Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can you weather the storm?


Sean Stewart


Reviewed by: Terry

5 out of 5 stars


This may be Sean Stewart's best novel, though I have to admit that it is not quite my favourite. Here we see Stewart displaying full mastery of his prose, his characterization, and his depiction of a fully realized magical world. Be warned though, neither the characters, nor the world presented, are always pleasant to behold.

We follow the story of Josh Cane, a young man with a chip on his shoulder due to the constrained circumstances of his life that are the result of his father's loss of a pivotal game of poker. Add to this the fact that Josh lives in a world after the occurrence of a magical apocalypse wherein everyone has to work hard to survive, not only due to their physical circumstances, but also due to the perilous proximity of the magical Otherworld, and you have the makings of a pretty downbeat story. Stewart himself has described this book as: "...your Basic "Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Everything, Girl becomes her Own Evil Twin, Boy Is Framed For Murder and Sent Along With Sidekick To Be Eaten By Cannibals, and Things Get Worse When The Weather Turns Bad" story." That about sums it up.

Of course there's more to the novel than a simple encapsulation, even one given by the author, can provide. First of all we have, once again, Stewart's excellent characters: Our main character Josh is by turns repulsive and worthy of pity; a man who had expected a life of much greater comfort than the one he ended up with and who is unable to let go of the bitterness he feels as a result of his circumstances. The only person who seems able to stand Josh is his best friend Ham Mather, the gentle giant who loyally accompanies Josh in his exile that is brought about by Josh's infatuation with the third of our heroes: Sloane Gardner, the heir-apparent to both the political and magical leaders of Galveston whose desire to escape from her responsibilities leads to disaster. Standing in the background of the story like a looming spectre is the distorted and eternal carnival otherworld presided over by Momus, a godlike trickster who will give blessings to mortals courageous, or foolhardy, enough to pay the price. As always, be careful what you wish for.

As noted, Josh's story goes from bad to worse and his circumstances, both physical and personal, can become hard to stomach. You think George R. R. Martin can put his characters through the ringer? He could pick up a few tips from Sean Stewart here. There are also no easy resolutions. Stewart always avoids the easy answer or pat conclusion. Our characters do get resolutions of sorts, and they certainly grow and change as people, but nothing is exactly as one might have expected and nothing follows the standard Hollywood paradigm for such things. This is all to the good I say and for all its difficulty, you'd be hard pressed to find a better told story than the one you'll find in _Galveston_.

I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for Stewart: go to _Resurrection Man_, or _The Night Watch_ for that. Both take place in the same world deluged by magic, though at different points in its history. They are a bit more friendly to their protagonists, though they never quite let them off the hook either. No matter where you start though, you're in for a real treat with Sean Stewart. He's truly an excellent writer of great talent.

 Also posted at Goodreads 

Meet the Shelf Inflicted Staff - Carol

Today's guest is Carol, the alien terror that sleeps dead and dreaming at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  She also posts at Book Reviews Forevermore.

How did you discover Goodreads?
My parole agent suggested it as part of the restraining order obtained by certain brick-and-mortar booksellers.

What have been your most memorable Goodreads experiences?
The time I stayed up all night instant messaging one of the top 25 reviewers, we fell in love, met up in Vegas to be married by fake-Elvis, but lost our money for the license at a poker game.

Name one reviewer not in the Forbes 25 that people should be aware of.
Me, clearly. And she'll probably be shocked, but Carly's reviews are amazingly analytical and often lend me insight on my reading. She's one of my checkpoints.

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
Blasé, blasé. Soon everything will be owned by seven different multinational corporations. It had absolutely nothing to do with my buying a Kindle Paperwhite. Really.

How many books do you own? 
More than can fit in a breadbox. I know you are only asking to case my fantasy collection. Forget it--I have a large Rottweiler.

Who is your favorite author? 
From A to Z: Ben Aaronovich, Ilona Andrews, Peter Beagle, Steven Brust, Guy Gavriel Kay, Catherynne Valente, Roger Zelazny. Non-fiction: David Quammen.

What is your favorite book of all time?
If I say Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, will you delete my interview? Seriously, it’s one of my favorite comfort reads. Adrienne Rich’s Dream of a Common Language. I also re-read Kate Daniels series. Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.

What are your thoughts on ebooks? 
Ambivalent. They are my new late-night addiction and I’m thankful they have no calories. I find myself perusing on-line sources looking for deals. I do love being able to go anywhere with a library in my purse. However, I am now even worse at human interaction.
I also enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, and the way each book can individuate itself physically-the texture of the paper, the shape of the font, the heaviness of the book, stiffness of the binding. E-readers lose that part of the reading experience.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
Again, I'm ambivalent. One one hand, not enough self-publishers take time to thoroughly examine their material. I don't enjoy reading books that read like something I wrote in high school, and its annoying to have to sort through a lot of chaff to find the value--rarely will I read a self-published work. On the other hand, I like that there is an avenue available that circumvents the big publishers.

Any literary aspirations?
Only after I get fired from my current job.