Friday, May 06, 2016

So Long and a Big Thank You to SF Signal

Since it is public now, I can post my thoughts about John DeNardo and JP Franz closing the doors of the Hugo Award Winning SF Signal.



I’ve been engaged in the online genre community since I joined the SFFWorld forums in 2000, even more so when I began writing for SFFWorld in 2003. Around that time, SF Signal launched and grew into one of the three or four mainstays of the SFF intarwebs, attracting great contributors, fostering relationships with writers and fans, and helping to promote a true sense community within the genre and winning 3 Hugo Awards, 2 for best Fanzine (2012 & 2013) and one for best Fancast in 2014.


Writing for SF Signal helped me to engage in the community, I came to know more people and become friends with many of them, including peers from other genre websites, SF publishing professionals, as well as writers. To name a few I’ve hung out with in “real life,” John Anealio, Fred Kiesche, Shecky, and Ed Lazellari. I’ve made some really good online friendships as a result of SF Signal as well, not the least of which include Paul WeimerJeff PattersonSarah ChornKristin Centorcelli (aka My Bookish Ways)Patrick HesterDavid AnnadaleAndrea Johnson,  Michael R. UnderwoodMike MartinezShana DuBoisDjango WexlerAndrew LiptakJohn H. Stevens among others.

Thanks must to also go Patrick Hester for throwing out the (albeit mass) email invite to be on the SF Signal podcast and allowing me on the podcast not once (Episode 228: Upcoming 2014 Books We Need To Read And Why) but twice (Episode 273: The Best SFF Book, TV Show, Movie, Comic Book, Game or other thing you consumed in 2014). This led to appearances on other Podcasts (Functional Nerds run by John Anealio and Patrick and Rocket Talk with Justin Landon). 

John was a great editor, as was Kristin Centorcelli during her tenure as Associate Editor. allowing me to bounce ideas off of them for my contributions and providing smart suggestions when I was having a tough time with a book review or article I wanted to post to SF Signal. If, rather hopefully when, I meet them in “real life” I can buy them each an adult beverage of their choice, because they more than deserve it.

I completely understand John and JP’s reasons for closing SF Signal. To run a webzine that has new posts nearly every hour nearly every day can be (and is in the case of places like Tor.com) a full time job. Yet these two generous, passionate fans did this not only of their own free time, but their own money for server/hosting costs. Granted, they do run advertisements, but much of that income (HA! Income from websites) went back into making it possible for SF Signal to be the active, robust web site – COMMUNITY – into which it so wonderfully grew over the years.

Bottom line, everybody involved in SF Signal had enthusiasm for SFF, the community, and sharing this enthusiasm with each other. John and JP helped to make the genre and online community a great place, were big contributors to the friendly atmosphere of not only the online genre community, but the current genre community as a whole. As such, the genre community as a whole is a little lesser without SF Signal as an active part of it.

Where does this leave me? Well, like I said, I completely understand their reasons. I’ll still be contributing quite a bit over at SFFWorld and whenever Tor.com will have me, I’ll be there, too. My blog is going through some changes. As regular readers may have noticed, I didn’t post a Books in the Mail this past Sunday, I’ll no longer be posting those. Other than that, the future is still open and I may touch upon that in a later post.

But again, a big thank you to John, JP, Patrick and all the other great folks behind the scenes at SF Signal. It was a great run for them and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be part of it for the past few years.



For a really great summation of the situation from an outsider of SF Signal, but a great fan (and Hugo winner in his own right), Aidan Moher did a nice little twitter “rant” which he Storified:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-23)

I legitimately want to read every one of these books, I hope time permits and other reading priorities allows for that at some point.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray (Star Wars Books / Del Rey, Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Gray wrote the very well received Star Wars: Lost Stars and likely because of that, got the crack at writing the Leia novel set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.


From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars comes a thrilling novel set in the years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

WITNESS THE BIRTH OF THE RESISTANCE

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing. . . .



The Summer Dragon (The First Book of The Evertide) by Todd Lockwood (DAW Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Most fantasy readers know Todd Lockwood because of his amazing covers, but he’s also a writer. Todd is known for painting some incredible dragons, so of course he’s going to write about them, too. Really looking forward to this one. 



