The Bone Queen by Andrea Judy (2013, ProSe)
The Bone Queen is the first novel by Andrea Judy. It follows the adventures of a female sword-swinger as she chops her way across ancient France. Set in some kind of alternate universe, The Bone Queen is a good novel from a first-time author. A little short at 97 pages, but decent for an opener.
The Bone Queen is an “origin” book. The character was introduced in an earlier Pulptress story, which I haven’t had the opportunity to read. In this tale, we follow Renata and her companions across plague-ravished France where the dead keep rising to kill the living. It’s up to the followers of Mene, the goddess of death, to put them back down. When prayers and spells aren’t strong enough, the sword serves as back-up. The ending is a bit of a downer, but I’d suspected the direction it was headed since the lead character was going to turn out to be one of the bad guys.
There’s not a lot of back story in this book. We find out early into the adventure that Renata was rescued from her mother’s corpse and dedicated into the service of Mene. The temple they served was over-run by the Living Dead. Her companions have been led by the goddess herself to the source of the plague: a necromancer living in a castle by the sea. To stop the plague and the zombies they have to defeat the necromancer.
And here we have the whole problem with “new pulp”: it’s a side-project for most of its proponents. The old pulp writers were cranking out wordage for an eager public. The new pulp writers and knocking out stories for themselves and their friends. This might create some enthusiastic stories, but it tends toward amateur ones as well. I see too many wannabee pulp writers talking about what they are going to write. Sit down and start cranking out some books! You want an example? Check out what K. W. Jeter, a real professional, has accomplished with his Kim Oh novels.
Good advise. That’s why I don’t read a lot of it. I hear them talking about how good a pulp writer they are, but they’re praising each each other. I’ll take the original pulp writers. Kim Oh is a pretty good series. I wish Jeter would write another story featuring her.
And I really don’t want to discourage new writers. But when I don’t see them living up to their potential, what else can I do?
I really enjoyed The Bone Queen. The ending was obviously telegraphed (particularly if you’d read the character’s first appearance in The Pulptress) but I still found myself quite engaged by the characterizations.
I certainly agree that the world would be a better place if people did less talking about writing and actually wrote more… but I’m not sure I’d say that it’s a “problem” with New Pulp. I’m not sure that the classic pulp authors of the past would have written quite as much as they did if they weren’t being paid pennies per word and had to write a lot to survive. You do have folks like Walter Gibson, though, who seemed to flourish under those conditions — when you look at how fast he was writing and how GOOD it was… Amazing.
But there is a marked difference in people who write for enjoyment and those who write to pay the bills. I just don’t see the edge on New Pulp.
Timothy, thanks so much for the review! THE BONE QUEEN is a digest novel, which is our way to package a novella, and those tend to come in around 95-105 pages.
Also, this book was not written for Andrea or for her friends, but due to the overwhelming demand for the character’s origin from the readers of the Pulptress collection. Is New Pulp selling in the thousands and such, no, not across the board, but it is selling and the readers aware of what New Pulp is are growing daily. To assume that it’s some sort of vanity project so friends can read it is wrong. New Pulp centers on the style of writing that developed from the era of Classic Pulp, the way in which stories are told and characters are developed and so on. The eras of the early 20th Century and today are decidedly different on several levels, so the comparison to being prolific and being a wannabe doesn’t really hold up.
And if you want examples to back up the fact that this isn’t a writer’s circle of friends patting one another on the back, I can point you to reviews of books bearing the New Pulp logo in the LA Review of Books and other places such as that that are taking notice. And not just of the books produced by my company.
But again, thank you for the time and the review.
Pro Se Productions
Sorry if I came off as mean-spirited. It was not my intention. I’d considered not even reviewing the book since it didn’t hit me one way or another. After reading Derrick’s interview with Andrea, I’d expected a lot more. She has the credentials.
My intent was to inspire.
Pulp publishers learned quickly what was selling, and what wasn’t. Many magazines were started, and then had a short life when buyers passed their titles for someone else’s magazine. It cost them money to produce something they couldn’t sell. That’s not happening today. With POD technology, publishers don’t have to worry about investing a lot of money. Or putting their books on the market. They rely on the Internet, and word of mouth. I’ve spent good money on bad product calling itself New Pulp, so I tend to buy material by writers I am more familiar with, with a better chance of getting my money’s worth. There are good writers in the New Pulp movement, but I don’t listen to any of the hype, I go by what I know of the writer, and what s/he has written previously. I would hope that New Pulp eventually becomes more selective in choosing their writers to improve their product (not necessarily quantity). If they don’t, readers will eventually drift away. I don’t buy everything. I try to select the best material that’s out there. Why buy something I won’t like?
I think that readers in every field/genre do that all the time, Tom — learn what they like and what they don’t. The classic pulps weren’t all classics, as you mentioned — there was a ton of absolute crap. Some stories, characters and writers lasted past the rest and that will & has already happened in the New Pulp field.
Plus, it’s all subjective. I loved The Bone Queen but it didn’t move Timothy. Neither of us is wrong.
Let me take some of the heat off New Pulp. This is a good subject, Barry, and should be discussed in my opinion. I review books for numerous publishers and publicists, and new writers in many professional fields are trying to become writers. They pay a publicist upwards of a thousand dollars to help them promote their books and get their names out there. I’ve had to refuse quite a few books because they honestly just were not any good. And this has nothing to do with New Pulp. It’s everywhere in the marketplace. Like Tim, all of us want to see writers succeed, but when their stories bomb, someone needs to tell them. JMHO.
I certainly don’t think you (or any other reviewer) should not be honest about the books you’re evaluating. Not sure what I said that would have suggested that. I run the Shadow Fan’s Podcast and even though I dearly love The Shadow, I’m very honest when Dynamite publishes a comic that I don’t enjoy (go listen to my review of The Shadow Now # 1 or # 2).
I have no problem with any part of Timothy’s review of the book itself. What works for me does not necessarily work for someone else. I just wasn’t 100% sure that I agreed with his statement about a “problem” with New Pulp — which, again, is just my own opinion. We all have those in abundance 🙂