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  1. #1
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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    So I read a book the other day.

    You had me with the first line. I was intrigued. Though not much happened in terms of the story, the first part was fast paced and a quick read.

    My only major complaint: Nana-san has funny talk.

    I didn't care much for her speech pattern. It felt too Mulan-ish. I almost got the impression you'd seen that movie one too many times.

    Apart from that, I'm eager to jump into book 2. You've got a great bunch of characters. You set things into motion, now I need to see how everything plays out.

    I'm off to go write a book review.
    Last edited by JRMurdock; March 29th, 2005 at 09:03 AM.

  2. #2
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Thanks, Maus! I'm glad it's got you going.

    Actually, I've never seen Mulan. So I'll have to take your word for it on the speech patterns.

  3. #3
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    Well, I just got to the end of The Road to Kotaishi, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The immediate book I thought of was Lian Hearn's Otori trilogy, because of the Japanese slant on the fantasy; Kevin's book is very different, but I think it compares very well, and it's certainly equally thoughtful.

    I guess it's a traditional quest fantasy with an eastern twist, the idea of a pilgrimage under the sacred Hakari lamp. The action starts moving from the first page, and the world unfolds with the characters and the action, without long swatches of back story. I saw a few traditional plot tropes coming (I won't say what, for fear of spoilers) but that didn't interfere with my pleasure in reading it.

    There are lots of things I like: the metaphysics of this world made sense to me, and its unfolding morality, which is a nicely complex and I thought very human take on the old ideas (I use them too) of Light and Darkness. The world building seems thoroughly imagined. I found the different societies of Tonogato fascinating and I thought well drawn and differentiated: the traditional, ritualistic city of Hajimeshi, fallen on difficult days; the merchant city of Yutakashi; the religious fundamentalists of Shukyoshi, and the gender subtext there, all intrigued me; and I especially enjoyed the magical city of Tejinashi.

    I thought the shifting between the different storylines was well handled; I found as a reader that I didn't notice them, just moving on happily to the next "scene", which I think is a good sign. The various intrigues and plots kept me interested, too. And lots of fascinating characters, who grow along the way; I liked Princess Mikasama's struggles with her ignorance, and how Shiko grew from an innocent as he encountered the outside world. Lord Itachi is especially vile, but most interestingly; I liked that he was, for all his decadence, an admirably brave warrior. And I'm very intrigued by the Voice, or whatever it is, that erupts in the text as (I presume) the Darkness: it's very suggestive, and there's enough of it, but not too much.

    As for criticism (pedant time! ) - well, sometimes I thought the style became a little stilted, though never enough to be annoying: and sometimes there were words which I thought didn't belong in this world, being too contemporary - "lobby" and "foyer", for instance, make me think of modern hotels. (I'm especially aware of this sort of thing, because I've been picked up on it in my books by my very good editor). And I share Maus's reservation about some of the dialect dialogue. A little work with a red pen would get rid of all of those problems, though. They're very minor. So thanks, Kevin! It certainly kept me reading into the night well after I should have put my light out...
    Last edited by alison; April 25th, 2005 at 08:55 PM.

  4. #4
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Thanks, Alison. I'm glad you found it a fun read! I appreciate the balanced and comprehensive feedback - one always likes to know what one is doing right, and what needs further polishing. First novels are always where one is "trying things on for size" and working out styles and approaches to the craft. Early reports from readers of The Sands of Sabakushi are that my writing "went up a notch" so that's an encouraging sign!

    It's also always interesting to see what different readers come away with from the book, it terms of their impressions of the settings and the characters, and to hear other people's thoughts about what they all mean. I feel like I've managed to get a little bit of my head into everybody else's heads...
    Last edited by Radthorne; April 26th, 2005 at 09:09 AM.

  5. #5
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    It's also always interesting to see what different readers come away with from the book, it terms of their impressions of the settings and the characters, and to hear other people's thoughts about what they all mean. I feel like I've managed to get a little bit of my head into everybody else's heads...
    That's what it is - you're trying to make us pod people ... mutating us all into little Radthornes...though come to think of it, that's what writing does. Laurie Anderson said language was a virus. I guess we're all aliens.

    But I'm intrigued as to what was in your head when you were thinking and planning this novel. Like, did you conceive it partly as an analogue of the "real world"?

  6. #6
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alison
    That's what it is - you're trying to make us pod people ... mutating us all into little Radthornes...
    Hmm, that sounds slightly promiscuous...