The debut novel from the acclaimed illustrator–a high fantasy adventure featuring dragons and deadly politics.


Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she hopes for a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. But the war goes badly, and the needs of the Dragonry dash her hopes. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon—one of the rare and mythical High Dragons—makes an appearance in her quiet valley. The Summer Dragon is an omen of change, but no one knows for certain what kind of change he augurs. Political factions vie to control the implied message, each to further their own agendas.

 
 And so Maia is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors—thralls of the enemy—and a faceless creature drawn from her fears. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she uncovers secrets that challenge her understanding of her world and of herself.


The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Trade Paperback 05/03/2016) – This is set in the same world of Okorafor’s Who Fears Death and looks awesome.

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell….

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.


Threading the Needle (Erenthal #2) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW, Hardcover 07/05/2016) – Second in Palmatier’s Erenthal series. I still have the first on Mount Toberead. I’ve enjoyed his writing in the past so with the second book arriving, I may finally dive into the first one Shattering the Ley. This one has another gorgeous cover from Stephan Martiniere.


The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.

The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and in small enclaves beyond the city, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains. But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is known as Father....

He is the same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world!


The Waking Fire (Book One of Draconis Memoria) by Anthony Ryan (Ace Hardcover 07/05/2016) – This the launch of a new series from Ryan, whose Blood Song blew me away when Ace published it in 2013. The sequel, not quite as much. But I am looking forward to diving into this because Ryan has some good storytelling chops and the premise is interesting.


Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-16)


Just a few books this week, a trilogy of books in fact.
Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds #1) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.

“BETWEEN TWO THORNS shows the darkness beneath the glamour of the social Season. Learning to be a young lady has never seemed so dangerous.”—Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award-winning fantasy author

Any Other Name (The Split Worlds #2) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.
Thought-provoking, wonderfully inventive, and filled with treachery and mystery, the soaring second book in the Split Worlds Series pulls Cathy, Will, Max, and Sam deeper into the twisted world of Fae-touched society.

Cathy has been reluctantly married into the Iris family and moves to Londinium, the magical Nether reflection of London, setting her on a collision course with the restrictive, high-pressure social circles that demand propriety and obedience, things the vocal and free-spirited Cathy cannot abide. Will, meanwhile, is trying to find a compromise for his new bride, but whispers in his ear are urging him towards dark deeds…

Sam, determined to dive back into the world of Exilium to rescue innocents, crosses paths with Cathy and Max once again as Max and the gargoyle uncover more information about the mysterious Agency and the chain of events that wiped out the Bath Chapter. Sacrifices, terrible deals, and dreadful revelations mark this second installment of Emma Newman’s wondrous Split Worlds series.

“Emma Newman has built a modern fantasy world with such élan and authority her ideas of why and how the seemingly irrational world of Fairy works should be stolen by every other writer in the field.”—Bill Willingham, Eisner Award-winning creator of FABLES

“With a feather-light touch, Emma Newman has crafted a very English fantasy, one brilliantly realised and quite delightful, weaving magic, mystery and parallel worlds together with ease.”—Adam Christopher, author of MADE TO KILL

All is Fair (The Split Worlds #3) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Caught in the insidious designs of powerful puppet-masters and playing a life-or-death game for control, Cathy and her comrades face their greatest challenge yet: changing the balance of power in the Split Worlds.

Now at the heart of the Londinium Court, deceit and murder track Will’s steps as he assumes his new role as Duke. Faced with threats to his throne and his life, the consequences of his bloody actions are already coming back to haunt him...

Meanwhile, Cathy, wrestling with the constraints of the Agency and Dame Iris, comes to terms with her new status in Fae-touched society and seeks others who feel just as restricted by its outdated social rules. As Max works with Cathy to uncover the horrors that underpin Fae-touched society, he bears witness as the final blow is struck against the last Sorcerers in Albion…

Darkly imaginative, vividly detailed, and genre-defying in scope, ALL IS FAIR is at once a thrilling and intellectual journey into worlds beyond sight.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-09)

The first full week of April brings unseasonably cold weather in New Jersey and these books to my doorstep.

