Behold a Pale Horse – William Cooper

Caveat Emptor: I get into a somewhat aggressive discussion about biblical literalism below.

Before I dig into this review, I have a confession to make: I didn’t finish Behold a Pale Horse. I couldn’t. I think that if the election had gone differently, if the world didn’t seem so crazy right now, that I might have been able to finish it.

But I just couldn’t get through it. William Cooper’s frantic writing, logically fallacious conclusions, and absolute certainty about the end-times in which the Illuminati rise to power (the dates of which are well behind us) made it impossible to read. It may be that I’m throwing the baby out with the bathwater here, given the likelihood that there are kernels of truth contained in the sprawling madness of Cooper’s words, but I’m not too bothered by that prospect.

Cooper alleges that all secret societies are connected, that all serve the Illuminati, and that all are working toward a singular goal: the subjugation of humanity. Meh. He also thinks that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is actually an Illuminati document, and pretty much any time the Protocols are invoked, my eyes roll so far into the back of my head that I can see my own neurons shutting down.

What I found most interesting about my partial (around 50%) read of the book was an observation I made regarding Constitutional Purists. Cooper’s rabid loyalty to the Constitution (with which he lumps in the Bill of Rights, a concept I’ll expand on below) reminds me of Biblical Literalists. People whose deeply held beliefs require certain cognitive sacrifices—to actively ignore millennia of human progress; to make use of the consumer benefits of the scientific method while denying the process that leads to those tangible discoveries; to selectively choose that some biblical Truths are more True than others, while still others can be completely ignored.

When Cooper talks about the Constitution, he talks of an infallible work of genius, a document of such tremendous power and unfailing wisdom that it alone could rule the land. And he lumps in the Bill of Rights—the first 10 amendments to that infallible Constitution—along with them.

Think about that for a minute. The Bill of Rights, comprised of those tremendously important changes to the infallible document, specifically having to do with personal freedoms. The thing was designed to change with the changing world.

Change is terrifying, no doubt about that. Our understanding of the world around us is constantly bombarded by new information, and that bombardment has only grown more fierce with the development of the astounding communication technologies on which we rely every day.

Which brings me back to Behold a Pale Horse. Much of the book was written long before its 1991 publication, and in the intervening years many of his certainties about the pending collapse of individual freedoms and the subjugation of humankind have failed to come to pass. 2000 went by without a hitch. As did 2012. No alien takeovers. No government prison camps—aside from the for-profit prison industry, but that’s another can of worms. No Grand Conspiracy. Nowadays, with the prevalence and power of the individual to do research online, Behold a Pale Horse seems more like a guy with a “THE END IS NEAR” sign than a prescient and brilliant book about Hidden Truths.

What drew me to this book was the discussion of the UFO phenomenon, which it does get to, but it dwells far too long on the idea that Alien civilizations are in on the whole “subjugation of humanity” thing. I don’t buy that, either. I don’t think we’re important enough, or valuable enough, frankly. It’s the same audacity of that biblical literalist, that the world was created for us. That we are the most important and magnificent things out there, divinity notwithstanding.

I think it’s much more humbling to acknowledge the truth of the Pale Blue Dot. We’re here, and we have the most remarkable and strange and perhaps unknowable gift of consciousness, and for the tiniest of moments on the cosmic scale, we can observe the most magnificent concert of physics unfolding. To me, that’s much more interesting than bunkers and evil supergovernmental organizations and mean aliens that want to harvest our organs or whatever.

I don’t often put a book down without finishing it, even if I loathe it. This was an exception—I didn’t even hate it, truth be told. I just couldn’t compound the anxiety and frustration of the current political climate with the shenanigans in Behold a Pale Horse. And, for what it’s worth, there are much better UFO books out there.

Writing Inclusive Fiction Five-Week Course

Warbler’s Note: This marks the introduction of an ongoing series of posts aimed at providing the writing community with resources of all kinds, from conventions to software, podcasts to exercises, and much more. The first will be a shout-out for the upcoming Writing the Other course.

