Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Microreview [tv series]: Crazyhead

This show misses...and not Misfits

                                                Image result for crazyhead show
Crazyhead is a show about the supernatural, with two women as the leads, from the creator of Misfits (a show I found strangely wonderful) and so I was definitely excited. What I got was a well-acted, sometimes clever, but mostly generic, and more unforgivably, really boring first season. 

The show centers on Amy, who works at a bowling alley and doesn’t seem particularly pleased with her life. She also happens to have the ability to see demons when they possess a person’s body (everyone else just sees them as looking normal). Amy is played by Cara Theobold—who does a terrific job portraying Amy’s sweet kind of fumbling nature that hides a well of pain and anger. Amy meets Raquel, who also can see the demons, after being attacked by a demon.  Raquel is played by Susan Wokoma, who is also excellent, and easily pulls off Raquel’s quick to anger, quick to joke personality that she seems to be using as a cover for the strangeness she has to endure in her life. Once the demons find out they can be seen, that Amy and Raquel are what they refer to as “seers,” they decide the problem has to be dealt with and it completely upends Amy’s life.

Okay, so the concept is great, it’s like Buffy. I’m in. Howard Overman’s previous series Misfits took a generic supernatural premise—average people getting super powers—and twisted it into something else entirely: what if the people getting the superpowers are young offenders doing community service? What if the super powers really sort of suck? That show was fast paced, hilariously funny, and exuberant in its willingness to embrace every bit of strangeness it could. Crazyhead on the other hand tries far too hard to do the same. The exorcism requires one of the women to pee on the possessed. A woman kicks a dead bunny body like a football. And none of it is funny.

The other main problem with the show is that it doesn’t feel at all surprising. If I’d never seen another show about the supernatural, maybe I would have loved the way demons are portrayed here. But after Buffy, Supernatural, and countless others, this seems like another go round on a playground that’s been grown out of.

In addition to the great cast, the show does have a great soundtrack as well and some inspired jokes. However, that’s not enough to make up for the fact that I seriously wanted to fast forward through most of the episodes to see if anything more interesting was going to happen (and I can handle a lot of boring periods. I watched all of season 9 of Supernatural, people).

So, for those looking for something as exciting and original as Misfits, look elsewhere.

The Math

Baseline Assessment: 4/10

Bonuses: +1 for acting, +1 for female friendship taking the center stage, +1 for its very cool title sequence

Penalties: -1 for dragging, -1 for one death that really irritated me

Nerd Coefficient: 5/10 "
problematic, but has redeeming qualities"


***

POSTED BY: Chloe, speculative fiction fan in all forms, monster theorist, and Nerds of a Feather blogger since 2016.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Nanoreviews: The Rise of Io, The Four Thousand The Eight Hundred, Everything Belongs to the Future



Chu, Wesley. The Rise of Io [Orbit, 2016]

It took a moment to really process how the change of Quasing from Tao to Io would impact the story being told, but I think it was a necessary decision. At this point, telling the story of Tao and Cameron Tan would be rehashing the original Tao trilogy as well as basically telling the story of James Bond. Io, on the other hand, is an unknown quantity as is her new host Ella Patel. The Rise of Io is as good as everything Chu has written, which is to say that it is quite good indeed. The deeper we get into the relationship between Io and Ella, the better the novel gets.
Score: 8/10



Egan, Greg. The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred [Subterranean Press, 2016]

A question of ethics: Is it acceptable to sacrifice the lives of a relatively few number of people in exchange for securing the safety of a larger group? Or, to reverse the question: Is it acceptable to risk the lives of a larger group of people in order to save the lives of a smaller group?

A question of ethics: At what point, if you feel that injustices were done towards your ancestors, are you and your generation due reparations?

These are some of the thought experiments Greg Egan weaves through his novella The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred. This is well done hard science fiction.
Score: 7/10




Penny, Laurie. Everything Belongs to the Future [Tor.com Publishing, 2016]

If I started this review just five days sooner, I'd have been able to write a full review.  But, I didn't, so I'll just tell you that Everything Belongs to the Future is one of my favorite of all of Tor.com Publishing's 2016 novellas. Top 5 for sure, and there were some damn good stories.  Laurie Penny's novella looks at a future where the secret to extending life has been unlocked, but it comes at a price - a very high price that only the rich can afford and everyone else is left farther and farther behind. But there are protests and opposition and betrayal and conspiracy.  We know early on that something significant occurred because the interstitials are letters from prison, but having an idea about the end does nothing to minimize the tension and intensity of the novella. Everything Belongs to the Future is stunning and simply excellent. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Score: 9/10


POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Writer / Editor at Adventures in Reading since 2004. Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2015, editor since 2016. Minnesotan.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Microreview [books] Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older




Every so often you pick up a book and before you even realize it the world around you has fallen away, you've been absorbed into the book, your reality no longer exists, and what you hold in your hands has taken over. Half-Resurrection Blues is such a book. Daniel Jose Older creates a world so seamlessly overlapping the world as we know it that I lost track of myself as I read.

