the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘quest

Nearly a week into January and I’m just now getting up my first Vintage Science Fiction post? What is the world coming to?  Thank you to everyone who is participating in Vintage Science Fiction Month, make sure you link back to your posts in the comments of the Vintage Scifi tab up top so everyone can find everything.  On twitter? follow @VintageSciFi_ and #VintageSciFiMonth for Vintage goodness all month long!

I may have gotten started a little late, but wow this first novel I read for Vintage Month was incredible!!

Nova, by Samuel R. Delany

published in 1968

where I got it:  from Richard at Tip the Wink

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Mouse grew in up a traditional culture that didn’t encourage pilot training or getting cybernetic plugs.  Raised in the school of hard knocks, he often stole to eat. His prized possession is a rare musical instrument that produces not only sound but also images and scent. Lorq Von Ray’s youth was the opposite of Mouse’s in every possible way. A child of wealth and privilege, he knew from a young age he’d be inheriting a business that controlled half the transportation of the known galaxy.

 

When an aged, scarred, and obsessed Captain Von Ray plunges into a portside bar looking for a crew for a trip that if successful could mean fame, infamy, societal disruption, or more likely death for everyone involved, Mouse signs up.  The Captain doesn’t explicitly say this is a trip designed around a long game of revenge, but those who listen closely, those who know where that disfiguring scar came from, they know.

 

What is Nova?  It is a quest story, a revenge story, a coming of age story, it’s the edge of every ending simply being another beginning. It sounds overweight and dangerously ambitious, but it reads smooth and weightless. The plot feels narrow at first, but it expands like a light cone,  pulling in what it needs, and easily setting aside what it doesn’t.  And there is plenty in this book that isn’t in this book  – what I mean by that is Delany has put a lot of subplot between the lines. The glances characters give each other, the words they don’t use.  It’s hard to believe this novel is less than 250 pages long!

 

The plot never sprawls, but the possibilities of everything else that happens and may happen to these characters just outside the confines of this story are endless.   The main characters are fully fleshed out, and even side characters are given just enough screen time that you start filling in the blanks of their lives yourself. For instance, I know there is so much more to Tyy, and I’d love to learn more about the twins and their other brother.

 

I loved everything about Nova, I don’t even know where to start talking about it. So I’ll just start, and hopefully this all makes sense.

 

Von Ray’s rag-tag crew is a lot of fun, they put me in mind a little bit of the TV show Farscape. Mouse and his shipmate Katin are perfect foils for each other, Katin reminds me of one of the nerdy guys on The Big Bang Theory, Mouse is the wide eyed kid going on his first Star Run. These two bond over being the least strange members of Captain Von Ray’s  crew.

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This is a most unusual book review, because I am not going to tell you the name of this book, the name of the author, or the year the book was written.  You don’t get any cover art either.  We all judge books by their covers and all that, so I’m curious what everyone’s thoughts will be if I tell you everything you need to know about the book except what you’d see on a bookstore shelf. A deliberate experiment, if you will. And don’t worry, I’ll reveal the author and cover art in a few days.  For those of you who recognize this book, or think you do, please, please don’t reveal the book’s title in the comments.

 

Are any of you familiar with the anime TV shows Sword Art Online or  Log Horizon? In these shows, gamers get transported into the world of their MMO video game, and have to survive. This book has a similar, if simplified premise. A bunch of college kids are in a table-top Role Playing Game club, with a professor as their game master.  I won’t get into the how’s or why’s, but the professor is able to transport the students to the fantasy role playing world, and the students have to survive. What’s really neat here is that while everyone comes through into the fantasy world as their characters (a cleric, or dwarf, or thief,  etc) and with the skills and attributes (strength, speed, dexterity, etc) from their character sheet, they also retain all their knowledge and morals from the real world. One woman depends on her real world travel experiences to help her haggle with traders, there’s even some “innovative” WWF style fighting moves that no one else in the arena had ever seen.

 

At it’s heart, this is a coming-of-age fantasy quest story . The goal is to find the gate between worlds, so they can get home to the real world. But, as we learn, not everyone wants to go home.  Sure, home has modern dentistry, and cars, and our parents, and health insurance. But one guy, if he goes home, the only thing waiting for him is his wheelchair and people pitying him. Here, in the fantasy world, he can walk. He can do all the things he can’t do at home. Another character, this is the first time in his life he’s respected for his knowledge and abilities. If he goes home, it’s back to being the guy everyone makes fun of.   It was neat, how some characters abandon their real world  first names right away to only go by their fantasy role play character names, and how others never take on their characters names because they don’t want to be these fantasy world characters, and how others have an internal conflict as to who they are because they have a compelling reason to be a little bit of both.  The author presents the character’s inner conflicts with subtlety. The author doesn’t shy away from tough subjects either. Like another very popular series, main characters die – usually in shockingly awful ways.