I attended a class from the Writing the Other series last year, and not only was it supremely helpful in building my characters, it opened me up to a wonderful network of writers I now communicate with regularly. Tempest and Nisi are doing something spectacular for speculative fiction with these courses, and if you or anyone you know has interest in taking this course, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are genuinely interested, please contact me for a coupon code for a $100 discount on tuition.

Directly from K. Tempest Bradford, here are the details:

Writing Inclusive Fiction April 6 – May 14 (students may enroll in class up to April 9)

Writers often wonder and worry about if it is possible to write characters whose gender, sexual orientation, religion, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity differs from their own. Many authors are afraid to try even though it is possible to do so sensitively and convincingly. In this five-week course, authors Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford delve into this tricky skill through a combination of readings, videos, discussions, and writing exercises in a safe, supportive atmosphere. The class is appropriate for all writers (fiction, plays, comics, screenplays) from all backgrounds and any skill level.

This class will cover Language & Description, Characterization & Identity, Dialogue & Dialect, Worldbuilding Without Appropriation, Researching the Other, and MUCH more. In addition to instruction from Shawl and Bradford, students will have access to the video and resources from three Writing the Other Master Classes on writing Native American characters, Trans & Non-Binary narratives, and Deaf and Blind characters, plus exclusive access to a guest lecture on worldbuilding without appropriation by Max Gladstone.

The course does not have set meeting times. You can access class material and discussion and participate in class at any time, day or night, from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection. All class discussion will take place in an accessible private online forum and all class work done on Google Drive.

There are 20 spots available for open enrollment. The course costs $500, but we have several options for writers who wish to take the class but need financial flexibility, such as Payment Plans, Pay What You Can Afford, and full Scholarships. The scholarship deadline is April 2nd, so please click the link below to find out how to apply right away if you’re interested.

http://writingtheother.com/5-week-course-april2017/

The Divine Comedy – Dante

This is another one of those cases where I feel that a book I aim to review is out of my league. The Divine Comedy is absolutely beyond the scope of my review blog.  So I will attempt to not review it for its contents.

But what I feel is within my purview is a discussion of the performance of the audiobook, since that was how I made it through the somewhat difficult text.

The first time I tried to read Inferno, as a high-schooler, I wasn’t able to penetrate the form. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get past the second canto. It might have been because I was too focused on looking at it as an epic poem, a work of unparalleled religious zeal.

But listening to Edoardo Ballerini’s performance of the book on Audible was a completely different experience. The form—the epic poem—took a back seat to the wild fantasy that is contained in its stanzas. Ballerini brought the sense of the narrator’s fear and awe, his deep love for Virgil and his beatific image of Beatrice, his curiosity and horror and shame to the forefront of the experience. He gave form to the incredible landscapes of the circles of hell, purgatory, and paradise.

But even so, it took me weeks to listen to the 14-hour audiobook. It was a tough thing to commit to doing when I’d sit in the car—was I going to dive back into obscure references to Italians from the Middle Ages on this particular trip to Trader Joe’s?

Typically, when I listen to an audiobook, it’s all I do until the book is done. When I’m cleaning, cooking, eating, commuting—whatever I do, I power through the books. With Dante, though, I felt compelled to finish not by an eagerness to allow the story to unfold, but by a desire to check “Dante” off the list. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad I did. It’s a remarkable work of fantasy, horror, and rapture.

I think that I was only able to finish it this time thanks to the audiobook, so I’ll heartily recommend Edoadro Ballerini’s reading of Clive James’s translation of The Divine Comedy.

This audiobook is available on Audible, through Amazon.

Author Interview – William Schiele

Wow! Here it is: the very first Warbler video. For the very first of the “produced” Warbler content, I had an excellent conversation with the author of Tears of the Assassin, William Schiele.

**Note: evidently, none of the links I wanted to place in this video will work. That being the case, check out the links below.**

For the very first of the “produced” Warbler content, I had an excellent conversation with the author of Tears of the Assassin, William Schiele.

