Review: Island Book by Evan Dahm

island book cover
Cover courtesy of First Second

How have I not talked about Evan Dahm before? Evan Dahm is one of those creators I just can’t get enough of. I’ve read all his graphic novels at least twice, and that includes this, his latest completed graphic novel, Island Book.

Island Book tells the story of Sola, a girl living on an island in a vast, unexplored ocean. Many inhabitants of the island believe she is cursed, because of her strange connection to a giant creature simply called “the monster” which lives in the ocean, and which devastated the island when it attacked years ago. So one night Sola steals a boat and sets off into the ocean, hoping to discover the mystery of the monster, and why it seems drawn to her, for herself. She soon learns that there are other islands out there, populated by different peoples, some of whom join her in her quest to find the monster.

By different “peoples,” I mean different fantasy races. If you’re familiar with Evan Dahm’s work, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I believe he refers to them as “kinds” rather than species or races. Basically there’s no humans or elves or dwarves (though Sola’s island’s islanders are fairly close to human.) The character/kind design is an outgrowth of the island they live on—or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, this means all the islands are incredibly uh guess what insular, on a design level. Motifs of shape and color are repeated in the look of the land, the island’s ships, and the islanders themselves. For instance, “Fortress Island” is inhabited by these big, hulking turtle people, with ships that look like ironclads. Likewise, the cultures of the islands harmonize with their iconography, and the whole color palette of the book changes from island to island.Read More »

Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This was originally going to be just part of a “What I’ve Been Reading” post, but it turns out I have a lot to say about this book, so now it’s just its own review post.

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Cover courtesy of DAW

The Name of the Wind is the first book in Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, and it describes the early life of the first-person narrator and alleged Kingkiller, Kvothe. To describe the plot generally would paint this novel as clichéd. I guess that’s because it is, in its broad strokes. An exceptionally talented, fast-learning child lives a comfortable life as a player in his father’s troupe of traveling performers. When the troupe takes on an arcanist, young Kvothe is mentored by him in Sympathy—a kind of magic based on intense concentration and mental gymnastics. Eventually the arcanist leaves, and soon after the Kvothe’s father begins work on a ballad involving the mysterious Chandrian—mythical superhuman superevil beings, probably just fables. Then the Chandrian murder the entire troupe, leaving only Kvothe alive. For years Kvothe survives by the skin of his teeth, hitchhiking, begging, stealing, though he eventually determines to go to the University, to utilize its massive archives to research the Chandrian. Demonstrating exceptional intelligence and knowledge of sympathy, Kvothe is admitted to the University, where he spends the remainder of the book having adventures and misadventures, and trying to gain access to the archives.

Yes, with the exception of a few creative flourishes, the book traces a familiar arc. Where it stands out, or at least justifies its position as one of the most popular fantasy novels in the past decade, is in the execution. The book reminds me of a 19th-century serialized novel, like Great Expectations or Count of Monte Cristo—both of which, in their broad strokes, also rely on clichés, despite being terrific works. The pacing is tireless, each chapter lurches into the next as new dilemmas arise and Kvothe sets his sights on new goals. There’s a large cast of characters, but they’re all memorable, and you love to love the ones you love, and love to hate the ones you hate. Name of the Wind manages the great trick of being long and reading fast.Read More »

2017 Holiday Sale!

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Merry whatever and joyous thingummy everyone! All of my ebooks are on sale on Smashwords for the month of December! Most of them are 50% off, and the newer releases (19 and 19, “A Clash at Grozny Airfield,” and Suggest the Empire once it’s published later this month) are 25% off. And “Just Dig” is 34% off. Cause it wouldn’t let me do 50%, cause the price is already almost at the minimum.

Happy solstice y’all!

New Publication: Boom Town

I’ve just published “Boom Town,” a short story available on Smashwords and Amazon.

boomtown-4The story takes place in a small town on the living planet of Eltru, when a vast reserve of fuel is discovered beneath the town. Katherine, a young girl whose family lives on a spice farm over the fuel reserve, quietly observes her parents as they struggle over whether or not to sell their land to a mining corporation, and move away from their home. She relies on her close relationship with her brother to help her understand the secret conflicts and tensions between the adults, and ends up keeping some dangerous secrets of Julian’s herself.

The publication includes an afterward where I describe how subscribing to Asimov’s influenced the story, and my writing sensibilities as a whole.

Harry Potter and the Holistic Review

Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Special_Rehearsal_Edition_Book_CoverI just finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I feel like it was one of the most multi-layered reading experiences I’ve ever had with a contemporary work. By multi-layered I mean that I was thinking about, and analyzing meta-textual elements while reading it—which is a common enough experience, when I’m reading old literature for my english classes, but pretty rare with recently published books and plays. So, rather than just reviewing the play as I might review Mr. Burns or Water by the Spoonful, I’m going to review the play in all it’s aspects—the things I noticed as a reader, as a writer, as a theatre person(ish), as a fan of the original books, and as someone interested in the publishing industry. I’ll mention plot elements throughout this post, so if you don’t want the play spoiled, halt now.

So, let’s begin.Read More »

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 29-30

The final chapters!

Chapter 29 – The Final Battle
As the war drags to a messy, underwhelming conclusion, it is difficult to determine where the final, and supposedly decisive, battle takes place.

Chapter 30 – The End
In an inn in Damohorskych, many years after the war, Brych, Binder, Jošt and Rejzek all gather for a fry-up.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Johan Halvorsen and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 27-28

Just two more chapters after this!

Chapter 27 – A Pacific Atoll
The world war reaches the little island where Mr. Bondy has been hiding out, and he discusses the phenomenon with a captain who has stopped by.

Chapter 28 – Seven Chalets
In the Czech countryside, Mr. and Mrs. Blahouš and their neighbor Mrs. Prouza speculate about the Greatest War, and who and what started it.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Johan Halvorsen and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 25-26

Chapter 25 – The Greatest War Ever (as they called it)
The chronicler explains why this war “really was, I swear it, quite easily the greatest war ever.”

Chapter 26 – The Battle of Hradec Králové
The chronicler uses the Battle of Hradec Králové, where the forces of General Hampl gathered to overthrow Mayor Skočdopole, as a reflection of world events on a smaller scale.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Johan Halvorsen and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 23-24

Chapter 23 – Conspiracy in Augsburg
In the course of two months, all the nations of the world plunge headlong into war.

Chapter 24 – Napoleon of the Mountain Brigade
In the mountains of southern France, Lieutenant Toni Bobinet declares war on the Absolute, and begins a campaign of sprawling conquests.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Johan Halvorsen and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapter 22

Chapter 22 – An Elderly Patriot
As Czech reporter Cyril Kéval and his fellow journalists wade through endless reports of minor conflicts, skirmishes, and riots from around the country and the world, Kéval happens upon a letter from an “Elderly Patriot” calling for national unity.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov and performed by the United States Navy Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 20-21

Chapter 20 – St. Kilda
As tension rises around the world, a global summit is convened to maintain peace and order.

Chapter 21 – A Dispatch
A postman makes his way through a blizzard to deliver a telegram to a Mr. Marek.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov and performed by the United States Navy Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 18-19

Chapter 18 – Night Time in the Editing Room
As religions and governments all over the world embrace the Absolute, Bishop Linda berates the editor of a Catholic Journal for continuing their invective against Him.

Chapter 19 – The Canonisation Process
The Catholic Church goes through the long, unprecedented procedure of welcoming the Absolute into the church as its God.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov and performed by the United States Navy Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 16-17

Chapter 16 – In the Mountains
Mr. Bondy and Marek meet in Marek’s house in the mountains, where the Absolute’s influence has yet to reach.

Chapter 17 – The Hammer and the Star
The brothers of the Hammer and Star lodge of the Free French Masons meet to discuss their response to the recent activities of the Absolute.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyov and performed by the United States Navy Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 13-15

Chapter 13 – The Chronicler Apologises
The chronicler apologizes for his inability to describe every story and character caught up in the worldwide influence of the Absolute.

Chapter 14 – Land of Plenty
The chronicler describes the obscene abundance created by the Absolute.

Chapter 15 – Upheaval
The chronicler explains the disastrous affects of the Absolute’s overproduction, and how humanity was saved from total starvation.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by John Philip Sousa and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapter 12

Only one chapter today, because the next three chapters work well as a block, and I didn’t want to split them up. So, three chapters next Sunday, and just one chapter today—though it’s a very fun chapter.

Chapter 12 – The Private Tutor
The learned Doctor Balhouš sets out to write an academic paper regarding recent episodes of religious fervor and fanaticism, and does so all day long, and through the night.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by John Philip Sousa and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 10-11

Chapter 10 – The Blessed Elen
Mr. Bondy ponders the state of the world as he walks the streets, and has a chance encounter with his once love, Elen.

Chapter 11 – The First Conflict
A carousel fitted with a carburator becomes a divine sanctuary, and its owner a spiritual leader, but there is friction when the carousel starts touring near the holy dredger.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by John Philip Sousa and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 8-9

Chapter 8 – On the Dredger
A religious service is held on a boat fitted out with a carburator, and a large group gathers to hear the good word about the god of the dredger.

Chapter 9 – A Celebration
A journalist attends the grand opening of the Central Electricity Carburator, which will power all of Prague, and the Mayor gives a lengthy speech.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by John Philip Sousa and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 6-7

Chapter 6 – MEAS
As MEAS begins production of carburators, some concerns are raised at the company directors meeting, and GH Bondy tries to maintain order.

Chapter 7 – Go On!
Mr. Bondy and his general manager discuss the explosive growth and popularity of the carburators.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music was composed by John Philip Sousa and performed by the United States Marine Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large – Chapters 4-5

Chapter 4 – God in the Basement
Marek warns Mr. Bondy of the dangers of letting God into the world.

Chapter 5 – The Consecrating Bishop
Mr. Bondy and Marek meet with a bishop to discuss the holy site which the carburator has become.

Also available on Podomatic and iTunes.
Find the text of the ebook here.

This recording is under a Creative Commons attribution, noncommercial, share-alike license.
Music (the Montenegro national anthem) was performed by the United States Navy Band.
The book was written by Karel Čapek, translated by David Wyllie, and performed by Francis Bass.

The Absolute at Large; A recommendation and promotion

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This book is awesome.

It is one of a few works by Karel Čapek that is in the public domain and has a translation (which you can read here) that is under a creative commons license. Karel Čapek was a Czech science fiction writer from the early 20th century. Today he’s most well known as the originator of the word “robot”—which he introduced in his 1920 play R.U.RThe Absolute at Large was his first novel, after he’d written some plays and short stories. It’s a novel that begins in a very familiar, classic sort of way—a businessman sees an advertisement for an invention, realizes the inventor is an old friend, and goes to pay him a visit. It turns out that this invention (called a “carburator”) is a furnace that consumes matter entirely. It destroys it on an atomic level, releasing massive amounts of energy, and leaving nothing behind—at least, nothing physical. This is where the story turns away from typical hard sci-fi, and goes ahead toward something fantastic.

The inventor, Rudolph Marek, says that he has been reading about pantheism—the idea that god is in everything. This theory explains why when people go near the carburator, they feel a sense of awe—of holiness—all around them. By destroying matter completely, the carburator not only releases energy, it releases God—or, the Absolute.

The book continues to follow Marek and G.H. Bondy, the businessman, as Bondy purchases the invention and gets his company to start mass-producing them. As carburators are installed throughout the world, more and more instances of miracles occur, and the people near the carburators grow more and more spiritually fanatic. Groups of worshippers and cult leaders spring up all around these carburators, and eventually the Earth throws itself into a world war much more fractured, vicious, and global than the first one.

The fact that the Absolute manifests itself in every aspect of society means that Čapek’s satire has free reign. The absurd fanaticism inspired by the Absolute is a way to look at actual fanaticisms with a critical eye—communism, capitalism, and nationalism being chief among them. The book is short, but it is epically satirical.

This book is awesome, and I am recording an audiobook of it. I’ll release episodes every Sunday and Tuesday, on youtube and on podomatic.

UPDATE: And on iTunes here.

I’ve already posted the first three chapters, and you can listen to those in the video below.

And while you’re waiting for more episodes, here’s a playlist of the music I plan on using, to get you in the mood. This is going to be fun.