I must admit, I am incredibly slow to jump on the Older bandwagon. I have been buying the books but have not had the chance to sit down and read them. Whew nelly, am I ever kicking myself now. Older is one of those rare authors for me where once I've read something, I want to, need to, seek out everything they've ever published and binge read all the things. Seriously, he is just that good.

It is more than just the story/plot. For one, Older manages to  layer his imagined world onto our existing one with such a deft touch that I felt I could be looking in on an actual reality. The characters are richly nuanced with depth and personality. 

You feel connected to these characters and want to know more. I am thankful the other three novels that make up the Bone Street Rumba series are already out because I will be reading them A.S.A.P.

And the writing. 

The. 

Writing. 

Older's writing is without a doubt some of the best from every angle. And this is part of why I am kicking myself for not making his books a priority sooner. His writing transports you in a way not many writers can. 

You don't feel like you're reading a book, you feel as though you've stepped into the room where things are actually happening. Dialogue is real and reflective of the society we live in. Description is not laborious or distracting. You won't find yourself skimming parts as he's made every word count.

I now realize I haven't even mentioned what happens in the book! I am so enamored with the execution and awesomeness of this book I jumped right into telling you why.

Carlos Delacruz is a half-dead/half-living agent for the New York Council of the Dead. Delacruz executes the orders of the Council without question until New Year's Eve when he is sent to kill another inbetweener like himself. After killing his target, Carlos begins down a path that will lead to the truth behind his past and the potential residing within himself.

It is a truly action-packed ride into a fantasy world you'll happily fall into.

Do yourself a favor, go buy this book!

The Math:

Baseline Assessment: 9/10

Bonuses: +1 For pure amazingness

Penalties:  -1 For you the reader if you haven't bought it already.

Nerd Coefficient: 9/10 "A roller coaster ride not to be missed."

***

POSTED BY: Shana DuBois--extreme bibliophile and seeker of raindrops.

Reference: Older, Daniel Jose. Half-Resurrection Blues [Roc Fantasy, 2015]

Our scoring system explained.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Morning Superhero

With the potential end of the world happening in the very near future I urge everyone to go read as many good comic books as you possibly can! There are so many good options out there for readers of all tastes.  Just this week I read about Kaiju (some may argue that point), Star Wars archaeologists, and torrid affair between a cat and bat.



Pick of the Week:
Monsters Unleashed #1 - If you need more of a reason to pick this title up beyond Cullen Bunn and giant monsters, I can't really help you.  Some unknown force has unleaded seemingly hundreds of giant monsters across the globe.  It is not clear why this is happening, but superheros in New York, London, and elsewhere are scrambling to save their homelands and fell these giant beasts.  Elsa Bloodstone, an archaeologist whose family has specialized in stopping threats like this for generations is frustrated because she knew this day was approaching, and fears that her expertise on this subject may not be enough.  This title is an absolute blast and highlights Bunn's ability to mix in his vast knowledge of all things monster related and his uncanny knack for sprinkling in humor where appropriate.  Really looking forward to where this series is heading.

The Rest:
Doctor Aphra #3 - Sticking with the theme of archaeology, Doctor Aphra finds herself properly finishing her dissertation with the help of her father.  She is not too happy about having to complete her research, which involves dealing with her father and trying to locate a hidden temple on Yavin.  With a nice distraction from Krrsantian, a psychotic Wookiee, and the assistance of my two favorite droids of all time, Triple-Zero and Beetee, Aphra and her father are able to infiltrate the former Rebel base and pull some Indiana Jones trickery to locate the temple.  While the story is entertaining, the side characters steal the show from Aphra.  From Krrsantian ripping off the blaster from an AT-ST and using it as his personal blaster, or Triple-Zero referring to Beetee as a very needy psychopath, the cast in this series always has a surprise up their sleeve that puts a big smile on my face.

