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Lamentation Audio Book (Part One of Five, The Psalms of Isaak Series) by Ken Scholes

02/03/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy Lamentation Audio Book in the USA - or Buy Lamentation Audio Book in the UK

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pub: Macmillan Audio. ISBN: 978-1-4272-0625-1. 15 hours 12 CDs. Price: $44.95 (US). read by: Stefan Rudnicki, Scott Brick, William Dufris and Maggi-Meg Reed.

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Released as an audio book at the same time as the hardback edition, 'Lamentation' is Ken Scholes' first novel of a fantasy series entitled 'The Psalms Of Isaak'. At this particular moment, I believe he is half-way through the third novel so there is much to come from this new and exciting writer.

Exciting is a good adjective to use. His writing is definitely that! Much of what I like about 'Lamentation' is in what it isn't. We don't have a world of minute detail where every blade of grass is known, a construction so copied by most other fantasy writers to the extent that the procedure is now tiresome at times. He writes a book based on plot and character which doesn't get bogged down in protocol and procedure. The pace is fast and it is a page turner...or disc turner in this case.

Magic or magick as he calls it is used in 'Lamentation'. This isn't an integral part of the plot or sub-plots and its use is diffuse and natural, portrayed in the same way as science. All too often magic is used as an excuse for unimaginative writing, a way to get out of situations easily without having to think too much about human ability to cope with dilemma. It's a cop-out! You won't find this sort of thing in the text, which is pleasing, and it is not a determining factor in the story. People make this story, cause things to happen and deal with the outcomes. Magic and science are only there to provide assistance.

What kind of world is this? It is essentially a post-apocalyptic world, probably our own, set at a time thousands of years after the laughing madness ruined it for everyone. It's difficult to equate technology to conventional history but perhaps something similar to the Napoleonic era would suffice only in this case there are metal men or robots, one of which goes by the name of Isaak. The political situation on this world reminds me of Germany before Bismarck, where a multitude of independent states and kingdoms co-existed in atmosphere of intrigue, diplomacy and mistrust.

Don't look for mobile phones! Messages are carried by little birds which, if you are British, takes you back to the days of British Telecom and Busby. The main method of transport is the trusty horse, secret sign languages seem to be everywhere and, thankfully, there is no banking system to collapse.

The book couldn't have a more dramatic start! A magnificent city by the name of Windwir is the repository of ancient knowledge handed down from the old times. It is presided over by a group of people called the Androfrancines who have technology but dish it out in small amounts to those deemed suitable to receive it. Anyway, right at the beginning of 'Lamentation', the city is destroyed by something as powerful as a nuclear bomb. Who is responsible for such an atrocity? Nothing will ever be the same again on this world!

We are introduced to several main characters in turn, all initially separate but eventually intertwined in the story. The first is Rudolfo. He is the cavalier general of a peripatetic army, always on the move as it administers justice and delivers protection in the land of the nine Forest Houses. A gourmet eater who appreciates wine, women and song, one could see him being played by a young Errol Flynn.

Then there is a young woman, Jin Li Tam, the daughter of a king destined to be a queen who is nobody's mug. She is beautiful, of independent spirit and is a complete opposite of Sethbert, a dastardly villain of uncouth character on the edge of madness who seems to be responsible for the destruction of the great city.

We also encounter Neb, a teenage boy who witnesses the destruction of Windwir and the extinction of his family when the event takes place. He wanders away only to become trapped in the ensuing situation but his special abilities of prophecy make him a key player in the story that unfolds. There is also a curious character, Petronus, ostensibly a fisherman but with an interesting past which emerges to light after the destruction of the city.

The whole lot is thrown into a melting point. War, political and religious intrigue, malevolent deeds, death and destruction are all part of 'Lamentation'. My particular favourite wasn't a human but was probably more human than everyone else. Isaak the robot had many endearing qualities and also possesses the secrets of the old ones.

Ken Scholes has done excellent work with his first novel. The author maybe a bit unfamiliar to most people at the moment, unless of course they have been reading his short stories, will go on from here to become a well-known figure in the world of fantasy publications. Some of the work sounds old-fashioned but this is not meant in a derogatory term. It has a certain charm and nostalgia, yearning for a time of adventure and excitement and that's long gone and maybe was never ever there! Let's not forget, the main purpose of this book is entertainment. It's not an instruction manual or a textbook. People will be buying this to be taken away to another land, to experience the fantasy while still being human. To be entertained!

The audio version of 'Lamentation' gives it a new dimension. Anyone listening to other Macmillan titles will be familiar with the narrators but if you haven't tried an audio book before, this would be a good place to start. Although part of a series, it's actually more or less a stand-alone novel. It's not overly long, the tempo is positive and fast, and the excitement builds up to become quite furious at times. There are moments from a spectrum of emotions splattered as if by an impressionist artist throughout this book. Most of all, it's fun!

Rod MacDonald

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