One of the first stories I ever bought for InterGalactic Medicine Show was James Maxey’s “To Know All Things That Are In The Earth.” I liked it so much that I also included it in the IGMS anthology that just came out this week from Tor. James didn’t even submit that story to the magazine; I saw it while it was being workshopped and I knew right away that I wanted it. And his story “Silent As Dust” in issue seven is probably tied (in my mind) with Peter Beagle’s “We Never Talk About My Brother” as the best story we’ve ever published in IGMS. So to say that I’m a big fan of James Maxey’s writing is something of an understatement.
His first novel from Solaris (and second overall), Bitterwood, was a tightly written story about dragons and the man who hated and hunted them, and it turned out to be a highly intelligent science fiction premise wrapped up in a fantasy disguise. James has proven to me time and time again how intelligent he is and he applies all of his insights into his writing with with subtle consistency. It's not an in-your-face-look-at-me kind of intelligence; it's one of those things that just creeps up on you until you finally just have no choice but to be impressed. If I had any complaints with Bitterwood it was only that I thought the ending was a bit too abrupt after a long and methodical build up. But it’s a small complaint; overall the novel was one of the better ones I had read in quite a while.
Now the second novel of the Dragon Age, as James calls it, it set to be released. I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy when he and I were guests at ConCarolinas this year. I’ve been reading Dragonforge a bit slower than I would prefer, not because the book isn’t engaging, but because my wife recently had major reconstructive surgery on her shoulder and can’t use that arm for anything. So the maintenance of the entire household falls to me and I don’t have the luxury of losing myself in a book the way that I would prefer to. But twice a week she has physical therapy sessions and twice a week I get an hour to myself, sitting in the waiting room while the therapist tortures my wife. How I do look forward to those hours.
Dragonforge is, if anything, a better written, more thoroughly developed story that the first novel of the series. It has just enough references to the previous story that people who have not read it will have no trouble following along (in fact, I know that Orson Scott Card read them out of order and still enjoyed them very much), but the details are layered in in such a way that if you have read the first one, you don't feel like you're just seeing more of the same; there is so much that is new and creative and surprising, and I am enjoying it immensely.
I hate to have to admit it, but I say ‘enjoying’ in the present tense because I am not quite through with it; I still have a little over 100 pages to go. But I wanted to post this tonight, even though reviewing books before you’ve actually completed them can occasionally come back to haunt you. However, I wanted to post ASAP because a) I’ve read enough of James’ stories (long and short) to have complete faith in him as a writer, and because b) I just got an email from him letting me know that the book is officially being released this week and he’s having a signing/reading/party tomorrow night. In his own words:
“I'm doing my first official signing for Dragonforge this Thursday (August 7th) at 7pm at the Southpoint Mall Barnes and Noble in
So I thought I’d pass the word along, because anyone who is in the area should drop by. Miss this event and you’ll look back someday like someone who missed an early signing by George R.R. Martin and say, “If only I had know…”
Except now you do know, because you’ve read it here. Don’t make me come back in five years and say “I told you so.”