Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Rob B, May 31, 2003.
June starts, let the discussions begin!
I am only halfway through so far, and enjoying it with only a few gripes that I'll save until I'm finished.
I do have to say, though, that I would NEVER have gone into a book store and picked this book. There is nothing about the actual presentation of the book that gives any indication what goes on in the book. The presentation looks like a toss-off YA book--Not a good YA book, but one that was thrown together in the hopes that a few people would pick it up and maybe profit a little.
The art is cheesy, with all of these serious people standing around with ships blowing up in the background. There is no indication in the blurbs at all about what it is.
That's the back of the American version. Maybe I'm being petty, but it doesn't even look like the publisher took the book seriously.
Hopefully the rest of the international community got a little better presentation.
That said, I am enjoying it. Thank you Fitz for nominating it and pushing it through to June BoTM. I'l be back in a couple days with more thoughts. Erf.
I will jump in and say I loved the book. I am eagerly awaiting the second one to go into paper so I can snatch it up.
I thought it started a little slow, and I didn't like the timeline that jumped back and forth around the sneak attack. I was also getting worried that is was just going to be routine MilSF, when there was finally a chapter with the Zor in it. Once that kicked in I was hooked. I really loved the chapters with the Zor, and the Humans who were fighting them. I really liked learning about the Zor culture and seeing things from their point of view. I particularly liked the grunt (forget his name) on the space station raid who started to channel the High Lord. I liked the little touches about the traditions on the Naval Space Ships.
I was less crazy about the political, and Intelligence stuff, and the Stone situation, but I think that is all foreshadowing for stuff that happens later in the series. I think there are supposed to be 4 books in all.
In terms of the cover art and the blurbs -- they didn't really appeal or detract from the book for me. I bought the book before we selected it, because the author has been to my discusion group twice (once after each book came out in HC). I missed him the first time but others there said it sounded very interesting. They said it sounded like he was writing stuff close to how CJ Cherryh writes: a combo MilSF/ Anthropological SF. So I bought the book when it went into PB.
I don't think the cover is all that bad. To me it invokes some of the pulpy SF of the Golden Age of SF. I really found out more about the book from SFRevu
No problem Erf, glad you like it.
Myself, I just started it this morning and got through the prologue. (was busy into BDT for Fantasy and a book for review for SFFW)
Dark Wing Author joins the conversation.
I received e-mail from the Forum Moderator that my book was chosen for the book of the month. I'm flattered that it is getting attention and positive response.
As I'm obviously in possession of the complete set of spoilers , I won't chime in on the plot, but will be happy to answer questions about the book or the series if I can.
Regarding the cover art, I have to say that I'm pleased with it overall; the second book cover is actually a scene from the book - how often does that happen?
Regarding the publisher, they make decisions on first-time authors that they think will sell the largest number of books; your mileage may vary. I don't feel that I can comment one way or the other on that, as I don't have input on how the book is marketed (or what goes on the flyleaf or inside cover). Glad that you bought the book anyway.
Walter H. Hunt
Well, gee. I guess now we all have to be well behaved about what we say about it.
I suppose my last night's experience says a lot about what I though about the book. I stayed up all night to read the last half of it. I really enjoyed it thoroughly.
I thought the mix of mililtary, political, intelligence, religious, and alien elements was a great mix that really kept me interested in where things were going to go next. I felt that the transition from the primarily military beginning where Marais was considered a soft, staff man into the later parts where we really got to see how many different aspects of both the human and zor socieites were affecting the struggle was very well done.
Something that I thought quite a bit about as I was reading this book was how history was handled. Even though the story took place in the early 2300s, there are few references to anything that has occurred in our recent history. Initially, I was a little put off by this, that there wasn't often a continuity of history exhibited as it was in, say, Hyperion. In Simmons' work, he would tie things in by lists of events that we would be familiar with extended into the future: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, 20th Century Guy, 21st Century Guy, etc... In working through Hyperion I was very impressed with this method.
Back to The Dark Wing: In reading I thought a lot about the very occasional references to, say, the 20th Century in TDW, versus those in Simmons' work. I have to say, that upon thinking on the subject throughout TDW, I have been swayed to think that its treatment of history is better.
