||[Aug. 1st, 2006|07:56 am]
I finished The Hallowed Hunt yesterday, the latest of Lois McMaster Bujold's new set of fantasy novels, which I have been enjoying quite a bit. (I say 'set' rather than 'series' because they have a common setting, but they're standalone books, not a trilogy or anything.)
Anyway, aside from her usual excellent pacing, plotting, and writing, I think what's really neat about the books is that she develops an interesting cosmology, with gods that exist and can meddle, and then works through a lot of the logical consequences. But it's still a low-magic setting, with room for religious disagreement, petty villainy, doubt, misunderstanding, and all the other normal drivers of drama. No need for Forces of Darkness, just fallible, imperfect humans.
Ah, another fan of The Lois! Good for you!
It's just so nice - and so dang unusual - to have somebody who writes SF and fantasy without an axe to clumsily grind (her points come across just fine), with fundamental skills of writing and plot and pacing and character development well-mastered, and without pretentiousness*. She's not The Perfect Author, but she's awfully close.
And yeah, that's an interesting point - that in Lois, like in the real world and unlike other fantasy, we frankly don't need a Dark Force that's worse than our own shortsighted clumsiness.
(* - Most fantasy authors make me want to say, "I've read J.R.R. Tolkein. I know J.R.R. Tolkein. And you're no J.R.R. Tolkein.")
At first I was disappointed that she was writing fantasy novels instead of more Miles Vorkosigan, but now I'm really happy she did.
I'm pondering how well the cosmology would work for an RPG...
I stopped reading Vorkosigan when he got married. It was just too much by that point, she needed something new. (Though I'm guessing she might write more.)
The thing I found most interesting about Chalion is the demon possession aspect that rules their magic. I'm also a big fan of heresy. I think my mother would really enjoy these books, but I'm not sure how to address the demon possession issue with her.
Bujold has a book in a new series out this fall, The Sharing Knife.
Heh. I have a rather extensive fantasy collection, and the only author that really falls afoul of that for me is Robert Jordan. Finish the damned series before you die of your incurable disease, okay?
Actually, the one that really got me was Dennis McKiernan. I read a few of his books, and they were pretty good— barring the occasional "character gives the author's lecture" that I was still too young to spot reliably— and I kept hearing about his award-winning Iron Tower trilogy. So I finally tracked those down.
And they were almost point-for-point LOTR. Right down to escaping into the abandoned dwarf mine with the kraken at the door.
What offended me was not so much that he'd written those books, nor that someone had published them. It was the "award-winning" that drove me nuts. Some fools had the audacity to give awards for a retread? Give me a break.
So yeah. I don't like Tolkienesque fantasy. Mainly because I've read so many good fantasy authors who developed their own worlds. Melanie Rawn. C.S. Friedman. K.J. Parker. Terry Pratchett. (And I'll even give a pass to Barbara Hambly, whose ideological axe seems to be the truly awful status of women in history through fantasy, because she writes very good stories around that.)
I also like Mark Anthony, but since I know the guy, I'm definitely biased. Very David Eddings-like in tone but not in plot.
Bujold is great, but I thought The Hallowed Hunt was her weakest effort in a while. It felt like she got midway through writing this one before she realized it was going to be a tragedy, then shuffled things around to stop that.
I know you know about Dave Duncan, since you introduced me to him, but here's a plug for his cosmology-structured magic systems. Have you read Martha Wells's Wheel of the Infinite?
I did like Paladin of Souls better, but I still liked Hallowed Hunt quite a bit. It felt more to me like a fight to avert tragedy the whole way through than changing course mid-stream. I need to re-read Curse of Chalion now that I have a better sense of what the world is about. I think I missed a lot the first time through.
I haven't read Martha Wells. I will check it out, thanks!