Reviews and Comment

Reviews and Comment

Fragments of a Broken Land is one of the most interesting and cutting-edge fantasies I’ve read in a long time.  It’s a brilliant piece of work.” (Jack Dann, author The Man Who Melted, Bad Medicine, The Memory Cathedral, The Rebel)

“… one of the strangest and most interesting visions to come out of the modern horror/fantasy genre. Based on the thought and imagery of William Blake, Fragments is an exploration of the nature of perception, magic, and the way in which emotional and moral states became metaphysical realities. It is truly something new in the world of the imagination.” (from the introduction to the related story “Tamed” in Dreaming Downunder, the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology edited by Jack Dann and Janine Webb)

“This deep dark fantasy novel is really quite an achievement by the author. It’s a narrative that is complex and fascinating and demands the reader’s attention. That’s not to say it’s hard to read, but the complexity of ideas is quite staggering and the writing fluid and powerful. Hood has managed something very different with this book and I highly recommend it.” (Alan Baxter, author of Realmshift and The Darkest Shade of Grey), on Goodreads)

“Overall, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is a brilliant fantasy novel of the type we seldom get to read these days. Dense and exotic and full of ideas. It’s also full of sword & sorcery action too, and the type of cosmic horror that leaves you paranoid about your own reality. Really, what more could you ask for in a book?” (Andrew J. McKiernan, review on Thirteen O’Clock) — read full review

“There are incredible depths to this world, depths that the novel’s plot skims like a pebble across a lake’s surface, gaining momentum with each skip. This is thanks to Hood’s skill at transmuting back story into exciting narrative vignettes: story-telling, reportage, bardic performance (with snarky commentary from Tashnark), memory, dream and hallucination induced by demon poison: all interwoven seamlessly with present events. The pace is truly frenetic, with running battles, storms and a ship-board zombie-wrestling sequence that can only be read, not described. If things ever slow, Tashnark can be relied upon to get them going again — he’s a gem of character, and the principal observer of how artificial all this heroism is… As an interrogation of the assumptions of high fantasy rather than a parody, this book is a highly refreshing change. With its distinctive and not inaccurate Bob Eggleton cover, and solid production from Borgo Press, it makes a fine addition to Hood’s bibliography and the Australian fantasy canon.” (Kyla Ward on Tabula Rasa)  — read full review

“If I had to compare Robert Hood’s [Fragments of a Broken Land:] Valarl Undead to another novel I guess I would go with Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer; there’s the same elusiveness to the prose that requires careful reading and interpretation…

“But just when you think Robert Hood may be simply dwelling on the human plan[e] the novel takes a sort of metaphysical journey into other more surreal realms. There’s a rich texture to the novel that will keep you engrossed in the differing worlds the Author expertly and apparently effortlessly creates. While it can be an achievement to create a single alien environment and culture to set your novel in, it’s a real achievement when you create multiple worlds, as Robert Hood does here.” (Jeff Ritchie, Scary Minds review website)

Fragments of a Broken Land is a rich, thought-provoking fantasy read with elements of horror.  (Sean Wright, Adventures of a Bookonaut) — read full review

Fragments isn’t an ‘easy’ read in the sense that you will need to think a bit to keep track of the various names and the parallel storylines that run through it, but it’s far from impenetrable. The action zips along at a good pace; the ensemble of characters is an engaging mix of personality clashes; and despite the unusual setting and story, there are plenty of tropes (and subversions of them) to keep fantasy fans happy…. Initially, I felt that the complexity of the novel might have lent itself to being spread over a trilogy, but this would have destroyed the pace and thus the feeling of urgency that I shared with the characters. I particularly enjoyed the academic treatment of magic, which made it seem very real. (Rivqa Rafael Berger on Goodreads) — read full review

“Robert Hood’s Fragments of a Broken Land is excellent so far and is such a departure from the tired, old fantasy that’s everywhere.” (comment by thelonelypubman on Reddit)

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Fragments Wins Best Novel Award

Continuum X — the National SF Convention for 2014 — was a special one for FRAGMENTS OF A BROKEN LAND: VALARL UNDEAD. At that convention it won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

Ditmar1This is wonderful in itself, but the icing on the cake, as it were, was the context in which the Award was announced. My partner Cat Sparks had already won the Best Collected Work and Best Short Story Awards — for her superlative collection The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Press) and a story from it, “Scarp”. That was exciting enough. As it happened, however, Cat had been asked to present the Best Novel Award. So, without having any prescient knowledge of the winner, she made the announcement and presented me with the Award. I will always remember her excitement on opening the envelope — and that of Jack Dann, who was sitting next to me and has been phenomenally supportive of the book for a long time. There was much shouting and hugging, then and later.

Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any pictorial evidence of me in my new suit (which I had brought not because I thought the book might win, but because I had been asked to present an award myself, earlier in the evening — and was required to dress in my “Oscars finery”).

Here is the full list of shortlisted works for the Best Novel category:

  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside)
  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy: The Maximus Black Files 3, Paul Collins (Ford Street)

I was honoured enough to be among such worthy nominees.

The full list of Ditmar Award nominees and winners can be found on Locus Online.

Writers know we have to be content with the value of the work itself, to believe in it, and not to place too great a reliance on positive reviews or to take negative reviews to heart. True worth lies in the words, in the endeavour. But often, deep down, we struggle with insecurity and … well,  it’s hard to function in a vacuum, to get minimal response or sometimes never get even a glimmer of audience reaction to our work. Is anyone reading it? Does anyone care? Negative reviews are bad enough, though at least you may be able to learn from them. Being ignored can be the worst. When the work concerned is one that was deeply felt and the making of it had drawn blood, sweat and tears from the writer for (potentially) many years, such silence can be debilitating. So despite the problematic nature of awards in general (and arguments about them tend to proliferate throughout the writing community), the recognition offered by awards such as this one, both for winner and nominee, goes a long way toward ameliorating the pain of silence.

Fortunately Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead has been blessed with some wonderful and insightful reviews, even if the major magazines and review sites have been less than generous with their attention. But the dark gloom falls at times. Now this Ditmar Award for Best Novel comes like a burst of light in the darkness, a sonic boom in the silence. My thanks to everyone who voted for it — and were so generous with their congratulations and best wishes afterwards.

Addendum: Cover of The Bride Price, Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publishing). Trust me… you want to read this book.

bride price

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