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Posts Tagged ‘martha wells’

While fantasy novels promise the ability to reach the limits of our imaginations, it’s still not often that authors choose to tell stories with no humans in them at all. Estrangement is a common way to describe fantasy, but crossing the gap to completely alien biologies and societies puts more distance between a reader than just throwing in unfamiliar words, behaviours and cultures. I know plenty of readers thrown off by the first chapter of Dune just from the terminology used in the first chapter. Unless you map creatures against a clear historical human antecedent like the Edwardian dragons of Tooth and Claw, you need to put in some real effort to make readers accept and care about characters who don’t look like people.

This barrier comes up immediately in Martha Wells’s Books of Raksura. The main characters are a species of shape-shifting, flying humanoids who structure their society unlike any human one, and the entire vastness of the Three Realms likewise is packed with varied intelligent species who call the land, the water, the air, or the islands that also float up in the sky their homes.

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It’s been a long year, hasn’t it? But despite that, I don’t feel like I’ve personally done much of note with all that time. The house I started building this summer had to go on hold for the winter months, unfinished; I’m still working the same job; and I made a single short story sale this year – an important one for me, but I can’t yet announce where. I also learned, once again, that the tortured publication history of Zeppelins are What Dreams are Made of will remain tortured, after signing a contract with another publisher we got the sad news this year that the Book Smugglers will cease publishing ebooks/print books for 2019, so those novellas are back in the trunk. I’m still deep into art and illustration, but despite seeing steady improvement I’m far away from where I want to be and I expect I’m cursed to feel this way no matter how much drawing and painting I do.

Here’s what took my mind off turning 30 that let me wring some enjoyment out of troublesome times.

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Martha Wells has a talent for crafting a perfect first paragraph.

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It has been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays, and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure. (9)

That passage encapsulates the main character of All Systems Red (2017) far better than any summary I could give. (more…)

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Martha Wells wrote something called The Fall of Ile-Rien and it’s my big obsession now. The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, The Gate of Gods – remember those titles. I check in on r/fantasy on Reddit pretty regularly and it’s choked with discussions about the same fantasy series that are all by guys with beards and are all unfinished and now I’m wondering why they’re not talking about this, which is a complete trilogy with a satisfying ending and is pretty much perfect.

I mean this has wizards who dress in tuxedos or flower print dresses in a 1920s-ish kind of central Europe and there are sentient magical spheres and culture clashes with matriarchal tropical island people and there are airships, so many airships, and war and adventure and romance and portals between different dimensions and giant ruins from long-dead ancient civilizations, and it’s all just beautifully rendered and evocative and imaginative. But it’s not just the world(s), which are intricate and detailed and feel alive, but after reading so many books lately where the characters are all kind of nondescript reflections of each other, Martha Wells breathes life and personality into everyone; her characters are so well-formed and complex and distinct whether good or bad and watching them interact is a huge pleasure. But mainly there are sorcerers flying around in zeppelins and that’s exactly what I needed in my life right now.

So, The Fall of Ile-Rien: you should read it. I’m leaving everything vague because I really do want people to go in blind and enjoy it fresh. It’s all the good parts you remembered about 90s fantasy including the zeppelins. It is distilled excellence and me blabbering too much about it would ruin it. So just go and read it.

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