Blood and Iron

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 6, 2007

Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear

Our discussion of Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear, held at Charles and Willie’s home, had two attendees, the smallest attendance ever. (At one meeting in the mid-90s, every single attendee apologized for skipping the previous discussion of Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories by Terry Bisson. So it is possible that we had a meeting with zero attendees, but there is no way to prove it.) Only one of us at the meeting had read the book, with the other having been too busy with a crunch situation at work. Two others in the group had read the book, including the person who recommended it, but were prevented from attending due to illness. One of these absentees emailed in comments. Blood and Iron is a contemporary urban fantasy, and the author is a recent winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

The following impressions of the book are distilled from emailed comments and the spoken words of the one person present at the meeting who had read the book …

“I like that it is set in the present. I like the grittiness. Best of all, NO FUZZY BUNNIES! I like that Bear starts without declaring ‘this side is good!’ and ‘that side is bad!’ She simply starts telling the tale as it is happening at that moment. I like that the characters are strong and able and wounded and apprehensive, sometimes all at the same moment. I like the way Bear peels the onion slowly. We start grounded in the details of specific lives of specific people. Slowly Bear connects the specifics to a larger and larger canvas of history and myth. Even though Bear uses the large-size fae, I like that she keeps the essential fact that fae are not very effective in the world of mankind. Then she tweaks the old, old fears that it was not always so. Near the middle, I got the sense that the plot would spiral rather than arch to the conclusion.

“I finished the book and love it. I think this is a great direction for fantasy to explore with possibilities to achieve the profound. I really like it when authors look for a third way to do things—a way that resolves the conflicts. And in this case the third way is not easy and not fast.”

“It’s pretty dark and gritty. She throws in fables, folklore, and folkloric songs to give hints of what’s going on. The names of characters are important to what’s going on. You can enjoy the book if you have not read much folklore, but if you’re highly read in folklore, you’ll get a lot more out of it. This book is not close to current popular fantasy. It is more like Crowley, de Lint, and Clark Ashton Smith. It deals with questions like ‘what is a soul?’ and ‘do fae have souls?’ This book is really enjoyable and has an interesting use of language.

After an abbreviated meeting, we had a nice dinner at Threadgill’s.

— A. T. Campbell, III