Epic Aikido

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If you are looking for a good book to read and do not want to pay an immense amount of money, consider picking up a used copy of Helm by Steven Gould, or score a digital copy for your e-reader.

Helm is a magnificently crafted epic set on a semi-medieval space colony.  Gould’s technical skills shine through in his prose.  Other authors would take a trilogy of novels to incorporate the plotline that Gould places in a single volume.  Gould is a master of the simple dictum: omit needless words.  Helm makes for a slower read page per page as much is left unstated, but still plainly evident through dialogue and reaction.

The world of Agatsu hosts a marvelous blend of feudal politics with modern Western outlooks, with a melange of conservative, libertarian, and liberal sensibilities that does not rub anyone’s nose in a political playbook.  The book is older, but that makes the considerate political and philosophical tones that much more precious in our increasingly divided times.

Gould uses strong, vibrant characters who are sympathetic and understandable without a degree in history, politics, or physics.  Helm blends the most tasteful aspects of a war story, coming of age, martial arts training stories, and political evolutions.  The young are vibrantly and tenderly young and idealistic.  The elder characters are wonderfully flavored.  There is a lot of back-story and nuance from the older generation laid out like a tapestry on the wall.

The adventure weaves through court politics, a small war or two, to a humble mountain dojo.  Helm maintains a clear point of view and lets unnecessary details slide by in the fight, but zooms in crystal clear when it truly matters.  That’s not something many authors do well, and Gould should be congratulated.

The narrative grows more than it races along, step by step in logical and natural sequence that follows along with the protagonist’s step from adolescence to adult responsibility.  The new society’s morals and customs seem natural, logical, and an easy fit for the story.

Highly recommended.

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