Blimey, it’s been some time since I put a post on here. I wish I had a really good excuse, but it ultimately comes down to trying to keep one’s head above water. When the screws get put to you, what gets set aside? It shouldn’t be this blog, but it was.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s talk about what I’ve been up to.

Just yesterday, I finished reading Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett.

I was turned onto Bennett’s stuff by multiple of my friends raving about how amazing the books in his previous trilogy were and was blown away by the vividness of the picture he was able to paint in any given scene. There is a tangibility to his writing that could make even the most jaded cynic want to believe that these places are real. Small, strange, fragile little details that feel like the last thing someone would think of in the process of building a fictional world. Through this, they carry more weight in convincing you of the legitimacy of his secondary world. And they are so off-brand in their fantasy that they just feel…I don’t know quite how to describe this. Bennett is simply not leaning on Fantasy tropes to craft his tales. This is very clearly a man who has read a lot of books, not just fantasy novels, you feel me?

There are two very central concepts that bind much of this book together. The first is the power of scientific advancement to do great harm, here placed in the roll of a particular kind of magic. In a Sandersonian kind of way, Bennett’s Scriving magic is very black-and-white. It’s rules are demonstrated plainly for the reader to see. Every exception is either a problem to be solved or a solution in the making. Many of the major problems are solved by characters creatively applying principles we’ve seen them discussing in unexpected or unintended ways. One solution came about purely on the basis that, being a pre-spaceflight era, the people of this world do not actually understand the relationship between mass and gravity. This gives the novel an almost Science-Fiction like feeling in its tone.

The second major concept is the exploitation of under-privileged people and what that does to them. Our main protagonist, Sancia is a self-liberated slave. The inhuman experimentation performed on her has made her unique and in a prime position to be a player in the game this novel plays out, but it also has done terrible things to her personally. There is a scene toward the end where a godlike being who can see into her mind insists that even years removed from the plantation, Sancia still thinks of herself as an object to be used. Sancia protests saying there is no way she thinks that, that she freed herself. The being retorts “Do you think of yourself as freed or do you imagine that you stole yourself?” And damn that hits hard. As someone who, just by giving himself over to the banal hell of retail clerkdom, once thought to himself that he resembled more a function than a person…it is so easy to not even realize that they’ve stolen your humanity right out from under you. You see this exploitation again and again throughout the book in heroes and in villains even as the cross swords and chase each other though factories.

Much of the action is centered around heists executed by Sancia and masterminded by other people. There are at least three major heists that take place over the course of the book and if I was to criticize the book slightly, nearly every one left me with a feeling of, “Kind of thought there’d be more to it than that…” with perhaps one notable exception. Heists are hard to write convincingly, maybe even moreso than mysteries. So I don’t blame Bennett for some of them being a bit simplistic, but when you set up breaking into a Thief 2: The Metal age style Science Castle…I kind of expect a certain degree of High Weirdness to be discovered whilst in the bowels of the Science Castle.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been about recently. If you read the whole thing, I love you for it. If you’re not subscribed, there’s a little place over to the right there where you can do that. I’ll catch people next time and as always remember to tend to your dreams because if you don’t, who will?

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