Sunday, May 31, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-05-30)

At this point, this would be about an average week of arrivals, since there seems to be an uptick in recent weeks. Anything her you, my fine readers, fancy?

Blood of the Cosmos (Saga of Shadows #2) and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Hardcover 06/02/2015) - Second installment of Anderson’s Saga of Shadows series the first of which was shortlisted for the Hugo Award. This series itself is a sequel to the Saga of the Seven Suns series. This is the first book of either series I’ve received.

Blood of the Cosmos: the second book in Kevin J. Anderson's Saga of Shadows trilogy.
An epic space opera of the titanic conflict of several galactic civilizations against a life-destroying force of shadows, a dark cosmic force that has swept through the undercurrents of the human interstellar empire.

The intertwined plots, overflowing with colorful ideas, a large cast of characters, and complex storylines, span dozens of solar systems, alien races, and strange creatures.

As the second book of the trilogy opens, the humans and Ildirans, having narrowly escaped annihilation at the hands of the Shana Rei and their robot allies in Book One, are desperate to find a way to combat the black cloud of antimatter of the Shana Rei. The mysterious alien Gardeners, who had helped them previously, turn out to be a disaster in disguise and because of them, the world tree forests are again in danger. The allies believing they have found a way to stop their dreaded enemies, a new weapon is tested, but it's a horrible failure, throwing the human race and its allies to the brink of extinction.

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Books June 2015) – The Expanse is consistently my favorite space-based science fiction series, with each book landing on my top reads of the year. Cibola Burn was a bit of a game changer for the series – in a good way for a series that was already quite good.

The fifth novel in James S.A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series--now being produced for television by the SyFy Channel

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

Tin Men by Christopher Golden (Ballantine Hardcover, 06/23/2015) – Much of Golden’s oeuvre lies in the darker, fantastic realms of Speculative Fiction. This one is a slight directional change into a Military SF/Apocalyptic tale. I’ve read a book or two by him and I’ve always wanted to go back and read more. This is the final/finished copy of the ARC I received in March.

Brad Thor meets Avatar in this timely thriller for the drone age as award-winning author Christopher Golden spins the troubles of today into the apocalypse of tomorrow.

After political upheaval, economic collapse, and environmental disaster, the world has become a hotspot, boiling over into chaos of near apocalyptic proportions. In this perpetual state of emergency, all that separates order from anarchy is the military might of a United States determined to keep peace among nations waging a free-for-all battle for survival and supremacy.

But a conflict unlike any before demands an equally unprecedented fighting force on its front lines. Enter the Remote Infantry Corps: robot soldiers deployed in war zones around the world, controlled by human operators thousands of miles from the action. PFC Danny Kelso is one of these “Tin Men,” stationed with his fellow platoon members at a subterranean base in Germany, steering their cybernetic avatars through combat in the civil-war-ravaged streets of Syria. Immune to injury and death, this brave new breed of American warrior has a battlefield edge that’s all but unstoppable—until a flesh-and-blood enemy targets the Tin Men’s high-tech advantage in a dangerously game-changing counter strike.

When anarchists unleash a massive electromagnetic pulse, short-circuiting the world’s technology, Kelso and his comrades-in-arms find themselves trapped—their minds tethered within their robot bodies and, for the first time, their lives at risk.

Now, with rocket-wielding “Bot Killers” gunning for them, and desperate members of the unit threatening to go rogue, it’s the worst possible time for the Tin Men to face their most crucial mission. But an economic summit is under terrorist attack, the U.S. president is running for his life, and the men and women of the 1st Remote Infantry Division must take the fight to the next level—if they want to be the last combatants standing, not the first of their kind to fall forever.

Lightless by C.A. Higgins (Del Rey Hardcover 09/25/2015) –This is another impressive looking SF debut, this time from the fine folks at Del Rey Books.

The deeply moving human drama of Gravity meets the nail-biting suspense of Alien in this riveting science fiction debut. With bold speculation informed by a degree in astrophysics, C. A. Higgins spins an unforgettable “locked spaceship” mystery guaranteed to catapult readers beyond their expectations—and into brilliantly thrilling new territory.

