Monthly Archives: March 2013

#CBR5 Maneuver #9 – Jam

JamTarget: ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw’s Jam

Profile: Parody, Post-Apocalyptic

Summary: From the back cover,

“We were prepared for an earthquake.  We had a flood plan in place.  We could even have dealt with zombies.  Probably.

But no one expected the end to be quite so… sticky… or strawberry scented.”

After Action Report:

This one falls clearly under the category of book candy.  I enjoyed Ben Croshaw’s first novel, Mogworld, mostly because it parodied a subject close to my heart, MMOs, and did so with a level of clever understanding that a lot of satirists don’t manage. It was no Hitchhiker’s Guide or Guards Guards! but it scratched that itch at the time.  In contrast, I read Jam because I enjoyed Mogworld and was disappointed because I definitely wasn’t the target audience.

Jam is an offhanded response to the glut of zombie apocalypses in popular culture today, the premise being that we are really unprepared for the potential variety of apocalypses that are waiting out there.  What would the survivalists of the world do in response to an ocean of carnivorous jam?  Unfortunately, the parody doesn’t quite connect because it never manages to shed the tropes of the genre.  While there are great moments of humor peppered about, the majority of the satire is lost because, on a very basic level, zombies and carnivorous jam are very much the same.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #8 – The Emperor’s Soul

The Emperor's SoulTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul

Profile: Epic Fantasy, Short Story

Summary: From the back cover,

“When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life.  An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife.  If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create – to Forge – a new soul for the emperor in fewer than one hundred days.  But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors.  She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood.  Shai’s only possible ally is the emperor’s most loyal councilor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai.  Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape.”

After Action Report:

Okay, I lied.  There was one more Sanderson book.  Sorry.  The Emperor’s Soul is a short novella set in the same world as Elantris but removed from the events of that book by significant distance and an unspecified amount of time.  It is a very different sort of work than Sanderson’s typical epic fantasy fare.  As dictated by its size, it is a very focused story with only one protagonist and one storyline.  But there is some surprising depth contained in this small package.  At its heart, The Emperor’s Soul is about understanding people, and in a roundabout way, about the process of writing characters; creating people.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #7 – Elantris

ElantrisTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris

Profile: Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the back cover,

“Elantris was the city of the gods.  What power could have cursed it?

Raoden, prince of Arelon, was loved by all, including the princess he’d never met.  Where has he gone?

Hrathen, high priest of Fjordell, will convert the people of Arelon or kill them.  How will he decide?

Sarene, princess of Teod, was a widow before she was ever married.  Why can stand against her?”

After Action Report:

Aside from having a pithy back cover; Elantris has a lot going for it.  While it is far from the perfect fantasy novel, it does feature Sanderson’s typical strong world building, and a cast of characters that is interesting, if not actually realistic.  At the same time, Sanderson’s refusal to rely exclusively on the fallback tropes of his genre keeps the book feeling fresh.  Elantris isn’t as polished as some of Sanderson’s other stories, with the core mystery feeling a little underutilized, and the story dragging on just a touch too long.  But at the same time, these little flaws give the story a more honest feeling than, for example, the highly polished The Hero of Ages.

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