Heart of Iron, by Ekaterina Sedia.
I should preface this by saying I’m only thirty pages along, with nearly three hundred to go; at the same time I’ve so far been impressed.
Beautiful, beautiful writing and turn of phrase. It’s set in an alternate history steampunk setting, and the world building is impressive. More than that, though, there is a subtle delicacy to Sedia’s representation of politics and society that really hits home. She could still disappoint me later, but I’m hopeful.
… Why are the writers with the best prose so often also the writers with the worst plot? Pacing, Ms. Sedia, pacing! And stop making all your minor characters secretly bright intellectuals, pretty please?
So. Stabbing myself in the ankle– not fun.
Less fun: finding out that while I can handle my own blood without a problem, seeing the bits of me under the blood and skin makes me go faint. Fun fun fun. I feel like such a… girl.
Besides that, I found a book at the store the other day– The Seven Basic Plots: why we tell stories. I’ve only gotten through page 40 (out of ~700), but so far it looks like an exceptional read for anyone who’s really interested in literary theory. I’ll be posting my full thoughts here when I finish / throw the book across the room.
Also, I’m kicking my crappy rough draft about. About 1000 words written today, nearly the same number written last night.
It’s been established that I’m going to be working on a magical-steampunk sort of setting for NaNo. And I’m really excited– I love the style, the ideas, the flavor I’ve got in mind…
… But it occurs to me now that I don’t read much steampunk.
In fact, the only steampunk that I’m really familiar with are in webcomics. Namely, Girl Genius (great, fun comic, though its creators use the term ‘Gaslamp Fantasy’), and the more serious, violent Freak Angels, which is post-apocalyptic steampunk. The Phoenix Requiem is Victorian-style fantasy, but not at all ‘punk’, so though it’s a great story, I don’t think that it counts (obviously we need more mad science). Some of the Final Fantasy games also fall into this category, though loosely.
So. In an effort to delve a little more into the genre, does anyone know any really good steampunk novels that they’d like to recommend? Plot and humor-wise, Girl Genius is very suited to my tastes. I know my plans bastardize the genre a little as I also have a magic system.
I can’t really review my latest read, as I’m only just a third of the way through it. So I thought that I’d heap some glowing praise for what I have finished. It’s just that good.
The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
This is one of those novels that I can’t actually read through in a day. Not for its length (though it is a good five hundred page long book), but because I have to put the book down at least once a chapter to digest it.
Wonderful characters. Amazing violence. Fantastic intrigue. And sortof funny, in a way that makes my perverse heart squee with joy. If anything can take the edge of of my Martin kick, it’s this guy.
Here’s hoping it ends well.
… Or not.
(No spoilers in the comments, please!)
There are probably a dozen things I love and admire about this novel, so I’d thought I’d take a moment to share some of my thoughts on the book.
The contrast is lovely. It’s everywhere you look around the book: the main characters wear gray (grey?) in an over-garish, over-sexed, obscene, vulgar world that feels like an embellishment of Hollywood-weirdness, and there’s a definite fight for modesty and good taste against their culture. It marks the dividing line between the protagonists and antagonists. Similarly, in a world where having sex in public is actively indulged in, lauded, the main characters have a real love without ever having touched each other. The novel makes a huge distinction between love and lust, and the understated intimacy is deeply romantic. It drives the story.
The plot is gripping. There’s no down-time, no wasted speech, no preaching. Each scene is a logical follow-up of the last, and I never struggled through any passages. Everything that happened seemed logical and sequential. It is, however, highly stylized. I can understand if the narrative isn’t for everyone– for instance, characters and places tend to be described by fashions because that’s what the hero notices. He’s very speculative, and he likes imagery, and though sometimes the magazine he loves seems overly ‘artistic’ and full of hidden meanings, again the contrast with the rest of the culture really does make it sound appealing.
My favorite stories are the ones that make me think. They leave me mulling over the events afterward like a fine dinner in a nice restaurant. This one accomplished that, and though I found this as a free downloadable e-book, I’m eager to buy it so it can find a nice home on my shelf. I’ll see if I can order it from my bookstore. If that fails, Nightshadebooks.com has it, and I’m no stranger to buying books online.
It’s also given me several ideas about how to better convey culture in my own writing. Color me inspired.