The 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest is now in full swing and I recently downloaded one of their presentations, which purported to break down the difference between genre literature and general fiction or literary fiction. In their view, genre fiction concentrates on plot, whereas literary fiction is about the prose and the character development.
You know, maybe they are right, but if I read a "genre" novel with poor prose I usually throw it down. It is true that we want strong plotting in our mysteries and our science fiction but we also want strong prose, well-developed characters, and emotion. I for one want to feel something and since I have been reading science fiction and fantasy fiction for over forty years I also want something new, not re-warmed beans.
I picked up Rynn's World last Thursday and since my to-be read stack blocks my view of the sun, I didn't anticipate getting to it right away. However, I decided to have a coffee at Barnes & Noble and maybe browse through my purchases, which consisted of James Swallow's Black Tide, a new edition of Robert A. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon and, of course, Rynn's World.
While waiting for my coffee, I found my interest piqued by two things in the Parker book. First of all let me say that I really like its new, larger format. It is easy to read and it just feels good in your hands. And when you are a myopic old guy, the bigger the print, the better. Second, as an amateur military historian and military science fiction fan, I appreciate the colored maps in the center of the book.
Needless to say, I found myself just peeking into the book. After a few moments, I said: a little taste won't hurt me. I will go back home and finish Abnett's Triumff this evening. Forty pages later, I said: damn this is a good book. I guess Abnett will have to wait.
Don't get me wrong, I like Abnett but Steve Parker's new novel is an exciting, bold read. It is not cluttered with a lot of tired psychology; instead, he gets to it. As we said at the beginning, genre fiction runs on plot and Rynn's World is as tightly plotted as a military campaign. There is a clear logical flow to the story and it makes sense militarily.
But it isn't just all action either. The characters are drawn carefully and fully executed.
The story concerns the Crimson Fist chapter of the Adeptus Astartes based on Rynn's World. The Crimson Fists are an off-shoot of Rogal Dorn's Imperial Fists.
The action opens en medias res with an active Waaagh! (an invasion of orks) in full swing and heading toward Rynn's World. Pedro Kantor, the Chapter master, must devise a defense for Rynn's world with his small force of space marines. With this premise, the novel promises lots of action; however, Steve Parker is a brave writer. He shakes things up early. One of the best scenes in the book concerns a sniper. From his actions a host of bad things evolve:
It was happening exactly as Captain Drakken had anticipated, and, for the first time since the ork vehicles had shown up, Mishina started to feel truly confident that everything would go according to plan.
That was when he heard Kennon on the comm-link again.
"The warlord is moving, sergeant. I can't wait any longer. I am taking the shot!"
Without giving too much away this is an exciting, well-plotted military science fiction novel about space marines. I frankly feel that the novel will appeal to any science fiction reader, irrespective of the fact that it is a Warhammer novel and that it contains the requisite amount of fluff to satisfy any Warhammer fan.
After three novels Parker seems to be a budding master of what I call a "I hear the pipes, laddie" sequence. The best way to explain this phenomenon is to refer to an old Cecil B. Demille film Unconquered, where just the sound of the pipes and drums raises the spirit of the embattled pioneers at Fort Pitt during the French and Indian War. Many times in this novel, I heard the sound of the pipes and a tear formed. Good writing, sir. Good writing.
Finally, I want to say something about Mr. Parker and orks. I think he might have the flair and the sensibility to write the first Ork novel for Warhammer. In each of his novels, he seems to reveal a little more about the culture of the greenskins. I hope that he continues to think about them and , hopefully, the warlord Snagrod will receive his due. I'm just saying.