Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review Round Up, and Thoughts on Characters

The last few days have been good for me in the review arena. The first review of Dragonforge appeared at Aliette de Bodard's blog, followed the next day by a short but sweet review of the book at Cat Rambo's blog.

Aliette says of the book: Maxey successfully uses this setting to explore a number of questions: he tackles the problem of dominant species (should there be one? Does it have the right to exterminate everything in its path? Can humanity reclaim the world it once destroyed without polluting it once more?), of faith and false gods (is blind belief enough? are the gods one believes in worth worshipping?), and of the uses of technology (can it make people's lives better, or is it doomed to lead to an arms race?). This might make you think this is going to be a dry, boring book about important ethical questions. But the joy of Dragonforge is that Maxey manages to raise all those issues while keeping a tight grip on a fast-paced narrative, filled with suspense, reversals and suitable hazards for every character involved.

Cat sez: There's been a lot of interesting dragon books, but Dragonforge is right up there with the best of them, I think. It's the characters more than anything that stand out, but glimmering behind them are a vivid, imaginative world and tons of nifty little ideas and touches.

If that wasn't enough, two reviews of the upcoming Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show anthology popped up yesterday, and both single out my story "To Know All Things That Are in the Earth" as a strong point of the anthology. Read the Publisher's Weekly review here. And, read the "Ain't It Cool News" review here. I suspect that the IGMS anthology will prove to be the best selling book I've ever had words in, by virtue of OSC's name on the cover in great big letters. "To Know All Things" is a very strange story for me in some ways. It takes place in a decidedly supernatural universe, and has been interpretted by many people as a defense of creationism or intelligent design. My true feelings on this issue can be found in this essay at my other blog, Jawbone of an Ass. But, "To Know All Things" is one of those stories where the world and the characters took on their own life as I was writing it, and what started as a potential parody of the rapture instead grew into a heartfelt story about a man who has lost his faith. Losing my own faith in the Christian world view was one of the most traumatic and defining periods of my life. The protagonist of the short story takes the opposite journey... he's a biology teacher and a professed atheist, who witnesses his Christian girlfriend get carried away by angels during the rapture. He's forced to confront the fact that all the truths he's embraced have, in fact, been wrong. I was able to tap into my own experience and emotions to guide him through his journey, producing a story that I count among my best, even though many people who read the story will no doubt come away thinking I am some sort of Creationist.

Which leads me to this thought on characters: I think that all my best characters are people who, in some profound way, I disagree with. Bitterwood's embrace of hate and grudges is the exact opposite of my own rather forgiving personality. Jandra's heroic optimism and belief that she can change the world for the better is 180 degrees from my own cynical pessimism. Blaspet is joyfully sadistic, while I personally can lay awake worrying about something I said years ago that might have hurt someone's feelings. Hex's anarchist views are my own libertarian views pushed to the point of breaking--the faith that people (and dragons) would treat each other fairly in the absence of laws has been disproven time and time again. All these characters wear their world views like armor as they plunge into the battlefield of life. And I get my kicks in trying to crack that armor, putting them in situations designed to test everything they believe, and see how they respond and grow.


Angela/SciFiChick said...

I think you went above and beyond with your characters this time around. I'll have my review up of Dragonforge tomorrow. But wow. It's rare when I can't decide which is my favorite character because so many hit some chord within. I can't really relate to any of them, yet they seem so realistic in their hardships.
And thanks again for the mention!

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Angela! I'll be linking to your reveiw this evening.