William Schiele on Twitter 
Tears of the Assassin on Amazon
The Gray Man by Mark Greaney on Amazon
Sync City by Peter Ryan on Amazon

My First Con! FOGcon 2017

Last year, I made a decision to commit fully to the “being a writer” thing. So, toward the end of last year, I asked some Bay Area-based writers on Twitter about local conventions. A number got back to me and enthusiastically recommended FOGcon.

The Friends Of Genre convention, which I attended this past weekend (March 10–12) in Walnut Creek, brands itself as a literary-themed Science Fiction and Fantasy convention which focuses on bringing together the speculative fiction community for the exchange of ideas and a mutual love for the literature of imagination. An inspiring and smile-inducing description, if you ask me.

So here’s my summary of the con experience, day-by-day:

Day 1:

I took Friday off work and drove to Walnut Creek about an hour-and-a-half before the con started. It took fifteen minutes to get there. I was excited, but nervous about waltzing into the convention space too far in advance,  so I milled about, listening to The Divine Comedy audiobook before deciding to bite the proverbial bullet, park, and make my way into the hotel.

Shortly after I got settled in the convention space, badge around my neck, the first session started: a seventy-five minute writing session hosted by the con’s founder, Vylar Kaftan. The session was fantastic. I had a great time working on the exercises, and even managed to break some blocks I’d been facing on two long-form pieces I’d been working on in an on-again-off-again capacity over the last year. I was electrified. Sitting in a room full of people with similar interests, typing or scribbling away at ideas—there’s nothing quite like it.

The first panel I attended, Living Between, was ambitious in its scope. The intent behind the panel was to examine the huge array of non-binary existences that encompass the human experience—not just along gender lines, but all planes of our lives. While the panel itself was inspiring and somewhat difficult, my disappointment in it stemmed not from the conversation’s direction, but from the lack of connection about these real, lived experiences to authentic representation in fiction. I do not begrudge anyone the opportunity to share their emotional hurts; there’s catharsis in open expression, but I would have loved to tie it back to craft, to look at how I can do my part in telling non-binary stories of all kinds in a more effective way. But while the panel didn’t directly address craft, there was lots to unpack that can be applied to my writing going forward. For what it’s worth, a good panel.

The next panel was Medieval POC—inspired by the Tumblr blog of the same name—which focused on reframing our generally mistaken historical perspective on the homogeneity of Europe in the middle ages. Evidently, there was quite a bit more diversity at the time than most of us have been taught to believe. (No surprise there.) I took a few things away from that panel: a desire to read Remy Nakamura’s fiction, a curiosity for the wider world in the middle ages, and a one-liner that left me grinning: “Your idea of history is historically inaccurate.”

The final panel I attended that evening was Alternative Moral Perspectives, which spent a bit more time talking about sympathetic villains than really alternative morality that subverts or challenges every aspect of our moral framework. Nonetheless, another very interesting panel that cooked up a lot of philosophical questions that will only serve me as a writer in the future.

Day 2:

I missed the first panel, which I’d really been looking forward to, called My Driveway’s Underwater, So Now I Swim to Work—Climate Change and the Geography of Daily Life. Ah, well. Perhaps next time I’ll paddle out to the con early enough in the morning to make it on time.

The Gaze was a great panel, focusing on the way privileged, dominant groups view members of the groups they dominate—or anyone that doesn’t fit within that group’s purview. Again, there was less of a direct connection to either subverting the gaze or illustrating it effectively in craft, but the conversation was vital.

The Writer as Resistor was a panel that really kicked the conversation into high gear, for me. The same sense of unity and purpose that filled my every pore during the women’s march suffused the room, people genuinely wanting to put pen to paper and push for a better future.

But something new occurred to me during the panel, which I brought up (and was subsequently answered effectively). But I want to ask this of the ether, because I think the conversation is worth having again: We often write words for our peers, preaching to the choir and shoring up the walls of our own echo chambers. (Enough catchphrases/metaphors for ya?) How do we go about writing the fiction that today’s conservatives might want to read, and impress upon them, say, the benefits of collectivism and social democracy? Is that kind of subversion right? Is it what we want to do at all? How do we even get people to read in the first place?

