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  1. #1
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    March 2010 BOTM: The Fade by Chris Wooding

    Hi all,

    This is the thread dedicated to discussion of our March book of the month, The Fade by Chris Wooding.

    I know I've been looking forward to this one for some time, having heard nothing but good things about it. I'll be curious to hear what everyone thinks.

    Discuss.

  2. #2
    Uh, Moderator
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    I just did a search to see what I wrote about this when I first read it it (2007! Gasp! Time flies), and my notes were pretty short: "Imaginative. How I like my fantasy".
    I'm thinking I'll probably re-read this, as it was in my 2007 top 5 and I recall enjoying it.

  3. #3
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I should start this tomorrow. I have about 120 pages of Hobb's newest to get through tonight, and then on to The Fade. Should be a quick read...back with comments soon.

  4. #4
    Registered User beniowa's Avatar
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    I really enjoyed this book. The revenge plot is pretty straightforward and you can see the twist ending coming a ways away. But it's really well-written with good characterization and some very cool world building. I loved the subterranean world of the book. Like the LoLL, it has flashbacks interspersed with the present-day plotline to fill in character and backstory and I liked that too. All in all, a very good book from an author that's now on my To Buy Immediately list.

  5. #5
    http://tinyurl.com/363ogv DurzoBlint's Avatar
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    Read this last year and I remember being impressed with the book. Especially the little twist at the end of the first chapter as I was:

    Spoiler:
    under the impression that the character was male until the last line.


    The world building was really good and the route to get to the end was a fun ride. I agree with above, that the ending was pretty obvious; however, in the end there really was not much else that could have happened as things came to a head.

    I read this shortly after reading The Ketty Jay by Wooding and after two great books by him I have added him to the short list of authors I will always buy.

  6. #6
    Yay! I'm a Book Of The Month!

    Thanks for picking this one, guys, and thanks for the kind comments. For those reading it for the first time, I hope you like it. I'll be around to answer questions and field abuse if you so desire

  7. #7
    I read Fade a little over a year ago. It was my first Wooding book. I thought the world he created was amazing. Very original. Unfortunately I can't comment to much on it since it has been a long while since I read it but it made me pick other books of his like The Braided Path trilogy. The Fade and The Braided Path made me put Wooding in my must buy authors list.


    Chris, I know this is a little off the topic of Fade but I was wondering if you can tell me why your Retribution Falls is still not available in Canada? I know I can order outside Canada if I want but I tend to only by through Chapters here in Canada. Your book still is unavailable to order here. Any particular reason?

  8. #8
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thanks for dropping in, Chris!


    Here's what I wrote in review back in October 2007:

    Imagine a world below: a world where cavernous cities and subterranean lakes exist, where caverns are the size of a country, houses are made of skyscraper-size fungi, where luminous lichen light your way between them. Cultures use stalactites and stalagmites as weapons in shard cannons and make armour as strong as steel out of subterranean plant sap.

    Here is the imaginative world of Chris Wooding’s latest stand-alone fantasy, The Fade.

    It commences in a world split by war, in the middle of an intense battle between two races, the Gurta and the Eskaran. As the story is told, Massima Leithka Orna, an elite Eskaran assassin of the Caracassa clan, is caught by the Gurta and put to work in Farakza, a prison-mine below the surface. Conditions, rather expectedly, are hard and unpleasant. Whilst carrying out her hard labour, Orna is also interrogated by Gendak, one of the scholar elite who routinely dissect the prisoners for chirurlogical experiments but seems more interested here in her espionage activities. At the same time, Orna plots an escape with the assistance of Charn, a blacksmith, Nereith, a carnivorous Khaadu, and Feyn, a Sun-Child, one of the strange ‘Sura’Sao that live above ground.

    This daring escape leads Orna to the surface of her world but then eventually returning below to the world that she knows: an underground world run by gangster-like Clans. Bonded to her boss, Ledo, for life, she soon realises that there is a dangerous game being played here. One that not only involves her but also her son, Jai, enlisted with the Eskaran Army, and also bonded for life in order to repay family debt. Orna, one of the best Eskaran assassins, wanders a risky line between the needs of her superior and the strange friendship afforded her by Ledo’s sisters, Liss and Casta.

    This unusual creation is clearly the work of an experienced writer – in fact, this book makes Chris’s total to more than a dozen. His pedigree is clearly in evidence here. Having sharpened his skills in earlier work, this is a fully-fledged adult book worthy of your attention. Part escape novel, part travelogue, part a revenge-motivated fantasy, this energetic book, using revenge as a lead motif for the book, is engaging and fast-paced from the go.

    Characterisation is clearly also a strength. The lead protagonist is a well-defined, though at times contradictory, female lead, whose first-person narrative traverses between sassy and deferential. Orna is a coldblooded killer, yet conflictingly also a wife and mother. These seemingly incompatible traits are reflected in a character whose surface cynicism belies a sensitive depth both sympathetic and horrified at the events that unfold. This world-weary cynicism and inner voice of the narrative are illustrated by well written and appropriate (if not to say expletive-filled!) dialogue. The direct yet expressive vocabulary helps the reader build views of an alien world.

