Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mistborn. The Hero of Ages

Ready? Set… Action!

This movie catch phrase seems to work pretty well when it comes to describing fantasy trilogies. The first book, 'Ready?' is posed as a question to the reader; wondering if they have prepared themselves for reading three books to get one story; desperately wanting to incite the reader to pick up book two. 'Set,' is exactly as it sounds like it would be; endless drudgery where you are left wondering if anything happened from cover to cover. In terms of Brandon Sanderson, if you can make it through Ready and Set, he is phenomenal when it comes to action.


Things actually happened in this book, and it wasn't all fight scenes and sorcery though there are solid helpings of that. But with no more books left in the series every and anything that is going to happen had to happen in this book.

Sanderson's gift of intrigue is wonderful and constant. Even though things are coming to a close, he is always posing new questions and giving you new unforeseen issues to think about and try to figure out how to resolve. He does this right up till the end making you wonder, "Well, what happens next?" There are no plot hole or loose ends, merely suggestions that he offers the readers to keep their minds occupied in the world he has created after the ending. Many of these issues and wonderful points of interest didn't need two books worth of set up to feel important or be interesting...

All is not perfect in the land of Action however. There are a few convenient plot ideas that happened just to make things easy, but they are small sins and easily forgivable considering the rest of Sanderson's offering. Deities did things without explanation as to how as only they can; saving the day only a few times when writing a way out of a situation may have proven too arduous. A point that was easily noticeable, yet never truly bothersome, was that amid a cast of many characters only two ever managed to sound distinct: Sazed, and Breeze; and yes, I've already said my piece about those names…

Even when a previously negligible character finally becomes a star--if not the most interesting person in the whole series by way of his development and growth--he manages to morph into one of his companions in terms of voice, rather than become his own person. It could have been intentional, but I saw it as a missed opportunity.

For me, my consistent complaint of Sanderson's Mistborn is the lack of truly compelling characters. There were many that I liked, but no one that made me say, "That guy is awesome." There was nothing wrong with the cast, they were just a little blah… That married with the standard fantasy, save-the-world-from-destruction plot helped combine to never truly grab hold of me. However, this installment of Mistborn is not one that I want to harp on negatives.

When the Action! Starts, it doesn't stop. There were occasional lulls--including an odd one near the end--some eye rolling, derivative dialogue, but in the end this book is fun. In my mind it was easily the strongest of the series; which also seems to hold true to fantasy form. Readers of Sanderson's Elantris will recognize some surprises. Not that he employs similar plot ideas, rather the scale of the surprise when you think you have things figured out is a great deal of fun.

Looking over the series as a whole, I'm still not sure what happened in book two and why it couldn't have happened in book one or three. Sanderson is great working with plot, but I feel I'm a reader that is more interested in character driven stories. A few of his amazing situations had me reading with apathy as I didn't care about the people involved. The story is long, filed with ash and dust, but when the Mist finally clears, you'll say you had a good time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tools of the Trade

So I borrowed a new guitar today, a Les Paul Studio.  The manufacturer--Gibson Guitars--would have you believe that a Les Paul is the single greatest guitar money can buy.  Marketing and PR fanfare aside--I think it is.  What I'm used to playing on is a Fender Squire; an entry-level guitar that looks like a Stratocaster.  It's about as inspiring as it is infuriating. 

The difference in quality, playability and my own ability to shred: the confidence the physical instrument bestowed upon me, the player, between the two is beyond my words to describe.  It got me thinking about tools of the trade and how hard it is to succeed at anything when you working with the worst possible materials.  I had gotten pretty good playing on the Squire.  I always knew it wasn't the best thing out there, but I also knew it wasn't the worst. I can make that guitar sound as good as it is able to sound.  That said, give me the Les Paul and I'm Jimmy Page.  Well, not really, but greatly improved nonetheless. Being an accomplished pianist, I was already aware of this fact, but it wasn't until I had to start over and learn guitar that I really gave it thought, the better instrument you have the easier to play. Earth-shattering I know...

This got me thinking about writing and curious as to what the 'tools of the trade' are in the culture of literacy.  Reading surely has to be one such tool, and the 'quality' of materials read I feel correlate to one's own writing.  But outside of reading, I was drawing a blank on other tools of the writing profession.  The quality of one's computer, pen and paper sure don't have anything to do with the finished product. I'm left with yet another musical comparison. It's the same reason I'm not as fluid a guitarist as I am a pianist, because I've been playing the former for about twenty years less time. In all things, it seems practice is key.

There are always exceptions: one-hit-wonder composers and breakout first time novelist. Artist that can never seem to repeat their initial success. While the layman may know said artist name and appreciate their work the more astute practitioners and erudite students of a particular art can tell the difference between those who have been remembered in their field for years and those whom fortune smiled upon for fifteen minutes.