The final panel for me on day 2 was on pitching, presentations, and proposals, and was supremely helpful across the board. The panel delved into the differences between the three, and the components of each. I don’t intend to go into the details here, but suffice it to say the panel was excellent.

I missed out on the evening’s festivities because I had to finish up some homework, but if photos are any indication, it was a fun-filled evening that I missed.

Day 3:

The day started with a panel on outlining, another craft-focused avalanche of information that was both informative and entertaining. It gave me new motivation to improve my outlook on—and skills in—outlining. ‘Nuff said.

The final panel of the con (for me, as I had to get back to that homework) was Speculative Fiction in the Age of Post-Truth. A provocative title indeed. As we careen out of control in the sociopolitical sphere, we are confronted with a question that would be funny, if it wasn’t so depressing: how do we create compelling fiction when reality has become so absurd?

The panel was interesting, but not hopeful—I doubt that was it’s intent. It raised intriguing points about psychology, technology, and sociology, and inspired introspection, especially in regards to personal, preconceived notions of the opinions and intelligence of those on the opposing end of the political spectrum.

Because nearly all of public dialogue has been infected with divisiveness and spin, because the notion of “fact” has been poisoned by a deliberate campaign to discredit Empirical Observation, because someone can say “the people are tired of experts” and not ruin his career—we find ourselves in a seemingly intractable conflict. On the one side, we have the ghost of fascism rearing its vile head—this isn’t hyperbole; the “alt right” movement is following the same steps as the fascists and Nazis did. On the other side, a utopian vision that of collectivism that, I worry, cannot come to pass until many economic issues are solved.

But I’m not here to talk politics. I’m here to talk about my experience at the con.

The con was wonderful. I met like-minded writerly folks that made me feel like I belonged. Not that I don’t generally feel a sense of belonging, though. The feeling was different at the con. When I looked around, I saw people typing or writing away, chatting excitedly about this-or-that book, and connecting with one another through a love of the written word. It was tremendous. I loved it.

I felt like asking questions. Like learning from this group of people who have pondered the questions I’ve pondered, engaged in the fantastical futures that I love, and get as excited about books with dragons on them as I do.

So, my first con experience was a success. Thanks, FOGcon, for showing me how wonderful it is to be part of the SpecFic community.

Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor

There seems to be no better day than today, International Women’s Day, to talk about an extraordinary piece of science fiction written by the brilliant Nnedi Okorafor, about belonging and identity from the perspective of a powerful young woman.

You might recall that Binti was one of my two favorite works of science fiction of last year. It was evocative. Beautiful. Frightening. Most importantly, it was different. It managed to pack an incredible and vibrant world, a complex and compelling protagonist, and a spectacular plot into a fairly short piece of fiction. It told a story that could have easily fallen into the category of sci-fi tropes, but it avoided them by applying a unique voice and perspective through Binti, it’s main character.

Binti: Home finds Binti after about a year at Oomza University. A year after she heroically (and accidentally, if I recall correctly) brokered peace between two warring planets. A year after she left home in the dead of night, against the wishes of her family and community, to study what is essentially mathemagics off-world. Binti’s experiences have changed her enormously—represented by a physical transformation: her dreaded hair has become like the tentacles of the jellyfish-like Meduse.

The physical change is a vital piece of the story, not an on-the-nose metaphor for the internal changes in Binti. Much is made of physical appearances in Binti’s world, from the red clay she adorns herself with to the tribal intolerance she suffers at the hands of the upper class on Earth (and at Oomza U), and to the seemingly strange behaviors of the “desert people” that Binti’s tribe finds less-than-worthy of a seat at the table.

As Binti is a story of perseverance and growth in the face of different types of adversity, Binti: Home is a story about shedding preconceived notions and inbuilt intolerances; about how experience inexorably changes us, and changes how the world sees us. The events of Binti were, for the most part, things that happened to Binti. In Binti: Home, she is confronted by the reality that despite her lack of agency or choice in most of the things that happened to her, she is blamed. She is mistrusted. She is made a pariah.

