WFC 2012: Interview with Author Patrick Rothfuss

I was fortunate enough to be able to catch up with best-selling fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss for a short interview at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, Canada. Mr. Rothfuss is a relative newcomer to the world of speculative fiction, having published his first book, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. It is the first of a planned trilogy following a young performer named Kvothe in his quest to discover the truth behind the murder of his parents. It is told in a format in which an older Kvothe (calling himself ‘Kote’) recounts the now-legendary events of his life to a Chronicler of history. The reader is left to wonder how many of the extraordinary events described are exaggerations, and wherein the truth lies.

The Name of the Wind swiftly began gaining Rothfuss critical and popular acclaim in the field, rising to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List as well as receiving the Quill Award and a mention in the Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of the Year List. The sequel The Wise Man’s Fear was released in 2011 and also debuted at the top of the NYT Best Seller List. He is currently working on the final book of the trilogy, tentatively titled The Doors of Stone, and is a college lecturer at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.

OPEN THE FRIDGE:  Hello Patrick, thank you for joining me for this interview!  Let’s start with an easy question… How would you describe The Kingkiller Chronicles to our readers who may be unfamiliar with it?

PATRICK ROTHFUSS:  Oh… I don’t.  I never try to describe my own books.  At best you sound like a hopeless narcissist, and at worst it’s just a big mess.  I in particular suck at summarizing or trying to pitch my own books, to the point where it’s comical.  I never do it if there’s any way I can dodge out of it because it’s not even comically bad, it’s just BAD.

OTF:  (laughs)  There’s something to be said for comedy…

PR:  No, no… it’s like, you know how there are some movies that are so bad they’re good?  This isn’t one of those times.  Feel free to quote me on that. I’ll trust you to describe the book if you want to do that. You can’t be any worse at it than I am.  

OTF:  Fair enough.  Moving on… It’s common to see music and/or poetry in fantasy novels, but music plays a particularly significant role in The Kingkiller Chronicles.  Did making your main character, Kvothe, a musician present any unexpected challenges to you?

PR:  Not necessarily.  Whenever you’re creating a rounded-out character some things are gonna be tricky.  Creating a character at all is a tricky situation… but making him a musician was a treat all the way across.  If anything it’s trickier making somebody a magician, or a wizard, because at least you can do research into music.  You can get some hands-on experience with music, you can listen to music.  So no, it wasn’t particularly tricky for me at all.

Hit the jump for the full interview with this acclaimed, best-selling author!

Book Review: Plague Town

Plague Town by Dana Fredsti.
Publisher: Titan Books. Available now.
Purchase here: Paperback | Kindle.

“People are dying. Then they are waking up. Hungry.” This tag-line, used on the back cover of Dana Fredsti’s novel “Plague Town,” pretty much sums up the plot of every novel or movie about zombies ever made. If you’re a fan of those to begin with, chances are you’ll enjoy this book. It’s chock full of all the classic clichés and plot standards we’ve all come to expect from a zombie story… shambling, rotting corpses, a team of people trying to survive against all odds, and (of course) lots of headshots and guns.

Ashley Parker, a woman in her late twenties returning to college after a divorce, is ready to buckle down and earn herself a degree. But her plans (and her entire life) are thrown into chaos when a deadly flu begins spreading throughout the small college town she calls home. Those who die from the flu rise from the dead and develop a taste for human flesh. But Ashley is a special case… she’s one of a few select individuals who are not only immune to the zombie disease, but are granted super-human powers by it as well. She must now bond with her fellow “Wild Cards” and learn how to fight, shoot and survive in a college town which is now home to a massive swarm of hungry, shambling corpses.

If you’re thinking that this sounds a little clichéd, you’re completely right. However, Fredsti does a great job of lamp-shading the clichés by dropping almost constant pop-culture references, both in dialogue and in the main character’s thoughts. While waiting for an approaching zombie swarm, Ashley thinks that the fog looks like something straight out of a movie like “Dawn of the Dead.” However, you can only hang so many lamp-shades before it starts to feel a bit tedious. I certainly didn’t count them, but there seemed to be at least one pop culture reference every five pages or so. The references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Army of Darkness (on which, interestingly, the author actually worked), Twilight, Aliens, the SyFy Channel and any number of others are dropped with such annoying frequency that I started to dread them more than the rot-infested zombies. It felt almost as if the author fancied herself as Gretel, dropping pop-culture bread crumbs along the path and hoping that the reader would gobble them up and continue following her to the conclusion of the story. I also have to worry about how well this book will age due to all these references. Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a dedicated fan following now, but in ten or twenty years will anyone remember who she is, save for a small handful of Joss Whedon fans? Being as well-steeped in nerd culture as I am, I understood the vast majority of the references, but some fell flat even for me.

Hit the jump for the full review of Dana Fredsti’s “Plague Town”!

