(Going to cross-post a couple of entries that I wrote in OD, up to current; I fall behind in crossposting to LJ...)
"It's a long way / to Jubelale..." I can't resist singing it, whenever I am tossing down bottles of Jubelale, the seasonal beer from Deschutes Brewery. (And I never sing it normal, either; it's always this very bad Welsh male voice choir thing.) This despite Jubelale's probably being really pronounced like any other sort of ale, not like Tipperary.
But this week I have been going, "It's a long way / to Temeraire..."
Ladies and gentlemen, please be tolerant if I am behind the curve on this compared to you, but it is my delicious pleasure to report a fiction series that is not merely better than it ought to be, but is so much so that it stands out from the rank and file of the others like a Magic Eye tyrannosaur.
As is frequent, this new thing comes from Gwen. She was browsing at the little basement comic book store near her work, and she bought the paperback of His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik.
Presently I got the "you gotta read this" from Gwen.
We have since also purchased the two novels that come after it, and we are presently stalking the two that follow those.
There is a kind of background irritation to these sorts of discoveries, completely eclipsed and made damn near undetectable by the joy of finding such a thing, but there nonetheless. There is a feeling that Naomi Novik has put a cream pie in my face. It is like my disgruntlement at not being able to identify The Sentinel on the overhead TV at the plasma center awhile back and this roiling my conviction that I grokked and owned the pond of 1970s movie horror. See, part of my erratic cerebrum thinks that it has a grasp on the really good stuff out there, and that it will be able to see any new really good stuff coming. Not in everything, not at all, but in the areas of written fantasy and science fiction. (This despite the fact that I have read far too little in these areas no matter how much I read, so that the feeling of smug confidence is pure hallucination and nothing but. It doesn't matter. I read the blurbs on the back covers, which make all the books I haven't read all seem to blend together and look uniformly predictable and substandard, and the smug confident illusion is reconfirmed.)
And I really have this feeling about military fantasy and military science fiction, not because it's any less of a hallucination, but because we are now talking about a specialty, which does narrow things. You can't just gargle out anything in these areas. They take background and research.
And if it's historical military fantasy/science fiction... Well. Surely I've already read the good stuff. Stop that snickering.
And then this series comes in, and it's just AMAZING. Fully realized and magnificently done with continuing explorations and elaborations into the conjured world.
Yes, I am reproved. And yes it does intensify the surprise that this is a woman author - Gwen agrees with me here! There are very good series out there where you can tell it's a woman writer, and this is not one of them, and these are the sorts of novels - not just the type of novel and world, but the way they are carried out and the way the story is pursued - that you would not think of as the meat of female writers, but this just seems to have given Naomi Novik cover in sneaking up on me!
What is this world, you ask? (Gwen just leaned over and suggested that: "What is this world, you ask?")
Well, it is the world of Horatio Hornblower and of War And Peace and of Amistad; it is the world of Admiral Nelson and the genius of Austerlitz. It is the time in history of the Napoleonic wars, the beginning of the nineteenth century, a thoroughly recognizable time...
... except for the difference, and the many other differences that proceed from it, that dragons exist and have always existed throughout human history.
I had been reading for a fair bit when I realized that what I was reading was so well-realized that, when I returned to the Hornblower stories, for example, they were likely to seem incomplete from here on out! What is Nelson's Britannia without its aviator corps?
I have probably already used the world "magnificent", but here it is again in case I haven't. The Temeraire series, named for its central beast, is magnificently accomplished. It isn't just good, it's an achievement. And I'm damn glad to be able to report such a thing.
His Majesty's Dragon (UK title: Temeraire)
Throne Of Jade
Empire Of Ivory
Victory Of Eagles