Jay Lake

Thanking Jay Lake and Frank Wu, Twelve Years Later

This is a snippet from the speech I’ll be giving at Continuum at the end of next week. When I saw that Jay Lake had entered hospice care, I thought it would be good to share here as well.

I ended up going to World Fantasy Con next…because apparently a little local con wasn’t overwhelming enough for me. Once again I showed up, got registered, and wandered aimless and lost. I sat in on a few panels, because panels were both informative and safe. And then a little later, I found my way to the con suite, where I spotted author Jay Lake and artist Frank Wu, two people I had heard of from those online bulletin boards.

It took an absurdly long time for me to work up the courage to go introduce myself, but eventually I did. They were kind enough to invite me to sit down and join them. We chatted for a bit, and they asked if I was new to the con scene. And then they did something I’ll never forget. They took me around and introduced me to some of the other fans and writers at the convention.

That was the first time I started to feel welcome in fandom. I don’t know that either one of them remember that day, but I will always be grateful to them for that kindness.

I did get to thank Jay at Worldcon in 2012, a decade after that first meeting. I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to do the same with Frank, at least not in person.

I’m not sure what else to say here, except that even small kindnesses can make a tremendous difference in another person’s life.

Open Book Thread

I’ve fallen behind in book reviews, so I’m going to do a multibook post, starting with Mainspring [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], by Jay Lake.  Lake envisions a clockwork universe where the Earth orbits the sun on a great track, with an equatorial gear twenty miles wide … and the Mainspring of the world is winding down.  Apprentice clockmaker Hethor Jacques must find the Key Perilous and rewind the Earth’s mainspring.

I loved the “What if?” of this book, the central idea and the exploration of how a clockwork universe would work, both the mechanics and the implications for the inhabitants of that world, their beliefs and ideas.  (Though I still don’t understand how such a world would have seasons.)  The characters … Hethor took a while to grow on me.  And there’s an underlying noble savage thing going on with the southern “correct people” that makes me uncomfortable.  Overall, I think the idea was stronger than the story, but the story wasn’t bad, and the idea was fascinating.  I’m interested in checking out Escapement, the sequel.

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Next up is MythOS [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], by Kelly McCullough.  This is the fourth of McCullough’s books about magical hacker Ravirn/Raven and his webgoblin Melchior.  I’ve enjoyed this series a lot.  They’re fast-paced, interesting, page-turners with just the right amount of humor.  Or maybe I just have a weakness for all things goblin.

This time around Raven finds himself in an alternate universe, one which runs on a Norse mythology OS instead of the Greek system he’s used to.  It’s an interesting switch, and livens up the series as Raven gets drawn into new conflicts and has to figure out a whole new system of magic.  The second book remains my favorite, but I’d put this one as runner up.

This is the fourth book in a series.  If you liked the others, you’ll like this one.  If you didn’t, why are you still reading the series?  Really, people…

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I mentioned Laura Resnick‘s Doppelgangster [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] in her First Book Friday post — this is book two in a series that started with a Luna title, then jumped to DAW.  You can tell it’s a second book, but Doppelgangster stands alone pretty well.  The most fascinating thing to me about this book is that it’s urban fantasy in which the protagonist is pure human.  No magic, no mixed genetics, no nothing.  That’s something I haven’t seen much of, and I enjoyed it.

Esther Diamond is a struggling actress and waitress in New York.  Her restaurant gig happens to be a popular mobster hangout, and the mobsters are starting to die from magical means.  Diamond and her friend Max the Magician need to figure out what’s going on and stop it.  To complicate things, her potential boyfriend Lopez is also a New York detective — and he doesn’t believe in magic.  The mobsters sometimes felt a little over-the-top, but overall it was a fun adventure.

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Finally, there’s Dog Days [B&N |  Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by John Levitt.  Our hero Mason is a gifted magician, though he appears to lack the discipline to fulfill his potential.  He’s currently making a living as a jazz magician.  More importantly, he has a magical companion named Louie, an ifrit who takes the form of a small dog.  For everyone who’s gotten tired of fantasy authors and their cat-loving ways, this is the book for you.

The magic system was fairly loose and undefined, but this worked with Mason’s improvisational style, which fits well with his jazz background.  But that may not be enough when a powerful enemy decides he wants Mason dead, for reasons that would spoil the whole book if I shared them.  I appreciated the mystery and revelation, though the bad guy felt a bit flat.  But sometimes evil, nasty villains make for fun reading.  Plus, magic dog!

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So there’s some of what I’ve been reading over the past few months.  What about you?  If you’ve read any of these, what did you think?  If you’ve been reading something else, feel free to share.  I need to build up my wish list for the holidays 🙂

Jim C. Hines