BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a Western frontier torn between agents of the Gun and of the Line, three people are drawn into a conflict over a secret weapon that may finally end the war.
PROS: Engrossing setting; engaging writing; interesting ideas; exciting action.
CONS: Long and occasionally feels it.
BOTTOM LINE: Fascinating “fantastic western” with strong writing; a book that can spark a debate or provide entertainment.
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It’s almost a given these days, especially with fantasy books–you open up the front cover and an enormous map sprawls out before you, denoting various continents, kingdoms, murky forests, coastal ports, and all the other bits and jots composing the world. Sometimes these locales have colorful names, such as Shadowlands of the Dark Lord, Bottomless Pit of Apathy, and Do-Not-Go-Here-istan. Other times, they’re a gibberish of glottal coughs and apostrophes.
However they’re named, though, so often these maps and representative lands are simply indicative of where the story happens rather than what the story is about. They’re just a reference point for those readers who dearly want to know if the heroine’s quest to save a hapless prince from a dragon took her through the pleasant town of Orcsg’utyo’u or not.
What if we tried a different perspective? Let’s strap on our Boots of Anti-Blistering, grab a wizard’s walking stick, and head off across worlds where the geography is as integral to the plot as the main characters themselves.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week, in time for the change of season, we asked about Winter:
The first novel that leaps to mind is Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness. It’s a wonderfully bizarre tour de force about a girl, Sym, who is obsessed with all things Antarctic, including her imaginary boyfriend, the deceased Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates. Her mad “uncle” takes her on a once in a lifetime trip there, which turns out to be a nightmare. He believes in the hollow Earth theory and that they will prove it’s true. Along the way, McCaughrean masterfully reveals more and more about Sym’s own past and her phony uncle. Sym’s voice is arresting despite how very in her own head she is—and it’s perhaps because of how that works with a backdrop that is spectacularly isolated and physically challenging. Some people may argue this isn’t a true fantasy, but I would debate them (citing spoilers), and regardless of which of us won I maintain it’d still be of interest to many genre readers because of the hollow Earth fringe science driving the plot.
Here’s the synopsis:
This is the story Harry Ransom. If you know his name it’s most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world.
Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics.
Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it.
If you’re reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.
Book info as per Amazon US:
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (November 27, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0765329409
- ISBN-13: 978-0765329400
- Adam Roberts reviews Sam Merwin, Jr.’s sexy time travel classic, The Time Shifters. Ack! That painful prose reminds me of Pel Toro!
- Interviews & Profiles:[some via Bibliophile Stalker]
- Rick Kleffel podcast-interviews Kage Baker.
- Darryl Whetter interviews Margaret Atwood.
- Mur Lafferty podcast-interviews Jay Lake, Felix Gilman, Jim Kelly, John Kessel, and Pat Cadigan.
- Suvudu interviews Chris Evans.
- Jeff VanderMeer interviews Caitlin R. Kiernan.
- Stargate Producer John G. Lenic answers reader questions at Joseph Mallozzi’s blog.
- Suite101.com interviews Linnea Sinclair
- If You’re Just Joining Us podcast-interviews SciFi Literary Agent Ginger Clark
- Pyr Books announces a handful of intriguing new forthcoming titles:
- The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale by Mike Resnick. “Picture a fractured America, steampunk technology, cowboys, rayguns, Native American shamans, and, drum roll please, zombies!”
- The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffith, the first book in the new Vampire Empire series. Elevator pitch: Alternate-History Steampunk Vampire.
- Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk, the first in a trilogy that continues with Shadow’s Lure and Shadow’s Master. A swordplay story of “an assassin thrust into the middle of a political and religious upheaval that threatens to topple the last bastion of civilization.”
- Website Facelift of the week: Manybooks.net. [via MobileRead]
- The Daily P.O.P. looks at Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius and the Final Programme.
- Walter H. Hunt lists his 5 favorite Webcomics.
- SCI FI Wire lists 5 new things you don’t know about Tron Legacy.
- Here’s a fun SF Novel Crossword. [via Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily]
- Words that need no further explanation: Indiana Jones Giant R/C Ant.
- 1 Thing you can’t watch: Defying Gravity. Canceled! [UPDATE: Or not.]
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