The things that happen to us leave a mark. Sometimes, it’s subtle. Sometimes, it’s as dramatic as having tentacles for hair. Binti: Home explores the intersection between changing personal identity and changed external perception. It’s a fascinating, emotionally resonant exploration of an eminently relatable condition, couched within beautiful prose and a once-again spectacular plot.

Nnedi Okorafor has once again left me deep in thought. While Binti: Home wasn’t as explosive a read for me as its predecessor, it was nevertheless a spectacular book. Nnedi Okorafor’s storytelling is masterful, and she has made a lifelong fan of me with Binti and Binti: Home. I eagerly await the next installment of Binti’s story.

Binti: Home is available on Amazon.

Snapshot – Brandon Sanderson

I’m not sure about other writers in the world, but it seems to me unique that Brandon Sanderson considers writing a new novella to be a break from, well, writing. Granted, he did write Snapshot as a break from working on Oathbringer, the third volume in his mega-epic Stormlight Archive series, but, like, I mean…he wrote a novella as a breather from a bigger project.

Maybe I’m crazy, though. All I know is that I hope to display such fortitude toward the craft in the future, once I strengthen those muscles a bit.

On his blog, Sanderson said that Snapshot was a story idea that wouldn’t leave him alone; something he had to write furiously over the course of a week.

I can see why the idea stuck in is mind. The premise of Snapshot is cool—Cool enough that MGM is already optioning the story—and though it is expansive in potential scope, the story is very focused and leverages the “wow” factor to excellent narrative effect. In the not-so-distant future, something allows for the recreation of a particular day, complete with people, animals, everything, that can be explored by anyone in the present time. In Snapshot, the technology is used for detective work, and the detectives within the snapshots (as the instances of recreated days are called) have special badges that inform any non-person within the snapshot that they are, in fact, a simulation that will perish when the machine is turned off at the end of the night. The moments when people realize they’re artificial are profound and emotional.

There’s a twist within a twist within a twist in Snapshot, and because I enjoyed reading it so much, I’ll forgo talking directly about the plot any further.

What I will talk about is the meat of the idea that drives Snapshot. It’s as though Sanderson took the concept of a “story within a story” and tried to make it literal. There’s something deeply satisfying about reading that structure—the metagame rests in the back of your mind as you read. It’s one of those Inception memes, in the form of an electrifying—and actually very good—story.

What’s especially cool about Sanderson’s execution of this story is that there’s the twist you expect, which occupies the bulk of your subconscious processing while you read, but makes the reveal of the twist you don’t expect a much more powerful experience.

Snapshot is short, focused, and stably-paced. The characters are great, and the action is sporadic, playing a backseat to the general thrill of the story. I can’t recommend it enough—this one will absolutely become a TV show.

Snapshot is available on Amazon.

The Geek Feminist Revolution – Kameron Hurley

It’s difficult to know where to begin when discussing Kameron Hurley’s essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution. Heartfelt may be a good word. Expansive may be another. But what keeps coming to my mind, over and again, is important. Vital, even. Especially in today’s America, wherein the once-fringe Gamergate movement has become the de-facto governing philosophy of the country. It sickens me to complete that sentence, but it’s where we are.

Hurley’s book explores nothing new, which is a remarkable enough thought on its own. The problems women and minorities face in the zeitgeist are nothing new, and though things are slowly changing—and we certainly live in a “better” time—we are still unbelievably far from where we need to be. And it feels like we may have just taken a major step backwards.

Hurley’s essays are a no-nonsense, unvarnished look at the status quo, most often through the lens of her personal experiences. Her anger, pain, and passion are evident in her every word, and they suffuse you as you read her essays. It’s frustrating to read, because the very real problems she describes are absurd. Combined with her frank, brutal writing style, the essays achieve their goal easily: to incense the reader. And we should be angry. And we should be galvanized by her words and the words of so many others to take action, to stand beside our fellow humans and say “enough is enough.”

