Posts Tagged ‘godpunk’

Spec Fic 102: Introduction to Speculative Fiction Subgenres

Science fiction is such a broad based term, many different flavors of it exist. Kind of a duh statement. This is another one of my “If I was teaching this class” formats. I did an Intro to Sci Fi a while back. Today, we’re going to dive into a sampling of specific subgenres.

A recap of the structure for my mythical classes: Once a week for twelve weeks, a book every other week. That gives us six books, and in this instance, six subgenres. It’s going to skew modern. Somewhat. A lot of the genre’s more colorful subgenres are more recent. I blame the internet. People aren’t restricted to just what they can find on the brick and mortar shelf anymore. It allows people to seek out a wider variety of interests and then lets more writers help codify them into solid tropes.

vN-144dpiArtificial Intelligence vN by Madeline Ashby

Asimov may have given the world the Laws of Robotics, but vN has been a watershed moment in human-AI storytelling. I wrote about it when I was heavy into book review posts. The protag of this novel is a von Neumann, a self replicating AI, that is missing the failsafe preventing her from harming humans. This tackles the tropes of AI/robotic servitude to humanity head first. As a near future novel this makes the book a lot more accessible than the older, philosophy with off camera action type books from the early days of robotic fiction. There are a lot of extremely plausible scenarios in this book, making it hit home a lot stronger.

snowcrashCyberpunkSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Gibson may have done it first, but I’m much more partial to Snow Crash. Cyberpunk as a genre is film noir full of hackers in a post-industrial world. This book takes place both in and out of cyberspace. The protag is a freelance hacker of renown, out on his own after cutting ties to the mafia. The interplay between the real world and the virtual comes from the titular ‘snow crash,’ a drug that affects people in both worlds. Information as a commodity adds a healthy dose of dystopia the subgenre is known for.

 

americangodsGodpunkAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is the 900 pound gorilla in the room when it comes to godpunk. There have been some that came before, but this really set the tropes into a proper, albeit a smaller subgenre. The ancient gods are alive but not so well in America. The old gods are trying to navigate a world that doesn’t believe in them anymore, drawing what little power they can from modern habits drawn from ancient traditions. Norse, Slavic and African deities feature predominantly in this book along with leprechauns and mythic American figures like Johnny Appleseed. They are in direct conflict with the new gods born from American obsessions with things such as media, the internet and black ops work. This book features a more worldly cast of deities than many which stick to the Big Three of godpunk, Norse, Greco-Roman and Egyptian, and few display the old vs new conflict as well.

boneshaker-coverSteampunkBoneshaker by Cherie Priest

This book is widely considered the magnum opus of the subgenre. Steampunk is a vision of the future derived from an early industrial revolution point in history and much of the societal norms from that time. Boneshaker embraces the aesthetic right down to the cover art and sepia colored printing of the text. The zombies of the ruined city of Seattle are outside the box for the subgenre but a frontier city on hard times is the perfect place to feature the technological innovations like airships and gas masks.

 

discountarmageddonUrban FantasyDiscount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

It would be easy to pick any of McGuire’s work as a platonic example of what the urban fantasy subgenre has grown up into. The subgenre is a lot more than “Buffy clone beats up [insert monster] with [insert weapon/talent/schtick]” that it started out as. Between her two main UF series, I ended up going with the InCryptid series over the Toby Daye books because it features a larger variety of mythical creatures than just the faerie. Verity, the protag on the cover over there, is part of a family that studies, protects and polices the cryptid community to enable coexistence. That’s not terribly easy to do with a secret society of monster hunters looking to destroy them all. The society hidden within society is one of the things that makes this such a layered world.

thieftakerHistorical Urban Fantasy – Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

This is a new trend I’m noticing and it’s something I want to see more of. This takes a very historically accurate setting and adds in magic/horror/scifi and such. I started seeing it with military themes like Joe Nassise’s WWI zombies and Harry Turtledove’s Civil War with AK47s, but it’s moving to a true urban fantasy set in the real world past. The protag here is a conjurer living on the fringes of society in 1760s Boston. You don’t need to know much of American history to know this is a very interesting time and place to be hanging out solving murders with magic. This books creates magical causes to actual events in Boston’s history and has the protag rub elbows with guys like Samuel Adams. Bonus points, the author has a PhD in US history.

