Sunday, July 20, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-19)

Just one book this week, but a major release for 2014...


The Widow’s House (The Dagger and the Coin #4) by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Trade Paperback 08/05/2014) – Any time a Daniel Abraham book arrives, I’m happy, I’ll be reviewing this for Tor.com



THE RISE OF THE DRAGON AND THE FALL OF KINGS

Lord Regent Geder Palliako's war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.
THE RISE OF THE DRAGON AND THE FALL OF KINGS

Lord Regent Geder Palliako's war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Link Round-up Corey @ SFFWorld, Mind Meld @ SF Signal, Stross @ Tor.com

It has been a while since I did one of my link round-ups of my reviews and assorted writings, so here goes...

Last week I posted my review of what will likely be one of my favorite SF novels of the year (I might even decide to register for Hugo voting so I can nominate it), Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey, the fourth book in their superb Expanse series:



Returning as one of the primary viewpoint characters is James Holden, captain of the Rocinate. Holden is one of the most famous men in the solar system, thanks to the events detailed in the previous three novels of THE EXPANSE (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, and Abaddon’s Gate). As in those novels, Corey tells the story through multiple Points of View: Elvi Okoye, one of the scientists on New Terra charged with cataloguing the various life forms and the environment; Havelock, a security officer aboard one of ships orbiting New Terra; and Basia Merton, one of the first colonists who arrived (squatters, one might say) on New Terra and part of a group unhappy with the RCE.
...
The conflict between the colonists and RCE is not the only problem on this new world, even if it is the primary “human-level” problem, so to speak. Globally, New Terra is not a completely lifeless world. An ancient civilization, the one thought to be responsible for the protomolecule has left ancient remnants of itself scattered around the planet. These things are hybrids between machines and organic life and some of them are waking up.
Holden is still haunted by the ghost or borrowed personality of Miller, the investigator from Leviathan Wakes who has been prodding and guiding Holden in all things related to the protomolecule. Though Holden is perturbed by this continued haunting, Miller’s voice is absolutely essential to the novel.

Earlier this week (Wednesday) the second Mind Meld I curated for SF Signal was posted, wherein I ask:




Participants for this one included:



Lastly, I reviewed and gave a Hugo handicapping assessment to Charles Stross's Neptune's Brood at Tor.com, which didn't completely work for me:



Neptune’s Brood, in this case, imagines a post-human, far future where we as humanity have become a thing of the past often referred to as Fragiles. The novel is many things, but a primary thrust revolves around economics in the future and a supposed defrauding scam as it features Krina Alizond-118 on her journeys through the galaxy.
...
The novel focuses through first-person narration on Krina Alizond-118 as she searches for her missing “sister” Ana Graulle-90 (which in this sense indicates they are cloned from the same being). Krina, with her deep knowledge of the history of accounting and banking, manages to get passage on a space vessel after being convinced to offer her services as a banker. It isn’t long before Krina becomes involved with interstellar pirate bankers, and eventually receives body modification to become a mermaid on the water world of Shin-Tethys in order to search for Ana. On top of all of that, Krina tells us, she has a stalker and discovers what amounts to a 2,000-year old money laundering scam which hinges on an object which might be in the possession of her sister. So yeah, lots of stuff going on here.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-12)

A trio of books arrived this week and each of them look very inviting...



Dust and Light (A Sanctuary Novel #1) by Carol Berg (Roc, Trade Paperback 08/05/2014) – Berg has been on my radar for a couple of years, even more so over the past few years as a few SFFWorld forum members whose opinion I trust (Erfael, NickeeCoco, and suciul specifically) and my friend Sarah Chorn, have recently been raving about her work. This book looks like it is friendly to readers who haven’t read her previous books, which is just what I need.

National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption....

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her....After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe.

The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous....


Codex Born (Magic Ex Libris #2) by Jim C. Hines (DAW Books, Hardcover 08/05/2014) – I read and thoroughly enjoyed Libriomancer when I read it a few years ago and look forward to picking up Isaac’s story here.

Five hundred years ago, Johannes Gutenberg discovered the art of libriomancy, allowing him to reach into books to create things from their pages. Gutenberg’s power brought him many enemies, and some of those enemies have waited centuries for revenge. Revenge which begins with the brutal slaughter of a wendigo in the northern Michigan town of Tamarack, a long-established werewolf territory.

Libriomancer Isaac Vainio is part of Die Zwelf Portenære, better known as the Porters, the organization founded by Gutenberg to protect the world from magical threats. Isaac is called in to investigate the killing, along with Porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah and their dryad bodyguard and lover, Lena Greenwood. Born decades ago from the pages of a pulp fantasy novel, Lena was created to be the ultimate fantasy woman, strong and deadly, but shaped by the needs and desires of her companions. Her powers are unique, and Gutenberg’s enemies hope to use those powers for themselves. But their plan could unleash a far darker evil…



The Rise of Aurora West (Battling Boy #2) by Paul Pope (First Second Books, Hardcover 09/30/2014) – Pope is one of the most prominent figures in the independent and non-traditional comic world. This thing looks like it will be a blast.

