Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cloud Roads -- Martha Wells

The other day I mentioned having met Stina Leicht a few years ago at some convention or other. I thought it might have been Aggiecon, but Stina says it was probably Armadillocon. However, I'm just about certain that I met Martha Wells at an Aggiecon because she's an Aggie. She was probably in junior high when I started going to Aggiecon, though, so it must have been in the '80s when I met her.

At any rate, she's gone on from A&M to write a number of novels. I've read at least five or six of them and enjoyed them all, so naturally I picked up her latest, The Cloud Roads, which is what they're calling these days "secondary-world fantasy." You can read Martha's post on it here, and if you comment on the post, you have a chance to win a copy of the book. And you can also check out Martha's post today at John Scalzi's Whatever, as she discusses her Big Idea.

If I had the time and patience and skill, I'd write a long comparison between Leicht's book and Wells' book. Leicht sets hers in a very real world, whereas Wells chooses an imaginary one, but they're both about young men, outsiders, who are trying to understand their heritage and where they fit into things. Both suffer physically, and both have mentors of one kind or another. Both are unwittingly involved in wars not of their own making. It's a testament to the skill of Leicht and Wells that two books that are so alike in some ways are such totally different reading experiences.

The Cloud Roads is the story of Moon, a shape-shifting Raksura, a race with the ability to change into the form depicted on the cover. He thinks he's the only one of his kind, and he lives among "groundlings," moving from tribe to tribe as one or another casts him out when his difference is discovered. Then he meets another Raksura named Stone, and his life changes completely.

If you've ever dreamed of flying, you'll really like the flying scenes in this book, and the world that Wells creates is a fully imagined and fascinating one. When it comes to world-building, Wells is at the top of her game. The book is thoughtful, but it's also action-packed, and the climactic battle is as bloody and thrilling as you could ask for. There's a bit of romance, there's humor, and the characters are just alien enough to be fully human.

I had a great time reading The Cloud Roads, and I'm glad to hear that the sequel is already completed and sold. You can be sure I'll be buying a copy.

2 comments:

  1. This is the fourth very positive review I've read of this book, so it's gone on my "To Get" list.

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  2. The setting is a fascinating new world, and I enjoyed exploring it. The societies, cultures, beings, and environment are all interesting separately, but meld together into an even more interesting whole. Add to this a plot that keeps you wondering what will happen next and great dialogue (always a hallmark of a Martha Wells book), and the result is a book that's hard to put down. I highly recommend this.

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