Three Line WIP

So – delivery approaches.  Matter of a few weeks now.  Final chapters and then some polishing.

Meantime, all you lovely, patient people – li’l Archeth for ya:

His imperial radiance Jhiral Khimran II was executing traitors in the Chamber of Confidences when they got back.

Archeth had Anasharal brought up to the palace anyway.  She’d known the Emperor since he was a child, had watched his ascension to the throne – apparently with a few less illusions than the rest of the court, because she seemed to be the only one not shocked when the purges started – and she knew he was going to demand to see the Helmsman as soon as he heard about it.

He might even put the executions on hold.

So she went, unenthusiastically, along the sculpted marble corridors in the Salak wing of the palace.  Went deeper and deeper, towards the screaming, while krinzanz need scraped at her nerves like knives.  The smooth-walled architecture gleamed and curved and swept, palely voluptuous around her, mostly tones of muted jade and amber, but veined through in places with stark copper or black, and studded at intervals with conquest pieces – artwork and sculpture dragged here from every corner of the Empire and jammed into alcoves or nailed onto walls that didn’t really suit the purpose.

And the shrieks and pleas for mercy echoed off the polished stone, chased each other down the corridors, ambushed her round corners, like the ghosts of the conquered dead, somehow trapped in the marble heart of the imperium that had vanquished them.

*

The Salak stone-masons and architects who built the Chamber of Confidences – so the story went – committed quiet suicide when they learnt what had been done with their work.  Archeth was a child at the time, and would never know for sure.  As she grew up she suspected a more pragmatic truth behind the tale; that his imperial radiance Sabal Khimran I had had the craftsmen murdered to ensure they never spilled what they knew about the various architectural tricks and secrets they’d so lovingly created.

Certainly had it in him, the evil-eyed old fuck.

Sabal the Conqueror, first of the Khimrans to really deserve the term Emperor.  He’d died before she hit her teens, putting down some rebellion or other out on the fringes of the eastern desert. But she still remembered how he’d lifted her up as a small child, the secret look on his hawkish face, as if she were some incredibly precious vase he entertained notions of smashing apart on the floor, one swift and brutal stroke, while no-one was looking.

She’d asked her father about that, many years later, when grief at her mother’s death trawled the memory to the surface.  But Flaradnam was deep in grieving of his own and disinclined to discuss Sabal, or indeed anything much else, beyond bitter monosyllables.  He would not have dared, was about all she could extract.  He needed us – they all did back then – as they still do now.  Whole fucking dynasty leans on us like a crutch.  And Sabal knew I would have ripped his mother-fucking mortal heart out if he’d harmed a hair on your head.

Flaradnam lived through his grief and eventually put it aside – or at least learnt to ignore it for extended periods – but they never really discussed Sabal again.  The early excesses of Empire seemed to be bound inextricably in his mind with Nantara’s death, and he skirted round them in conversation as soon as they arose.  And then, there was that whole fucking dynasty angle to worry about – Archeth was old enough now to be admitted to the Council of Captains, to take on her own role in the subtle steering of Yhelteth affairs that served the Kiriath for a mission, or a means to other ends, or maybe just a hobby.  There was, her father told her repeatedly, important work to be done.

So forget Sabal the Conquerer, because his son was on the throne now – Jhiral I, a diffident, gentle boy Archeth had grown up playing tag with through the gardens and corridors of An-Monal and the palace in Yhelteth  – and the succession was far from assured.  Flaradnam and Grashgal spent quite a lot of the next few decades quashing usurpers, safeguarding borders and laws, hammering and tempering the newly minted Empire into something resembling a permanent tool of policy for the region.

And after Jhiral, there was Sabal II, seemingly a solid reincarnation of his grandfather’s brutality and cunning and military prowess.  At An-Monal, they all breathed a collective sigh of relief, and stood back to give him sword-room.

And then Akal the Great, perhaps the best of them so far.