Breath of Earth by Bet Cato (Harper Voyager Trade Paperback 08/23/2016)– Cato steps away from her Steampunk series for this new alternate history.

After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Fall of Light (The Kharkanas Trilogy) by Steven Erikson (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – I stalled on the 7th book of the main Malazan saga and couldn’t finish the first in this trilogy, Forge of Darkness but I did enjoy those first 7 Malazan books



Steven Erikson returns to the Malazan world with the second book in a dark and revelatory new epic fantasy trilogy, one that takes place a millennium before the events in his New York Times bestselling Malazan Book of the Fallen. Fall of Light continues to tell the tragic story of the downfall of an ancient realm, a story begun in the critically acclaimed Forge of Darkness.

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power... and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm. As rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...


Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt--a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch


Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

This chilling novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in mainstream horror and dark fantasy.


Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files Book One) by Sylvain Neuvel (Harper Voyager Hardcover Paperback 04/26/2015) – An impressive looking debut and the launch of a series for Neuvel. This is the final copy of the ARC I received earlier in the year.

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-02)

A few books this week, as usual. You should all know the drill by now.

Blood in the Water (Destroyermen Book 11) by Taylor Anderson (Roc Hardcover 06/15/2016 ) – I’ve read and enjoyed the first trilogy (Into the Storm, Crusade, and (Maelstrom) and haven’t read another since the fourth one, Distant Thunders.

Taylor Anderson’s enthralling New York Times bestselling series of alternate history continues as game-changing revelations upend the Grand Alliance in a potentially cataclysmic war.

Ever since the USS Walker came from another world war to defy the terrifying Grik and diabolical Dominion, Matt Reddy and his crew have given their all to protect the oppressed Lemurians. But with the Walker in desperate need of repairs just as the Grik’s First General is poised to strike, Reddy is desperate.

With more enemies than ever before arrayed against them, the crew of the Walker needs new allies. That means combing the lethal wilds of Madagascar to find the Lemurians’ fabled ancestors, as well as the enigmatic dwellers east of the Pass of Fire. But what Reddy’s crew unearths may be more than they can handle—discoveries so shattering they could tilt the balance of the war in either direction.

But Reddy’s greatest adversary is from his past: a madman named Kurokawa whose single-minded mission of revenge will shake the Alliance to its core and raise the stakes to the most personal and terrifying levels Reddy has ever faced.



The Sorcerer’s Daughter (Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Hardcover 05/24/2016) – Ever since Aidan’s review of The Wards of Faerie and The Bloodfire Quest, I’ve been hanging on to the copies of Brooks’ novels I’ve been sent for review., this one follows on after The Darkling Child

The inspiration for the epic MTV series, the world of Shannara is brimming with untold stories and unexplored territory. Now bestselling author Terry Brooks breaks new ground with a standalone adventure that’s sure to thrill veteran readers and recent converts alike. The mysterious, magic-wielding Druid order has existed for long ages, battling any evil that threatens the Four Lands—and struggling to be understood and accepted by outsiders. But their hopes of building goodwill are dashed when a demon’s murderous rampage at a peace summit leaves their political opponents dead—casting new suspicions upon the Druids and forcing them to flee from enemies both mortal and monstrous. Paxon Leah, the order’s appointed protector, knows that blame lies with Arcannen Rai, the vile sorcerer he has battled and defeated before. But there’s no time to hunt his nemesis, if he is to lead the wrongfully accused Druids to their sanctuary. It is a quest fraught with danger, as a furious government agent and his army snap at their heels, and lethal predators stalk them in the depths of the untamed wilderness. But Arcannen is playing a deeper game than Paxon realizes. Paxon’s sister possesses a powerful magic that the sorcerer longs to control—but Arcannen has not reckoned with the determination of his own estranged daughter, Leofur, who is also Paxon’s devoted lifemate. Leofur sets out on a perilous quest to thwart her father’s desires—while the vengeful Arcannen conjures his blackest magical skills, determined to destroy them all . . . and claim the most powerful of magics for his own.