The extraordinary world introduced in Paul Pope's Battling Boy is rife with monsters and short on heroes... but in this action-driven extension of the Battling Boy universe, we see it through a new pair of eyes: Aurora West, daughter of Arcopolis's last great hero, Haggard West.

A prequel to Battling Boy, The Rise of Aurora West follows the young hero as she seeks to uncover the mystery of her mother's death, and to find her place in a world overrun with supernatural monsters and all-too-human corruption. With a taut, fast-paced script from Paul Pope and JT Petty and gorgeous, kinetic art from David Rubin, The Rise of Aurora West (the first of two volumes) is a tour de force in comics storytelling.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Books I Enjoyed Most Thus Far in 2014 - First Half Six-Pack Plus 2 Shots

We are in the first full week of July 2014 which means we’ve passed the half-way point of 2014. Therefore, subsequently, ergo, here is my mid-year six pack – the books I’ve enjoyed most through the first half of 2014. What makes this a bit challenging (besides my natural tendencies to make simple things complex) is that a book I read a few months back doesn’t technically publish until the second half of 2014 and one of the books I enjoyed most was published a number of years ago. I’ll give those two special mention at the end. Also making things difficult is that so many of the books hover in the same qualitative region. Nonetheless, here are the six books published between January 2014 and June 2014 I enjoyed the most, in the order I read the books.

Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Shadow OPS #3) - "Harlequin, who was painted as something of an antagonist in the first novel in the series, grew out of that role in the second novel and for all intents and purposes in Breach Zone he’s the star and de-facto hero even if he shares the spotlight. One of the undercurrents of the novel, from my reading, is how one adjusts to being the hero. Due to his actions in Fortress Frontier, Harlequin is thrust into the spotlight as a voice supporting the rights of Latent people – those who possess magical abilities. He finds this transition from on the battle-lines military man to man in the spotlight difficult, it isn’t something he wanted or something he enjoys. That said, Cole manages to make Harlequin’s ultimate acceptance of this new role a believable growth of character.
...
Breach Zone works on many levels; one of which is overriding themes of character evolution in the face of conflict and a globally changing environment. Each of the four primary characters – Britton, Bookbinder, Scylla, and Harlequin are not the same characters they were at the novel’s beginning and more drastically, at their introduction in Control Point. That’s an easy line to map out, characters change, but the true mark of the writer’s skill is illustrating in a believable fashion how characters change and evolve. On both the book level of Breach Zone and the trilogy level of the Shadow OPS series, Cole has exhibited great skill in making me believe in these characters: their motivations, their reactions to events that affect them, and their ultimate evolution because of these things."



Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach (Paradox #2) - "Bach ratchets up the politics in Honor’s Knight and dials back the romantic element a bit. There’s also an ongoing discussion in the novel about the price of security and safety, in that can the fate of humanity be measured against the life of innocent girls who lose their identity and humanity? A difficult question to answer, and sometimes the easiest answers prove to be the incorrect answer in the long run. In other words, war breeds difficult moral choices, which leads to drastic consequences. The black ink-like substance afflicting Devi also happens to be like kryptonite to the phantoms, but Devi has little control over it and when it comes out on her skin.
...
With the Paradox series, Rachel Bach is crafting a sequence that hits so many of the right buttons – compelling characters, great plotting, thought provoking and difficult choices. Bach does some interesting things with character, giving readers a strong woman in a role most often associated with male characters and she does it so well. Readers who enjoy Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War novels would very likely enjoy these books."



Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez - "I think my copy of Alpha & Omega had a lot of dust mites in it or maybe I’m allergic to the glue used on the binding because my eyes kept watering up. Seriously though, it isn’t always the case that storytellers can promise something in the early stages of a story and not only deliver on that promise, but surpass the hopes of what may come. Hill and Rodriguez, for me, far surpassed my expectations.
...
So, with Locke & Key complete, Hill and Rodriguez have finished taking readers on a journey over five years in the travelling. It had highs and lows, we saw the maturation and redemption of many of the characters. Strike that, Kinsey, Tyler, and Nina were all redeemed by story’s end; Lucas’s soul was saved, Tyler’s conflicted thoughts and feelings with his father were resolved, and Bode was returned to the boy we first met.
Bravo to all those involved in producing Locke & Key; it is a superb literary achievement."


