Archive for October, 2008

Darkover novels and some reading material

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Well, it’s been a busy few months. Lately, I haven’t felt like writing much. I’ve been letting story ideas develop and grow in my head. At some point, there won’t be enough room in my head for all my thoughts and I’ll hit a writing streak. I guess I could just be too tired to write. I’ve been helping teach taekwondo at least three days a week on top of taking classes. It does feel good to be training more consistently again – much easier to do now that my attentions aren’t on other things that were proving less fulfilling and enjoyable. In any case, most days training and working out for an additional hour or so leaves not much time for writing at night. (Those little mundane things in life like eating and showering after working out tend to take priority.) I’ve mostly been reading, and even some nights, I’m just too tired to read – just watch a movie, play a short game, or work on number puzzles (kakuro is the best!)

Recently, I decided to read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels. I thought about reading them before and was thinking after I got through some more of the Avalon books that I might, but the Darkover novels seemed particularly interesting. I’ve always enjoyed Bradley’s writing and one of the novels seemed related to a story I want to write. It’s not the same story, but I wanted to see how she developed a society on another planet.

Bradley has recommended reading her Darkover novels in the order she wrote them because her writing style changed over the years. You could also read the novels according to Darkovan chronology, but the novels aren’t written as a series. Bradley wrote each novel as a stand-alone. Bradley has stated that Darkover is just a world that she enjoys writing about.

Because I am interested in seeing how Bradley’s writing style has changed over the years, I decided to take her advice to read the novels in the order they were written. However, I was wanting to read Darkover Landfall specifically because it is related to a story idea I have. Thus, I read it sooner rather than later. Darkover Landfall is the first story in Darkovan chronology, but it was written a little later. Bradley’s first Darkover novel is The Sword of Aldones, but it wasn’t the first Darkover story published. The Planet Savers was published first in a science fiction magazine in 1958. In 1962, The Sword of Aldones was published dos-à-dos with The Planet Savers. The Sword of Aldones is no longer published as Bradley later re-wrote the story as part of Sharra’s Exile, published in 1981.

So far I’ve read four Darkover novels. In the order I’ve read them, they are – The Sword of Aldones, The Planet Savers, Darkover Landfall, and Star of Danger. I found a used copy of The Sword of Aldones. When I read Sharra’s Exile, I will be able to compare the two stories.

According to Wikipedia, the Darkover novels were published in the following order:

The Planet Savers (1958, 1962, part of To Save a World omnibus.)
Sword of Aldones (1962. Bradley herself has stated that this was the first Darkover novel she wrote – see “Author’s Note on Chronology” in The Forbidden Circle omnibus.)
The Bloody Sun (1964. Revised and expanded in 1979 – see further down the list.)
Star of Danger (1965, part of A World Divided omnibus.)
The Winds of Darkover (1970, part of A World Divided omnibus.)
The World Wreckers (1971, part of To Save a World omnibus.)
Darkover Landfall (1972, part of Darkover: First Contact omnibus.)
The Spell Sword (1974, with Paul Edwin Zimmer (uncredited), part of The Forbidden Circle omnibus.)
The Heritage of Hastur (1975, part of Heritage and Exile omnibus.)
The Shattered Chain (1976, part of The Saga of the Renunciates omnibus.)
The Forbidden Tower (1977, part of The Forbidden Circle omnibus.)
Stormqueen! (1978, part of The Ages of Chaos omnibus.)
The Bloody Sun (1979, revised and expanded edition, part of A World Divided omnibus.)
Two to Conquer (1980, part of Darkover: First Contact omnibus.)
Sharra’s Exile (1981, part of Heritage and Exile omnibus.)
Hawkmistress! (1982, part of The Ages of Chaos omnibus.)
Thendara House (1983, part of The Saga of the Renunciates omnibus.)
City of Sorcery (1984, part of The Saga of the Renunciates omnibus.)
The Heirs of the Hammerfell (1989)
Rediscovery (1993) (with Mercedes Lackey)
Exile’s Song (1996) (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
The Shadow Matrix (1997) (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
Traitor’s Sun (1999) (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)

The following novels are published post-mortem:

The Fall of Neskaya (2001, with Deborah J. Ross)
Zandru’s Forge (2003, with Deborah J. Ross)
A Flame in Hali (2004, with Deborah J. Ross)
The Alton Gift (2007, with Deborah J. Ross)

Below is a list of the books according to Darkovan chronology:

THE FOUNDING
Darkover Landfall
THE AGE OF CHAOS
Stormqueen!
Hawkmistress!
THE HUNDRED KINGDOMS
Two to Conquer
The Heirs of the Hammerfell
The Fall of Neskaya
Zandru’s Forge
A Flame in Hali
THE RENUNCIATES
The Shattered Chain
Thendara House
City of Sorcery
AGAINST THE TERRANS – THE FIRST AGE (Recontact)
Rediscovery
The Spell Sword
The Forbidden Tower
Star of Danger
The Winds of Darkover
AGAINST THE TERRANS – THE SECOND AGE (After the Comyn)
The Bloody Sun
The Heritage of Hastur
The Planet Savers
Sharra’s Exile (includes the story from The Sword of Aldones)
The World Wreckers
Exile’s Song
The Shadow Matrix
Traitor’s Sun
The Alton Gift

As mentioned, I read Darkover Landfall out of order in which the books were written. I also decided to read The Bloody Sun (expanded version) after The Winds of Darkover, which follows Darkovan chronology. After The Bloody Sun, I will read The World Wreckers.

Here is my suggested reading order for the Darkover novels if you want to avoid jumping around too much in Darkovan chronology and read the novels in somewhat the order Bradley wrote them. I’ve determined this order by grouping novels in their respective Darkover “age”.

Starting with the Second Age against the Terrans:
The Sword of Aldones (the first Darkover novel written, if you can find a used copy of this, if not start with the next book)
The Planet Savers (the first Darkover novel published)
Jump a little backwards in Darkovan chronology to the First Age against the Terrans which then leads you to the Second Age again:
Star of Danger
The Winds of Darkover
The Bloody Sun (revised and expanded version)
The World Wreckers
Time loop to the beginnings of Darkover, a lost group from Earth land on a planet later to be named Darkover:
Darkover Landfall
Return to the Second Age against the Terrans (some have argued that these two books are the best of the Darkover novels)
The Heritage of Hastur
Sharra’s Exile
Jump backwards to the First Age again:
The Spell Sword
The Forbidden Tower
Time warp to a millenia after the founding of Darkover, the Age of Chaos:
Stormqueen!
Hawkmistress!
Read about the Renunciates:
The Shattered Chain
Thendara House
City of Sorcery
Introduce yourself to the Hundred Kingdoms:
Two to Conquer
The Heirs of the Hammerfell (Note that this novel is not included in any of the omnibus editions.)

This completes the earlier novels of Darkover. The rest of the later novels can be read in the order they were published, as they are generally following Darkovan chronology. Rediscovery takes you to the beginning of the First Age against the Terrans. (This novel is also not included in any of the omnibus editions.) The next three books, Exile’s Song, The Shadow Matrix, and Traitor’s Sun, return to the Second Age against the Terrans. Of the books published post-mortem, Alton’s Gift (the latest Darkover novel published) follows Traitor’s Sun. The other three books published post-mortem, The Fall of Neskaya, Zandru’s Forge, and A Flame in Hali, follow The Heirs of the Hammerfell. I’m not sure how many of the Darkover novels I will read, but I think I will be following that order.

Of the Darkover books I’ve read so far, I liked Darkover Landfall and, strangely enough, The Planet Savers. The Sword of Aldones was a bit confusing, but nonetheless interesting to read. It is well-written, but I can see why Bradley decided to incorporate it into the larger novel, Sharra’s Exile. I felt like I needed more background information and explanation for The Sword of Aldones. It was just too condensed and a larger novel would provide this. I’m not too fond of Star of Danger. I realize it is a necessary story in the Darkover world, as I think it is meant to explain some things in the Second Age against the Terrans. Star of Danger is basically a coming-of-age adventure story of two boys from different worlds (literally!). The story plays out nicely as a metaphor for two people of different cultures joining together to solve immediate concerns and (hopefully!) concerns regarding the future of Darkover. Star of Danger is well-written, but it isn’t really my kind of story. I like Darkover Landfall for its very simple premise – what would supposedly highly intelligent and enlightened humans do if stranded on a strange, unexplored world with no hope of ever being rescued? While reading, you wonder “What trials will they go through? What sort of society will they create?” This novel explains the beginnings of Darkover and clearly shows why Darkovans have some Terran technology, but not all. Bradley does an excellent job in The Planet Savers writing from the perspective of a doctor with split personality who must ask for help from the xenophobic people who rescued him as a child in order to develop a vaccine against a disease (Trailmen’s fever) that becomes pandemic every forty-eight years. I can see why this novel was Bradley’s first published Darkover novel.

Aside from Darkover novels I finished reading Lady of Avalon by Bradley. Other novels I read recently were Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, and Crossover: a Cassandra Kresnov novel by Joel Shepherd.

The Lady of Avalon is well-written like the other Avalon books by Bradley. There are technically three stories in the novel, but they follow chronologically from the end of The Forest House and ends sometime just before Mists of Avalon. If you really liked Mists of Avalon and have read The Forest House, you should definitely read Lady of Avalon. I’m taking a break from the Avalon books for now. They are a mood thing for me, plus as you can see I’ve become intrigued by Bradley’s Darkover novels. I was originally planning on reading Priestess of Avalon next in the Avalon books, but I found out that Ancestors of Avalon ties into her Atlantis novels, Web of Light and Web of Darkness, originally published in 1983, now published together as The Fall of Atlantis. Before I read Ancestors of Avalon, I’m going to read The Fall of Atlantis first.

