Sunday, December 27, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-12-26)

Just one book on this shortened Christmas week here at the 'o Stuff HQ.

Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers Harper Voyager / William Morrow Hardcover 01/19/16) – Powers, to be blunt, is a living legend. This is the first 2016 book for which I’ve been sent an ARC.

From the award-winning author of Hide Me Among the Graves, Last Call, Declare, and Three Days to Never, a phantasmagoric, thrilling, mind-bending tale of speculative fiction in which one man must uncover occult secrets of 1920s Hollywood to save his family.

In the wake of their Aunt Amity’s suicide, Scott and Madeline Madden are summoned to Caveat, the eerie, decaying mansion in the Hollywood hills in which they were raised. But their decadent and reclusive cousins, the malicious wheelchair-bound Claimayne and his sister, Ariel, do not welcome Scott and Madeline’s return to the childhood home they once shared. While Scott desperately wants to go back to their shabby South-of-Sunset lives, he cannot pry his sister away from this haunted “House of Usher in the Hollywood Hills” that is a conduit for the supernatural.

Decorated by bits salvaged from old hotels and movie sets, Caveat hides a dark family secret that stretches back to the golden days of Rudolph Valentino and the silent film stars. A collection of hypnotic eight-limbed abstract images inked on paper allows the Maddens to briefly fragment and flatten time—to transport themselves into the past and future in visions that are both puzzling and terrifying. Though their cousins know little about these ancient “spiders” which provoke unpredictable temporal dislocations, Ariel and Claimayne have been using for years—an addiction that has brought Claimayne to the brink of selfish destruction.

As Madeline falls more completely under Caveat’s spell, Scott discovers that to protect her, he must use the perilous spiders himself. But will he unravel the mystery of the Madden family’s past and finally free them. . . or be pulled deeper into their deadly web?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-12-19) - NO BITM

No books this week, which isn't such a bad thing considering how large Mount Toberead has grown. So rather than new books, I'll wish you all a Merry Christmas and share a picture of Sully from last Christmas. This is the photo we used for our Christmas card this year.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-12-12)

A pretty impressive stash of books this week. Which ones stand out to you, my fine readers? I know which one is jumping high up Mount Toberead.

Blood of Innocents (Sorcery Ascendant #2) by Mitchell Hogan (Harper Voyager / William Morrow Trade Paperback 02/02/16) – Second installment in Hogan’s Sorcery Ascendant saga.

A novice sorcerer may hold the key to saving his world—or be the instrument of its destruction—in this second book in The Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, a mesmerizing saga of high fantasy that combines magic, malevolence, and mystery.

Anasoma, jewel of the Mahruse Empire, has fallen.

As orphaned, monk-raised Caldan and his companions flee the city, leaving behind their hopes for a new beginning, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in.

With Miranda’s mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan does the unthinkable to save her: he breaks the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors. But when the emperor’s warlocks arrive to capture him, Caldan realizes that his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing, and the enemies assailing the empire may be rivaled by more sinister forces within.

And soon, the blood of innocents may be on Caldan’s own hands.

Steal the Sky (The Scorched Continent Book One) by Megan E. O’Keefe (Angry Robot Books Mass Market Paperback 01/05/2016) – O’Keefe’s debut looks like a fun mash up steampunk and magic.

Detan Honding, a wanted conman of noble birth and ignoble tongue, has found himself in the oasis city of Aransa. He and his trusted companion Tibs may have pulled off one too many cons against the city’s elite and need to make a quick escape. They set their sights on their biggest heist yet – the gorgeous airship of the exiled commodore Thratia.

But in the middle of his scheme, a face changer known as a doppel starts murdering key members of Aransa’s government. The sudden paranoia makes Detan’s plans of stealing Thratia’s ship that much harder. And with this sudden power vacuum, Thratia can solidify her power and wreak havoc against the Empire. But the doppel isn’t working for Thratia and has her own intentions. Did Detan accidentally walk into a revolution and a crusade? He has to be careful – there’s a reason most people think he’s dead. And if his dangerous secret gets revealed, he has a lot more to worry about than a stolen airship.

Drake (The Burned Man #1) by Peter McLean (Angry Robot Books Mass Market Paperback 01/05/2016) – McLean’s debut is a noir-ish urban fantasy that looks to be along the lines of Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series of novels.

Hitman Don Drake owes a gambling debt to a demon. Forced to carry out one more assassination to clear his debt, Don unwittingly kills an innocent child and brings the Furies of Greek myth down upon himself.

Rescued by an almost-fallen angel called Trixie, Don and his magical accomplice the Burned Man, an imprisoned archdemon, are forced to deal with Lucifer himself whilst battling a powerful evil magician.

Now Don must foil Lucifer’s plan to complete Trixie’s fall and save her soul whilst preventing the Burned Man from breaking free from captivity and wreaking havoc on the entire world.

This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey, Hardcover 01/12/2016) – This is Miéville’s first novel for adults in nearly 5 years (2011’s Embassytown, Railsea in 2012 was a Young Adult novel)

For readers of George Saunders, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, and Karen Russell, This Census-Taker is a stunning, uncanny, and profoundly moving novella from multiple-award-winning and bestselling author China Miéville.

In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries—and fails—to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.

When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.

