Sunday, August 23, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-08-22)

The weekly batch of arrivals here a casa de ‘O Stuff…


Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke (Saga Press Hardcover 10/27/2015) – Clarke has written some very well received fantasy novels and this is her first novel with more Hard Science Fictional leanings. Looks like it could be fun.



The Yiddish Policeman’s Union meets The Windup Girl when a female PI goes up against a ruthless gangster—just as both humans and robots agitate for independence in an Argentinian colony in Antarctica.

In Argentine Antarctica, Eliana Gomez is the only female PI in Hope City—a domed colony dependent on electricity (and maintenance robots) for heat, light, and survival in the icy deserts of the continent. At the center is an old amusement park—now home only to the androids once programmed to entertain—but Hope City’s days as a tourist destination are long over. Now the City produces atomic power for the mainland while local factions agitate for independence and a local mobster, Ignacio Cabrera, runs a brisk black-market trade in illegally imported food.

Eliana doesn’t care about politics. She doesn’t even care—much—that her boyfriend, Diego, works as muscle for Cabrera. She just wants to save enough money to escape Hope City. But when an aristocrat hires Eliana to protect an explosive personal secret, Eliana finds herself caught up in the political tensions threatening to tear Hope City apart. In the clash of backstabbing politicians, violent freedom fighters, a gangster who will stop at nothing to protect his interests, and a newly sentient robot underclass intent on a very different independence, Eliana finds her job coming into deadly conflict with Diego’s, just as the electricity that keeps Hope City from freezing begins to fail…

From the inner workings of the mob to the story of a revolution to the amazing settings, this story has got it all. Ultimately, however, Our Lady of the Ice questions what it means to be human, what it means to be free, and whether we’re ever able to transcend our pasts and our programming to find true independence.



Dragon Heart by Cecilia Holland (Tor Hardcover 09/01/2015) – Holland is a master storyteller, whoh as written historical fantasy and science fiction. This is her take on a sea dragon story.


Where the Cape of the Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor's brothers. She loathes the idea, and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.


As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon, and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast, and understand it.

So begins a saga of violence, destruction, and death, of love and monsters, human and otherwise.
In Dragon Heart, Cecelia Holland, America's most distinguished historical novelist steps fully into the realm of fantasy and makes it her own.



Liar’s Island (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Tim Pratt (Paizo Trade Paperback 08/15/2015) – I’ve got quite a few of Pratt’s novels on Mount Toberead now, he’s one of the authors whose work I really want to catch up with, this is his third Pathfinder novel featuring these characters.


Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives. From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.




Chapelwood (The Borden Dispatches #2) by Cherie Priest (Roc 09/01/2015) – Second installment of Priests Lovecraftian Historical fantasy. .



From Cherie Priest, the award-winning author of Maplecroft, comes a new tale of Lizzie Borden’s continuing war against the cosmic horrors threatening humanity…

Birmingham, Alabama is infested with malevolence. Prejudice and hatred have consumed the minds and hearts of its populace. A murderer, unimaginatively named “Harry the Hacker” by the press, has been carving up citizens with a hatchet. And from the church known as Chapelwood, an unholy gospel is being spread by a sect that worships dark gods from beyond the heavens. 

This darkness calls to Lizzie Borden. It is reminiscent of an evil she had dared hoped was extinguished. The parishioners of Chapelwood plan to sacrifice a young woman to summon beings never meant to share reality with humanity. An apocalypse will follow in their wake which will scorch the earth of all life.

Unless she stops it…


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Kate Elliott @Tor.com, Chuck Wendig @SFFWorld, & @SFSignal Mind Meld

What? Two weeks in a row with a Friday Round-up? That’s what happens when a person gets a new job and also has three new pieces post in a week. I’ll start with the review that posted the afternoon after I posted last week’s Round-Up.

Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives is her first Young Adult novel, but far from her first novel. It shows, because it is a helluva novel and I want the next book now. Part of my review:




Elliott immediately thrusts the reader into Jes’ head and heart, and the result is a wonderful immersion in both familial love and the tensions at work within these relationships. Jes and her sisters adore their mother, and while they respect their father, they don’t know him nearly as well because he is often away, off leading armies. What makes this such an outstanding novel is Elliott’s experienced hand at revelation and building compelling characters. I was immediately drawn to Jes as a character, caught up in her plight and the story she had to tell. Much of the YA I’ve read is told from the first-person POV, and in adopting that narrative style, Elliott has placed a great deal of weight on Jessamy’s shoulders—we experience the entire story through her consciousness, and in this case, it works extremely well.

Court of Fives is a novel with very wide appeal, which benefits from a young, headstrong, and charismatic protagonist, a mythically-inspired setting that provides a fantastical spin on historical/classical antiquity (think ancient Egypt, Macedonia, and Rome), a strong base of well-rounded supporting characters, and the magnetic force of its dramatic tension, which kept this reader glued to the pages.


This past Tuesday, my review of Chuck Wendig’s gripping, dark near future SF Thriller Zer0es:



Chuck takes a look at a world Twenty Minutes into the Future and a group of hackers who are corralled by NSA Agent Hollis Cooper to do the NSA’s dirty work. They are Chance Dalton, picked up just as he was being beaten up by the football players he exposed as rapists; Aleena Kattan, DeAndre Mitchell, Wade Earthman, an old school hacker, and perhaps one of the most annoying characters I can recall encountering in SFF, Reagan Stolper. The hackers, who dub themselves zer0es, are brought to The Lodge to infiltrate America’s enemies, it is either that or serve time in prison so the choice is pretty easy. As the plot rolls along the zer0es form an odd bond, a second family almost. Working more closely together, something more frightening than they imagined becomes apparent.
The novel begins by introducing each character through their apprehension by Agent Cooper; here Chuck did a great job of making each of these characters unique and provided a solid foundation for their participation in the plot/story and later character development. Building on the solid base built for the characters, Wendig does a great job of revealing more depth to the characters, the backstory that led them to come together. He also mixes them up very nicely as they get to know each other and their pasts are revealed to each other (voluntarily or otherwise).

Lastly, my August Mind Meld posted. In it, I asked Paul Weimer, Jana Nyman, Joe Sherry, Lisa Rodgers, Jonah Sutton-Morse, Susan J. Morris, and Jason M. Hough about Author Comebacks, "Some authors publish a few titles and disappear, or move on to other things (comic book writing, tie-in writing, leaving publishing, etc) but you’d like to see more from them. So we asked this week’s panelists the following:"

Q: Who would you like to see make a comeback to writing original SFF fiction? What subgenre(s) or worlds would you hope they would write?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-08-15)

Time for the weekly rundown of the review copies which arrived the previous week!

Doctor Who: Deep Time by Trevor Baxendale (Broadway Books Trade Paperback 09/08/2015) – The Doctor Who short novels are very popular in the UK, this one features the 12th Doctor.

An original adventure tying in to the ninth season of Doctor Who, the spectacular hit series from BBC Television, featuring the new 12th Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

"I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!"

The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind. But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force… Others claim they destroyed themselves.

Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?

In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission to see where the road leads.

Each member of the research team knows exactly what they’re looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find.

Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in the deepest grave imaginable…




Sorcerer to the Crown (A Sorcerer Royal Novel) by Zen Cho (Ace Hardcover 09/01/2015) – For many, this is one of the more anticipated debut novels of the year.


In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite...

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…





The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (Roc Hardcover 08/18/2015) – There’s been a lot of pre-publication buzz on this one. de Bodard has written some well-received and award-worthy fiction, but this one, from everything I’ve seen will push her to the next level.


Multi-award winning author Aliette de Bodard, brings her story of the War in Heaven to Paris, igniting the City of Light in a fantasy of divine power and deep conspiracy…

In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.




Doctor Who: Royal Blood by Una McCormack (Broadway Books Trade Paperback 09/08/2015) – The Doctor Who short novels are very popular in the UK, this one features the 12th Doctor.



