Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review - Mortal Coils

When I travel I bring lots of light weight paperbacks with me to read on the plane(s). After a string of them, I was getting to the point where I wanted something a little more 'meaty' when I spotted Eric Nylund's new book Mortal Coils on the shelf of a bookstore in Tampa, Florida.

I'll be perfectly honest - I've met Eric. I've been a guest in his home. I even saw this book as a manuscript - a stack of paper about 8 inches thick. I've read a couple of his other books - edgy SF. I knew this one was a bit of a departure from what he'd done before, although he has written fantasy previously.

My recommendation? Do not walk but run to the store and buy (or order in) this book. Here's my review:

As in many fairy tales, thread plays a significant role in the lives of our hero and heroine in Mortal Coils.

Eric Nylund has crafted a fairy tale for the 21st century. In our world of shades of grey, he supplies a mirror to reflect that reality in the form of an heroic story complete with tasks and temptations. This story is not so much about good versus evil, but power. How one attains it, and uses it. It is also about deciding what is good, and living with the consequences of our choices.

The cast of characters is large but necessary to the story, and very human. References are drawn from a large selection of myths, some I was familiar with, some perhaps completely Eric’s own invention. All the characters are engaging – even the ‘bad’ ones – as they twist and turn, trying to influence our two young heros.

Although the central characters are teenagers and we see them metamorphosing from children to young adults, anyone who remembers being 14 going on 15 will be captivated by this story told with intelligence and wit.

‘ “Greetings, Cousin” Louis said, managing to sound normal, as if this were some chance meeting in the park. “Destroy everything you touch.” 44 …..

44. Traditional Infernal greeting/departure. This phrase has become an often heard parental colloquialism to naughty children. “Must you destroy everything you touch?” Many experts associate this with the now less popular counter response: “The devil made me do it.” ‘

Eric sprinkles footnotes throughout which help explain some of the mythological references such as the one quoted above. He also has an amazing eye for detail. The descriptions of eating chocolate are worth reading the book all by themselves.

Even if you don’t know a teenager, read this book for yourself. Like life, the story ends with enough ambiguity to leave lots of room for a sequel. I hope Eric is writing like mad.

More info at http://www.ericnylund.net/


Bonnie said...

Thanks for the review, Laura. I have read one of Syne's books, which was fun to read but not connected with weaving and probably written before she started weaving. Today I looked up the Wikipedia entry for Eric and was pleased to see that it includes a mention of his wife.
Bonnie Inouye

Laura said...

Hi Bonnie,

Syne Mitchell's book The Last Mortal Man includes some textile references. :) I've read Murphy's Gambit, the first book she had published as well, and enjoyed both.

Now that she's so involved in writing about weaving, her SF has taken a back seat. So glad she came over to the warped side! :^) Looking forward to the new WeaveZine format.....

Doug and I have been reading Eric's books - just read the first of the Halo books, and have the next one in the reading pile. Doug is just starting Mortal Coils.