Sunday, September 29, 2013

Drew Karpyshyn

Drew Karpyshyn is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: The Old Republic novels: Revan and Annihilation, as well as the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy: Path of Destruction, Rule of Two and Dynasty of Evil. He also wrote the acclaimed Mass Effect series of novels and worked as a writer/designer on numerous award-winning videogames. His new book is the epic fantasy novel, Children of Fire.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what he was reading. Karpyshyn's reply:
Most of the fiction I read is speculative in some way: horror, sci-fi or fantasy. I read mostly for escapism, enjoyment and entertainment, and I usually find that in stories that I know couldn't happen in real life. I also think that sf/f/h books can be far more imaginative and amazing than movies in the same genre, because the author isn't limited by special effects or budget constraints. Give me a book with supernatural monsters, magic or highly advanced technologies, throw in some good characters and an interesting plot, and I'm hooked.

I tend to travel a lot, and I love to read while I'm on a plane or in a hotel room on the road. Having said that, it's hard for me to find stuff I like. I'm very particular about what I read, and I often become frustrated with the books I pick up. Fortunately, I've had a recent run of titles that I'd strongly recommend.

Let's begin with Elantris and Mistborn: The Final Empire. I'm a bit late to the Brandon Sanderson party, but I can see why he's become one of fantasy's most popular authors. Elantris focuses on a prince who is stricken by a very rare, very strange illness that causes him to be banished to a ruined wasteland; while Mistborn: The Final Empire tells the tale of a slave class struggling to throw off the shackles of society and an immortal, all-powerful ruler. Sanderson is an excellent author, and his characters and settings quickly grabbed me. But I think he's best known for the intricate and detailed magic systems he creates for his worlds. He approaches it almost like a science, with well defined laws that allow readers to understand exactly how magic works. I don't think that's a necessity for all fantasy: magic can sometimes be mysterious as long as the author plays fair with the readers when using it. But in Sanderson's case, the specific details of magic are tightly connected with the stories he's telling, and it really ties everything together.

I'm also in the middle of reading The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Cyberpunk isn't usually my first choice, but I loved Snowcrash so I decided to give this book a shot. The basic plot is a coming of age story of a young girl, but the book is more about society and the effects of nanotechnology on the human condition. I'm only partway through, but I've been drawn in to the story. The nanotechnology of this (not too) distant future is interesting, but what fascinates me the most about this book so far is the lack of any real antagonist. As I mentioned, I'm still somewhere in the middle of the novel, so things could change. But so far there aren't any villains actively working against the protagonists in any significant way. It's a very interesting way to craft a story, and I don't think I'd have the courage to try it myself. Fortunately, Stephenson is far more talented than I am, and he makes it work.

Sanderson and Stephenson are giants in their respective fields, but I also recently read a book from an author who is (at the moment) less well known: The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes. Patrick is a friend and former colleague at BioWare, and The Palace Job is his first novel. It's basically a heist novel that is set in a traditional fantasy setting: a rogues' gallery of uniquely twisted sword-and-sorcery archetypes band together to break into a magically protected fortress in order to steal the most valuable item in the kingdom. The novel is crazy, frenetic and very, very funny. My writing tends to be dark and serious - even a bit grim - so I admire someone like Patrick who knows how to tell a great action story that is also filled with lots of laughs and humor. I think readers would do themselves a huge favor by checking out The Palace Job.
Visit Drew Karpyshyn's website.

--Marshal Zeringue