Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Battle Stove Spectacular by Standard Eyre



Welcome aboard the Battle Scar, and welcome to the feast prepared by Chef, your host on a flying castle populated by elves, dwarves, fieldfolk, gnomes, and humans as it careens towards a key diplomatic meeting that may decide the fate of the Elf Confederacy.  The table is set with a menu outlining the novella you are about to consume.  It begins with "Drinks-Aperitifs-Conversation",  moves through "Appetizers and Contemplation", "Specials of the Day", and "Tossed King Salad" before concluding, of course, with "Just Desserts".

Battle Stove Spectacular is an adventure fantasy set in a vast, complicated world full of intrigue, suspense, romance, restaurant critics, and puns.  It's the first of a planned 20 stories by the Vancouver author Standard Eyre.  It's available only as an e-book,  and can be found both on the Apple Book store and as part of the Vancouver Indie Author's collection at the Vancouver Public Library.

Battle Stove Spectacular is not my usual kind of book.  I'm a regular reader of SF, but a less-regular reader of fantasy and an infrequent reader of stories set in universes descended from Tolkien's.  But I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the genre.  I also know the author, and was interested in finding out what he had come up with.

What did I discover?  A world with some spectacular technology, intriguing characters, and a plot twist or two.  As book 1 of 20, I'm curious where the author is planning take the larger series: will the future stories explore different elements of this universe, like the history or future of the different races that inhabit this world?  Tell further adventures of these specific characters?  Explore the history and future of the flying castle itself?  The base the author provides in Battle Stove Spectacular could easily support multiple story threads and multiple directions.  There is a lot going on, especially considering that this is a novella of a mere 145 pages on my e-reader.

What did I think?  Well, my  personal taste in fantasy and SF leans to the "less is more" school, rather than the "more is more" school when it comes to characters, plot, and world-building.  For example, I thought Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and all of the subsequent books in that series would have been far better if they had been pruned by about 1/3, and I couldn't finish The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.

I'd have loved to have read Battle Stove Spectacular as part of the larger planned series, where the (presumably) interlocking stories could have borne some of the burden of context-setting and world-building.  Alternatively, I might have preferred that the Battle Stove itself be promoted to full noveldom by having its action spread over a longer adventure.

But the novella as written is entertaining, including everything from automated Bus Buoys and sous-vide apatosaurs to an ambiguous golden boy and a warrior named Bunny.  If you're a fan of "more is more" fantasy fiction, you may enjoy spending a few hours exploring the Battle Scar with Standard Eyre.

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