An original adventure tying in to the ninth season of Doctor Who, the spectacular hit series from BBC Television, featuring the new 12th Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”

The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.

But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue...

Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?


Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation by Gary Russell (Broadway Books Trade Paperback 09/08/2015) – The Doctor Who short novels are very popular in the UK, this one features the 12th Doctor.



An original adventure tying in to the ninth season of Doctor Who, the spectacular hit series from BBC Television, featuring the new 12th Doctor as played by Peter Capaldi.

“I'm an archaeologist, but probably not the one you were expecting.”

Christmas 2015, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Imagine everyone's surprise when a time portal opens up in Sydney Cove. Imagine their shock as a massive pyramid now sits beside the Harbour Bridge, inconveniently blocking Port Jackson and glowing with energy. Imagine their fear as Cyrrus "the mobster" Globb, Professor Horace Jaanson and an alien assassin called Kik arrive to claim the glowing pyramid. Finally imagine everyone's dismay when they are followed by a bunch of con artists out to spring their greatest grift yet.

This gang consists of Legs (the sexy comedian), Dog Boy (providing protection and firepower), Shortie (handling logistics), Da Trowel (in charge of excavation and history) and their leader, Doc (busy making sure the universe isn't destroyed in an explosion that makes the Big Bang look like a damp squib).

And when someone accidentally reawakens The Ancients of the Universe - which, Doc reckons, wasn't the wisest or best-judged of actions – things get a whole lot more complicated…


Updraft by Fran Wilde (Tor 09/01/2015) – This is Wilde’s debut novel and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Just look at that awesome cover!! This is the hardcover of the ARC I received in May, and as nice as the ARC looked, this one is gorgeous.
Welcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother's side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city's secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever-if it isn't destroyed outright.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Round-Up: An Announcement and Hobb & Jemisin Reviews @SFFWorld

In this week’s edition of Friday Round-Up I bring you new reviews of Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin. But first, a little announcement.

As some folks already know, I’ve been in a job predicament for a few years. Back in 2011, I was in a job/position I really enjoyed at a company for which I enjoyed working. Things were going well, in 2010 my group (of which I was the manager), far exceeded our goals for the program we had re-launched the previous year and everybody in the group received one-time bonuses for exceeding those goals. Then the company did some reorganization and as a result of “corporate restructuring,” I was squeezed out in February 2011. What helped to slightly soften the blow is that my supervisor (the Vice President of the group), left the company shortly after I was let go because he saw the writing on the wall.

A few months later, a very good friend of mine who works for A very large Telecommunications & Technology company helped me out big time. Some of the groups at the company where he worked were looking to bring in people (as contractors) to help build up a product line. So, for the past four years (which was only supposed to be a temporary stop) I’ve been working there in what is essentially a digital assembly line capacity. To be honest, it was pretty good money, but the job has very, very little in common with my Marketing & Marketing Proposals and Publishing background. That, plus the associated instability of being a contracted employee led me to continue my job search. About a year ago, the company brought me (and a handful of folks who began as contractors the same time I did) more fully into the fold, converting me from contractor to Term Employee (essentially a hybrid between Contractor and Full-Time Employee, but working directly from the company). As I said, all this time, I was still looking for a more stable (i.e. permanent and not contractor) position more closely aligned with my decade and a half of Marketing and/or Publishing experience.

After a slew of interviews over the years (many phone interviews, which led to some face-to-face interviews) with different companies, my search has ended and I will be starting on Monday August 18 doing work much more in line with my past experience (marketing proposals) for a very impressive company with great leader at its helm and a culture (based on the interviews I’ve had, research into the company and coming to realize a friend has a relative at the company) that will help me grow and further my career along a stable path. I’m very excited for this slight career reboot and cannot wait to join the new company on Monday. For more specifics on what that is and the company, I’ll be updating my LinkedIn profile to reflect the new position once I officially begin the new job.

One thing I've learned in my job searching the past few years compared to job searching even 8 to 10 years ago is that EVERYTHING is automated and it is challenging to level up in the process for one job and actually communicate with a human being rather than an automated interface.

