Monday, September 30, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

Local Author Fair

And so, this weekend the Palos Verdes Library District will hold two events where authors will speak about their respective works. On Saturday, author Edward Humes will visit us and speak about his book, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash.

And on Sunday, we will host a number of local authors to give them a chance to read their work, answer questions as part of panels, and sign their books. You can read all about it here.

I will be there as a moderator for one of our panels: The Thrillers and Killers panel. Its goal is to allow Mystery and Thriller novel writers a chance to answer questions about writing in this particular genre, and also about the plotting process--an element of fiction that is all-important in this genre.

I can tell you that I'm nervous and excited! There is something special about meeting the author of a novel you've read. I get to meet four at the same time and ask them questions about their work. I hope that as you read this, you will decide join us.

The event runs from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Attendance is free.

Here are the authors I will meet this Sunday, along with cover art for their latest novel.




Alone and grieving over his son, Detective Nicholas Faraday's nightmare is only beginning. When he's called to investigate a death at a country estate, a second victim collapses before his eyes and the swanky residents stop at nothing to resist the investigation. Only one person helps--Annabelle Dancer, who's immediately drawn to him. In what quickly becomes the most baffling case of his career, Nicholas struggles to fit together claims of "ghosts," an unshakable trance at a seance and "brain invasions." Are these hallucinations or tricks? Evidence points more and more to the unimaginable. As the killer masters a horrifying technique, Nicholas loses ground. In a frantic race to protect Annabelle and solve the crime before the killer strikes again, he's forced to rethink not only the case, but his grasp of reality itself. When Annabelle's mind becomes the battleground for the killer's showdown, she finds a key piece of the solution. This spurs Nicholas to set a trap with himself as bait. As the killer comes for him, he learns the shocking truth. How can he save Annabelle and defeat a killer who holds all the advantages?





Perhaps crime doesn’t pay. But doing nothing doesn’t either. Still, does any degree of abuse or mistreatment warrant fratricide—killing one’s own brother? Or, more precisely, half-brother? And when does old fashioned greed take over and disguise itself as simple ambition or self-preservation? Find out. Discover how the rock and roll bastard from Detroit, Nic Reilly, fights his way to the top of the record business and then loses everything, including himself—with most of it taking place during the implosion years of the file-sharing revolution as the music industry melts to the ground.





Captain Josie Corsino has selected Kyle Richards, a trusted and talented sergeant, to supervise a burglary task force in Hollywood Division. While working that special detail, Richards is involved in a fatal shooting. He's reluctant to be candid about his relationship with the man he killed and that leads not only to uncovering his mysterious past but exposing Josie's division to notoriety and a fiery assault.





A washed up trophy-wife, a recklessly ambitious cop, and one very ticked off Russian Mobster. Professional blackmailer John Sharp, AKA One Eyed Jack, is in the fight of his life, and engaged in a deadly cat and mouse game with his long-time nemesis. Surviving only by his cunning and street smarts, he must return to his painful past, and to the only person who can help him stop his arch enemy once and for all.





See you Sunday!



LC







Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Ides of October 2013

Wizards...

The Wizard of Santa Monica wasn't ready to go down. He fought well. Rather than mess with that any more, I waved my fist at him and ran to a different wizard, the one from Oxnard.

It is more manageable a story, although I had to delete all that I had from its previous incarnation.

But... New beginnings are fresh beginnings.

And to be honest, I can't really focus on this until I get done with Quantum in a few weeks.


Quantum vol 3!

I'm in the last stages of the copy-editing process of volume 3. Wow. It is really, really almost done.

And so, I settled on waiting until the week of October 15 to release The Quantum of the Past volume 3. That only makes me miss my original target of September 31 by two weeks. It gives me more than enough time to finish it and prepare the ebooks. And it prevents me from giving into that feeling of just getting it out of the way.

I will analyze the project as a whole, volumes 1, 2, 3, to see what lessons I can learn for future installments of that series. It was very interesting to do it this way, though I don't know that it would work for a project like Ascension.

But, more to follow on that thought...


October 2013

At last comes October. The Fall signals a few changes for me. I will be doing only writing. No revisions. No editing. No copy-editing.

I'm free to create!

I had hoped the summer would be my creating time, but alas, Quantum took my time.

My goals for October include: 1) Finishing three more Wizard stories; 2) Writing 10,000 words of Ascension; 3) Write two short stories for a workshop; 4) Prepare Quantum of the Past for Createspace.

Yeah. That's very ambitious. But the writing process is much, much different than working on a completed draft. Maybe I should post about that. Or not. There are few methods, theories, I am consciously aware of while drafting.


Have a Margarita for me!



LC


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Fractal Prince, a review

Here we are, at the end of the world. That was the feeling I had when I finished this book. I was pleasantly surprised by the climax and resolution, both showing innovations that I might later consider for my own work.

