Thursday, November 14, 2019

Five fantasy action reads with lyrical prose

Howard Andrew Jones's new novel is Upon the Flight of the Queen.

At he tagged five favorite fantasy action titles "with great characters and some lovely writing," including:
Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories by Leigh Brackett

From a recent author, let me shift to one well-regarded but too-often neglected, the late, great, Leigh Brackett. I’ve talked about her everywhere until I’m blue in the face, and you can find write-ups about her across the interweb. So instead of talking about her or summarizing her, just savor this:
He came alone into the wineshop, wrapped in a dark red cloak, with the cowl drawn over his head. He stood for a moment by the doorway and one of the slim dark predatory women who live in those places went to him, with a silvery chiming from the little bells that were almost all she wore.

I saw her smile up at him. And then, suddenly, the smile became fixed and something happened to her eyes. She was no longer looking at the cloaked man but through him. In the oddest fashion — it was as though he had become invisible.

She went by him. Whether she passed some word along or not I couldn’t tell but an empty space widened around the stranger. And no one looked at him. They did not avoid looking at him. They simply refused to see him.
Those are the opening words to one of Brackett’s final stories set on her faded, dying Mars, “The Last Days of Shandakor.” She always wrote like that, no matter if she was writing hardboiled mysteries or hardboiled space opera, or hardboiled planetary adventure. Note the key term there, hardboiled, because there’s always a sense of loss in her fiction, and her heroes are haunted and a little broken by life’s trials. If you’ve always wished someone had been writing noir adventure science fiction, well, someone was, and she wrote a lot of it. And she never failed to deliver the action beats and propulsive pacing.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue