Eclectic Ramblings From a Bike Riding, Sports Loving, Novel Writing Nerd.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book of the Month: Leviathan Wakes

It has been a while since I consumed a book as ravenously as I just did Leviathan Wakes, the first book in The Exanse trilogy.  The last year or so has been a steady stream of fits and starts, of stories abandoned five chapters in, of characters and plots left to rot by the side of the road by my short attention span.  I was beginning to think the lack of sleep that accompanies parenthood was affecting my ability to digest good fiction.  Now, after reading this excellent page turner I see the problem for what it was: A misguided attempt to find the next great economy priced, self published title.

Last year brought one of the best books I’ve read in many years in Hugh Howie’s "Wool".  For those that haven’t had the pleasure you can pick it up for $5 for your Kindle.  (It is absolutely amazing but that review will have to wait until I can figure out how to write about it without completely spoiling what made it great)  The price tag for Wool was the problem.  A $5, self published book showed me that there are many great authors out there outside of the standard publishing machine and I set out to find them.  What I found instead was a stream of mediocre science fiction and a few pieces of steaming dog crap.  I was on the verge of giving up and going back to the bestseller list for more of the recommendations that had bored me so the past few years. Then I saw an ad for Leviathan Wakes by James S. Corey on Facebook.  Usually I pass right by these annoying ads. But as any child reared on mediocre late 80’s/early 90’s sci-fi horror will tell you, anything with Leviathan in the title merits at least a cursory glance.

A quick Google search revealed positive reviews by George R.R. Martin (Corey’s mentor and one time employer) among others.  Leviathan is also the recipient of the 2012 Hugo Award.  The Hugo was the clincher.  So we’ve got a badass title and it won an award also handed out to Dune and Enders Game?  Sign me up.

I was not disappointed.

While the story is derivative of several familiar sci-fi plot lines and techniques, what made this adventure ride really come alive was the juxtaposition of the two protagonists and the creative way their stories were told.   Leviathan Wakes is the story of Captain Holden, the prototypical XO of a spaceship thrown into the captain’s chair by unfortunate circumstances - space opera at its finest.  Holden is the righteous hero.  The cocksure rebel with the golden smile who always gets the girl.  He plays by his own rules but his ruleset is squarely in the “good guy” camp.

Leviathan Wakes is also the story of Detective Miller, the noir detective whose story gradually reveals itself to be far from the “Humphrey Bogart on a space station” you expect it to be.  Miller is the gruff, streetwise detective on the backside of his career.  He’s seen the filthy underbelly of humanity and doesn’t have time or patience for Holden’s righteous ruleset.

This novel features the usual space battles, a pretty awesome monster, political intrigue and the bad guys are revealed to be of a particularly nasty bent.  It is Miller’s story, however, that ultimately makes this novel tick. Holden is set up as the hero and portrayed as such throughout but Miller is the one  the reader really gets to sink their claws into.  He supplies the substance, the stomach filling meat and potatoes, to Holden’s flashy dessert course.  I spent the first half of the book figuring out where I thought Miller’s story was going and the second half slowly realizing where it had actually gone.  Corey’s excellent use of clues hidden as misleading internalized dialog had me doubling back to reread previous passages more than once.   By the end Miller’s journey had my guts twisted and eviscerated.  Miller’s extreme anti hero antics are set beautifully against the superhero ethos of Holden in a way that has the reader questioning right from wrong.  As in all good Science Fiction, the story shines the light on us here in the present, leaving us to question what we would do in the same circumstances.

Ultimately, Leviathan Wakes found itself on the top shelf of my Science Fiction Bookshelf (its a metaphor, I don’t really have a Sci-Fi bookshelf) alongside some of the greats.  Its certainly no Dune but Corey just a certainly earned his Hugo.  He weaved a tale that first and foremost kept me turning the page but perhaps most importantly told a great story.  Like all great Science Fiction though, the real story isn’t the spaceships, the monsters or the wonderful settings.  The real story, the one that had me repeatedly tapping the right side of my Kindle screen, was the human story.  The story of Holden and Miller.  The story of us.

For under $5, I call that a win.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Classic Ike

Every once in a while I'll be sharing an old post from my first go round as a blogger.  Back in the day I wrote without thinking and the results are eclectic to say the least.   just wrote whatever was on my mind.  Some of it is pretty bad but its a good reflection of where I was.  Think of it as a time machine into my head .  Scary right?  

Today's excerpt to the center of The Ike comes to you from June 2007.  It is a window into the initial stirrings that eventually led to me getting off my ass and doing something about the size of it.  I hope you enjoy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Five Guys Walk Into a Bar

Five adventurers, seasoned and battle scarred, find themselves summoned to the same alehouse on the same dark, moonless evening.  Their paths have crossed before and acknowledgements are shared, each in their own way, as they walk through the door one by one.  Four of the travelers find their way to a table and begin swapping stories over drinks.  The fifth stands quietly in the corner, alone with the thoughts and demons he shares with no other.  Neither traveler knows the true reason they have been summoned here this evening, only that each received a single page of parchment, marked with this date, this time, this location.  

The quiet one in the corner is the first to notice her as she walks through the door.  A slight figure dressed in the plain clothes of a peasant, yet one by one the travelers take note of her presence,  for she is no peasant, and their lives are about to change forever.

I am 35 years old.  One might call me a nerd, or possibly a geek.  Whatever term you want to use is fine by me.  I don't deny the accusation.  I love me some Star Wars.   I watched 5 seasons of Doctor Who in 4 weeks.  I read Penny Arcade religiously.  I am on my third play through of Skyrim.

Saturday night I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time.

I say this knowing full well the stigma that goes along with such a statement.  Society has become much more accepting of nerd in the last few years, most likely due to the blockbuster summer movies and hit HBO TV series derived from the plethora of sci-fi and fantasy source material.  Game of Thrones, Iron Man, The Avengers and Star Trek are just some of the mega-hits that have taken the subject matter once relegated to dank basements and elevated them to  hallowed ground around the water cooler.

Not so for D&D.  Sure there are plenty of places to find people who play, forums to discuss the game or sites to bury yourself in data.  It is, however, not generally a topic broached in a public forum.  One can talk about Star Trek with a group of strangers and no one would blink, yet the mention of the AC rating for a Dragonborn Ranger would be met with blank stares at best, open derision at worst.

I could not care less.  I showed up for Saturday's session knowing only one of the six guys at the table.  I left feeling like I had had just reunited with long lost friends.  We sat down to have share a few hours with a common interest, to share in the creation of a story, to have a hand in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" with more depth than any of those amazing books from our childhood.  We saved a cleric from mercenaries and cleared the King's Road of a band of thugs.  None of it was real.  All of it was real.

So dismiss us if you want, laugh if you so choose, I don't care anymore.  I used to care deeply until I realized I was trying to impress (or not get laughed at by) people who had little or nothing to do with my life.  I don't have time for that any more.  So if you'll excuse me, I have to get going.  I have some dice to buy.