Release Day Geekery: A Snake Lies Waiting Releases Tomorrow!
Hey, this is Alex, and I’m not even going to pretend to be able to act cool about this. I’ve been waiting for this for too long. Y’all. Y’ALL. A Snake Lies Waiting, part 3 of Legend of the Condor Heroes comes out tomorrow. I have been itching for this book for a minute now. If you’re not aware, Condor Heroes is a semi-historical wuxia novel, written in the 1950s by Jin Yong (Real name: Louis Cha), never before officially translated and released in the US. It can be described as the Chinese equivalent to Lord of the Rings–since its release, it’s been deeply influential and popular, with a deep cultural penetration. It mainly follows the life and adventures of a young man named Guo Jing and, to a lesser degree, the love of his life Lotus Huang, in the early 1200s during the Jin-Song Wars in China (Short version: China split into north and south empires. The Song Dynasty is the original and more populated of the two nations, but their corrupt and ineffective leadership lets the Jin dynasty, which has some talented leaders, have a legitimate shot at completely taking over.) For more context, Genghis Khan is also a side character, and the seeds of the Mongolian Empire are planted in the time period of this book–Genghis Khan starts off as Temujin, an important warlord of the Mongolians but not yet THE warlord. Finding this series has been, without a doubt, one of my favorite things in the past couple of years. I love it when a book teaches me something new as it entertains, and this has history and philosophy along with the incredible action (wuxia is a genre where sufficiently trained martial artists can perform superhuman, even essentially magical, feats of prowess and strength thanks to hard work and training. Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and you’ll be in the neighborhood.) Pretty much, the characters are fighting like this on page. A common recurring element in Condor Heroes is the pressure point hit to disable someone, which ends the fight in this clip. For those who are aware of the series, possibly because I’ve geeked out to you in the store (Hi! Thank you for listening!), I think in the end Condor Heroes will be “Character Growth: How to Do It.” Guo Jing starts off an innocent, even naive, young man who believes strongly in the virtues of generosity, loyalty, and patriotism. As the story progresses, he remains generous, loyal, and patriotic, but he gets wiser and more nuanced about it. A Snake Lies Waiting has this recurring element where Guo finds a historical memorial of some kind, and finds out about the person it dedicates; in some cases his evaluation of the great names of the past can be quite harsh when before he might have simply revered them. His increasing tendency toward independent thought has been interesting to see, and I’m curious where he’ll end up in part 4. Lotus is also maturing; in the beginning, she’s clever (a genius, really) but spoiled and whimsical. Her father, one of the great martial arts masters, provided her an excellent education and trained her, but she thought actual practice was boring so she wasn’t as accomplished a martial artist as she could have been. Her growth has been about her learning there’s some things that need to be handled seriously, and her growth in power keeps pace with Guo Jing. I’m quite interested to see who she’ll be when this is all done. Yes, A Snake Lies Waiting is the third of four parts, and it shows: Subplots are beginning to be resolved, and the tensions between some main characters are building toward some sort of resolution, but it doesn’t truly stand on its own as a narrative–I imagine someone who hasn’t read A Hero Born and A Bond Undone would be quite lost at the characters who suddenly show up, not to mention it casually mentions a character backhanding a 200-pound shark out of the water. Hitting that hard is just something master martial artists can do in this series and it’s described and treated as such. For all its quirks, though, I’m excited and pleased with this book, and now I’m waiting for A Heart Divided to come out. In several months. Dang it.