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Religion, Damnation, and Epic Fantasy: A Review of R. Scott Bakker’s The White-Luck Warrior

The Darkness That Comes BeforeFull disclosure: I’m a scholar of religion and literature. So when a series like R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing or The Aspect-Emperor comes out, I get very excited. Bakker is one of the most original voices working in epic fantasy today, and his novels revolve ceaselessly around issues of religious belief and metaphysics. For example, the first three books of The Prince of Nothing revolved around a religious war that looked suspiciously like the Crusades. Furthermore, the narrator of the series in general adopts a tone and vocabulary that are by turns historical, scriptural, and epic. The characters act out of a fascinating mélange of motivations, an amalgamation of passion, intellect, and belief. They are concerned with metaphysical questions in a way that not many literary characters are. My nerdish qualities in this regard probably blind me to some of the artistic blemishes of these books. Whatever. I love them.

The Prince of Nothing consists of three books: The Darkness that Comes Before (2003), The Warrior-Prophet (2004), and The Thousandfold Thought (2006). The Aspect-Emperor, picking up the narrative thread, consists of The Judging Eye (2009) and now The White-Luck Warrior (2011). Both series weave together a complicated narrative, but one that draws the reader in rather than pushes her away. No summary of this series can do justice to the sprawling narrative, and in fact many events that have occurred in the series have multiple and conflicting interpretations. So I will merely sketch the outlines, and let the chips fall where they may. What follows contains some minor spoilers for those who have not read the first series, though I am intentionally trying to leave the major revelations to the reader. Still, if you intend to read the first series, you might want to stop reading.

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Our Fantastic Week Ahead: August 1

Happy August!  We hope everyone is enjoying summer, staying cool, and finding a few moments of relaxation now and then.

We'd like to start the week off by congratulating the nominees for the World Fantasy Awards--the complete list of nominees can be found here.  In particular, we would like to congratulate Peter S. Beagle and Angélica Gorodischer on their World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards!

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Fantastically Fun Fridays: July 29, 2011

As our Hugo Week draws to a close, we'd like to again remind you that you can still vote for your choices for the Hugos-membership information for Renovation is available here, and you have until July 31, 2011 (Sunday) to vote.  As Kat's post earlier this week mentioned, you have the power to shape the direction of the fantasy and science fiction genres with your votes and your nominations, and we'd encourage you to become an active participant in the process.

We also hope that you enjoyed our coverage of the Hugo-nominated novels, and that you take the time to vote for your favorite in our own poll.  Let's see if we can successfully predict the winner in the Best Novel category!

Here are some other things we found floating around the Internet this week...

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Which of these should win the Hugo Award for Best Novel?

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold
14%
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
7%
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
36%
Feed by Mira Grant
7%
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
36%

Hugo Week: Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn

CryoburnI went into Cryoburn blind.  Bujold's novel is the latest installment in the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, a hero introduced over two decades ago in The Warrior's Apprentice (1986) and who has appeared in over a dozen other novels.  And I'd never read any of them.

And I'll be honest--this made the novel frustrating for me to read at times, particularly the beginning.  I cheated a bit and looked up Miles Vorkosigan on Wikipedia, and looked at his chronology in the back of the book, both of which helped me keep characters straight and have some idea of where Miles was coming from, but I still didn't have the same emotional investment in the characters that a long-time Vorkosigan saga fan would have.  The hardcover version novel also came with a CD containing all the earlier works in the Vorkosigan saga, which I'm sure would be a huge bonus for many Bujold fans, but when I saw the CD, I was hoping for something more transmedial--something that blended genres and enhanced the medium of the novel with an interactive tour of the Vorkosigan universe, perhaps.

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