This week at Omnivoracious, you'll be hearing from Geoff Ryman, the multiple award-winning author of the newly released novel The King's Last Song (Small Beer Press): "Archeologist Luc Andrade discovers an ancient Cambodian manuscript inscribed on gold leaves but is kidnapped--and the manuscript stolen--by a faction still loyal to the ideals of the brutal Pol Pot regime. Andrade’s friends, an ex-Khmer Rouge agent and a young motoboy, embark on a trek across Cambodia to rescue him. Meanwhile, Andrade, bargaining for his life, translates the lost manuscript for his captors. The result is a glimpse into the tremendous and heart-wrenching story of King Jayavarman VII: his childhood, rise to power, marriage, interest in Buddhism, and the initiation of Cambodia’s golden age. As Andrade and Jayavarman’s stories interweave, the question becomes whether the tale of ancient wisdom can bring hope to a nation still suffering from the violent legacy of the last century."
When published in England, The Sunday Times called the book “Sweeping and beautiful...The complex story tears the veil from a hidden world.” Booklist, in a starred review for this edition, called it "An unforgettably vivid portrait of Cambodian culture past and present."
I have been a huge fan of Ryman ever since reading his devastating The Unconquered Country, his first major work set in Cambodia. One quality I find in all of Ryman's fiction is a restless intelligence and thoughtfulness about the modern world, sometimes wedded to a willingness to experiment when necessary. For example, Ryman's 253, which won a Philip K. Dick Award, had an incarnation as an innovative internet text.
Recently, Ryman's been "thinking about blogging. I have my doubts about it. Self-expression is art, but self-promotion is an agenda that curdles art into advertising. The blog becomes an online publicity, the comments a way to draw attention, marking territory," although he says he admires "people who READ blogs. They must have a real and abiding curiosity about other people’s lives and even more extraordinary, other people’s views...My deeply ingrained response is to keep quiet until I have something worthwhile to say. And it has to be said, something worth paying for. But here goes: me, blogging."
In that context, Ryman has graciously agreed to provide a few mini-essays on topics that include Cambodia and teaching SF/F. Look for them Monday through Friday.