When most people today turn on the radio and hear a song, they usually don't even consider how the recent history of popular music, say from 1950, led into what they are listening to at a given moment. Even in politically charged situations like we have in the world now with GW Bush and his war on terror, many people don't even go back as far as the end of the second world war and look at exactly how the Middle East came to be shaped in the way it is now. People certainly don't think on a regular basis how events of 300 years past have helped to bring the world to the place that it is now.
After thinking about many of these things, I came to the conclusion that I would much rather see history treated, on the whole, as it is in TDW than in some way that everyone is constantly mentioning events from hundreds of years back. Granted, for any who may nit-pick, The Consul was a classical music buff and should know how different composers led into one another.
I do think is a good exercise to be able to tie things together over time and relationships, though. (Is this too much of a drift here?) The jazz professor at the school of music that I attended in college would frequently stop a big band rehearsal and ask someone in the group the connection between two seemingly unrelated pieces of music or two people who never directly worked together. And it was usually some long convoluted line of who worked with whom over the course of twenty or so years, but in performing the music appropriately, it's important. It's important because it answers the question: "Why?"
Again, back to TDW: Marais is the first person to delve into the zor and ask that same question. "Why do the zor do this? What is the driving force behind them?" It is only through these questions that humanity comes to some sort of terms with the zor. Simple retaliations of the course of sixty years didn't solve anything. Coming to terms with the zor on the grounds of mutual understanding ended the war.
I feel that a lot of this applies to many things that are going on today. People in politics are making political foreign or domestic policy decisions that don't necessarily solve the problems. They are playing the same game that the emporer and the assembly are playing. "What will keep us in power?" They never ask the question, "What will really be better for people as a whole over the course of time?"
I should stop this for now, but I am interested in some debate on these topics. I think the book has a lot to say about how a government reacts to things without necessarily taking history or future into consideration beyond the question of how to stay in power.
Mr. Hunt, I am curious to hear (perhaps toward the end of the month after we hash things out a little more here) what some of your thinking was as you approached the writing. I am also curious (not necessarily at the end of the month) what some of your biggest influences are. I have a few that I might pick, but I'm curious what you have to say about it. Erf.
Let me ponder an answer to that (as soon as you stop calling me "Mr. Hunt")
Sorry. Didn't know if you might be an oldie that would prefer Mr. Hunt......
I'm not sure how old one must be in order to be qualified as an "oldie". First names will certainly do, though my books are shelved under H
I realize that this discussion is primarily focused on The Dark Wing. My thoughts these days have been primarily on the third book, currently in MS. form at Tor, with the working title "The Dark Ascent". One of my fellow writers, after reading the second book, informed me that he assumed I was "about to commit Trilogy", and he was almost right - I'm in the process of committing Tetralogy. There's actually a fourth book that completes the cycle; I've only written about 20% of it.
Probably the hardest part of discussing the first book is to exclude comments on the subsequent work. Even leaving aside the issue of spoilers, it's hard to remember exactly what I've revealed and what I haven't; a recent poster made some comments about history, and I've been checking back to see what I actually mentioned.
More answers as I invent them
Wow, what a surprise and what a treat! Thank you for joining the discussion, Walter. While I wish that I could be completely positive, I am going to be brutally honest.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I always like a book that can portray an alien species with some depth. The Zor were an interesting species. I liked their mystical nature and their slow and steady approach. I also enjoyed seeing how humans blundered in trying to understand them in terms of human reactions and morals. I also loved the wing speech. While I think I have read about other avian type cultures, the wing speech was really made them seem plausible.
That said, this novel did not really grab me. First off, I am not a big fan of military SF. The seemingly endless descriptions of the space craft in the beginning nearly caused me to stop reading the book. Had it not been for the fact that this was a book club book, I probably would have given up on it. I am glad I finished it, as I did enjoy the book once I got past the "boy" stuff
One thing that kind of bugged me was the whole "dark wing" and "bright wing" stuff. It basically was just way too like Christian Good and Evil, God and Satan, etc. I would have thought with a truly alien culture, they would have a truly alien metaphysics. On the other hand, if they were spoon-fed this by the mysterious other culture, then perhaps earth was spoon-fed christianity as well. That would make some sense.