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I actually have some free time and today (edit, not really. I wrote half of this last Tuesday) so I am going to use it to talk about awesome books. Or at least, books I expect to be awesome. I’m not going to talk about books I’ve already finished this time. I’m elbow deep into Dance with Dragons anyways, so the previous read was a while ago. Today, I want to talk about the books in my To Read Pile. They’re sitting on the shelf, waiting to be read as soon as I finish this last GRRM tome. Of course, at the speed I’ve been getting books done lately, I’ll see October before I finish this pile.

toreadpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s them, held up with a Medusa head. That’s how I roll. Time to talk about them. From top to bottom and left to right.

Generation V by M. L. Brennan – I think I first heard about her because Brennan was at NY ComicCon with Myke Cole. That sounds about right. Then I saw on twitter she was going to be doing a reading from the latest book in Providence and I was all like “Holy shit! People do things in Rhode Island! …. on days I’m unavailable…” One thing I’m seriously jazzed about, this book takes place in Rhode Island! New Yorkers can get blaze about urban fantasy happening in their backyard but after the author tweeted “Enjoy the RI locales”, I skimmed for where they were. The protag lives in Cranston, all of two miles from my house. I’m absolutely going to troll Cranston and take pictures of where the book happens. I’ve always wanted to do that (the pictures part, not trolling Cranston)

The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmatier – This guy is a Shelf of Honor author with Well of Sorrows (as Benjamin Tate). This particular book is the second book in his first trilogy. Honestly, I often don’t read the back of the book for Shelf of Honor authors, or sequels to books I already liked. I don’t need any further convincing to buy them and the way the last book left off, the second should pick up pretty shortly after. I first saw him at Boskone 49.

Half-off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire – This is book three in the InCryptid series. I think this will be the fifth of hers that I’ve read. I first started reading her books from a recommendation by Jim Hines. I started with InCryptid, instead of the Toby Daye books, because InCryptid was brand new at the time. McGuire was the Guest of Honor at the last Boskone and is pretty rad.

A Discourse in Steel by Paul S Kemp – Another sequel. Hrm, seems I have a lot of these. This is the second Egil and Nix book. They buckle swashes and kick asses. I’m pretty sure I learned of these books because anything published by Angry Robot is automatically on my radar.

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (a.k.a. Taco Pope) – Book four of the Iron Druid Chronicles, which is up to six or seven plus some novellas. I found Hearne off a recommendation via Sam Sykes (who was recommended by Scalzi). The protag, Atticus, and his dog Oberon are one of the best duos in the SF genre. There’s just as much humor in these books as the serious stuff. It makes the books refreshing.

In a Fix by Linda Grimes – This is a straight up bookstore browse find, the only proper one on the list. The protag is a “human chameleon” who pretends to be other people to fix things for them. Like getting someone to accept a marriage proposal. Shapeshifters and spies? Done. You don’t need any more to sell it.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig – Here’s some more awesomeness from Angry Robot Books. This is book three of the Miriam Black series, which just got picked up for a TV deal on Stars. Wendig writes with a lot of flair. And swears. So many swears. He’s also one of the go to people for writing shop talk. I read the first Miriam Black book when it was brandy new based off the trifecta of Lauren Beuckes, John Scalzi and the power of the Angry Robot.

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – Copy and paste half of above right here. This is the start of a new series about gangsters and demons and magic.

Zeus and Co. by David Lee Jones – This is an old one I scored on a Book Barn browse. That’s the seriously epic used book store down in Connecticut. The book is old enough that it doesn’t even have a picture on Goodreads. I can’t even find any sort of web page for the correct David Lee Jones. It’s about hackers and Greek gods. I love godpunk so I nabbed this right away. I’m sure the 20 year old tech is going to be silly in it’s oldness, but I’m hoping it holds up anyways.

 Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest – Buying this book was another no-brainer. Fiddlehead is part of the Clockwork Century series which was bequeathed (bequoth?) on the Shelf of Honor. The series is often considered the definitive books of steampunk. I also enjoy how they are all interconnected but still readable as individuals. That’s a nice trait when I don’t usually have time to go back and reread a whole series. I think I first put Boneshaker (the first Clockwork Century) on 2009’s Xmas list after reading a Scalzi Big Idea post.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin – This book takes place in a world where the dominant magic system is fueled by people’s dreams. That is bad ass. The practitioners of this magic, well they could heal you … or maybe kill you. Either way. That’s a temple that is definitely worth reading about. Jemisin also comes recommended by most of my twitter feed.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson – Here is another Shelf of Honor author (with Ananthem). This is another of his books set in the real world. Reamde is a cyberpunk deal about online gamers and wars with Chinese gold farmers that spill over into the real world. It will get me all nostalgic for my Warcraft and EverQuest days. I read my first Stephenson book years ago off a recommendation from my dad.

God’s War by Kameron Hurley – I swear I had this book on my To Buy List before it was nominated for all the awards. Freelancing ex-government assassins? That’s pretty sweet. “Alien gene pirates” alone would sell me on it. I know that was all part of a back cover marketing angle and there are a lot more layers to the book. Good. As it should be. I think I first heard about Hurley from Seanan McGuire. She’s also a great person to follow on ye olde twitter.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear – This is not my first book by Bear and I know it won’t be the last. I previously read Undertow and thought that Bear wrote one of the best alien POV’s I’ve ever read in decades. She even got the seriously obscure reference to the cheela I made when I talked about her well written aliens. Ghosts is the first book in Mongol / Eastern based fantasy rather than the same old Medieval British based fantasy world. Bear came recommended from most of my twitter feed and I finally bought some of her books after seeing her at Boskone 50 last year.

lextalionisIn The Mail – Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia – I was recommended this book when a twitter pal said “Hey, my sister has an awesome book coming out soon.” I was all like “Ima gonna go check this out.” And I did. And I got super happy because Lex uses one of my favorite SF tropes, which I hardly ever see anywhere. Amnesiatic protags that have to discover their identity right along with the reader. I can think of all of four books that do this, and two of them (Nine Princes in Amber and A Thousand Words for a Stranger) are on the Shelf of Honor. So this book is totally happening. I’m pretty sure I would have found this book regardless because Elizabeth Bear has also given it her recommendation.

 

shatteringtheleyOn Order – Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier – Remember above how I said he was a Shelf of Honor author? Still applies here. The magic system in this book is closely tied with the infrastructure of the world and I find that whole concept very intriguing. I’m excited to see an epic storyline set in the urban city of the book. Ley drops in July right before Readercon so I’m hoping Palmatier rolls in for that con and I can add to my signed shelf.

Ah November. That magical wordsmith month of NaNoWriMo.

Wordsmiths all across the world throw down to crank out a first draft in thirty days.

That’s not really my bag. Last year I threw down NaFiTFuThiMo, National Finish The Fucking Thing Month, as my final push for Amity. My goal wasn’t actually by the end of November, it was actually a few days later and I wrote “The End” on my first novel at exactly 3:42pm on my 29th birthday. But that was a novel I had started long before. I only actually wrote around 40% in the 34 days between my Halloween “oh shit I need to get working” moment and my birthday. So roughly 40k words, not the mythical 50k minimum that NaNoWriMo shoots for.

Even if I hadn’t already started plugging away at my current novel, thirty days is not realistic for me. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo before back when I had more free time (i.e. before a kiddo) and it collapsed after 28k-ish words because the lack of a plot created a big vortex of suck. I need more planning than that. Most everything I write, from short stories to the novels, percolates in my head for a long time before I commit anything to paper. Even if I’m not creating formal outlines, there’s usually a large structure kicking around in my noggin before I start a thing. NaNoWriMo requires too much pantsing for my likes not to mention the mythical 1667.66 words a day isn’t practical with a toddler.

But I have made realistic goals with the idea of actually producing finished novels in a much better timeline.