And now Jhiral II.  Hers to handle alone, for her sins.  She sometimes wondered – she was wondering now – why she fucking bothered.

But old habits die hard.

She cleared a final twist in the milky, veined stone corridor – the shrieking hit her full in the face, she did her best not to flinch – and went under the heavy marble cowl of the entry arch, out onto the Honour promontory.

The execution party didn’t pick up on her arrival at once – all attention was focused inward on the business of the day, and anyway with the noise the condemned were making, she could probably have ridden in on a warhorse in full armour and still not have been noticed.  She counted about twenty men in all – executioners and apprentices in the sombre grey and plum of their guild, a couple of robed judges, there to see sentence carried out, and then a scattering of whichever strong-stomached nobles felt they needed to curry a bit of imperial favour right now.

The Chamber of Confidences.

Under other circumstances, it was a radiant, beautifully-rendered space. The Honour promontory was one of three blunt marble tongues – Honour, Sacrifice, Courage, the old Yhelteth horse tribe trinity – extending at regularly spaced intervals from the otherwise circular walled circumference of a closed ornamental pool fifty yards across.   Sunlight fell in through cunningly angled vents in the high dome of the ceiling – the marble blazed and shone where it took the rays directly. Elsewhere, reflection off the water put cool, rippling patterns of light and shade on the walls.  A tented raft of rare woods and silks was ordinarily anchored in the centre of the pool, a private retreat for the Emperor you could reach only by poled coracle, because you certainly wouldn’t survive the swim.

But the raft was currently moored tight to the Sacrifice promontory, well out of the way.  Well, you wouldn’t want to get blood on that silk.  Take forever to get the stains out. And four of the convicted traitors – three men and a woman – were already afloat, shoved out a safe distance from the promontory on their execution boards and drifting further away.

Archeth tried not to look at what was happening to them.

She focused on Jhiral’s back, the sumptuous imperial ochre and black of his cloak amongst the clustering matt palette of the executioners’s garb.  She held down a shudder – swore she’d never again try to quit the krin cold.

“My lord.”

Hopeless – the shrieking drowned her out.  The fifth man was thrashing and flailing as they dragged him to the manacles on the last remaining board.  She thought, with a sudden freezing through her veins, that she might know him.  Though beneath the marks of lash and heated irons, the distorting terror in the features, it was hard to tell for sure.

She cleared her throat – something seemed to be sticking in it – and tried again, louder.

“My lord!”

He turned.  Heavy silken sweep of the cloak across the marble flooring, handsome features a little clouded, brow furrowed like a man struggling with accountancy he had no real taste for.  His voice carried effortlessly – he was used to this.

“Ah, Archeth – there you are.  They said you were on your way.  But – as you’ll see – I’m a little busy right now.”

“Yes, sire.  I see that.”

The last execution board was an old one, grey wood swollen and split from repeated immersions, manacle screw plates spotted with lichen-orange rust.  The board looked, she thought, not for the first time, like a generous wedge cut from some huge mould-coated cheese.  Broad at the top end so the victim’s head stayed a good couple of feet above the waterline, tapering to a narrow end at the bottom so tortured and manacled feet would lie submerged, leaking slow tendrils of blood into the water.

The pool dwellers were smart – Mahmal Shanta swore he’d once seen them using lure tactics to  entice seal pups off beaches in the Hanliagh Scatter – and they knew well enough the sound of the underwater gongs lowered into the pool when there was to be an execution.   They’d have squeezed in through the submarine vents in the base of the chamber that morning, would have been waiting below the surface ever since.

They’d be ravenous by the time the first board hit the water.

And then she could no longer beat the perverse urge, she could not keep her eyes away.  Her gaze slid out to the water, to the four boards already floating there with their dreadful, shrieking, red-slippery writhing cargo.

