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Author Topic: Ken Scholes  (Read 3915 times)

James

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Ken Scholes
« on: April 01, 2009, 12:18:33 AM »

Another author thread from me.

I am surprised at just how few people have ever heard of Ken Scholes, even though I know I shouldn't be. After all, I only heard of him after catching wind of his first novel--Lamentation--, which was released in the US in February. It received enough hype, more than enough to get me interested in it, which meant that I had it ordered just as soon as it was out. I received it along with Bakker's The Judging Eye and had every intention of reading it just as soon as I was finished. I didn't. Instead I picked it up a couple books later and I had trouble putting it back down.

Lamentation was, above all, a surprise. Though the early reviews and talk of it caught my interest, I was still unsure as to whether or not I would like it and I was leaning towards not. I am not sure why this is, not really sure that is. You see, while the name of the book is Lamentation, the name of the series is The Psalms of Isaak, which stinks of religion to me. And of course it would, since the book has to do with the desolation of the Holy City of Windwir, home of the Androfrancine Order. Due to my... dislike... of religion, this could well prove a problem. I am glad to say it did not.

This is not a review, seeing as how I suck at them, this is just me talking about the book, which most should be used to by now. I am not going to tell you what the book is about, if you are interested in that you can look it up on Amazon, which is just as good, if not better, than anything I would provide. With that being said, I am going to jump right into the highest points of this novel.

The highest of all--and the one point that makes this book as good as it is--is the quality of the work. The book is very well written, a point that tends to be brought up when you see talk of Scholes writing and a point that I can confirm by reading his shorter work. Scholes is a damn good writer, one of the better ones out there. The only reason you haven't heard of him, if indeed you haven't yet, is that he has been stuck in short fiction. That's not a bad thing, other than the whole not having heard of him thing, because he is one of two current short fiction writers I admire. The book reminds me of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for its sheer readability, though I must say that Scholes thankfully lacks the simple prose that annoyed me in The Name of the Wind. That lack means that this book doesn't full on sprint as the pacing in The Name of the Wind does, but it does keep at a steady jog.

You're not stuck in the typical setting, there are no castles or knights and I highly doubt everyone speaks in a British accent. The setting reminds me more of an Eastern setting instead and it works quite well. Magic, in turn, is rather lacking, but those of you who know me well enough know that I like this. The magic isn't as nonexistant or hidden as in Martin's work, but compared to a lot of work out there these days, it is quite minimal. It perks up in a couple ways: Military scouts and the desolation of Windwir, but beyond that it is little more than something of the past. Which leads me to another point, this book takes place in the future and apparently on Earth (though I did not see hints of this others did and the author may have brought it up before). This brings an interesting mix of technology and fantasy, though fantasy dominates. But it also means there are robots. Yes, robots of the steam powered variety. Ancient technology recovered and recreated, though far from common and highly guarded by the Order. Magic is also guarded and meted about by the Order, which explains the lack of it.

While the novel is ostensibly one of war, the truth is that there is relatively little in the way of battle or fighting in it. A welcome break from the likes of Erikson, Bakker, or innumerable other fantasy authors. What stands out is intrigue and there is a lot of it. I would say that it probably went a bit too far in one case, making it a bit too unbelievable, but other than that I think it was rather well done. Just like many other parts of this novel.

Characters. I tend to consider Martin to be pretty high up there when it comes to characterization, despite my recent negativity towards his writing. So I will say that you aren't going to find Martin-level characterization here. Nor will you find that the story is character centered like that of Abercrombie's works. The novel is purely plot-based and the characters are along for the ride. A reviewer mentioned this and I think he is spot on, the novel works more as a oral retelling than as a work of writing. It is the sort of story you would tell around a table or fire... or several nights worth at least. The characters here don't exactly shine, nor are they all too creative. What you have is a set of characters cut from cardboard and then given true life. They start out as archetypes and nothing really more, but as the story goes along they grow into their own and become characters that you really care about. Characterization, well there's not much there. The characters all change in some way by the end of the novel, that they do, but... I don't know, there seems to be something missing.

