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The March North by Graydon Saunders

The March North

by Graydon Saunders

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This is a very finely written narrative which deserves far more exposure than it is likely to get.

To begin with, the craftsmanship is several cuts above what you would normally expect in a military fantasy. The prose is concise and precisionist-grade, pared down without being too spare. Incluing is gradual and details are subtly woven into the narrative.

The narrator is fully characterised and probably unreliable -if the reader doesn't pay careful attention at the beginning he/she will miss details clarifying the events which are expanded on only much further on. (I don't think it is clear by the end of the book which gender the narrator is.) Graydon's style, or rather, the voice he gives to the narrator, eschews personal pronouns, presenting a viewpoint from which gender is only of incidental interest. (It's worth contrasting Ann Leckie's Radch books which take a different approach to the issue.)

Thematically, the work definitely reflects the interest in societies as systems which pervades much of Graydon's discussions dating from his rasf[wcf] days on forwards. These have particular effect when contrasted with the reflex quasi-mediaeval autocratic polities which appear in most heroic or military fantasy.

In many ways this novel is a Trojan Horse: it uses the tropes of military fantasy and a context reminiscent of the world of The Black Company to introduce a primary focus on a society which has been shaped by the introduction of some fundamental forms of organization via the enchantments on which the Commonweal has been organized. The military aspect is only one (subsidiary) facet of the whole theme.Though by no means a utopia, this is in dialogue with a long tradition of speculative fiction thinking about how best to structure society (of which Utopia is an example; so also is The Just City).

Overall, one of my better reads of the year so far. ( )
  jsburbidge | Oct 3, 2014 |
This is the story of a military campaign in a fantasy-with-scientific-precision world, from the first inklings of trouble to the homecoming and aftermath.

This book demands reader attention; it's not a book to be read when your brain is too fried to process the incluing. It definitely rewards the attention, though; the world is fascinating, though I sometimes found myself wishing for an annotated edition -- I'm still not entirely clear on some aspects of the world's history, I'm fuzzy on what exactly the standards do, etc. I hope some of this will be clearer on reread, but even if it's not, it was worth the time. ( )
  castiron | May 4, 2014 |
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