Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Isis and The Gathering Storm

With Hallowe’en only days away, what better time than now to post my review of a gothic supernatural tale of death? None better, I say, none better. To that end, the review in question is of Isis by Douglas Clegg, a short book that should be read in one sitting for the best effect. It’s a nicely designed book with terrific illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne.

Isis is a very short tale, clocking in at only 113 pages of very large type with haunting illustrations by Glen Chadbourne. The tale follows young Iris Villiers from her pre-teen to teen years as she comes of age alongside her twin brothers at Belerion Hall, where their family recently moved just before the start of the novel. The tale takes place in the 19th Century, placing this story very much in the gothic tradition. Clegg tells the story in Iris’s voice through the first-person narrative and the words flow very well, realistically, and with a great air of believability. Through her voice, Clegg captures the naïve innocence of selfish youth very well.

When the story takes a turn for the worse, Iris cannot help but ignore the warnings of Old Marsh and we see the ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage come into full effect. The story then, comes across as a fairy tale in the dark tradition of the Brothers Grimm.

Oh, and there’s a new book in a small little fantasy series publishing today. I’m not sure if people have heard of it - The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.*

At by SFFWorld, we set up two discussion threads:

The Gathering Storm - Wheel of Time Book 12 Official Discussion SPOILERS
The Gathering Storm - Wheel of Time Book 12 Official Discussion NO SPOILERS,

*I don’t think I could rightfully consider myself a FSF blogger if I didn’t mention the book.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/24/2009)

A very big week of arrivals at the ‘o Stuff homestead with all of the books in this post except one arriving on Monday alone. Random House finally did something I wish all the other publishers would do – send all their books (from 4 different imprints) in one box. That saves on their shipping costs and the amount of those big, thick, yellow envelopes I accumulate.

Bound to Shadows (A Riley Jenson Guardian Novel) by Keri Arthur (Dell Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – 10 books in 4 years, that isn’t too bad – this is a werewolf/vampire urban fantasy that the kids love so much nowadays:.

In the darkness, demons come out to play and someone must bring their sins to light. Part vampire, part werewolf, Riley Jenson knows what can happen when vamps don’t play well with others. But she’s never seen anything like this: a series of brutal murders surrounding the latest hot spot for vampire-human hookups—and the victims aren’t just killed, they’re beheaded. Now Riley is launching into action, toying with a seductive—and highly suspicious—club owner, and finding herself in the middle of another mystery: women being killed one by one, without a trace of violence.

For Riley, solving multiple cases—in a world going mad with human and vampire passions—would have been tough enough. Instead she has two jealous lovers on her hands: Kye Murphy, the amber-eyed werewolf who makes Riley’s wolf blood howl—and Quinn, the cool, elegant vamp who has over a thousand years’ experience at fulfilling women’s desires. While she’s busy juggling these two sexy beasts, Riley’s detective work takes a stunningly violent turn. Finding a murderer is now a matter of life and death. Especially since the killer has long since found her...

By the Mountain Bound (The Edda of Burdens) by Elizabeth Bear (Tor Hardcover 10/27/2009) I’ve yet to read any of Bear’s novel-length fiction, although I have enjoyed most of the short fiction I’ve read from her. Since this book is a prequel rather than a sequel/second book, this his possibiilties

For five hundred years the immortal Children of the Light, einherjar and valkyrie, have lived together in the North of Valdyrgard. They were born out of the Sea, each with a shining crystal sword in his or her hand; they are Angels of Light created in the formation of a new world. But three have come before them, from the death-throes of the old world, Midgard: the world-girdling Serpent, Bearer of Burdens; the Wolf Fenris, eater of the Sun, who now takes the form of an einherjar; and his demon sister, stealer of souls.

The Children spend their days feasting, fighting, hunting, and guarding their human charges. But one dreadful day a woman is washed up from the sea, a Lady who is no mortal, though she is not valkyrie either. Thus begins the breaking of the Children of the Light, the tarnishing of their power, and the death of Valdyrgard.

By the Mountain Bound is a prequel to Elizabeth Bear’s highly acclaimed All the Windwracked Stars, and tells the painful tale of love and betrayal, sorcery and battle, that led up to the day when Muire was left alone in the snow at the end of the world.

The Prisoner by Carlos J. Cortes (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – Near Future SF thriller that has a PKD feel, at least from the synopsis below

2049. Earth's prisons are shut down and all inmates placed in massive hibernation tanks. In the ten years since then, no one has broken out…until now.

When prisoners check into Washington D.C.'s maximum security "sugar cube," they don't check out. Here lie suspended not just the planet's most dangerous criminals, but also half a million so-called "center inmates"—troublesome activists whose only offense is to challenge those in power.

Laurel Cole was one of those inmates—and now she's on the run. After pulling off a meticulously executed escape plan, she and her team must elude the police by descending into the tunnels that run like poisoned veins beneath the city. Pursued by a ruthless mercenary who knows these sewers better than anyone, Laurel seeks help from a group of renegades who live huddled in the fetid darkness. But if she ever hopes to see daylight again—and expose the government's lies—she'll have to go even deeper. . . and the clock is ticking.