Batman #15 - In the only disappointing book of the week, Batman explores his relationship with Selina Kyle in what was a mildly entertaining story.  I enjoyed the premise of Catwoman protecting a former friend of hers from the orphanage, but it is undone by the attempt at romance and the near nudity that feels very out of place.  I am not anti-nudity in some comics, but I will admit that the old man inside of me was upset thinking about the kids that will pick up a Batman title because it is Batman.  While I feel that this series is stumbling out of the gates with its new creators, it looks like we will get a new arc featuring Bane in issue #16 and hopefully things will pick up.



POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Problem Daughters: An interview with Djibril al-Ayad on a New Anthology



An upcoming anthology of speculative works around intersectional feminism.

Fans of thought-provoking SFF may already know of The Future Fire. They’ve published wonderful social-political and progressive fiction and poetry. (Please note for transparency: I’ve been published there, but there is no bias on my part as I was a huge fan before I ever submitted.)
Currently the publishing arm of Futurefire.net is working on an exciting new anthology, Problem Daughters: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy from the Fringes of Feminism. Here is the description of the project: “Problem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of color, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these.Currently, the anthology is working on fundraising and then will open for submissions.
I talked with the general editor of The Future Fire—who is also co-editing the anthology, Djibril al-Ayad, about the anthology and about the deep need for this type of anthology (especially right now).

Questions:
1. How did the idea for the anthology come about?

It began with a very informal online chat between Nicolette and Rivqa and myself (who have never met, and hadn’t even chatted often before that, although I admire both of their work) on definitions of feminism, including jokes and parlor-game style expositions like the Bechdel Test. This led to more serious criticisms of exclusionary feminisms, and what it would take to foreground those women who are marginalized by the mainstream: women in sex work, trans women, disabled women, women of color, women wearing veils or other markers of (non-Christian) religion, and others. Once we had drawn up our own inclusive, intersectional definition, it seemed a shame not to do something with it, so we expanded it into a Call for Submissions! We’re now fundraising to turn this into a professional paying anthology, and pretty confident that it will go ahead.

2. What is your editorial process like when you approach an anthology?

Every anthology I have worked on (this is the sixth) has been a collaboratively edited project, which for me is 90% of the fun. So we write the call for subs together, we plan the campaign (if we need to fundraise, or promote to reviewers and bloggers, for example), and we read slush together. Usually what happens is that we split submissions between us—once we’re sure we’re sufficiently on the same page to be able to filter out the 1/2 – 2/3 of stories that don’t really fit the call—and compare notes on those that we think are worth a second opinion. Anything we both/all unambiguously love goes into the shortlist, which is revisited at the end of the reading period. The shortlist usually ends up two or three times as long as the final table of contents has room for, so some hard decisions have to be made—not only based on quality, but also on fit to the theme, balance with other works accepted, coverage of the field as a whole, etc., and sometimes it is precisely those stories that one editor was lukewarm about, but another had a different experience or insight and talked them into realizing how wonderful and important they are, which prove to be the best fit and most impactful. Of course the hard work doesn’t stop there, we have to edit, typeset, negotiate contracts, send out review copies, format e-versions, copy-edit, promote, but that wasn’t what you were asking about!

3. Why do you think it's important to have an "intersectional anthology"?

The short answer is that any work or project that claims to be feminist or anti-racist or any other social justice focused should be intersectional, because marginalization and discrimination do not happen in a vacuum. In the words of Flavia Dzodan, “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” In my experience, the best stories—by any standard, including quality, sense-of-wonder, what have you—that were submitted to any of our previous anthologies on body politics, postcolonialism, disability issues or multilingual literature, were those that recognized and represented the intersection of identities, that you cannot talk about sex with out race and sexuality and class and language and disability and religion and education, and vice versa.

In the case of Problem Daughters what we will focus on in particular is those aspects of women’s identity that are often excluded from some aspects of mainstream feminism. Not only quietly including all marginalizations (which everyone should be doing anyway), but specifically challenging problems in that definition, such as insisting on stories in which trans women or disabled women are wholly and completely women, in which issues facing women of color or non-English speakers are important as those prioritized by white feminists, in which veil-wearing women or sex workers are not considered “enemies” of feminism.