To that end I actually wrote a whole entire outline for the next novel before I even started a thing. This is the one that centers around the punk rock band and Greek deities. I’ve had issues with the opening of this novel. Part of me just kept saying “Power through it and deal.” In itself, that’s not really a bad thing to do. I add much more than I subtract when I edit subsequent drafts…. except on the front end of the novel. With Amity, most of my rewriting was in the first act. Once I finished the whole thing, I knew the characters better, hence a lot of the edits early on in the novel. For the current godpunk book, I accepted this as … well, simply the way it is. No reason to fight it.

But the thing that was really tripping me up was the chemistry between the two main characters, the POV punk rock guy and the Greek goddess he ends up rolling with. They weren’t hitting the chemistry they needed to carry a whole novel. That’s a problem. I’m not writing romance, I’m writing godpunk modern fantasy with this one but nothing about the plot works without the relationship between the two protags. Seriously, the story falls apart to a pile of awkward shreds of nothing if they don’t have a romantic comparability.

I wasn’t sure it was there. There was an almost-relationship in Amity. There were feelings and attractions but it wasn’t central to the plot. It was something I let grow between two characters but it was never under a direct microscope. In the godpunk book, the relationship is the story. Beginning, middle and end. It was also turning into a stumbling block. I was actually toying with the idea of starting over and remaking the POV character into an entirely different person and hope some chemistry happened. I had actually picked a drop dead point. “If it’s not happening after this spot in the plot….” then I was going to ax roughly 10-12k words and start over. Not a fun thought.

My wife is awesome though and got me going on about all the stuff yet to come in the book and got me all excited for it again rather than dwelling on the hurdles. And then the punk rock lead singer and the Greek goddess started stealing things. And making fun of New Jersey. They’ve bonded now in the most mundane ways which are more important than the fantastical ones. And I think the book is going somewhere now.

I’m sitting on 11k-ish handwritten words and it’s starting to turn into something. Finally.

I’m gonna go write more now. They’ve got more things to steal.

Hexed

Posted: July 16, 2013 in Reading
Tags: ,

hexedI’ve been horrible at the blog lately, I know. All that time spent finishing the novel edits and getting it ready to shop out to agents. Gah. What am I thinking? Well here I am with another book I’ve read recently that I really enjoyed the hell out of. And I also enjoy telling people about books that I enjoy the hell out of. As you do.

Today is Hexed by Kevin Hearne. This is book two of the Iron Druid Chronicles. I read the first book back near the start of the year, but I was hammered by my self imposed deadline to get draft 1.5 of my own book done and posted a group of mini pontifications for my five book backlog. Conveniently for today, that means I don’t have to run into the problem of repeating myself a lot when I’m talking about a series since the book one post was so mini. So hilarity is on tap.

Back of the Book time!

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to make nice with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial nonaggression treaty when suddenly the witch population in modern-day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. And the new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of WWII.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence and a dangerously sexy Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

Alright the easy parts I didn’t get to expound on with the mini post. Atticus and his dog Oberon, which talk telepathically to each other, are hilarious. Oberon likes to make pop culture references and wonders why werewolves don’t want any dog treats. It’s a kind of friendship that’s very hard to write and terrifically rewarding to the reader when it’s done spot on. Atticus and Oberon are like Kelly McCullough’s Ravirn/Melchior and Aral/Triss or Scott Lynch’s Locke and Jean. As a writer, dialogue is one of the areas I have to work real hard at so when it really pops between two characters that have a long history, it doubly impresses me.

Now remember, I love some pantheon action. Godpunk is one of my favorite subgenres. One of the things I love about Hexed and the series in general, is that it’s the Irish pantheon, one which isn’t repeated so much as the Greco-Roman or Viking. (It’s funny I say that because the next book I write myself is going to be all about the Greeks) In the first book, it’s established that the other pantheons are around, we just don’t see much of them what with Atticus being an Irish druid and all. The non-aggression pact witches are all Polish and follow the Zoryas. Die Deutchestotten, which my D-minus in college level German tells me might translate to German witches, are all about the demon sacrifices. Figures from Christianity, Native American folklore and some of the good ol’ Norse play with the Irish out in Tempe this time around in Hexed.