    Quote Originally Posted by alison
    ...though come to think of it, that's what writing does. Laurie Anderson said language was a virus. I guess we're all aliens.
    There's a great quote in David Bassom's Creating Babylon 5: the show's creator, J. Michael Straczynski, in the book's Foreword says, "...people know what a Vorlon is, they know what a Minbari is...the words that for seven years were only in my head are now in your heads. This is extraordinary." Every time I hear people discuss the characters that I created in my own head, it feels much the same. The mother of a friend of mine, reading an early draft, cried at the end over what happened to one of the characters. That was when I fully realized the power of words, when I could "create" people that others felt so involved with that it affected them that strongly.

    Quote Originally Posted by alison
    But I'm intrigued as to what was in your head when you were thinking and planning this novel. Like, did you conceive it partly as an analogue of the "real world"?
    I had heard an old adage that, if you have some things you want to say you'd better get them all into your first book, as you might not get another chance to say them. Whether that's true or not, it was in the back of my mind as I was putting the book together, with the result that at times I felt like I was tossing in everything but the kitchen sink... Asian theme, Eastern philosophy, anthropomorphism, materialistic obsession, religious intolerance, scientific intolerance... So I had a lot of things percolating in the old noodle. As much as any work of fiction is analogous to the real world, this one is too, in that (particularly with the Taoist tidbits) I hoped to convey alternative ways of dealing with the pressures and frustrations that one might encounter in life.

    All of that was quite secondary to trying to make an entertaining book, of course. I focused primarily on the story and character building, but then tried to layer in on top of that all of these others things I wanted to say or do. There's a great deal of "me" interwoven into the book, not in the sense of the characters but of the morality and the take on the human condition, and what we can make of it.

    There, that was a nice long-winded answer...

  7. #7
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    I appreciated the kitchen-sink approach. It gives your world texture and depth. I couldn't help sometimes reading it as an analogy of contemporary western society, especially America: the relentless and pitiless materialism of Yutakashi, with its underclass, for example, or the fundamentalists of Shukyoshi; but the metaphor's all very delicately done, and there's never a hint of moralising. That's the advantage of a fantastic world, of course, in that it can be read in many ways.

    There's a great deal of "me" interwoven into the book, not in the sense of the characters but of the morality and the take on the human condition, and what we can make of it.
    I found that very strong in the book, and it was one of the things I really liked about it; although of course it's never explicit, it's just running underneath the writing.

    It's funny how exposed you can feel with this kind of work. When I finished The Gift I thought, well, that's me out of the closet...in lots of ways, and yes, not so much through the characters but through its world view it reflects what I think about things. But hopefully, I too avoid moralising...

  8. #8
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Been dragging my feet talking to you about this but I have been curious about what prompted you to set your tale in the Orient. As you know, your books have not yet shipped from Amazon, so part of my procrastination is to not spoil the experience but I think this question is safe enough. Above you mentioned the many ideas percolating when you began the work but not why they interested you. Elsewhere you wrote that your library is mostly non-fiction. Mine is also but only because I ran out of space and it was easier to discard fiction than non-fiction. Is that the source of your inspiration, then? The non-fiction books you have read?
    Almost as important, does your sense of humor show up in your work?

  9. #9
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
    Been dragging my feet talking to you about this but I have been curious about what prompted you to set your tale in the Orient. As you know, your books have not yet shipped from Amazon, so part of my procrastination is to not spoil the experience but I think this question is safe enough. Above you mentioned the many ideas percolating when you began the work but not why they interested you. Elsewhere you wrote that your library is mostly non-fiction. Mine is also but only because I ran out of space and it was easier to discard fiction than non-fiction. Is that the source of your inspiration, then? The non-fiction books you have read?
    Almost as important, does your sense of humor show up in your work?
    No need to drag your feet - step right on in!

    My desire to do an Asian-themed book came from both fiction and non-fiction inspirations. I've always been a bit of a history buff (and yes, I too have ended up keeping a lot of the non-fiction and discarding the fiction, oft times to my chagrin...) After first seeing Clavell's Shogun in TV form when it first came out, I was awakened to the colorful world of Japanese history, of which I had been completely ignorant up until that time. This was followed by the usual frenzy of buying up books on the subject ad infinitum.

    Somewhat later, I read several Asian-influenced fantasy works, notably Sean Russell's Initiate Brother books and Feist and Wurts' Daughter of Empire books (as well as reading Shogun itself). I liked the idea of combining elements of what I knew of Asian history and culture with a good fantasy tale, and at the same time weaving in some elements of Taoist thought along the way. My take on the result is that the books fall somewhere between the Russell/Feist-Wurts books, the former being rather contemplative and the latter somewhat more action oriented (at least for it's time!)

