Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Leave a comment

Escaping the pull of the past

A lot of people I know are re-reading old books. About two hours ago, I caught a vlog from an old friend, about how he’s re-reading some old Terry Brooks, because there’s nothing new that he finds attractive.
he probably read too much fantasy way back when, he said, and today’s offer is only urban fantasy or paranormal romance, and he does not care about that.

And I thought… really?

And do not get me wrong – I am pretty sure much of what’s being translated in my country right now is drivel, but the idea that “there’s nothing new” still makes me cringe.
There is good stuff out there – like, in cartloads.
And of course, as my poor mom used to say, “if you never read it before, it’s new”, and I’m all for reading what we missed in the past, and enjoying it.
But re-reading because there is nothing new?
Sorry, no.

We must resist the pull of the past, because I think that’s a sure sign we are getting old and losing our curiosity and our spirit of adventure. Maybe it’s because as we age, we do not feel like wasting time anymore, and we are scared at the idea of sacrificing a week for a bad book – a week nobody will ever give us back.
But being alive means looking for new things.

So I thought I’d point out a few titles I found very interesting recently.
Just for the sake of discussion.

  • Linda Nagata – Stories of the Puzzle Lands.
    Two novels in a single volume, that put a nice spin on a lot of classic tropes, and might take you by surprise, but in a very pleasant way.
  • Gareth Hanrahan – The Gutter Prayer.
    First in a series, good if you want to find the thrill of those old D&D games, and you like intrigue and urban settings.
  • P.W. Lewis – Kung Fu Fighting Vampire Mermaids.
    You know you are going to read this one just because of the title. And the cover art. But it’s fun, and weird and… weird.
  • Rob J. Hayes – Never Die.
    One of the best books I read this year. Oriental sword & sorcery, great characters, great story.
  • Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda – Monstress.
    This is a comic book, but it’s absolutely amazing.

So there you have it – fantasy is alive and well, and says Hi! to us all.


6 Comments

My very own canon

There’s been a lot of talking about “the canon”, after the recent meltdown at the Hugo Ceremony. You know, this idea that there is a big fat backlong of science fiction and fantasy books you just have to read to “get into” the genre. Books that act as gateway, and form the backbone of our genre of election.

The problem with all canons is that they tend to fossilize, and also can exert a sort of gravitational pull. There’s “canons” for everything, from jazz and rock’n’roll to movies to recipes and comic books.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Triple treat: At the Table of Wolves

If you are reading my blog you know there are a number of things that interest me: pulp fiction old and new, adventure, science fiction and fantasy, history, occasionally comics, caper movies, espionage…
“The kid has too many interests,” as the teachers used to write in their final evaluation … indeed, I was in the third year of university when a teacher levelled at me the old “too many interests” mark of infamy.

But it has worked out fine so far, and sometimes a number of interests of mine collide, and it’s a lot of fun. Case in point, Kay Kenyon’s 2017 novel At the table of wolves, that I have kept on my nightstand for a few months now, and finally started reading seriously at the start of the week, going through it at a fair clip.

Continue reading


4 Comments

Lunch break at the Outpost

Today was another good day – I mailed a translation and a chunk of gaming-related material, and then I did some improvisational cooking to put together some lunch. As I was eating, I checked out the first two episodes of a series I did not know, called The Outpost.

Let’s pilfer the summary from Wikipedia:

The Outpost follows Talon (Jessica Green), the lone survivor of a race called ‘Blackbloods’. Years after her entire village is destroyed by a gang of brutal mercenaries, Talon travels to a lawless fortress on the edge of the civilized world, as she tracks the killers of her family. On her journey to this outpost, Talon discovers she possesses a mysterious supernatural power that she must learn to control in order to save herself, and defend the world against a fanatical religious dictator.

Oh, my…

Continue reading


4 Comments

Elves and revolution

Never liked the guys myself.
Elves, I mean.
Certainly the responsibility rests mostly with Tolkien, but really it was playing D&D that fuelled my antipathy for the elves. Maybe it’s because we never met a poor elf, a down-on-their-luck elf, a working stiff elf. No, the guys were always clean-cut and haughty, with their magic bonuses, their blade-dancing, their artifacts of power and what else. Later, Shadowrun nailed the whole thing, by portraying elves as an elite, and other metahumans – especially orcs and trolls – as discriminated minorities.

Now, I tend to take the accusation of an “inherent racism” in fantasy with a grain of salt, but there’s no doubt that when you write that there’s a whole species that is evil by birth alone… genetically or culturally, you’re off on a dangerous path.
Stuff like “Zingarans are all full of boast and pride” can go from a cliché to a generalization to a racist slur pretty easily. And do not even start me on Zamorean women, or the people of Kithai.

Now, in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of good stuff coming in the field of fantasy, both fiction and roleplaying games, and such issues are, if not happily archived, at least being tackled with intelligence by good authors.. Sometimes the effect can be a little blunt, but the fact that an issue is being addressed is always a plus.
Which, in a rather circuitous fashion, brings us to Spire: The City Must Fall.

Continue reading


4 Comments

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

No, this is not about the Jimmy Buffett song, or album.
It’s about something I realized last night, after spending 1.98 euro on two historical novels – I’ve been reading more historical novel than usual this last year, and while my science fiction reading remained steady, it’s fantasy that is taking a dip. Given the choice, I’d rather go for an historical novel, or a history essay than for a fantasy book.

So I started to wonder why, and came to the conclusion that I have three factors to blame…

Continue reading


8 Comments

They do not fight enough. As if I cared.

In the last six months or so I’ve heard harsh criticism leveled at a number of books…

  • Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun
  • Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast
  • Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster’s Trilogy
  • Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle
  • Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels
  • J.B. Cabell’s Jurgen
  • John Crowley’s Little Big

Books that spend too much time in useless description, with little or no action, and characters that spend more time talking than fighting. My usual answer, “What, then?” usually receives strange looks.

Continue reading