Sword & Laser Book Club: "The Dirty Streets of Heaven" Wrap-Up & Your Feedback

Uploaded by geekandsundry on 30.11.2012


TOM MERRITT: Coming up on "Sword and Laser," tips for
gifting ebooks and expanding spacetime for more reading.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes, and we clean up after ourselves on
"The Dirty Streets of Heaven." It's the "Sword
and Laser" book club.
VERONICA BELMONT: Hey everyone, welcome to the
"Sword and Laser" book club.
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
This is the show where we serve up sci-fi and refer
fantasy for you to read.
It's hard to come up with alliterations.
VERONICA BELMONT: That was close enough, yes.
But that was relatively right.
We read a book together every month, or you rogue types out
there can just steal our great ideas for other books to read,
you idea thieves, you.
They can steal.
Here's some books you can--
you should pay for books-- or check them out at a library,
but these are new books.
It's time for the Calendar.
VERONICA BELMONT: Coming out December 4, "A Red Sun Also
Rises" by Mark Hodder.
Care for a romp that ranges from Jack the Ripper's London
to the twin suns of the planet Ptallaya--
sun Ptallaya?
Well, you should read this book, and hopefully they'll
also give you a pronunciation guide.
And also on the 4th, Harry Turtledove tells the tale of
life after the explosion of Yellowstone Park in
All Fall Down" by Harry Turtledove.
TOM MERRITT: Following on December 5, "Moscow But
Dreaming," a short story collection by Ekaterina Sedia
combining folkloric tradition with fantasy.
And on December 11, the republication of 1975 classic
"Peace" by Gene Wolfe with a forward by Neil Gaiman.
If you like stories about people whose imagination can
obliterate time and reshape reality, here you go.
Otherwise, don't worry about it.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's probably not for you.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, you wouldn't want to read it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Not of your interest level.
Well, Bobby Dollar.
Bobby Dollar, he sure went through a lot, and therefore
we have an absolute ton to talk about in this month
wrap-up of this pick, "The Dirty Streets of Heaven" by
Tad Williams.
Spoilers ahoy!
VERONICA BELMONT: All right, so "Dirty Streets of Heaven."
This was a very different kind of Tad Williams book.
TOM MERRITT: But not a very different kind of--
TOM MERRITT: --discussion in our Goodreads forum because it
was very divisive.
VERONICA BELMONT: It was very divisive.
TOM MERRITT: That seems to be typical of a lot of the
fantasy books, especially, that we've chosen.
I absolutely loved it.
Never read Tad Williams before.
This was my first time in.
I'm also a big fan of noir fiction like the Raymond
Chandler, Dashiell Hammett kind of stuff.
So this was great.
I got that flavor, that sort of mystery, hard-boiled
detective, but it's an angel.
And yet, he's not an angel because he drinks and has sex
and does very un-angellike things.
And there's a mystery that pulls you through.
And I don't know, I was tugged in from the very beginning.
But a lot of folks felt like he was rambly
and talked too much.
I didn't get that at all.
What did you think?
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh, does he ever have sex.
VERONICA BELMONT: He definitely--
TOM MERRITT: The angel?
VERONICA BELMONT: --had sex in this book.
TOM MERRITT: You're talking about Bobby
Dollar, not Tad Williams.
VERONICA BELMONT: Bobby Dollar, not Tad Williams, to
my knowledge.
TOM MERRITT: In this book.
VERONICA BELMONT: But yeah, I was reading this and I was
like, this maybe could have been read in the "Vaginal
Fantasy" book club as well, the other book club
show that we do.
But it was great.
I thought it was a lot of fun.
We talked a little bit about this in the audio show that
came out this week, but I kind of felt like I started to
enjoy it more when I separated it away from Tad Williams'
previous work.
TOM MERRITT: Right, which I'm unsullied by.
Which you are unsullied by, which is kind of a terrible
way to put that.
But I am a huge Tad Williams fan.
I always have been.
I basically started reading fantasy off of "Tailchaser's
Song," which is one of his early fantasy books, a
standalone novel.
TOM MERRITT: Just for comparison, what is
"Tailchaser's Song" like?
