Czajkowski, James 1961–
Czajkowski, James 1961–
(James Clemens, James Rollins)
PERSONAL: Born 1961, in Chicago, IL. Education: University of Missouri, D.V.M., 1985.
CAREER: Former veterinarian in Sacramento, CA; currently full-time freelance writer.
FANTASY NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM JAMES CLEMENS
Wit'ch Fire ("The Banned and the Banished" series), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1998.
Wit'ch Storm ("The Banned and the Banished" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1999.
Wit'ch War ("The Banned and the Banished" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.
Wit'ch Gate ("The Banned and the Banished" series), Del Rey (New York, NY), 2001.
Wit'ch Star ("The Banned and the Banished" series), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
Shadowfall: The First Chronicle of the Godslayer ("Godslayer" series), Roc (New York, NY), 2005.
Hinterland ("Godslayer" series), Orbit (London, England), 2006.
NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM JAMES ROLLINS
Subterranean (science fiction), Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
Excavation (science fiction), HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2000.
Amazonia (science fiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Ice Hunt (science fiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Sandstorm (science fiction), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel (suspense), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: American author James Czajkowski developed an appreciation for reading and writing in high school, but instead followed his interest in medicine by earning a doctorate of veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri. He later opened a veterinary clinic in Sacramento, California. Czajkowski, who writes under the pseudonyms James Clemens and James Rollins, began writing short fiction in his spare time, and eventually graduated to book-length manuscripts. At the Maui Writers Conference in 1996, he entered a manuscript into a writers' contest and earned the attention that led to the publishing of his first novel. Czajkowski, who counts Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and H. Rider Haggard among his literary influences, eventually gave up his veterinary clinic to become a full-time novelist who primarily writes fantasy as Clemens, and science fiction and suspense as Rollins.
Under the name James Clemens, Czajkowski published his first novel, Wit'ch Fire, in 1998. This title is also the first book in the author's "The Banned and the Banished" series. The book and series focus on main character Elena, a young woman searching for the answer to why she suddenly developed magical powers. After her parents are killed and her brother captured, Elena is pursued by villains looking to steal her magic and cause her harm. She is helped along the way by odd characters that include a nymph, giant, and ogre. Many reviewers welcomed Wit'ch Fire as an enjoyable read, sometimes commenting on Czajkowski's clever imagination in creating his characters and plot. "It's a good start to the series with appealing characters, nasty monsters, action and adventure," wrote Hilary Williamson in a review for Book Loons online. Others appreciated the author's development of a multidimensional story and exciting premise. Czajkowski "demonstrates considerable skill at combining swift pacing with character development in this gracefully written beginning to a projected high fantasy quest," observed Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada.
Czajkowski went on to write four more books in his "The Banned and the Banished" series. Wit'ch Gate was published in 2001, and was the series' fourth book. This story continues to follow the witch Elena, who is searching for the weirgates, which must be destroyed in order to relieve the blight brought on by the Dark Lord. Elena and her friends split up, and each group pursues one of the four weirgates, encountering many hazards along their respective paths. Critics continued to respond positively to Czajkowski's work with this installment. The book is "a solid addition to the growing body of panoramic fantasy," commented Cassada in another review for Library Journal. "The author supplies enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing what will happen next," concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Czajkowski is also the author of several novels that are not part of his first series. In 2002 the author wrote Amazonia, the story of a group of scientists searching through the jungles of the Amazon for a lost biopharmaceutical exploratory expedition. They also seek the answer to why a U.S. Special Forces agent from that expedition went from having only one arm to emerging from the jungle with two. The agent died shortly after coming out from the jungle, and his dead body has now launched a disease that could wipe out the U.S. population. Czajkowski's novel "reads like an adventure flick with breakneck pacing and lots of gory details," wrote Gavin Quinn in a review for Booklist. Many critics, in fact, liked the author's adherence to the adventure novel tradition. "This is old-fashioned, rugged adventure in the tradition of Haggard and Crichton, told with energy, excitement and a sense of fun," observed one Publishers Weekly contributor.
