Monday, January 16, 2012

The Gates of Madness

James Wyatt's The Gates of Madness is a novella that was originally published in five parts in five different books, in a rather clumsy attempt to build suspense for the then-upcoming Abyssal Plague series.  Of course, I say then upcoming, but the series isn't really done; sometime this March or April, the third and final volume of the Abyssal Plague proper will be released, and I'll start on it for real.  Meanwhile, I've read the first prologue novel, The Mark of Nerath which was only tangentially connected, and now the novella prologue, which was much more directly related.  I'm also reading the other POL novel, The Seal of Karga Kul, but I'm not sure if there's any connection there at all or not yet.  I'm reading it anyway; it's only about 300 pages, and it's better so far (I'm about 25% through it right now) than The Mark of Nerath was, at least.

Gates is interesting.  It's too short to really have a well developed plot or characters, it also has too many characters to spend too much time developing any of them.  Regardless, at least two or three of the characters seem to be reasonably sympathetic and relateable.  Like many D&D novels, it relies on familiarity with the implied setting of the game and the game mechanics, spending little to no effort giving any background on what's going on.  Like many of them, the mechanics of the game tend to be painfully obvious in combat scenes, which make them decidedly non-cinematic or thrilling.  But given the shorter nature of this piece, those shortcuts might actually have been a benefit, because it allowed James Wyatt to do a little bit more than he otherwise would have in setting the scene for the upcoming series.  Anyway, it's also such a tiny little document to read that it's hard not to recommend that any D&D fan go check the link above out and download an ebook or pdf version of it to go try it out.  It's not a great novella, but it's reasonably good enough to properly set the stage and make me feel some genuine impatience for the last book to come out so I can go ahead and read the series.

I'm fairly certain that it'll be disappointing still--what D&D series hasn't been?--but with Don Bassingthwaite doing two of the three volumes, maybe he'll pull it off.  He does seem to be one of the better authors who regularly contributes to D&D novels.  And I am still somewhat interested in seeing where this POL setting goes, if anywhere.

I'm also tempted, now that they seem to have stopped, to get into the Eberron novels.  There's another setting where, although it's a bit late to say that I'd be getting in on the ground floor, it's also not nearly as overwhelming as Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance would be.  There's a rather limited amount of novels, they seem to have come to an end, and the setting is more to my taste than Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms anyway.  And I've read a few of them, and have a few more in my queue of owned but not yet read books anyway.

Of course, I've also got a lot of other books in that queue, and frankly, they'll probably be better than the Eberron novels in general.  But still; I find myself over and over again drawn back into the world of D&D fiction, hoping to find that it's better than the last time I looked.  As I said before recently; hope springs eternal.  And I end up reading just enough books that are just good enough that I think maybe they can be at least as good as regular fantasy fiction that's completely untied to anything else.

It just seems like it isn't.  At least not regularly.

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