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, it's not a sex-filled noir style.
It's an adventure about a cat.
It's like anthropomorphic cats.
VERONICA BELMONT: And it's almost like a "Watership Down"
style tale.
So then he goes on to a lot more style epic fantasy with
like the "Otherworld" saga, which is kind of sci-fi,
And then of course, "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn," which is a
much larger--
each book of those is about 1,000 pages each.
TOM MERRITT: Are there dragons in some of these?
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh gosh, it's been a decade since I've
read it, but there may have been dragons involved.
TOM MERRITT: Because I can see if you come from like cute cat
"Watership Down" story and maybe some epic fantasy in--
VERONICA BELMONT: There's nothing cute about "Watership
Down," Tom.
TOM MERRITT: Well, no.
But the cats are cute.
VERONICA BELMONT: The cats are cute.
TOM MERRITT: In "Tailchaser's?"
VERONICA BELMONT: It's also been decades since I've read
that, but I remember them being cute, yeah.
TOM MERRITT: But you know what I'm saying.
Like if you come from cats and fantasy and then you get Bobby
Dollar smoking and--
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, yeah.
I knew she was trouble when she walked in the room.
TOM MERRITT: It's a big change.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, like I said, a lot of people had a
lot of different kinds of opinions.
Pedro over on Goodreads was doing almost like a day by day
reading diary.
TOM MERRITT: That was pretty cool.
I liked that.
VERONICA BELMONT: And it was kind of a little bit
depressing too, because he started out real excited, and
he liked the prologue, and he thought it was action packed.
And then as the days go on, it starts getting a little bit
more like, oh, well, not really feeling like the
characters are getting fleshed out.
And I'm feeling a little bit lost and the descriptions are
a bit long.
But I wanted to read this particular
passage that he left.
This is sometime before chapter 20 where he picks up.
"Even with all the action scenes and the Ghallu chasing
Bobby for what seems like five chapters, I find that there
isn't that much happening even though I keep flipping pages.
Tad Williams seems to ramble a lot about things that have
absolutely no relevance to the plot.
A lot of them actually start out like nice descriptions or
a bit backstoryish, but then they drag on for so long that
I end up losing interest and can't wait until
the plot moves on.
Another of the things that's starting to annoy me a bit is
how static all of the characters are.
None of them has been fleshed out one bit.
Sam is referenced here and there in Bobby's backstory,
but it's not like you get to know anything
about him as a character.
And it feels like they're just there so Bobby has people to
interact with--
cardboard figures waiting for Bobby to come in before they
start doing what they're supposed to do."
And part of this may be--
I agree with him on some of those points for sure--
but I think part of it is that since this is the beginning of
a trilogy, I think they're just putting some of these
TOM MERRITT: It's a lot of set up.
It's a lot of set up waiting for those next things.
But part of what an amazing author does, and I do put Tad
Williams into that category of being an amazing author, is
that you don't get that static feeling.
So maybe it was just he got so wrapped up doing this kind of
genre noir fiction style tale that he kind of forgot or left
out that aspect a little bit for some people.
TOM MERRITT: I think Rodrigo kind of echoed my sentiments.
He wrote, "This was my first Tad Williams book, and I have
to say I will be looking for others.
On 'Dirty Streets of Heaven,' Tad Williams does the most
important thing, he tells a story.
This is an unpretentious book that simply doesn't take
itself too seriously, with enough twists to make it
interesting, but not enough to make it tiresome.
'Dirty Streets of Heaven' is a light, fast-paced fantasy set
in an easy to digest universe.
The religious overtones are tasteful and not specific to
any religion.
It's just a backdrop against which the story is played.
Yes, there are minor cliffhangers, if you
can call them that.
Mostly they are unfinished subplots that leave a good
hook for the next books.
The smell of trilogy is in the air.
However, the main story line is concluded to satisfaction,
so finishing the book leaves you with a feeling of wanting
more." That's exactly how I felt.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's how you felt?
TOM MERRITT: So the people saying it dragged for them in
places, I never felt that.
And I don't know if it was because I was doing an
audiobook or if I was just like, you know what?
I like this genre.