Overall, it is a wonderful novel, amazingly well written by an author with a lot of imagination and a talent for storytelling. Definitely a book that I recommend to anyone and everyone, especially to those jaded by the fantasy genre as of late (I know at least one person, though not on this forum).

I am currently reading his collection of short fiction, so a post will be up later about that.
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 06:53:20 PM »

Long Walks, Last Flights, and Other Strange Journeys is one of the few short fiction collections that I have managed to read all the way through. I enjoy short fiction, but it can be said that I enjoy it in small bursts and so I rarely ever make it fully through a collection unless the stories are good enough to keep me attached. Indeed, this book is the second that has managed to do so and will likely be one of three before the end as I do have Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors sitting on my shelf.

I bring up Gaiman because the other book I managed to read all the way through belongs to him. Fragile Things is not a book I often comment on, especially not in a post like I am doing for this, but it remains one of my favorite books. Neil Gaiman is a wonderful author with the ability to feed off myth and create something fascinating that grabs your attention and sense of wonder and refuses to let go. His novels are great works of fiction and I have little doubt that they will eventually be referred to as classics, just as his work in the field of graphic novels is well regarded. He does better than most in both fields, but it is his short fiction that truly shines. And brightly it does.

While I would not write such a post for one of Gaiman's novels, I am certainly doing so now, but why for this author? Gaiman, as good as he is, has a huge fanbase that goes beyond fantasy and into the mainstream. He does not need any such posts to introduce his work, if you have been around enough you have likely already been introduced several times over, even if only in recommendation. The man is popular and even that is a bit of an understatement. Ken Scholes has been around for the better part of a decade, writing short fiction for various outlets. Some of his stories can be found online, but they are few and far between--just one or two that I know of. The majority has been published in print magazines and for a large part of the fantasy community I do believe that is the equivalent of tucking it away in a safe to which only a handful of people know the combination. A sad thing, both for the readers who do not get to know these authors and for the print magazines that are slowly fading away. I am one of the many who only just heard of him with the hype given to his recently released novel, Lamentation, and I am glad I heard of him.

After reading a little more than halfway through Lamentation I managed to happen across this collection and bought it without hesitation. I enjoyed his writing thus far in Lamentation and something told me that I would enjoy his writing in Long Walks, Last Flights, and Other Strange Journeys. I cracked into it shortly after I received it and I have to say that I was surprised. The writing I found inside was quite a bit different from what I found in Lamentation. Most of the stories took a historical fantasy bent, a complete turnaround from Lamentation, which was more along the lines of epic fantasy with a touch of science fiction. This is far from being a bad thing. Without further ado, since I am undoubtedly a wordy bastard and have already spent a hell of a lot of words on this thus far, I shall begin on the meat of the post.

The Man With Great Despair Behind His Eyes -

The first story in the collection, it is a work of historical fiction with science fiction qualities to it. The story follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) as he journeys across the breadth of the US to find the source of bits of currency from the future depicting the faces of the presidents. He battles depression during and after his travels and comes across a figure from our own recent history whose disappearance is still a mystery to us. I cannot go any further, though I would like to because it would spoil everything. Let me say that this story may not have been the best, but it was an interesting theory as to what could have happened in the aforementioned mystery.

Action Team-Ups Number Thirty-Seven -

An elderly hero, placed in an old-folk's home, takes up his former mantle when his nemesis turns up as another occupant. Antics ensue as the two go back to their old ways and fight to avoid the orderlies. This one was pretty good and funny at times. At the very least it gives us a view of what happens with the super heroes and villains when they are forced to retire.

Soon We Shall All Be Saunders -

A weird story in which everyone in the world becomes a man named Saunders, with his greasy hair, his sweaty hands, and his stink of onions and menthol shaving cream. There is one man who notices what is going on, notices that people are turning into Saunders and he flees for his life. Again I can go on for spoiler purposes. It is a decent story, short and, as I said, weird. Certainly not the best in the collection, but not bad.

