05 November, 2009

Bona Fide: November Reading Challenge

When I look at our Butcher's Bill for the last couple of months I get, the distinct impression that I don't read many books. After finishing the last Weekly Roundup I thought to myself that the time had come to challenge myself. A German fairy tale came to mind: The Valiant Little Tailor. I still remember the belt inscription:
"Seven with one blow"
So, instead of killing flies, I decided to try and read seven books in November. You may think just seven books!? But that means around 3500 pages, or 117 pages per day with no breaks. With a reading speed of 35 pages per hour, that means I need at least three hours per day on every single day in November. And that is the real challenge, to find three hours for reading every day...

As a reader of my Weekly Roundup you know that I own a lot of unread books. I must admit I did not take long to decide which books I wanted to read because, as I'm very keen on epic fantasy after all the steampunk novels I have read in the past months. All books are worth a review, but I can't promise that I will write seven reviews this month. And so, let me present to you my choices, in no specific order:

In July 2009 I read and reviewed Flood, by Stephen Baxter. I liked it and I was curious at to whether the sequel Ark (2009, 457 p.) [US][UK], by Stephen Baxter, would work for me or not. And yes, this is science fiction!
"As the waters rose in FLOOD, high in the Colorado mountains the US government was building an ark. Not an ark to ride the waves but an ark that would take a select few thousand people out into space to start a new future for mankind. Sent out into deep space on a journey lasting centuries, generations of crew members carry the hope of a new beginning on a new, incredibly distant, planet.
But as the ages pass knowledge and purpose is lost and division and madness grows. And back on earth life, and man, find a new way. This is the epic sequel to the acclaimed FLOOD; a stirring tale of what mankind will do to survive and the perfect introduction for new readers to one of SFs greatest tropes; the generation ship.
Written by one of the most significant SF writers of the last 30 years, a man considered to be the heir of Arthur C Clarke as a writer with a unique ability to popularize science and science fiction for the largest possible audience FLOOD and ARK together form a landmark in modern SF."[Source]
This is the first book I read. Expect a review within the week.

The next book is the first one in the Twilight Reign series. So far three books are available and books four and five will both be published in 2010. Read the synopsis of The Stormcaller (2006, 493 p.) [US][UK], by Tom Loyd which is the first volume of the series:
"In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of Gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control.
Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic and more powerful than normal men… but with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage. Feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a change to live his own life, but the Gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager. Isak has been Chosen as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan.
The white-eyes were created to bring order out of chaos, for their magnetic charm and formidable strength makes them natural leaders of men. Lord Bahl is typical of the breed: he inspires and oppresses those around him in equal measure. He’s a difficult mentor for a boy every bit as volatile as himself.
This is a time for revenge, and for the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice, the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak as he is shaped and moulded to fulfil the prophecies that circle him like scavenger birds. The Gods are once again beginning to meddle in the affairs of men." [Source]
So far I have read 66 pages. Promising....

I read several great reviews of Lamentation (2009, 405 p.) [US][UK], by Ken Scholes. This is the first book of The Psalms of Isaak series, which will contain five books.
"An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.
Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city - he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.
Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.
This remarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will take readers away to a new world - an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn't changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations." [Source]
Only 90 pages left. Mr. Scholes knows how to tell a story. I'm impressed.

Colours In The Steel (1998, 503 p.) [US][UK], by K. J. Parker is the first book of the Fencer trilogy. I got the book on my birthday in summer. And now the time has come to read it.
"Perimadeia is the famed Triple City and the mercantile capital of the known world. Behind its allegedly impregnable walls, everything is available—including information that will allow its enemies to plan one of the most devastating sieges of all time. The man called upon to defend Perimadeia is Bardas Loredan, a fencer-at-law, weary of his work and the world. For Loredan is one of the surviving members of Maxen’s Pitchfork, the legendary band of soldiers who waged war on the Plains tribes, rendering an attack on Perimadeia impossible. Until now, that is. But Loredan has problems of his own. In a city where court cases are settled by lawyers arguing with swords not words, enemies are all too easily made. And by winning one particular case, Loredan has unwittingly become the target of a young woman bent on revenge. The last thing he needs is the responsibility of saving a city. " [Source]
This is the only book in my list which is more than ten years old!

The Magicians (2009, 488 p.) [US][UK], by Lev Grossman is not part of a series as far as I know. I liked Harry Potter and read that the book would be more grown-up, and a bit darker.
"Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.
Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.
Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real." [Source]

A Magic of Twilight (2008, 547 p.) [US][UK], by S. L. Farrell is the first book of the Nessantico Cycle. Jeff C over at Fantasy Book News & Reviews wrote about the book:
"This is also one of those books filled with gray characters." "If you like books filled with politics, religion, a bit of magic, and lots of intrigue, I would recommend checking out A Magic of Twilight."
I felt intrigued and bought the book. Now the time has come to read it:
"An intricate tale of murder and magic, deception and betrayal, Machiavellian politics, star-crossed lovers, and a world on the brink of devastating war....
Over the decades and slow centuries, the city of Nessantico spread its influence in all directions, subsuming and converting the majority of other religions and lesser gods within the Holdings. Always strong even as the borders of the Holdings ebbed and flowed under the effects of war and commerce, always magnificent even as tastes and styles changed, always seductive and desirable no matter what other exotic lands and places might briefly come into fashion, Nessantico gathered to itself all that was intellectual, all that was rich, all that was powerful. There was no city in the known world that could rival it. But there were many who envied it..." [Source]

The last book has a story behind it. I read about it over at Dave Brendon's blog Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF. I was interested in the book and tried to search out the publishing date, but I failed. So I asked Dave and Dave asked the author Stephen Zimmer. And finally I got in contact with the author. You will get a full review and more information soon. Crown of Vengeance (2009, 612 p.) [US][UK], by Stephen Zimmer is the first book in The Fires of Eden series. Begin an epic journey...
"On a night that begins no different from any other, strange mists engulf Janus Roland, Erika Laesig, Mershad Shahab, and several others going about their lives in a quiet midwestern town. When the mist dissipates, they all find themselves looking up into the bright skies of a new, incredible world. Without explanation of why it has happened, or any notion of where they are, they embark upon a grand adventure within the fantastical world of Ave (pronounced ah-vay). Some find themselves in the lands of the Saxan Kingdom, while others have emerged within the lands of the Onan, one of the tribes in the Five Realms confederation. Storms of war loom over both Saxany and the Five Realms, as invasion forces mass under the inspiration of The Unifier, a mysterious, captivating figure whose influence has swept across the surface of Aveever since His rise to power in the Gallean duchy of Avanor.
It is a war that will be fought in the skies, upon the seas, on land, and even in places non-physical in nature. A majestic, epic fantasy that begins many adventures and journeys across a diverse and enthralling world, filled with races and creatures both familiar and new, Crown of Vengeance lights the flame of the Fires in Eden series, bringing to life a bold, far-ranging, and grand new venture within the realms of fantasy literature." [Source]

Which books have you read in November? Let me know!