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Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear

Published in 2012

where I got it: Library

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Would you just look at that cover art? I would have a poster of that artwork on my bedroom wall in a heartbeat.

Strong female characters who kick ass without having to give up an ounce of their femininity? check. Creepy bad guy? check. A protagonist you actually want to root for? check. Worldbuilding that goes the extra mile? check. Mythologies that come alive on the page? double check.  Everyone is going apeshit over this book, and for good reasons.  If anything I mentioned earlier in this paragraph got your attention, Range of Ghosts is probably a book for you.

Our story starts on a battlefield within the Khaganate lands, where Prince Temur has been left for dead. Under The Eternal Sky, a tiny moon shines for every heir. Once, there were over a hundred. But the great Khagan died, and his heirs fight for his throne, shattering alliances and slaughtering brothers, sons, friends. As Temur looks to the Eternal sky, fewer and fewer moons remain. His brother’s moon has gone dim, but his uncle’s still shines bright.

After leaving the carnage of the battlefield, Temur heads for the safety of the mountains, and meets up with the refugee clans of his people. Many of the families lost all their young men in the battles, so a young man of marriageable age is far more valuable to them than a prince. Happy to live out his life as a simple man, Temur wisely keeps his mouth shut regarding his lineage, and is soon unofficially betrothed to Edene, the great granddaughter of a clan matriarch.  When Edene is stolen away by the ghosts of the battlefield slain, Temur vows to rescue her.

As the Khaganate falls under the weight of too many heirs, far to the West someone is breeding filth. Through the dark arts of a glass book, the Al-Sepehr has learned the magics of binding the dead to his will. The more deaths in the Khaganate lands, the larger of an army of dead he will have under his power. All that is left is to sew more and more discontent and anger among the few remaining heirs to the Khaganate.  Why fight a war of territory with your barbaric neighbors when you can make them kill themselves for you?

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Published August 2011

Where I got it: Library

Why I read it: Heard it was nerd heaven!

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In the future, everything is online, in the OASIS. What exactly is the OASIS? Think Second Life meets World of Warcraft meets Star Wars Force Unleashed meets The Sims, meets any other online sim or MMORPG you can possibly think of. OASIS isn’t just a game, and it isn’t just a sim. It’s an online space where everything happens: schooling, gaming, business transactions, and of course all the fun stuff that gaming is all about: PvP, leveling up, space travel, planet creation, armor, character design, and awesome weaponry. In OASIS, your avatar can fly the Serenity, land on Gallifrey, and listen to Klingon Opera all afternoon, or do any one of a billion other activities.

In the year 2044, humanity is happy to live their lives online, as the Earth is pretty much a mined-out shithole anyways.  Wade Watts lives online just like everyone else. He’s orphaned, desperately trying to finish high school, and hasn’t a penny to his name. But he has got a free internet connection thanks to his online OASIS based high school.

James Halliday, the creator of OASIS left nothing to chance.  He may have had the social skills of an unplugged toaster oven, but he was a brilliant programmer, and designed his online world to be free, accessible, and open source. An online playground where everyone was welcome and everything was possible. He wanted to make sure people like Wade had hope that life could be better than living with an abusive Aunt in the world’s worst trailer park.

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The Mountains of Majipoor, by Robert Silverberg

written in: 1995

where I got it: library

why I read it: Silverberg rocks my world.

On my last library jaunt, I was hoping to find Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, or Majipoor Chronicles. Alas, the library only had the third book in the series, Valentine Pontifex. And who wants to read just the third book? I’ve read them all, but I wanted to start at the beginning. Then I happened upon The Mountains of Majipoor, a stand alone that does take place on the massive planet of Majipoor, many generations after Valentine. How could I say no?

Thanks to an innocent accident in his youth, young Prince Harpirias finds himself banished from the Castle Mount, given a useless bureaucratic post out on the edge of civilization.  Slowly losing contact with his friends, and realizing his hometown has forgotten him, he becomes bitter and angry.

The quest part of the story comes along fairly quickly when Harpirias learns that an archaeological team of scientists has been taken hostage by an even further northern tribe. At first angry that responsibility to save the team falls on him, Harpirias soon realizes if he negotiates the release of the scientists, he can look forward to a Hero’s welcome back home at the Castle Mount.

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 Assassin’s Quest is the third book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer series. Click on the titles to read my reviews of the first two books in the series, Assassin’s Apprentice, and Royal Assassin.

If you haven’t read those books, but plan to, you want to skip this blog post because there are major spoilers ahead.

You’ve read the entire Farseer series and what to see if we have similar opinions on the final book, Assassin’s Quest? hook up w/me after the jump!

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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