Cold Wind April 16, 2014 Cold Wind Nicola Griffith Old ways can outlast their usefulness. What Mario Scietto Says April 15, 2014 What Mario Scietto Says Emmy Laybourne An original Monument 14 story. Something Going Around April 9, 2014 Something Going Around Harry Turtledove A tale of love and parasites. The Devil in America April 2, 2014 The Devil in America Kai Ashante Wilson The gold in her pockets is burning a hole.
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Showing posts by: Justin Landon click to see Justin Landon's profile
Apr 16 2014 1:00pm

Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy reread The Blade Itself And so we conclude Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself. When I began this project in August, I had no idea it would take this long to get through the first book. Nor did I have any concept of how much I would enjoy the journey.

I wrote a review of Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance that described how impressed I was at his ability to maintain the reader’s interest in four people over such a massive span of words and scenes. The same is true here, but with a different twist. Sanderson has lots of events, constant action. Every chapter has some kind of reveal or nugget that urges the reader forward. He’s a master at it. Abercrombie, in The Blade Itself, is something of the opposite.

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Mar 26 2014 1:00pm

Today’s a big day. Rocket Talk, the podcast, launched this morning, and I’m hosting it! For you Joe Abercrombie lovers this means there’s going to be a really long and awkward conversation with the man himself at some point in the near future. I’m going to ask him questions about all kinds of arcanum. Do you have questions you’d like me to ask? Put ’em in the comments and I’ll ask it, no matter how weird it is. (Please be weird.)

Despite the additional workload placed on me by the taskmasters, I’m here for this week’s reread, bedraggled but unbroken! We’re three chapters from the end of The Blade Itself and I’m trying to figure out the narrative arc of the novel. Is there one? Are there any plot lines that are internal to the novel? I’m thinking not, except, perhaps, Jezal’s relationship to Ardee, which (completely coincidentally, I swear) is the subject of this week’s chapter.

[Misery loves company...]

Mar 26 2014 10:00am

Rocket Talk Podcast

Rocket Talk, the podcast, launches today and we couldn’t be more excited! (Thanks to Tim Paul for the awesome banner!)

To be released weekly, Rocket Talk will blend discussion style talk-radio with audio narrations of’s award winning short fiction. The podcast will take the vast landscape of and beam it straight into your ear holes. It will capture the tremendous dialogue on the website and take it to the digital airwaves like a Viking horde beaching a seaside village with more group dancing and less pillaging.

[Read more...]

Mar 19 2014 1:00pm

Joe Abercrombie reread First Law Trilogy The Blade Itself Last week’s casting call personal journey of introspection and delight was but a brief aside in this rollicking journey we call the First Law Trilogy reread. We’re back on schedule now, rejoining our friendly neighborhood torturer and marauding band of cutthroats as they try to find some direction.

Will Glokta and Major West make nice? Will Forley the Weakest convince Bethod of the Shanka threat? Do I even need to ask?

[This is Abercrombie...]

Mar 13 2014 9:15am

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie First Law trilogy Last week I talked about the A-Team. The comments derailed a bit after discussing Logen as B.A. Baraccus, when someone asked, who would actually play Logen in a film? My proposal, of course, was Mickey Rourke.

Why? Like Logen, Rourke has been through the wringer. Addiction, scarring, and hard living has left his face looking sufficiently rearranged to pull off Ninefingers. Not to mention, despite being 61 years old, he’s managed to keep his body in relatively good shape. While Logen isn’t that old, he’s probably closer to 40 than 30 and often described as being older looking than he is. Thus, Rourke. More importantly though, Logen and Rourke’s character from The Wrestler are similar enough that I’ve got proof he can pull it off.

So, if we’ve got Logen cast, who plays everyone else? I’m glad I asked!

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Mar 5 2014 2:00pm

Joe Abercrombie reread First Law trilogy The Blade Itself I believe it was Hannibal who said, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Not the Hannibal who eats people, or the one who took elephants across the Pyrenees, but the important one—the one who led the A-Team. Also, the actor’s name was George Peppard, which isn’t remotely relevant to anything, but say it with me… PEPPARD. Isn’t it fun?