Serving aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft launched by the ruthless organization that rules Earth and its solar system, computer scientist Althea has established an intense emotional bond—not with any of her crewmates, but with the ship’s electronic systems, which speak more deeply to her analytical mind than human feelings do. But when a pair of fugitive terrorists gain access to the Ananke, Althea must draw upon her heart and soul for the strength to defend her beloved ship.

While one of the saboteurs remains at large somewhere on board, his captured partner—the enigmatic Ivan—may prove to be more dangerous. The perversely fascinating criminal whose silver tongue is his most effective weapon has long evaded the authorities’ most relentless surveillance—and kept the truth about his methods and motives well hidden.

As the ship’s systems begin to malfunction and the claustrophobic atmosphere is increasingly poisoned by distrust and suspicion, it falls to Althea to penetrate the prisoner’s layers of intrigue and deception before all is lost. But when the true nature of Ivan’s mission is exposed, it will change Althea forever—if it doesn’t kill her first.

Nova by Margaret Fortune (DAW Hardcover 06/09/2015) – This is Fortune’s debut novel. If I’m not mistaken, when I was at the meet-up last September, I think this book came up in conversation with some folks quite favorably. This looks good and impressive that an SF debut is publishing in hardcover.


The clock activates so suddenly in my mind, my head involuntarily jerks a bit to the side. The fog vanishes, dissipated in an instant as though it never was. Memories come slotting into place, their edges sharp enough to leave furrows, and suddenly I know. I know exactly who I am.

My name is Lia Johansen, and I was named for a prisoner of war. She lived in the Tiersten Internment Colony for two years, and when they negotiated the return of the prisoners, I was given her memories and sent back in her place.

And I am a genetically engineered human bomb.

Lia Johansen was created for only one purpose: to slip onto the strategically placed New Sol Space Station and explode. But her mission goes to hell when her clock malfunctions, freezing her countdown with just two minutes to go. With no Plan B, no memories of her past, and no identity besides a name stolen from a dead POW, Lia has no idea what to do next. Her life gets even more complicated when she meets Michael Sorenson, the real Lia’s childhood best friend.

Drawn to Michael and his family against her better judgment, Lia starts learning what it means to live and love, and to be human. It is only when her countdown clock begins sporadically losing time that she realizes even duds can still blow up. If she wants any chance at a future, she must find a way to unlock the secrets of her past and stop her clock. But as Lia digs into her origins, she begins to suspect there’s far more to her mission and to this war, than meets the eye. With the fate of not just a space station but an entire empire hanging in the balance, Lia races to find the truth before her time—literally—runs out.

The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood Book 1)by Jeff Wheeler (47North Trade Paperback 08/18/2015) – Wheeler has been spinning tales in his Muirwood milieu for man years, this is his latest and seems a decent entry point for new readers.

n a stand-alone series set in the world of Muirwood, eighteen-year-old Maia is the exiled princess of Comoros and heir to the throne. As a result of her father’s ceaseless need for authority, she was left disinherited and forced to live as a servant in her enemy’s home. When the king invites chaos into the land by expelling the magical order known as the Dochte Mandar, Maia finds herself on a perilous quest to save her people. To survive, she must use magic she has learned in secret—despite the fact that women are forbidden to control it. Hunted by enemies at every turn, Maia realizes that danger lurks within her, too. Her powers threaten to steal not only her consciousness but also her sense of right and wrong. Can she set herself free and save the realm she loves—even if that realm has forgotten her?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-05-23)

Here's this week's haul, I can see myself reading more than half of these books...

Half a War (Book Three of The Shattered Sea Trilogy) by Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey Hardcover 07/28/2014) –The concluding volume to Joe’s Young Adult trilogy, which last July. I’ve got the first one as an eBook, so I’ve go some catching up to do.

New York Times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie delivers the stunning conclusion to the epic fantasy trilogy that began with Half a King, praised by George R. R. Martin as “a fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge that grabbed me from page 1 and refused to let go.”

Words are weapons.

