To Trade the StarsYesterday I finally had time to finish reading To Trade the Stars, the final book in Julie E. Czerneda’s “Trade Pact Universe” trilogy. Now I’m ready to pick up The Briar King again, since the final book of Greg Keyes’ fantasy quartet, Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, comes out at the end of the month. When the second book came out, I didn’t reread the first. But when the third book came out, I found it extremely helpful to reread the first two books.

The Born QueenI was hoping to time things so that I’d be done with The Blood Knight just in time to pick up The Born Queen, but I was in the middle of the Trade Pact books and didn’t want to break up the trilogy. Then there was the trip to San Francisco, WonderCon, and New Frontier, and I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to post things while they’re still current.

On a related note, I stumbled across Ringworld’s Children in Borders the other day. I read a lot of Larry Niven in college, mostly the classics plus a few from the 1990s, but after The Burning City bored me to tears—I never finished it, which is rare for me—I stopped following his new releases. I’m going to have to return to Ringworld at some point, though.

Species Imperative: SurvivalJulie E. Czerneda — read the Species Imperative trilogy in October and was very impressed. To read: 2 trilogies, 1 stand-alone, start of a new series. I think I’ll pick up the first book in the Trade Pact Universe next.

MindscanRobert J. Sawyer — read the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy a year or two ago, and more recently Calculating God. Currently reading Mindscan. His work tends to be social science-fiction: if X technological advance occurs, or Y scientific principle is discovered, what impact will that have on society? To read: 9 more stand-alone novels and a trilogy. Could take a while.

ChronolithsRobert Charles Wilson — read Chronoliths, Darwinia and Bios within the space of a few months of each other, maybe around 5 years ago. To read: 10 novels.

Strangely enough, looking them up I’ve discovered that all 3 of them are Canadian.

Also: Two authors I’d really like to see more from:

Briar KingGreg Keyes — I was introduced to his work through his Babylon 5 novels (back when he was writing as J. Gregory Keyes), then went on to track down his own work. The Age of Unreason cycle is also quite good, and I’ve previously reviewed The Waterborn and Blackgod. At this point, I’ve read every novel he’s published. The Born Queen comes out in March, finishing the 4-book Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone cycle, which means I need to start re-reading the first three books next month.

American GodsNeil Gaiman — dark fantasy, mythic fantasy, whatever you want to call it. Discovered through Sandman (yeah, big surprise). My favorite of his novels is probably either American Gods or Neverwhere. Need to track down more of his short stories, though.

I’ve previously mentioned that Gaiman and Keyes are the only authors whose work I’ll immediately pick up in hardcover, no questions asked.

Update: A year later, how’d I do?

The Blood KnightSorry I haven’t posted much here lately. The main reason is that I’ve been re-reading Greg Keyes’ Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series before picking up The Blood Knight. (I’ve also been spending time at the Comic Bloc Forums discussing the Flash relaunch.)

Re-reading The Briar King and The Charnel Prince both followed the same pattern: I read half of the book over the course of the week, then finished it on the weekend. I started the new book, The Blood Knight on Saturday morning and basically spent the weekend on the couch reading. About ¾ of the way in I realized acutely that, no matter how fast I read it, there would still be one book left when I finished.

It’s funny, when I first read The Briar King I didn’t like it much. I think mainly I was expecting something less steeped in medieval Europe (based on The Waterborn and The Blackgod). I picked up The Charnel Prince anyway, and liked it much better, and quite enjoyed The Briar King when I reread it.

One thing that’s unusual about this series is that there’s no Merlin figure. No Gandalf to show up in the first few chapters and explain what the Ring is, who wants it, and what has to be done with it. No Moiraine to explain who the Forsaken are, and what it means to be the Dragon Reborn. All the characters are pretty much figuring things out as they go. And they make mistakes—pretty nasty ones in some cases.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Greg Keyes and Neil Gaiman are the only authors whose work I will buy in hardcover, sight unseen. Looking at Keyes’ website, I realized that I actually own a copy of every book he’s published. There aren’t too many authors I can say that about.

Only 1½ years until The Born Queen

J. Gregory Keyes has fast become one of those authors whose work I will pick up knowing nothing more than who wrote it. I enjoyed his work in the Babylon 5 and Star Wars universes, but after reading the four novels of The Age of Unreason and these two, I can say I’ll definitely be picking up The Briar King when it comes out in January.

Now, The Age of Unreason is probably Keyes’ most well-known work to date. (If the title doesn’t sound familiar, chances are you’ve heard of the first novel, Newton’s Cannon). It takes place in an alternate Eighteenth Century in which Isaac Newton discovered the key to alchemy, transforming the world with new technology… and setting off an arms race of sorts. What begins as an alternate history becomes an epic battle for the future of the world, and ultimately of humanity itself.

While I’d recommend someone curious about Keyes’ writing start with Newton’s Cannon, I’d like to call attention to his earliest published novels, The Waterborn and The Blackgod, collectively known as The Chosen of the Changeling.
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