Friday, August 12, 2016

A Well-done Bad Guy

Right now, I'm reading Lisa M. Peppan's Sorry, No Refunds.  This is the second of the series she has named Geaehn Chronicles, telling the story of a magical realm named Gaeah, where mundane folk must contend with magic-users, some benign and some not.  The first in the series is Somewhen Over the Rain Clouds.  In that story, a group of off-duty Seattle cabdrivers get into an accident, and end up in Geaeh.  How they learn to cope in their new home is an engaging story, and of course, sets us up for this continuation of the series.  Tilli Kuru, the first character we meet in this second installment, is definitely not benign. 

I have read only one other book in which the bad guy is the first character we meet.  That book was the first in the Thomas Covenant series, written by Stephen R. Donaldson.  I read -- or, attempted to read -- the first in that series at the end of the 1980s or beginning of the 1990s.  I got only 100 pages into the book, to the part where Thomas Covenant, apparently one terribly messed-up person, rapes a woman who had only been trying to understand and help him.  That was it.  The book went against the wall (yes, I am a book-flinger), and I never darkened Donaldson's pages again. 

But not only was Thomas Covenant a character too rotten for me to ever want anything to do with, Donaldson was a terrible writer, in my rather demanding opinion.  His writing was turgid and repetitive.  He used the phrase "as though" so often, that if I had continued reading his books, and had deposited a nickel in my froggy bank for each time he used that phrase, I could have financed the college education I indulged in from 2007 to 2015, spanning two post-baccalaureate degrees (a double major) and a second master's degree.

How I even slogged through that first 100 pages, I do not know.  I put the book down several times, exasperated by the overblown prose.

Tilli Kuru does something similar to Thomas Covenant.  He is a magic-user of the most destructive and evil kind, one of those called in the realm of Geaeh the Yellow Wiqq.  He has kidnapped an innocent mundane woman, and raped and impregnated her, which was his intent.  He has a special magic, being immune to something which can cause great physical damage to other magic users (nope, not going to tell you what.  Read the book).  Having this immunity gives him great power, and he wants to breed a race of people with this immunity.

Told you he was a rotten person.

The difference is that Lisa handles this aspect very deftly.  In few words, well-chosen, she gets the point across with no ambiguity.  Her writing is clean and spare.  And Tulli Kuru is not psychologically messed up and weak.  He's purely bad, with a dream of power and control, convinced that it is his right to do whatever he wants with lesser mortals to accomplish his nefarious goals.  He isn't a despicable ingrate like Thomas Covenant.  I cannot abide ingrates.  Tulli is just plain bad.  And Lisa gets to the heart of things within the first few pages.  No slogging through 100 pages to find out how rotten the character is.  Bang!  You're there by page 2, and on from that into the story.  That's writing.

Now for the disclaimer:  I have known Lisa M. Peppan as a friend and fellow writer for (mumble, mumble) years.  Let's just say it's been a long, long time.  She has been working on the Geaeh stories for a long time, polishing and massaging.  We are both members of a private online writer's group that has been going since . . . well, since my now middle-aged daughters were in middle school!  Remember the old Bulletin Board Systems (BBS)?  Remember how excited we all were to go from 300 bits per second to a screaming 1200, and then to the incredible 2400?  Yeah, that long ago.

That's bits per second.  Not megabytes.  Bits.  Let that sink in.

Lisa is now nearly through writing the third of the Geaeh Chronicles.  If you're a fan of fantasy, and looking for something to read, buzz on over to and get started.

And now for a little "simple desultory Philippic," to borrow from Simon & Garfunkel:  I supppose I will no longer be reviewing on books by people I know and am friends with on Facebook. has decided that this is a no-no.  They have insulted many of their reviewers, me included, by assuming that we are doing such reviews only to pump up our friends.  They are assuming that we are nothing but simple-minded fawning fangirls and boys, rather than serious readers who appreciate good writing (and don't appreciate bad).  So I will be reviewing books by people I know here on Autobiography of a Bookworm.  Maybe I'll put all my reviews here rather than on Amazon.  Originally, the requirement on Amazon has been that a review should be at least 20 words.  They have not enforced that, and "This is a real good book," the sort of thing I've seen too often over there, just is not a review, by any competent standards.