Welcome back to Thirsty Thursdays, where you can find something new to slake your thirst for reading!
I’ve been peeking into this story here and there. Every time, I end up reading several chapters, instead of going back and starting from the first. That’s how well the story draws you in!
The Philosopher in Arms & asa kraiya
By Karen Wehrstein
Almost 20 years ago I published a two-book series with Baen, the autobiography of an extraordinary warrior and leader in a post-apocalyptic, post-tech world, a setting shared with S.M. Stirling and Shirley Meier.
Starting mid-March of 2009 I began posting online a much updated, upgraded and expanded version of the story, retitled The Philosopher in Arms, along with a sequel generated by an altered ending, asa kraiya. I completed asa kraiya in January 2010 and The Philosopher in Arms is still running. I post 2,000-3,000 words, usually, every weekday except Canadian statutory holidays and occasional vacations. It is at the moment all free, but I am withholding related content for when I’m set up for patron subscription, so that it will only be available to patrons.
For my description cum sales pitch, I offer mostly the words of others, in comments and reviews.
A concise and spoiler-free summary of the plot from Elizabeth Barrette: “This is the tale of Fourth Chevenga Shae-Arano-e, a hero who has known since childhood that he would die at the hands of an assassin, cut off in his prime. He responds by living as intensely and brilliantly as possible, so as to cram a whole lifetime of experience into the short time he has.”
Asa kraiya picks up from there, and I have future plans which are hinted at by Michael Thedford, who wrote, when he reached the end of asa kraiya: “My hair is standing on end. I love that Ms Wehrstein carefully and lovingly took the time to tie up nearly all the loose ends, and left the most grating, obvious one completely alone, as really it ought to be, being none of our goddamned business. Instead, it stands out in surreal fuchsia (or was it lilac? It’s too soon, things are still blurry), tempting us with glorious possibility.
“Really, that possibility is far more satisfying than a ‘happily ever after,’ because what it really says is ‘this is not the end, there is more to this story than you can imagine, but I invite you to try, because it’s good for you.’ Pure distilled hope, with a frisson of that voyeuristic thrill that all literature grants.”
There are duels, battles, chases, flying scenes, healing scenes, soul-searchings and political maneuverings. There is romance and sex (though not an excessive amount) with a totally and casually bisexual protagonist (“That’s our Che[ve]nga! Ambi as an oyster.” –RavenRux.
The setting is Earth, altered. “The world-building is particularly brilliant; the Fifth Millennium is a shared setting, although Chevenga spends most of his time in nations designed by Karen Wehrstein. The story reads like fantasy; technology is mostly archaic, and there are hints of magic in places. But the background is actually science fiction: the far-future attempt of a world to rebuild itself after a devastating apocalypse. There are also lovely tidbits of invented languages.” -Elizabeth Barrette
I take pains to describe it vividly. “When I stop reading, I’m still in Arko. It’s like I’m getting an impedance mismatch from your imagination, like the world is permeated by a low buzz. It was the same in Laka, and back in the Yeoli lands. They are so rich, yet so varied, that the time I’m away from it is bland… They say combat does that…” -RavenRux
Genre-wise, it’s something of a fusion: “It has a ‘soft scifi feel’ in that it’s driven by character development and set in a realistic world, but it has fantasy elements like swords and horses and paranormal powers that are presented as in-the-far-future-science-will-give-us-these-abilities, but function in the story as sort of minor personal magics.” –caprioxbovidae.
The Philosopher in Arms is not for readers who like easy, fluffy, mind-candy-type reads. It’s complex, thought-provoking and challenging: “If you want to be challenged as a reader, if you like to read stories that make you think, I can recommend this tale.” –Merrilee Faber, e-fiction Book Club; “There is, indeed, a lot of philosophy in this novel, more shown than told. I’ve been impressed with the demonstration of civics, ethics, parenting skills, and personal responsibility…” –Elizabeth Barrette
It’s very much a character-driven story, because that, above all, is what fascinates and inspires me. “The story is first person, which allows us a lot of insight into how he views and reacts to the world,” –Vercin; “Emotional verisimilitude is extremely difficult but is here achieved with an easy grace that staggers me.” –Michael Thedford. “I <3 Chevenga. He is the true hero character, inspiring anyone who enjoys characters one can admire and love.” –GreenGlass
The intent is to pull readers who are willing to make the effort into a intense, all-encompassing experience that lingers after reading. “I’ve laughed out loud or gotten watery-eyed, because you really do feel like you’re right in there with Chevenga.” –caprioxbovidae; “More often than once, we have had to remind each other that this is only a story…” –TLOU; “Nothing I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot….I had to stop because I ran out of books to read) matches this novel for depth or intensity.” –Daphane.
Something I have been doing increasingly is engaging my readers with such manifestations as character chat sessions, challenges for them to come up with ideas, and even, lately, private role-playing sessions with selected readers. (Blogpost with links) I am very interested in livewriting, as is Shirley, and want to get more into it in the future; we have a marathon Google Wave livewriting session planned for the Muskoka Novel Marathon, July 16-19, to write a related book, The Fool on the Mountain. (Details to follow on my site.)
For more information and to read The Philosopher in Arms visit www.chevenga.com .
The Philosopher in Arms & asa kraiya
By Karen Wehrstein