In the wild, a Hanliagh black octopus would have wrapped tentacles around surface prey this large and dragged it deep, where it could be drowned and dealt with at leisure.  Defeated by the bobbing wood and the manacles, the creatures settled for swarming the boards, tearing at the chained bodies with frenzied, suckered force, biting awkwardly with their beaks.  So skin came off wholesale, gobbets and chunks of flesh came with it, finally down to the bone.  Blood vessels tore – in the case of a lucky few, fatally.  And occasionally, a victim might smother to death with tentacles or body mass across the face. But for most, it was a long, slow death by haphazard flaying and flensing – none of the creatures was bigger than a court-bred hound, they could not otherwise have squeezed in through the chamber’s vents, and even their combined efforts were rarely enough to make a merciful end of things.

Jhiral was watching her.

She forced herself not to look away – the spray of blood, the up-and-down flail of tentacles like thick black whips, the soft, mobbing purple-black shapes hanging off the wood and flesh, crawling across it.  Her gaze snagged on a wild, wide-open human eye and a screaming mouth, briefly blocked by a thick crawling tentacle, then uncovered again to shriek to shriek, to shriek……

She turned to meet Jhiral’s gaze.  Locked herself to the casual poise it took to do it.  Slowly, Archidi, slowly. Held his eyes, held the moment like a knife blade, loose for the throw.  Warrior trick – funnel the noises away, to the edges of your attention, like the pain from minor wounds when the battle demands you gather yourself.

Jhiral gestured impatiently.

“So?”

“We have found a new Helmsman, my lord.  It talks of threats to the city, to the Empire.”

“A new Helmsman?”  Jhiral’s brows kicked up.  “A new one?”

“Just so, my lord.”

Jhiral glanced back at the last condemned man, the frantic scrabblings he made against his captors as, finally, they managed to get him to the board.  The Emperor seemed to be pondering something.  Then he looked back at her again.

“Archeth – you would not by any chance be trying to avert punishment for your old pal Sanagh here, would you?”

So.

The bloodied, screaming features – the memory popped into place like a brutally relocated shoulder joint.  Bentan Sanagh.  They’d hacked his hair off in the dungeons, of course, and he was haggard with suffering.  And anyway,  pal was not really accurate – she knew Sanagh only casually, through Mahmal Shanta and the shipwright’s guild.  A loud-mouthed idealist, quite brilliant in his way, which was probably what had kept him alive during Akal’s reign, but he’d always lacked Shanta’s instinct for self-preservation.  Archeth had liked him well enough, shared some conversations, a banquet party or two.  But she judged him doomed from way back, and kept her distance accordingly.

“Because Prophet knows,” Jhiral went on with a long suffering sigh.  “His good lady wife’s been writing to every worthy at court he ever shared a bribe with, trying to get his sentence commuted.  We’re all up to our ears in tear-stained parchment.  I imagine you’re on the list as well, somewhere.”

She was not.  Perhaps her own habitual standoffishness had been noted – doesn’t pay to get attached to humans, her father told her bitterly, drunkenly, one night a few months after her mother died.  They only fucking die on you – or perhaps it was her black skin and her eyes and her volcanic origins.

Or maybe you missed the letter, Archidi.  Maybe you were fucked up on krinzanz or brooding out at An-Monal or hiding in the desert.

“I was not aware of Bentan Sanagh’s conviction, my lord,” she said evenly.

“No?”  Jhiral stared at her, she thought, almost resentfully.  “No?”

“No, my lord.”

Shrieking.  Shrieking. Abruptly, the Emperor of All Lands rolled his eyes.

“Oh, just cut his fucking throat,” he snapped.

The executioners froze.  Exchanged glances.  One of Sanagh’s arms flailed almost free.

“My lord…..?” ventured one of the braver men.

“You heard me. Stop wasting my time trying to get him pinned and floated.  Just slit his throat, I’ll witness it and we can all go and do something less…….noisy.”

More glances.  Helpless shrugs.  Sanagh had frozen as well, fallen silent against the backdrop of his fellow convicts’ screams.  It was hard to tell what expression his features held.