There were more than a few moments while I read the essay collection in which I thought critically about my own experiences. It’s given me pause, and further material for an essay I’ve been considering writing which I’d call something like “On Being an Invisible Minority.” It’d no doubt be controversial, but I worry about writing it, and truth be told, never will. I was able to articulate the thesis of that essay after reading Hurley’s collection, though. So I’ll share the question here: Are we gaslighting individual members of groups for assuming privilege?

I think the core of that question is that privilege is a complicated subject, to say the least. There are so many different qualities that are privileged in our society, but there are also many that disqualify the larger, “superficial” elements of privilege. Just writing that sentence filled me with anxiety. Finishing the thought does, too. Because I’m a white, cis male.

But I’m also Jewish. I’m also a victim of sexual assault. I’m short. I wear glasses. I have a physical disability that resulted from an injury that prevents me from effectively washing the dishes or flipping a pancake without discomfort. I have international experience and dual citizenship. I am multilingual. I am medicated for depression and anxiety, like so many other Americans.  I feel like I’m in constant conflict with myself over the obvious privilege and the not-as-obvious struggles. And everywhere I read that those superficial elements of my privilege supersede the things about me I feel have been much more defining in my journey through life.

Most of those things require digging to discover. But walking down the street, I’m way ahead of the game. I know that. So there’s the duality within me that drives me up the wall: I am immensely privileged, and I acknowledge that and want to do my part to change the status quo. And I have struggled, and continue to struggle.  But comparing the severity of tragedies and struggles is going down a dark, divisive path. I will never do it. I support the fight of my many brothers and sisters who want nothing more than the dignity of an equal opportunity to succeed, to live without fear of assault and discrimination.

Suffice it to say this: in my pursuit of success as an author of genre fiction, some doors will open more easily for me than for my compatriots of color, women, and the litany of others who suffer this systemic discrimination. It is unacceptable. Hurley’s essays shine a bright light on these issues, and for that, it is a work of great import.

This was a difficult review to write. But The Geek Feminist Revolution was not a difficult book to read. It flows, and Hurley’s righteous fury is appropriate and inspiring. Her contribution to the canon of the fight against discrimination, especially in our corner of the zeitgeist, will stand out as a remarkable moment of commitment.  Hurley has cemented herself as a fearless fighter—a woman driven to this end not only by external forces, but an internal strength and perseverance that drives her to shout until she is hoarse, then shout some more. Kameron Hurley, you have written a fantastic collection of essays here. Your work should be considered required reading for anyone who wants to become a “figure” in the genre fiction community.

I’ll be pushing it to every writer I know.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is available on Amazon and directly from the author.

Tears of the Assassin – William Schiele

William Schiele packs a hefty amount of action and intrigue into Tears of the Assassin, his debut novel published by Inkshares last week. In Assassin, David Diegert, a half-Ojibwa half-white American, is passed from gauntlet to gauntlet, his situation growing worse and worse, until he’s forced to take work as a contract killer on the Dark Web. Abused by his father,  brother, and high school classmates, Diegert decides to join the military, hoping that he cam earn college tuition through his service. He’s put into service with an unofficial group funneling heroin into the US from Afghanistan, and when he loses his temper at his superior officer, he’s dishonorably discharged and told to keep quiet about his actions in the military.

He ends up bouncing at a bar stateside, where he gets caught up in Russian mafia intrigue, which ultimately forces his hand, turning him into a killer. Out of options, this is when he decides to go all in on being a killer-for-hire on the Dark Web.

Which gets him deeper into trouble, working for a shadowy illuminati-esque organization working on the final stages of its plan to dismantle the US in order to own the world’s last valuable currency, a bitcoin-esque affair.

