This week, in the midst of looking back on the year, and the decade, that are coming to a close, we're also offering you something fresh: a debut novelist, Jesse Bullington, who will be guest-blogging at Omni all week. Jesse's debut,The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, was released this month by Orbit (with a gorgeous cover, designed by Keith Hayes and Lauren Panepinto with an illustration by Istvan Orosz, that could easily have been a contender in our Best Covers of the Year competition). Set in the plague-wracked Europe of 1364, it's been described already as "violent, nasty, and filled with unpleasant people" (by a 5-star customer reviewer) and "Darkly funny, profane, erudite, bawdy, and wickedly original" (by our own Jeff VanderMeer, who, full disclosure, has been a fan and supporter of Mr. Bullington for a long time and first turned us on to his work). The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log calls it "one of the most original fantasy novels I've read in years" and finds it "immensely refreshing when someone comes along and kicks the genre up its leather britches-covered behind like this."
Perhaps the best introduction to The Sad Tale, and to its fraternal heroes, are its own opening paragraphs (following a short and spurious preface), which remind me of nothing so much (and I mean this as high praise) as the gleefully nasty openings of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Twits:
To claim that the Brothers Grossbart were cruel and selfish brigands is to slander even the nastiest highwaymen, and to say that they were murderous swine is an insult to even the filthiest boar. They were Grossbarts through and true, and in many lands such a title still carries serious weight. While not as repugnant as their father nor as cunning as his, horrible though both men were, the Brothers proved worse. Blood can go bad in a single generation or it can be distilled down through the ages into something truly wicked, which was the case with those abominable twins, Hegel and Manfried.
Both were average of height but scrawny of trunk. Manfried possessed disproportionately large ears, while Hegel's nose dwarfed many a turnip in size and knobbiness. Hegel's copper hair and bushy eyebrows contrasted the matted silver of his brother's crown, and both were pockmarked and gaunt of cheek. They had each seen only twenty-five years but possessed beards of such noteworthy length that from even a short distance they were often mistaken for old men. Whose was longest proved a constant bone of contention between the two.
Does that catch your fancy? Stay tuned all week to see if Jesse himself will be cunning, repugnant, or as pleasant as he has been in his emails with me. --Tom