Of course, I am talking about The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi, the second part of a planned trilogy. But more on this novel later.

So far this week, I've been duking it out with Quantum volume 3, and the wizard of Santa Monica. By Saturday I will know for sure if I'm still on schedule for an October 1st release. I may just go for mid October because I am also duking it out with that nagging need to just get The Quantum of the Past off of my plate already so I can move on to other things!!!!!


***



Overview

Author: Hannu Rajaniemi

Genre: Science Fiction

Premise: After failing to regain his memories in the previous installment of the trilogy, Jean le Flambeur, legendary thief, must return to the planet Earth to steal a valuable "artifact" that will help his employer, and secure his freedom.


What didn't work for me

The premise makes this seem like a one man show, but The Fractal Prince shares its wealth well. There are so many story arcs here, that it may be difficult for some to keep up. I had no problem with it except that the author has the habit of just going from one point of view character to the other, mostly within the same chapter. It really makes it a chore to keep up. And just wait until you get to the last few chapters where there are several twists... I had to go back to The Quantum Thief to make sense of one of those twists.

With that said, the main difficulty I had with this book was its aggressive use of made up words. Granted, the author explains more about them this time around, but it is still overwhelming. In the previous review, I showed an example of what Mr. Rajaniemi could do. The prose is denser this time.

The world-building of the Earth city Sirr would be more than enough for any novel, but here it is added on top of the previous novel's world building. It boggles the mind for a while, trying to figure out if the effects described are science or not, like the athar (which I think Jean calls the spimescape--a concept from the previous book).


What worked for me

The novel considers the role of identity in this post-human world in a very entertaining way. There is the All-Defector and Jean, and Jean and Sumanguru, and the multiple Mielis, and the Founders and the Aun. Without giving anything away, these characters are and are not each other. Their role in the story is unique in that identity can be flexible in a way that allows for two different entities to have, and be, the same identity.

It is more philosophical, without being obnoxiously so.

I also loved the way Mr. Rajaniemi plays with this old idea: What if we were all the dream of a greater being?

He bring to life a science fiction version of the idea. But I won't steer you the wrong way; the end is not some cop-out where all the events turned out to be someone's cryogenic dream or something.

It is well done, and allows for a few twists at the end.

I also enjoyed reading the development of the characters of the previous novels. Jean is less a cartoon character, showing multiple signs of being an A-hole. And Mieli is more than just the vessel of violence she was in the previous novel. She has to make some tough choices that brute strength cannot solve. Jean and Mieli cross a line that shows how desperate they are to accomplish the mission if only to get what the goddess they work for promised.

For Mieli it is a reunion with Sydan, her female lover. For Jean it is freedom, from himself and his obsession.

And yet, the novel concludes that it is impossible to run from yourself. When your "essence" is digital information that can be uploaded into bodies, there are few chances to become someone else.

Also, beyond the plot points, the novel is beautifully framed by stories. At the beginning, Jean meets the main antagonist of the trilogy, Matjek Chen in a dream. Of course, in this world, a dream isn't simply a dream, it is a vir (virtual reality scenario) where these digital people can interact--at least that's how I understood it. During the meeting, Jean begins to tell him a story, using the first lines of the next chapter. And that's how it goes. The novel is the story Jean is telling Matjek in his dream.

Along the way, stories take on a very important role. They are traded, used as currency, and as a way to steal your body! Ouch!

They tell me the structure used mimics an older story, The Arabian Nights (Thousand and One Nights). I haven't read that. But the framework of stories adds a dimension to this novel that makes it stand apart from other novels in this genre I've come across. So far at least.


Overall

The surprising nature of this novel made me want to buy it, if only to understand it later. At no point did I think that the author was lost in his own world. I am sure that the author knows this place in and out. It read that way, even when there were confusing elements.

Overall, The Quantum Thief and the Fractal Prince are challenging novels. They are dense with science and ideas that, when explained, arouse a world of questions. The author answers few of these, so if you keep going, like me, it is only because you love a good challenge.







LC






Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Quantum Thief, a review

Sooo, this was a short week thanks to the Labor Day holiday. It didn't mean I got much work done, however. Actually, I deleted content more than I added it to the stories I'm working on!

Fortunately, I finished (finally) these two novels, The Quantum Thief, and The Fractal Prince, both by Hannu Rajaniemi. I had already read The Quantum Thief and reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads, but I gave it another go.

The experience was considerably different, much of the content making more sense the second time around. I enjoyed them so much that I returned them to the library and bought their ebook counterparts for my ipad.