I like noir fiction, and I get that you're going to have some
long periods where you're just tracking down the killer and
nothing much has happened.
And I just enjoyed visiting heaven and his
perspective on that.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, that's the problem, because I didn't
enjoy visiting heaven.
I felt like there was so much description of it being this
boring, saccharine place where basically it seems like
everyone's hopped up on soma that I couldn't figure out
what was really going on there.
And maybe that is also being left for--
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, I think there's a lot
of set up for that--
VERONICA BELMONT: --future books.
VERONICA BELMONT: But I just felt like OK, he's in heaven
now and he doesn't feel quite right about it.
And he always knows that he's a little bit different.
But it's beautiful.
But it's boring.
But they don't know about the highest power, but some of the
angels are kind of dicks.
TOM MERRITT: I was a little worried about the eventual
revelation of what was really going on.
Because our MacGuffin was this thing that's been stolen,
supposedly the feather.
VERONICA BELMONT: The golden feather?
TOM MERRITT: And I was a little worried when that got
revealed if that was going to be a letdown.
But the Third Way, I find, is actually theologically
It is basically setting up the idea that maybe this isn't
heaven the way we've been taught to think of heaven.
Maybe it's not that simple.
And maybe there can be a third way even in an afterlife.
The idea that dead isn't dead, but there's another death
after that, I found that very intriguing to play with.
Some people might see that as a cop out, though.
So I can see some of the reasons people didn't like it.
But I just had a ball.
I treated it as fun.
VERONICA BELMONT: I really want to go
to that third place.
I like the idea of that third place.
TOM MERRITT: The opt-out?
The third party?
VERONICA BELMONT: The opt-out, yeah.
And be like, oh, you can just go hang out on a farm.
That works for me.
TOM MERRITT: That doesn't sound bad.
VERONICA BELMONT: That doesn't sound bad.
Just getting to hang out with the people that you like.
Yeah, I'll take that option if I have to choose.
TOM MERRITT: Anyway, every day when I was reading this book,
or listening to this book, I would hop in the car, picking
up my dog after work, and I'd say, let's listen to a story.
And that's really how I felt.
VERONICA BELMONT: You say that to your dog?
VERONICA BELMONT: That's a little bit weird.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, from the person who read "Tailchaser's
VERONICA BELMONT: That's different.
I'm not actually s--
I speak to my animals.
What am I talking about?
TOM MERRITT: You talk to your cats.
Should we get a couple more?
Couple of quick ones.
Dan says, "This was my first Tad Williams book, too, but it
won't be the last.
I really liked it a lot.
I want to read more of Bobby Dollar.
I've heard from others, including some in this group,
that Williams' other books are even better, so I'm looking
forward to checking those out." Very positive spin from
Dan, there.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, and then I don't really want to
end on a negative note, but Leslie said, "Don't want to
hate, but the exposition in this book is excessive and not
all that clever." Ouch.
TOM MERRITT: Ow, Leslie.
VERONICA BELMONT: "I also like learning about a character
through their actions and experiences, not being
reminded over and over how God must have had a reason for
making them the way they are, which was repeated no less
than three times in the first five chapters.
Also, I would think an angel would have deeper statements
about the nature of heaven and his existence than, 'Maybe we
only know as much about the real heaven as a
three-year-old knows about quantum physics.' Sigh."
TOM MERRITT: This strikes me as Leslie would
hate Raymond Chandler.
Maybe I'm wrong, but would hate Dashiell
Hammett, would hate--
like she's picking on the genre here.
The idea is that it's interesting and odd that an
angel doesn't have those deeper thoughts and that he's
talking like a hard-boiled detective, and that's
what I found fun.
Well, definitely a very di-- well, we'll have the
opportunity, actually, to talk to Tad Williams about this in
the next coming weeks, because he is going to come up on the
show and be here in person, actually, which is great.
But you guys are making it hard for
us to think of things.
It's going to be awkward.
TOM MERRITT: We'll put some of these
questions to him, for sure.
I don't think he'll mind.
TOM MERRITT: He's a good guy.
All right, so we declare the spoiler zone over?
VERONICA BELMONT: Spoiler zone finito.