Princess Skara has seen all she loved made blood and ashes. She is left with only words. But the right words can be as deadly as any blade. If she is to reclaim her birthright, she must conquer her fears and sharpen her wits to a lethal edge.

Only half a war is fought with swords.

The deeply cunning Father Yarvi has walked a long road from crippled slave to king’s minister. He has made allies of old foes and stitched together an uneasy peace. But now the ruthless Grandmother Wexen has raised the greatest army since the elves made war on God, and put Bright Yilling at its head—a man who worships only Death.

Sometimes one must fight evil with evil.

Some—like Thorn Bathu and the sword-bearer Raith—are born to fight, perhaps to die. Others—like Brand the smith and Koll the wood-carver—would rather stand in the light. But when Mother War spreads her irons wings, she may cast the whole Shattered Sea into darkness.

The Darkling Child (Defenders of Shannara #2) by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Hardcover 06/09/2015) – It’s been quite some time since I read and enjoyed a Terry Brooks novel, but Aidan’s review of The Wards of Faerie in this latest series, as well as this , has me seriously considering giving Mr. Brooks another try. This standalone seems a great spot to do just that.

From New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks comes a thrilling stand-alone novel in his legendary Shannara series—the perfect place for new readers to begin.

After taking up his enchanted sword against the dark sorcerer Arcannen, Paxon Leah has become the sworn protector of the Druid order. Now a critical hour is at hand, as a beloved High Druid nears the end of her reign and prepares to pass from the mortal world to the one beyond. There is little time for Paxon to mourn his friend and benefactor before duty summons him. For in a distant corner of the Four Lands, the magic of the wishsong has been detected. Paxon must accompany a Druid emissary to find its source—and ensure the formidable power is not wielded by the wrong hands.

But danger is already afoot in the village of Portlow. Gentle traveling minstrel Reyn Frosch possesses the uncanny gift, and curse, of the wishsong. And now his coveted abilities have captured the malevolent interest of none other than Arcannen—whose quest for power is exceeded only by his thirst for vengeance. The lone survivor of a brutal assault on a notorious pirate city, the sorcerer is determined to retaliate against the Federation’s elite military guard—and use the devastating power of the wishsong as his ultimate weapon.

Lord of Runes (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Dave Gross (Paizo Trade Paperback 06/16/2015) – This is the first Pathfinder novel to publish under the new agreement between Tor and Paizo/Pathfinder. Gross is (arguably) the top author of the Pathfinder milieu and this one continues the adventures of his popular characters. In the transition to Tor, the books jump from Mass Market PB to Tradepaperback.

Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan are no strangers to the occult. Yet when Varian is bequeathed a dangerous magical book by an old colleague, the infamous investigators find themselves on the trail of a necromancer bent on becoming the new avatar of a strange and sinister demigod-one of the legendary runelords. Along with a team of mercenaries and adventurers, the crime-solving duo will need to delve into a secret world of dark magic and the legacy of a lost empire. But in saving the world, will Varian and Radovan lose their souls?

From bestselling author Dave Gross comes a fantastical tale of mystery, monsters, and mayhem in PATHFINDER: LORD OF RUNES, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb (Del Rey Hardcover 08/11/2015) – Hobb is one of my favorite authors, the first book in this series Fool’s Assassin was a favorite read last year and completely blew me away.

Ranking alongside George R. R. Martin as a groundbreaking master of fantasy, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb delivers the second book in her long-awaited Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

The harrowing adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer and his enigmatic friend the Fool continue in Robin Hobb’s triumphant follow-up to Fool’s Assassin. But Fool’s Quest is more than just a sequel. With the artistry and imagination her fans have come to expect, Hobb builds masterfully on all that has gone before, revealing devastating secrets and shocking conspiracies that cast a dark shadow over the history of Fitz and his world—a shadow that now stretches to darken all future hope.

Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. 

Distracted by the Fool’s perilous health, and swept up against his will in the intrigues of the royal court, Fitz lets down his guard . . . and in a horrible instant, his world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool—as a weapon.