Indigo Springs by (A.M. Dellamonica (Tor Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – I read a couple of her short stories (Fast Forward 1, Mojo) and from what I remember, I enjoyed them.

Indigo Springs is a sleepy town where things seem pretty normal . . . until Astrid’s father dies and she moves into his house. She discovers that for many years her father had been accessing the magic that flowed, literally, in a blue stream beneath the earth, leaking into his house. When she starts to use the liquid "vitagua" to enchant everyday items, the results seem innocent enough: a “’chanted” watch becomes a charm that means you're always in the right place at the right time; a “’chanted” pendant enables the wearer to convince anyone of anything . . .

But as events in Indigo Springs unfold and the true potential of vitagua is revealed, Astrid and her friends unwittingly embark on a journey fraught with power, change, and a future too devastating to contemplate. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends as Astrid discovers secrets from her shrouded childhood that will lead her to a destiny stranger than she could have imagined . . .

Candle in the Storm (The Shadowed Path #2) by Morgan Howell (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – Impressively, Howell has released/published 5 books since 2007, one completed trilogy and this one 2/3 complete

The malign shadow of the Devourer has darkened the land, extinguishing life and hope. The followers of the benevolent goddess Karm are hunted mercilessly and cut down by an army of bewitched slayers led by Lord Bahl, the Devourer’s flesh-and-blood incarnation. Only two people stand in the way of an apocalyptic bloodbath that will literally bring hell to earth: a man and a woman linked by a love as strong as it is unlikely–Honus, a grim-faced warrior dedicated to Karm, and Yim, a beautiful former slave with the divine power to stop Lord Bahl.

But that power will prove a terrible curse as Yim is called upon to make a costly sacrifice–a sacrifice that will not only put her love for Honus to the test but call into question her very faith. As the evil storm descends, can the flame of hope endure?.

State of Decay (Revivors) by James Knapp (Ace Mass Market Paperback 02/02/2010) – Debut novel about zombies intentionally reanimated. Sounds interesting.

Would you allow the military to reanimate your corpse, knowing it would commit atrocities, if it meant avoiding service in a brutal war during your lifetime?

What if your level of citizenship depended on your answer? To gain a chance at a better life, or feed your family, which would you choose then? Or would you choose neither, and accept a life of hardship and poverty? What if you came face to face with your own death, and realized too late you had made the wrong decision?

Small Miracles by Edward M. Lerner (Tor Hardcover 10/27/2009) – Lerner is a busy man having written or co-written 5 books in the past couple of years

Garner Nanotechnology is developing nanotech-enhanced protective suits and autonomous first-aid nanobots. It’s cutting-edge stuff, and when it saves Brent Cleary from a pipeline explosion that killed hundreds, the Army takes notice.

Near-death experience changes a person, so no one is entirely surprised when easy-going Brent turns somber and studious, focused and cold. Not at first. But Kim O’Donnell, Brent’s best friend, cannot get past some of the changes. This just isn’t her friend, and she wonders what’s gotten into him.

With an Army field trial imminent and the company’s future at stake, possible nanotech side effects aren’t something anyone wants to discuss. The bad news is, Kim’s right. Something has gotten into Brent – and he isn’t the only one changing. If Kim can’t stop them … maybe we’ll all change.

Dragonheart (Dragonriders of Pern) by Todd McCaffrey (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – Another year anotherPern novel, this things come out like clockwork, which is great for Pern/McCaffrey’s legion of fans.

The grim specter of sickness looms over the Weyrs of Pern, felling fire-lizards and posing a potentially devastating threat to their dragon cousins, Pern’s sole defense against the deadly phenomenon that is Thread. Fiona, the youngest and only surviving daughter of Lord Bemin, is just coming of age, and about to assume the duties of a Weyrwoman, when word spreads that dragons have indeed begun succumbing to the new contagion. With the next season of Threadfall quickly approaching, and the already diminished ranks of the dragons once more under siege, every Weyr across Pern is in crisis mode. It is hardly the time for disturbing distractions–such as the strange voice Fiona suddenly hears in her mind at the darkest and most urgent moments.

Circumstances and the mood of the weyrfolk worsen when advance patrols relay the dreaded news that black dust–the unmistakable herald of falling Thread–has been sighted. As more dragons sicken and die, leaving only a new generation of weyrlings too young to succeed them, Weyrleader B’Nik and queen rider Lorana arrive from Benden Weyr to comb Fort Weyr’s archives in a desperate search for clues from the past that may hold the solution to the plague.

But could the actual past itself prove the pathway to salvation for Pern’s stricken dragons and the entire imperiled planet? Guided by a mysterious ally from a wholly unexpected place, and trusting in the unique dragon gift for transcending time, Fiona will join a risky expedition with far-reaching consequences for both Pern’s future and her personal destiny.

