lunes, 3 de agosto de 2015

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, de Scott Wilbanks

Banda sonora de la reseña: Sugiero leer esta reseña escuchando A Letter to Myself, by Lemoncholy (Spotify, YouTube).

Es una verdad universalmente aceptada que no se pueden mezclar un libro romántico, una historia de viajes en el tiempo, un pastiche de Jane Austen, una novela epistolar y un drama familar. ¿O sí se puede? Parece que el Universo va a tener que verdades acepta porque precisamente eso (y más) es lo que Scott Wilbanks ha hecho en la muy entretenida The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

La novela de debut de Wilbanks es, por tanto, muchas cosas en una pero, sobre todo, es la historia de una serie de inadaptados. Los personajes de la novela son muy diferentes entre sí (¡incluso provienen de distintos siglos!) pero tienen una cosa en común: han encontrado difícil encajar en el tiempo y lugar en los que se supone que tienen que vivir. Todos ellos han tenido problemas que los han hecho solitarios e introvertidos:
El was not lovely. She was old and dusty. And she spent her evenings sitting in the wooden rocking chair by the fireplace gathering more dust. Inevitably, she had a book in hand, which she read through wire-rim spectacles that took delight in slowly slipping down the bridge of her nose. This was not an easy task for the spectacles, as El had a rather large hook on her nose that one would think obstructed their mischief. They managed anyway.
(...)
And as he was crossing Church and Twentieth on his way to Annie’s house, Christian saw the face for the third time. His own had been pressed, inevitably, in a book. Christian was something of a reading opportunist—science fiction, primarily. He read while he ate breakfast. He read on his lunch break. He read before he slipped off to sleep each night. He even read while crossing Church Street, ignorant of gathering rain clouds—not the most brilliant activity if his aim was survival. But Christian wasn’t a survivalist. If he was, he’d work in any field but the one in which he found himself. He worked in finance. 
Por medio de la magia del viaje en el tiempo, estos personajes se verán envueltos en una aventura inesperada que incluirá peligros, asesinatos y revelaciones sorprendentes y, lo más importante, los hará unirse y descubrir su propósito en la vida.

Si, como yo, sois lectores veteranos de ciencia ficción, esta descripción puede que no os resulte demasiado atractiva y, de hecho, pienso que The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster probablemente será más popular entre el público general que dentro del fandom de la CF (no puedo evitar pensar en libros como La mujer del viajero en el tiempo, por ejemplo). Pero no sería bueno hacer un juicio tan a la ligera, porque la novela tiene muchas cosas buenas que ofrecer.

Me ha gustado mucho la forma en qué está escrito el libro, especialmente en los primeros capítulos, mezclando narración convencional con las cartas que El y Annie se escriben la una a la otra. La prosa es cálida y divertida, con un sentido del humor ligero pero maravilloso como, por ejemplo, en los siguientes breves extractos:
Lacking the disposition for subtlety, I’ll get directly to the point. Trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts! 
And while it may appear to the contrary, I am not by nature the quarreling type, though that sissy of a representative from the county tax assessor’s office might beg to differ. Frankly, I think the reports of his limp are greatly exaggerated.
(...)
Westport, Kansas, was a community of thoroughbreds, where proper breeding was not only expected, but also required. Decorum was the air the town breathed, and the first commandment of local society was “mind your own damn business.” Privacy was considered so sacred to the good people of the township and so jealously guarded that—and this should come as no surprise—there were no secrets there at all, human nature being what it is. Everyone was taught reconnaissance at their mama’s knee and went on to become an agent provocateur. In Westport, secrets were scandal, and scandal was sport. 
Even those who survived the carnage of the rumor mill learned that Westport was anything but an egalitarian society. A pecking order existed. The big hens pecked at the smaller hens that, in turn, pecked at the even smaller hens on down the line until they reached the last unfortunate soul with no one to peck.
La historia de viajes en el tiempo en sí puede que no sea tan elaborada como en otras novelas de pura ciencia ficción, pero tiene todos los tropos del género, incluyendo paradojas e intentos de cambiar el futuro mediante cambios en el pasado. Las explicaciones, sin embargo, son un tanto difusas y me habría gustado que algunas de las ideas que simplemente se apuntan hubieran sido desarrolladas en más detalle:
P.S. I offer a topic for discussion. The past is nothing more than the present romanticized, while the future is history with imagination. Any thoughts?
(...) 
A tree looks much the same from one century to another, but a city is another thing altogether.
La novela tiene algunos problemas, quizá a causa de su propia ambición. La estructura es un tanto irregular, con largas partes en las que no se sabe nada de ciertos sucesos o ciertos personajes que de repente vuelven a aparecer, y la narración a veces es ligeramente confusa. El principal problema para mí, sin embargo, fue que algunos de los personajes añaden relativamente poco a la historia y podrían haber sido eliminados sin afectar demasiado a la trama general. Estoy pensando, por ejemplo, en Nathaniel y en Christian y Edmond aunque estos dos últimos son un perfecto ejemplo de cómo se puede escribir son una pareja gay sin estridencias y de una forma completamente natural y normal.

