If you were intrigued by my review of The Sable City, you should be aware that it is currently available for FREE on all reading platforms. Give yourself a little gift today!
Speaking of gifts, I’m giving myself one. I’m going to be reading for pleasure this holiday season, so there may or may not be another blog until after the new year. If I happen to come across something I think you should hear about, I will let you know, but I’m planning to take a little break!
Happy Whatever Holidays Y’all Celebrate!
I always think I don’t enjoy fantasy as well as some other irreverent works. It may be from a youthful attempt to read The Lord of the Rings, which gave me an impression of the genre as stuffy and serious. However, when I look at my reading habits, I observe that there are some fantasies I enjoy very well. Humorous series such as The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony and The Myth Adventures of Robert Aspirin, the poignant urban fantasy of Charles De Lint, and of course, my beloved Terry Pratchett. So perhaps, it’s simply the stuffiness I don’t care for!
Last month, I shared with you the work of a talented group of individuals called The Eclective. Although I had known Ms. Emma Jameson for years, I was unfamiliar with the other authors included in The Haunted Collection. Having very much enjoyed “Empty Vessel”, I was pleased to hear from Mr. M. Edward McNally, with a suggestion that I read one of his full length novels for review. Always hungry for good books, I agreed.
The Sable City, according to Amazon, is “The desperate search for the exiled heir of her Trade House leads Matilda Lanai across a war-torn continent and to the gates of the Sable City, where centuries ago dark magic almost destroyed the world. Along with a sinister sorceress, a broken-hearted samurai, and a miscreant mercenary long on charm but lousy with a crossbow, Tilda must brave the demon-infested ruins. Only then can she find John Deskata, who may not want to be found at all.”
Such a short description can hardly do this densely populated novel justice. I doubt that I can either, but I do intend to try. This is, indeed, very serious fantasy, although McNally slips in quite a bit of heart and humor. The author creates characters as well as anyone I have ever read, and I may have mentioned how important that is to me. One of the reasons we accept a world that is mostly unfamiliar to us is that the people we meet we get to know fairly well, and they are people, for the most part, to whom the reader can relate. McNally says The Sable City is “basically a character piece about Tilda Lanai, trying to hold down a job, help out her friends, and survive the day-to-day.” Matilda Lanai is a descendant of a long line of kick-ass fantasy women, but is hardly a caricature. By the end of the book she feels more like an old friend. We don’t know anyone so well as Tilda, but all of the characters we meet are fully realized, and realistic. It’s why the fantasy works so well, because totally believable characters are there to believe the totally unbelievable events. I met people I loved, and people I hated, just as we do in life, and was gratified when many of the adventurers became friends.
The mythical city of Vod’ Adia is a character in and of itself, a mysterious place cut off from its world except for one month every 99 years. It is fabled to be a place of fabulous wealth, and incredible danger. I will tell you that the adventurers reach the Sable City, but I won’t spoil what happens to them there. I will say that after about a chapter of this work, I heaved a sigh of total contentment, and settled in for the epic journey. The best part is that there is more to discover. I look greatly forward to reading #2 Death of a Kingdom, #3 The Wind from Miilark, and #4 Devil Town. The series is called The Norothian Cycle. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I consider The Sable City to be completely Heavenly!
Warning. There are spoilers ahead for A Clockwork Orange, both the novel by Anthony Burgess including the last chapter, and the movie, by the amazing Stanley Kubrick. Viddy this, and pop away if you are among the holdouts who have not neither seen nor read this amazing work.
I wanted so to have a new book to review for you, but I am not quite finished with the one I wanted to share with you next. I almost waited, but I didn’t want you to get bored. I have read literally thousands of books in my lifetime, so there ought to be something I could talk with you about in there somewhere. Indeed, there are many books I would love to talk with you about. As I said prefer to share new things with you, however. So, why are we talking about a book written before even I was born, shortly after the discovery of fire?
To answer that, I pose you a question. I would love you to give your opinions in the comments. What does it mean to grow up? How do you know you have? I asked my dad, in one of our meandering philosophical conversations, if there was a magic age where I’d wake up and feel like a grown up. He said he was still waiting. He was 63 at that time. By many objective measures, I certainly haven’t done it.
I certainly wasn’t grown up the summer I spent watching A Clockwork Orange. Although the wisdom of letting an 11 year old watch such a violent movie is dubious, watch it I did. Every day, for a month. I can still quote huge sections of dialogue, in passable Nadsat. You may or may not know, the film was based on the American version of the book, which was missing the last chapter. As I fell head over heels in love with Little Alex, Your Humble Narrator, I was simply happy he was back to his old ‘orrible self again by the end of it.
