I’m seriously into series. Yes, I love to wade into a universe, not just dip a short story toe. That’s why I like well- known series. I just finished Mad Ship by Robin Hobb, which is an older 1999 publication, and it’s about time I got around to reading it. The other series I just read is the more recent Sisterhood of Dune.
First, Robin Hobb creates compelling, believable characters. From the spoiled trader’s daughter, Malta, who has to grow up when pirates capture her father’s trading ship, to the tormented Brashen Trell who is trying to redeem his good name and fortune by taking on the risky adventure of saving her father and his liveship, her characters come alive. Malta’s sister, Althea, goes with Brashen as his first mate. She feels drawn to him romantically, but as he is her captain neither can risk the deeper relationship they both crave. So you have unrequited love on both sides, which gives the story an interesting tension.
The liveship Vivacia has been captured by pirates. On board is Althea’s nephew Wintrow, who would rather be in a monastery than risking his life carving on the pirate captain Kennit’s diseased leg and Malta and Althea’s father…now in the brig. And the sometimes evil, sometimes good Pirate Captain Kennit who has his own delusions of being king of the pirate islands.
Another major character is Magnadon Satrap, who is a spoiled despot that comes to Bingtown to squash his subjects, but instead sets off a brewing civil war between the new traders and the old. There are also the veiled mutants from the Rain Wilds, one who is Malta’s suitor, Reyn. They hide their hideous deformities under mysterious veils and plunder the underground city of the long dead magical Elderlings to build their family’s trading wealth.
And then there are the liveships. The sailing ships made from wizard wood with live figureheads who can talk, think and feel.
That are connected somehow to dragons, yes we have dragons too, who are dying out and one is trapped deep beneath the Elderling city and calls out to Malta and Reyn in their dreams.
Mad Ship has not only interesting characters, but lots of actions and surprising plot twists…but my lips are sealed, or I’ll be made to walk the plank. You’ll have to read it to find out…and then read the next book called Ship of Destiny that continues the story.
So, if you like FANTASY, I recommend that series.
If not, then look at the Dune series. World building with interesting science and characters.
Frank Herbert’s Dune contains a complex universe and worldwide has been one of the top best selling science fiction novels of all time. His son Brian and co-author Kevin Anderson have continued the story with an amazing array of prequels that add depth and texture to the original story. They have done a good job, using copious notes left by Frank Herbert and kept the story close to what I expect he would have wanted.
The problem becomes one of complexity. By expanding the story, the already multitude of characters from Dune enlarge. Filling in back story and catching various characters up to date slows down the current action and plot.
The focus of Sisterhood centers on the earlier Bene Gesserit and the continuing conflict between human and machine. It has been eight decades since the last thinking machine was defeated at the battle of Corrino, but Manford Torondo swepts through the various systems with his mob of Butlerians destroying all that is machine, and technology. Josef Venport with his space folding ships and extended empire becomes his enemy. The Mendat school with the dangerous, hidden robot, Erasmus, plays a part, as does the Suk school and the Swordmaster’s School, where Anari Idaho trained, and now carries the half bodied Manford. Vorian Artriedies flees assassins and Harkonian enemies bent on revenge for imagined past injuries, only to discover the beginning of the Freeman on Arrakis. Herbert and Anderson pick up many plot threads until I felt I needed a graph to keep track of everyone and all the events.
Still, it is a compelling story if you don’t let yourself get too bogged down as you jump around in short chapters from one POV to the next. Underneath it all, the weaving plot contains struggling action. There’s murder, an assasination attempt, a transformation to Reverend Mother, a battle, poisoning and discovery of treachery against the self indulgent emperor Salvador Corrino and his able brother in court intrigue. Lots of action.
Everyone shows up, including the Tuluxan scientist Ptolemy, who renews his scientific zeal with vat grown parts, thinking to meld human brains back into mek machines in order to stop the Butlerian mob from destroying advanced civilization. Oops.
I was interested to see the back story to the many threads of Dune, and yet, got bogged down at times with all the scene changes and POV changes, Just when I got sympathetic to one character, I was switched to his opponent’s viewpoint and became sympathetic to their cause. The upshot is that I didn’t really connect to any one character.
However, if you are a Dune fan…this is a good one. So, wade in.
Last week, I got an e-mail from a website called Curated Science Fiction. It, too, suggests great science fiction books and I wanted to spread the word about their website, since I’m always looking for good science fiction books. So check out http://www.CuratedScienceFiction.com.
Let me know what you like.