    The biggest problem for readers may be that the fairly short chapters flick forward and back through events, (starting with Chapter 30 going through to Chapter 39 and ending with Chapter 0!) both current and in the past. I found it fairly easy to follow without being too distracting, though I could see it being either enjoyable or frustrating to another reader.

    What this does of course is maintain the narrative motion whilst simultaneously filling out the world of Callespa. Through the backstory, we see Orna’s earlier life as a slave, a musician, a mother and an assassin, her family and career, as well as the events of the present. Whilst not detracting from the main plot, it is an interesting development that fills in a bigger story in a relatively slim book.

    In the same way, the worldbuilding, drip-fed through the events of the book, is also striking. Though not bowed by lengthy exposition, we visit cities and prisons, caverns and valleys. We have majestic cities in darkness, and landscapes in light. (The brilliant cover by Edward Miller does the book justice.)

    What also worked for me here are the tensions and misunderstandings caused by the cultural differences of the two ideologically opposed races. Differences between Gurtan and Eskaran culture, though initially quite different, ultimately may be less than they appear. Though not always detailed, there’s enough to be intriguing for the reader.


    Though a standalone book, there are elements left unresolved, though on balance the book is very satisfying. The ending has a nice twist. It is a book that covers a great distance and depth in a relatively short form. Lesser writers would have padded the plot; Chris deserves credit here and should be applauded for his hyper-refined narrative.

    In summary, a book that pleased me much more than I initially thought it would. Those who, like me, loved Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination or Steph Swainston’s Jant series (though this is a tad more straightforward) will find much to admire here.
    Mark
    ----------------------------------------------------

    I did enjoy it. Looking back, that review reads a little less enthusiastic than I remember feeling at the end of the book. Might be that typical Brit reserve!

    In summary this was, to my mind, a brave book which emphasised pace and action with strong characters and glimpses of a different world. It was deliberately not a fat fantasy with a ginormous range of characters and places. The focus was tightly on Orna and her world.

    More recently, and a little surprisingly for me, I now see here what I also saw later in Stephen Deas's Adamantine Palace, though strangely the reaction to Stephen's novel has been much less favourable by some.

    So: going back to Chris's tale here - what works here? Is it the strong characters, the pace, the movement in time back and forth through the book? Something else?

    Mark
    Mark

  9. #9
    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    My take from back in the day:

    The world of Callespa was long ago settled by humans. A rocky moon circling a much huger world (presumably a gas giant) in a binary system, the world became virtually uninhabitable when the stars' output dramatically increased. Humanity retreated underground, splintering into many tribes, leaving only those hardy people known as the SunChildren to dwell on the surface. For many years the nations of Eskara and the Gurta have been at war, a battle fought back and forth through vast subterrenean chambers with neither kingdom able to win a decisive advantage.

    Massima Leithka Orna is a Bondswoman, an indentured servant of Clan Caracassa. She is also a member of her clan's Cadre, a collection of warriors and magic-wielders (known as chthonomancers) beyond compare, elite fighters at the front of every major push but also adept at assassination and espionage. During a brutal battle her forces are betrayed and her husband is killed. Taken prisoner to a Gurta fortress, Orna lives only to escape and find her son, now serving on the front lines.

    The Fade is a terrific novel. Relatively short (just over 300 pages in hardcover) it is nonetheless superbly-written with vivid characters. The first-person narrative works well, as does the unusual structure (the present-day storyline alternates with flashbacks - in reverse order - showing Orna's history up until the point of her capture). Whilst the epic story of conflict between two civilisations forms the backdrop, the novel is much more concerned with Orna's emotional journey and her relationship with her late husband and her son, which is handled well with all the depth and complexity of real-life relationships. The underground steampunk-esque setting is extremely well-realised and atmospheric, as are the short sections set on the surface.

    The Fade (****˝) is a complete story in itself but a fair number of loose ends are left dangling for possible future sequels. The novel is published by Gollancz in the UK in hardcover and trade paperback.

  10. #10
    @ Hawkwind - I honestly don't know; I thought it was available in Canada. My UK books usually get released there and in Oz automatically, through some strange Commonwealth book-sharing arrangement thing. I saw The Braided Path and The Fade in bookshops in Canada, so I can't think why Ret Falls isn't over there. Curious...

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Wooding View Post
    @ Hawkwind - I honestly don't know; I thought it was available in Canada. My UK books usually get released there and in Oz automatically, through some strange Commonwealth book-sharing arrangement thing. I saw The Braided Path and The Fade in bookshops in Canada, so I can't think why Ret Falls isn't over there. Curious...
    Before the Hardcover came out Chapters was offering pre-order for the release date. But at some point the pre-order was taking out and replaced with Temporarily Unavailable to Order New. It still says that for the hardcover but they do have pre-orders currently for the June 16 release of the Trade Paperback. Hopefully that doesn't change since I have put in for the pre-order.