“Well?  Get on with it!”

“Yes, my lord!”  The sergeant executioner snapped to attention.  He cleared his mercy blade, came forward and knelt at Sanagh’s head while the others held arms and legs down to the board.  Archeth caught one last glance of the blood-streaked face, the unreadable eyes, and then the sergeant’s solid arm blocked her view.  She never saw the blade slice through Sanagh’s flesh.  But a gout of blood leapt out across the grey wood, and it splattered on the copper-veined marble, almost at her feet.

Jhiral looked around at the assembled company and nodded.

“Good.  Well done.”  Out across the water, the shrieking went on, bouncing crazily off the sculpted marble walls, filling the air, seeking the ears like swarms of stinging insects.  Jhiral still had to pitch his voice above it.  “That’s it, then – we can all get out of here.  Thank you, everybody, you are dismissed.  Khernshal, have somebody clean up this mess, would you.”

The named courtier bowed gravely.  Jhiral was already turning away.  “Well, then, Archeth.  Let’s go and have a look at this Helmsman of yours, shall we?”

“Yes, my lord.  Thank you.”

“Oh, don’t mention it,” said the Emperor of All Lands sourly.  “The pleasure is entirely mine.”

The shrieking followed them out.

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46 responses to “Three Line WIP”

  1. Bloody Savage

    Another great snapshot of the new book. I loved ‘Steel’ and I’m really looking forward to this. Thanks for these posts, Richard!

  2. Lance Larka

    Makes me want to vomit. But then again, sometimes that is exactly the response we should have to situation like this. Maybe if more people reacted as I did, this wouldn’t happen in real life.

    Excellent snapshot of the new novel. Am very much looking forward to reading the whole publication.

    Off to post a link on the facebook fanpage…

  3. Kitty

    On youTube an Egyptian policeman explained how he tortured and abused prisoners. He spoke with emotion concerning how poorly officers like himself were paid for their work.

    When I read the above in the book I will write on the page in pencil “note:torture, it don’t stop hate.”

    I hope something bad happens to the Emperor in the book.

  4. MattH

    Now I’m glad I didn’t hit ‘send’ on the update-petitioning fanmail that I composed and discarded at least three times last week.

  5. RBWalker

    Wonderfully nasty. I believe I’ve discovered a bone-deep, spine-shuddering fear of octopi.
    And as always, I can’t wait for the book to hit the shelves.

  6. J A

    Thank you for the post Morgan. I’m looking forward to reading your latest. Well-wishes

  7. Longasc

    Why did you think this particular scene was worthwhile showcasing? Will the entire book be like that? I found The Steel Remains quite witty despite the violence, but right now I just wonder.

  8. Jordan

    Not one of his books have been ALL blood and awful. Wouldn’t know why that would suddenly change now.

  9. damaia

    Amazing creatures, octopi and their kin. Remarkably smart for something so relatively short-lived, you’re right. That and I think death-by-octopus might be a new one, or at least execution-by-octopus. The trouble and expense of such a method suits Jhiral right down to the ground.

  10. Linda P

    @Longasc: I liked the “wit” or rather the dark humor, in The Steel Remains as well. But I think it was more in Ringil’s story – Archeth is a bit more serious.
    A new Helmsman? Now that’s going to be an interesting development. And, like Archeth, I had a perverse urge to “see” the execution by octopus, though felt a little guilty about it.

  11. Eric

    I’m really loving the term ‘death-by-octopus’. I resolve to use it as often as possible.

  12. damaia

    @eric

    By the power vested in the internet, we can probably make this into yet another inexplicable meme.

  13. Mark C

    Jeebus. Brutal stuff. Is it wrong to look forward to more of the same..?

  14. James

    This book is going to end up biting me in the ass. I know what’s going to happen, soon as it comes out. Regardless of what’s going on, I’m going to drop everything I’m doing through the semester and spend 2-3 days ripping through it.