Practice makes perfect and for that there is no fast-track.

If writers are carpenters, what's in their tool bag?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Places to Read about Reading Books

How's this for an internet compilation?


Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German


7 Foot Shelves

The Accidental Bard

A Boy Goes on a Journey

A Dribble Of Ink

Adventures in Reading

A Fantasy Reader

The Agony Column

A Hoyden's Look at Literature

A Journey of Books

All Booked Up

Alexia's Books and Such...

Andromeda Spaceways

The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ask Daphne

ask nicola

Audiobook DJ


Australia Specfic In Focus

Author 2 Author



Barbara Martin

Babbling about Books

Bees (and Books) on the Knob

Best SF

Bewildering Stories

Bibliophile Stalker


Big Dumb Object

The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf

Bitten by Books

The Black Library Blog

Blog, Jvstin Style

Blood of the Muse

The Book Bind



Booksies Blog


The Book Smugglers


The Book Swede

Book View Cafe [Authors Group Blog]

Breeni Books


Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]

Charlotte's Library

Circlet 2.0

Cheryl's Musings

Club Jade

Cranking Plot

Critical Mass

The Crotchety Old Fan


Daily Dose - Fantasy and Romance

Damien G. Walter

Danger Gal

It's Dark in the Dark

Dark Parables

Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews

Darque Reviews

Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog

Dead Book Darling

Dear Author

The Deckled Edge

The Doctor is In...

Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

Drey's Library

The Discriminating Fangirl

Dusk Before the Dawn


Enter the Octopus

Erotic Horizon

Errant Dreams Reviews

Eve's Alexandria


Falcata Times

Fan News Denmark [in English]

Fantastic Reviews

Fantastic Reviews Blog

Fantasy Book Banner

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Book Reviews and News

Fantasy By the Tale

Fantasy Cafe

Fantasy Debut

Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings


Fantasy Magazine

Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' News and Reviews

Feminist SF - The Blog!


Fiction is so Overrated

The Fix

The Foghorn Review

Follow that Raven

Forbidden Planet

Frances Writes

Free SF Reader

From a Sci-Fi Standpoint

From the Heart of Europe

Fruitless Recursion

Fundamentally Alien

The Future Fire


The Galaxy Express


Game Couch

The Gamer Rat

Garbled Signals

Genre Reviews


Got Schephs

Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

Grasping for the Wind

a GREAT read

The Green Man Review

Gripping Books



Hero Complex

Highlander's Book Reviews


The Hub Magazine

Hyperpat's Hyper Day


I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending

Ink and Keys

Ink and Paper

The Internet Review of Science Fiction



Janicu's Book Blog

Jenn's Bookshelf

Jumpdrives and Cantrips


Kat Bryan's Corner

Keeping the Door

King of the Nerds


Lair of the Undead Rat

Largehearted Boy

Layers of Thought

League of Reluctant Adults

The Lensman's Children

Library Dad

Libri Touches

Literary Escapism

Literaturely Speaking

ludis inventio

Lundblog: Beautiful Letters


Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review

Mari's Midnight Garden

Mark Freeman's Journal

Mark Lord's Writing Blog

Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars

Martin's Booklog


Michele Lee's Book Love

Missions Unknown [Author and Artist Blog Devoted to SF/F/H in San Antonio]

The Mistress of Ancient Revelry

MIT Science Fiction Society

Monster Librarian

More Words, Deeper Hole

Mostly Harmless Books

Multi-Genre Fan

Musings from the Weirdside

My Favourite Books

My Overstuffed Bookshelf


Neth Space

The New Book Review


Not Free SF Reader



OF Blog of the Fallen

The Old Bat's Belfry

Only The Best SciFi/Fantasy

The Ostentatious Ogre

Outside of a Dog



Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

Patricia's Vampire Notes

The Persistence of Vision

Piaw's Blog

Pizza's Book Discussion

Poisoned Rationality

Popin's Lair


Post-Weird Thoughts

Publisher's Weekly

Pussreboots: A Book Review a Day



Ramblings of a Raconteur

Random Acts of Mediocrity

Ray Gun Revival

Realms of Speculative Fiction

Reading the Leaves

Review From Here

Reviewer X

Revolution SF

Rhiannon Hart

The Road Not Taken

Rob's Blog o' Stuff

Robots and Vamps


Sandstorm Reviews

Satisfying the Need to Read

Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics

Science Fiction Times


Sci-Fi Blog


Sci-Fi Fan Letter

The Sci-Fi Gene

Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]

SciFi Squad

Scifi UK Reviews

Sci Fi Wire

Self-Publishing Review

The Sequential Rat

Severian's Fantastic Worlds

SF Diplomat



SF Gospel


SF Revu

SF Safari


SF Signal

SF Site

SFF World's Book Reviews

Silver Reviews

Simply Vamptastic

Slice of SciFi

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Solar Flare

Speculative Fiction

Speculative Fiction Junkie

Speculative Horizons

The Specusphere


Spiral Galaxy Reviews

Spontaneous Derivation

Sporadic Book Reviews

Stainless Steel Droppings

Starting Fresh

Stella Matutina

Stuff as Dreams are Made on...

