Thursday, September 5, 2013

More Books

I've been a bit remiss in getting back to the blog this week. No real excuse. I just haven't had much to say. However, I have been continuing to read some really great books at bedtime. I'd like to throw a few of them into this blog post and urge you to check them out.

First up is the Black Prism by Brent Weeks. My first exposure to Weeks' work was in the Night Angel trilogy. Also a very good read. In Black Prism, we find a world in which (like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time) the world is centered around a collection of magic users who inhabit the Chromeria, a city on an island in an inland sea. The world, in this case, consists of seven satrapies, one of which still suffers from having rebelled, and is afflicted with a revolving governorship/cleptocracy.

Magic in this world is derived from the light of the sun, and each user is adept in one or more colors, each with its own unique properties. Somewhat like Dragon Age, magic is a corrupting force (or so it seems...) and its use results, ultimately, in the creation of "color wights," mad users who become a danger to those around them. The story itself centers on a young boy, Kip, who (we come to find) is the bastard sun of The Prism, the emperor (more or less) of the land by virtue of his ability to martial all the colors of light.

It's a very good opening book for Weeks' new series, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

Next, a pair of books from Paolo Bacigalupi (no idea how that is pronounced, sorry), Shipbreaker and Drowned Cities. These books both take place in a not-to-distant future, where climate change has created a collapse of governments, widespread civil war, and all the trimmings that come with it. Filling the power void are large, transglobal corporations with their own agendas. For most people, life is brutal, poor, and desperate, and the poorest of the poor scavenge the wreckage of the old world to sell to these firms. Both books are told from the POV of children growing up in this environment.

Shipbreaker is about a young boy who is a scavenger along the Gulf Coast. He lives with his abusive, drug-addled father, who is a real piece of work. He has few friends and only one protector, and seems destined to be killed by his dad, or to starve once his usefulness in retrieving copper wire form narrow conduits is at an end (i.e., he's growing too large, but not large enough to be useful for heavy work). Then, something happens that allows him to take a terrible risk, and maybe to escape from his circumstances. No spoilers.

Drowned Cities is told from the POV of a young girl who lives in a small community near what used to be New Orleans. She is half-breed Chinese, which makes her an outcast. The Chinese, apparently, tried to intervene in the civil war that broke out in this area, but ultimately fled. New Orleans, it seems, was their Vietnam. Those who collaborated were brutalized and killed. Their offspring are still around, but treated like shit. In any case, she is learning to be a healer and is apprenticed to a kindly old man. Then, a band of soldiers (child-solidiers, really) show up. Everything falls apart. The rest of the tale is about her quest to survive, to save a friend, and to escape.

Both of these books are excellent, and great fodder for a post-apocalyptic RPG of some kind. They imagine what could be the most realistic dystopian future I've seen so far. Very much recommended.