Review | The Ambassadors Mission by Trudi Canavan

Trudi Canavan “The Ambassadors Mission” Review

With the war over, what do you do with the peace? The Nation of Kyralia has had its society changed by the war, from the lowest peasant to the mages to the politicians. This is most marked in the city of Imardin, where the former purges or forcible removing of the “Lower Class” have been stopped and people of lower birth with the right skills can now join the magicians guild. With this social change comes a new problem, the spread of a mind altering drug called Roet which is stretching its tendrils to stalk the upper and lower classes alike. Amongst this, the cities Thieves, a group of smugglers, merchants and racketeers of varying backgrounds and amounts of honour are being picked off, one by one, by a foe only known as “The Thief Hunter”.

And that’s without even looking into relationships with the former hostile nation…..
This is the shifting background to The Ambassadors Mission, the beginning of a new story arc following on from The Black Magician Trilogy. And all of the above is gleaned by reading the book, without breaking the flow of action or plot, as I’ve not read the Trilogy.
The tale encompasses all of the above threads, winding them together with a great cast of characters who all have well expressed personalities. There’s Cery, one of the Thieves who is trying to stop the Thief Hunter before the man stops him for good. He’s presented as a lively man, in the late prime of his life who delivers the story from the city street level.
Sonea, an old friend of Cery, was destined for a different life. The events of the war plucked her off the streets and placed her into the halls of the magician’s guild as one of the rare “Black” or “High” magicians, who work by drawing power off other people. At least, I think that’s the case. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t come through that clearly, sadly. Anyway, having reached the guild, she’s working hard to improve the lot of those she left behind and provides the story with its section of magic and intrigue.

Furthering the intrigue is her son, Lorkin, who is going to assist the latest ambassador to Sachaka, as well as historical uses and forms of magic. However, he has a problem, in that he’s the son of the man who defeated Sachaka in the last war…. Finally, the ambassador also has his own flaw- he’s a “Lad”, or homosexual, posted to a country that frowns upon the concept of love between men….

With such a diverse and interesting cast of characters and the plot twining the fates of two detailed, interesting and fundamentally different nations, The Ambassadors Mission proved to be a true page-turner of a read with well paced and described action, intriguing politics and excellent story telling throughout. I found the book an excellent read, and I’m strongly inclined to go back and read its predecessor which, coincidentally, is previewed at the end of Lord of Fire and Air which I aim to review shortly!

Regards to all,

Review | The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown by Paul Malmont

There’s a fine line when using real-life people as characters in a fictional story.  Go against what everyone knows about the person and you run the risk of having readers not invest in your characters.  Be too on-the-nose in your characterizations and, well, you run the same risks, with the added benefit of a lot of eye-rolling.

Somehow Paul Malmont manages to side-step the issue (for the most part) in his new novel The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, mostly by reveling in the on-the-nose observations and jokey references to his character’s future real-life accomplishments.  A quasi-sequel (it takes place some years later in the same “reality”) to his wonderfully off-beat debut novel The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, The Astounding…follows the adventures of a group of quirky SF writers hired by the Navy in WWII to put into effect all the wonderful death rays, jet packs, and invisibility formulas popular in the pulps at the time (look no further for the title reference, as all were pulp magazines made famous for the talent they bred).  So a motley group of scientist/writers including Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp, and L. Ron Hubbard join Robert A. Heinlein race against time to come up with the secret behind Nikola Tesla’s last project, something that could change the face of the planet for better or for worse depending on who gets their hands on the secret.

On hand to help our heroes are a bunch of people familiar to many readers both in and out of the world of science fiction: besides Nikola Tesla, Ray Bradbury and Damon Knight crop up, John Campbell (editor of Astounding and a writer in his own right, penning the great story “Who Goes There” which would become the basis for John carpenter’s THE THING) plays a prominent role for the team, and even Jimmy Stewart manages to make a cameo.  Of course no WWII pulp story would be complete without a meeting with Albert Einstein, but Malmont wants to have more fun than that, so we also Robert Oppenheimer and Richard Feynman to boot.  The book is filled with obvious references to later careers: Isaac has problems expressing his emotions, and works through it by writing a robot story he hopes will go somewhere.  Hubbard is mesmerized by the huckster showmanship of religious cults foreshadowing some ideas he has to make a quick buck or two.  And Heinlein was a great writer of short SF, but he’s left that behind because he’s never been able to crack the skill of writing a full novel…or has he?

Growing up these were the writers I was drawn to.  My adolescent years were spent in the pages of Asimov’s Foundation novels and Robot stories, Heinlein’s future histories.  I still have my dog-eared copies of L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall and The Incomplete Enchanter.  And every tattered Bradbury paperback lines my shelf with pride.  So I gladly embraced the silliness of The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown and simply did what I did as a kid, and I strive to do with every book I read now: dive in a revel in a world I’d revisit again and again.(