I was familiar with Diane Duane from her early work in Star Trek novels (Spock's World, anyone?). Besides those best-sellers with Leonard Nimoy on the front, she is well-known as an author of young adult fantasy.
Duane has recently started up quite a furor with her new internet installment publishing scheme for The Big Meow. I read Diane's blog (I read every blog) so I heard all about her plans to follow in the trail blazed by Lawrence Watt-Evans with The Spriggan Mirror (in 2004) and Stephen King with The Plant (in 2000).
King's effort failed; Watt-Evans succeeded. King failed and suspended publication of his serial novel after about six months; Watt-Evans succeeded and not only financed the writing of his entire novel but then sold publication rights to a small press for (one hopes) further financial reward. Both King and Watt-Evans are, like Duane, already established authors trading on their existing authorship. King had, obviously, a larger fan base. Personally I attribute the failure of The Plant to the model he used; he set a condition based on percentage of readers paying a fee and required payment for each chapter, instead of basing his decision on overall income and allowing a 'subscription' for the entire book.
Duane has followed in Watt-Evans footsteps by setting an undisclosed 'break-even' point at which chapters will be posted on the internet for subscribers. A week later, the chapters will be made available to the general public.
I did not pay Stephen King any money for The Plant. I did send Watt-Evans some dough for The Spriggan Mirror, once I learned it was the only way I was going to get to see more Ethshar novels.
I find the whole online publishing venture mildly interesting and I might want to participate, but I'm certainly not going to jump into a series mid-swing. That is VERBOTEN! So I reserved So You Want To Be A Wizard (the first book in the first series set in this universe) at the library and read it last weekend.
So You Want To Be A Wizard a fairly typical 'precocious child discovers magical artifact that ushers him/her into a world of magic' scenario. There are a few things that make it stand out (besides a great title).
First, it's set in Manhattan and on Long Island, and set well. The geography is lovingly described in realistic detail that really grounds the action.
Second, ethnicity. The main character's name is short for Juanita. Her little wizard friend is Kit Rodriguez. THANK YOU! It is such a relief to have characters in a fantasy novel that aren't lily white little British kids.
Third, the standard good v. evil schema is given an interesting and somewhat sophisticated twist. Evil isn't some big evil nemesis dude. It's entropy! I can buy into that. Who hasn't railed against the inevitability of death? The horrible thing about the feeling that everything in the world is getting worse all the time is that it's true!
We hate it.