Black Blood by John Meaney (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – I thought the first book in this Dark SF/SF Horror/SF-Mystery series Bone Song was pretty good so this book seems like it will go to the ‘definitely to read’ pile:

In John Meaney’s follow-up to the much-acclaimed Bone Song, a cop in a morbidly lush necropolis crosses the barrier between life and death to avenge the murder of his lover—a woman whose heart now beats in his chest.…

Tristopolitan police lieutenant Donal Riordan returned from the dead for one purpose: to stop the killer who took not only his life but his reason for living it. But first he must penetrate a secret cabal known as the Black Circle, whose stranglehold on the city’s elite is preparation for a magical coup d’état fueled by a sacrifice of unprecedented bloodshed. At the center of this ring of evil is the man responsible for his lover’s murder—a man Donal has already had to kill once before.

Elric in the Dream Realms (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: Volume 5) by Michael Moorcock (Del Rey Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – This is the fifth volume in Del Rey’s terrific looking repackaging of Moorcock’s iconic Anti-hero, Elric. Each volume has had a different artist, this one’s cover and interior is by Michael William Kaluta. There’s also an introduction by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read most of the Elric stories in various forms, either in the Science Fiction Book Club omnibuses or the White Wolf versions.

Kinslayer. Soul reaver. Sorcerer. Thief. And last emperor of a cruel, decadent race. Elric of Melniboné is all of these–and more. His life is sustained by drugs and magic–and energy sucked from the victims of his vampiric black sword, Stormbringer, a weapon feared by men and gods alike. Denied the oblivion he seeks, poised between a tragic past he cannot escape and a terrifying future he is doomed to bring about, Elric is a hero like no other.

Del Rey is proud to present the fifth installment in its definitive collection featuring the immortal creation of Michael Moorcock, named Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Highlights include an epic novel of Elric’s early years, The Fortress of the Pearl; the script of the graphic novel Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer; a previously unpublished proposal for a new series; and Hugo Award—winning author Neil Gaiman’s moving fictional tribute to Elric, the short story “One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock.”

Gorgeously illustrated by Michael Wm. Kaluta, Elric: In the Dream Realms is a dream come true for sword-and-sorcery fans.

In His Majesty's Service (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey Books Hardcover 10/27/2009) – This is an omnibus of the first three enjoyable books in Novik’s popular Dragons-in-Napoleonic-War series (His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War):

Together in one volume, here are the first three novels in Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestselling Temeraire series, combining the gripping history of the Napoleonic era, the thrill of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, and the excitement of Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures. In His Majesty’s Service also includes an exclusive original Temeraire short story.

Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history.

Thrust into England’s Aerial Corps, Laurence and Temeraire undergo rigorous training while staving off French forces intent on breaching British soil. But the pair has more than France to contend with when China learns that an imperial dragon intended for Napoleon–Temeraire himself– has fallen into British hands. The emperor summons the new pilot and his dragon to the Far East, a long voyage fraught with peril and intrigue. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. But can they succeed against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army?

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Pyr Trade Paperback November 2009) – Rusch is a very prolific writer who bounces between genres, with a lot of SF on her shelves. This is a stand alone novel that sounds pretty interesting and reminds me a bit, from the description only, of Jack McDevitt.

Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she's an active historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she's dived the ship, she'll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It's a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.

Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It's impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn't be here. It can't be here. And yet, it is. Boss's curiosity is up, and she's determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won't give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.

What Boss finds could rewrite history, cost lives, and start an intergalactic war.

Star Wars 501st (An Imperial Commando Novel) by Karen Traviss (Del Rey/Star Wars Books Hardcover 10/27/2009) – Traviss is a somewhat controversial Star Wars writer – she’s got legions and legions of admirers and some who don’t like her so much. She’s leaving the Star Wars books behind due to some conflicts between her stories and The Clone Wars TV show.

The Clone Wars are over, but for those with reason to run from the new galactic Empire, the battle to survive has only just begun. . . .

The Jedi have been decimated in the Great Purge, and the Republic has fallen. Now the former Republic Commandos–the galaxy’s finest special forces troops, cloned from Jango Fett–find themselves on opposing sides and in very different armor. Some have deserted and fled to Mandalore with the mercenaries, renegade clone troopers, and rogue Jedi who make up Kal Skirata’s ragtag resistance to Imperial occupation. Others–including men from Delta and Omega squads–now serve as Imperial Commandos, a black ops unit within Vader’s own 501st Legion, tasked to hunt down fugitive Jedi and clone deserters. For Darman, grieving for his Jedi wife and separated from his son, it’s an agonizing test of loyalty. But he’s not the only one who’ll be forced to test the ties of brotherhood. On Mandalore, clone deserters and the planet’s own natives, who have no love for the Jedi, will have their most cherished beliefs challenged. In the savage new galactic order, old feuds may have to be set aside to unite against a far bigger threat, and nobody can take old loyalties for granted..

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield (Del Rey Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – Owen read/reviewed Kit’s first novel Bareback (aka Benighted in the US) and interviewed her back in 2007 and reviewed In Great Waters a few months ago. This book deals with mer-people:

During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this new breed–and then, jealous of their power, ban any further unions between the two peoples. Dalliance with a deepswoman becomes punishable by death. Any “bastard” child must be destroyed.