Anyway, I bring up the estimable Hannibal because like the famous line quoted above, Bayaz is ready to start executing the master plan. He’s assembled his Face, and Murdock, and BA Baracus, and maybe even his Amy Amanda Allen and Frankie Santana.

[“Each Man Worships Himself”]

Feb 26 2014 2:00pm

The Blade Itself First Law trilogy reread Joe Abercrombie Next week’s chapter is too crucial to shoehorn into a two chapter post, so despite the best laid plans of mice and me (sic), this week I am forced to satisfy your desire for Joe Abercrombie with a single one.

In recent chapters The Blade Itself has relied on shifting points of view. It’s a pattern that ends this week by telling an entire chapter from Collem West’s point of view. By staying in West’s head and not switching to Ferro or Ardee, Abercrombie is forcing us to rely on West’s bias. The events of the chapter demand that, but it makes his choice of narrator-hopping in previous chapters worth deeper examination for anyone interested in the impact points of view have on the narrative.

On to one of the most horrifying moments in the First Law Trilogy and fantasy at large. Just look at the title...

[Nobody’s Dog...]

Feb 19 2014 2:00pm

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie This week’s chapter features one of the absolute silliest moments in the series. Abercrombie, in the middle of what should be one of the tensest scenes in The Blade Itself, makes an absolutely obvious Lord of the Rings joke. And yet, it works in large part because of the audience and the scene.

‘...none…shall…pass.’ Bayaz reads from the entrance to the House of the Maker, sitting atop a bridge with Logen, Jezal, and Glokta behind him. Where the same phrase uttered by Gandalf is followed by the moment where the Gray Wizard becomes fallible, in Abercrombie’s version it is followed by a confirmation of Bayaz’s infallibility. Hardly the cleverest trick employed in The Blade Itself, but one that’s perfectly timed…

Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself…

[The House of the Maker…]

Feb 12 2014 2:00pm

First Law trilogy Joe Abercrombie reread The Blade Itself Driving home from a conference, I was listening to the Coode Street Podcast with Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe. They were discussing genre minutia, as they do, but in so doing brought up an interesting point about how genre relates to itself. Namely, they proposed the idea that a great deal of genre fiction looks inward. I took that to mean it responds to and manipulates tropes in such a way that only someone familiar with them can truly appreciate the attempt.

Often, when Joe Abercrombie is discussed in less glowing terms, it is because readers find the First Law Trilogy slow and unsatisfying. Over my many readings of the series I could never understand that reaction. I can’t claim that anymore. Reading The Blade Itself, at the depth and pace a reread requires, has allowed me to really understand the nature of the series better. And that nature is exceptionally inward looking. So much of what makes it compelling is a result of how it subverts expectations. To someone unfamiliar with the genre, The Blade Itself becomes asset deprived. Or, more clearly perhaps, it becomes somewhat exposed as a debut novel.

I would go on to argue that every novel he’s written since has become more outward looking. I could write an entire essay exploring this idea, but I thought it worth mentioning here. With that thought regurgitated for your delight, on to this week’s chapter…

[The Ideal Audience...]

Feb 5 2014 2:00pm

First Law trilogy reread Joe Abercrombie The Blade Itself I can’t talk about Joe Abercrombie this week without mentioning that I had the distinct pleasure of reading his next novel, Half a King, over the weekend. I won’t say anything of substance about the novel at this point, except to say that it’s everything that’s made Abercrombie my favorite writer working today, while also speaking to a new kind of reader. In other words, I encourage you to be as excited as I was.

In the First Law world, where there’s more to talk about, we come to one of the pivotal chapters in the Circle of the World canon. It’s a chapter with huge implications for this novel and the ones immediately following, but also one that resonates through every novel from this point forward. You know what they say, never bet against a magus...

[When Death is on the Line!]

Jan 30 2014 2:30pm

Three Princes Ramona Wheeler

Books come in all shapes and sizes. Someone should kick me for using that line. It’s about as cliché as it gets. But I mean it more abstractly than it’s often used. Stories have shapes, right? Kurt Vonnegut thought so. He plotted stories on a dual axis—the vertical G-I axis, for good fortune-ill fortune, bisected by the B-E axis, for beginning and end. While not every story has a bell shaped curve, most successful ones do, and most end higher on the G-I axis than they begin.

All of that goes to say that Ramona Wheeler’s Three Princes is a book of an odd shape. Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Albion, and Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke are spies for the Egyptian Empire. In the year 1877 that empire spans Europe, Africa, and much of Asia. The Americas remain in the hands of the Incas, an empire to rival the Egyptians and ahead in the technological race. When rumors reach Egypt that the Incans are building rockets, Oken and Mabruke are sent to investigate.

[Where’s the third prince?]

Jan 29 2014 2:00pm

First Law Trilogy Joe Abercrombie reread The Blade Itself As we start to approach the end of The Blade Itself (well, sort of), I’m starting to notice an increased pace in the chapters. They feel shorter and possess a deeper bite than their earlier brethren. Where all three of our primary characters were given some measure of success or stability, Abercrombie is now removing it and sending them scrambling.

Logen is wrestling with violence again, having to defend Brother Longfoot in the streets. Jezal’s success in the Contest is easily forgotten as he tortures himself over Ardee West. And Glokta, despite destroying the Mercers, is being undermined by his own organization.

[Does she love him?]

Jan 22 2014 2:00pm

Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy The Blade Itself I was a convention this past weekend and had the pleasure of moderating a panel on the subject of horror. Being a big fan of topic creep I steered the conversation toward how horror has changed in the past few decades. Traditional monsters have been appropriate by various agents as non-threatening entities. Be it vampires in Twilight or werewolves in Teen Wolf or yetis in Monster’s Inc. we’ve become inured to the horror of “things that go bump in the night.” That’s not say that these devices can’t still be used, but they’ve become more flavor than horror.

What has become more horrifying is our fellow man. The news cycle has brought to our attention an ever increasing reality that casts our neighbor as Patrick Bateman. This phenomenon is absolutely reflected in horror with an increasing number of productions like Disturbia and Monster. Grimdark and other more modern fantasies are absolutely invested in this paradigm. No longer are we dealing with Dark Ones and ancient evils, but with the much more familiar evil of the most depraved humanity has to offer. Something to consider as we move forward in a series populated with more destructive personalities than a John Carpenter film.

[Onward to chapters!]

Jan 15 2014 2:00pm

Joe Abercrombie The Blade Itself First Law Trilogy There was some big Joe Abercrombie news this week. In case you missed it, the cover and first chapter from his forthcoming young adult novel, Half a King, were revealed. I haven’t read the chapter yet because I am currently otherwise engaged with Abercrombie fiction. I don’t think Glokta would take kindly to me fooling around behind his back. I am nothing if not a gentleman.

However, the blurb has me scoffing. “A classic coming-of-age tale…” Really? If ol’ turn-an-entire-genre-on-its-head-Abercrombie is writing classic anything I’ll eat my hat. Because this is the early 20th century and people still wear hats. I’m currently in negotiations with Abercrombie’s children for a copy of the book. My current offer involves several pints of Red Bull and enough hard rock candy to bankrupt the family. I’ve got a good feeling that dad will prevent this deal from occurring by preempting the process. Just a hunch.

[On to this week’s chapters!]

Jan 10 2014 10:00am

M L Brennan Generation V

We’re a few weeks in to the Under the Radar series and I’m still struggling to figure some things out. The intent, ostensibly, is to call attention to novels that we believe are being under-recognized by some nebulous population of readers. Two of the authors I’ve pointed out—Teresa Frohock and Zachary Jernigan—are actually quite well reviewed and regarded by the blogging community. In fact, both have received more coverage on blogs than many authors who sell exorbitantly more copies. I chose them because of their sales numbers. Despite endless positive reviews for both titles, they weren’t able to penetrate the average readers’ awareness. What I bet the general public doesn’t understand is what I mean when I talk about “struggling sales.”