Sumándolo todo, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster es una novela entretenida, original y optimista. Puede que no sea del gusto de todo el mundo, pero recomiendo darle una oportunidad si buscáis una historia de viajes en el tiempo que se salga de los caminos más trillados.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, by Scott Wilbanks

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to A Letter to Myself, by Lemoncholy (Spotify, YouTube).

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you can't mix a romance book, a time travel story, a Jane Austen pastiche, an epistolary novel and family drama. Or is it? Well, it seems that the Universe will have to check which truths it acknowledges because all that (and more) is what Scott Wilbanks has done in the very entertaining The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Wilbanks's debut novel is, thus, many things in one, but, above all, it is the story of a handful of misfits. All the characters of the novel are very different (they even come from different centuries!) but have one thing in common: they found it difficult to fit in the place and time they are supposed to live in. All of them have experienced their problems that have made them loners in some way:
El was not lovely. She was old and dusty. And she spent her evenings sitting in the wooden rocking chair by the fireplace gathering more dust. Inevitably, she had a book in hand, which she read through wire-rim spectacles that took delight in slowly slipping down the bridge of her nose. This was not an easy task for the spectacles, as El had a rather large hook on her nose that one would think obstructed their mischief. They managed anyway.
(...)
And as he was crossing Church and Twentieth on his way to Annie’s house, Christian saw the face for the third time. His own had been pressed, inevitably, in a book. Christian was something of a reading opportunist—science fiction, primarily. He read while he ate breakfast. He read on his lunch break. He read before he slipped off to sleep each night. He even read while crossing Church Street, ignorant of gathering rain clouds—not the most brilliant activity if his aim was survival. But Christian wasn’t a survivalist. If he was, he’d work in any field but the one in which he found himself. He worked in finance. 
Through the magic of time travel, these characters will be involved in an unexpected adventure that will include danger, murder and surprising revelations and, most importantly, will bond them together and find their purpose in life. 

If you, like me, are a seasoned science fiction reader, this description might look slightly unappealing and, in fact, I think that The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster will probably prove more popular among general readers than within SF fandom (I can't help recalling books such as The Time Traveler's Wife, for instance). But you shouldn't judge too lightly, for there is a lot to like in this novel. 

I did really enjoy the way the book is written, especially in the first chapters, intertwining conventional narration with the letters that El and Annie write to each other. The prose is warm and funny, with a light but wonderful sense of humor as, for instance, in the following short excerpts:
Lacking the disposition for subtlety, I’ll get directly to the point. Trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts! 
And while it may appear to the contrary, I am not by nature the quarreling type, though that sissy of a representative from the county tax assessor’s office might beg to differ. Frankly, I think the reports of his limp are greatly exaggerated.
(...)
Westport, Kansas, was a community of thoroughbreds, where proper breeding was not only expected, but also required. Decorum was the air the town breathed, and the first commandment of local society was “mind your own damn business.” Privacy was considered so sacred to the good people of the township and so jealously guarded that—and this should come as no surprise—there were no secrets there at all, human nature being what it is. Everyone was taught reconnaissance at their mama’s knee and went on to become an agent provocateur. In Westport, secrets were scandal, and scandal was sport. 
Even those who survived the carnage of the rumor mill learned that Westport was anything but an egalitarian society. A pecking order existed. The big hens pecked at the smaller hens that, in turn, pecked at the even smaller hens on down the line until they reached the last unfortunate soul with no one to peck.
The time travel story per se might not be so elaborated as in other, hard-core SF novels, but it has all the tropes of the genre, including paradoxes and attempts to change the future by changing the past. The explanations, though, are a bit handwavy and I would have liked it if some of the ideas that are only hinted at would have been more thoroughly explored:
P.S. I offer a topic for discussion. The past is nothing more than the present romanticized, while the future is history with imagination. Any thoughts?
(...) 
A tree looks much the same from one century to another, but a city is another thing altogether.
The novel also some issues, probably because of its own ambition. The structure is a bit uneven, with large chunks in which nothing is known about certain events or characters that then suddenly return, and the narration sometimes becomes a bit confusing. The main problem for me was, however, that some of the characters add very little to the story and they even could have been removed without greatly affecting the overall plot. I'm thinking, for instance, of Nathaniel and of Christian and Edmond, although I think that the relationship of the latter two was a perfect example of how to write about a gay couple without stridency and in a completely natural and normal fashion. 

