Reviews by Allan Bishop
Interview with Steven Brust
EBR: Who is Steven Brust, in that “Inside the Actors’ Studio” way, and tell us a little bit about yourself? What would people enjoy about your novels, besides the true crime story in an epic fantasy novel series you’ve had running for a few decades?
Steven Brust: You ask hard questions for someone raised to believe that one doesn’t talk about one’s self. I do need to rewatch some “Inside the Actors’ Studio” though, thanks for reminding me. In the meantime, I’m not sure how to answer that. Born in Minnesota, I’ve lived here most of my life. I was raised by proletarian revolutionists, and still consider myself Trotskyist sympathizer. I also consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love, not just in the sense of writing fantastical fiction, but that (so far) I’ve been able to survive writing the next book I want to read. The next book I want to read usually has a fair bit of wit, some action, characters that I want to follow around to see what they do next, and enough “chewy bits” ((tm) Emma Bull) to reward rereading.
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Sometimes I wonder if Urban Fantasy is stuck in the year 2005. Vampires. Werewolves. Angels. The Fae. And then once in a while, lo and behold, I find a novel that fulfills a certain niche: mages versus mages. Except this isn’t Hogwarts, or Harry Dresden walking into yet another CSI murder scene that turns into the Fae having a turf war. No. It’s Steven Brust, author of the acclaimed Vlad Taltos series, returning with his first standalone in twenty plus years. And it has all the trademarks of Brust’s usual style: dry wit, working-class grit, and a whole lot of talking. GOOD GUYS asks a simple question: Is it good to be working for a shady organization who pays you peanuts for a wage? Maybe.
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A timeless classic is a term that should be uttered rarely. Timeless implies you could pick it up today, read it in ten years, and still come away with a new perspective, a new rage at a book that challenges you politically, socially, and spiritually. DUNE, the grandfather of modern science-fantasy, in my opinion, of course, is the black sheep of the pulp Science Fiction family that ran away from a raygun shooting, fish bowl shaped, space helmet wearing universe of tomorrow. Instead, it is a morality play in line with Shakespeare, a political examination of tyranny, prophecy, good intentions, and how a tiny, insignificant planet holds the real-politik resource to create or destroy galactic dynasties with a simple drop of an atomic bomb. Even if its vision of the future is a wrong-way mirror compared to the projections of today, it cannot be overstated how vital, how genre-changing it was to the language, the imagery, and the soul of Science Fiction. DUNE deserves all its accolades both in terms of story, theme, character, and its sprawling, fully realized false future that never came to be.
DUNE, the first in a long series of novels by Frank Herbert, tells the story of humanity millennia in the future. Certain technology is suspect, due to dark atrocities brought about by atomics (atomic bombs and other atomic-powered technology) and robotic uprisings, in the vein of contemporaries like Arthur C. Clarke. The universe is ruled by a galactic emperor who divides planets into the stewardship of noble houses. Within this viper’s nest of nobles clashing against each other, there are monastic orders like the Bene Gesserit, an all female order of psionically gifted matrons manipulating a genetic conspiracy for millennia, who vie for influence and control within the Galactic Padishah Empire.
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