4. In what ways can readers and writers help support the anthology?

Most importantly? Buy the anthology! Read it. Review it. Write stories or poems for it, and submit them when the CFS is open. We’re doing this project because we want great content and we want squillions of people to read them. In the meantime we need as many people as possible to support the campaign, which will help make the anthology happen and be as big and fabulous as possible (which has got to be a good thing whether you’re a reader or a writer…). Several ways you can do that:

        i.            Back the fundraiser (igg.me/at/problem-daughters). This is effectively pre-ordering the anthology, in e-book or paperback versions. If you want to support at a slightly higher level, there are also limited edition hardcovers, and other perks from our friends including art prints, jam, dolls, story or TV script critiques, and more.
      ii.            Boost the signal. We’re blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and otherwise spreading the word on social media and elsewhere, and every share, like and repost helps get it in front of more eyes. Ideally you will post about the campaign in your own words, so your friends know who it’s coming from. Most valuable of all is if you can send details to mailing lists or other fora that we haven’t reached at all yet. Your friends, your writing group, your scifi or feminist activism convention.
    iii.            Offer to interview the editors on your blog—or even better, for a wide-circulation site or magazine—host a guest post, or run some other kind of promotion for us. Round table discussions and chats are a good way to get some buzz going, as are games and contests if anyone has any ideas.

Any and all ideas welcome. Do get in touch!

5. What would you say are the ultimate goals for this book?

We’re a small press, so we’re realistic in that we know we’re never going to sell a million copies or hit the NYT bestseller lists, and the editors aren’t going to get a Hugo for this. The idea is and always was, as I said, to get as many people as possible reading, and talking, and riffing off the ideas, and being inspired to new projects, and looking for (or commissioning) more work from authors of their favorite pieces. It would be great if some of the stories were recognized in best-of volumes or award nominations (our authors from previous anthologies have had a few of these). Probably my favorite thing that has happened with these books is when we’ve been told that a college professor has assigned the book to be read by their students, which is kind of the ultimate endorsement! Of course all of these things are kind of side-effects, and in any case totally dependent on, the one thing that is in our control: making this as brilliant an anthology as we can, full of amazing and mindblowing stories that people want to read and then aren’t able to forget. I can’t want to start seeing them!

6. What question do you wish I'd asked and how would you answer it?

“What has been the best thing about working on this anthology project, Djibril?”

Well, I’m glad you asked me that, Chloe, because it has been an amazing experience so far, and I could talk about meeting so many wonderful authors, artists, editors, bloggers and others who helped us with getting the word out, or the eye-wateringly generous people who have backed the fundraiser (either financially, or by donating perks), or the Twitter followers who have responded to our discussions of intersectional feminism so positively and helpfully. But if I were to pick one thing, it would have to be the honor and pleasure it has been to work with and become friends with my co-editors Rivqa and Nicolette, who have been energetic, professional, knowledgeable, delightful, and most importantly (for the project) both bring unique perspectives and experiences on the theme, which will be essential for the process of reading submissions and editing stories, as I was saying before. We’re extremely fortunate to have them both on board, and—what a bonus!—we’re having a world of fun in the process!
***

It was a pleasure conducting this interview with Djibril—who has long been an extremely supportive and generous voice within SFF—and I can’t wait to read this anthology!
For more information on the editors:

Djibril is by night the dashing, queer general editor of The Future
Fire, by day a mild-mannered, bespectacled historian and educational
futurist. He previously co-edited the anthologies Outlaw Bodies, We
See a Different Frontier, Accessing the Future, TFF-X and Fae Visions
of the Mediterranean for Futurefire.net Publishing.
Rivqa Rafael is a queer Jewish writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent.

Nicolette Barischoff was born with spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. Her fiction has appeared in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Podcastle, and Angels of the Meanwhile. She regularly writes about disability, feminism, sex- and body-positivity, and how all these fit together. She’s been on the front page of CBS New York, where they called her activism public pornography and suggested her face was a Public Order Crime.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Microreview [books]: Children of the Drought Trilogy by Arianne 'Tex' Thompson



 I have been on a "weird western" reading kick as of late. I can't seem to get enough of them and love reading all the different takes authors have when they are pulling from the same core foundation. Arianne 'Tex' Thompson's Children of the Drought trilogy was recommended to me a few times via the Twitterverse and with the recent release of the final installment, I decided to jump right in for a binge read of all three.