All in all, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is an entertaining, original and optimist novel. It might be not everybody's cup of tea, but I recommend that you give it a try if you're looking for a time travel story that strays from the trodden path.     

domingo, 2 de agosto de 2015

Novedad: Three Moments of an Explosion, de China Miéville

Ya está a la venta Three Moments of an Explosion, una nueva colección de relatos de China Miéville. Ésta es su sinopsis:
A highly anticipated collection of short fiction listed in the Guardian's 'Essential Literary Calendar' for 2015 from one of the most exciting and original authors writing today.

The multi-award-winning China Miéville has been called 'the equal of David Mitchell or Zadie Smith' (Scotland on Sunday), whose 'inventiveness and precision is awesome' (Independent), and who writes with 'an imagination of immense power' (Guardian). In this extraordinary series of stories, defying definitions and literary stereotyping, he once again proves why he 'is one of the most interesting and promising writers to appear in the last few years in any genre' (Carlos Ruiz Zafon).

In these stories, glistening icebergs float above urban horizons; a burning stag runs wild through the city; the ruins of industry emerge unsteadily from the sea; and the abandoned generations in a decayed space-elevator look not up at the stars but down at the Earth. Ranging from portraits of childhood to chilling ghost stories, from dystopian visions to poignant evocations of uncanny love, with beautiful prose and melancholy wit, this breath-taking collection poses searching questions of what it is to be human in an unquiet world. It is a humane and unsentimental investigation of our society, our world, and ourselves.

sábado, 1 de agosto de 2015

Novedad en Kelonia: Otros reinos, de Richard Matheson

Kelonia ha puesto a la venta Otros reinos, de Richard Matheson. El libro tiene 328 páginas y cuesta 19,95€.

Ésta es su sinopsis:
Durante más de medio siglo, Richard Matheson ha cautivado y aterrorizado a los lectores con clásicos atemporales como Soy leyenda, El increíble hombre menguante, Duelo, En algún lugar del tiempo y Más allá de los sueños.


Ahora, el Gran Maestro regresa con una historia fascinante de suspense erótico y encanto...

- 1918 - 
Un joven soldado estadounidense recientemente herido en la Gran Guerra, Alex White, trata de escapar en Gatford de su pasado turbulento. Un pueblo pastoral inglés que parece el lugar perfecto para sanar su cuerpo y su alma herida. En realidad, se cuenta que los bosques vecinos albergan seres caprichosos, incluso espíritus malévolos, pero seguramente solo son supersticiones de viejas. 
¿No es así? 
Un encuentro aterrador en el bosque conduce a Alex hasta los brazos de Magda Variel, una seductora viuda de rojos cabellos de la que se rumorea que es una bruja. Ella lo insta a mantenerse alejado de los árboles y el peligroso Reino de las Hadas que limitan, pero Alex no puede contenerse. Cautivado por sus verdeantes misterios, encuentra el amor, el peligro... y maravillas que cambiarán para siempre su visión del mundo.

Otros Reinos emite un hechizo mágico, conjurado por un legendario contador de historias.

viernes, 31 de julio de 2015

Novedad: Crooked, de Austin Grossman

Ya está a la venta Crooked, de Austin Grossman, una novela que reseñé la semana pasada y que recomiendo muy especialmente.