Back to the SFF stuff, with my reviews of two highly anticipated Fantasy releases. Last week, I posted my review of the powerful, challenging, and stunning novel from N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season:


The narrative, is initially, very chaotic. Jemisin employs multiple character points of view, one for each chapter, give the feel of a dangerous world were nobody is safe. The novel is post-apocalyptic, but takes place on a secondary world. A world where the planet is extremely unstable, where magicians (Orogenes) with powers based on geology work with technology in the hopes of keeping the world, on a literal, tectonic level, stable.
...
We are introduced to this world through the eyes of Essun, and damn does Jemisin get the emotional ball rolling very quickly. Upon returning home, she realizes her husband has brutally murdered their son. This shocking moment informs Essun’s tale. The other narrators, Damaya and Syenite/Syen, travel a road no less wrought with heartbreak and sorrow and undergo changes of their own over the course of their own narrative journeys, not unlike the geological cataclysms that strike their world. Jemisin marvelously portrayed women whose changes in demeanor, and person, mirror the global changes. Not only does the story come across through these three women’s eyes/voices, each of the three story threads is told in a different narrative voice, third person narrative for Syen and Damaya, while Essun’s story is told through the rare second person present, as if we the reader are Essun. As I said, there’s some chaotic elements in the story and the narrative reflects this chaos. It takes some acclimating, but is an ultimately very rewarding storytelling technique.

This week (Tuesday, the day of the book’s launch), I posted my review of perhaps my most anticipated 2015 Fantasy novel, Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest:


Fool’s Quest is the second installment of The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy, which itself is the most recent in a long line of stories set in Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings (three trilogies, a quartet, and now this in-progress trilogy for a total of 15 books up to now). To say Fool’s Quest might be a tough sell for new readers is an understatement. Much of the action is predicated on events that have transpired in previous volumes of this mega-series, and most importantly on the previous installment Fool’s Assassin. But…but…before I launch into my thoughts on this volume, I’ll preface it with this. If readers have any doubt that Robin Hobb is one of the finest writers in the Fantasy genre, then they haven’t read any of her work. From the beginnings of Assassin’s Apprentice in 1995 to this most recent novel, few can balance, character, prose, and story so well. So do yourself a favor, go read Assassin’s Apprentice (the novel that started it all) or Fool’s Assassin, the first novel in this new trilogy which does work well for new readers. (This preamble also provided ample spoiler space because talking at any length about Fool’s Quest is impossible without spoiling events of Fool’s Assassin).
...
The sense of urgency in the novel is extremely heightened, despite the same reserved pace that made Fool’s Assassin such a joy to read and experience. Fool’s sense of urgency to strike back at his tormentors, combined with Fitz’s desperation to find his stolen daughter made for incredible tension. Fitz’s experience; however, makes him realize rushing into their situation will only be a detriment to their success. Robin Hobb balanced their tension with a quiet reserve during many of the court scenes and meetings that Fitz was obliged to experience very well, giving both frustration and hope. Hobb’s magnetic, captivating prose completely wrapped itself around me.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-08-08)

Another significant batch of books, many of which look very appealing.


Shadow of Empire (Far Star Trilogy #1) by Jay Allan (Harper Voyager 11/10/2015) – Allan makes the jump from small press/self-published to one of the Big SF publishers. This launches a Space Opera trilogy to be published over the course of three months. That is proof of a publisher showing confidence in a writer.



The first installment in the Far Star series, a swashbuckling space saga that introduces the daring pirate Blackhawk and the loyal crew of the Wolf’s Claw, from the author of the bestselling Crimson Worlds saga.

Smuggler and mercenary Arkarin Blackhawk and the crew of the ship Wolf’s Claw are freelance adventurers who live on the fringe of human society in the Far Stars. A veteran fighter as deadly with a blade as he is with a gun, Blackhawk is a man haunted by a dark past. Even his cynicism cannot banish the guilt and pain that threaten his sanity.

