When Robert Runté suggested recommending Dave Duncan on this blog I jumped at the chance to feature an author whose work I’d known since I first began selling books in Calgary in 1978. The Guild Gallery did not stock many science fiction or fantasy books, but we did sell those written by local author, Dave Duncan! He was a best-selling author back then, and I was so pleased when Robert mentioned he was recommending Dave’s 50th book – and that Dave didn’t even begin writing until he was in his 50s. What an inspiration to every writer!
The Eye of Strife
by Dave Duncan
Genre: Fantasy (with equal parts mystery, political intrigue, swashbuckling adventure, and wry humour)
Quick description: The high priest has summoned an improbable group of witnesses/suspects to explain what they know of the Eye of Strife—a powerful religious relic. As each tells their overlapping tales of high adventure, the listeners have to work out who is lying and what really happened.
Why I recommend this book: Actually, I recommend all of Dave Duncan’s books (all of which are still in print and readily available) but what makes Eye of Strife particularly remarkable is that it’s his fiftieth published novel. And he started writing in his mid-50s after a long and successful career as a petroleum geologist.
Dave’s illustrious writing career always inspired me in my own writing—in contrast to the usual coverage of the latest wunderkind, which often seemed to imply that if one hadn’t hit it big by age 22, one never would. If Duncan can write fifty great books after age fifty, then maybe there is hope for the rest of us yet!
Duncan may have started late, but he came out of the gate with a bang (his early Reluctant Swordsman and Man of his Word series remain his most popular to this day) and has never faltered. Duncan has always been in the top three of my favourite authors, whether he was writing fantasy or science fiction; whether writing under his own name or one of his pseudonyms (adopted because he was always more prolific than any one publisher could handle); or whether writing a series or a standalone novel. There isn’t a single lemon in the bunch. On the contrary, Duncan is always pushing himself to try new things, to move forward, to renew himself in his writing. He is constantly surprising me, except in the consistently high quality of his story-telling and imagination.
The Eye of Strife is as good as anything that has gone before. An incredibly fun romp, it is a great place to dip one’s toe into the Duncan canon because it has all the Duncan trademarks: compelling and consistent world-building; action that arises logically out of the characters’ differing motivations; page-turning adventure; and an underlying current of wry humour. This is Duncan at his best, but in an easily accessible standalone novel—in contrast to, say, the much darker Chronicles of the King Blades series, or committing oneself to the seven sequel addiction that inevitably follows from reading The Magic Casement (my personal favourite.) An easy breezy summer read, I cannot recommend Eye of Strife too highly whether Duncan is new to you, or you have been a long-time fan.
Robert Runté’s latest title or project: My own latest publication was ‘Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading” in Canadian Fantastic In Focus: New Perspectives. Allan Weiss, ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2014. [The original conference presentation of this paper won an Aurora Award, 2014] The article examines both the impact of the peer group on reading, and Canadian themes in Canadian SF.
Robert Runté was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2014.