Catastrophe's Spell (Dance of the Gods, Bk. 1) [was Spell of Catastrophy]

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by jackal912, Aug 10, 2010.

  1. jackal912

    jackal912 Registered User

    Nov 29, 2007
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    I just finished reading Mayer Alan Brenner's free "Dance of Gods" series starting with Spell of Catastrophy( all of them downloadable, for free, at, and it was in print in the 1990s so you can probably get some cheap at a used bookstore somewhere), and.. hoo.. That was one crazy read. In fact, I have difficulty describing it because it's one giant chaotic ball of action, after a point. It was certainly a good series, even if it left me a bit reeling, and was somewhat incoherent at times.

    Essentially, the summary of this world is that it's post-apocalyptic, but in a rather unusual way. At some point in our only-mildly-distant-future, a large group of 'gods' showed up, and decided they were going to be the new rulers. They proceeded to annihilate civilization back to the dark ages, and outlawed technology, (however, in an interesting twist, it wasn't so distant that people don't remember it, even though it's gained a fairly mystical, mythical aura to it) and, at the same time, introduced magic (which, has to a lesser extent, replaced technology.. but only somewhat, there are no magic trains or magic cars or magic planes). Meddling too deeply in technology or non-magical sciences tends to get you quite thoroughly smote.

    However, as the books very quickly show you, almost nothing is what you'd expect from such a situation. The gods, instead of being totally distant, omnipresent, unknowable beings, are not even close to omniscient or all-powerful, actively interfere in human affairs, and act, ultimately.. like humans on a power trip. They meddle in politics and squabble amongst each other, are divine sponsors for banks and insurance (what's a better guarantee that your money is safe? :p), they are regularly seen in public places, 'slumming' and flaunting their powers.

    So, by the time of the novel, the main character of the series, Maximillian the Vaguely Disreputable (No, they never do explain the name.. every time someone's about to explain they get interrupted, :p), a very obnoxious, but incredibly intelligent magician (magic is structured in a mathematical/engineering/programming sort of way, so your ability is essentially only effectively limited by how well you can use the 'language', and how much energy is needed in the process), has figured out things about the gods which makes him pretty sure that they're not real 'gods' at all, just over-powerful sorcerers, and not worthy of any respect, yet alone worship. So, at some point, he decides he's going to kill them all, or at least make them powerless and reveal them for the shams and tyrants they are.

    At the beginning of the first novel, not all of this is immediately apparent, and the main character is roped into what appears to be irrelevant to his goal of overthrowing the gods. The first book starts a bit slow, but once it gets going, it really gets going. Again, I have difficulty describing this series due to the sheer freaking chaos of it, especially without spoiling too much, but I highly recommend people here give it a try. (it is, after all, free.)

    In a way, I find it sort of sad that this author apparently had to give up writing because not enough people had heard of his books, largely in part, I'd bet, due to the very unusual style the story has going. It does have it's flaws (some of them large), but all in all it was still a VERY entertaining ride.

    Has anyone else read this, before?
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2010
  2. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

    Jul 16, 2001
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    Yes we have. In fact, when it was mentioned before Mayer appeared on the site to say Hi, which was great.

    Seems to be a well-liked and underrated author.

    And following a conversation in another thread at the moment, an author who is picking up fans by offering his books on the Interweb thingy.

  3. Lowlander

    Lowlander Registered User

    Aug 2, 2004
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    I also read this series some years ago. First of all finding these out of print editions wasn't easy. The first 2 books were easy to find, 3 and 4 were quite some work to locate and purchase.

    I think these are good novels, they could have been even more if the writer could have kept his plotline in order. The characters, worldbuilding, humour were all very good. But I have to admit the plot was a bit difficult to follow and the ending not the best part of the series. Normally I don't mind open endings but I really had some questions about the final part of the series. Perhaps Brenner planned to write more in this universe and never got the chance.

    But I agree : there books deserve to be read. Some years ago DAW started to republish old favorites in paperback omnibus editions. Some of these were real classics like CJ Cherryh or MZ Bradley. They also brought out omnibus editions of Jennifer Roberson, MZ Reichert, Doris Egan, Irene Radford and Charles Ingrid. But no trace of a reprint of Brenner's novels. A pity. His stuff is much better than most the reprinted series.