    I can only hope it won’t be released around exam time.

  15. steve

    Dear Richard,
    I’ll probably order and read your new book since I’ve enjoyed all the others, Steel, Thirteen, et al. But I confess to being so enamored of the Takeshi Kovacs stories that I continually hope for another one–maybe earlier in his life as an Envoy, or a Newpest gangster, or even into the future of Sylvie Oshima and Quell conversing with Martian Orbital AIs, etc. My love of Kovacs is like my old love of Chandler’s Marlowe and Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, a faithful and jealous love that doesn’t like other characters and genres taking their place.

    Woken Furies, for example, is such a favorite of mine that I’ve re-read it countless times. To my humble thinking, you really stretched out in that one, and for me it has enormous literary worth–for example, the poetry and politics of Quell–that elevates the book beyond the popularity of its genre. I’m now writing a novel that takes place during the Algerian crisis in Paris in 1961, but for some reason whenever I read Woken Furies my imagination is stimulated and my writing takes on new energy. So thank you for that.

    Cheers,
    Steve Geng

  16. Jinx

    We all want another Kovacs book steve, the setting a few hundred years from now was perfect, i liked it more than the 100 year gap in the 13 novel and the pseudo-fantasy sci-fi world the newest books take place in. But i’m pretty sure i read somewhere on this website that a new Kovacs book is not gonna happen anytime soon?!

    I hope i am wrong though.

  17. Linda P

    @Steve, Jinx: Although I loved Kovacs as much as you guys, I have to slightly disagree with the idea of another Kovacs novel. I think his story ended about as perfectly as possible, with a bit of hope and redemption. Are you sure you’d want Richard to for instance, do another story far into Tak Kovacs’ future? You might not like where he takes him. Who knows? I’d rather leave things as they are!

  18. Freeman

    @Steve,Jinx and Linda; Fuck Yes we want more………..

    Ending the last Kovac book made starting thinking of a fourth immediately……… And i agree to a point with you Linda, that chain of stories ends in a real balance…. The Revolution can begin….. But that is exactly what i’m aching for…. Kovacs and his Interstellar Insurrection against the Insouciants…. The Meths….. and all Earth Centric Dogma………

    Quell the Masses! (Note: tetrameth and bad-arse low gravity kung-fu not included, additonal costs may apply)

    Wicasa Wakan

  19. Ravs

    Waterboarding taken to a whole new level….eek!

  20. Alexandra

    Fab. More please.

    Can’t wait for the book… please make sure it’s out on Kindle too!!

    Currently re-reading Kovaks.

    Got to love it all.

  21. James

    Regarding another Kovacs novel…

    Sure I’d love that. I read the series many times and there’s nothing I’d enjoy more than another one.

    But I don’t think Richard should do it. If he did I’d gobble it up and be happy, but the series ended great. I don’t want a series of 20 books and the complete return of Quellcrist Falconer. Well okay, yes I do, which is why it’d be a cheapening of the series if we got that. Let it end on a high note, leave us wanting more. Something to be said for too much of a good thing.

    (A follow up of Thirteen, on the other hand…)

    In my own irrelevant opinion.

  22. Michael

    I would love a new Tak book, but I also agree with Linda about it being a fitting ending. That said, I think the universe the Tak novels are set in is a really deep creation, and there has to be hundreds of fantastic stories to be told within it. It doesn’t have to be Tak, but a return to that universe with a new character would be superb.

  23. Linda P

    As long as we’re doing wish lists, here are some of mine for Richard: 1) another book with a 1st person pov; 2) a Mars book; 3) a female protagonist, like Carmen Ren of BM/13.

