Monday, April 20, 2009

Blaggard's Moon 1: Intro

This month CSFF is touring George Bryan Polivka’s Blaggard’s Moon, a pirate epic. This isn't the first time I've reviewed a pirate story; I've already looked at The Ballad of Scabbard Pete, a more fantastic work in progress.

Blaggard's Moon, meanwhile, is a literarily ambitious work; Polivka tries to give a positive answer to the question, "Can a novel really have its main character perched atop a post like a stylite for nearly 400 pages?" Surprisingly, it can and does.

There are four stories here: Delany sitting on a post in the middle of a piranha-infested lake as he waits to be filleted alive, his memories of how he got there (neither many nor coherent until near the end), the ship's storyteller narrating an apparently unrelated tale, and the tale he tells, about Damrick Fellows, the scourge of pirates, and Jenta Stillmithers, the lady he keeps failing to properly meet, woo, and win.

This last story takes up most of the book, as Damrick attempts to break up a pirate conspiracy led by Conch Imbry and his surrogate brain, Mart Mazeley, and Jenta tries to keep her honor relatively intact. This is no small feat, considering that Conch wants her. She has also attracted the attention of a certain dissolute wimp—or more concisely, a panty-waistrel—who is also the scion of the largest shipping line in the area. But worms can turn, and there is a constant movement of courage in the story as hopes and strength wax and wane.

I began this intro with a comparison of sorts: Blaggard’s Moon and The Ballad of Scabbard Pete. Although I haven't read widely in this genre, I suspect that the comparison works beyond this pair. Scabbard Pete is a fantasy throughout, and its pirates are relatively romanticized; Pete himself is, for all his faults, a maritime Robin Hood. While there are a few fantastic elements in Blaggard's Moon, it is mostly realistic, and any romance to the pirates is only a thin veneer: they are evil and enjoy torturing people. Some of the more annoying tropes of modern fantasy get little more than a nod here, and even then they are handled believably. So this can probably be considered the flagship of modern pirate stories. Let's see how she sails.

Tomorrow, the good points of Blaggard’s Moon. In the meantime, check out the rest of the CSFF tour:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson


cathikin said...

I'm encouraged by your review. I ordered this book because I enjoyed Polivka's trilogy about the Firefish so much. I had no idea there would be so many stories going on at once.

Once again I thank you for adding to my vocabulary. I had never heard of a stylite before.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Surprisingly, it can and does.I agree, Steve. It was a surprise and he did pull it off in spades. I told one writer friend about the set up when I first started reading it, and he asked precisely about that point. Could he sustain reader interest the whole way? He had me. I was intrigued by Delany's dilemma, but once I was hooked by Jenta and Damrick, it was compelling.

As always I look forward to what else you have to say.


Steve said...

I was surprised as well. When I realized that Delany's predicament would frame the story, I thought Polivka was a world-class dolt. But the frame works, so he's an above-average writer instead. For that matter, the four-in-one story works (see tomorrow's post), and I thought that was stupid too.

Keanan Brand said...

I love it when the rules are broken well, and with class, because they usually result in rich stories we might have missed if the writer hadn't followed his unique vision. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this story quite as much if it had been more conventional.

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