The different faces coming in and out of Atticus’ live keep the pace of things always moving. At one point I did remember thinking “Oh that’s it, I thought more time passed.” Atticus has a real busy few days in Hexed. The conflict with the witches is the central thread through this book. The two covens have a history of animosity and Atticus had run across the German witches back during WWII. There are a couple loose threads from book one that show up, which I had completely forgotten that they were loose threads until I was told so. The problems of not reading every book back to back to back. Well, not really problem problems, more of a “Oh yeah, forgot all about that bit.” A lot of the Norse threads in Hexed are set up for the long play, probably book three but maybe even a longer play than that. Book Two problems since second books always stand alone less than the first.

Granuaile is just getting started as Atticus’ apprentice. They’re at the beginnigs of their snappy dialogue relationship as teacher and student. She hasn’t reached Oberon levels of dialogue snap. She’s very much in the early padawan stages so there’s not much arc yet. The arc’s got to carry her across the whole series, or at least a big chunk of it. Being an apprentice druid takes a long time one would imagine. And one should imagine because Atticus says as much when Granuaile signs on. I do wish we could have seen a bit more of the teacher-student stuff going on but that’s an after the fact thought. There’s so much going on I wasn’t worried about it while I was reading it.

So there you are. Hexed is a fantastically fun piece of godpunk. Even though the narrative is chopped up a little more than the first book, it’s because we’re planting some long term seeds that have to span nine books. That’s a tough amount of juggling to do, but the characters are so well thought out and delightful in their interactions with each other, the juggling act doesn’t bother me a bit. It just makes me want to read more and find out how all those long term seeds are going to turn out.

Age of Voodoo

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Reading
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ageofvoodooToday’s book is another in one of my favorite subgenres of SF, godpunk. I should hope it is what since that’s where the next novel I write will be firmly entrenched. While I started out in godpunk with American Gods (like everybody) and Mortal Coils, I think that James Lovegrove is writing some of the most interesting stuff in the subgenre. His Pantheon series is a series in theme only, the books aren’t actually connected so you can read them at your leisure. Each book is all about one pantheon of gods and how they affect the modern world. I’ve been reading these since they were new and I got wicked excited when I picked up Age of Voodoo.

Lovegrove started out with the Big Three when it comes to godpunk, Egyptians, Greeks and Vikings. After that he went into lesser known (to western audiences) pantheons and that is just inherently more interesting in itself. There are eight novels and novellas out or in the pipeline right now (Including Age of Shiva!) so these books are going into increasingly interesting territory. So how does Voodoo play with the modern world?

Let’s find out. Back of the Book time!

Lex Dove thought he was done with the killing game. A retired British wetwork specialist, he’s living the quiet life in the Caribbean, minding his own business. Then a call comes, with one last mission: to lead an American black ops team into a disused Cold War bunker on a remote island near his adopted home. The money’s good, which means the risks are high.

Dove doesn’t discover just how high until he and his team are a hundred feet below ground, facing the horrific fruits of an experiment blending science and voodoo witchcraft.

As if barely human monsters weren’t bad enough, a clock is ticking. Deep in the bowels of the earth, a god is waiting. And His anger, if roused, will be fearsome indeed.

Removing the fact that as a different pantheon, it will naturally have a different flavor than say the egotistic personalities in Age of Zeus or the ritual sacrifice for screwing up at work in Age of Aztec, this book takes a bit of a departure from the previous novels. I say novels because stylistically, Voodoo has more in common with the novella Age of Anansi than any of the others. There’s a “everyone’s invited to the party” sense that is used in a lot of godpunk. Up through Aztec the most another pantheon of gods got was a mention about being defeated earlier in human history. Voodoo also has a tighter focus. It’s one op in the Caribbean that affects the Caribbean. What’s at stake here isn’t exactly insignificant but it doesn’t really change the world. We’re also dealing with intermediaries rather than the gods themselves, or loa to use the proper vodoun terms. That’s actually true to how vodoun works for real even if it’s not as exciting having Thor or Ares punch things.

So all this about scope is one of those neutral things. Better or worse is all in the eye of the beholder. I happen to be of the school of thought that expectations going into a book have just as much to do with how much you enjoy it as the quality itself. If you’re expecting the same world spanning saves the day adventures, you won’t get it. I personally missed it a little bit but it wasn’t wholly unexpected because of the tone set in Anansi. Lex Dove is an assassin. In, out and you’ll never know he was there unless that’s part of the plan. Keeps everything small.