This is an Earth where the legends of the deep are true–where the people of the ocean are as real and as dangerous as the people of the land. This is the world of intrigue and betrayal that Kit Whitfield brings to life in an unforgettable alternate history: the tale of Anne, the youngest princess of a faltering England, struggling to survive in a troubled court, and Henry, a bastard abandoned on the shore to face his bewildering destiny, finding himself a pawn in a game he does not understand.

Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Salamander - Rob's First Warhammer 40K Novel

I’d been interested in the Warhammer / Warhammer 40,000 universe(s) for a while now. There seems to be a very cohesive, well-thought air about these media/gaming fiction universes. I recently finished my first Warhammer 40,000 Salamander by Nick Kyme, the first of the Tome of Fire Trilogy. I like the cover on this one a lot, too.

Salamanders are the elite fighting units of the Space Marines – the military force of the Emperor’s Imperium of Man. Bred and genetically enhanced to the fullest extent of human physical capabilities, they are on the frontline of the galaxy defending the worlds of man and helping to enact the Emperor’s will. In genre shorthand, think the soldier’s of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers standing seven-feet tall, amped up on steroids, armed with blot throwers and chain-swords.

Kyme populates his Salamanders with quite a range of characters, with Dak’ir as the de-facto protagonist. Da’kir has prophetic dreams and is haunted by past battles, and both of these converge along the way. Other characters include the plotting Iagon and Tsu’gan, as well as the newly appointed captain N’Keln. Considering the novel centers on a troop of Salamanders, there are additional characters. Unfortunately, they weren’t too distinguishable from one another and this was not helped by their similar sounding names often broken by the great genre apostrophe. Kyme also has a tendency to fall back on some tropes that come across as anachronistic – literary phrases that seemed to have lasted 40 thousand years. The only other flaw is an occasionally unevenly paced narrative.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/17/2009)

Sunday is Books in the Mail time, so here’s the tally of books I received for review during the previous week. Since I can’t possibly get to all of the books publishers send me, the next best thing is to at least not ignore them, which is the main purpose of this post.

All that said, this week was a pretty big week at the o’ Stuff mailbox/porch/in-front-of-the-garage...

And Another Thing... (Book #6 in The Hithchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy) by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion Trade Paperback 10/11/2009) – I have a deep affection for the first 4 or 5 books in the trilogy and have read them each a couple of times. My wife loves the books, too. There seems to be some positivity surrounding this continuation of a deceased author’s defining work, quite the opposite of what’s happening with the Dune books. In fact, a number of very positive reviews cropped up the day of the book’s release

An Englishman's continuing search through space and time for a decent cup of tea . .

Arthur Dent's accidental association with that wholly remarkable book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, has not been entirely without incident.

Arthur has travelled the length breadth and depth of known, and unknown, space. He has stumbled forwards and backwards through time. He has been blown up, reassembled, cruelly imprisoned, horribly released, and colorfully insulted more than is strictly necessary. And of course Arthur Dent has comprehensively failed to grasp the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Arthur has finally made it home to Earth, but that does not mean he has escaped his fate.

Arthur's chances of getting his hands on a decent cuppa have evaporated rapidly along with all the world's oceans. For no sooner has he touched down on the planet Earth than he finds out that it is about to be blown up . . . ..again.

And Another Thing . . . is the rather unexpected, but very welcome, sixth installment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. It features a pantheon of unemployed gods, everyone's favorite renegade Galactic President, a lovestruck green alien, an irritating computer, and at least one very large slab of cheese.

Makers by (Cory Doctorow (Tor Hardcover 10/27/2009) – This is Doctorow’s first novel since Makers, which I thought was one of the best books I read last year:

Perry and Lester invent things—seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems, like the “New Work,” a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups like Perry and Lester’s. Together, they transform the country, and Andrea Fleeks, a journo-turned-blogger, is there to document it.

Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot.combomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Wal-Marts across the land. As their rides, which commemorate the New Work’s glory days, gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive grows jealous, and convinces the police that Perry and Lester’s 3D printers are being used to run off AK-47s.

Hordes of goths descend on the shantytown built by the New Workers, joining the cult. Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry’s friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the ‘fatkins’ treatment, turning him into a sybaritic gigolo.

The Commanding Stone (The Osserian Saga #3) by David Forbes (EOS Mass Market Paperback 10/03/2009) – I read and liked the first book, The Amber Wizard when it first published in 2006 and subsequently interviewed David. I liked the book and now I have books 2 and 3 to read back to back.

Gerin, King of Khedesh, has long since accepted the mantle of Amber Wizard—the first in a millennium—with all the terrible responsibility that accompanies it. He has prevented the dread wizard-king, Asankaru, from attaining the all-powerful Words of Making, but the enemy grows stronger by the day.

And now Gerin must be resolute and pursue the secret of the Words at any and all cost. For a new foe has emerged in a furious race toward a magical artifact that can awaken and command monsters long thought dead. And nothing will survive the devastation wrought by dragon fire.

Heart's Blood edited by Juliet Marillier (Roc Hardcover 11/03/2009) – Taking a break from her popular Sevenwaters milieu, Marillier spins a romantic fantasy that seems to touch upon some similar themes. I only read Daughter of the Forest and thought it was good.