A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell (Tor Hardcover 04/12/2016) – Chappell has some serious literary chops, having won literary prizes, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, and an English Professor at UNC Greensboro.

Fred Chappell's A Shadow All of Light, a stylish, episodic fantasy novel, follows the exploits of Falco, a young man from the country, who arrives in the port city of Tardocco with the ambition of becoming an apprentice to a master shadow thief. Maestro Astolfo, whose mysterious powers of observation would rival those of Sherlock Holmes, sees Falco's potential and puts him through a grueling series of physical lessons and intellectual tests.

Falco's adventures coalesce into one overarching story of con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates. A wry humor leavens this fantastical concoction, and the style is as rich and textured as one would hope for from Chappell, a distinguished poet as well as a World Fantasy Award-winning fantasy writer.

The Wheel of Osheim (Book three of The Red Queen’s War) by Mark Lawrence (Hardcover 06/07/2016 Ace) – Final installment in the Mark’s follow-up series to The Broken Empire. Now that I have all three, I will hopefully get to at least the first one, Prince of Fools soon.


Mark Lawrence’s “epic fantasy” (The Washington Post) continues as a reluctant prince returns from the bowels of Hell to engage in his greatest battle yet—among the living and the dead.

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.

Friday, April 01, 2016

March 2016 Reading Redick, Schwab, Ewalt, Lowe, Cole, Priest, Cherryh

As April begins, I’ll take a look back at what I read during the month of March.

I started out with Robert V.S. Redick’s (The Rats and) The Ruling Sea, the second book of the The Chathrand Voyage and the follow up to The Red Wolf Conspiracy. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think that like quite a bit of epic fantasy, Redick is including some dark, horrific elements in his narrative. He’s got a wonderful knack for world-building and allows his characters a nice freedom to move about in this world. I’m at the halfway point of the four book series, but worried that I waiting too long (two years) between the first and second books in the series. That said, Redick’s Web site contains a great amount of information, including summaries of the first two books. That, added to the strength of his narrative, didn’t make it too tough to immerse myself in the novel and world at this point.

Next up was V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows the second installment of her Darker Shade of Magic series. I loved this book so much and think Schwab is an incredible storyteller. I posted my review of the book to SFFWorld last week.

I jumped out of fiction for a book with Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt. This was a fun book, both a history of Dungeons and Dragons specifically, with some broad strokes for all RPGs as well as a memoir. Ewalt interwove his own history of playing D&D when he was younger, his time away, and his re-entry to gaming with the history of Gary Gygax, TSR and how D&D became a worldwide phenomenon from humble beginnings. I would love to see this is a documentary because it read just like a really good documentary film. My only issue with the book is that there was a bit of introspective derision going on when Ewalt reflected on his own engagement with D&D. All in all, it was a fun book that allowed me to visit my own past with RPGs and had me wanting to roll up a new character for the campaign I’m in now.

The Heir of Night was the second review book I read in March and I enjoyed it. As fat would have it, I read it soon after Redick’s novel and both series contain an antagonist with the Swarm moniker. All told, a fun, engaging start to an Epic Fantasy trilogy. More detailed thoughts at my review.

Another review book followed that one, Javelin Rain by Myke Cole. I’ve been a big fan of Myke’s work since I read his debut and this is a fantastic follow-up to Gemini Cell. Javelin Rain is a great novel that will easily be a top 10 for 2016 for me. My review goes up next week.

As the month drew to a close, I started Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. What a fun, steampunk / zombie / alternate history. I’m growing into a big fan of Priest’s work.

For most of the month, my audio book was Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh. What can be said of this one? A lot, quite a lot indeed. Cherryh is deservedly a SFWA Grandmaster and this is one of her defining, award-winning novels. After conducting this wonderful Mind Meld I was strongly urged to dive into one of her works, and what better choice than this gigantic novel?

There are some truly fascinating concepts Cherryh explores and wonderful storytelling on display in the novel. Genetic science, cloning, slavery, political machinations are all large flavors of the dramatic stew of Cyteen. What continued to come to my mind is that in some ways, the character of Ari Emory could be seen as a savior figure/character. She is an exact clone/genetic duplicate of a deceased character and is observed very closely. Will she follow the same development as her predecessor? With events, critical life changing events orchestrated to occur at the same age they occurred with her predecessor, her life is definitely something that is shaped.