Ésta es su sinopsis:
This is the story of the great con game that was the late twentieth century, of American history's worst presidency, of how I learned to lie. It is not history as you know it. There are at least three sides to this story, and I'm telling both of mine.

I promise you I will show the same contempt for the historical record that it has shown for me.

My name is Richard Milhous Nixon. I swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and I have seen the devil walk.

An alternate history, a horror novel, a political satire and a study of what people will sacrifice to succeed, CROOKED is the ultimate inside story of the strange, all-too-human monsters at the heart of American power.

jueves, 30 de julio de 2015

Interview with Christopher Kastensmidt

Today I team up again with Leticia Lara for a very special interview with Christopher Kastensmidt, author of the wonderful stories of The Elephant and Macaw Banner. You can read the translation into Spanish at Fantástica Ficción. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Leticia Lara & Odo: You currently live in Brazil and your Elephant and Macaw Banner stories are, in fact, set in that country. How has your living abroad influenced your writing? What can you tell us about Brazilian science fiction and fantasy?

Christopher Kastensmidt: Living abroad influences everything. It gives a person a different outlook on life, a way of looking at things from different angles. In the case of The Elephant and Macaw Banner, it also provided me with material I would probably never have seen while living in the U.S.

Brazilian science fiction and fantasy has been riding a ten-year boom. In the twentieth-century, very little speculative fiction was published, and next-to-nothing by national authors. All that changed with the turn of the century, when lower publishing costs allowed smaller publishers to emerge. The number of SF books published per year grew 500% from 2005 to 2010. Even with those numbers, there is still plenty of room for growth.

LL&O: Classic Sword and Sorcery is not one of the most popular genres these days (especially with all the grim/dark and gritty fantasy out there). Why did you decide to write his kind of story? What authors have influenced your writing?

CK: With writing, it’s pointless to run after market trends, because they change all the time.  I write S&S because I enjoy it personally, and from my experience, a lot of younger readers do as well. To them, it’s something new, for the exact reason that few people have been publishing it.

Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories were a direct influence on The Elephant and Macaw Banner, as were the adventure stories of Alexandre Dumas and the old Robin Hood tales.

LL&O: The Elephant and Macaw Banner universe has been expanded into comic books and board games, and soon, a pen-and-paper RPG. How was this experience for you? Is there some feedback between your writing and the process of creating the games and the graphic novels?

CK: I spent fifteen years in the video game industry, so I’m accustomed to working with different media. There is an enormous amount of feedback between the products. Since they all reside in the same world, I’m constantly pulling ideas from one to the other. I even make changes to stories that have already been published.

For example, the graphic novel adaptation of “The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost” has entire scenes which weren’t in the original publication (Realms of Fantasy Magazine, 2010), and some of those have fed back into the republication of that story I launched last month! The process is very organic. I’m not afraid of changing my own stories if I think I can improve them, and I most certainly change them to fit the medium.

LL&O: Grim Fandango is one of the best adventures I have played. Can you tell us about your involvement in the development of this game? Do you think that telling a story in a videogame is similar to writing narrative?

CK: Grim Fandango is one of the best I’ve played as well; I’m glad I had the chance to see that project in development.

At the time it was being developed, I was still working on the technical side of things. I was an Intel employee, visiting lots of video game companies to train them and provide programming support. I didn’t do as much in Grim Fandango as I did in other LucasArts projects (like Indiana Jones and the Internal Machine, which I worked on for months), but I did provide some technical training to the team and perform a bit of coding for them.

That being said, I have written for several video games, and I even teach a university course on scriptwriting for games. The short answer is that there are certain narrative elements that need to be taken into account across all media: character, setting, and conflict, for example. Video games, however, are unique because of their interactivity. The player must have some say in how the story plays out, and the author needs to take that into account.

LL&O: Why did you decide to set your stories in the sixteenth century? Were you exploring something unknown to you or is this a historical period that you really like? I’ve read that you research profusely for your writing. How do you know when to stop researching and begin writing?

