- File Size: 707 KB
- Print Length: 236 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Plus One Press; 1 edition (December 22, 2013)
- Publication Date: December 22, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00ELSAHO6
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,108 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
With so much TV Tie-in fiction it would easy to label DeCandido as a hack for hire, someone who can knock off a Star Trek novel in his sleep. But I've read a couple of his TV tie in novels and can say with total confidence that when he writes in any given universe he does so with passion. Books like The Next Generation Q &A are written with a deep knowledge and love of the subject. And they are rollicking rides. If you have any interest in the universes DeCandido plays in then I recommend his TV work.
But what about his original fiction? Although I own a good chunk of Keith's non TV tie in work - his Dragon Precinct and SCPD novels - this collection is the first piece of his original fiction I've read.
The first thing that strikes me about Ragnarok and Roll is that Keith is a born story-teller. While he's no great stylist (and to be fair I don't think that's his intention) through dialogue, character interaction and a keen sense of timing, DeCandido immediately engages the reader. You'll have no problems tearing through these eight stories on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
And that ability to tell an entertaining story, to understand pacing and humour and suspense isn't something we should downplay. In fact - and I don't mean to sound patronising - newbie writers could do allot worse than see how DeCandido structures and paces a story. How he doesn't rely on exposition and explanation. How at the forefront is his focus on character interaction and sense of place. The reason I gave a shit about any of these stories was because DeCandido knew exactly when to pull the strings.
The second thing that struck me about Ragnarok and Roll was how this was an urban fantasy where the main character didn't (a) angst and moan and (b) wasn't in the middle of a love triangle. Cassie Zukav's adventures were refreshing in that they were just that, adventures where strange shit happened and she and her friends put things right. Yes, Cassie might be a fate goddess but that doesn't mean she can't have a job, have friends and enjoy her life. And it's the idea that life goes on between the crazy, wacky adventures that grounds Cassie as a real person.
And then there's Key West which DeCandido brings alive through an obvious love for the place. DeCandido's Key West isn't a one to one match for the actual island - he's played around a little with some of the bars and eateries - but if anyone in Florida was looking for a copywriter to sell the place (not that it needs much selling coz I believe it's a pretty popular tourist attraction) then Keith would be your man.
Actually, it's his love and passion for Key West that highlights the main fault of this set of linked stories. Cultural Appropriation. Yes, those two words that no author since 2009 wants to ever hear linked to their work. Unfortunately, I think the stories on Ragnarok and Roll fall foul of cultural appropriation in two ways both general and specific.
The general relates to Cassie's Jewishness. In the opening few stories mention is made that Cassie is Jewish, which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the mention of her cultural identity feels like an afterthought, something that DeCandido uses to differentiate rather than explore. Now, to be fair Keith does make it clear that Cassie - and for that matter her family - are not observant Jews --
"We weren't the most observant Jews ever, either, so the high holy days tended to come and go without much going on."
-- and so one shouldn't expect Cassie to be thinking about her faith and her culture throughout the course of these stories. And anyway, I can hear someone saying, why does every character in the existence of literature need to bring their cultural baggage into every story?
Well... putting aside the strawman element of that question I would argue that our culture, even if we're mostly apathetic to it, still plays a part in who we are. But even if we don't want each story to scream out: CASSIE IS A JEW! CASSIE IS A JEW! I expected Keith to do something with that cultural identity, even if it's little more than Cassie wondering what it might mean to be both Jewish and a fate goddess. From a religious viewpoint, the two are oil and water and that conflict has the potential to generate both character development and story.
Of course I'm willing to accept that the above says more about my own hang ups then it does about Keith's choices as a writer. My excuse is that there are very few self identified Jewish characters in genre fiction. And so when one appears I do sit up and take notice. In this case there was bugger all to notice.
Still, it's not the only instance of cultural appropriation in the collection. The second is more specific and involves the Calusa.
I know very little about Native American traditions and culture. What I do know is that the use of Native American spiritualism in genre fiction - whether it's Indian burial grounds or having a wise old Native American provide cryptic advice to our heroes - is a well worn and offensive cliche. And it was annoying and frustrating to see Keith fall into this trap with his 3-part Cayo Hueso story-line.
We find out in this, the longest piece in the collection, that the Last of the Calusa - a powerful entity that's been awoken by Loki - is taking its revenge on its enemies - essentially anyone who has Native American blood and lives in Key West. Although I don't know anything about the internecine battles between Native American tribes, making the Last of the Calusa - a real tribe that was really wiped out - a vengeful spirit discriminately killing other Native Americans. The lack of cultural sensitivity left a sour taste in my mouth.
This story might have been saved if it was other Native Americans saving the day. But their involvement is next to nil. Instead, two white Jews and Odin - can you get more European? - stop this terrible Native American spirit.
I have a couple of other minor quibbles. The Table of Contents in the ebook are, for some reason, in the back of the book not the front. And while I know the first couple of stories are reprints from elsewhere, consideration should have been given to editing out the couple of paragraphs that repeat what we already know about Cassie and her friends.
This review is long because I actually gave a shit about Cassie and her adventures. Cultural appropriation aside, I enjoyed them. They were fun. I hope Keith writes more. I also hope he explores Cassie's Jewishness - though no need for a story about her facing the Golem... really - especially in regard to being a fate goddess. And I also hope people give the series a go. Keith knows how to tell an engaging story and that's not a commodity that as common as you'd think.
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