But FitzChivalry Farseer is not without weapons of his own. An ancient magic still lives in his veins. And though he may have let his skills as royal assassin diminish over the years, such things, once learned, are not so easily forgotten.

Now enemies and friends alike are about to learn that nothing is more dangerous than a man who has nothing left to lose.

The Enceladus Crisis (Daedalus #2) by Michael J. Martinez (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 05/06/2014) – We interviewed Mike for SFFWorld last week and the following day, I posted my review of the first book in this series, The Daedalus Incident

Two dimensions collided on the rust-red deserts of Mars—and are destined to become entangled once more in this sequel to the critically acclaimed The Daedalus Incident.

Lieutenant Commander Shaila Jain has been given the assignment of her dreams: the first manned mission to Saturn. But there’s competition and complications when she arrives aboard the survey ship Armstrong. The Chinese are vying for control of the critical moon Titan, and the moon Enceladus may harbor secrets deep under its icy crust. And back on Earth, Project DAEDALUS now seeks to defend against other dimensional incursions. But there are other players interested in opening the door between worlds . . . and they’re getting impatient.

For Thomas Weatherby, it’s been nineteen years since he was second lieutenant aboard HMS Daedalus. Now captain of the seventy-four-gun Fortitude, Weatherby helps destroy the French fleet at the Nile and must chase an escaped French ship from Egypt to Saturn, home of the enigmatic and increasingly unstable aliens who call themselves the Xan. Meanwhile, in Egypt, alchemist Andrew Finch has ingratiated himself with Napoleon’s forces . . . and finds the true, horrible reason why the French invaded Egypt in the first place.

The thrilling follow-up to The Daedalus Incident, The Enceladus Crisis continues Martinez’s Daedalus series with a combination of mystery, intrigue, and high adventure spanning two amazing dimensions.

The Venusian Gambit (Daedalus #2) by Michael J. Martinez (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 05/05/2015) – We interviewed Mike for SFFWorld last week and the following day, I posted my review of the first book in this series, The Daedalus Incident

The last chapter of the dimension-spanning Daedalus series brings the 19th and 22nd centuries together for an explosive finale in the jungles of Venus!

In the year 2135, dangerous alien life forms freed in the destruction of Saturn's moon Enceladus are making their way towards Earth. A task force spearheaded by Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain is scrambling to beat them there while simultaneously trying to save crewmember Stephane Durand, who was infected during the mission to Saturn and is now controlled by a form of life intent on reopening a transdimensional rift and destroying the human race. But Jain doesn’t realize that the possessed Stephane has bigger plans, beaming critical data to other conspirators suspiciously heading not for Earth, but for Venus…

In 1809—a Napoleonic era far different from our own—the French have occupied England with their Corps Eternélle, undead soldiers risen through the darkest Alchemy. Only the actions of Lord Admiral Thomas Weatherby and the Royal Navy have kept the French contained to Earth. But the machinations of old enemies point to a bold and daring gambit: an ancient weapon, presumed lost in the jungles of Venus.

Now, Weatherby must choose whether to stay and fight to retake his homeland or pursue the French to the green planet. And Shaila must decide if it’s possible to save the man she loves, or if he must be sacrificed for the good of two dimensions. In the dark, alien jungles of Venus, humanity's fate in both dimensions hangs in the balance—forcing past and present to once again join forces against an ancient terror.

The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler (Roc eBook April 2015) – I read the first two Shadow Campaigns novels last year and thought The Shadow Throne was awesome.

From the author of The Price of Valor, The Shadow Throne, and The Thousand Names comes a new novella set in the world of the Shadow Campaigns—"a world of dust and bayonets and muskets...and magic."*

The wagons travel north across the mountains, carrying cargo of great value: Hamveltai glass and porcelain; Deslandai jewelry in heavy iron strongboxes; fine cloth from the cities of the Old Coast. And Abraham.
Bound and tied, guarded day and night, Abraham has been stolen from his village, from the arms of the man he loved. He is being sent to the fortress-city of Elysium to serve a dark and ancient order, the Priests of the Black. They have discovered the secret he kept all his life: that inside him dwells a demon which allows him to heal…and to kill.