    Once again guys sorry for going off topic.

  12. #12
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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    I'll start off by saying I've been looking forward to reading this book for a few years now. I've been hearing how great it is from overseas people (most with similar tastes to mine) here on the forum for some time. I've been patiently waiting for the book to become available in the US for something less than my complete monthly book budget, and it finally happened this spring. So finally, after years of build-up, after glowing recommendations, after having the book on my want-to-read list for something like 2.5 years, I finally got to read Chris Wooding's The Fade. I'm disappointed to say that time and space did not rearrange themselves around me as I read the book. I must have gotten a faulty copy or something. That, or it just couldn't keep up with the monumental hype that circumstances had built up around it. All that aside, I quite enjoyed the book.

    I have to agree with everyone about the world building here. For me, it was the strongest aspect of the work. Increasingly, many people seem to be conflating world building with word count - the idea that to show a world, something new to us, one must spend hundreds and hundreds of pages. This book is so full of different ideas, creatures, cultures, and visions that it feels like it's much larger than it really is and some of the images will be with me for some time. If for no other reason, I look forward to rereading this one in years to come to revisit the visuals this book evokes.

    Pretty often on the forum there arises a debate over what's SF and what's fantasy. Something interesting happened as I read this one: There was a point about two thirds of the way through the book where I forgot one little detail about the worldbuilding, something which pretty much doesn't enter into the plot at any point, and started to think of the book as SF rather than fantasy. I wonder if anyone can guess what that little detail was. I'd even accept an answer from the author.

  13. #13
    Uh, Moderator
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    OK, I've just finished my re-read. It was fun knowing the general structure of the book and getting to look at some of the earlier sections looking for clues, but also revisiting some of the detail which I enjoyed the first time but had forgotten. Some scattered thoughts:

    First up, a structural comment: The numbers as chapter headers are a cool idea. It adds the suspense of a countdown (what happens when we hit zero?) while also providing context for the flashbacks.

    One thing I wonder about is whether Chris intended any allegory in the structure of the society, with a plutocracy at war with a fundamentalist religion seeming very close to a West vs Islam type confrontation, although to me it seems less li me allegory and more like a shorthand to allow the stage to be set in a short amount of time.

    I've long considered myself to be against world building in fantasy novels, I think mainly due to an overdose of big fat fantasy in my teens and early twenties. Having read The Fade though, I'm not sure I'm so much against world-building, but the bloat created by trying to differentiate one pseudo-medieval world from another. The thing I most like about this book is the uniqueness of the setting (Menzoberhowever you spell it fans please don't start on me) - I don't think we see enough fantasy that takes advantage of the fantastic, yet that is achieved here (and in a low page count to boot!)

  14. #14
    Uh, Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit
    So: going back to Chris's tale here - what works here? Is it the strong characters, the pace, the movement in time back and forth through the book? Something else?
    All of the above plus an imaginative and well realised setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael
    So finally, after years of build-up, after glowing recommendations, after having the book on my want-to-read list for something like 2.5 years, I finally got to read Chris Wooding's The Fade. I'm disappointed to say that time and space did not rearrange themselves around me as I read the book. I must have gotten a faulty copy or something.
    That happens to me a lot, usually with The Next Big Thing each year but most recently with Vandermeer's Finch.

    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael
    I have to agree with everyone about the world building here. For me, it was the strongest aspect of the work. Increasingly, many people seem to be conflating world building with word count - the idea that to show a world, something new to us, one must spend hundreds and hundreds of pages. This book is so full of different ideas, creatures, cultures, and visions that it feels like it's much larger than it really is and some of the images will be with me for some time. If for no other reason, I look forward to rereading this one in years to come to revisit the visuals this book evokes.
    Ha! I think this is a pretty similar take on what I wrote above. Fancy that!

    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael
    Pretty often on the forum there arises a debate over what's SF and what's fantasy. Something interesting happened as I read this one: There was a point about two thirds of the way through the book where I forgot one little detail about the worldbuilding, something which pretty much doesn't enter into the plot at any point, and started to think of the book as SF rather than fantasy. I wonder if anyone can guess what that little detail was. I'd even accept an answer from the author.
    I kept this in mind while reading and couldn't come up with anything. Was the two third mark you mention when they got to the surface?

  15. #15
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Increasingly, many people seem to be conflating world building with word count - the idea that to show a world, something new to us, one must spend hundreds and hundreds of pages. This book is so full of different ideas, creatures, cultures, and visions that it feels like it's much larger than it really is and some of the images will be with me for some time.
    (My emboldenness.) I think this is a really important point. Chris might be able to tell us whether that was his intention - I suspect so - and I'm pretty sure that there are some (at Gollancz, at least) that think this too.

    It's also something that I remember from the books of the 60's and 70's that I read when I was younger too. Moorcock's Elric (and Corum and Hawkmoon etc) were like that for me. Short - but with comments, images and ideas that linger long after you've read them.

    Mark
    Mark

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