Book Review: Inheritance

“Inheritance,” the fourth and final book of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.Christopher Paolini exploded onto the young adult fantasy scene with his first book, “Eragon,” at the age of seventeen. He gained a good deal of fame for publishing a best-selling book so young, and the story was even

Interview: Author Brandon Sanderson

World-famous fantasy author Brandon Sanderson graciously agreed to a short interview with us here at Open the Fridge after his New York City book signing on Wednesday. Mr. Sanderson is currently touring to promote the release of his newest novel, The Alloy of Law, which reached #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List this week. (Make sure you check out our review!) We had to keep the interview short, as his time on this tour was rather limited, but he managed to find time to speak briefly about how he researches his novels, his unique magic systems, and some of the underlying theory of the over-arching magic system of his connected universe, the Cosmere.

He also donated 8 copies of The Alloy of Law “broadsheet” to give away to our readers! If you want one (and you should), then come back here tomorrow at 10:30 AM EST – we’ll post up the information on how to win one of these collectible in-world newspapers!

Open the Fridge: Let’s start with an Alloy of Law question, since that’s why we’re both here. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into the evolution of the world of Scadrial, specifically in how you’ve integrated the world’s technological advances. Was there anything in particular that drew you to the old west setting, and did you do anything to research it, like going to a shooting range or a ranch?

Brandon Sanderson: Good question. I actually wrote the prologue LAST. I wrote it to be the prologue to another book about Wax and Wayne if I did one. I always knew what happened, but I didn’t want to start the book with the old west, because most of it didn’t happen in the old west, it happened in the city. What is now chapter one used to be the prologue. And after writing the whole book I realized that we didn’t see into Wax’s heart, we didn’t know what he was always referencing with Lessie… we actually needed to see it. And so I actually took that chapter and moved it to the front. I worry a bit that it will old-west-ify it a bit too much, because I did see this as a city book. All of the Mistborn books have taken place in cities.

Hit the jump for more details about Sanderson’s writing process and for hints about what questions you should be asking when you read a Mistborn novel!

Book Review: Mistborn: The Alloy of Law

Looking for a fun, fast fantasy read with enjoyable characters?  Hold on to your hats and your revolver, because you’ll probably love Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel, Mistborn:  The Alloy of Law, released today from TOR books.   The original Mistborn trilogy (officially titled Mistborn: The Final Empire) was delightful.  It featured a unique magic system, fascinating world, and likable characters, all rotating around a post-modern fantasy plot which had me guessing up until the very last page.  But does the sequel stand up to its formidable predecessors? 

Set three hundred years after the events of the original trilogy, this book is part western, part high fantasy, part mystery and all action.  The book starts off with a bang (literally!), sending you on a ricochet ride through a world which is just beginning its own industrial revolution.  Trains, electricity, automobiles and fire-arms are beginning to find their place, but Waxillium Ladrium is having trouble finding his own in the high society of Elendel.  Originally an old-west style law-keeper (think Clint Eastwood), Wax has inherited his family estates, and all of the various financial and social obligations that come with them.  But the arrival of an old friend marks the beginning of a series of mysterious kidnappings which Wax’s law-keeping instincts simply can’t ignore…

Book Review – “A Dance with Dragons” by George R. R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, was released in July.  Why, then, am I only now writing this review?

Compared to Martin’s six year hiatus between books, a four month hiatus to write a review doesn’t seem so bad.

I kid, I kid.  In all seriousness, I needed some time to mull this book over before I committed my thoughts to the page.  “A Song of Ice and Fire” is being hailed by critics and fans alike as the best fantasy series in a generation.  Indeed, some go so far as to dub Martin “The American Tolkien.”  HBO’s adaptation of the first book of the series, “A Game of Thrones,” is winning accolades left and right and bringing a horde of new fans to the long-running series.  But does this latest installment live up to the hype?

Book Review: “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson

Culture Shock

If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, you get used to seeing the same ideas used over and over again.  The hero rising from humble origins, dragons, castles, dark evils and magical swords, etc…  After awhile, these tropes just start to feel natural, and instead of being annoyed when you see yet another farmboy begin on his hero’s quest, you look forward to how the author will spin the same old story and make it interesting.  Then, you read a book like The Way of Kings, and remember what made you fall in love with the genre to begin with.

Sanderson is gaining renown in the fantasy genre lately, partly because of his work to finish Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series, but also for his Mistborn series and stand-alone novels Elantris & Warbreaker.  Each of his worlds is unique and well-written, but The Way of Kings really ups the ante.

In Roshar, horrific storms sweep the land every few weeks, so the landscape has evolved to survive them.  Grass retracts into the ground when endangered (even when that danger is something as small as a lady about to trod upon it).  Most forms of wildlife have developed a chitinous outer shell and look more like large bugs than dogs or oxen.  Tiny creatures resembling globes of light are drawn to elements (fire, water, etc…) but also to things like pain, fear, and glory, giving visual indicators to emotion.

Read on the full review!