But Abraham is not alone. A young woman named Alex, similarly possessed, rides with him. And as a bond grows between them, they begin to wonder if they can turn the demons that have damned them into their salvation.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Novik & Martinez @SFFWorld, Moher & Mind Meld @SFSignal

Another busy couple of weeks at SFFWorld and SF Signal for me.

Last Monday, I interviewed my old blog/twitter pal Aidan Moher at SF Signal about the publication of his first book, a short-story collection Tide of Shadows:

RB: Your first sale was for the Sword and Laser anthology, receiving that acceptance must have been exciting. Was that your first submission?
AM: Lord no. I’d been submitting stories for about three years at that point and could paper my walls with the rejection letters. Having “A Night for Spirits and Snowflakes” accepted for the Sword & Laser Anthology was a huge surprise and a wonderful honour. I’m a big fan of what Veronica and Tom produce—even appearing once on the show to talk about the Hugo Awards—and to know that they hand picked my story from over 1,000 submissions was unbelievable at first, humbling second, and, finally, a big source of encouragement.

A couple of days after that, my review of Naomi Novik’s magnificient novel Uprooted posted to SFFWorld:
The main external conflict of the novel is the encroaching dread of the Wood; it has taken over villages, is filled with monstrous creatures, and has a dark magic of its own that can be poisonous to those who come into contact with it. In other words, Naomi Novik has given readers a tale of the Dark/Haunted Forest of European Lore (or The Lost Woods as TVTropes). The Dragon has taken as his primary mission the defense of the realms under his protection (primarily the village from which Agnieszka hails), against the encroaching Wood. The Wood has been growing in power and malevolence and has even taken the Queen into its heart, which is what sets Prince Marek on the path to the Dragon’s tower. Even though 20 years have passed since the Wood has taken her, he still thinks she can be saved.
Determination is what fuels many stories with a Fairy Tale feel to them. A tradition in such stories is that things have always happened the way they are supposed to happen: every 10 years the Dragon takes a young woman as a protégé(?), a concubine(?) and that young girl stays with him for a decade. Of course, that is until we encounter the story itself, in this case Agnieszka breaks that mold and (mild spoiler) she leaves the confines of the Dragon’s tower; an unprecedented thing in a story that fits the traditional fairy tale mold from which Uprooted initially seems to be carved. Despite this familiarity with the trappings of the story, Novik makes this story fully her own, a fresh story that can sit next to those tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, but with an entirely new story comprised of familiar parts. Not an easy thing for any writer to attempt, let alone pull off so successfully as Novik does here in Uprooted.

The day after that, my May SF Signal Mind Meld was posted, in which I asked Andrea Johnson, Erin Lindsey, Laura Anne Gilman, Mark Yon, Paul Weimer, and Violette Malan:

One of the more long-lived subsets of Fantasy is Portal Fantasy, which often involves a character from the “Real World” transported to a fantasy-esque land. The Wizard of Oz or The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are probably the most famous examples of portal fantasy..

Last, and certainly not least, my review this week for SFFWorld was a debut novel from a fellow native/resident of the Garden State, Michael J. Martinez’s The Daedalus Incident:

Some of the most fascinating elements of the novel involved the world-building:
how the parallel world Weatherby inhabits came to be, how magic works, and where history diverges from our own. Not only are sailing vessels traversing the Solar System (the Void), but like the Science Fiction of the late 19thand early 20th Century, the planets of the Solar System where Earth resides are or were inhabited. Weatherby and his men visit Mercury, which is populated by a strange alien species. Their journey also takes Weatherby, Finch, and crew to the Jovian System, Ganymede in particular. The cosmology here suggests humanity, though advanced, is a much younger species than those who live in the “solar neighborhood.” Prefacing most of the chapters in the 1779 narrative are snippets from Weatherby’s journey. This is a clever trick and as the novel progresses at a great pace, Martinez uses the journal in a very clever fashion.
In many ways, this book reminded me a great deal of an overlooked series from about a decade ago – J. Gregory / Greg Keyes’ criminally under-read "Age of Unreason" four-book series, which begins withNewton’s Cannon. There’s the same mix of important historical figures as characters in the story, a supernatural injection into a relatively familiar time period, and a solid story at the core.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-05-16)

Three mass market paperbacks for this week 's haul...

