Fascinatin' Rhythm

March 28, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thurulingas @ 1:59 pm
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ImageImageDaniel Suarez: Daemon and Freedom

A reclusive genius dies, leaving his massive online gaming empire behind, and kickstarting a chain of events that will lead to the end of economies and possibly the fall of civilisation as we know it.

At least, that’s the premise.  And it starts promisingly, with a slow burn introduction as disparate threads of the plot are introduced.  We meet the hard-bitten cop who doesn’t really understand the crime he’s investigating; the amoral killer who might just be redeemable; the grasping starlet who’ll do anything to keep herself in the spotlight; and the star of the show, the reclusive dead genius himself, who becomes something of a literal deus ex machina throughout the course of the two books.

What is remarkable about the unfolding plot is the sense of bitter rage directed at our current economic system, and our helplessness to do anything about it.  The two books act as a crì de coeur for the world’s population to take back control of our systems of governance and our tools of economic prosperity, but not by anything so simple as a return to wholesome material production.  No, the vision of a new system that Suarez reveals little by little is one heartlessly egalitarian.

If it’s not obvious, I hugely enjoyed these books.  Despite some moments of wince-inducing villainy (and stupidity), the plot unfolds engagingly, giving us heroes (yay!) and villains (boo!) but not making them quite so clear-cut as all that.  For the most part, the villain of the story is apathy.  The two novels act as a potent restorative against that particular malaise.

February 10, 2014

Strong as Steel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thurulingas @ 3:02 pm
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The Alloy Of Law -- cover image

Brandon Sanderson: The Alloy Of Law

 

 It has taken me a while to get to this novel, a follow-up to Sanderson’s acclaimed Mistborn trilogy, which, while rough around the edges, still delivered some rip-roaring fantasy action while also being heavy on the interesting-magic-system shenanigans so popular these days with, er, Brandon Sanderson.  (Among others, but Sanderson is definitely in the forefront of them.)

He has taken his story in a direction many fantasy authors, especially those with large-scale mediaeval settings in their past, have shied away from: the industrial fantasy, complete with gunslingers and the beginnings of mechanism.  Of course, Sanderson’s world-building in Mistborn, with his metal- and alloy-based magic system, lends itself particularly well to such a development, and one of the many attractions of this novel was in seeing what Sanderson could do with it.

His tin ear for character names rears its head once again, however (“Waxillium”, really?) but aside from this, the story is engaging if lightweight.  The villain of the piece is only slightly more than two-dimensional, but serves as an adequate foil for the hero.  It might have been more interesting for the initial villain we encounter to have been more than a simple harrowing encounter and nightmare fuel for pages to come — he was reminiscent of Pratchett’s serial killer in Night Watch — but alas, no.  Instead we have a scarcely believable slide from moral probity to moustache-twirling, monologuing antagonist to Waxillium(?)’s hero.  The best character moments come in the interactions with the love interest Marasi, who should be played by whichever English actress comes closest to Rachel Weisz of The Mummy vintage in the movie.  She has the same academic focus, a superficially narrow competence which suddenly broadens out to encompass all sorts of applications, and an endearing self-deprecating heroism which really made her shine for me.

The heist-caper plot was fun, if again lightweight, but then Sanderson had said explicitly in the pre-publication publicity for this novel that it had turned out much lighter than he had expected.  If he revisits the world again (which fans fully expect him to), then he has certainly laid lots of groundwork here for further exploration.

 

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