I’m currently engaged in a project of binge-reading: it started when I found my Kindle1 in one of the innumerable boxes and started scrolling through it trying to pick a book to read. I realized that, much like my Steam library,2 it’s full of stuff that I’ve never even opened.
So I went through it, put every unread book in a new to-do list,3 and got down to reading.
Sunday morning, I finished reading The Brotherhood of Delinquents by Jefferson Smith. To be honest, I have no idea how this book wound up on my Kindle – according to the app on my phone, it’s a Document rather than a Book, so I suppose it was from an Indie Book Bundle kind of thing? I’m at a loss.
Anyhow, I enjoyed the book quite a lot. It’s the sort of book I used to read a lot as a kid – the protagonist is quite young, an apprentice, and it’s got the whole “uncovering something amazing” vibe that I adore.
But that wasn’t my favorite part of the book. No, that honor went easily to the amount of world-building that clearly went into this book. From the fantasy-standard slightly-off-norm names for things (‘Reeve’ as a sort of governor/elected-military-leader position, for example) to the amount of historical references present,4 an impressive amount of thought went into the background of the book.
There’s a specific part of world-building that the book pulled off masterfully, though: the ‘ancient magics/construction’ archetype. The entire book takes place in a single town, a massive Keep built to an exacting standard to defend a kingdom that wasn’t often described. It’s a leftover of an ancient war, one that was ended with colossal magic to the tune of “the wastelands start within sight of the Keep walls, and continue for god-alone-knows-how-far.” Clearly, things have just gone downhill since the days of yore, because there’s no mention of anyone creating new magic, and there are frequent descriptions of people moving away from the Keep, and the decrepit war-machines still sitting around.
To be honest, I can’t quite pin down why I thought this so resolutely throughout the book, but I was stuck on one concept: this whole thing is in the future. I have no idea if that’s what the author was going for, but every bit of magic present struck me as something that could be easily pulled off with sufficiently-advanced technology. Every time some magic was used, I started picking apart how I’d do it in a science-fiction environment, and it all made sense. The ancient mage was a technological wizard, my mind decided.
And that sort of thing makes me love a book. In the fifth5 Septimus Heap book, there’s a vague reference to some ‘ancient drawings’ that portray… the Apollo missions. It’s a moment where you go “oh, holy crap, that all makes sense,” and I just adore those moments. If ever I write some fantasy, you can just go ahead and assume it’s set in a distant future where someone got good enough with technology that they said “screw it” and turned the control interfaces into a system of magic.
- It’d been missing for a while. Moving is fun! ↩
- Currently featuring in the area of 100 games that I’ve never played ↩
- Quick shoutout to Things, the task-management app I prefer on both my MacBook and iPhone. ↩
- I can’t tell if I enjoyed or was annoyed by the amount of references to a single mythical hero. Like, it was nice that it kept going back to a single name, it created a bit of recognition, but it got a little bit overplayed. Though, that could be my raised-in-the-TV-age sensibilities – the myths of my childhood are far more numerous than any medieval society would’ve had access to. ↩
- I think, it could be earlier or later in the series, I’ve got no idea. ↩
- We still don’t have internet at the new house, so I’m sitting here writing this in Ulysses, and I’ll upload it next time I’ve got WiFi. Hopefully I’ll remember to check for a sequel when I do that, but I definitely won’t remember to go back and update this post. ↩