The ingredients for Cooking the Books podcast #003 – “That’s Craft with a C: Cooking the Books with Max Gladstone” include:
This week we asked our participants to tell us about authors & books that they keep intending to read by haven’t yet read…
Here’s what they said
PROS: Diverse, interesting cast of characters; conceit of the Craftverse transplants nicely to yet another new setting; pacing is improved from previous novels.
CONS: Although not a direct sequel, novel doesn’t stand on its own well.
BOTTOM LINE: The Craft Sequence gets better in this third volume, but it’s not the place to start your engagement with this world and characters.
Max Gladstonehas taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia. Max graduated from Yale University, where he studied Chinese. You can find out more about him, and his books on his website.
Life’s not as objective as we imagine.
An airplane transfer is a pleasant brisk walk—or an infuriating ordeal if you have a bad knee or a degenerated disc. An easy climb may be impossible for someone without legs, or not, if they have the right prosthetic. A ten pound book bag is a trivial burden for some and back-wrenching for others. A dyslexic person and a speed reader occupy different spaces of possibility. Depending on one’s position in the world, a hundred dollars may be a nice dinner for two, a life-changing amount of money, or an insignificant fraction of a dividend payment. Some people respond to deadlines with grim determination and gritted teeth. Others lie sleepless for a month before an important meeting, and comparison-shop earplugs and blackout curtains.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In Alt Coulumb, the death of the God of Fire and the disposition of his contracts and bargains brings together magicians, priests, servants of a lost goddess, intrigue and high action and adventure.
PROS: Strong multiple female characters (and primary protagonist); exciting, wild and innovative worldbuilding.
CONS: Breakneck pace can work against the novel; perhaps one too many complications and small details are made relevant.
BOTTOM LINE: A debut novel that confirms the author’s nomination for a Campbell Award and points to great things in his future.
The Gods of the Craftverse are very different than most fantasy universes. Sure they are embodiments of magic, of cosmic forces, and all that, but that’s just a surface detail. To get things done, like in the Exalted RPG universe, Gods have to make bargains, deals, and contracts with other gods, Magicians, and countries. These deals and contracts are binding and can make or break a God; they hold legal force, even if the unthinkable should occur. A contract unfulfilled can lead to fires going out, steam trains not working, and worse.
So, when a God in the Craftverse dies, death, as they say, is only the beginning.
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
With all of the blockbuster, bestselling titles out there, and so many quality stories available, it can be easy for other titles to be overlooked, so this week, we asked our authors and panelists:
Here’s what our panelists had to say…
Everyone talks about Kage Baker’s Company series, but it’s a long series that has to be read in a certain order, making it look almost as intimidating as McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (or moreso, since very few people will tell you what The Company series is actually about). Want just a taste to see if The Company schtick is for you, not to mention Baker’s writing style? Plant yourself in front of the short story collection In The Company of Thieves for a handful of short stories that take place in the world of The Company. There are contemporary tales, a comedy of errors, plenty of history fiction, and even a steampunk story. I can’t think of a better way to get introduced to Kage Baker if you’re not familiar with her work. I always get a little sad thinking about this series, because there will never be another book written in it.
And speaking of long intimidating series and authors who have passed away, I was insanely impressed with Iain Banks’ The Quarry. Lack of the famous middle initial means this isn’t a science fiction novel. It’s just a novel about a man’s last weekend with all his old friends, and his socially handicapped son. We get the story from the son’s point of view. When you hear the name Iain Banks, it’s so easy to jump right to “oh em gee, the Culture novels! You have to read The Culture novels!”. But what if you don’t want to read a Culture novel? What if you tried and you didn’t like them? The Quarry is all the Banks snark with none of the WTF.
On a much happier note is an anthology I just finished the other day – Sidekicks, edited by Sarah Hans. It’s from a smaller publisher, Alliteration Ink, and has very few big names to brag about in the table of contents. But that subject! Everyone loves a superhero movie (or at least that’s what IMDB tells me), but what about their sidekicks, their partners, their helpers, the guy or gal who gets the supersuit dry-cleaned and picks up coffee on the way to the Batcave? Some of the heroes know they’re in a partnership with their sidekick, other hero/sidekick relations are much more complicated. With far more depth and far less spandex than I expected, it was a very impressive collection. The sheer variety of hero/sidekick relationships and types of stories included makes this anthology worth some more mainstream attention.
Wow, I’ve been reading a TON of short fiction this year! My final book that I read recently that I think should get more attention is Clarkesworld Year Four, which includes all the original fiction published in Clarkesworld Magazine. It doesn’t matter how much screen-reading I do, I’ll always prefer a thinly sliced dead tree in my hands. Unfortunately, my propensity towards print makes it difficult to keep up with the all the short story magazines I enjoy, such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Apex. Getting a copy of Clarkesworld Year Four opened my eyes to fact that many magazines publish annual volumes of all of the original fiction that was published in their magazine and/or on their website. Can you say Best of Both Worlds? I get award winning and innovative short fiction, and a book in my hands! All the annual volumes of the short fiction magazines should be getting more attention.
Max Gladstone is the Campbell Award-nominated author of TWO SERPENTS RISE and THREE PARTS DEAD. He has taught in southern Anhui, wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.
By Max Gladstone
I think reports of our world’s science fictionality have been exaggerated. Yes, we have computers, rockets, battleships, particle accelerators, and digital watches, but the way we have these things is very different from the way old-school science fiction expected us to have them.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: God is dead and it is up to Craftswoman Tara Abernathy to return Him to some semblance of life. In the strange and beautiful city of Alt Coulumb Tara seeks out the evidence necessary to win the favor of the court and the respect of her firm.
PROS: Thrilling setting, solid world building, creative ideas, and interesting characters.
CONS: Drags a bit in places, but nothing some tighter pacing can’t resolve.
BOTTOM LINE: Don’t let the cover art fool you, Three Parts Dead is not your mama’s urban fantasy.
Kos the Everburning is dead. Tara is a new associate of the necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao and as such she is responsible for His resurrection. Tara must search the city of Alt Coulumb for the evidence necessary to revive the Lord as intact as possible. Aiding Tara in the investigation is Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of Kos suffering from a serious crisis of faith. The two will have to wade through mysteries and conspiracies, vampires and gargoyles, for any hope of rescuing the city from chaos.