Defenders by Will McIntosh - "In the near future, Earth is attacked by the Luyten, giant alien starfish intent on taking over the world and making it their own. As humanity fights back, the world bands together in their goal to find a weapon that will successfully combat the Luyten forces. Making this more difficult is the fact that the Luyten can read our thoughts. It isn’t to revealing of a spoiler to say that a weapon is crafted in the form of 16 foot tall super-soldiers created from human DNA.
...
What makes Defenders such an incredible novel is McIntosh’s pure elegance, the beauty of its simplicity. Each element of the novel, the characters, the situations, the world, the results of the world’s actions, organically feed into each other as the novel progresses. Oliver could very easily have been the typical geeky scientist and there are elements of that in him; he’s a bit socially awkward for example. However, it isn’t a defining trait. Wiewall could, in the hands of a writer with lesser skill at fleshing out characters, been the proverbial bitch on wheels so many women in power are painted as with shallow strokes. However, in the (relative to other characters) small amount of space we are in Wiewall’s head, she comes across as a woman who is admirably head-strong, as well as flawed and nervous. In other words, she’s reads like a real, living and breathing person."



Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey (The Expanse #4) - "Corey tells the story through multiple Points of View: Elvi Okoye, one of the scientists on New Terra charged with cataloguing the various life forms and the environment; Havelock, a security officer aboard one of ships orbiting New Terra; and Basia Merton, one of the first colonists who arrived (squatters, one might say) on New Terra and part of a group unhappy with the RCE.
...
Corey has always populated these novels with strong characters. We’ve come to know Holden fairly well over the course of these four novels, and while it is great to see returning characters (Bobbie Draper was a POV character and she returns as a POV character in the prologue here), meeting new people is always a feature. The standout here was Elvi, a determined scientist who fits the mold of ‘scientist hero’ in the same vein as many protagonists from the Golden Age aside from her gender. One of the most telling things we learn through her is how the “life” on New Terra cannot be really measured by any known means.
One narrative trick Corey pulled off very well was showing the same conversation from the sides of both participants. For example, an Elvi chapter may end with a conversation between her and Holden. The next chapter featuring Holden as the POV character will show his side of the conversation early in the chapter. It may seem a simple thing, but it comes across very fluid and gives a natural feel to the narrative."



The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns #2) - "The King is dying, people are vying for power with his death on the horizon and as a result, one of our new (and a most welcome one at that) point of view characters is the king’s daughter, Raesinia. However, the young princess is far more than she appears. Soon after Wexler introduces her, she jumps out of her window only to “survive” the fall. Raesinia is also working as something of a revolutionary with the populace, realizing that Duke Orlanko, the true power in Vordan, is close to seizing all the power he has been craving. 
That introduction to Raesinia is one of the most shocking and powerful character introductions I’ve come across in quite some time and with it, Wexler sets the tone for the novel.One of the things that Wexler does so well in both of these novels is to really lay down a level playing field for gender and sexuality.

The groundwork was laid in The Thousand Names with Winter’s character and again, the theme continues when she is reunited with her friend / companion / lover Jane, whom she last saw in the women’s prison from which she escaped prior to the beginning of The Thousand Names. What I found most effective in this point is how matter-of-factly Janus works with Winter and Jane to bring their female-only battalion into the military fold. In fact, Winter is the one who made the biggest deal out of it and was surprised at how amenable (and frankly figured into his plans) Janus was to Winter’s plan. Janus places the same rules and restrictions as he would on any military unit, but adds the caveat that the men alongside whom they serve may not be as friendly."


Those two honorable mentions are Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger (published just over 10 years ago) and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs, publishing in September of this year which is about when my review will post.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-07-05)

Only two books on this shortened week, one of which is an eArc.


The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert (Tor Hardcover 07/08/2014) – This solo outing for Herbert is a near future environmental SF thriller.

A revolution has taken over the government of the United States and the environment has been saved. All pollution has been banned and reversed. It's a bright, green new world. But this new world comes with a great cost. The United States is ruled by a dictatorship and the corporations are fighting back. Joining them are an increasing number of rebels angered by the dictatorship of Chairman Rahma. The Chairman's power is absolute and appears strong, but in The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert, cracks are beginning to show as new weapons are developed by the old corporate powers, foreign alliances begin to make inroads into America's influence . . . and strange reports of mutants filter through the government's censorship.






Blightborn (Book 2 of The Heartland Trilogy) by Chuck Wendig (Skyscape Mass Market Paperback 07/29/2014) – The writing machine that is Chuck Wendig gives us the sequel/second book in the this trilogy, the first (Under an Empyrian Sky) of which I enjoyed
a great deal.


Cael McAvoy is on the run. He’s heading toward the Empyrean to rescue his sister, Merelda, and to find Gwennie before she’s lost to Cael forever. With his pals, Lane and Rigo, Cael journeys across the Heartland to catch a ride into the sky. But with Boyland and others after them, Cael and his friends won’t make it through unchanged.