But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

Filled with beauty, terror, and strangeness, This Census-Taker is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor 09/01/2015) – Schoen is fairly known figure in SF fandom/circles, he’s published a couple of novels, many short stories, and is one of the authorities of the Klingon language. I *think* I’ve seen him at a couple of events.

The Sixth Sense meets Planet of the Apes in a moving science fiction novel set so far in the future, humanity is gone and forgotten in Lawrence M. Schoen's Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant's control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-12-05)

Just one book this week…

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 12/01/2015) – Nearly thirty years ago, Terry Brooks helped to change the landscape of fantasy publishing with The Sword of Shannara, but it is his second book, The Elfstones of Shannara that many consider his best and most defining novel. Rumors have persisted for years that some kind of Shannara adaption was in the works. Well, in January 2016, MTV of all places will be launching The Shannara Chronicles TV Series and this edition of the book is a tie in edition with (very spoiler) series imagery. My pal Aidan is doing a re-read of the book over at in preparation for the TV Show.


Thousands of years after the destruction of the age of man and science, new races and magic now rule the world, but an imminent danger threatens. A horde of evil Demons is beginning to escape and bring death upon the land. Only Wil Ohmsford, the last of the Shannara bloodline, has the power to guard the Elven Princess Amberle on a perilous quest to the save the world, while the leader of the Demon force aims to stop their mission at any cost.

Praise for Terry Brooks

“Shannara was one of my favorite fictional worlds growing up, and I look forward to many return trips.”—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

“If Tolkien is the grandfather of modern fantasy, Terry Brooks is its favorite uncle.”—Peter V. Brett, author of The Skull Throne

“A great storyteller, Terry Brooks creates rich epics filled with mystery, magic, and memorable characters.”—Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon

Friday, December 04, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Fletcher & Elliott @SFFWorld, October Mind Meld @SFSignal

Been a while since I rounded up my links o’ stuff, so this is going to be a longer post than usual but it has been a bit hectic at the o’ Stuff with the new (as of August) job with the big biannual meeting for my group falling squarely in the middle of the month.

The “oldest” thing since my last round-up is my review of Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption, which might be the grimdarkiest grimdark novel to ever grimdark.

In Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption, dreams, desires, and imagination manifest as reality and the unhinged are the most powerful, affecting the world most profoundly. Others can affect it in a more personal manner. For example, the character of Wichtig deems himself the Greatest Swordsman in the World. The more he says this, the more he believes it and gets others to believe it, the more true it becomes to the point an opponent refuses to fight Wichtig because of how Wichtig’s belief in himself has affected other people. At the apex of this world is the Konig Furimmer, high priest of the Geborene Damonen, a mad ruler who argues with his Doppels (magically created doubles) about his sanity and rule. Konig has one mad plan above all, to create a new God as all other gods have fallen out of favor. The key to Konig’s plan is that this boy – Morgen – must generate enough belief in his power and die purely so he can Ascend to god-hood.

Fletcher’s world has a very heavy Germanic influence, each of the titles and many of the proper names are evocative of the German language if not outright German worlds. There’s a thick layer of grime on Fletcher’s world that permeates everything, there is nothing nice or pretty about it. Even the young godling, initially idealistic, becomes a dark reflection of the world he inhabits. This evoked images of a world where, perhaps, Nazi Germany reigned over a continent it nearly destroyed, especially with the Konig’s far reaching plan of dominance. The plan to create a new God immediately drew comparisons toDune in my mind.

The very next day, my Mind Meld for November was posted, wherein I asked Andrew Leon Hudson, Stephenie Sheung (AKA @MMOGC), Richard Shealy (AKA @SheckyX), Michael R. Fletcher, Mark Yon, and Erin Lindsey the following question:

Most recently (this week), my review of Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves, a book that was high on my list of anticipated titles and one that exceeded my expectations:

Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves launches a new series; a grand, sweeping epic featuring a fracturing dynasty beset by outside challenges and inside strife; committed honor-bound soldiers coming out of retirement; demons lurking behind the guises of humans; and maybe best of all, a force of protectors who bond with large eagles to protect the realm. At the center of this epic are Dannarah, princess and leader among those who bond to the eagles, and Kellas, a Black Wolf who has retired from his duty (mainly because the kings he protected are dead).

Black Wolves is a novel that is both remarkably dense (700+ pages), but deceptively fast paced and addictively readable. Elliott props societal structures either to polish them anew or dismantle them for their failings. Through Dannarah’s eyes, we see how problematic an organization can become when an inept organization can become when blind pride gets in the way. She is supremely devoted to the reves and sees power being unjustly pulled from underneath her and from what the eagles and the reves exemplify. When she is present for an injustice about to be perpetrated on Lifka, Dannarah does all in her power to save the girl and (literally) bring her under her wing.
the prevailing fantastical elements….well, the enormous eagles of course. There’s a bond between the reve (rider) and eagle that is not dissimilar to the dragon/rider relationship in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. The eagles “jess” potential reves to choose their rider and the two form a powerful lifetime bond (also similar to Naomi Novik’s dragons and their riders in her Temeraire series). There are also demons in this fully realized world although their true nature demons is somewhat muddled as they are secretive, hide behind human guises and are initially presented as enemies of humanity, but the hints peppered throughout the novel have me very intrigued about their true nature.