Book Review: The Canterbury Tales by Luke Bellmason

The Canterbury Tales by Luke Bellmasoncant

Every ten years each spacer pilot must make the pilgrimage to Vale, where the mighty and all powerful Federal Galactic Spaceflight Licensing Authority resides. From all corners of the nine galaxies they come, on ships such as the GSS Canterbury.

To pass the time over their three nights journeying through the void each traveller tells their story. Volume One features the tale of the Smuggler, the Merchant, the Assassin and the Knight. Join them to hear their tales of rivalry, revenge, piracy, insurrection, daring escapes and adventure in this all new re-imagining of the original Canterbury Tales.

This is what Geoffrey Chaucer might have written if he’d owned a ZX Spectrum when he was 12 and wasted his formative years playing video games through the 1980’s.

Luke Bellmason weaves a series of plot-lines worthy of a Cardassian enigma tale, with an emphasis on storytelling and characters. Explore the parts of all those video games universes that your computer could never show you and begin your journey…

 

The Canterbury Tales by Luke Bellmason is exactly what a Space Opera should be. It is in the style of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and follows his matrix, but this is not a re-telling of his book. This is a truly unique and original work. Each tale has its own voice and it is as different as the person telling the tale.

The writing style is innovative, with short dynamic sentences- highlighting the taut urgency of the situations involved. What I really loved about this book is the portmanteau feel of it; It reminded me of techniques used in many Monty Python films. Wherein, smaller stories are told, that tie into a bigger picture.

Each story is a vignette that packs a powerful punch. By being dropped into the middle of the action- you aren’t weighed down by space facts and details. Instead, you are shunted from one action scene to another in a roller coaster ride of excitement..

The only thing that disappointed me about the Canterbury tales was its length. It felt like as soon as I got into a story, it was over so quickly. I suppose that is the hallmark of a good author- always leaving you wanting more.

This isn’t your stodgy Science fiction of the 1970’s; this is a vibrant fresh Sci-fi for the new millennium. Even if you aren’t particularly a science fiction fan, there is plenty of action and intrigue to satisfy the most selective reader.

I highly recommend this fast paced, action packed novelette.

DSC_0131_3_2EPBR: What inspired you to write the Canterbury Tales?

LB: It’s rather a long and convoluted story, and if you buy the book you can read all about the development process in great detail. As unlikely as it sounds the idea began as a board game based on the 80s classic video game Elite.
There were six character types in the board game such as, miner, scout, trader, bounty hunter,
pirate, etc. Then I came up with a good and evil version of each, so the good pirate was the Knight, the bad miner became the Slaver, the bad trader became the Smuggler. Then I took a book of plots and assigned each character a plot and a commodity type and started writing a series of short stories.
The idea to string them all together somehow came much later, but when I discovered Chaucer’s original Canterbury Tales I was surprised to discover he’d also written a Knight’s Tale and a Merchant’s Tale. The linking of the stories has now become another story of itself and I’m developing that element in parallel with writing the other tales.

bellmason1EPBR: You’re releasing the Tales in three volumes. Why did you decide to do it this way, rather than writing the whole thing in one go?

LB: It’s because I write extremely slowly. I simply couldn’t wait to put something out there and start getting feedback from readers. If I wanted to wait until it was all finished, I’d probably never get to the end. I think this is something that self-publishing allows that traditional publishing might not. Generally there isn’t much enthusiasm from publishers about short stories, which I think is a great shame.
Certainly, through writing the Tales, I’ve learned to appreciate what an art writing good short fiction is. When you start out, you tend to assume it’s going to take less time to write a short piece than a long one, but I soon learned that this wasn’t the case. The first four stories took about a year each! But, I am getting slightly quicker.

bellmason2

EPBR :When can we expect more tales?

LB: At the moment, I’m working on Volume 2, which will feature the tales of the Miner, the Slaver, the Spy and the Scout. This will hopefully be out at the end of the year, but if you’re especially impatient to read more you can find the Miner’s Tale on my blog.

The plan is that Volume 3 will come along in 2015 and then you can expect a complete edition soon after.

EPBR: In Jane’s book Skye goes to a fallen skies convention in Las Vegas. What kind of convention would you like to go to.

LB: I’ve not been to many conventions, but favourites are always gaming related. GenCon used to be in my home town and I used to go every year until it was moved to London and then stopped entirely. I like how gaming conventions bring people who’ve never met together around a table. My perfect convention would be one where all the celebrity guests sit down and play board games with you. I know Wil Wheaton is a big boardgamer, so maybe this idea isn’t so far-fetched.
EPBR: Hob-Nobs or Custard Creams?

LB: I’m more of a pink wafer man myself, but in the unlikely scenario that you’re holding a gun to my head and forcing me to choose, I’d have to go with Custard Creams.

Visit Luke Bellmason’s blog for sneak peaks and great articles.

 

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