A Good Hair Day In Anarchy -

A science fiction/western hybrid that is far and away from that which you will find in Firefly. This one lacks humor and goes for the drama, but it is done well. The story is one of a bounty hunter looking for a famous, and quite wanted, gunslinger who has disappeared into the fray of normal life. The bounty hunter, a famous one who lets his hair grow out until he finds his mark, tells this to Anarchy's barber, a nervous old man afraid of guns. The town has a secret and that secret is the fate of the gunslinger, though they say he is dead. The bounty hunters thinks his target is the sheriff of the town and he calls him out on it. You guessed it, I cannot go on. This story is one of the better ones in the novel, if only because it is a neat little story with a setting that is actually somewhat developed throughout. The story shows just how much a person can change and how a person gets caught up in things that take them further than they could ever imagine.

Into The Blank Where Life is Hurled -

One of a few stories in the collection devoted to showing life in hell, all of which I enjoyed perhaps the most out of the collection. This one is a mix, since it involves hell and two historical figures: William Hope Hodgson and Harry Houdini. The story itself is pretty good, there is a reason why the stories are amongst my favorite and that is because they have a nice mix of both character development and setting. This one displays the machinations and punishments of hell and shows us that they are not at all simple. They are complex and designed not to inflict bodily pain, but that of the soul. William, a writer in his former life, has been given a job as a journalist and may only write with a pencil. Travel too far along the path of fiction that the pencil breaks each and every time. The Fallen, the governing force of Hell, offer him a pen to apply Houdini's punishments, so that he may write (for the pen is holy). Houdini is treated as a celebrity in hell and it continues like that as the Fallen's plan is put into place, but the punishment the choose is a good one and how it comes about is pretty damned good as well.

The Santaman Cycle -

Less of a short story and more of a truncated history, it tells of the fall of one world and the creation of another by the mythical figure known as, well... the Santaman. A red-suited figure with a sword and a wolf-stallion that avenges the ill-deeds of the rulers of the failing world and bestows his love upon the people by giving them another. Very short, but it provides a refreshing (and odd) look at the mythology of Santa and provides us an alternate version.

Hibakusha Dreaming in the Shadowy Land of Death -

The story takes place in Japan just after World War II and revolves around the human forms of several mythological figures from Japanese folklore. Each of them were in the war in some fashion and as a group they see an American psychologist to better learn English and to try and figure out who they really are. This is another favored story, there are bits and pieces that I do not like, but overall I found it to be quite good. The main character is the only one in the story that doesn't know who he is, but he was also the only one to be caught in the blast at Nagasaki.

One Small Step -

Intelligent monkeys take over a lunar base with murderous intent. Enough said.

Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing With the Sunrise -

The short story that would eventually become Lamentation. Having read the novel first, this short story read as little more than an excerpt with only a few small differences between the two. I will not say anymore because I do not need to, my praise for Lamentation goes right along with this.

So Sang the Girl Who Had No Name -

Another story based in hell and another favorite. It involves a trucker, his guilt, a mysterious woman, and the song she gives him. What I like about these stories is that they display a hell that is not filled with eternal torment. There are people there with lives after death. Yeah, they have their punishment, but it is not the sadistic sort that we all hear about. This is another example of it, with the story taking place first in a bar, then in a semi rig on the road, and then going full circle back to the bar. The people joke over their ever-warm beers as they wait out the terrors of night, hoping that their vehicles are not torn apart. In the end this story and the others like it are my favorite and for reasons that I can only partly explain. It is unfortunate that of the short stories you can find online from Scholes, none of them consist of these two.

Edward Bear and the Very Long Walk -

A science fiction story concerning Winnie the Pooh and a very long, very brave walk. This is one of the ones you can read online.

