the galaxy. At the pinnacle of the economic paradise are the North’s, a family of successive generations of clones. When a North washes up dead, it’s big news. When it’s the second clone to be murdered in a uniquely grisly way in twenty years, and the last suspect was an alien with knives for fingers, things begin to get interesting.
Hamilton deftly weaves together the stories of Sid, a Newcastle detective on the trail of a murderer, and Angela, the sole surviving witness of the first encounter, 9 light years from Earth on the trail of the alien monster that no one else believes exists. Hamilton litters the page with a small supporting cast that are rarely thin or cardboard, and always seem to offer us a little more insight into our main characters.
The only fault I have with the novel is that we’ve been here before. This isn’t the Commonwealth, and these aren’t the same characters, but the themes are reminiscent of Hamilton’s other books. A great read, and definitely fills an itch for a space opera with killer monsters, but not his best.
I read this article on Lifehacker this week with Clive Thompson, writer for Wired and the NYTimes. This next bit really stuck with me:
I don’t know if you’d call it “time saving” so much as “time generating,” but I go mostly offline on the weekends. I generally don’t check email from Friday night until Monday morning. I still text like a freak, because that’s how my social life is organized! But by staying off email I also find I tend to not engage in social media much either. This leaves my weekends free for a lot of slower thinking and reading that’s a nice break from the zingy pace of being at a screen all the work week.
Granted, this weekend was a bit atypical – the kids were all out on a camping trip, leaving Kim and I to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary like real adults – time alone, dinner and a movie, the whole works. But I think this is something I want to try again next weekend. Even with my artificial quiet time this weekend, I was finally able to hack together a pretty decent roadmap (not an outline! never call it that!) for The Dragon Queen’s Bride, which is pretty exciting.
Plus, the whole not paying attention to work for a weekend sounds weirdly divine.