Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Two Serpents Rise"

Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia and nominated for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Two Serpents Rise, his second novel, is about water rights, human sacrifice, dead gods, and poker.

Gladstone applied the “Page 69 Test” to Two Serpents Rise and reported the following:
Here's Page 69:
Chapter 11

The sun died, devoured by the rolling ocean. Dresediel Lex bloomed from its death, like a flower on a grave. Pyramids and skyspires cast light into darkness. The arteries of commerce glowed. In an office atop the obsidian pyramid where he once broke the gods, the King in Red sipped coffee and watched the city his power made possible, the city his radiance illuminated.

The lords of the earth and the bums in rags and tatters hid from that light, under ratty blankets or in the perfumed caves of nightclubs and dance halls. Across town by the shore, five students doffed their clothes and ran naked into cold dark water. Dresediel Lex by night was a brilliant menagerie. The animals trapped inside scraped at the bars of their cages.

Caleb arrived early at the Rakesblight Center, a black square box a thousand feet on each side and four stories tall. Animals were bought here, butchered, and sold—unsuspecting pigs herded a hundred at a time into rooms that smelled nothing at all like death, so well did the center's Craft scrub away the stench and spiritual taint of slaughter. From those rooms the pigs' corpses moved to wheels and metal jaws and conveyor belts. By the time their meat reached the sale floor, it had become cold flesh in a small box, nothing left to suggest it once squealed or rooted in muck.

Two years before, the King in Red had bought the place from Illyana Rakesblight, the Deathless Queen who designed the center to replace the fallen Goddess of Plenty. After the purchase, Illyana retired to an island she raised from a distant ocean, and the King in Red assumed her role. Each knife and abattoir became an extension of his power. Caleb's job had been to review the plant and ensure RKC would profit enough to 0ffset operating costs. The center was a good investment, he decided…
I think Page 69 of my novel Two Serpents Rise makes a pretty good case for my new book Two Serpents Rise. The story follows wizards in pinstriped suits, skeletons with investment portfolios, and one basically human risk manager trying to figure out who poisoned the water supply of his desert city. All of these make an appearance, at least temporarily, in the page above.

We're introduced to a panorama of Dresediel Lex, from the dreaded skeletal King in Red atop his pyramid office building to a few college kids cavorting in the surf. We also see the fundamental horrors that maintain the world of the book—and we see how people relate to them on a daily basis.

And at the end we revolve back to Caleb Altemoc, the poor bastard who's trying to do his job in the middle of all this insanity, advancing toward the rooftop of an unsettling building for a confrontation with a source he doesn't quite trust.

I'd keep reading. I hope you would, too.
Learn more about the book and author at Max Gladstone's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue