Book Review: “Range of Ghosts”

range-of-ghosts-largeI finally did it. After a month of off-again, on-again reading, I finished Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts. I should have done it a lot sooner, but school kept demanding my attention (and I didn’t manage my time well…) and now we’re here. As those of you who read my previous blog post on Range of Ghosts know, I was not a good reader for this book. There were things I missed or didn’t understand because I was so scatterbrained. But I’ll do my best to give you a good blog post on this book.

The Range of Ghosts is one of the few fantasy books I’ve read that celebrates diversity. Each character is described as belonging to a different people, a different country. What’s even cooler is that the world of Range of Ghosts—at least the world depicted in the novel—is based off the central Asian steppe, and the characters reflect that. I can’t remember a single light-skinned person in the book. Just like the multitudinous peoples of Asia, the peoples of Range of Ghosts are multifaceted and varied. And the characters are completely believable, too. Their motivations and voices are distinct and realistic. Elizabeth Bear did a wonderful job portraying diverse cultures.

Another cool, diverse thing about Range of Ghosts is the gender makeup of the named characters. The two main POV characters are Samarkar, a once-princess who chose to become infertile for the chance to have great magic power, and Temur, a forgotten son of a conqueror and warrior. That’s an even split. But the rest of the characters that join on their journey are three women and one man (not all at the same time). It’s so rare for women to be equally represented in fantasy—and rarer still for them to be more populous than their male counterparts.

The ending, by the way, was amazing. Samarkar swims across a sea. Another character becomes possessed. Little things Bear had been hinting at throughout the novel converge in a stupefying final scene. I definitely want more (and thankfully, there is more, in the form of two books to round out the trilogy). And now that I’ve exposed myself to one of Bear’s series, I’ll be more willing to read her other works—of which there are many.

I could continue, but really, this Tor.com blog post discusses Range of Ghosts better than I ever could. I give this novel a 4/5, and will definitely reread it in the future.

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Halfway through “Range of Ghosts”

I’ve looked forward to reading a book by Elizabeth Bear for years. Ever since I first found All the Windwracked Stars in Powell’s five years ago, she’s been on my “to-read” list. Her bibliography contains over thirty novels and novellas and well over fifty short stories. I’m surprised it took me so long to find her; you’d think that a lifelong fantasy reader would have stumbled upon one of her works much earlier than I did.

The ebook version of Range of Ghosts happened to be on sale a year or two ago, so I purchased it and jumped into the prologue. But something inevitably wrested my attention away from it, so it went unread for many months. I tried reading the prologue again but couldn’t get into it for one reason or another. Then the book sat in my library…again. Finally, when I finished A Darker Shade of Magic, I decided it shouldn’t wait any longer. I should try again with Range of Ghosts and power through it. Ignore the distractions! Read at every idle moment! Be the good student you are and finish what you started!

But…guys. I couldn’t do it. I’ve been trying to read this book for weeks and I just…can’t. I’m sure grad school has something to do with it—last weekend, I spent close to ten hours writing a paper and what free time I had was spent doing other homework or being a couch potato—but that’s not a good excuse, is it? I finished The Emperor’s Blades even though I struggled through the first half, right? I could certainly finish this one…

Well, I’m not sure if I’ll finish it, to be honest. My habit of reading a few pages here and there didn’t do me any favors. There’s so much going on in Range of Ghosts, so many unusual names for characters and cities, that I haven’t been able to understand the world as much as I need to. Range of Ghosts deserves better from me. I hardly ever want to give up on a book, and Range of Ghosts certainly doesn’t deserve it. There’s a lot of cool stuff here, like different suns for different kingdoms (it doesn’t make sense to me, but I hope someone in the book explains it), a huge host of diverse and non-white characters, which the fantasy genre desperately needs, and a great magic system. If I hunker down and dedicate a solid hour or two a day to reading this book, I could probably grow to love it.

I need to persevere. Without dedication and perseverance, a writer is nothing.

I’ll keep you guys in the loop with my progress on Range of Ghosts. And hopefully I’ll have a fully-formed book review for you soon. In the meantime, keep on writing & reading!

Ooligan Press Presents: Write to Publish

A large part of the publishing program at PSU is working at the university’s publishing house, Ooligan Press. Students are assigned group projects to work on, and this term I’m working on a conference called Write to Publish. It’s a day-long conference on February 4, 2017 at the PSU campus, and we’re going to have lots of cool vendors and publishing professionals there.

Why am I telling you this if the conference is still over three months away? Well, as part of raising funds for the conference, we’re hosting a writing contest! Well, two contests, technically. Our fiction contest accepts pieces of 1,000 words or fewer, on any genre. The Masters Review will be helping us by publishing the winning piece, and the first-place author will also receive a $50 cash prize. In addition to the fiction contest, we’re hosting a poetry contest. The theme for poetry is “Belonging” and the poem must be 40 lines or fewer. The Timberline Review will publish the winning piece, and the winning author will also receive a $50 cash prize.

Have something you’d like to submit? Click HERE for more contest details and the link to submit! Unfortunately, we do not accept any previously published work, and there is a $10 submission fee to help cover the cost of organizing the contest. BUT, we’ve only had a few submissions in each genre, so I’d say your chances of placing are fairly high. Plus, the contests are open to anyone, regardless of age, education level, or experience. So, even if you’ve never submitted your work to a contest before (or even shown it to anyone), you’re free to submit!

I can’t say enough how cool Ooligan Press is. It’s run entirely by students, all the way from the acquisitions process to the editing to the book design and finally to marketing and event planning. Part of why Ooligan started Write to Publish was to “demystify” the publication process, and the conference will have workshops, panel discussions, and even pitching sessions to achieve that end. Publishing your work can seem like a scary, undefined journey, but it doesn’t have to be.

Tickets are still available (and compared to other conferences, they’re quite affordable). The general adult ticket is $80 and the student ticket is $35. You can purchase them (as well as the contest entry tickets) HERE.

I encourage anyone and everyone interested in publishing their work to attend the conference. We would absolutely love to see you there. If you have any questions, check out the contest FAQ or shoot me a message and I’ll try my best to help!

Good luck, everyone! Hope to see you there!