That’s not to say there isn’t some oomph to this story. What’s the number one thing that people expect reading a story involving voodoo monsters? Zombies! Or at least the equivalent Haitian French term that I can’t find in a flip through the book. These are original, proper zombies, the root of all the horror stories the world has ever seen. They’re a little different than traditional movie zombies but they still make for fun bad guys.

The learning curve is not as steep as Aztec but it’s still much more than Zeus or Odin. Not everyone is familiar with voodoo but Lex is an outsider being the Brit retired out to the Caribbean. Albertine is a vodoun priestess who packs the metaphysical punch for the book and does the explaining for Lex and the American team. I wish there was more metaphysical punching and a little less shooting.

The thematic choices of the book are nagging at me a bit after the fact though. The pacing, plotting and adventure satisfied me every bit while I was reading it. I think mostly what I want is more and I want it because I had it with the other books. I liked Age of Voodoo though. Lex Dove as a skeptic moving to acceptance and belief is a great story arc. When Albertine did get to play with her bag of tricks it was a lot of fun. Another one of the “give me mores” of this book is that I’d like to see the characters next story arc. Leaving me wanting more is always a good thing.

Overall, I actually think I liked Voodoo better than Aztec but Age of Odin is still my favorite of the set. (Seriously expecting the future Age of Shiva to bump that out though, cause fuck yeah Shiva!) I’ll especially recommend this one to people who like the small military op style of saving a chunk of the world.

Journey to Wudang Trilogy

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Reading
Tags: ,

So it’s been a while since I posted about a novel, eh? Well that’s because I dove into an anticipated trilogy, so I’m playing catch up. Doubly so because Australia got these books back in 2010. And I am going to use the word ‘trilogy’ until it loses all meaning to me. Today’s Journey to Wudang trilogy is the second in a trilogy of trilogies by Kylie Chan. This set follows the Dark Heavens trilogy, which was the last thing I read prior to starting up this site and posting my musings about the things I read. I’m posting all three of the books together, Earth to Hell, Hell to Heaven and Heaven to Wudang, because they are more of a single 1800 page book rather than three six hundred page books. Page 595 in Earth leads directly to page 1 of Hell. This is one of those things that’s a non-issue as long as you know what you’re in for, which I did because Dark Heavens was exactly the same.

Now we’ve got a set of nine books total at six hundred pages a pop. There’s some sprawl going on here. Makes me wish I had taken notes along the way, but I’m going to do my best. (And ramble a lot while trying to avoid spoilers)

Back of the Books time!

Earth to Hell

It is either years since Xuan Wu, God of the Northern Heavens, living in Hong Kong as wealthy businessman John Chen, was exiled from the mortal realm. Emma Donahoe and Simone, John’s daughter, are facing a new series of threats, while their best fighter, Leo, sits in Hell. They must persuade him to come home… but, in Hell, nothing is as it appears.

On Earth, Simon Wong, the Demon King’s son, is no longer around to trouble them, but his associates have taken over Simon’s underworld activities. The otherworldly stones are being targeted and are in danger of their kind being completely destroyed.

It seems that the Demon King is the only one Emma can turn to for help…

Hell to Heaven

Emma Donahoe teeters on the edge of becoming fully demon, and must make a journey to the Kunlun Mountains of the West, home of the reclusive ancient goddess Nu Wa, in an attempt to regain her humanity. Traveling with Emma is Xuan Wu’s daughter, Simone, who is struggling with her growing power and trying to defend herself from the demons who want to destroy her.

And Michael is trying to come to terms with the shock of finding out he might be half demon… and a danger to them all.

Heaven to Wudang

The demons that could control stones and elementals have been defeated, but the most powerful of Simon Wong’s associates still remains to create almost undetectable copies of humans and Shen. The demon allies with Kitty Wkok to prepare a torturous trap for Emma and Simone, from which they may never return.

Wudang Mountain is enveloped by dark foboding as Xuan Wu begins to reappear– sometimes human, sometimes turtle, but always without memory.