The first book, One Night in Sixes, definitely wastes no time in setting up the main characters, Sil Halfwick and Appaloosa Elim, for a hard journey into Eaden territory, place neither have ever ventured. 

One Night in Sixes takes place over the course of an eventful few days where Elim, while trying to chase down Sil, manages to get himself into a heap of trouble after inadvertently killing a man. Their roles end up in reverse as Elim heads deeper into Eaden territory as part of his atonement and Sil finds himself trying to help Elim. 

I found myself in love with Elim's character as well as the secondary character, Dia, who comes to play a larger role in the next two books. The strength in the trilogy as a whole comes more from Thompson's character building than world building. More than once I found myself a bit confused about the world itself and how things came to be the way they were but I tried to let go of that and focus on the characters and their relationships.
 
 
Medicine for the Dead is the second book in the trilogy and finds Elim still on his journey through a'Krah territory towards the capital city, Atali'Krah. Accompanying the corpse of the man he killed and two a'Krah men tasked with getting them all there safely, Elim soon learns he will face new hardships and learn more about his true history than he ever thought possible.

Some of the world does become more clear in the second book but I came to think of it as background and was more interested in focusing on the characters and what could possibly happen to them next. There are demigods and multiple holy figures at work Elim is often faced with more than a language barrier; he is forced to confront his farm upbringing where he was purchased and raised as a stand-in son for a family far-removed from the native lands were he was birthed and stolen.

This second book deepens the character relationships, my favorite part of the entire trilogy. We are also given a broader look and understanding of the freshwater mereaux race of amphibious people and their relations with people living on both sides of the river.



In the final installment, Dreams of the Eaten, we find our various parties attempting to make their final push towards Atali'Krah. (I am leaving this vague specifically to avoid spoilers). There are trials to be faced at every turn and Elim finds himself nearly spent, of hope, energy, and the will to keep trying.

Elim and Dia, Vuchak and Weisei, Shea and Fours, all these individuals find themselves facing down their own history as they attempt to reconcile all the choices they've made and the people that shared in the consequences. 

Throughout the entire trilogy I felt the hope from each character that they could do better and be more. The heart of each book is found in the characters. However, the world itself could sometimes be a confusing mash-up of the actual history and language and soft shifting towards fantastical elements. 

The Math (for the trilogy as a whole)

Baseline Assessment: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for wonderful characters

Penalties:  -1 for a somewhat confusing world with a bit too much going on

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10 "Wonderful characters you'll want to spend more time with."

***

POSTED BY: Shana DuBois--extreme bibliophile and seeker of raindrops.

Reference: Thompson, Arianne 'Tex'. Children of the Drought [Solaris, 2014, 2015, 2016]

Our scoring system explained.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Microreview [book]: Gathering by Brian G. Turner

An empath, thief, martial artist, barbarian, blacksmith, cleric and time traveler walk into a bar...


I've been pretty checked out of second-world fantasy lately. I'm continuing with the series that I've started, but have felt little urge to start new ones. This happens periodically; fantasy is incredibly predictable, even for genre, and typically requires a massive page commitment to see a story through to the conclusion. So the idea of embarking on another 500,000 word quest to another restoration of the status quo is just...not that appealing right now. In all honestly, it's been a couple years since I was really excited about a new series.

That changed last November, when Brian G. Turner contacted me about reviewing his self-published debut novel, the first in his Chronicles of Empire series. I've known Turner for some time, as he is the proprietor of SFFChronicles and I have been a part of that community. Over the years the site has evolved the functionality of an online writers' workshop for its users, many of whom are published or aspiring authors. In that capacity, I have observed Turner posting sections of his work-in-progress, engaging in conversations on the craft of writing and narration, and posing big questions about fantasy tropes and conventions, good and bad. Knowing first-hand how deeply Turner has thought about this project, I was quite keen to see how the finished product turned out.

What I found is a highly enjoyable but somewhat uneven book--a roughhewn tale that could use some polish, but which also breaks the narrative mold in ways that feel fresh and exciting. As such, you could say that Gathering encapsulates both the promise and problematics of self-publishing. 

Gathering is the story of a motley group of companions gathered by the empath Jerine, who is contracted by Councilor Amberlin of Corianth (i.e. the Imperial capital) to investigate odd comings and goings in the city. In that capacity, Jerine's band stumbles upon warehouses packed with mysterious explosives. This, in turn, illuminates a series of interlocking conspiracies: to return an exiled religious figure, to topple the Empire and to alter the future by meddling in past (i.e. present) events. 