***


Overview:

Author: Hannu Rajaniemi

Genre: Science Fiction

Premise: Part one of a trilogy in which the main character, a legendary thief named Jean le Flambeur, escapes from a Dilemma Prison to steal something for a goddess. Their first order of business, and the main plot of The Quantum Thief, is to go to Mars to get Jean's memories back, so he can become the Jean le Flambeur of legend.


What didn't work for me

Just look at the premise! One of the off-putting elements of this novel is its hardcore introduction to the science of its fictitious world. While reading the first few pages, you get hit with a paragraph like this one:

"They are in a q-dot bubble fourteen klicks above the Cleopatra Crater, a little pocket of humanity, sweat and sex on a rough precipice of Maxwell Montes. Sulphuric acid winds roar outside. The amber light of the cloud cover filtering through the adamantine pseudomatter shell makes Sydan's skin run copper. Her palm fits the contours of Mieli's mons Veneris exactly, resting just above her still moist sex. Soft wings flutter lazily in her belly."

Those wings in that last sentence are not metaphoric.

It is a strategy of Fantasy and Science Fiction to introduce fictitious elements in the author's world, terms, names, etc., in this way. There is enough action here mixed with unknown elements (either because of their fictitious nature or because they require an intimate knowledge of theoretical physics) to be able to cruise through it with a small amount of work.

The problem, for me, was that this happens page after page so that it slows your reading to a crawl. I was tempted throughout to look up some of the terms I knew to be science, like the q-dot. But I really wanted to appreciate this without having to do serious research. It made me quite envious of people who study physics.

The other element that gave me a hard time was the narration. The narrators flip between Jean's first person POV and a third person POV that follows the actions of other characters. Why we didn't just get a third person POV for everyone is beyond me. It wouldn't work if it was only Jean's first person POV since some of the action takes place super-fast time that he would be unable to perceive!

Honestly, having Jean's voice wasn't that much of an advantage. I think I could have appreciated the story just as well without it. Or at least if you're going to try to flip between a third person and first person POV, give us separate chapters. Sometimes, the changes happen within one chapter so that Jean's "I" suddenly is Mieli accessing her metacortex (don't ask me what that is right now).

Finally, this novel squanders many opportunities to do more than just tell a nice genre story. There is the post-human reality of multiple versions of the same being, replicas that are exact down to the quantum states of their minds, all of whom may or may not be linked to one another.

To fully appreciate what was going on, I had to read the novel twice. At last I figured out what happened at the end, with the memories. The story here is very complex and the author helps you very little.


What worked for me

Basically, the same things that worked for me last time.

The world building is magnificent. It is very well thought out, expertly mixing hard science with theoretical science and fiction. And although the information came at you very quickly and with little explanation, there was no doubt that the author had command of the subject matter.

Rajaniemi has an authorial voice that drips with confidence. You truly feel at all times that the world is air tight. Nothing feels impossible or far-fetched. That truly is an accomplishment with this kind of story.

One example of this magnificence is the Martian world of the Oubliette, their exomemory system, their Time economy, and Life/Quiet reincarnation cycles.

In Mars, Mr. Rajaniemi answers the question: What if there was a collective whole where the memories of everyone in society could be accessible to all, like the newsfeed off of any internet news website?

I can see that as the evolution of the world wide web. There are other innovations too, so many that I would need multiple blog posts about them.

Despite the missed opportunities to do more than tell a genre story, the author does include points that make the reader think.

For example, there is a form of immortality in Mars, different than the immortality of the god-like Founders who are in outerspace. But there is the burden of being yourself. The catch is you can't live forever as someone else. It is always you who wakes up after being reincarnated into a body (enhanced or not). This point is better explored in the more philosophical, The Fractal Prince.

And of course, there are the characters themselves. After reading The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince together, you gain an appreciation for the characters that I didn't get from just reading the first novel.

The climax was fuzzy the first time, but it was very well done. The split between Jean and Raymonde at the end adds a layer of complexity to this incarnation of Jean. Refusing to get his old memories and become the legendary thief is an unusual development, given that this is a post-human copy of a post-human copy, going far back to the time when there were actual flesh and blood people on Earth. It should be easier for the main character, but he never feels like a copy.

Overall:

Having a degree in physics and/or cosmology and/or (preferably) theoretical physics would sure enhance your experience with and possibly your understanding of The Quantum Thief.

But if you're willing to machete your way through scores of unfamiliar terms, exotic worlds filled with beings that are descendants of humans, then you can love this novel. It is lovable.

It's the kind of story that requires more than one reading. Just now, I looked at the first chapter again because something that didn't make sense before finally makes sense now that I read the second installment!

I have a feeling that when the third novel in the trilogy comes out, I will have to read all the books again. And one more time to understand them.

No regrets though, especially since I'm not a science fiction writer. Oh, boy, if I was, this would be one of those novels that you hate to read because the author does it so well.



LC