While I understand this is just the first book of a four book series, I was frustrated by the confusion that Stone caused. While it was made clear he was a minion of the mysterious other culture, the part where he departed from the ship was confusing. There was talk of red, blue and purple "bands" of light. That seemed to indicate he was talking with the secret service, yet it was clear later in the book that he was not. At first I thought the secret service was also part of this mysterious other culture, but by the end it was made clear that they were not.
Speaking of the secret service, they seemeed to be in the employ of the emperor, yet they clearly acted without the emperor's authority. While I liked the concept of a secret group with great power more or less running the show, I found their motives and desires confusing and difficult to follow. I was disappointed that their role was not more clearly defined or explained.
I also never really understood why all the officers under Marais would follow him into battle with the Zor, knowing that they would be destroying their careers, before they even truly comprehended the Zor. Yes, they had Marais' book, but no one knew for sure that his theory was correct. Clearly, Torrijos was seriously apprehensive about committing genocide, yet, when he was forced to make a decision, he jumped right in behind a commandor that he thought might be a bit insane. It just didn't make a lot of sense to me.
Finally, I was equally confused by the trial. I mean, Marais comes back with proof that he was right and that his approach was not only appropriate but right. Why would it be so hard to explain to the people the nature of the Zor and the need for a brutal hand? Heck, it wasn't so alien that it was completely incomprehensible. Of course, the noble hero scapegoated by his own government was a better ending, but it just didn't sit right with me.
I liked the Solar Empire. I liked the politics and the structure of it. I liked some of the social commentary, particularly that involving our own brutal nature. I liked the alien culture and how it was developed. I also enjoyed the background material involving Torrijos. I also really liked the gender and racial equality of the main characters. It was done with a subtle touch.
So, despite the criticisms, I did enjoy the story and at times was finding it difficult to put down. Yet, I also found myself questioning many aspects and re-reading parts trying to understand how things happened. I don't mind that some aspects were not resolved, it is more that I did not find aspects believable or not explained well enough to make me want to read more. I may just to learn more about some aspects of the story, but I do not feel compelled to go out and buy the next book.
So, there is my brutally honest first thoughts. I feel bad not raving about the book with the author present, but I would rather be honest.
Brutally honest, eh?
First off, don't worry about "raving" in front of the author. If you aren't willing to take good comments with bad, you shouldn't be releasing books to the general public.
To answer the criticism of the first part of the book: you should know that the original first scene of the book was the interview between McMasters and Torrijos - the battle at the beginning was told in brief flashback. Because of the way the book is marketed, it was required that there be the sort of descriptive scenes which you found uninteresting.
i understand that you find the religion insufficiently alien. First, your description is a bit short of the mark: the zor believe in four forces (esesLi, esGa'u, esHu'ur, and esTli'ir) each of which provide a different part of the explanation of how the world works. The Dark Wing operates independently of either "good" or "evil". The exposition of these forces does make them more alien - at least that's my intention. Second, if you want to understand the zor culture better, I took on the task in the second book (at the request of people like yourself ).
The similarity of the colored bands to the colors of the Intel agents is what's called a "red herring". Except, in this case, the herring has six colors. As for acting without the Emperor's authority, there are numerous examples in human history in which an agency or governmental institution operates independent of its head; if it's intentional, it's called "plausible deniability" - if not, it's called "usurpation of power".
Next, Sergei has a conflict with Stone just before Marais commits a treasonable act: he tells Marais that he must make his intentions clear to the other officers before asking them to commit treason along with him. I thought that was fairly clear. He - like most of the other commanders - is forced to choose between the need to fulfill the mission and his oath to an Emperor who would thwart it. It is intended to play up the difference between the views of bucolic civilians and professional soldiers.
I have been told that scapegoating is actually quite common - particularly the use of Article 133, which is a part of the American UCMJ, by the way - when the military wants a desired outcome and can't find any other way to achieve it.
So, there are my replies. Thanks for your interest in the book.
I just saw you a couple of weeks ago when you were the guest author at the Toadstool in Milford, NH. You were there for Dark Path, but you also talked about Dark Wing. I had not read either book at that time, though I had already purchased Dark Wing (but left it at home so was unable to have you sign it ). You were very fluent with the Zor names (of course I realize you made them up ) and I was really unprepared for what a mouthful they were when you confront them on the page (let alone try to pronounce them ).