Czajkowski followed up the success of Amazonia with the release of Ice Hunt in 2003. Also an independent novel, Ice Hunt finds another group of U.S. scientists uncovering the secrets stored in an abandoned World War II-era Russian base in the Arctic. Meanwhile, the U.S. military finds itself in a covert power struggle over the Russian base. Nearby, a mythical and frightening creature hunts the people living around the base.
Ice Hunt was met with positive reviews overall. For some readers, the author's sense of humor was a welcomed addition to typical books written in the action-adventure genre. The author "writes with intelligence, clarity, and a refreshing sense of humor," attested a Kirkus Reviews contributor. According to others, Czajkowski again delivers an imaginative and exhilarating story that keeps readers guessing about the outcome. "New readers will be delighted and established fans will find exactly what they have come to expect: a fun and fast-paced story that is full of suspense," wrote Quinn in another Booklist review.
In 2005 Czajkowski began work on another series, "Godslayer." The first novel in this series is Shadowfall: The First Chronicle of the Godslayer. Here the author tells the story of Tylar de Noche, a knight who witnessed the murder of one of the hundred gods of the Nine Lands. On the run, Tylar is searching for the creature who is responsible for the murder, and he finds a collection of various outcasts crazy enough to help him. Czajkowski again earned praise for his work; readers particularly enjoyed the author's intense development of another fictional and fantastical world. "Clemens, a seasoned fantasist, has broken darkness down into its various aspects and developed at great, possibly excessive, length how those aspects affect the world and the characters he creates," observed Roland Green in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2002, Gavin Quinn, review of Amazonia, p. 971; June 1, 2003, Gavin Quinn, review of Ice Hunt, p. 1746; December 15, 2003, Barbara Baskin, review of Ice Hunt, p. 762; May 1, 2005, David Pitt, review of Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel, p. 1534; July 2005, Roland Green, review of Shadowfall: The First Chronicle of the Godslayer, p. 1911.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2001, review of Wit'ch Gate, p. 1331; February 1, 2002, review of Amazonia, p. 135; May 15, 2003, review of Ice Hunt, p. 711.
Library Journal, June 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Wit'ch Fire, p. 111; May 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Wit'ch Storm, p. 131; August 1999, Denise Dumars, review of Wit'ch Fire, p. 176; July 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Wit'ch War, p. 147; November 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Wit'ch Gate, p. 100; June 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Shadowfall, p. 65.
Publishers Weekly, November 4, 1996, Paul Nathan, "Deep-sea Adventure," p. 23; April 12, 1999, review of Wit'ch Storm, p. 59; May 3, 1999, review of Subterranean, p. 73; July 3, 2000, review of Wit'ch War, p. 53; October 8, 2001, review of Wit'ch Gate, p. 50; March 4, 2002, review of Amazonia, p. 58; June 30, 2003, review of Ice Hunt, p. 54; June 21, 2004, review of Sandstorm, p. 44; May 16, 2005, review of Map of Bones, p. 39; June 13, 2005, review of Shadowfall, p. 37.
School Library Journal, November 2004, Pam Johnson, review of Sandstorm, p. 177.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 17, 2005, Jeff Ayers, "Author Sets Team on Trail of Religious Relics in 'Map of Bones'."
AllSciFi.com, http://www.allscifi.com/ (November 20, 2005), reviews of Wit'ch War, Wit'ch Fire, and Wit'ch Gate.
Book Loons, http://www.bookloons.com/ (November 20, 2005), Hilary Williamson, review of Wit'ch Fire.
James Clemens Home Page, http://www.jamesclemens.com (November 20, 2005), personal information about James Czajkowski.
Rose and Thorn, http://members.aol.com/Raven763/Clemensint.html/ (November 20, 2005), interview with James Czajkowski.
Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (December 20, 2005), Claire E. White, interview with James Czajkowski.