Another peer review of one of Matt Forbeck’s 12 for 12 trilogies. This time, it’s “Shotguns & Sorcery,” Matt’s noir-esque fantasy world. As always, full disclosure: I’ve traded drinks and emails with Matt, and I was a backer for the Kickstarter to fund these. Also, like his last trilogy, while the first book stands largely on its own, the three books are pretty heavily connected, so I’ll review them as a collection.
The main character is Max Gibson, a retired adventurer/mage who is down on his luck. He and his former group of treasure hunters landed the big score and called it quits ten years ago. Since then, he’s lost touch with most of his friends, and broken it off with the love of his life. And that’s all before he’s called in to investigate the murder of the entire family of one of his best friends.
The entire setup is “Chandler meets Tolkien,” and I was in love with the premise of a hard-bitten investigator in a fantasy noir world. And the first book is a lot like that. But then, around book two, the story starts to slide into a more traditional fantasy tale, and by the time you’re into End Times in Dragon City, it’s a full-on fantasy adventure.
At first, this bugged me. I am a fan of noir, even if it’s hazily defined, and I felt like I wasn’t getting what I wanted. And yet, the series’ tone reminded me a fair bit of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels which also use noir detective trappings to tell a more traditional fantasy tale (albeit a modern fantasy one in Butcher’s case). Once I wrapped my head around the fact that Matt was using noir as set dressing and not as a plot structure, I got over my concerns and enjoyed the mad race to the end of everything. Plus, Matt does something with his fantasy that I don’t see much these days — he keeps it concise, and that gets a lot of points with me in these days of 800-page doorstops.
You can get all three books from Matt’s site, including a free short story if you’re not sure about the tone.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I have a few backlogged. For those new to my blog, “Peer Reviews” are reviews of products that friends of mine have worked on, because I am lucky to have a lot of talented friends. As usual for my Peer Reviews, full disclosure: I have shared drinks and emails with Matt Forbeck in the past. I purchased these books with my own money.
Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World (so called to avoid confusion with any other properties entitled “Brave New World” and not at all due to Matt’s ego) is a trilogy of superhero novels based on a roleplaying game Matt developed back in the late 90s. I actually have no prior experience with the game, so I came into them cold. While the first novel stands relatively well on its own, the story really takes place across all three books, so I’ll be reviewing them as a unit (collectively “the story”).
Continue reading Peer Review: Matt Forbeck’s Brave New World
A while ago, I read an interesting blog post by Monica Valentinelli. It was primarily interesting because it’s something I’ve known instinctually for a while, but I never actually thought about it in specific terms.
In case you’re like-adverse, the basic gist of her post is that Matt Forbeck told her the best way to “build a network” in this industry (or, really, any industry) isn’t to think of it as a business network at all, but a collection of friends. And I think that’s really true. While I certainly have a large number of acquaintances and people that I could theoretically pick out of a lineup as part of my social network, the people that I tend to think of when I do business are those that I could probably sit down with and not talk about business at all. I have been blessed to make a number of friends in the fields of fiction, video game development, and RPG design (and there’s a lot of overlap between the three of them).
Continue reading Befriend Your Peers, But Don’t Hire Your Friends
Full disclosure: I’ve had a couple of drinks with Matt in the past. However, I paid for my own copy of this book.
(Yes, another review. What can I say? I had some time to get some reading done over vacation. And I picked up Amortals about the same time as In Hero Years…I’m Dead. So, naturally, I had to read them one right after the other as well.)
Amortals is about a Secret Service agent who is part of the Amortals Program. When he dies, his clone is activated with his last backed-up memories. This time, he’s sent to investigate his own murder, which is particularly gruesome and shocking. I found the premise similar to how clones work in the fiction of EVE Online, which is what initially interested me in the book, but I quickly got swept up in the action movie premise. Over time, the book throws you a few curves, and near the end there’s some good digging into the moral implications and concerns of a society that clones the rich and powerful on a regular basis.
Like In Hero Years, there’s an afterword in which Matt talks about the process of writing the novel. He says he’s shopped around a draft of this in various forms for fifteen years, and I think that shows in the book. Whereas Mike’s book was a fountain of exploratory writing that focused on character emotion, this is a manuscript that has been revised and polished and tweaked for maximum effect, and the plot is highly tuned as a result. I don’t think one style is better than the other, but reading them back to back did give me an appreciation of how each approach creates a different style of narrative.
Matt is at the top of his game in creating a fun and engaging story. If you like action thrillers, this is a good book to pick up.