Sent to rescue the kidnapped daughter of his longtime friend Marshal Augustin Lucerne, Blackhawk and his crew find themselves drawn into one deadly fight after another. When the Wolf’s Claw is damaged, they are forced to land on a remote planet subsumed by civil war. Pulled unwittingly into the conflict, they uncover disturbing information about secret imperial involvement that could upset the plans of Lucerne.

For the Marshal is determined to forge a Far Stars Confederation powerful enough to eliminate all imperial influence and threats in the sector. He needs a skilled warrior like Blackhawk on his side, but the mercenary, plagued by dark memories from the past, refuses to join the cause. All too soon, though, he and his crew will have to take a stand.





Nightwise by R.S. Belcher (Tor, Hardcover 08/11/2015) – After a well-received Weird West/Steampunk series, Belcher turns his pen to something a little bit darker.



R.S. Belcher, the acclaimed author of The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana launches a gritty new urban fantasy series set in today's seedy occult underworld in Nightwise.

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in-between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It's said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher's Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he's also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.

Now a promise to a dying friend has Ballard on the trail of an escaped Serbian war criminal with friends in both high and low places--and a sinister history of blood sacrifices. Ballard is hell-bent on making Dusan Slorzack pay for his numerous atrocities, but Slorzack seems to have literally dropped off the face of the Earth, beyond the reach of his enemies, the Illuminati, and maybe even the Devil himself. To find Slorzack, Ballard must follow a winding, treacherous path that stretches from Wall Street and Washington, D.C. to backwoods hollows and truckstops, while risking what's left of his very soul . . . .




Silver on the Road (The Devil’s West #1) by Laura Ann Gilman (Saga Press Hardcover 10/06/2015) – Gilman is a very prolific writer, slipping between sub genres and genres. This one has a nice weird/horror west flavor to it.




“The right hand gathers and gives, visible to all. But the left hand, Isobel, the manu sinistra? It moves in shadows, unseen, unheard…. Until I deem it time for it to be seen and heard. And when it moves, its work cannot be undone. It is the strength of the Territory, the quick knife in the darkness, the cold eye and the final word.”

She looked up, away from his hands, and was caught by a gaze the burnt gold of the morning sun.

“I have been lacking a left hand for too long, now. Are you strong enough for that, Isobel nee Lacoyo Távora? Is the iron in your spine, the fire in your blood, proof against my forging?”

Back East, they claim the so-called Devil’s West is overrun by magic, magicians, and monsters. But to Isobel, it’s home. She grew up in a saloon, trained to serve drinks and fold laundry, to read those who came to the gambling tables, and report back to her boss on what she saw.

But when she comes of age, she is given a choice….

Now the Territory’s Left Hand, Isobel takes to the road, accompanied by the laconic rider Gabriel, who will teach her about the Territory, its people and its laws. But she needs to learn quickly: The bones of the earth are cracking, and the Hand has work to do…



Zero World by Jason M. Hough (Del Rey Hardcover 08/11/2015) – Hough’s trilogy earned him some very good sales and acclaim and graduated him to Hardcover for this release.



Published in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge; earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’sInception. 

Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin. 

Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.



Cold Iron (The Malorum Gates #1) by Stina Leicht (Saga Press Hardcover 07/14/2015) – Leicht’s new series is a huge epic/flintlock fantasy which asks the question, “What would Lord of the Rings look like if Tolkien were American?”




Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.



The Moreau Quartet: Volume One by S. Andrew Swann (DAW Mass Market Paperback 08/04/2015) – Swann’s been writing in this particular universe for quite some time. These are two of the earliest novels in the sequence - Forests of the Night and Fearful Symmetry. Though published order has these as books 1 and four, Fearful Symmetry is a direct sequel to Forests of the Night.




It’s 2053, and the U.S. has long since genetically engineered life successfully. “Moreaus,” humanoid and animal hybrids, and “frankensteins,” genetically manipulated humans, live as second-class citizens. Nohar Rajasthan is a moreau, a humanoid of tiger stock. Raised by a human after his parents’ death, Nohar ekes out a career as a private eye. Mixing science fiction with detective thrillers, Nohar’s story leaps off the page with all the nonstop excitement and danger of an action blockbuster.
Forests of the Night: When Nohar accepts a commission from a frankenstein to investigate the death of the campaign manager of a local politico, all hell breaks loose. Nohar finds himself targeted by everyone from local cops to federal agents to a drug-running gang to an assassin with a 100% kill rate.