Crown and Key (Shadow Revolution) by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith (Mass Market Paperback Del Rey 06/02/2015) – I read first two novels in this author pair’s Vampire Empire series. Seems they are now setting their sights on Victorian/Steampunk Werewolves.

A thrilling new Victorian-era urban fantasy for fans of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, and the Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey, Jr.

They are the realm’s last, best defense against supernatural evil. But they’re going to need a lot more silver.

As fog descends, obscuring the gas lamps of Victorian London, werewolves prowl the shadows of back alleys. But they have infiltrated the inner circles of upper-crust society as well. Only a handful of specially gifted practitioners are equipped to battle the beasts. Among them are the roguish Simon Archer, who conceals his powers as a spell-casting scribe behind the smooth veneer of a dashing playboy; his layabout mentor, Nick Barker, who prefers a good pub to thrilling heroics; and the self-possessed alchemist Kate Anstruther, who is equally at home in a ballroom as she is on a battlefield.

After a lycanthrope targets Kate’s vulnerable younger sister, the three join forces with fierce Scottish monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane—but quickly discover they’re dealing with a threat far greater than anything they ever imagined.

Firesoul (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Gary Kloster (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 05/12/2015) Gary Kloster is the author of the Pathfinder Tales novel Firesoul. His short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy, Apex, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Writers of the Future 25.

Jiri has always been special. Found as an infant in the ashes of her village, she was taken in by a neighboring shaman and trained to be a powerful jungle druid. Yet when Aspis Consortium mercenaries release an ancient evil that burns her adopted home to the ground, Jiri must gather a group of her own to uncover the secrets of a lost nation and stop the fire spirit—and the greedy treasure hunters trying to leash it for their own ends—before it lays waste to the entire Mwangi Expanse.

From acclaimed short story author Gary Kloster comes a tale of revenge, lost cities, and unlikely alliances, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Forge of Ashes (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Josh Vogt (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 04/15/2014) – Josh is an irregular over at SF Signal, this is his debut novel and in it, Josh features a rarity in fantasy: a female dwarf protagonist. This one looks like a lot of fun and is his debut novel and has the distinction of being the final Pathfinder novel to publish before the Tor partnership starts publishing the books.

A decade ago, the dwarf warrior Akina left her home in the Five Kings Mountains to fight in the Goblinblood Wars. Now, at long last, she's returning home, accompanied by Ondorum, a silent companion of living stone. But once you've traveled the world, can pastoral pastimes and small-town suitors ever be truly satisfying? Adding to Akina's growing discomfort is the fact that her father has disappeared into the endless caverns beneath the city. In an effort to save him, Akina and Ondorum must venture below the surface themselves - and into a danger greater than they could ever have imagined! From bold, new voice Josh Vogt comes a fantastic adventure of subterranean battle and the bonds of friendship, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-05-09)

A huge haul this week at the O' Stuff, many of these look very appealing to me.

Nightborn (Book 2 of Thrones and Bones) by Lou Anders (Randon House Kids 07/14/2015) – Second installment in what is turning out to be a very popular and acclaimed fantasy series for younger readers. Lou’s a smart guy and it shows in his writing. This will be reviewed for SF Signal, where I reviewed book one, Frostborn.

From the author of Frostborn comes Book 2 in the acclaimed Thrones and Bones fantasy-adventure trilogy for fans of Lloyd Alexander and Brandon Mull.

Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves.

Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be.

Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly?

The novel includes instructions for playing the board game Charioteers. Visit for additional games, maps, character profiles, and more!

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.

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley (Harper Voyager / William Morrow Hardcover 04/28/2015) – This is Headly’s first foray into the Young Adult market and it looks like a solidly entertaining novel

Based on an obscure legend, MAGONIA is a wholly original story about a girl caught between two worlds, two races, and two destinies.