My question is: did you have some specific language (on earth) that you were using as a guide or trying to emulate ? Also does the pattern of how the words start and are broken up mean something linguistically or culturally to the Zor ?
I also wondered if you had a specific bird or type of bird that you were using as the proto-ancestors of the Zor ?
The other question I have is about Stone and the intelligence agents. The way it was written he seemed to be one of them, but then it seems he wasn't. I read what you had written on the board previously about the color being a red herring, and I remember what you said at the Toad about other explainations (which are spoilers and I won't mention here), but at one time, perhaps before 'Stone' appeared and joined the fleet, was he ever one of the operatives of the intelligence group -- fooling them as well as the fleet ? I was unclear about that part.
PS: Will you be at Readercon this summer ? If so, I will remember to bring my DW book to get it signed. I am waiting for DP to go into paper before purchasing it.
Ok, I haven't read the posts too in depth since I'm at about page 300 and don't want to spoil much.
I like the race of the zor...well detailed and constructed.
Stone...I'm glad Sergei finally stood up to him...Stone was really irking me as well.
Marias...I REALLY like his character thus far and it is hard to argue with his strategy. Very much of a darwinistic attitude towards the zor.
Overall, there are parts of the story that remind me a bit of Doc Smith's Lensmen books...the epic feel of the story, to the names of the characters.
The apostrophes represent some sort of glottal or verbal break. I could imagine the wing movements corresponding with the stops.
No, though an artist named Joe DeVito drew some great sketches that I intend to put up on my web site at some point. I thought of them as eagles with bat-like wings.
No, Stone has been an attache for Admiral Marais - there's a passage in the book where Marais explains to Sergei where he first met him.
Regarding ReaderCon, yes, I'll be there - just got my invitation to be part of the program. I look forward to seeing you there.
Ficus, I took it to be that Stone had at least some connection to Violet. I didn't find it entirely clear which of them was in the other's pocket or whether Stone allowed Violet to think he was with him only to betray Violet in the end. ***just now seeing the response from Walter*** We realize that he was Marais' attache, but do we know why he killed Violet? That's where our slight confusion is there. We know they're connected if only in that Stone went and killed him, but I'm not sure exactly how.
Walter--"....my dear friend, Susan Stone, who has championed this book from its earliest incarnation." Like her so much she got the bad guy named after her?
Also, I'm curious what you mean when you say that the prologue was changed due to marketing reasons. Is that simply the old "Publishers want things to start of with sword fights or explosions," or is there something else to that? I'm just curious. I didn't mind the way the prologue bounced back and forth at all, but I think a Q&A could have been very interesting, too, leaving the reader with many questions since the people involved would have all known the in-material, thus making it not completely necessary to explain it all, but set up a lot of questions the reader would want answered.
I also always find that excerpts from documents and such at the beginning of a chapter add a lot of flavor to the world in a SF book. It seemed that all of the excerpts were relevant to the chapter that followed. Some chapters didn't have these lead ins, and I was always a little disappointed to get to a new chapter that didn't have one. I would have liked to have seen some that weren't necessarily on point just to flesh out the world even more. We're bright enough to figure out which ones are relevant to the flow and which ones are window dressing.
I leave it as an exercise to the reader. Stone clearly killed Violet - he used the special gun. Violet must've figured something out. . . but what it was, no one ever finds out (so far, at least)
Good question. No, Sue has taken that pretty well . . . Stone was just the name I chose at the time. Sue read this book, its sequels, and the three books that chronologically precede it before almost anyone else.
Got it in one. My editor told me when he first saw the book many years ago, "if it's going to be a war book, it's got to have more war in it."
The editor did suggest the epigraphs at the beginning of the chapters, however. I particularly like the First Lord's appearance before a committee of the Assembly - it lets me explain how jump works without having to bore you with many pages of techblob.
Thank you Walter for the great response. I must admit, your response does give me some incentive to read at least the second book.
That is a good approach. You can't please everyone all of the time! As I stated earlier, I am not a big fan of military sf, but I could enjoy other aspects of the book.
