On a Useful Review of Fire on the Velvet Horizon

I got this.

I haven't finished it yet. Is that because it's bad?

No. It's dense.

Let's unpack that for a second.

The Aeskithetes (Ay-Skith-es-ts)

  • They have strong bodies that look like twisting melting wax.
  • They have slim whiplike tentacles that cover their body that they can barely control. The more powerful the Aeskithetes, the calmer the tentacles.
  • They are hideous to look upon, and hate the reaction this engenders in others, so they wear masks.
  • Their home world, time runs much more quickly so they collect beauty and works of art to send back to their homeworld for a generation of children they will never know. 
  • They are impossibly strong and can vomit bile.
  • The reason they can stay in our world is that they constantly chant a song that allows them to stay.
  • Their home world is a humans skin.

No. It doesn't have stats. It doesn't need stats. This isn't a monster. It's an adventure wrapped up in a bizarre mind-screw. What can you do with this? So many things. There's over 100 pages in this book, and they are all like that.

There's the boa constrictor that is called "boa constructor" and has arms for teeth, eventually growing large enough to perform impossibly miraculous crafts. There are the bog elves that live under the lake a shiny mirror for a floor, darkness and shadow in the sky above; there are dark hunched ladies who hunt in mirrors.

The Aeskithetes could be traders, enigmatic and well respected. You could find masks before ever finding them. A party could be trapped in the world of their own skin or someone else's. They could be sent to make a treaty with them. It's just one monster, it's just one page.

What I want to know, is why not having an armor class listed is a problem for anyone.

I read a lot of fiction, and the creativity here is on par with some of the masters. Gene Wolfe displays this kind of creativity in his novels. Borges describes the type of hells these creatures inhabit in passing. McCarthy has the type of poetic turn that takes your mind from where it is and puts it somewhere you are not. This is what the book does. Some quotes:

"The first order clad in closely arranged bone, a chainmail of the skeletons of fish and eels. The second type wear scale woven from the overlapping beaks of storks and cranes."

"Before the process begins all would-be Brainstormers are careful to inform their lackeys and servants that the levels of Elixir must be carefully and continually adjusted to avoid disaster. Once the first dose is taken and the halo of electricity begins, the Brainstormer reacts to anyone trying to adjust or alter the syringes in any way by screaming madly, firing bolts of electricity and sometimes sucking them up in a tornado."

"The Dreamons are the shepherds of the Wings. They guard the vast and churning flocks, keeping them back from the borders of our understanding. There is no shortage of inspiration out beyond the walls of space and time; there is enough to burn the heart of the world and drive every living being insane with the hunger to create."

He's not just talking about a monster to fight. He's talking about himself. He's talking about you, and your adventurer. He's talking about sin and valor and lies and truth.

This a book filled with monsters of the classic sense—creatures that reflect the dis-ease within our own psyche, the way in which we ourselves are monsters. He then uses the damage in our own selves to confront the heroes we imagine ourselves to be.

But it's just a book of monsters, right?

Video Trailer for Fire on the Velvet Horizon
Fire on the Velvet Horizon in Paperback

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  1. So, this sounds awesome. The previews make the layout look like a scrap book in a tornado - do you find this grates after a while, or does the awesomeness soak through regardless?

    1. That isn't a problem at all. Some of the text is small for old eyes, but Patrick has offered plain text of the source at request.


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