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Friday, January 25, 2008

"After the War" by Tim Lebbon

Order “After the WarHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Dusk/Dawn

In my mind, one of the best things about reading fantasy and science fiction is getting to discover other worlds, and for me it doesn’t get much better than Tim Lebbon’s Noreela. Established in the author’s “Dusk/Dawn” duology (Reviewed HERE), Noreela is a fascinating, post-apocalyptic world where machines once operated fueled by magic; where drugs can turn a person into a sex god or allow your spirit to travel from your body; where dangerous creatures like the Nax, Tumblers & Mimics roam the land; and where stories are just begging to be told. Fortunately for readers, the “Dusk/Dawn” duology was only the beginning. Not only can you find a couple of Noreela short stories out there—Chanting The Violet Dog Down, Forever—but the author has also completed two standalone prequel novels in “Fallen” and “The Island” which will see release later in 2008 + 2009 respectively. In the meantime, Subterranean Press and Mr. Lebbon has given his fans a nice treat with “After the War”, a limited edition (numbered to 1000), signed hardcover that features two novellas set in the unforgettable land of Noreela

1)Vale of Blood Roses”. This tale takes place not long after the end of the
Cataclysmic War, so about three hundred years before “Dusk”, and concerns an ex-soldier who receives an unwanted reminder of his bloody past that was best left forgotten. From here, the story cuts between the present and the events fifteen years before when Jakk and three of his fellow soldiers ventured into an impossible valley where machines still worked, blood roses bloomed, and the residents worshipped some thing they called the heart and mind. Now, because of their actions that fateful day, revenge has come stalking and Jakk must find the valley again if he wants to save his family… Much like his “Dusk/Dawn” duology, “Vale of Blood Roses” is a tale of dark fantasy that straddles the boundaries of horror and is at once chilling, mysterious—Where does the vale come from? Why are the machines still working? What is the purpose of the blood roses? What is the heart and mind?—and poignant examining how war & killing can change a person, living with the choices we make, and how we can never run away from our sins. In short, I loved “Vale of Blood Roses”. It was intense, sated my appetites for both horror & fantasy, was wickedly imaginative, and the somewhat ambiguous ending had me envisioning all sorts of nasty things for poor Jakk ;)

2)The Bajuman”. Originally serialized on his
Noreela website in 2006, this novella offers a different side of Tim Lebbon. In a nutshell, “The Bajuman” is a cross between detective noir and fantasy, which reminded me of Alex Bledsoe’sThe Sword-Edged Blonde” (Reviewed HERE). For instance, both novels feature ‘private investigators’ existing in a fantasy setting, both are told in a first-person perspective, and both of the protagonists live above a tavern! Of course there are some obvious differences like the fact that Korrin, our hero, is a Bajuman—a group of people who are shunned by the rest of the world for something that supposedly happened five hundred years ago. Besides the prejudice and a darker brand of humor, you also have Noreela City. Between a brothel that doubles as a depository for information that is stolen from the minds of its clients, an underground city that is home to the lawless, and many other unique distinctions, Noreela City is quite unlike any other place you’ve been to and really gives the novella a dynamic edge. As far as the case, it’s a different spin on kidnapping as Korrin is hired to find a fodder—descendants of an old humanoid race once bred for food who are now considered a forbidden delicacy—before he is eaten. As expected with this type of story, there’s much more to the case than initial appearances and to complicate matters, Korrin is forced to work with a mercenary who might be the most dangerous threat of all… Because of all the noir-esque fantasy and science fiction that I’ve read recently, I found “The Bajuman” to be a bit formulaic at times, but I thought Korrin offered some really interesting traits as a character, the story was entertaining, and there’s a lot of potential here for an ongoing series which I would definitely be interested in :)

Overall, “After the War” isn’t going to set the world on fire with its two novellas, but as a fan of Mr. Lebbon’sDusk/Dawn” duology and specifically the world of
Noreela, I really enjoyed myself which is about all anyone can ask for. At the same time, if you’ve never read anything by the author, then I give “After the War” a glowing recommendation. Not only is it a great introduction to the haunting world of Noreela, but it’s also a tantalizing glimpse into the macabre mind of Tim Lebbon


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