We all know Patrick Rothfuss sells a lot of books. Would it surprise you to know that some of the books I’ve talked about sold less than .01% of The Name of the Wind in the US? Because those are the kinds of differences in volume that we’re talking about. Taking it international and it’s probably more like .0001% because many of the books we talk about in this series don’t even have foreign rights deals. Take it up another notch to someone like Charlaine Harris and the numbers really boggle.

[What does this have to do with Generation V?]

Jan 8 2014 2:00pm

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie First Law Trilogy Welcome back to the First Law Trilogy reread! I hope you had a happy holidays. I certainly did. Sadly, the most genre thing that happened over my holiday season was constructing Barbie’s Dream House. Now, you might be thinking, what does this have to do with Joe Abercrombie and the First Law Trilogy? Well, nothing, except I think it’s a really good analogy for how hard it is to build something that will last.

Barbie’s Dream House? Probably not going to stand the test of time. It’s got some flimsy bits and the primary user is a four year old who thinks the occupant of the dream house is our puggle (that’s a dog, in case you’re not up to speed on your trendy breeds). However, it’s sturdiness has nothing to do with my lack of effort in its construction. With the help of a lovely couple on YouTube, who have seemingly dedicated their lives to ensuring appropriately assembled children’s toys, I put all 75 pieces where they belonged. And I did it with love.

[Come to the Dream House...]

Dec 26 2013 11:00am

Oh, trilogies! How you beguile me. Spending more time with beloved characters is a siren’s song. More often than not I just want closure. Can’t we find satisfying conclusions without the bloated second and third course? I long for the days when one novel was enough. When writers like Joanna Russ and Robert Heinlein challenged themselves and their readers with something different every time out. How have we come to a day where the default is a regurgitation of sameness for three volumes (or more)?

I have a theory, but it’s going to take me a little while to get there… bear with me.

[Read More]

Dec 18 2013 2:00pm

The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie First Law Pardon last week’s interruption. While I was busy giving random gifts to Joe Abercrombie’s characters, I was also having a conversation on Reddit at /r/fantasy. Someone asked, “Why do people like Joe Abercrombie’s books? During a game of cards, Jezal can look at the way people smile and deduce their entire personalities. It is ridiculous.” I responded. You know I did.

My response was thus: “The scene where Jezal is “deducing” people is a total farce. Jezal is a screw-up, a completely worthless human being. He’s deluded and self centered and all that. The point of view is his. He thinks he’s an amazing card player fully aware of the nature of all the people around him, when really he’s completely devoid of awareness as to how pathetically shallow and vapid he is.” In short, Abercrombie writes points of view with commitment. Nothing in a Jezal chapters reveals anything that isn’t warped by his nobleman’s bias. It’s true of everyone in the book. They’re all so caught up in their own heads that they can’t empathize, even for the reader’s benefit.

Everyone except Glokta…

[Read More]

Dec 11 2013 2:00pm

The Blade Itself First Law Trilogy Joe Abercrombie Happy Holidays! My Tor Editorial Overlords have granted me a special request this December. Instead of the next batch of reread chapters from The Blade Itself, I’ve decided to get into the holiday spirit. Joe Abercrombie is brutally mean to his characters, who are actually a bunch of mean gits themselves. There’s little sunshine in their lives, living as they do in the Liz-Bourke-copyrighted “Crapsack World.”

So, I’m playing Santa. And no, not because the red suit hides the blood when someone guts me in Angland for my gold buttons. We’ll call that an extra bonus. I’m playing Santa in the Circle of the World to bring some much needed holiday cheer to the otherwise depressing landscape that is the personal lives of the men and women in the First Law Trilogy.

Pour yourself a hot toddy, frost a cookie or two, and join me.

[’Tis the season...]

Dec 4 2013 2:00pm

The Blade Itself First Law trilogy Joe Abercrombie Being the sucker that I am for all things Joe Abercrombie, I get quite a kick out of seeing how he structures his foreshadowing and layering of information to create a sense of reality to his imaginings. It’s something a lot of authors aren’t good at, resulting in things being dropped into the story that seem to come from nowhere or never spending the time to invest in a character and their situation. Not so with this book, series, or anything with Abercrombie’s name on the cover. He really understands storytelling and it’s no more evident than it is in this week’s chapters….

[Read More]