What can I say, I'm a gluttonous reader. I read constantly, and while I am always looking for new authors to love (and when I find them I love the hell out of them and espouse their virtues to everyone that will listen) I do not woo easily. Since starting work at the bookstore I have become what I commonly refer to as a Fiction/Lit snob.
I love fiction, but mostly the kind of stuff that does not end up in a genre section.
I didn't mean for this to happen. Quite the contrary. I've always loved the idea of Science Fiction, Fantasy and especially Horror. Unfortunately though a lot of the stuff that ends up in those sections is written specifically to be in those sections. Target Market. So over the last couple years I've augmented my bouts of quantum physics and the Occult with David Foster Wallace, Alex Garland, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk and more and more what I find in the Fiction/Lit section. I always buy the new China Mieville the day it comes out, and some customers have introduced me to authors such as Glenn Cook, but SciFi/Fantasy always seems so far away. And I was just about to begin re-reading Martin Amis' brilliant London Fields (for the first time in 10 years) the other day when into my store walked Peter V. Brett and his agent.
I didn't know Mr. Brett's work. When he came in and asked to sign copies of his new book I had no idea what The Desert Spear was at first. Then he asked the magic question and a conversation began between us.
Mr. Brett: "Do you read fantasy?"
Me: "Actually, I hate most fantasy."
Now, this is my knee-jerk response. I wasn't doing it to wind the man up, I just cannot mask the intolerance I hold for all of those wannabe Tolkiens that fill that damn section with all manner of the derivations of Tolkien's frankly over-rated formula. What formula, you ask?
1 Part dragons
1 Part Knights
1 Part Orcs/Giants/Elves
1 Part Chivalry
You get the idea.
No fucking thank you. And the whole Medieval thing... it's fine if it's sincere but somehow it always just feels like what is expected. And maybe that's my biggest beef with these genres - a lot of the authors working within them seem to write to the expectations of the genre fans. Like metal heads afraid to lose the double-bass kick drum or actually sing instead of screech and howl, genre writers can follow a formula and be safe because there's enough people who can't stop trying to relive the way they felt when they first read Tolkien.
Well, I am happy to say that as much of an arsehead as I may have come off as to Mr. Brett and his agent, he didn't give up on me. He told me his stuff was fantasy, apocalyptic to an end, but also not what I would call Tolkien-esque.
"In my books the end of the world is caused by demons."
Demons... I have to admit, he had me. This seemed like such a good idea. It has horrific potential, yet also a flair of the genre pomp. The struggles of the remaining few in a world otherwise dead, fighting to survive, forced back into the old ways, not remembering the age of science and progress. Sort of like Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which I read growing up and LOVE.
Mr. Brett and his agent were in a hurry, on their way to a con out of the states, but something about him really piqued my interest. Number one both were damn nice guys, and number two, as readers of this blog and more specifically my chud.com Opinionated Bastard blog will no doubt know, despite appearances I am not a pessimist. I'm always looking to Love something new. On their way out Mr. Brett handed me a copy of his first novel, The Warded Man (turns out once I saw the cover I remembered I'd sold all three of the HC's of The Desert Spear several days before and was waiting for a replenishment shipment) and as soon as I went to lunch I cracked that fucker open and you know what?
It's really, really good. Really.
Mr. Brett's world is dark and dangerous; feudal and tainted by humanity's desperate attempts to survive. It's hardworking and occasionally joyful but most of all it is difficult. Difficult because every night when the sun goes down demons rise from the bowels of the land and massacre every living thing they can get their talons on. And this isn't just a scenic setting. Nope. Mr. Brett uses the harsh realities of this world to shape some really well-written and memorable characters (Arlen!!!) and 160 pages in I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!
Sorry Martin Amis, Keith Talent and the boys will have to wait...