In case you are one of three people on earth who don’t know, here’s what the story is about, via the Amazon blurb: A vicious fifteen-year-old “droog” is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick’s magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess’s nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends’ social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex—to “redeem” him—the novel asks, “At what cost?”
It would be years before I read the book, and I got to that last chapter first, in Rolling Stone. It was a pretty big deal to discover there was more to the story. These were the days before the internet, you understand, so we didn’t have knowledge at our fingertips. Nor were there scores of badly written bits of fan fiction to tide us over when cannon failed.
The gist of the last chapter is that Alex IS his old self, but that he discovers his old life isn’t enough. Eventually, he runs in to one of his old droogs, and finds that what he really needed was to grow up, to move on from his past into an adult life.
I remember thinking, “So it was all just a PHASE?!” I was simultaneously pleased and disappointed in this ending. I was far from grown up myself even then, and wondered if one HAD to change so fundamentally during the process. I hadn’t begun to feel very changed. And I STILL DON’T.
Many Gen Xers are experiencing an extended adolescence, or a second adolescence, just as I am. Many of us have had to go back home and our plans and dreams certainly have not turned out the way we might have hoped. I find myself having a lot of advice to share, but my essential self doesn’t seem to have changed very much at all. My dad’s earlier response seems to imply that everyone experiences this to some degree.
So I wonder about you, my readers. Do you feel like you’ve grown up? If so, what makes you feel that way?
I will say A Clockwork Orange is a Heavenly book, although you may feel you’ve gone through Hell before it is done.
No, really, that’s pretty much all I have to say! Woo-hoo! Four more years!
First let me say that I hope all of my readers are safe and well after the Super-storm. Hopefully, the fact that you are able to read this post will mean that you are.
I’m warning you now, this blog post is not one of my typical ones. It’s mostly going to be opinion, without any real review. This has been a very dense couple of weeks for me. I don’t mean dense as in stupid, although I have been a little out of it. I mean dense as in packed full. Some good things have happened, like a trip out of town and getting a new job. Mostly, though, my brain is packed full, and the packing material feels like concrete. Much of this is due to the impeding election. I am always honest here, so I will share that I am an Obama supporter. Considering what I’ve already discussed with you about my life, and my irreverent attitude, this is probably not a real surprise to anyone. What HAS surprised me has been the complete inability of anyone, including myself, to discourse rationally on this subject. I am certain that most people feel the way they do for reasons based in what they perceive to be reality, although I had thought previously that reality was finite and agreed upon by everyone. I’ll be perfectly frank about my terror at the prospect of Mitt and his merry band of Right Wing Nut Jobs being in charge of me and mine. After Tuesday, I am hopeful reality will sync up, and the country I grew up in will return to some sense of decency. Either that or my next entry will come to you from a bunker in an undisclosed location.
In other wacky news, Amazon has decided that authors cannot review books on its website. At first I was like, “Wait… what?!” As I traveled the internet to discover what I could, I discovered that this appears to be because of authors behaving badly. The poison pen has been replaced by a keyboard, but is alive and well. I’ve witnessed a bit of this, and I am as appalled by incivility here as in our political discourse. It’s become acceptable to be an asshole. I don’t like this trend. Pointing out that someone’s work did not appeal to you, or even that it has technical errors, is possible to do without being rude. Some of these “authors” seem to be purposefully dragging down other writers. That’s not cool with me. Especially within the independent writing community, we surely benefit from pulling each other up instead. I read one author put forth the opinion that if people wish to be treated as professionals, they should act like professionals. That is the best piece of advice I have seen since middle school, where I was given most of my writing advice (including one piece that I will share for free—proofread your work!). Good authors are often voracious readers, and certainly have sensible things to say about what they have read. The misbehavior of a few should not have an adverse effect on the whole. I will always give you my honest opinion, and endeavor to do so without being a jerk. Feel free to take me to task if I don’t!
In the interests of the aforementioned transparency, I must mention a book I attempted to read for review that I could not finish. Dark Descent, by R. G. Porter, has an interesting premise, but stylistically did not work for me. Of course, you must form your own opinion, as the shorter piece of Porter’s that I read was more enjoyable, but the novel was simply not for me. I am now in the midst of a completely entertaining fantasy work that I hope to finish and review for you soon, as long as I can charge my Kindle in the bunker.