2017/04/27

Yay, Space Opera!

Author Yakov Merkin reviews Nethereal.
Before we begin, I should disclose that I have had numerous positive interactions with Brian Niemeier, ranging from Twitter conversations, to getting very helpful advice relating to self-publishing, and I was a guest on the Geek Gab podcast, on which he is a co-host.
And quite a time we had, too.
That rambling aside, on to the review itself! I regret being fairly new to the Pulp Revolution scene, and that I never happened to read the works that inspired it, as I feel like if I had, I’d have a greater appreciation for what Niemeier drew from them. That said, this did not at all diminish my ability to enjoy the book, and I will endeavor to read the other two books in the Soul Cycle currently available (and which I own), Souldancer and Secret Kings, in a much more timely manner.
Full disclosure: I didn't really draw much inspiration from the pulps when I wrote Nethereal. Sure, I'd read a few pulp titles, mainly Lovecraft, but I started writing Nethereal seven years ago--long before I'd heard of the Pulp Revolution.

As Jeffro Johnson, one of the Pulp Revolution's guiding lights said in his review, Nethereal isn't pulp. It's in a category of its own, which Jeffro helpfully named Niemeierian fiction.

Which isn't to say that pulp fans won't find anything to appreciate in Nethereal. Most of the Pulp Revolution guys I talk to love it. The Golden Age authors and I definitely have a lot in common, like a love of genre bending, a penchant for weirdness, and a dedication to entertaining the reader first. We just took different paths to the same place.
When boiled down as far as you can go, Nethereal is a story of space pirates that go to hell. Of course, there’s definitely much more to it than that, and we follow said pirates–as well as some other folks–as they deal with literally going to hell and then trying to claw their way back out.
Each of our main characters is well characterized an interesting. The two primary ones are Jaren Peregrine, the captain of the pirate crew, who, for both good and ill, is laser-focused on whatever he sets his mind to. Next, we have Nakvin, a woman with many secrets, some of which even she is not fully aware of, who is effectively Jaren’s deputy and the ship’s primary steersman. Rounding out the main cast are Teg Cross, a smart-mouthed mercenary who is very handy when they inevitably get into trouble, and Deim, the youngest of the group, and apprentice steersman to Nakvin. There are, of course, plenty more characters along the journey, but I want to keep this review short and spoiler free; with Nethereal, more than most books I’ve read recently, even small thing I may mention could spoil something. Everyone has their own agenda, everyone has secrets, and even the reader at many points is left in the dark regarding who is playing it straight and who isn’t. It really is a book that demands you pay attention, which is more reason why I should’ve read it in a shorter time span.
There's an annoying trend in the entertainment industry to show blatant contempt for their audiences, particularly by assuming that the people who watch their movies, read their comics, and listen to their music are stupid.

I think that treating your customers like idiots is bullshit. I'd rather give you guys the benefit of the doubt and trust that you don't need your hands held when presented with sophisticated plots and complex characters. I might lose some of the slow kids, but that's fine. They can go read Chuck Wendig.
The most stand-out aspects of Nethereal, however, are both the tone Niemeier set and the way he blended aspects of several different genres. Without going into spoilery details, the space hell he creates really feels ominous and creepy, from the landscapes to the people and things they encounter in it, and the normal laws of nature are twisted there is just the right ways. I’m no expert on horror, but the horror elements included in this story set the tone very well. Of course, at its core Nethereal is primarily a space opera (yay for that genre getting new, good content!), with much of what you might expect, though due to the unique genre blend it is also different from what one might expect, with more of an emphasis on magic and strange places than on space battles (though I hear there is more of the latter later in the series.)
Not sure there’s much more I can say (again, in part due to my not getting to this promptly), but the other two books is the series so far are near the top of my to-read list.
Nethereal stands out in the current SF/F literary world as something that remembers that cool stuff, entertainment is the key, and loudly proclaims itself as a work of genre fiction. It is very clear that this was written by someone who loves the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres and wanted to write something interesting and fun rather than to check off boxes to try and appeal to a very narrow group of people who don’t buy many books anyway.
Thanks, Yakov, for taking the time to write this great review. You guys can read the whole thing here.

And you can get Nethereal, along with the other books in the award-winning Soul Cycle, on sale for the next four days.
Brian Niemeier - Nethereal

@BrianNiemeier

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