Fearful Symmetries: Nohar retired from the private eye business ten years ago, and just wants to spend his remaining time in the peace and quiet of his wilderness homestead. So when a human lawyer asks him to take on a missing moreau case, he refuses–and soon after is attacked by a paramilitary team. Now Nohar must find the missing moreau and discover why someone wants him dead.



Six Gun Snow-White by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga Press Hardcover 11/09/2015) – Valente seems to write only well-received award worthy stuff. This western reinvention of Snow White looks like it could be a great deal of fun.




A New York Times bestselling author offers a brilliant reinvention of one of the best-known fairy tales of all time with Snow White as a gunslinger in the mythical Wild West.

Forget the dark, enchanted forest. Picture instead a masterfully evoked Old West where you are more likely to find coyotes as the seven dwarves. Insert into this scene a plain-spoken, appealing narrator who relates the history of our heroine’s parents—a Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. Although her mother’s life ended as hers began, so begins a remarkable tale: equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, this is an utterly enchanting story…at once familiar and entirely new.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-08-01)

Since only two books arrived this week and it's been a while since I did the intro to this weekly post, here goes...

As a reviewer for SFFWorld (as well as SF Signal and Tor.com) and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. I’ve been receiving a greater percentage of electronic ARCs this year which is good because death via drowning in a sea of unread books is not how I want to say goodbye to this world.

Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday"). Have a guess in the comments about which book fits my reading labels “I’ll Never Read…” “Zero Appeal” or “cannot wait” "maybe I'll get to it later" and so forth...



Chaos Unleashed (The Chaos Born Trilogy #3) by Drew Karpyshyn (Del Rey/Star Wars Books Hardcover 10/5/2015) – Concluding volume of Karpyshyn’s Epic Fantasy trilogy.



The Demon Cycle meets The Wheel of Time in this action-packed adventure! From New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed videogame writer Drew Karpyshyn comes the third and final novel in an original epic fantasy trilogy for fans of Terry Goodkind, Peter V. Brett, and Brandon Sanderson.


Four unlikely champions, each touched with Chaos magic at birth, are all that can stop the return of Daemron the Slayer, a hero who became a god—and then a demon. Exiled by the Old Gods, Daemron has long plotted his vengeful return. Now that moment is at hand, as the barrier imprisoning him—the Legacy—crumbles.

Armed with mighty Talismans, the four champions—Keegan, a wizard beset with self-doubt; Cassandra, a seer terrified by her own future; Scythe, a peerless warrior whose only weak spot is a broken heart; and Vaaler, a prince without a kingdom—seek the Keystone, a fabled place where, or so it is said, the Legacy can be restored.

But the plots of the Slayer are cunning and deep, and even the most noble heart can be twisted by the tainted magic of Chaos—as Keegan, Cassandra, Scythe, and Vaaler will soon discover.



Chasing the Phoenix (A Darger and Surplus novel) by Michael Swanwick (Tor, Hardcover 08/11/2015) – Swanwick’s sword-and-sorcery meets dying earth duo of Surplus and Darger return!



Chasing the Phoenix: a science fiction masterpiece from a five-time Hugo Award winner Michael Swanwick!


In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes. Chasing the Phoenix is a sharp, slick, witty science fiction adventure that is hugely entertaining from Michael Swanwick, one of the best SF writers alive.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Round-Up: McClellan, Gladstone & Frohock @SFFWorld, Mind Meld @SFSignal

Here it is, the Friday Round-up you have all be waiting to read!

