Graydon Saunders

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Graydon Saunders

Postby DavidTate on Friday, 16 October 2015, 11:21 pm

Graydon Saunders (http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?217465) is the author of two fantasy novels to date, the first of an envisioned series of 7 or so. They are self-published, available through Google Read and (possibly) other online e-book vendors.

They are... remarkable. Not perfect -- I really wish Mr. Saunders had the benefits of a genuine editor -- but nevertheless remarkable.

The novels are set in a far distant future, some tens or hundreds of thousands of years after the introduction of magic ("The Power") into earthly affairs. That introduction was catastrophic. The Power can be wielded by anyone with Talent, and the distribution of degree of Talent is wide. As best anyone can tell, within a few tens of millenia after the appearance of the Power, the world devolved into the Bad Old Days -- an endless succession of sorcerer-tyrants, fighting and deposing each other as they could, enslaving populations, searching out and killing young Talents, and wholly wrecking the natural ecology in long-lasting and self-perpetuating ways.

After ~250,000 years of this, the wizard Laurel managed a new thing: he first created a race of powerful Talented warriors, wholly loyal to him. He then invented the Focus, whereby multiple somewhat-Talented individuals could voluntarily cooperate to wield power (in limited ways) beyond the sum of their individual Talents. Finally, when his army had killed or subdued all of the sorcerers in a large area, he created The Shape of the Peace, a complex spell binding the population into a sort of enforced communism, powered by willing participation in the Peace. 500 years later, within the Commonweal created by that Peace there are still Independent sorcerers, including 12 who joined the Peace rather than be destroyed or banished. Outside the borders of the Commonweal, it is still the Bad Old Days.

The first book, The March North, describes what happens when the Bad Old Days come calling in a remote corner of the Commonweal. It is military fantasy, featuring several extremely Talented Independents and a locally-recruited regiment of The Line, the army of the Commonweal. Three powerful Independents have been sent to accompany the local raising of a volunteer regiment. The Captain of this regiment-to-be suspects that this means someone is anticipating Bad Things. He's right.

The second book, A Succession of Bad Days, is a bizarre mix of sorcerous education and civil engineering. Five young adults find that they are well above the usual range of Talent. They are also old enough that without training they will soon assuredly fry themselves, and even with traditional training they have little chance of living past 40, and no chance of living past 50. An experimental curriculum is attempted. Several characters from the first book have major or minor roles in this one.

The prose style of the books is idiosyncratic, to say the least. The narration is not so much "stream of consciousness" as "stream of speech", with complex run on sentences similar to how someone speaking extemporaneously tends to interrupt one thought with another, speak in fragments, etc. I'm told it is easier to follow when read aloud; I can believe that. (The author also assiduously avoids using gendered pronouns, which doesn't make things any easier.)

None of that sounds like the books should be any good, but they are. I've read them twice each now, and I can't wait for the next one to come out. This is the first new, interesting, well-thought-out notion of magic (and its consequences) that I've seen in a long time. The characters are rich and engaging. There are enough wonderful turns of phrase that I find myself snorting or laughing out loud once every chapter or so. I want to know what happens next, and I expect to enjoy finding out.
David Tate
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Re: Graydon Saunders

Postby DavidTate on Friday, 16 October 2015, 11:33 pm

James Nicoll has posted lengthy reviews at his website, http://jamesdavisnicoll.com/reviews/contributor/1409.
David Tate
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Re: Graydon Saunders

Postby DavidTate on Sunday, 27 March 2016, 7:15 pm

Book Three of the Commonweal series, Safely You Deliver (https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=Oju2CwAAQBAJ), will be forthcoming ~April 7 on Google Play. I had the privilege of proofing an advance reader copy.

This novel is a fairly direct continuation of the previous book, A Succession of Bad Days. Most of the viewpoint character time is given to characters who were not viewpoint characters in that earlier work, and in particular to Zora, the least-mighty (perhaps) of our group of protagonist wizards-in-training.

Like the previous two books, this is not an easy read. Parts of it are downright confusing. Also like the two previous books, it is wonderful. Also like the two previous books, it invites (and rewards) an immediate re-read, which is a vanishingly rare occurrence (at least for me).
David Tate
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Re: Graydon Saunders

Postby DavidTate on Friday, 10 June 2016, 12:01 am

The novels are set in a far distant future, some tens or hundreds of thousands of years after the introduction of magic ("The Power") into earthly affairs.

A minor correction -- the author assures me that the world of the Commonweal is a secondary world, not our world in the distant future. This is actually relevant to the plot in places (e.g. in the relative scarcity of certain elements).

I've now read The March North three times, and each of A Succession of Bad Days and Safely You Deliver three or four times each. They continue to reward each re-reading. I strongly encourage any aficionado of intelligent fantasy to buy these books.
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