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"The Explorers Guild by... Kevin Costner?" Topic


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1,292 hits since 20 Nov 2016
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Double W Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2016 2:32 p.m. PST

So a couple weeks ago I stumbled across an adventure novel called The Explorers Guild, Vol. 1: A Passage to Shambala, co-written by Kevin Costner. Yes, he of Dances with Wolves fame and Waterworld infamy.

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It is a self-described throwback to 19th- and early-20th century adventure fiction, but with a cynical, modern 21st century tone. (Kind of like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- the comic, not the movie.) Unlike a lot of novels supposedly written by celebrities, Costner apparently did have a hand in shaping the plot, although the top writing credit goes to screenwriter Jon Baird. It is also illustrated by Rick Ross. The Explorers Guild is half first-person novel and half graphic novel, with most of the conversations between characters illustrated in comic book panels.

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The first thing to point out is the book is beautiful to look at. The illustrations -- most in sepia tone -- are fantastic and capture the style those in many young adult novels I grew up with, like Treasure Island and King Solomon's Mines. The pages are intentionally stained to make them look older.

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The plot is set in the latter years of World War I and follows the quest of a small company of deserters, mercenaries and all-around dangerous people in a hunt for the mythical city of Shamballa. It is the same world we know but with some fantastic twists like those in a Jules Verne novel, so you have features such as a Turkish palace precariously situated on a narrow mesa and navigable underground rivers. The Explorers Guild of the title is something like the real-world Explorers Club but with an emphasis on seeking out the magical "unknown world."

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If this sounds exciting, I'm about to deflate your expectations a bit. Unfortunately the book is a narrative mess. As I mentioned earlier, half of the novel is presented in first-person. Sometimes this takes the shape of letters or journal entries from different characters, but most of the time a narrator is dictating the plot in real time while directly addressing the reader ("Gentle reader…") The rest is mostly conversations presented in comic book panels. The two narrative approaches really do not mesh. I really wish the authors had chosen one over the over, although the first-person real-time commentary -- while clever at first -- wears thin pretty quickly. Also, the plot is muddled. It has some high points, but the authors are not interested in telling a straight-forward adventure story but instead making some greater point about the meaning of life, the universe, and all that. Maybe I'm too dumb to understand, but I really didn't get what they were trying to say and think all the philosophizing took away from the fun of the adventure.

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Should you get it? Well, it is a beautiful book to look at. Maybe check out a copy from your local library or see if you have any friends who have it and will loan it to you. It is in paperback now, selling for $18 USD (unless you buy it cheaper online). And don't be turned off the title says "Vol. 1." The book is a self-contained story, so you don't need to wait for future sequels to find out how ends. Official website link: link

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2016 2:47 p.m. PST

I bought this and found it entertaining in a "boys own" sort of way.

Personal logo PaulCollins Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2016 2:48 p.m. PST

By the way, I think Double W gives an accurate summation of it, although, like I said, I enjoyed it.

Double W Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2016 2:52 p.m. PST

Thanks. Also, I should say this is one of the few books these days you really should buy a physical copy of rather than the e-reader version.

Zargon Inactive Member21 Nov 2016 6:55 a.m. PST

So basically another Horrywood film script cribbing off the old boys own tales and hoping for a warm reaction then they can pull some gelt out of pockets and turn it into a movie. Yes getting it out from the library is a great idea if only to use the contents for pulp gaming. If these guys were salty enough they'd think about doing it as a animated film in the best style of Studio Ghibli, then my ears would prick up.

FincasKhalmoril Inactive Member14 Jan 2017 2:17 p.m. PST

Well, I got it as a Christmas present and just finished reading it. I have to agree with Double W's criticism. The book is beautiful. A real eye catcher, even the paperback is stunning and very well made.

It is a nice read, and I didn't regret reading it fully.

However there are significant flaws in the plot, which all too often gets carried away in detail and stories within stories. That is nice at first, but it takes quickly away a lot of the suspense.

One example: my wife and friends who got interested by the nice cover and presentation continually asked me what the book was about and it takes about 500 pages for the story to really start. And then, when you finally get the solution it is okayish but not as brilliant as you had hoped after nearly 700 pages. I won't spoil it here, but the way historical facts are bent to fit into the major magical plot was not to my liking and seemed overly constructed.

Then the mix of graphic novel and prose is very fascinating at first but quickly get really boring. Instead of using the advantages of both media, the seem to switch arbitrarily. After the very good beginning, the comic parts are always 4 panels, 2x2. No splash-pages no interaction, not at all on the skill level of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The prose parts make the same mistake, in my opinion at least, and we hear the narrator all too often. This could have been a great possibility to introduce more letter, maps, reports and tc., but after about half throughout the story it only the narrator anymore and it gets a bit boring.

Should you buy it? I agree with Double W: it's a beautiful book and it's a story with a real end, so it's not jus part one f a never ending series.

Yet neither the plot, nor the way it is told (nor the world building) were as good as I had hoped and I'm not going for volume 2 should that be published.

To me it seems as if the authors were so excited by their ideas and concept that the unnecessarily bloated the story. And as I said the way it is told could be improved as well as the integration of real snippets of history.

SGT Yuengling Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member01 Jun 2017 6:01 a.m. PST

So a movie or mini-series would be better than the book?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2017 7:00 p.m. PST

Lol. Only if Costner isn't allowed to narrate (or speak at all, for that matter).

Dan

Legion 403 Jun 2017 5:31 a.m. PST

May be entertaining like LoEG … Might make a good movie or mini-series too.

FincasKhalmoril Inactive Member18 Jun 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

A mini-series might actually make sense, although they would somehow reduce the amount of characters involved rather drastically.

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