    As for sense of humor, there are a few bits. Nothing overt like a Terry Pratchett, mind you; but there is the odd item here and there. It might show up a bit more in Sabakushi, due to one of the characters I created for that book. Generally, where it does it appear, it's most likely as a bit of irony. I do like to point out silliness in all its guises...

    Hopefully Amazon will ship a little sooner. I know sometimes they've told me a book won't ship until a certain date, and then off it goes a little quicker. What's probably happened is that they ran out of their (very limited) stock, and re-ordered from Windstorm. If the latter get on the ball and get the replacement stock over to Amazon pronto, perhaps things will get moving.

  10. #10
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    It's been a time since I read Russell but I remember Clavell well as I read Tai-Pan and Shogun at least three times each. What impressed me most was his ability to get the sense of "The Long View" into those books, that the stories - as epic as they are - are only chapters in the grand scheme of things. The coins are the obvious example but the thinking that went into the using the coins as the interest on the loan is uniquely Chinese. In Tai Pan, Dirk Struan manages to incorporate this focus into his strategy for dealing with the Brocks and manipulating Cullum into acting as he wants but the reader sees this by the showing and not the telling.
    Have understood this about the Chinese culture - they have assimilated everyone who ever conquered them and they know it - but was not aware of its role in Japan. Still don't believe it applies as much but it's there. I remember a Japanese company securing rights to build a Vietnamese telephone infrastructure ten years before it might be economically viable. The whole fad over Japanese management technique was based on their ability to focus on where they wanted to be in five or ten years as a raison d'etre for their current actions.
    Did this idea factor into your plot line?

  11. #11
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    I enjoyed Tai-pan too - I think it and Shogun were his two best books.

    There is a sense of a "larger picture" in my story that spans a great deal of time, but given that this is a fantasy tale, of course it's not necessarily straightforward (at least in human terms). (Which is all the hint you get at this point!) That larger picture will become more obvious once you get to Sabakushi, where the characters not only become more aware of it but become a part of it.

  12. #12
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Fair enough. It heightens my anticipation to learn you were aware of and then incorporated the phenomena.
    You indicate you are about to begin your next. Am I understanding you correcly that the first series completed with Volume III and now you are about to begin a new journey? Same setting, different cast?

    And I completely agree. After Shogun, for me, Clavell's series deteriorated so much I could never read past the first chapter of the final book.

  13. #13
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hereford Eye
    Fair enough. It heightens my anticipation to learn you were aware of and then incorporated the phenomena.
    You indicate you are about to begin your next. Am I understanding you correcly that the first series completed with Volume III and now you are about to begin a new journey? Same setting, different cast?

    And I completely agree. After Shogun, for me, Clavell's series deteriorated so much I could never read past the first chapter of the final book.
    I found Noble House interesting, but not as fun as Shogun and Tai-pan. Whirlwind was quite forgettable, and Gai-Jin only slightly better for returning to an historical topic.

    As for The Tales of Tonogato, there are basically two books: Kotaishi and Sabakushi. Each is split into two volumes, so it comprises four physical books. Part 2 of each book picks right up where the other ended, so for instance Kotaishi Part 2 starts with Chapter 13. It was just a "packaging" method employed by the publisher to deal with two rather large books.

    Each of the two books is a complete story, and then there is an overriding story arc for both. They share the same set of main characters. The "big" story concludes with Sabakushi.

    I started a third Tonogato book, set about 50 years on using descendants of the original characters (another Clavell characteristic!). I have the outline and about 3 chapters of that done. However, I have since switched gears and put that one aside for the moment, and am now working on an Arabian-themed fantasy. I'm about 42,000 words into the first draft on that one.

  14. #14
    Books of Pellinor alison's Avatar
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    I've still got Sabakushi on my desk, awaiting some free time. Can't wait! The only other Japanese-themed fantasy series I know of is Lian Hearne's Tales of Otori trilogy, but I'm sure there are many more out there.

    I have since switched gears and put that one aside for the moment, and am now working on an Arabian-themed fantasy. I'm about 42,000 words into the first draft on that one.
    Snap! My third Pellinor book is set in a kind of Arabic (Indian/African/whatever) city. It's been interesting trying to avoid the perils of orientalism - I should hate to unwittingly display that kind of unconscious racism - but on the other hand, all fantasy is about exoticism to some extent...and it's given me the excuse to fiddle with some ghazals and other classic Persian poetic forms, which I adore.

  15. #15
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alison
    Snap! My third Pellinor book is set in a kind of Arabic (Indian/African/whatever) city.
    Hah! Yet another coincidence. We really do seem to be moving in some sort of parallel writer's universe... Perhaps it's a balance thing between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? Seems like the only reasonable explanation as to why I stopped the third Tonogato book to switch to this Arabian one...

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