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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Is FRAGMENTS A Zombie Story?

Is Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead a zombie story?

Well, that depends which tropes you use to define “a zombie story”. In fact, Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead is an epic fantasy novel, albeit in a dark fantasy mode. It features a zombie-like character that isn’t the protagonist, but is central to everything that happens. His name when he was alive was Valarl.

Valarl is one of the living dead, though he’s neither cannibalistic nor infectious. He is, in fact, a corpse whose unnatural movement is driven not by infection but by what amounts to a curse, a curse that compels him to find and recover a mysterious object that was once in his hands and which he lost in a long-distant apocalyptic event. The object is greatly desired by all and sundry as it is reputed to be the source of ultimate power. The corpse (the titular Valarl) follows the path the object took through history, inexorably retracing where it was taken. Driven by the curse, Valarl only gets violent if someone gets in his way. He has no will of his own and only a faint recollection of himself as a human being. When other seekers of the object realize that Valarl will sooner or later catch up with the object in time, he becomes the central focus of their search. But of course nothing is what it seems and the problem with an Ultimate Power is that the one who finds it may discover they didn’t really want what it has to offer after all.
Naturally I think Fragments is a compelling and quite unique novel, albeit appearing at first glance to be in fairly straight-forward fantasy mode. Jack Dann has described it as “one of the strangest and most interesting visions to come out of the modern horror/fantasy genres” and I hope others will agree. I have no exact date for its release yet but there is a nascent website where anyone who wants to follow its progress can come to check what’s happening: http://fragmentsnovel.undeadbackbrain.com/. No one should expect a standard zombie story though.

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