East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A great novel, and dignity


First things first: I am reading a great novel, and you should read it too. Because it’s a great fantasy novel from a good writer, and because it’s the sort of Eastern-themed sword & sorcery that if you are reading these pages you’d probably like.
Also, for a few days it’s priced at 99 cents on Amazon.

The book is called Never Die, and was written by Rob J. Hayes. Five champions are called back from death to help the God of Death settle a score with an impossible-to-kill enemy.
Just dig the cover.

Yes, I know.
Go buy it, and read it.

Rob Hayes’ book made a huge impression on me.
As I said, I like the story, the setting and the characters a lot. The writing is great, crisp and direct while still being beautifully evocative.
This is a great fantasy story.
I am also impressed and humbled by the presentation (yes, that cover again), because this is a self-published book – indeed, it is one of the ten finalists in Mark Lawrence’s 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
This is a very high quality book, and it’s a fantasy.

Something I am seeing here in my country – I do not know if it’s the same out there – is an awful lot of sub-par fantasy being cheered as edgy or innovative for one of two reasons: it’s either blood&guts “grimdark” or it’s all-out farcical, hinging on very low comedy.

Now of course there’s nothing wrong if that’s what rocks your boat, and yet I would like to see my favorite genre… well, one of my favorite genres, being taken seriously.
Which does not mean not doing comedy, or being dark and gritty, or employing low themes and settings.
It means recognizing the dignity of the genre.
I am very worried about the dignity of fantasy fiction in my country, as the field is polarized between high-brow readers philosophizing about elven metaphysics (in Quenia script, of course) and party-hard frat-boys that want boobs and gore and jokes about setting farts on fire – in both cases, people that seem to be ashamed of showing a serious interest in the genre for what it is and what it does. A genre that, in the meantime, is seen by some as an opportunity for some quick-and-dirty political propaganda.

It’s for this reason that when I find a solid, well-executed fantasy book that takes itself seriously, like Never Die, I feel really good.
Because this is a work of someone that loves the genre and is not ashamed of it, and does not need to hide behind excess for fear of being mocked for being a fantasy writer.
This is a sign of dignity, and of a mature environment, and I long for those.

Thankfully, it’s still relatively easy finding good books by good writers out there.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “A great novel, and dignity

  1. Sometimes it happens, but I’ve already seen this book somewhere along with other books included in Mark Lawrence’s self-published fantasy blog-off.
    It was in a flowchart, “Intro to Self-Published Speculative Fiction”, from the site “Fantasy Inn”


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