And if you guys have more to talk about, then
head over to Goodreads.
There's still tons of discussions happening over
there about this book.

TOM MERRITT: Next time, we'll kick off our December book,
"The Hobbit,--"
TOM MERRITT: --in honor of the first of the now somehow epic
trilogy of movies based on the book.
But before we go, let's see what else folks are saying in
email and on Goodreads.
VERONICA BELMONT: So it's the last day of National Novel
Writing Month.
How did you do, Tom?
TOM MERRITT: I am pretending that I'm
done, and it was awesome.
TOM MERRITT: Because this is--
VERONICA BELMONT: We're recording this a little bit
early, so--
TOM MERRITT: Actually, the midpoint is very tough.
Even though I've come out of the gate better than ever,
it's really been hard to sit down, because I want to get to
the end of my story.
And it was too early at the midpoint.
But I'm always glad I did it.
I'm really surprised with what's coming out here.
VERONICA BELMONT: For me, it's been an easier process, but I
don't think I liked my story as much this year.
So it's harder to get really excited about my writing time
at the end of the night.
But we have one viewer who actually has been magically
transformed into an author.
VERONICA BELMONT: They write, "Hi Veronica and Tom.
I just watched 'Sword and Laser' and was quite
interested in the NaNoWriMo.
I had seen some people post about it but had no idea what
it was-- or how to pronounce it.
So right after your episode, I fired up Google Docs, sat down
and wrote 2,500 words set in the near future with a couple
who are trapped while on vacation in a run down Mexican
motel and not is all as it appears."
"Thanks for the motivation to read more, and now write more.
Mike Wood."
TOM MERRITT: Awesome, Mike.
I can't wait to hear more about your story.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, that sounds cool.
TOM MERRITT: And I have to say that 2,500 words right out of
the gate, that's pretty good.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's pretty good.
All right, Lars writes from Norway
with a common sentiment.
He says, "Thanks to you, I've spent a lot more money on
books than I usually do.
I need help with one thing.
I would like to read more books than I do now, but I
feel I don't have the time to do it
between job and studying.
So how do you find the time to read so much?
Is there a 'page count' app I can use, where I can set a
number of pages I want to read in a set amount of time?
How can I plan to read more?"
That's tough.
I just read before bed every night, or I try to.
I usually fall asleep.
Now with Whispersync, with the whole syncing between audible
and Kindle books, that's made it a lot easier, because I can
listen in the car and then go home and read on my Kindle and
it syncs back and forth.
So that's worked out really well and made my experience a
lot better.
TOM MERRITT: I'll tell you what doubled my ability to
read was audiobooks.
Because like you, I read before bed.
But I also, I think like you, fall asleep really fast.
TOM MERRITT: So it's hard to make a lot of progress that
way sometimes.
But audiobooks allow you to read at times then that you
would never be able to.
VERONICA BELMONT: That you normally wouldn't.
Like washing the dishes.
Or vacuuming.
VERONICA BELMONT: Or mowing the lawn.
TOM MERRITT: Driving around.
So it really does expand the opportunities to read.
And then yeah, just being vigilant about
setting aside a time.
It's like this is my reading time, and I'm going to take
it, and I'm going to enjoy it, and I'm not going to feel
guilty about it.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's like I set a
writing time for NaNoWriMo.
I write in the morning with my first cup of coffee, and I
just sit there until I'm finished with my
minimum word amount.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, when Mike mentioned Google Docs, that's
actually made it so much easier, because I can stick to
my time no matter where I am, because I can access Google
Docs and write on it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, for all of you wonderful people
out there who were able to complete NaNoWriMo this month,
And I hope you will participate again next year.
Kristina writes on Goodreads, "So with the holidays coming
up, I wanted opinions or thoughts on gifting when so
many of people's pastimes are becoming available digitally.
For instance, I spend about half my time reading and the
rest playing PC games.
So getting a Barnes and Noble card or being gifted a steam
key is fun for me, but, according to my mother-in-law,
isn't a real gift." Oh, I hear that a lot, too.
VERONICA BELMONT: "I have to admit, as a gifter, I enjoy
picking out a physical item that I can wrap up all pretty.