If my summary makes Tears of the Assassin seem like a book that does a good deal of meandering, that’s because it is. As I read, checking the percentage  of the book I’d completed, I found myself wondering when the other shoe would drop. The action was great, the writing compelling, and the characters interesting, but I felt like the book was missing a sort of cohesion, a central arc toward which Diegert would be thrust. It may be the fact that he’s such a capable and active protagonist that draws attention to his seemingly aimless wandering, but the fact remains that he feels like an arrow loosed for firing’s sake; lacking a target, but attractive in flight.

There are appealing twists and turns in Tears of the Assassin, made especially effective by the manner in which hints are dropped just prior to the reveal, making the reader feel clever for being one step ahead of Diegert. All in all, it’s a thrilling read—punctuated by intense moments of violence and thrilling chase scenes and the like.

But let’s talk for a moment about the title and its connection to one of the themes of the novel. Tears of the Assassin specifically refers to the fact that Diegert is an efficient machine when he’s in “kill mode,” but collapses under the weight of his actions when he’s with women—often those he’s shared a moment of intimacy with. Diegert is our Killer with a Conscience™️, the ruthless man who weeps on the shoulder of the closest available woman at his own ruthlessness. It leads to somewhat problematic characterizations of gender roles in the novel, but this was intentional. When he’s confronted by the reality of his limited, somewhat clichéd view of the world, Diegert doesn’t quite know how to respond. It ends up shining a light on his own twisted view of things, and though he never seems to resolve that particular thread, it’s an important question that is asked well.

Problematic characterizations notwithstanding (whether they were intentional or otherwise), Tears of the Assassin is a good read. It’s dynamic, action-packed (if a smidgen directionless at times), and just plain fun.

Bonus points to Mr. Schiele for an ending that didn’t redeem Diegert at all, but followed exactly the kind of failures and challenges that plagued Diegert throughout his story. The ending really tied the book with a neat, dark bow.

Tears of the Assassin is available on Amazon and directly from Inkshares.

White Sand – Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere—the greater universe in which the majority of his books takes place—was recently optioned for film and licensing rights for $270 million, which is nothing-to-sneeze-at success, if you ask me. I’m eager to see the visual adaptations of his books, but I worry that because I’ve got such a vivid picture of them in my mind, I’ll be disappointed by one or another quality of the films. It happens all the time. (Dune’s getting a third chance, too. I wonder where that’ll go off the rails.)

But the excitement of seeing any of Sanderson’s worlds come to life, especially one as hauntingly beautiful as Scadrial (the planet on which the Mistborn series takes place), is too exciting to overlook. I mean, if this series is done right, the larger Cosmere universe will easily rival Marvel or Star Wars. Sanderson’s creations are that good. Better, even.

Which brings me to White Sand, the first book of the only graphic novel in the Cosmere universe. The planet Taldain (home of White Sand’s story) is as rich and intriguing a world as any of Sanderson’s others, if a bit monochromatic at first. We meet Kenton, member of an order of Sand Masters—able to wield ribbons of sand to spectacular martial effect—on the eve of the order’s annihilation.

The world, the sands, the suits, the faces—everything’s white. For what should ostensibly be a flat world, there’s a great and seemingly sinister depth lurking. But for what it’s worth, this story didn’t connect with me the way his written novels did. I can’t point my finger at why, though. White Sand has all the makings of a great Sandersonian epic: spectacular vistas, great magic, human drama, strange and terrifying changes to the status quo, but I found myself, more than once, wishing that I could also read White Sand as a novel.

I remain confident that the story of White Sand will blossom in volume two, in which I hope to learn more about Taldain—which seems to be a planet without axial rotation, as it has a light side and a dark side—and the curious folk that fill out the rest of the planet that isn’t in the magical monastery.

But back to this idea that the story didn’t have the same staying power of his prose work. The art is fantastic, the writing solid, and the final product is top-shelf, but I wasn’t absorbed into White Sand the way I’d hoped to be. But because I’m a die-hard Sanderson fan to the maxxx, I will sequester myself in my bedchamber, reading and re-reading White Sand until I get it.

That, or I’ll just wait for volume two, which is set to release in June, 2017.

White Sand is available on Amazon.