Last week, two new things at SFFWorld. First off, my review of The Autumn Republic the spectacular finale to Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy:



The Autumn Republic picks up where The Crimson Campaign left the characters: Tamas thought dead, yet still working on his return home, his son Taniel thought dead and desperate to find his lost companion Ka-Poel, the gods Kresimir and Mihali thought dead, and forces are occupying Adopest. Add to that the investigator Adamat separated from his family as he tries to finish the one last job so he can return to his family. But before that, much of the early narrative focuses on Nila and Borabor in their search for Taniel. Taniel once saved Borabor from being executed and Nila the former laundry girl is developing powers she fears, but must learn to harness for the greater good.
The gods in this world took a not-so-passive role in world events in the previous two volumes. However, though it may have seemed all the gods were dead or contained by the end of The Crimson Campaign, Brian shows that may not be the case. Beings thought of as gods don’t die easily; in this world they have lived for many years and have gained a great deal of experience in surviving. There are cards yet to be shown in this poker game and the reveal of some of those cards is both surprising at the outset of the reveal, and completely logical once the reveal settles.

The following day, my interview with Max Gladstone went live.



You’ve been lucky with the covers Chris McGrath has provided for your books; not only are they striking images, but there’s no whitewashing and each cover manages to provide insight to the diversity and wonder of your books. How important do you think cover art is in general and do you think McGrath’s imagery has helped your books
Cover art is life. Art and design—and all the other sub-arts people talk about as “book packaging”—bring the reader into the story. They prime reader expectations, and present the particular book and the genre in general both to core readers and the wider public. (Think about deckled edges—yes, they’re sort of goofy and impractical, as Hank Green’s pointed out, but by evoking the bad old days when readers had to cut open the pages of their books themselves, they inspire a bit of subconscious awe even in readers who don’t know that history! This is a real book, they think as they struggle to turn the pages.) Whitewashing in cover design is such a big problem because of the message it sends about who is, and who is not, present, or welcome, in our weird conceptual playground. 
I have been really fortunate in Chris McGrath’s covers. He has a great eye for character and expression; when I first talked through the cover for Three Parts Dead with Tor, I was really nervous about what we’d get—I had visions of bare midriffs if not skull bikinis—and Chris just knocked the Three Parts Dead cover out of the park. Combined with Irene Gallo’s amazing creative direction on the project, we ended up with a book—four books, now!—that I love holding in my hand.



My most recent review (posted this past Tuesday), Teresa Frohock’s wonderful debut novel, MISERERE: An Autumn Tale:




Much of the novel reads like a legal thriller, except that the legality involves a revolutionary and an 8-foot tall skeleton god. That may sound outrageous, but Gladstone makes the premise supremely natural and plausible. The city-state of Dresdiel Lex has not quite recovered from its liberation from the gods, despite their wards still being present. Enter three parties with great interest: The King in Red afore mentioned 10-foot skeletal god (what a simple, effective and cool name with gravitas, and yes, I gave two measurements for him, his size fluctuates); a local figure named Tan Batac; and a holy man named Temoc. A lawyer named Elayne Kevarian tries to keep the peace between the conflicting parties and ensure a peaceful deal can be had.
Gladstone keeps the tension high throughout the novel in scenes between the King in Red and Elayne as they try to reach some kind of agreement about what is best for the city. There is also palpable tension in scenes featuring Temoc and his family, especially after the lengths to which he goes in the hopes of securing some kind of peace for the city while striking at the heart of his enemies. Through these characters, Gladstone shows the weight of the changing world on their shoulders, how much a war in the past affects the survivors and informs their every action. Max does a great job of setting a relatively measured pace for the middle portion of the novel – the fall out of that aforementioned event – until the novel builds to a powerful climax that was pure fantasy adrenaline.

On Wednesday, my second Mind Meld for July went live at SF Signal, (second simply due to how the Wednesdays fall o the calendar)

Also at SF Signal, my July Mind Meld went live, wherein I ask Renay, Marc Turner, Ilana C. Myer, Kenny Soward, Marion Deeds, Eric Christensen, and Delilah S. Dawson the following:


Maybe you picked up the book and thought it might be a fun distraction and it really made you think. Maybe a friend kept recommending it and you kept putting it off and it blew you away. Maybe the book exceeded the hype. So tell us about it/them.