The time travel story marks Gathering, like Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, as an SF/fantasy mashup--a story that adopts the superficial guise of fantasy, but in which everything can be explained by some form of science or technology. The device works well, and feels natural to the world Turner has created.

Gathering is also notable for tying an epic story to the narrow scope and slow pace more commonly associated with sword & sorcery. In fact, Gathering is even narrower in scope, slower in pace and more keenly character-focused than most S&S. All of the companions--empath Jerine, her martial artist sister Tillerine, thief Sirath, barbarian Ulric, blacksmith Dalatos, cleric Erin and futureman Ezekiel--get their own perspective chapters, and by the end of the book we know them quite well. This, by itself, is not remarkable; but the fact that so little time elapses during the first third of the book, which is almost entirely set in an inn over the course of 24 hours, is quite an abrupt change from genre norms. Some might be turned off by this idea, but to me it was intriguingly different. Plus it's a fairly common approach in other genres and media, so why not fantasy?

Turner also plays with expectations for these characters. Ulric, the barbarian, hates violence. Dalathos, the rough-hewn blacksmith, is commonly (one might say bizarrely) mistaken for an aristocrat.* Sirath and Jerine, who at first seem like polar opposites on the scale of morality and ethics, develop an unexpectedly tender relationship that feels intuitive. And in general, all the companions are sympathetic and relatable. By the end of the book, I was deeply invested in what happens to them.

All of this gives Gathering a distinctive feel that contrasts with the standard form of traditionally-published fantasy. I suspect that, because of this, Gathering would have struggled to get past the gatekeepers at most literary agencies and imprints. But by breaking with genre conventions on how narrative is structured, Gathering reminded me that fantasy can still be surprising and unpredictable. This is the promise of self-publishing, and a major reason why it has caught on with readers.

There are other notable aspects of Gathering. The action scenes are all very well done, capturing the surreal confusion of violent events in vivid color. And the world of Gathering is well rendered. I particularly liked the political map of Corianth. It is ostensibly ruled by an Emperor, but in reality there is a carefully maintained but inherently unstable balance between several competing factions, each with their own means of violence.

Nevertheless, Gathering still feels like it would have benefitted from the longer and more systematized editorial process that traditional publishing provides. There are too many changes of perspective in the first third of the book, making it difficult to keep all the characters straight and inhibiting flow. Among the companions, I thought that the Sirath, Tillerine and Ezekiel chapters were strongest, and the Erin and Ulric chapters weakest. Actually, I could have done without the Erin chapters altogether, as I found they distracted from the main plot points; more than once I wondered if they might have worked better if integrated into other characters' perspective chapters.

There are also maybe 5 or 6 non-companion characters who get their own perspective chapters, but really only Rodrigan and Molric (i.e. the big bads) are essential. There's nothing wrong with the others, per se--some, standing on their own, are quite good. It's just that the sheer number of perspective characters created some reading fatigue issues for me. I would have preferred pruning the number by about a quarter to a third.

Similarly, despite the potential described above, the political intrigue storyline never quite gelled for me, and would have benefitted from more exposition of the allegiances and alliances, which are vital to understanding the implications of events, but often feel obscure to the reader. And there are several plot twists, related to this storyline, that feel unintuitive and out of the blue given what has been revealed. As such, this is another area where Gathering could have benefitted from structural simplification, as well as better pacing in terms of how information is delivered to the reader.
    
In the end, though, none of this detracted from my enjoyment of Gathering. It's a really fun book that feels fresh in many ways, and features great characters in a compelling world. And it passes the ultimate test for the opener in a fantasy novel: were it already available, I would have immediately started the sequel!

*This does strain believability at times, like when actual aristocrats fall for the ruse. But mostly it works, and sets up some neat plot points.


The Math

Baseline Assessment: 7/10.

Bonuses: +1 for unusual but effective pacing; +1 for great, likable characters

Penalties: -1 for ...but there are too many of them with perspective chapters; -1 for ...and the pacing doesn't work as well on the political intrigue storyline as elsewhere.

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10. "An enjoyable experience."

***

POSTED BY: The G--purveyor of nerdliness, genre fanatic and Nerds of a
Feather founder/administrator, since 2012. 


Reference: Turner, Brian G. Gathering [Brite, 2016]

Our scoring system explained