The national bestselling "fine folklorist and gifted narrator"(Publishers Weekly) of the Sevenwaters novels conjures a new sweeping romantic fantasy.

Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family and his home of Whistling Tor. But when the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through family documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household, casting a hopeful light against the despairing shadows.

But to truly free Anluan's burdened soul, Caitrin must unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life-and their love…

Sasha (A Trial of Blood and Steel #1) by Joel Shepherd (Pyr Trade Paperback 10/13/2009) – Joel made a big splash with his Cassandra Kresnov series (Crossover, Breakaway, and Killswitch). With this series, he seems to be sticking with a strong heroine, although he’s switched gears and is telling a (historical?) fantasy with these books


Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit—the Synnich—who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully.

When the Udalyn people—the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage—are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?

Legacy by Tom Sniegoski (Delacorte Books for Young Readers Hardcover 11/03/2009) – Sniegoski is a pretty prolific writer, this is the third book I’ve received for review over the past year with his name on it. This story is about superheroes and sounds, thematically, a bit similar to Robert Kirkman’s Invincible.

What if you found out your deadbeat father is a superhero? Would you leave your small-town life to take up the mantle of a father you never knew? For 18-year-old Lucas, the choice is an easy one: he’s not going to leave behind his mother and his comfortable life for a father who’s never shown any interest in him. But his father—known officially as billionaire Clayton Hartwell, and secretly as the vigilante superhero The Raptor—tells Lucas that as he is dying, evil is growing, and the world needs Lucas to become the new Raptor. When Lucas’s mother is killed by mysterious warriors, he realizes that his father is right. Once in Seraph City, Lucas is stunned by the amount of poverty and crime. But after observing his father’s “heroic” behavior up close, Lucas is left wondering about the line between good and evil. And eventually, he must decide whether to take a stand against the one man who loves him in order to defend a world that desperately needs him.

Eclipse Three edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback October 2009) – This is the third in Strahan’s acclaimed annual, unthemed anthology series of original fiction. I thought the first one was good, but haven’t gotten to the second one yet, and this one looks pretty impressive, too.

To observe an eclipse is to witness a rare and unusual event. Under darkened skies the sun becomes a negative image of itself, its corona transforming the landscape into a strange space where anything might happen, and any story may be true...

In the spirit of classic science fiction anthologies such as Universe, Orbit, and Starlight, master anthologist Jonathan Strahan (The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year) presents the non-themed genre anthology Eclipse: New Science Fiction and Fantasy. Here you will find stories where strange and wonderful things happen--where reality is eclipsed by something magical and new.

Continuing in the footsteps of the multiple-award-nominated anthologies Eclipse One and Eclipse Two, Eclipse Three delivers new fiction by some of the genre's most celebrated authors, including Karen Joy Fowler's story of a family's desperation and a rebellious young woman's strange incarceration; Ellen Klages's fable of a practical girl, an unusual tortoise, and an ancient mathematical puzzle; Pat Cadigan's story of a mysterious photograph and two friends' journey through space and time in order to solve its riddle; Jeffrey Ford's tale of a legendary sword imbued with the power to turn flesh to coral, and of the artist that wields it; Daniel Abraham's story of divine providence, sacred oaths, and the omens that indicate whether a man is fit to be king; and Caitlin R. Kiernan's chronicle of an astronaut whose memories of a lover lost to an alien intelligence haunt her.

Table of Contents:
  • The Pelican Bar, Karen Joy Fowler
  • A Practical Girl, Ellen Klages
  • Don't Mention Madagascar, Pat Cadigan
  • On the Road, Nnedi Okorafor
  • Swell, Elizabeth Bear
  • Useless Things, Maureen F. McHugh
  • The Coral Heart, Jeffrey Ford
  • It Takes Two, Nicola Griffith
  • Sleight of Hand, Peter S. Beagle
  • The Pretender's Tourney, Daniel Abraham
  • Yes We Have No Bananas, Paul Di Filippo
  • Mesopotamian Fire, Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple
  • The Visited Man, Molly Gloss
  • Galapagos, Caitlin R. Kiernan
  • Dolce Domum, Ellen Kushner

Blackout by (Connie Willis (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 02/10/2010) – Willis is one of the most awarded writers in the Science Fiction genre. Her most famous novel Doomsday Book also centers on Time Travel. I expect this novel will be on awards lists next year.

Blackout is the opening movement of a vast, absorbing two-volume novel that may well prove to be Connie Willis’s masterpiece. Like her multi-award winning The Doomsday Book, this marvelous new work marries the intricate mechanics of time travel to the gritty – and dangerous – realities of actual human history.

The narrative opens in Oxford, England in 2060, where a trio of time traveling scholars prepares to depart for various corners of the Second World War. Their mission: to observe, from a “safe” vantage point, the day-to-day nature of life during a critical historical moment, As the action ranges from the evacuation of Dunkirk to the manor houses of rural England to the quotidian horrors of London during the Blitz, the objective nature of their roles gradually changes. Cut off from the safety net of the future and caught up in the “chaotic system” that is history, they are forced to participate, in unexpected ways, in the defining events of the era.

