2020/01/08

Loving Escalation

A common pitfall among sci fi and fantasy authors is series creep, wherein each installment becomes longer and less eventful than the last. It's a trap I strive to avoid.

As the rave reviews for Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming suggest, my XSeed series has surpassed even the Soul Cycle for raising the bar with each entry.

Nathan at the Castalia House Blog illustrates a few key ingredients that make the third XSeed book the best yet.

"Youv'e got to love escalation."--Faust Hayden

As usual, the XSeed roller coaster begins from there, taking readers through a whirlwind of change as factions unite and break apart with each new developments. Here in CY 40 II, the revelations are earth-shaking, as the XSeed pilots and the SOC must deal with an alien threat even as they fight each other. The tantalizing skeins of a 60 million year-old mystery first spun in the original XSeed CY1 now take shape with the addition of the alien Secta, beings who travel from one doomed world to the next to record what they find. Earth, Mars, and the space colonies of the SOC are the latest worlds to be doomed. But before a defense can be prepared, Arthur Wake and Sullia Zend, the possible reincarnation of former genocidal world leader Sekaino Megami, must deal with each other, and Arthur prefers grenades to mere words .
As always with Niemeier’s books, CY 40 II rewards a close reading. Careful callbacks to XSeed CY1 appear, adding to the mysteries surrounding Sekaino Megami and those who would challenge her. Familiar faces appear in the most unlikely places. For those readers familiar with the mobile suit genre, resonances to the Gundam series which inspired XSeed are present, including 1990s fan favorite Gundam Wing. The threat of alien invasion offers a splash of Macross resonances as well, although thankfully no one sings here. And beneath the crackle of lasers and hiss of rockets, there is the mounting cost as the various factions of secret kings push humanity past its limits in preparation for the alien threat. Unavoidably in such attempts, there is breakage, as each of the XSeed pilots discover, including newcomer James Trent.
So what make the third visit to the XSeed story the charm?
Everything that I enjoyed from the previous two books is present in a clearer more concentrated form. Niemeier continues to grow more comfortable with the action and intrigues required in a martial thriller, enough to step on the gas and pick up the pace from the already brisk prequels. CY 40 II offers all the mecha action, intrigue, and surprises of the previous two books combined in half the space. Perhaps Wake’s return to SOC space might have used a little more exposition for clarification, but otherwise Niemeier deftly juggles the demands of heavy metal action, multiplying intrigue, and the constantly shifting locations required in a mecha thriller. 
A dry wit comes into sharper focus. A few excellent one-liners emerge from the chatter of pilots not used to radio discipline. Fortunately, these are not delivered with camp nor does the book stop to admire their cleverness. However, the occasional relief allows the tension needed in battles between metallic knights of space to ratchet even higher than without it.
The reason that so many skilled authors fall pray to series creep is a combination of insufficient planning and venal desire to milk an IP beyond its natural conclusion. I avoid such excess by meticulously outlining my series beforehand, giving each a definite beginning, middle, and end, and resolutely sticking to the plan. One of the most frequent comments about both of my series is that they start at a high level of quality and only improve with each book. This is how I do it, and I do it for you!

Don't take my word for it. Read Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming now!

Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming

Already read the book? Share your opinion and help inform other readers. Leave a review now!

10 comments:

  1. Perhaps the only thing missing from CY 40 II is the growing collection of mecha art and profiles currently hosted on Niemeier’s blog. The art and backstories for each mecha design are fascinating, and a profile or two of the most prominent mecha in each book would be a welcome addition to flip back and forth between. The visual element from these designs set XSeed apart from other military and martial science fiction series taking inspiration from familiar works. It wouldn’t hurt to lean into that more.

    I'd want to wait until the series is finished, but I'd love to pick up a Jayne's-style mecha compilation afterwards. In paper- or hard-back.

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    1. Count me in on the idea of a Jane's like book. I'd definitely contribute to a crowdfunding project for that.

      An aside, my review for CY 40 took much, much longer to go live with Amazon. Not sure why. But it was odd. When I normally write reviews, its like 10 hours. This time is about 4 days.

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  2. The reason that so many skilled authors fall pray to series creep is a combination of insufficient planning and venal desire to milk an IP beyond its natural conclusion.

    This is why, much as it hurt at the time, with every year that goes by, I respect Bill Watterson more and more. He saw that he had said what he wanted to say and done what me meant to do, and he stopped. Every single zombie franchise out there that should have been buried long ago confirms this.

    Can you imagine how much of a mess C & H might be these days if he’d kept going? What if he’d allowed the SJWs to get to him? One shudders to imagine.

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  3. Great review from Nathan! Looks like future companion books are part of the "greatest anime you've never seen" want lists.

    Your reach only grows, and it is well earned, Brian! Congratulations!

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    1. It's all thanks to brand evangelists like you :)

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  4. I think I'm two reviews behind, Brian; my library list and Amazon postings aren't right. Will make sure I post reviews after I finish The Secret Kings.

    All good things come to a proper end, which is one book, episode, or version before the "let me try ..." takes root. A Jayne's Compendium that may include Combat Frames, Solar System forces, spacecraft as smaller sections would be nice, and also provide a resource to adapt this into space gaming.

    I'll respectfully disagree with Zaklog. Mr. Watterson had one final work he could have published for our delight: "Calvinball, The Official Secret Rules"
    Frontispiece of Calvin and First Tiger Hobbes looking with glee at a pile of objects. Titlw page and usual impedimentia. Rest of the book would be 200 blank pages. I watched "Dear Mr. Watterson" twice, and agree with his choice to end with a high note.

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    1. I appreciate the feedback on prospective book ideas. FYI, an art book had been considered as a perk as far back as the CY 40 campaign, but we weren't sure there was enough interest. Now it's looking like there is.

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