I as continually thinking that this story could be seen as a science fictional equivalent to the savior figure of destiny often seen in fantasy. Or one could even draw parallels to the genetic and life shaping of Ari to the created savior figure of Paul Atreides. The shaping of Ari to follow the same patterns as her predecessor could even be compared to the role that destiny plays in the shaping of a mythical hero.

The narrators were Gabra Zackman and Jonathan Davis. Davis is the narrator on a few of the audio books I’ve listened to this past year and he always does a fine job. Davis only handled the portions of the novel that were “extracts” from archival documents and no actual narrative. Zackman capture the various ages of Ari/Ariane Emory brilliantly. Unfortunately, her portrayal of the male characters didn’t work quite as well for me. This is not so much a knock on Zackman as many of the female narrators I’ve heard don’t quite depict male character voices to my liking nor do the male narrators often capture female voices with full believably.

All that said, for as brilliant as Cyteen is, for me, I’ve never read a book that is simultaneously fascinating, enjoyable, frustrating, and tedious. Cherryh’s slight shift in narrative tone for the different characters brilliantly reflected the age of the viewpoint characters. Some of the passages; however, felt overly tedious for the belabored details expounded upon in the narrative and dragged down the pacing for me.  Still, an overall amazing novel that bears deep examination and exploration. 

After tackling the first two Crown of Stars novels by Kate Elliott in each of the first two months of the year, I just didn't get to book three, The Burning Stone in March. Must remedy that in April and at least get to that one.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-26)

I began reading one of these the day it arrived, the other books arrived on Friday.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (A Memoir by Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan (Tor Hardcover 04/05/2016) – Fifth installment in Brennan’s remarkably well-received series placing the discovery of Dragons in Victorian times. These are gorgeous looking books with Todd Lockwood’s fantastic art. Impressively, Marie has been on publishing these on an annual basis.



In the Labyrinth of Drakes: the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.


Javelin Rain by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 03/29/2016) – I’ve been a fan of Myke’s writing since reading his debut, novels Control Point. Set in the same milieu, this one follows directly on from Gemini Cell.

The fast-paced, adrenaline-filled sequel to Gemini Cell, set in the same magical and militaristic world of the acclaimed Shadow Ops series.

Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact.

Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.

Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost...

Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded "Javelin Rain." Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not.

Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. But what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation...

League of Dragons (The Final Temeraire novel) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey 06/14/2016) – Novik brings her popular saga of Dragons in Napoleanic times to a close.

With the acclaimed Temeraire novels, New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik has created a fantasy series like no other, combining the high-flying appeal of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern saga and the swashbuckling derring-do of Patrick O’Brian’s historical seafaring adventures. Now, with League of Dragons, Novik brings the imaginative tour de force that has captivated millions to an unforgettable finish.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all—if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready—one that that may win him the war, and the world.

The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (Tor Hardcover 05/31/2016) – This might be the 43rd Turtledove book I’ve received, between ARCs, finished copies, and reprints. Though still an alternate history, this one seems to be different than many of his alternate views of wars past.

A picaresque tale of minor league baseball—in an alternate Great Depression America full of wild magic.

Since the Big Bubble popped in 1929, life in the United States hasn’t been the same. Hotshot wizards will tell you nothing’s really changed, but then again, hotshot wizards aren’t looking for honest work in Enid, Oklahoma. No paying jobs at the mill, because zombies will work for nothing. The diner on Main Street is seeing hard times as well, because a lot fewer folks can afford to fly carpets in from miles away.

Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And sometimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid.

But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”—and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers. This means he needs to get out of the reach of Big Stu, who didn’t get to where he is by letting defiance go unpunished.

Then the House of Daniel comes to town—a brash band of barnstormers who’ll take on any team, and whose antics never fail to entertain. Against the odds Jack secures a berth with them. Now they’re off to tour an America that’s as shot through with magic as it is dead broke. Jack will never be the same—nor will baseball.