Blackout is an ingeniously constructed time travel novel and a grand entertainment. More than that, it is a moving, exquisitely detailed portrait of a world under siege, a world dominated by chaos, uncertainty, and the threat of imminent extinction. It is the rare sort of book that transcends the limits of genre, offering pleasure, insight, and illumination on virtually every page.

Iron Company
by Chris Wraight (Black Library Mass Market 11/04/2009) – The breadth of these Warhammer novels continues to impress me – the folks at Black Library really have quite a few different series going on.

When retired engineer Magnus Ironblood is tempted into one more campaign, he finds himself working alongside some unlikely allies. Sent as part of an Imperial force to bring to heel the secessionist forces of Countess von Kleister, this rag-tag army finds themselves outgunned. Digging deep into their reserves of courage and ingenuity they must fight the enemy forces with everything they have. But will it be enough to succeed where other have failed?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Windup Girl and Triumff

Another week and we’ve got two more new reviews up at SFFWorld.

I reviewed Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut novel The Windup Girl which shares the setting with a number of his highly regarded stories, including the The Calorie Man

The plot of the novel deals in sociological elements like race, politics, and the status of outsiders and artificial people. In many ways, I felt as if I was reading a Philip K. Dick novel – the timeframe of a near future coupled with the rigid and controlling über-governments gave Bacigalupi’s story just that feel. The setting was balanced very well between familiar and alien – in essence a future that seems scarily possible within the current landscape of the world.

While the setting was the strongest element of the novel, I was unable to completely connect with the plot or remain connected with the characters throughout the novel. After the explosive and engaging first chapter or two, the narrative wasn’t able to maintain my interest completely for the remainder of the novel.

Mark took a look at one of the launch titles form the new Angry Robot imprint, which is from a fairly familiar genre name Dan Abnett. While he is well known in Black Library/Warhammer circles, his offering here is an original, steampunky/humorous fantasy, Triumff - Her Majesty’s Hero:

Set in the time of Elizabeth XXX, we discover that although the date is ‘now’, this is the Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure, where the power is not steam but clockwork. It is ruled by Queen Elizabeth and her Anglo-Spanish Alliance (Unity) with a combination of both military might and magic – sorry, magick, called the Arte. Thus the tale is firmly rooted in Elizabethan style England, with odd twists. There is a mix of ‘old’ with ‘new’. The clothes of the times still involve doublet and hose, yet at the same time there are guns and swords and comments about Visagebook and ThySpace, not to mention the singers Diseased Rascal and Lady Geegaw.

The tale is told through a combination of first person narrative, through the unreliable narrator, William (Wllm) Beaver, and third person. Wllm’s role here is relate the tale of the lead character. Sir Rupert Triumff (‘seafarer, Constable of the Gravesend Basin and celebrated discoverer of Australia’), a real Errol Flynn of a character, drinking and fighting his way through the book, a character with honour, a loyalty to the Queen and a highly tuned sense of self-preservation. Sir Rupert is given the responsibility of going undercover by Cardinal Woolly in order to stop the plot and save old Three Ex herself.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/11/2009)

This week’s Books in the Mail post is brought to you by Ace/Roc, Black Library, DAW, and Tor .

Blood Pact (A Gaunt’s Ghosts Novel) by Dan Abnett (Black Library Hardcover 11/03/2009) – Abnett is THE superstar writer of the Warhammer 40,0000 universe and this book takes place in the ongoing series which helped to cement that status for him. .

Pulled back from the front line, the men of the Tanith First await news of their next deployment. But when an enemy prisoner is brought in for interrogation, Gaunt is drawn into a murderous web of intrigue. Who can be trusted, and exactly what does the prisoner know that makes him so valuable? The fate of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade rests upon the answers, and Gaunt must find them out before he is eliminated.

Elegy Beach by Steven R. Boyett (Ace Hardcover 11/03/2009) – This is a sequel, 26 years in the making, to Boyett’s debut novel, Ariel which itself is very well regarded.

A publishing event twenty-five years in the making: the long awaited sequel to the unforgettable post-apocalyptic fantasy, Ariel.

Thirty years ago the lights went out, the airplanes fell, the cars went still, the cities all went dark. The laws humanity had always known were replaced by new laws that could only be called magic. The world has changed forever. Or has it?

In a small community on the California coast are Fred Garey and his friend Yan, both born after the Change. Yan dreams of doing something so big his name will live on forever. He thinks he's found it-a way to reverse the Change. But Fred fears the repercussions of such drastic, irreversible steps.

Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (Ace Hardcover 11/03/2009) – Dann and Dozois have been putting out at least one themed anthology a year for over twenty years now and they always manage to get the top genre names to contribute. This one looks pretty impressive

Never before published stories by New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon, and others.

Whether portrayed as fire-breathing reptilian beasts at war with humanity or as noble creatures capable of speech and mystically bonded to the warriors who ride them, dragons have been found in nearly every culture's mythology. In modern times, they can be found far from their medieval settings in locales as mundane as suburbia or as barren as post-apocalyptic landscapes-and in The Dragon Book, today's greatest fantasists reignite the fire with legendary tales that will consume readers' imaginations.