  24. ErikY.

    “Shocking brutality” to quote Seinfeld.
    I love it, despite my abhorence of violence. Your books are at the top of a long list of faves in my 46 years of reading (since age 2). Please magically start pumping out 6 great books a year, thanks ;)

    And of course I can’t wait for a new Tak story too. Brilliant, brilliant, f###ing brillant stuff!
    Cheers,
    Erik

  25. steve

    @Jinx, Linda, Freeman, et al: Glad to see so many Tak fans. Think of if like this: How many more Marlowe stories could Chandler have written without anybody saying, “Okay, enough. We don’t want too much of a good thing.”? The deeper and closer Richard became with his protagonist, the better the writing kept getting. Woken Furies didn’t, to my mind, bring that universe to any kind of satisfying conclusion–it just showed how fluid of a writer Morgan became with that particular hero. As MIchael said, there’s a lot of stories to be told in that universe he created. Tak himself eludes in passing to handfuls of episodes from his multi-sleeved past. Who cares about Quellcrist Falconer versus the Protectorate? I care about the poignant life, perspective, and ongoing struggles of Takeshi Kovacs.

  26. steve

    @Linda—now that you mention it, no, I’m not all that interested in following Quellcrist Falconer into the future of that universe. What I’d love is more stories with Millsport yakuza, Newpest gangsters, New Hok, traversing the bellaweed-choked seas on Ray Hunters, battles at Innenin and Sharaya that Tak eludes to when he was an envoy, even his youth growing up on Harlen’s World. I’m sorry, Richard, but you really spoiled me with Woken Furies.

  27. Freeman

    @Prada bags

    Worst suggestion for a RKD novel….. ever…. *cough* *spit*

    Actually, something Archeological, some Martian mystery earlier in the Kovacs Universe timescale would be pretty cool. Loved all the asides dealing with Ancient Galactic Civilisations and their Tech… and long, long irrelevant and automated wars….

    Or even, to combine a few ideas bouncing around, one of the afore mentioned gangsters coimg across some un-specified Tech… some hand-held FTL gadget….

    Better yet…… Get done with TDC, and onto the next drool inducing concept….

    P.s. Can’t wait to get my grubby, sweaty palms wraped around Crysis 2……

  28. Linda P

    Since we’re discussing other RKM books, do you guys have favorite passages from any of them? One of my fav from TSR is the following:
    “…Back when the earth was young, back when there was still a moon in the fucking sky, I pulled on whatever flesh was needful and I struck terror into the hearts of the powerful and enthroned all across this mudball world, and another dozen like it. I took the spirit form and strode across measureless….ah, fuck it, never mind. All right, a name. You KNOW my name.” And, abruptly, he did. “Takavach”, he whispered.

  29. steve

    I’m going to try to resist this blog, amusing as I’ve found it. It seems we’re all, or most of us anyway, encouraging the writer toward our own favorite tastes and directions. But RKM is perhaps interested in selling books and supporting his family—and I have to admit that my tastes don’t usually run along bestselling lines. So Richard, I enjoy whatever you write and don’t pay any attention to my pleas for more Kovacs.

  30. damaia

    Linda P-

    Since you ask, I like the market of souls scene in Broken Angels. And the Panama Rose fight in the first book, particularly the bit about Trepp firing into the crowd.

    And while I’m happily dreaming, I’d like a novella as a prequel to Market Forces, centered on either Mike Bryant or Mitsue Jones.

  31. Annie Wilkes

    I bet Richard is just loving this thread.

    “Yes could you please stop all this fantasy nonsense and just write another Kovacs book Richard? You know-another one like that first one you did. That was really good. Can you write one that good again? Can you? Can you?

    Can you?

    If you dont I’ll abduct you, tie you to a bed and break your ankles with a sledgehammer.”

  32. Mirik

    Thanks Richard for the piece! Cool stuff. Sounds like nothing ever changes in rulers today or in fantasy worlds. They remain ruthless and murderous in any universe.

    Have been playing some Crysis 2, game will be epic and insane in scale. Could not yet see what RKM could’ve contributed to the story and script, session was far too short. Certainly looks and plays amazing.