"raving" in this context is a good thing. I wanted to "rave" (e.g., wow, what a fabulous book. You must read it!) about this book with you in the audience.
Yes, I understand. I gather that this book was marketed as military and hard sf. There are plenty of readers who really want to know how the ship is built, driven, etc. I am not one of them. As Erf mentioned before, the cover and comments on the cover left me none too excited. They promoted this sort of "hard sf" aspects.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind some discussion of the science involved (I wouldn't be into SF as much as I am if I couldn't handle scientific details) but, some of the descriptions seemed more like padding than contributing to story setting and/or plot. I enjoyed the history of the earth-zor conflict. That set up the story nicely.
LOL...I knew you would pick up on that! You did mention the other two forces in book 1, but not in sufficient detail to make a mark on the reader. I caught the references, but they were so negligible that I paid them little attention. To be honest, it was very hard to grasp the meanings of the Zor language. A little glossary would have been very helpful. While you do a decent job of explaining the words and concepts, the average reader will forget what each word means or implies within 25 pages.
I see what you mean. Thank you for clarifying this for me. I think that the importance you set on "esLi" as opposed to "esGa'u", in terms of the Zor themselves, reflects the dichotomy we see in Christianity. After all, what would god be without his fallen angel, satan; much like what would esLi, the bright wing, be without esGa'u, the dark wing. They both need each other to exist.
A nasty trick at that!
Ok, so for Sergei, completing the mission is more important than his personal qualms. I understood that. But, I just can't grasp it emotionally, nor does it make any logical sense. The military may work that way, but I sure don't! Maybe that is why I don't like military sf!
Surely, there are examples of military rebuking their commanding officers that they know are insane. Then again, look at Hitler's commanders. So, ok, I guess I see it, but it just doesn't sit right for me (pacifist that I am!).
I have no doubt! You are right. To the average citizen, this would seem natural, but to the reader who has followed the events as they occurred it is a travesty!
Thanks again for the explanations and insights into your meanings and thought processes. I can see now that you are just too darn smart for your own good! You have some wonderful ideas and an intricate plot, but you are apt to lose your reader through intricate plot tactics. What seems clear to you may well be lost on the reader who is new to your universe. The language and concepts of the Zor were very complex and difficult to follow at times. The military motives were difficult to follow for this pacifist reader. You hinted at much, but left little to chew on. The concepts that were hinted at were too vague, they needed a little more explanation to get the reader to want to see where they went. This is hard to describe. I just don't know how to put it. No one wants concepts force-fed, yet they do want to understand the point of view. I can see it is a tricky balance.
Keep up the great work!
I offered to do this, and was discouraged from doing so - no maps, no glossaries, no appendices. Perhaps I should put a glossary up on the web site?
Small clarification. esGa'u is not the Dark Wing; he's the Deceiver, the Lord of Despite. He's in charge of the Bad Guys. The Dark Wing isn't one of them - not at all. It's important to understand that the zor differentiate between the force that destroys and the force of, to not put too fine a point on it, evil.
I can accept that you can't grasp it emotionally, but I differ whether it makes logical sense.
Look. War in and of itself is immoral. It involves destruction and killing, neither of which I advocate or encourage. I think I'm basically a pacifist at heart, whatever my writing may convey. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do what Sergei did, much less what Boyd did for a living.
Nonetheless, faced with a destructive, dangerous war that had been going on for longer than I'd been alive (Sergei is only a few years younger than I am right now), and seeing a solution at hand, I might be tempted to make sure it was carried through: if not for me, than for generations yet to come. That's the conundrum, and that's the line of thinking.
As for Hitler's commanders, most of them were willing to carry out the plan, but in some cases would have been more than willing to put a bullet through his head given the chance. The best commanders never got the chance.
Wait until you get to the third book; but thanks for the compliment. I assume that my readers are pretty smart too, and can keep up (or even guess ahead).
Every architect of a universe faces that. I could give you more details but it would mean sacrificing narrative continuity. As for the complexity of the zor language and culture - well, they're aliens - if they were too readily understandable you wouldn't find them alien enough.
Limited posting time the past couple of days, however I will post more when I finish the book and have a bit of time.
Walter, thank you so much for joining in the discussion.
Separate names with a comma.