Here is part two (of many) in my blog series discussing novels read this year. Books marked AR, SC, and ExA are books from my day job at Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry, and Exhibit A, respectively.
Playing Tyler (SC) – by T. L. Costa
The thing that struck me right away about Playing Tyler was the voice. Tyler MacCandless has ADHD, and the narration shows it, loud and clear. The narration is more choppy in places where Tyler is stressed or un-medicated, and becomes smoother when he is in control, at peace. The plot focuses around Tyler’s work testing a new flight simulator, which he thinks will be his ticket into flight school and out of his dead-end life. But the’re a whole lot more going on than a fancy beta test. One of my favorite parts about this novel was the romance between two l337 gamers who are outcasts in their own world but connect through their shared love of gaming.
The Age Atomic (AR) – by Adam Christopher
This is Angry Robot’s third novel with Adam Christopher, and his first sequel. Following closely after the end of Empire State, The Age Atomic brings in the world of 50s Atomic SF with references so diverse that I’m sure I missed many of them – taking Christopher’s incarnation of the trope in the novel as the furniture that narrative innovations of the 50s first created. The Age Atomic is my favorite of Christopher’s works so far – especially due to the characterization throughout.
The Warded Man – by Peter V. Brett
I’d heard about Brett’s Demon Cycle for some time, but only after the turn of the year did I get to reading it. For those not familiar with the series, The Warded Man introduces a world where humanity is on the edge of annihilation. A once-great society has fallen into a dark age thanks to the corelings – powerful demons that emerge every night and can only be turned back by specific wards. Nearly all settlements are cut off from one another, with only special Messengers to foster communication and trade.
The structure of this first novel in the series follows three children whose lives were changed by demon attacks, but also sets down the groundwork for a much larger story. I thought the action was strong, and the worldbuilding fascinating. Brett has created in The Demon Cycle what D&D players would call a ‘Points of Light’ setting (http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/drdd/20070829a) where only a chosen few brave the dangers of the wild in search of a greater purpose.
I really enjoyed The Warded Man, though I haven’t yet finished book two, The Desert Spear.
The Daedalus Incident – by Michael Martinez
I had the fortune of reading The Daedalus Incident for a blurb, since both Mr. Martinez and I are represented by the fabulous Sara Megibow.
Here’s what I said for my blurb:
“The Daedalus Incident is Master & Commander by way of Spelljammer smashed into a effortlessly believable 22nd century Martian mining project. Tremendous fun.”
The novel weaves together two stories – that of a tall ship traveling through the planetary system by navigating the Aether (here’s your Master & Commander meets Spelljammer) and mysterious events that threaten a mining project on mars. I found both leads to be well-drawn and compelling, and the novel’s climax is really cool.
Due to the current uncertainty around Night Shade Books, this novel’s release is uncertain, but I hope that many more readers will get to enjoy The Daedalus Incident, and soon.
A Natural History of Dragons – by Marie Brennan
Marie and I go way back. She was one of the members of a critique group that adopted me when I was a wee baby writer in undergrad. She and others helped show me the ropes and introduced me around at parties at my first writing and academic conferences. I’ve been following her work since she published Doppelganger and Warrior & Witch with Warner Aspect, and I was all of the excited to get to read A Natural History of Dragons, which applies her Anthropology and Archaeology knowledge to a fantasy world reminiscent in some ways of 18th Century Europe. The novel combines a travelogue/memoir style with the pulp adventure of a King Solomon’s Mines or Indiana Jones, as Isabella grows up enchanted by dragon of all sorts. The bulk of the novel describes her first big adventure, investigating the dragons of Vystrana with her husband.
Probably the best part for me is the advantages Brennan gains and exploits from the POV. The novel is told in he form of a memoir written by Isbabella in the autumn of her life, looking back and describing her youthful misadventures with the wit and charm of a grande dame who has been there, done that.