With original stories by New York Times bestselling authors Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon, Tamora Pierce, Harry Turtledove, Sean Williams, and Tad Williams as well as tales by Naomi Novik, Peter Beagle, Jane Yolen, Adam Stemple, Cecelia Holland, Kage Baker, Samuel Sykes, Diana Wynne Jones, Mary Rosenblum, Tanith Lee, Andy Duncan, and Bruce Coville.

Silver Mage (Silver Wyrm #4) by Katherine Kerr (DAW Hardcover 11/03/2009) – The concluding volume of a four-volume series, which is part of a larger series of books. All told, the Deverry cycle has fifteen books. These books were immensely popular in the 1980s and 1990s and seem to be a bit overlooked nowadays. .

The Horsekin are assembling along Prince Dar's northern border, and the Deverry alliance simply does not have the men and resources to prevent their enemies from moving into the wilderness areas known as the Ghostlands. But suddenly, the Dwrgi folk and the dragons come to Dar's aid, tipping the balance in their favor and offering Dar's people a chance to defeat the Horsekin once and for all.

The Clone Betrayal (Wayson Harris/Clone Series #5) by Steven L. Kent (Ace Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – I read the fourth book earlier in the year and it was one of the few times I’d jumped into a series so late in the series. I liked and will probably get to this one eventually.:

Lt. Wayson Harris was born and bred as the ultimate soldier. But he is unique, possessing independence of thought. And when the military brass decide to blame the clones for the decimation of the U.A. republic, Lt. Harris decides to stop being the scapegoat, with all the firepower he can muster.

The Trouble With Heroes by edited by Denise Little (DAW Mass Market 11/04/2009) – November’s themed-anthology from DAW explores “the behind-the-scenes truth about heroes.”

These 22 all-new tales pay tribute to the true heroes-the people who enable and put up with heroes. From what it's like to be Hercules' wife )complete with an appearance by Hercules in drag) to the trials of H.P. Lovecraft's housekeeper, from the perils of being King Kong's girlfriend to the downside of dating a shapeshifter, this anthology turns heroism on its head, revealing the behind-the-scenes drama, as opposed to glorious rescues. From the Pied Piper's power trip to David acting like a giant you-know-what after slaying Goliath, these stories show heroes in all their ignominy and shine a light on the unsung faithful standing in their shadows.

Time Travelers Never Die edited by Jack McDevitt (Ace Hardcover 11/03/2009) – McDevitt is a consistently entertaining writer whose won and/or been nominated for just about all the major genre awards. This novel is a standalone about, you guessed it – time travel.

When physicist Michael Shelborne mysteriously vanishes, his son Shel discovers that he had constructed a time travel device. Fearing his father may be stranded in time-or worse-Shel enlists the aid of Dave MacElroy, a linguist, to accompany him on the rescue mission.

Their journey through history takes them from the enlightenment of Renaissance Italy through the American Wild West to the civil-rights upheavals of the 20th century. Along the way, they encounter a diverse cast of historical greats, sometimes in unexpected situations. Yet the elder Shelborne remains elusive.

And then Shel violates his agreement with Dave not to visit the future. There he makes a devastating discovery that sends him fleeing back through the ages, and changes his life forever.

Innocence Proves Nothing (Book 2 of Dark Heresy) by Sandy Mitchell (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 11/03/2009) – Second in a series set in the Warhammer 40,000 milieu.

With Kyrlock and Elyra inflitrating the network of rogue psykers, the rest of the team start investigating the xenos artefact smuggling ring. As the operatives work their way deeper into the two criminal organisations, they unravel clues that suggest they might both be part of one greater evil. With danger at every turn, and paranoia running rife, can the Inquisition figure out what is going on before the Scintilla system is overrun by heretics?

Imager’s Challenge (Imager Portfolio #2) by (L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor Hardcover 10/13/2009) – Modesitt, Jr. seems to be a writing machine, churning out a couple of books per year in different series. Yet another one of those types I haven’t read.

Imager’s Challenge takes up immediately after the conclusion of Imager. Still recovering from injuries received in foiling the plots of the Ferran envoy, Rhenn is preparing to take up his new duties as imager liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelsis. No sooner has he assumed his new position than he discovers two things. First, the Commander of the Civic Patrol doesn’t want a liaison from the infamous Collegium, and soon has Rhenn patrolling the streets of the worst district in the city. Second, Rhenn receives formal notice that one of the High Holders, the father of a man Rhenn partly blinded in self-defense, has declared his intention to destroy Rhenn and his family.

Rhenn’s only allies are the family of the girl he loves, successful merchants with underworld connections. In the end, Rhenn must literally stand off against gang lords, naval marines, Tiempran terrorist priests, the most powerful High Holder in all of Solidar, and his own Collegium—and find a way to prevail without making further enemies and endangering those he loves.

Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom#3) by (Roc Mass Market Paperback 11/03/2009) – I read the first book by in this series, Magic to the Bone and thought it was a nice debut. I’ve still got the second book in the series, too.