Aza Ray Boyle has been drowning in thin air since she was a baby, suffering from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe – and to live. So when she catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a side effect of her medication. But Aza can hear someone on the ship calling her name and it doesn’t seem like a hallucination.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, she’s lost to our world – and found by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of ships, Aza can breathe for the first time. Better, she has power that can change the world. But as she navigates her new life in the sky, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. The fate of all humanity – including the boy who loves her – lies in Aza’s hands. Where do her loyalties lie?

ALIVE (Generations Trilogy #1) by Scott Sigler (Del Rey Hardcover 07/14/2015) – I listened to Scott’s first podcast two novel Infected and Contagious. This is one; however, seems poised to be an explosive next-level type of novel for Scott. I saw Myke Cole mention the book on twitter with an infectious level of positivity so I’m looking forward to getting my grubby hands on a copy of this one closer to the summer.

For fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising comes a gripping sci-fi adventure in which a group of teenagers wake up in a mysterious corridor with no knowledge of who they are or how they got trapped. Their only hope lies with an indomitable young woman who must lead them not only to answers but to survival.

“I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head . . . it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board . . . a lid.”

A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust each other.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow Hardcover 06/02/2015) – Tremblay’s a pretty big deal in the horror genre, he’s been shortlist for the Bram Stoker Award twice and is on the jury for the Shirley Jackson Award

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

Bombs Away: The Hot War by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Hardcover 07/14/2015) – If I had to guess, this might be the 50th Turtledove book (inclusive of all editions – Finished, ARC, Hardvover, Mass Market Paperback) I’ve received over the years here at the O’ Stuff.

In his acclaimed novels of alternate history, Harry Turtledove has scrutinized the twisted soul of the twentieth century, from the forces that set World War I in motion to the rise of fascism in the decades that followed. Now, this masterly storyteller turns his eyes to the aftermath of World War II and asks: In an era of nuclear posturing, what if the Cold War had suddenly turned hot? 

Bombs Away begins with President Harry Truman in desperate consultation with General Douglas MacArthur, whose control of the ground war in Korea has slipped disastrously away. MacArthur recognizes a stark reality: The U.S. military has been cut to the bone after victory over the Nazis—while China and the USSR have built up their forces. The only way to stop the Communist surge into the Korean Peninsula and save thousands of American lives is through a nuclear attack. MacArthur advocates a strike on Chinese targets in Manchuria. In actual history, Truman rejected his general’s advice; here, he does not. The miscalculation turns into a disaster when Truman fails to foresee Russia’s reaction. 

Almost instantly, Stalin strikes U.S. allies in Europe and Great Britain. As the shock waves settle, the two superpowers are caught in a horrifying face-off. Will they attack each other directly with nuclear weapons? What countries will be caught in between? 

The fateful global drama plays out through the experiences of ordinary people—from a British barmaid to a Ukrainian war veteran to a desperate American soldier alone behind enemy lines in Korea. For them, as well as Truman, Mao, and Stalin, the whole world has become a battleground. Strategic strikes lead to massive movements of ground troops. Cities are destroyed, economies ravaged. And on a planet under siege, the sounds and sights of nuclear bombs become a grim harbinger of a new reality: the struggle to survive man’s greatest madness.

The Prince of Valor by Django Wexler (Roc July 2015) – I read the first two Shadow Campaigns novels last year and thought The Shadow Throne was awesome.

In the latest Shadow Campaigns novel, Django Wexler continues his "epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict" following The Shadow Throne and The Thousand Names, as the realm of Vordan faces imminent threats from without and within.

In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan.

The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history.

As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle.

And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary...

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!!

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, May 08, 2015

Friday Round Up: Ken Liu & Elizabeth Moon @SFFWorld, Aidan Moher & Mind Meld @SFSignal

Lots of stuff to link to this week, reviews, interviews, Mind Melds…you name it.

