Book Review – The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

The Dark Defiles by Richard K. Morgan

The blurb says:

Ringil Eskiath, a reluctant hero viewed as a corrupt degenerate by the very people who demand his help, has traveled far in search of the Illwrack Changeling, a deathless human sorcerer-warrior raised by the bloodthirsty Aldrain, former rulers of the world. Separated from his companions—Egar the Dragonbane and Archeth—Ringil risks his soul to master a deadly magic that alone can challenge the might of the Changeling. While Archeth and the Dragonbane embark on a trail of blood and tears that ends up exposing long-buried secrets, Ringil finds himself tested as never before, with his life and all existence hanging in the balance.

I’m a long time fan of Richard K. Morgan from the Takeshi Kovacs series so I was favorably inclined towards the A Land Fit For Heroes series, especially when I found out that it mixed swords-and-sorcery and sci-fi.

The series has been long going – five years for three books.  How often books come out can really affect the reading experience – partially because it makes it harder to remember what’s going on but also because the zeitgeist changes.

I think the combination of old-fashioned swords-and-sorcery tropes and modern language along with some sci-fi worked well.  An unexpected benefit was that it allowed a greater range of styles of dialog – a more traditional character might talk like a Tolkien character whereas a more trendy character might drop f-bombs.

While initially the the modern take on fantasy seemed controversial, I think the author’s decision to make the main character gay was a lot more so.  As a straight white man I’m catered to by pretty much all media – heroes are by default straight white men who do things I wish I could do.  So reading a book from the point of view of a man who finds other men sexually attractive (and has graphically described sex with them) was uncomfortable.  I’m sure that reading a book where the good guys have a different kind of sex than you and everyone who has the same kind of sex as you is a rapist is the experience that gay people have most of the time, but it was an eye opener for me.

Our society needs to get more comfortable with media that doesn’t just reflect the majority/privileged, so I think this book is a good step in the right direction, but that doesn’t always make it an easy experience.

While some things are revealed in each book, it felt like more mysteries were also added in each one – behind each powerful and mysterious character was another character even more mysterious and powerful.  Fortunately (since this is the last book in the series) almost everything is revealed and explained in this book.  The final picture is a well designed world with a rich history and the events of the series seem logical.

There are a few things that aren’t explained and a few more that aren’t resolved, so I don’t know if the author plans on following up the series with some novellas or something.

At the end of the second book, things took an unexpected turn – suddenly there were a bunch of legends and clues that pointed to a threat (the Illwrack Changeling) and a reward (a mysterious Kiriath island) that made the main characters abruptly mount an expedition.  It seemed like the third book would take us through this expedition, but in another surprise the third book started with them already arrived and fed up having found nothing.  Considering that the first two books took place within a fairly limited geography, it was an interesting deviation.

Book Review – Rewinder by Brett Battles

Rewinder by Brett Battles

Rewinder by Brett Battles

The blurb rewinds:

You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he’s done.

But even if you did, you’d never believe it.

The world as you know it wouldn’t be the same without him.

Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it’s far from it.

A Rewinder’s job is to observe history.

In person.

Embracing his new life with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting a life as this is, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences.

Life-altering consequences.

Time, after all, is merely a reference point.

Just by reading the blurb you can see the biggest problem with this book – risking sending people back in time for something as frivolous as verifying personal histories is insane.  The fact that it will go wrong is obvious, no halfway intelligent person would consider it.

Almost all time travel stories have problems with the grandfather paradox and have to find a way around it.  This book isn’t particularly bad at that, although how it works isn’t exactly explained.  Like many time travel stories it’s best to just try to enjoy it without thinking too hard.

Something that bugged me through the whole first half of the book was that the main character was so slow on the uptake.  The reader has presumably read the blurb so knows the story is about time travel, so dragging out the revelation of the fact to the protagonist is just painful.

My other problem with the first half of the book is that the story is basically A Sound of Thunder, only instead of a short story it’s played out over hundreds of pages.  In that context it’s also difficult to believe that more of these accidents haven’t occurred with all of the thousands of times people have gone back in time.

Fortunately the second half of the book – where the protagonist has to fix the problem – is much better.  There were still a few dangling plot points, but it was definitely more enjoyable than the beginning of the book.

Book Review – Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

The blurb angelifies:

Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler inspired murder mystery set in Thomas Aquinas’s vision of Heaven. It’s a noir detective story starring fallen angels, the heavenly choir, nightclub stigmatics, a priest with a dirty secret, a femme fatale, and the Voice of God.

Somebody has murdered the angel Gabriel. Worse, the Jericho Trumpet has gone missing, putting Heaven on the brink of a truly cosmic crisis. But the twisty plot that unfolds from the murder investigation leads to something much bigger: a con job one billion years in the making.

Because this is no mere murder. A small band of angels has decided to break out of heaven, but they need a human patsy to make their plan work.

Much of the story is told from the point of view of Bayliss, a cynical fallen angel who has modeled himself on Philip Marlowe. The yarn he spins follows the progression of a Marlowe novel—the mysterious dame who needs his help, getting grilled by the bulls, finding a stiff, getting slipped a mickey.

Angels and gunsels, dames with eyes like fire, and a grand maguffin, Something More Than Night is a murder mystery for the cosmos.

I don’t want to spoil things, but this book isn’t quite what the blurb makes it out to be.  I am a big fan of noir and this isn’t a noir book as much as a book with noir in it.  It’s justified in the context, but if you start reading the book with the wrong impression (i.e. the impression the blurb gives you) then you may be disappointed.

Having said that, this was a really good book.  There is a cool twist and the ending is very satisfying.Also one of the two main characters is female and is fully realized, motivated etc. so that’s another mark in the book’s favor.