Emma and Simone are in a race against time as they try to rescue Xuan Wu… before the demons capture him.

Whew. Getting wordy already. This time around in Wudang, it’s really the kind of sequel that really forces you to read the first set before jumping into this one. I’m not one for large info dumps in a book series to remind you what happens previously, but this time we’re just thrown right in the deep end. I’m bad with names in real life so with the large supporting cast of characters, many with multiple names, it took me a few chapters to get back into the swing of things. This time around, Emma isn’t an outsider, the Aussie expat being brought into the world of the Chinese gods. She’s running the show as Regent while Xuan Wu is recuperating from his exile. There’s a glossary in the back of the various Asian language terms (remember, Chinese comes in variants and there’s also some Japanese and Thai in the mix at some point) that the characters themselves would have no reason to explain to each other. Epically helpful, just wish there was a cast of characters too. Minor point and not something that’s really common in books at all anymore, but wonderfully helpful when you have sprawl.

There’s that word ‘sprawl’ again. Don’t attach any negative connotations to it. It’s the same kind of sprawl that you’d find in a long running space opera series, like David Weber’s Honorverse books. The plot in the Wudang trilogy lends itself to sprawl more than Dark Heavens did, even though the whole thing is told in first person past. Emma’s post as Regent means that at any time, she’s got a dozen problems up in the air. Problems tend to show up, get scheduled and then dealt with in another four or five chapters. Emma had a very busy secretary. She was constantly challenged to duals, going down to the Courts of Hell to release her retainers, being summoned by the Jade Emperor (the head of the Chinese celestial) and occasionally talking to the Demon King (aka George) or recovering from an ass kicking.

The pacing of the books manage to escalate in all the right places as individuals. So even with the overarching plot, each one has its own climatic battles. Remember those “associates of Simon Wong”? Well they happen to come in three, the demon Six, the Geek and the Death Mother, plus the overarching presence of Kitty Kwok. The seeds for the trio were sown near the end of Dark Heavens and Kitty Kwok showed up back in the first chapter of the whole saga. So the author has gone with the slow play here. Each of the trio has one of the major road blocks facing Emma and the Northern Heavens. The disappearing stone shen, the hybrid elementals and the demon copies. Three books, three problems. Structures out nicely.

One of the things I really enjoy about this series is that I come out of it feeling like I learned something. Most godpunk books I’ve seen focus on the big Western pantheons, Greco-Roman, Norse and to a lesser extent, Egyptian. The Chinese pantheon is large and complicated in its structure so there’s always something new even in the sixth book. The Eastern focus of this is very different than most of what is published in this hemisphere. It was one of the things that originally drew me to the series and it hasn’t worn off even after all six books.

With Emma no longer being the outsider, I was happy to see the introduction of Chang, a Shaolin Monk who became enamored with material trappings working as a goon for Six. Eventually he finds its way to Emma’s doorstep and works for her. There’s a good middle chunk where we get to have that outsider view again which was refreshing for me in amongst the constant crisis state.

There was another running theme, especially through the front half of the trilogy, that spaces out  the constant demon fighting and hunting. Simone is a teenager now, not a little kid. There’s an eight year gap from the first trilogy to the second. So there’s some high school drama. It never got stupid, it’s not like the commercials for those suspect ABC Family shows. (Seriously, now the hell is that family??) Simone’s reality as Princess of the Northern Heavens means she has to kick a lot of demon ass and has to skip school to do it. She gets kicked out of school and it becomes a big problem to find a new one and then fit in.

Not all of the things introduced into the books get fixed. Remember back when I mentioned Kitty Kwok the authors was going for the slow play? Especially in the third book, not only are you expecting it, you can spot the slow play coming. Dancing around spoilers again, but I can tell I’m going to like where the third trilogy reaches out to. I suspect it’s going to have a lot to do with Emma’s past so that’s some serious slow play going on.

Demons, martial arts, celestial palace intrigue, relationships, double crosses… I’m only touching the surface of what’s going on in this massive amount of pages but the amount of spoiler potential is huge not to mention I shouldn’t let this post balloon up as big as the books. Yes the page count is very large. Yes there is a learning curve (especially if you’re just starting with this trilogy). But the payoff is great.