Dhampir felt a little slow moving in the beginning of the novel, but it quickly picked up pace. So far, I found Leesil to be a more interesting character than Magiere, and funny enough, he seems to have more of a conscience than Magiere. After reading the novel, I was at first undecided about reading the next novel in the series, but now after a few more weeks, I think I might read the next one after all (when I’ve knocked my reading list down a bit more).

I really enjoyed reading The Bourne Identity. I like both the movie and the book equally well as the movie was well-filmed and had well-choreographed fight scenes while the book was well-written and intelligently complex. The movie had a different story than the book, but the movie had a good story line nonetheless. I have the next book, The Bourne Supremacy, sitting in my book stack already waiting to be read.

I was less impressed with Crossover: a Cassandra Kresnov novel. The story is interesting, but I found the writing didn’t draw me into the story very well. Perhaps it’s due to reading average writing after reading an excellent author such as Ludlum. I admit Shepherd has an interesting story line and some interesting details in the story – that is, if you’re a tech-geek. Honestly, I was hoping for more action in the novel than there actually was. Two hundred pages in, the only awesome thing the main character did was save the President’s life (this is way slower-paced than Dhampir), which might have been more impressive if the writing for this scene actually provoked the appropriately violent images in my head. When I read, I don’t just see words, my brain visualizes what I’m reading and it’s as if there’s a picture show in my head. This didn’t happen much with this novel, though perhaps it was the fact that there was a lot of political talking. I think my brain had a constant picture in my head of boring people in suits sitting around yapping. *yawn* Not that I don’t understand politics, I do, but it has to be interesting. Somehow the politics in The Wheel of Time is more intriguing – maybe because you distinctly get the sense the characters aren’t dressed in stuffy business suits (thank you, Robert Jordan!) The other issue I had with Crossover is a vague impression that Shepherd was writing his dream woman (Cassandra Kresnov is pretty obviously a nymphomaniac), which opens up a huge pandora’s box for Dr. Ruth to discuss Shepherd’s psyche regarding sex and love. The final issue I had with the book as one review I read mentioned is that for a novel that is supposedly character driven, you don’t get drawn into the character easily. I realize that politics was driving the story, but it seemed like the author had an easier time writing political conversations than actually telling Cassandra Kresnov’s story. Additionally, the supporting female character in the novel, Vanessa Rice, seemed more intriguing than Cassandra. Not to say that Cassandra Kresnov isn’t cool, she is, just maybe less of a nymphomaniac, please. I just think that Shepherd’s writing didn’t do his character justice. I think this is the first time I have ever said that I would prefer to see a book as a movie. That being said, of course, with the condition that an excellent stunt director be in charge and they have someone like Milla, no wait… Milla is the only one who could be Cassandra Kresnov.

Now, as for my current reading list. I started The Path of Daggers (book eight of The Wheel of Time). :) I read some more of Runelords: the Sum of All Men and A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones. I also started reading The Fall of Atlantis by Bradley. I’ve been wanting for a few years now to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I love the writing… hilarious! Why I didn’t read it before, I have no idea. I still have to finish reading Gravity’s Rainbow, but I think that’s a mood thing as well. I tried reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s first novel, Nightseer, but just couldn’t get into it – maybe because I know too much about magic. I am attributing it to a mood thing, so I will just go back to the story later. It does seem like an interesting story.

I’ve been reading graphic novels as well. I read Buffy Omnibuses one through five. I’m waiting for number six. I read Fray (loved it! read it if you like the Buffyverse), and of course, I’m continuing to read Buffy season eight when they are published. Finally, I got a copy of Angel: After the Fall. Book two (First Night) is now published as well. I found a used copy of Angel: Surrogates. I finished watching Firefly and watched the Serenity movie (again! loved the choreography for the fights), so I read the graphic novel for Serenity, which takes place just before the movie. I finished reading the Ruse series by Crossgen awhile ago. Crossgen was a comic book publisher that went bankrupt. Some of the Crossgen comics will be published later as a license was purchased from Disney to finish publishing some of the stories that were ready to print. Because I liked Ruse, I read some of the other CrossGen comics. I particularly like Mystic, Sigil, The First, and Crux, but I am reading through most of their first comics, Mystic through to The Path. I caved and decided to read Star Wars Omnibus: X-Wing Rogue Squadron published by Dark Horse comics. I read the first volume. I recently read the first three issues of 30 Days of Night and I’m on volume 2 of Y: The Last Man. I haven’t quite gotten back into manga, but I read volume one of Geiju no Seiza. It was amusing.

~~~C