Last week, my review of Ken Liu’s debut novel, The Grace of Kings:

Through most of the narrative, what becomes clear is the price for toppling an Empire and rebuilding it; a human cost both in lives ended and relationships destroyed. In The Grace of Kings, Liu takes the labels often associated with Epic Fantasy – grand, sweeping, world changing, status quo changing and finds new ways to define those things. He tells an onion ofAi a story, many layers in a Chinese tradition, but there are also some Western sensibilities as well. Told in Liu’s graceful, intelligent, and literate prose, the novel is a sumptuous Epic feast and the most surprising thing to me by novel’s end is that The Grace of Kings is only the opening salvo of a trilogy.

The Grace of Kings is one of those books that is a major part of the ongoing “conversation” of genre, as Coode Street podcasters Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe often refer. (I –highly– recommend checking out the episode of their podcast featuring Ken Liu and Saga Press editor Joe Monti as well as Ken and Joe on Rocket Talk with Justin Landon).

This week; however, was the big one for new stuff. Tuesday, my interview with Aidan Moher was posted to SF Signal, here's a snippet:

RB. You’ve expounded on some of your reasoning for self-publishing this collection, what is the quick and dirty reason? 
AM. As you say, I've written at length about why (and how) I self-published Tide of Shadows and Other Stories, but the tl;dr is that the stories in the collection, even years after writing them, were still nagging at me, telling me they needed an audience of readers. My goals aren't necessarily financial—if I break even on the project, I'll be content—but after varying levels of success in the paying short fiction market, I determined that it made more sense to self-publish the collection myself, rather than continue to search for pro- or semi-pro-paying markets for each of the stories individually.

As you'll find out later, publishing this collection is also a trial run for a few other projects I have in mind.

I posted a review of Elizabeth Moon’s Deeds of Honor, a collection of stories set in the popular milieu of her Paksenarrion world:

Elizabeth Moon has been a published writer for more than 25 years, her first novel which introduced Paksenarrion – Sheepfarmer’s Daughter – published in 1989 and she’s never looked back. Over those years she’s published a significant amount of short fiction, enough to fill multiple volumes including this collection Deeds of Honor: Paksenarrion World Chronicles. This collection includes stories set exclusively in that popular milieu. 

“Those Who Walk in Darkness” is another heartwarming tale set in the original Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy featuring a very minor character. Selis, a tortured boy forced to watch Paks’s abuse at the hands of the men of Liart (as depicted in Oath of Gold the final novel of The Deed of Paksenarrion) escapes and finds himself with the men of Gird. Fear is a strong theme of the story, but by the end, our protagonist sees the light and is off to a better life. Another strong tale in the collection.

Lastly, my Mind Meld for May was posted to SF Signal this week. In it, I ask Violette Malan, Paul Weimer, Erin Lindsey, @Hobbit_SFFWorld, Andrea Johnson, and Laura Anne Gilman the following question:

One of the more long-lived subsets of Fantasy is Portal Fantasy, which involves a character from the “Real World” transported to a fantasy-esque land.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-05-02)

Another nice batch of books for the previous week. As I intimated in twitter, the Stephenson is the highlight...

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod (Tor Hardcover 05/19/2015) – Elrod is most well known for a slew of well-received Vampire novels, here she turns to a Victorian fantasy mystery and the first of a series.

On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies--the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James--Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.

"Murder, mayhem and tea--a well-bred Victorian urban fantasy thriller. Prepare, o reader, to be enthralled."--Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times Best Selling Author of the Mercy Thompson series on P.N. Elrod's The Hanged Man

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey June 2015) – I thoroughly enjoyed the first few books (His Majesty’s Dragon) of Novik’s Temeraire series by admittedly, my interest waned as the series continued. This is a fresh new world and looks to be a modern twist on a Fairy Tale.

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

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.

Binary (®evolution #2) by Stephanie Saulter (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 05/05/2015) –Second in Saulter’s well-received SF series. Unfortunately, I didn’t get book 1 so I’ll likely pass on this one..

Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she's now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel'Natur's research to help gems and norms alike. 

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel'Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist's latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction. 

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after-not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past...

SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson (Harper Voyager / William Morrow 05/19/2015) – A new Neal Stephenson novel is always an event. I’m sadly under-read in his backlist having only read and loved Snow Crash. This is a beautiful book, with lovely endpapers and some color inserts.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.