Sunday, February 1, 2009

Jane Lindskold

Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Wolf series, which began with Through Wolf’s Eyes and concluded with Wolf’s Blood, as well as many other fantasy novels. Her latest novel is Thirteen Orphans.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m an avid reader. I read fiction. I read non-fiction. I read manga. When I can’t find a way to interact with actual print fiction, I listen to recorded books.

What follows is a quick look at a sample of the books I’ve enjoyed the most over the last month or so.

In fiction, three titles immediately spring to mind. The first is Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams. This novel is a wild trip into a Vingean future where computers are intelligent, and evolved humanity is taking advantage of virtual realities sustained by these computers to explore an amazing variety of life-styles.

There’s more than a little indebtedness to Roger Zelazny in Implied Spaces, especially Zelazny novels such as Lord of Light and Isle of the Dead, but Williams makes no effort to hide this debt. Those who know Zelazny’s work will find the author’s polite bow fairly quickly. Acknowledging Williams’s debt to both Vernor Vinge and Roger Zelazny isn’t to say that Williams’s novel is derivative. It isn’t. His plot is his own; his characters buzz with his own unique energy. A good book for any reader, familiar or not with this author’s work.

Another SF novel I enjoyed was Jack McDevitt’s recent release, The Devil’s Eye. Although this book features McDevitt’s continuing characters – antiquities dealer, Alex Benedict, and his ship’s pilot, Chase Kolpath – The Devil’s Eye could probably be read without knowledge of those prior works. Some elements of past history and personal interaction are deepened by familiarity with those prior works.

The setting of this novel is a future where space travel is common, and humanity is scattered among the stars. Contact with aliens has been made as well. However, human nature has only slightly – if at all – evolved.

The Devil’s Eye has at its heart a mystery. A famous writer has left Benedict a cryptic message that ends: “I’m in over my head, Mr. Benedict. God help me, they’re all dead.” By the time Benedict and Kolpath have unraveled the layers upon layers behind this cryptic statement, they, too, are in over their heads. I enjoyed the journey, and found the solution very satisfactory – and even inspirational.

The final novel I want to touch on is a mystery: SPQR XII: Oracle of the Dead, by John Maddox Roberts. As the title indicates, this is the twelfth novel in an on-going series. I started with the first, and have sincerely enjoyed the evolution of the central character, Decius Caecilius Metellus. Over the course of the series, Decius moves from being family black sheep to something vaguely approaching respectability. However, Roberts is a strong writer, and readers could start with this book – although I’m willing to bet they’ll be heading out for the rest.

The SPQR mysteries are set in the final days of the Roman Republic. In some novels in the series, the politics of that troubled time are central to the action. In others, they are in the background. Oracle of the Dead, which takes place outside of Rome proper, has cameos by a few famous historical figures, but most of the action belongs to fictional characters. There’s some dry humor but, when it comes to investigation of murder and mystery cults, the author is all seriousness.

That investigation is intricate, too, but to say more would provide too many spoilers, so I’ll stop there.

These aren’t the only novels I read, but this would get too long if I went into the rest. I can think of at least five others I read, in genre’s ranging from YA to western to SF/F. What can I say? Air travel is good for reading.

As I mentioned above, I also read non-fiction. This has been biography month. Lately, I finished The Last Undercover by Bob Hamer, in which a retired FBI agent looks back over his career. Quite good detail.

From there I went to Max Mallowen’s autobiography, Mallowen’s Memoirs. Mallowen was a leading archeologist in the Middle East. He was also Agatha Christie’s second, and much beloved, husband. Interestingly, he has more to say about her writing than she does in her own autobiography (which I’ve also read).

Max’s book made me want to re-read an old favorite: Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C.W. Ceram. This is a biographical history of some of the leading figures in early archeology. The writing is excellent. If some of the details of the cultures being investigated are out-dated, the biographical material has the advantage of proximity.

In between, I caught up on two issues of Shonen Jump that had laid fallow while I focused on finishing writing a novel before the holidays. This manga magazine heavily emphasizes fight and competition stories, but nonetheless can be fun. I am also nearing the end of the run of a more serious manga, Rurouni Kenshin, which I started years ago, but only recently had the chance to finish.

I have two more issues to go, and am savoring them, so no spoilers!

Oh... And I also read The Wall Street Journal, pretty much daily, and have done so for many years.

My recorded books have been varied: Agatha Christie mysteries and old radio shows are on deck right now, but before that it was Kipling’s Kim and Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories.

An eclectic mix... and time very well spent.
Visit Jane Lindskold's website.

--Marshal Zeringue