Gwennie’s living the life of a Lottery winner, but it’s not what she expected. Separated from her family, Gwennie makes a bold move—one that catches the attention of the Empyrean and changes the course of an Empyrean man’s life.

The crew from Boxelder aren’t the only folks willing to sacrifice everything to see the Empyrean fall. The question is: Can the others be trusted?

They’d all better hurry. Because the Empyrean has plans that could ensure that the Heartland never fights back again.

Chuck Wendig’s riveting sequel to Under the Empyrean Sky plunges readers into an unsettling world of inequality and destruction, and fleshes out a cast of ragtag characters all fighting for survival and, ultimately, change.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-06-28)

Two books this week, each part of a series...


Scarlet Tides (The Moontide Quartet #2) by David Hair (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 10/07/2014) – Sequel to the well-received Mage’s Blood publishing a year and a month after the first book. I



The Moontide has come, and a scarlet tide of Rondian legions is flooding into the East, slaughtering and pillaging in the name of Emperor Constant. But the Scytale of Corineus, the source of ultimate magical power, has slipped through the emperor’s fingers. His ruthless Inquisitors are desperately seeking the artefact, before it falls into the hands of those who would bring down the Empire.

But there are some who have pledged to end the cycle of war and restore peace to Urte. They are the unlikeliest of heroes: a failed mage, a gypsy and a lowly market-girl.

As East and West clash more violently than ever before, Urte will discover that love, loyalty and truth can be forged into weapons as deadly as swords and magic.





Hellhole: Inferno by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Hardcover 08/12/2014) – Conclusion the author team’s first (I think) non-Dune trilogy.



After the events of Hellhole Awakening, the people of Hellhole and the shadow-Xayans scramble to rally against the threat from the still-living rogue Xayans. Back on Sonjeera, the Monarchy is in an uproar after their surprising defeat and the breakaway of the Deep Zone planets. The dowager Queen decides to go to Hellhole on a diplomatic mission, hoping to keep her power. But after touring Hellhole, Queen Michella is shaken, and begins to realize that she can never have the old Monarchy back.
Before the Queen can return to Sonjeera, she’s captured by the rogue Xayans and learns the reason for their attack: the orthodox Xayans had developed their minds to the point where they could evolve and, in so doing, trigger another Big Bang, wiping out everything. 
The rogue Xayans thought they succeeded in stopping the ascension, but the orthodox Xayans on Hellhole are nearly ready. Now, twenty-two huge asteroids from the outer reaches of the solar system are bearing towards Hellhole, summoned by the rogue sect as a last resort. Can all these lives and the planet itself be saved?

Hellhole Inferno is the thrilling conclusion to Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Hellhole trilogy.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Link-Wrap: Wexler @SFFWorld and Lowachee @SF Signal

Here's the (seemingly now) weekly round up of reviews and assorted geekery which I've posted this week....

Tuesday my review of Django Wexler's The Thousand Names, first of his Shadow Campaigns military / flintlock fantasy series went up at SFFWorld:



War is raging between the Vordanai Empire and the Khandar; a rebelling colony led by a religious group known as the Redeemers. Into this fray (after a prologue, natch) we follow two characters; soldiers, who are embroiled in the military campaign. The first in Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns, The Thousand Names is a military fantasy novel cut from a different swath of cloth. It involves guns and magic, falling into what has now come to be known as Flintlock Fantasy. The story is told primarily from the point of view of two soldiers: Marcus d’Ivoire and Winter Ihrenglass and their experiences in different parts of the military campaign, whose command is taken over by Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, an enigmatic figure to say the very least.
...
A magical / supernatural backdrop is mostly hinted at through the majority of the novel until the denouement. Much comes to a head when the titular MacGuffin, The Thousand Names comes more intricately woven into the plot. At this point, the novel took a bit of a pleasant and surprising turn. It felt to me as if Django was channeling a bit Lucas and Spielberg because the story veered a bit into pulpy Raiders of the Lost Ark territory.




Military Science Fiction is and has been one of the most popular sub-genres in science fiction, but the books here are quite different from the typical first-person Soldier-in-Training-Then-Fighting-a-War story. Karin Lowachee made something of a splash with her debut novel, Warchild. It won the second WarnerAspect (Hachette’s SF imprint prior to Orbit) first novel contest, sported a glowing blurb on the cover from Tim Powers, and a terrific cover from Matt Stawicki.

Much of Military SF is written by white guys, and here we have a decidedly non-white guy (Karin grew up in South America and is a woman) giving us some excellent Military SF. In the military depicted in the novels, there is no real demarcation between men and women who serve, both serve and it is barely noted (especially in Warchild). In other words, the men and women fighting together is a seamless feature of the world rather than a stand out bug. Lowachee also broaches topics not often seen in Military SF like homosexuality and the damaging effects on children.