    SF is my first love, bit it’s good and clever writing I enjoy in any genre. So keep up the good work whatever it brings.

  33. Mr Camm

    Apropos Crysis 2, it seems the lovely Peter Watts (he of the necrotising fasciitis) is struggling to disentangle himself from the notion he is the co-author of the script.

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/

    I imagine this is out of respect, not embarrassment (at least I fucking hope so!).

    On the more salient point in this thread (if there is one), I find myself in the very enviable position of being a newcomer to Richardkmorgantown (just finished Altered Carbon, immediately started Broken Angels. I do not understand how you slipped under my radar for this long, but I am damned glad I eventually noticed the blip), so I could not possibly comment on the SF/fantasy thing….apart from saying that I have not read any fantasy since the Thomas Covenant days (which, to be fair, I enjoyed. It was Eddings who hammered the last nail into the coffin. That, and a fear of fancy dress) and vowed never to read any more. Oh, Alright, I admit it, I hate fucking fantasy.

    You may well have changed that, Mr Morgan.

    Thanks.

    A lot.

    (Although I will be reading all the shiny, tech-heavy shit first)

    Ramble over. And apologies for the brackets (it’s a bad habit).

  34. Freeman

    Dont let those Eddings hacks ruin a love of Talented Authors interpretations of the Genre….. Steel is as fucking Great as it is Gritty… And if you want a Fantasy Book/Author to a fall in love with, pick up Steph Swainstons ‘Castle’ series….. Fucking. Brilliant.

    Long Live the Emperors Junkie Messenger!!!!

  35. Freeman

    The cover-quote on the ‘Castle Omnibus’ from Richard is fucking classic too…..

    ‘As elegantly superior to most other fantasy as a samurai sword is to a flint dagger’…..

    And, in passing, has anyone here read Michael Cobleys ‘Humanity’s Fire’ books…. i devoured them both, but can’t manage to track down any copies of his Fantasy series…

  36. David

    I really enjoy the Emperor’s character. He is a complete piece of shit, but we still see glimmers of some type of twisted humanity, at least when it comes to Archeth and his subtle respect and even appreciation of her.

    …Speaking of sequels and such, I really, really want something that takes place in the Black Man/Thirteen universe. Not necessarily a sequel or even a story with Carl for that matter, but something.

  37. Fabe

    Thanks for mentioning Covenant @MrCamm, you’ve jogged my memory about the Gap series by Donaldson. I found those books extraordinary when I first read them, extremely dark, psychological thrillers and, although at the time I didn’t realise there was such a thing as noir S/F I think that’s what they are. I’ve always wondered whether you’ve read them, Richard, and what you thought if you have?

  38. Noah

    Writing still doesn’t disappoint. I wasn’t particularly interested in this fantasy stint when I heard about it, but after reading this I’m definitely going to have to pick up The Steel Remains.

  39. Jarrad

    @Kitty (3). Why do you want something bad to happen to Jhiral? I agree, the guy is a punkbitch bastard, but he is also Emperor in an Empire that was cobbled together with the help of some very powerful assisting entities who are no longer around.

    You concentrate that much power into a single location and then it becomes a struggle to keep it all together for the sake of the greater good.

    Sure Jhiral does some questionable things, but at the same time he has to make the hard calls. Point and case is the fact that he does respect Archeth and values her, despite the fact that the rest of society, including the Citadel, would gladly see her burned. It’s not just Archeth’s usefulness to Jhiral as to why he keeps her around, she is also probably the closest thing to a friend he can have considering his position.

  40. Linda P

    More on Jhiral’s relationship with Archeth – looking forward to that!

  41. tchrist

    Those feasting cephalopods rather remind me of the voracious Humboldt squid down in the Sea of Córtez from one of Stephen Fry’s and Mark Carwardine’s recent Last Chance To See episodes. Me, I feel the creatures make fine eatin’ — and apparently the feeling is mutual.

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