Allison Beckstrom's magic has taken its toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves. But lost memories aren't the only things preying on Allie's thoughts.

Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her very mind. With the help of The Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father...

Kris Longknife: Intrepid by Mike Shepherd (Ace Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2009) – Seventh novel in a military SF series that, on the surface, looks like it could be a cousin to David Weber’s Honor Harrington series

Kris Longknife encounters some peaceful aliens who have come to warn humanity of an unidentifiable force that is roaming the galaxy, obliterating everything in its pathâ¿¿a path now leading directly toward the human worlds....

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Steampunk, Epic Fantasy, and Post-Apocalyptic Reviews

Bride and Mark join me in posing new reviews over the past few days at SFFWorld.

I reviewed the newest book by Scott Westerfeld – an alternate history/steampunk/science-fiction romp Leviathan.

Of course this technology was not quite as advanced in 1914 of our world as it is in the world of Leviathan. Westerfled’s descriptions were enough to give hints and really put me in the seat with Alek as he piloted his walking tank across the European landscape. Furthermore, Alek is genuine in that while he is somewhat oblivious to world events and headstrong, Westerfeld doesn’t make him a complete idiot. The balancing act can be tough to manage with the typical orphaned heir and Westerfeld pulled it off exceedingly well – I liked Alek, I felt for his plight, and I found myself rooting for him throughout the story.

So, there are a lot of dichotomies in this novel and world – mechanized technology v. biological technology; boy protagonist v. girl protagonist; Allied Powers v. the Central Powers. The technology conflict is presented in a very engaging manner, with the Clankers showing revulsion at the manipulated life forms, while the Darwinists think the Clankers some kinds of heretics for their devotion to mechanized technology.

Mark reviewed Amanda Downum’s debut novel and the first of her Chronicles of the Necromancer series -The Drowning City.

This may sound a little familiar but usually a reader hopes that a tale will develop enough of its own identity in order to make it memorable. Here the key differences of the novel are the use of oriental-style ghosts in a South American rainforest-type setting and its magic system. One of these worked for me, the other less so. Here, ghosts of your ancestors can determine your lifestyle, by both being a force for change and a means of possession if things get too tricky. Less successful is the world’s means of magic – basically this involves storing ghosts in what basically amounts to magic crystals is a little too Mario-land for my liking, though the author makes a reasonable job with what could have been a millstone.

The tale is fairly fast moving from one set piece to another, and this tends to cover up the fact that there is actually little depth here. I rather expected more espionage and political shenanigans than I actually got, and of the actual world around Symir there is, in the end, little to be actually seen here. By the denouement, things are a little overwrought, with what initially seemed to be a key plot-stone turning out to be nothing more than a MacGuffin around which the other events unfurl. The ending is rather apocalyptic and possibly a little overdone, with some plotlines being conveniently held over to the next book.

Last, but not least, Bride took a look at X-Isle by Steve Augarde:
The plot is pretty simple; end of the world style destruction, struggling to survive, taking down the bad guys. But there are a few twists that you just don’t see coming, one to do with a character and another during the final climax on the Eck’s boat. These blew me out of the water so to speak; I didn’t see them coming but when you think back over the story it all fits into place seamlessly. None of the plot was random; it was all connected all determined from the start just hidden inside the text, waiting till the end of the book when you suddenly realise that the clues were there; you just didn’t notice.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Me Interviewed

Apparently, I’m one of the “recognizable personalities of the vast and broad sf&f community” so I've been interviewed. Peter Dowd (aka PeterWilliam in the SFFWorld Forums) asked if I’d like to be part of his Sunday Night Spotlight series wherein he interviews FSF bloggers.

Aside from being a Boston fan, Pete’s seems a good chap with a predilection for omnibuses. So, if you wan to know a little bit about me, head over to the interview on his blog.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/04/2009)

Only one book this week, which isn’t such a bad thing since there are plenty of weeks when I receive far more books than I can read…

Noonshade (Chronicles of the Raven #2) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 10/22/2009) – Second in The Chronicles of the Raven continuing the terrific “series” design for these books. Barclay is a great Sword & Sorcery writer and it’s great to finally see his books so readily available in the US.

The story in Noonshade picks up right where Barclay left readers at the conclusion of Dawnthief The super-spell Dawnthief was cast, eradicating the Wytch Lords, but leaving open a gate, or rather a tear in the sky of Balaia to neighboring dimensions. The most relevant and fascinating is the Dragon dimension. This could mean devastation for the land of Balaia considering how powerful the dragons in Barclay’s world truly are..

Barclay has improved his skill with this volume, which was already impressive. His crafting of the Dragon dimension is full of life and their history resonates with believability. He does an excellent job of imbuing the Dragons with a sense of intelligence, awe-inspiring power, and great character. In other words, James Barclay has take what many people expect of a fantasy dragon and given it his own spark of imagination.

Noonshade doesn’t miss a beat in terms of the action and continuing build of the Raven as a wonderful, memorable team of characters. Barclay masterfully weaves the differing storylines together, revealing a great story that comes to a satisfying conclusion, while knowing there is more in store for the Raven.