That Old-Time Religion -

A religious story that is rather odd. It involves personal gods and the one man who does not give in to it, who is also chosen by God to be Steve. Steve being the name that God refers to all the people he talks to by, no matter who it is. The personal gods spread like wildfire, after all who would not want to follow a god that actually granted you what you wished for? God, on the other hand, is not so happy at the newfound idolatry and being a bit of a jealous bastard enlists the help of "Steve". And then everything pretty much goes downhill. Good story, though a bit on the redneck side and the main character is a little unlikable at the beginning of the story.

East of Eden and Just a Bit South -

Redneck telling of Cane and Abel. Perhaps the least liked of the stories in the novel for me, but then I dislike redneck culture.

Fearsome Jones' Discarded Love Collection -

An ex-con with a habit of collecting bits of discarded love (rings, notes, etc...) finds something altogether different one day: a child, thrown in a trashcan by the mother. An ugly thing, three-eyed and psychic, he resolves to take care of it. The past is presented, including the tale of Jones' own son and the woman he once loved, as Jones tries his best to take care of a child with no previous experience. All right, so that one was especially shitty for a brief bit about the book, but it is a decent story, nothing special.

The Doom of Love in Small Places -

A bureaucratic nightmare of a love story. Taking place in the world given by The Santaman, the story tells of a supply manager and his fight to keep things the status quo. When a woman from one of the floors shows up looking for supplies, of which there is only a little... stashed away, she is told there is none, but is offered to wait until the shipment can arrive (of which there isn't one) as it took her several weeks just to make it down in the first place (what with the elevator broken). Yeah, another bad one, but this far into this damned post and I am ready to be done. Basically, another story that I found decent, but not really all that special. Others might take something else from it, but I did not.

Summer in Paris, Light from the Sky -

An alternate history that has Hitler arriving in Paris as a struggling artist and befriending Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin. This story makes you like Hitler and I am not joking about that. He never becomes that evil man we know of, but something else entirely. A man celebrated for what he did to help the Jewish. I liked this story, especially the bits of excerpts written about the new Hitler. You can find this one at Clarkesworld.

Last Flight of the Goddess -

I have to admit that this was my favorite of the bunch. It reminds me of Morgan's The Steel Remains. Not in content, as this story is relatively family-friendly, but in the way that is feels modern despite being epic fantasy. I found that not only did I find them similar, but I preferred this story over The Steel Remains. Last Flight of the Goddess just does it better. I'm not going to go on because I really don't have to. In this case I find it better that you see it for yourself and luckily enough Tor.com has provided the story for free via download of the .pdf file. You have to be registered in order to download it, but it is worth it. Here.

If you skipped all that, do not worry. I honestly cannot blame you. My overall thoughts are thus:

I stated in my commentary on Lamentation that Ken Scholes was "an author with a lot of imagination and a talent for storytelling" and I stick by that. Ken Scholes has a wild imagination that lends to his work in whatever he sets his mind to and he has the talent to pull it off. Though he has been forced to lay off writing short fiction as he works on his novels, I look forward to the day when I have yet another collection in my hands. His ideas are a wonder and he has the ability to execute them well. I anticipate that Scholes will be among the larger names in the genre within a few years, for his novels and hopefully for his short fiction.

Oh, and here is a link to a bunch of other short stories, some from this collection and some that are not.

« Last Edit: April 28, 2009, 02:28:35 AM by James »
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2009, 11:25:15 PM »

I have read and reviewed Ken's latest book, and sequel to Lamentation, Canticle here. It improved on all my issues with Lamentation and did a lot to advance the plot of the series. Moreover, it took this book for me to realize that Scholes is creating a series that is dark and violent, without the excess of cursing, sex, and violence--the majority of seen violence being the more poignant of deaths. In this, he is creating a series that is meant for adults, but can serve as an introduction to epic fantasy for younger teens without having to resort to the notion of it being a Young Adult series.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 11:28:08 PM by James »
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2010, 02:55:57 AM »

Finally got round to ordering Lamentation. I'll be reading it after Jemisin's. Damn, so much short fiction to be had, as well. Marvellous.
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Edhelur

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2010, 03:36:41 AM »

oh yes. I read Scholes' two novels fairly recently, and I've gotta say, they're pretty damn good. I agree with you by and large, James, though where you say that the plot remains at a steady jog, I've gotta add that it's a steady jog on a very pretty path with quite a lot of twists and turns timed very nicely. The pacing and plot were what caught me in Lamentation, and some of the characterization develops very nicely in Canticle.