Are Christmas' of the future going to be full of flat
packages and festive emails?"
TOM MERRITT: This is interesting.
Now see, most of my close relatives, like my brothers
and sisters, live elsewhere.
So sending an Amazon gift card or something seems OK, because
they're far away, anyway.
They understand.
But for people who are close-- and let's leave aside the gift
card thing, because there's a whole school of thought that
giving a gift card is horrible and other people say, no, it's
awesome, because they get to choose.
But let's say you want to give an ebook to somebody.
It's not as satisfying as giving a real book.
So you can do both, if you have the money.
You could buy them the hardback as sort of like a
collectible, and then give them the ebook as well so they
can take advantage of both.
TOM MERRITT: But that's not the cheapest way to do it.
I know.
I mean, buying stuff on Amazon has been a lifesaver, because
I feel like I'm buying something digital, but then I
get to send them an actual real thing.
VERONICA BELMONT: I just get their shipping address and
send them a real item.
So yeah, I guess that's the way I kind of work around it.
Because I don't like going to stores.
I hate shopping--
VERONICA BELMONT: --in stores during the holidays.
I hate shopping in stores regularly for the most part.
I like to do everything online.
TOM MERRITT: It's all those people around.
VERONICA BELMONT: All those people.
It's like awful.
TOM MERRITT: Maybe you can get clever and either make
something, which is asking a lot, or choose a small,
inexpensive gift like a key chain or a button or a poster
or something that goes along with the
ebook they were buying.
VERONICA BELMONT: You know what I think is really good?
VERONICA BELMONT: Buying experiences for people.
Like if you order them a fancy two course dinner at a
restaurant they like, or if you get them skiing lessons.
Or also there's things way less
expensive than those ideas.
TOM MERRITT: Sure, sure.
Actually, that would be a great pairing.
If you buy somebody an ebook that let's say, it's George RR
Martin, right?
TOM MERRITT: And it's all about food.
And you buy them a dinner that is kind of in the same theme
as the book.
VERONICA BELMONT: That'd be cool.
TOM MERRITT: That's a nice way to give them something that
has got more substance to it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Ooh, someone buy me that.
That sounds fun.
TOM MERRITT: I want that.
VERONICA BELMONT: We'll go make trenchers.
TOM MERRITT: In a Goodreads thread, Erwin writes, "In
music I have turned to musicians that either make
their music available for free or at least do not chase after
copying of their work, often relying on a donation system.
I'm curious if such a thing, which you come across a lot in
music, also exists in literature."
And Sky, among others, answered in the thread, "Here
on Goodreads, you should check out the Indie Book Club, which
reads one to two indie books a month, or the Indie Book
Collective." And Sky also said, "Check out
They're indie friendly and even help distribute books to
places like Barnes and Noble and iBooks.
Plus, it's a great place to buy books as you can download
the book in any format for any reader DRM-free."
VERONICA BELMONT: That's really cool.
TOM MERRITT: No restrictions.
And don't forget Baen and Tor both are DRM-free now for
their ebooks.
Lots of other publishers, lots of other authors like Cory
Doctorow are.
So yeah, there definitely is a unrestricted--
we definitely want you to make money off our writing, but we
don't want to punish you when you haven't
done anything wrong.
We should do some more indie picks at some point.
It'd be a good idea.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, we really should.
There's so many, that's what makes it so hard.
Maybe you guys can start a thread in Goodreads making
some suggestions.
That would be awesome.
TOM MERRITT: Hope that helps, Erwin.
Well, that about does it for us today.
But don't forget the "Sword and Laser" Author Guides show
where we interview the best authors in the biz and submit
your questions to them.
In our next guide, we'll be talking to Paul Cornell.
TOM MERRITT: You don't want to miss that, so subscribe right
now to our YouTube channel, because right now, if you
subscribe, you get absolutely free with no additional cost,
"TableTop," "The Guild," "Written by a Kid." It's the
green button up there in the corner at
Send us email too, feedback@swordandlaser.com.
And of course, as we mentioned, join that Goodreads
forum, goodreads.com.
We'll see you later, folks.
VERONICA BELMONT: Bye, have a good one.