Monday, September 24, 2007

Twice Born

Canada is especially rich in mystery writers, but there are a number of top fantasy and science fiction writers hereabouts too. And one of the most successful anywhere lives right here in Alberta, near Wainwright in a village called Edgerton. Pauline Gedge has sold over 6 million copies of her 11 books, which has to make her one of Canada's most successful authors methinks. She makes the drive in on Highway 14 to Edmonton tonight for a reading at Audrey's Books (7:30pm - 10702 Jasper Ave.)
Gedge specializes in "historical fantasy", a genre in which the action takes place in an imagined past here on Earth rather than in future outer space or an imagined world a la Tolkien. Gedge's preferred setting is Ancient Egypt, with historically detailed stories of pharoahs and priests along the banks of the Nile. Or perhaps not her "preferred setting", as the seven year break since the last novel included time spent trying to interest publishers in a novel set in 1970s rural Alberta. Apparently there's no interest in the exotic world of pickup trucks and eight-track tapes as no publishers went for the book, forcing Gedge back to Egpyt (or as Richard Helm so aptly put it in his article in the Journal today, "Gedge could see the writing on the papyrus.")

Gedge returns to Egypt in The Twice Born, in which a poor farm boy, Huy, is sent to a prestigious school for a chance at a better life as a scribe. Just as Huy starts to feel at home with his rich new friends, he is killed in an unexpected attack. After five days in a burial crypt, Huy miraculously revives. His mysterious return to life makes him a pariah (that's pariah, not pharaoh!), and although he longs to lead a normal life, Huy is haunted by visions of the deaths of those around him. Filled with the meticulous historical detail Gedge is known for, this is a welcome return for Gedge's many fans.

Robert J. Wiersema's review in the Journal notes that while "readers looking to immerse themselves in a strange and ancient culture and come out wiser (or at least more informed) will find much to savour in The Twice Born", and "reading this book will delight newcomers to ancient Egypt and satisfy ardent amateur Egyptologists", but he found the novel a bit slow and too detailed.

Looking south from Gedge's Edgerton, we find Calgary's Dave Duncan (okay, he moved to Victoria recently, the fate of all retired Calgarians). He is a successful fantasy/sci fi author of over 30 titles, including his most recent, a historical fantasy: The Alchemist's Apprentice. This novel, the first in a planned series, is set in an alternate Renaissance Venice and stars Alfeo Zeno, an apprentice to the alchemist (and seer) Nostradamus. When Nostradamus is accused of murder by Venice's ruling Council of Ten, it is up to Zeno to clear his master's name. Publisher's Weekly calls it a "charming farce" which provides "more amusement than chills."


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