But, one point....
Spoiler: both books' setting • show

I strongly suspect that the planet this takes place on is a terraformed moon (or possibly other planet, though orbit would be off) circling Earth, though I'm not sure. The "moon" is always described as blue and green, and at the end of Canticle, the character Neb is fantasizing/dreaming about returning to his "long-lost home" to that moon.
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2010, 05:36:48 PM »

The highest of all--and the one point that makes this book as good as it is--is the quality of the work. The book is very well written, a point that tends to be brought up when you see talk of Scholes writing

Began reading Lamentation, after I trudged through Jemisin's book, and it's like a ray of sunshine after a cloudy day, a rainbow after a shower of rain. Scholes is what I'd like to call, a serious writer. Considering this is his first novel, I'm surprised somewhat by the level of class. I guess his many days spent honing his craft in the short fiction department have paid dividends.

I'll be ordering Canticle straight-away. Good stuff.
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2010, 02:05:41 AM »

I could say a hell of a lot, but instead, just take me as my word: a must have.
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vega1

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2010, 04:52:19 PM »

I have both "Canticle" and "Lamentation" in hardcover on my to-read bookshelf, bought them both on ebay for quite a good price. Then I noticed the third "Antiphon" is out so I went out to Amazon to look at it.

Is it just me, or does it suck that the cover art/design does not match the first two at all? It shouldn't matter to me, but it does. In my mind if you've got a series going, make the cover design match throughout dammit. At least for the similar editions (like the hardcover 1st printings for example) makes me crazy when they are all sitting on the shelf together and they look like they don't belong together. Is that just OCD?
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2010, 10:17:50 PM »

I am very, very bitter about the artwork for Antiphon. The art for Lamentation and Canticle was beautiful and then they had to go and switch it to this horrible f**king character bullshit that every other novel on the shelves is starting to adopt "because it sells" (of course it sells, that is all there is). They changed the cover because the series is not doing as well as they'd hoped. Of course, perhaps if they bothered to market it at all, it would, but why would they do that?
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Alrin

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2010, 05:48:29 AM »

I knew you'd chime in on this. And again I say that, while it sucks that they changed the covers halfway through, the new covers themselves don't suck. McGrath's art is pretty f**king awesome.
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Alrin

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2010, 05:59:26 AM »

In fact, considering your attitude toward the new editions of Abercrombie's First Law, also by McGrath, I'm not sure where your fierce hatred for this latest change comes from.



I like this cover. Sure, the originals are superior, but that doesn't mean that ones like this should be discounted. If it brings in more readers, then so be it. All we have to do is look at Orbit's cover for Best Served Cold to see how this could have been far worse.

If it's just the fact that it changed mid-series, then again, yes that sucks. But the art itself is good. And "if it brings in more readers, then so be it," right?
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2010, 06:32:45 AM »

f**k this 'it could have been worse' bullshit. As if that should settle us. That cover sucks, and the change in Scholes' covers is a damn shame.
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2010, 10:11:23 PM »

Thing about that cover and the reason I can like it is... I don't have to buy it. I already went out and dropped the cash to buy the trade versions with the good artwork. In fact a lot of publishers have this scheme of giving HC and TPB books good artwork and then making the MMPB art utter shit for the crowd that partakes--just have to look at Mark Newton's covers to see that--and I don't give a damn if they do this because I do not buy MMPB editions.

Changing the artwork for the MMPB hurts no one, I certainly wouldn't handwave at a shelf of MMPB's and say, "Look at my glorious collection of cheap books of shit quality." They are for the people who don't want to pay HB or TPB price for books or buy them randomly. So, by all means, change the MMPB to shit art, I don't care, it doesn't effect me either way. But changing the hardcover art? Seriously? f**k the collectors or the fans, we need more random sales without bothering to market the book!

tl;dr version:

If it brings in more readers, then so be it--as long as it doesn't affect me. MMPB covers affect no one unless the book is only available in that format--in the end, you have a choice, you can pay more for a hardcover or trade paper back or less for a shit-quality MMPB. Personally, I try my best to never buy the latter.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2010, 04:44:51 PM by James »
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2010, 04:03:52 PM »

Dude, you're getting worse. You need to learn how to post again. You said the same thing about a hundred times in one post. Sort it out. We get it, you don't buy MMPB editions.


As someone who loved the first book, I'll be picking up the second as soon as it comes in paperback format here. Whatever the cover art.
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2010, 04:47:04 PM »

By a hundred times, you mean twice? Once in the longer version in the post and once in the brief version? And as someone who loved the first two books and the cover art, I will be waiting for paperback solely because I refuse to drop the money on a hardcover with shit art that clashes with the other covers on my shelf.
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Otters10

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2011, 09:43:20 PM »

I agree. Antiphon's cover is a completely unwelcome change from the original covers of Lamentation and Canticle.
I went online to order Antiphon, but when I saw the cover I stopped - it looks like a completely different book series meant for a younger audience.
It actually upset me enough that I emailed Ken Scholes asking if there were plans to print book covers that would be consistent with the first two books.
Surprisingly, Ken responded:

"Ah. Covers. Alas. Tor handles all of that and I have little say. There were concerns about sales on the first two - folks who read the books loved them and the critics mostly did too. But they just weren't getting on shelves in stores. Someone felt a new look was needed. I'm a huge fan of Greg's covers and was sad that I didn't get to see his vision of the rest of the series covers. Hopefully, if the series continues to grow in popularity, we can figure out a better situation in a reprinted definitive edition. But even then authors get little say in these things. Like you, I like my books to match so fingers crossed. Meanwhile check out the covers to the French editions. Marc Simonetti did all three and they're amazing.

Thanks for writing!  I should be wrapping Requiem by Thanksgiving."
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Great One

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #16 on: October 26, 2011, 10:56:14 PM »

Thanks for the info. :)

I still haven't read 'Canticle'. Now that I'm in the proximity of an actually functioning, respectable library, I'll be correcting this.
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2011, 11:50:33 PM »

I have seen Antiphon in the store numerous times and have been tempted to buy it, but cannot summon up the desire to do so. For one, the version is MMPB. Second, it has that cover.

And yeah, the French covers are damn good... as are many fantasy covers coming out of France these days (they also get points for consistently putting out cloaked character covers that aren't shit).
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2011, 03:06:27 AM »

Antiphon ended up being the best looking book we offered when I was bored, at work, in need of something to read during my lunch break. Twenty pages or so into the book and I am struggling to continue. Why? Because Scholes appears to have developed "Shitty Sentences Tourette's". You will be reading along, perfectly content with the unimpressive prose, when all of a sudden you hit a sentence that stops you cold. The quality ranges from "sounds wrong, somehow" to "cliched drivel" and even, "this entire scene has taken a turn for the ridiculous, now." Did this plague the first two books, too? Did I miss it, somehow?

I really enjoyed the first two books, but I am having a hard time giving a shit about this book...
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James

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Re: Ken Scholes
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2015, 06:38:02 AM »

Ken Scholes just released Blue Yonders, Grateful Pies, and Other Fanciful Feasts, his third collection of short fiction. I really enjoyed the first two (more than his longer work, actually). As for The Psalms of Isaak, Scholes said that Hymn was halfway done this past July.
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