CK: It’s a historical period that I really like. I started studying Brazilian history for my own amusement in the late 90s, at the same time I began to study Portuguese, so by the time I began writing The Elephant and Macaw Banner, I already knew quite a bit. The sixteenth-century is great because it really was a period of exploration and adventure, perfect for this kind of story. The true-life story of Hans Staden, a German mercenary who made two long trips to Brazil at the time, was also a great influence, perhaps even the inspiration for the stories.

I never stop researching! I pause the writing sometimes when I need to study an entirely new subject, but the real key is learning how to research and write at the same time.

LL&O: Your Elephant and Macaw Banner tales have an interesting publication story, some of them were first available only in Portuguese and only now have been published in English. What can you tell us about this process? Are new stories of Gerard van Oost and Oludara coming soon? Will they be published simultaneously in Portuguese and English?

CK: There is a reason behind that. The first story came out in 2010, and the magazine which published it went out of business, so I had to find a new publisher. Another magazine accepted the second story in the series, but kept it “in the drawer”, awaiting publication, for four years.

I had originally decided to wait for English publication before publishing other stories in other languages, but there were so many people wanting to read more stories, I went ahead and published two more stories in other languages. Those have been published in Brazil, The Czech Republic, Romania, and The Netherlands.

So, after four long years, I decided to pull the story from the magazine and publish the stories myself (I didn’t feel like submitting to magazines and possibly waiting another four years). For now, they’re exclusive to Kindle, but I hope to have them out in other formats by the end of the year.

My publication plans in Portuguese and English are divergent at this point. I’m going to publish a novel in Brazil, joining many of the tales, but in English, I’m publishing the stories as a series of novelettes, to see where that goes. It is highly likely that I’ll publish stories in one language that I won’t publish in the other. As I said, the process is organic.

LL&O: What can you tell us about the possibility of publishing your stories in Spanish? What do you think about reading translations? Do you think the translator needs to be guided/helped by the author?

CK: I would love to publish them in Spanish, but no one has come asking for those rights yet, so I may go ahead and launch those myself, as I did in English.

The translator needs to feel comfortable asking the author questions. I’ve read bad translations of my own work before, where the translator didn’t ask me a single question, and I thought, “Why didn’t he just ask me to explain this part?” Resolving any doubts up front will save both sides a lot of embarrassment.

LL&O: You have worked as a computer programmer. What is similar and what is different between writing code and writing fiction?

CK: I would say that they are almost opposites. Computer programming is about creating a series of logical steps that will always provide the same result. Fiction is about feeling, emotion. It will never provide the same result. An infinite number of readers will have an infinite number of reactions.

LL&O: Are social networks important for you relationships with other authors and with your readers?

They are fundamental. The greater part of my writing career has occurred online: writing forums, critique groups, fiction submissions. Face-to-face relationships are still important to me. I tend to go to a couple of events each year (and even organize one), but that is very little compared to the time spent interacting online.

LL&O: What are you working on right now? Could you give us a sneak peek on your future projects?

CK: I’ve been writing narratives for just about everything these days: comics, TV shows, movies, video games, children’s books. Most of those projects are still unannounced, so there’s not much to say. I can at least mention Starlit Adventures, by Rockhead Games. That will be coming out a few weeks from now. I wrote part of the story, but my participation there will go far beyond the game itself—we’ll have some exciting news to announce shortly after launch. I also have some great new news about The Elephant and Macaw Banner that I can’t share just yet, unfortunately.

LL&O: Where can our readers learn more about you and your work?

CK: The best place to go is http://www.eamb.org/. That’s the only place with my complete bibliography (including games), and has a lot of information about the series.

LL&O: Any other thing you’d like to add?


CK: Yes, thank you very much for the interview! It has been a pleasure.

LL&O: Thank you for your answers and your time!

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2015

Ebook en oferta: Promise of Blood, de Brian McClellan

En estos momentos se puede adquirir en varias tiendas online (Amazon ES, Kobo) el ebook Promise of Blood, de Brian McClellan, al precio promocional de 3,99€. 

Ésta es la sinopsis del libro:
Winner of the 2013 David Gemmell Morningstar Award, A Promise of Blood is the explosive first novel in the most action-packed and acclaimed new fantasy series in years.

It's a bloody business, overthrowing a king. Now, amid the chaos, a whispered rumour is spreading. A rumour about a broken promise, omens of death and the gods returning to walk the earth.

No one really believes these whispers.

Perhaps they should.