The Sudden Curve

The Sword Review


Tangent Online

Tehani Wessely

Temple Library Reviews

Tez Says

things mean a lot [also a publisher]

True Science Fiction


Ubiquitous Absence



Urban Fantasy Land


Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic

Variety SF

Veritas Omnia Vincula


Walker of Worlds

Wands and Worlds


Wendy Palmer: Reading and Writing Genre Books and ebooks

The Weirdside

The Wertzone

With Intent to Commit Horror

The Wizard of Duke Street

WJ Fantasy Reviews

The Word Nest


The World in a Satin Bag


The Written World



Young Adult Science Fiction



Cititor SF [with English Translation]




Foundation of Krantas

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [with some English essays]

Yenchin's Lair






Fernando Trevisan

Human 2.0

Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm

Ponto De Convergencia




Fantasy Seiten

Fantasy Buch

Fantasy/SciFi Blog


Welt der fantasy

Bibliotheka Phantastika

SF Basar

Phantastick News



Phantastick Couch


Fantasy News

Fantasy Faszination

Fantasy Guide

Zwergen Reich

Fiction Fantasy


Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

Friday, August 14, 2009

Women's Fiction

In these sometimes tense times of gender equality I feel I can be pretty direct. What is women's fiction; is it solely for women? Is the name strictly a ‘buyers beware’ to any man’s hand that may have strayed so far as to pick up the book and turn it over? I still stand on my feeling that good writing is good writing and a change of genre or perceived audience will not affect the quality of the words on the page. However, the previous statement being true, why would anyone trying to sell books limit the potential readership with such an explicit genre appellation?

This issue of women's fiction has been bothering me for quite some time. It is the only fiction genre designation that I know of that is not only branded by the publisher but done so in general accordance with the author. Many a non general ‘fiction’ author would love their books to be sold with the mass market epithet “A Novel” coming after the title as opposed to being put on the fantasy or mystery shelf. I know a few authors (none of whom I”ll call out) who recently lead a panel discussion at a writers club meeting that covered many things. When the topic of women's fiction came about I found myself growing irritable with the pregnancy of woeful ignorance; either in myself or the panel.

Is there such a thing as men’s fiction? I’ll wage a legitimate answer that there is, and I can’t over stress the seriousness of my attempt. After you’ve read it with with earnest consideration (and a more open-minded than it’s worth) then, tell me how absurd it is.

* * * * *
Men’s literature (or Men! Books! Read! as the marketing branch of the publishing world would have us call it) is always an energetic story with excess testosterone and alpha males doing terribly interesting things in most Michael-Bay-type of manner. Female leads are absurd given the genre and any female characters are bound to be helpless idiots and at all times displaying generous amounts of cleavage. Rarely amusing or light hearted these stories resemble the steaks me like to eat: bloody, gritty with little seasoning and no time for side items like vegetables. Men’s fiction is about men’s issues for a male readership; women would have a very hard time identifying with the subject matter of family, relationships and blowing stuff up. While the subject matter often crosses genres it always has commercial appeal and the characters are often attempting to overcome both a personal and external adversity.

Although men’s fiction often incorporates grave situations such as poverty, divorce, abuse, and host of other social struggles, it can also explore positive aspects within a mans life: such as guns, swords, sports, sex, gluttony and video games. Sanguine soaked fantasy and sci-fi are an integral part of Men’s fiction although the content is mature enough and well-developed that it sets itself apart from other genre classifications. Generally speaking, Men’s fiction often delves into deeper, more serious conflicts and utilizes a more poetic literary writing style than standard fiction that would be deemed appropriate of both genders.

Chad Hull the prolific author of numerous bestsellers of Men’s fiction including: The Man Book, Why Elves and Fairies are Gay, Go F*** yourself, and Tit Hooker is the ideal author of Men’s Fiction. His forthcoming novel detailing the heartbreak of a car--lovingly restored for five tender years before being totaled in a horrific accident involving no insurance and a culprit that couldn’t speak English--Steel Dump is due out this winter.

* * * * *
So… seriously. What is women’s fiction? Are those the books Nicolas Sparks writes? Is Anna Karenina the archetype of the genre? Is there such a thing as Men’s fiction? If so, what is it? If not, why?