Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flogging the Phoenix


Have you ever wondered (those of you who don't already know) why this blog is titled Flogging Babel? It's simply because I began it as a way of promoting my then-upcoming novel The Dragons of Babel. So I was was being either self-deprecating or else merely honest about the enterprise: I was flogging the book. It didn't occur to me that the blog title would linger long after its original function was over.

Fortunately, I haven't received any angry missives from aficionados of activities involving whips and aphasia, for which I was and remain sincerely grateful.

Now I am moving into a new promotional season. Chasing the Phoenix, the second Darger & Surplus novel, comes out on August 11. So you must expect a certain amount of self-promotion on this site from time to time. That's why it was created, after all.

But I promise to employ a light touch, and to vary the mix with posts having nothing to do with needing to make enough money on my novels to retain my self-respect.

Meanwhile, the early reviews have started to come in. Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:

Chasing the PhoenixMichael Swanwick. Tor, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8090-6Hugo-winner Swanwick (Dancing with Bears) takes his longtime rogue heroes, Surplus and Darger, to postapocalyptic China in this intriguing chronicle of adventures. Once Surplus resurrects Darger with the help of the Infallible Physician, the pair and their newfound associate, Capable Servant, ingratiate themselves with the Hidden King and lead him throughout the warring provinces in search of the Phoenix Bride, a war machine from before the AI war. Taking the names Noble Dog Warrior and the Perfect Strategist, Surplus and Darger navigate the personalities of the Hidden King’s court—the mercenary bandit Fire Orchid, who decides that Surplus is her husband; the archaeologist White Squall, a secretive specialist in forbidden technology—while attempting to keep their sterling reputations intact (at least for now) in the face of seemingly intractable situations. Swanwick deftly incorporates the literature and history of imperial China into the established post-technology world. The style may distance readers who are more used to stories of emotional development, but as Darger’s schemes become more intricate, the intellectual puzzles keep interest right to the end.  

I fear this does give away a plot point -- yes, Surplus acquires a wife. Or, rather, she acquires him. Because, clever as they are, the two rogues never have been a match for the women in their lives.

The other review comes from Booklist. Their reviews are signed, so I feel I should acknowledge David Pitt. Book reviewers are, as a breed, overworked and underpaid. So they deserve at least an amiable nod from time to time. Here's what he wrote:

 Chasing the PhoenixSwanwick, Michael (Author)
Aug 2015. 304 p. Tor, hardcover, $26.99. (9780765380906). Tor, e-book, (9781466876064).In a future time, where technology is mostly dead (although there are tantalizing hints of the techno- society that once existed), a genetically modified dog, who walks and thinks like a man, turns up in a Chinese city, carrying the corpse of his best friend (and partner in crime). He’s searching for the Infallible Physician, who, it is told, can bring his friend back to life. Surplus and Darger, Swanwick’s popular pair of con artists, return in this very entertaining novel. Once Darger has been restored to life, he and Surplus—the dog who walks like a man—hook up with a local fella who dreams of being the ruler of a new, united China. Is this a con, or is it the real thing? Except there could be someone else who is helping the wannabe ruler of China get what he wants . . . someone or something who’s a lot more dangerous than our heroes. For readers who’ve never met Surplus and Darger, this book is like a breath of fresh air, witty and imaginative and just plain goofy fun. Fans of the duo (they’ve appeared in several short stories and one previous novel, Dancing with Bears, 2011) will be lining up for the book; libraries with large SF/fantasy collections may want to stock multiple copies.
And what else can I say but that The Dog Who Walks Like a Man would make a great epithet for Surplus? Particularly if delivered in a deep, Shadow-narrator type voice.

And that's all for the moment. That wasn't too painful, now, was it? 



TheOFloinn said...

You also got a good review in ANALOG's Sept. issue.

Michael Swanwick said...

That's excellent news. ANALOG has always given me good reviews. And I've always been gratified to receive them.