Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jack Vance Reader Reviewed

That book I mentioned in yesterday's post 'outside' my reading comfort zone? The one I tried that I initially didn't think I would like? My initial suspicions were correct. I got about 1/3 through the book before putting it aside. In that first third of the novel I didn't find myself connecting with the characters or much of the story, outside of one interesting development. This makes me wonder if it was me or the book. I hate that it happened, because I really wanted to both like the novel (who starts reading a novel not wanting to like it) and I wanted to enjoy something that I typically wouldn't pick up and read. Oh well. With the volume of books I read per year, this happens once or twice a year.

In more positive reading news, I posted my review of Subterranean Press's lovely (at least in ARC edition) Jack Vance Reader. Vance is a living legend who doesn't really limit himself with any of his writing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SPOTLIGHT: The Blog/Review Ranting Meme

For the purposes of this post, I’ll just consider blogging and online reviewing the same kin. Also, there will be many parentheses throughout.

Rather than respond to all the posts in my blogroll about this topic, I decided to continue the meme. This rant may wind up being more to voice my thoughts to myself than anything, though.

All over the genre blogosphere (at least the blogosphere that consists of my sidebar and other haunts) the topic of blog/reviewing has reared its head again. This creature comes out of hiding every few months and this time, the questioning creature has something of a different face – the bloggers themselves are asking these questions, whereas in the past publishers (not exclusively) have been the ones to spark these discussions. Perhaps because of the two new genre blogs (Suvudu and Tor) having recently been launched not to mention the venerable Web sites like SFSite & SF Signal, we (the FSF review/blog community) find ourselves navel gazing again.

About, I don’t know a year ago or something on that order, the blogosphere started to make its presence known in the SFFWorld forums, where a lot of new bloggers thought they could just drop in and get some free publicity and linkage to their blogs without really ingratiating themselves into or becoming part of the community there. Admittedly this put the moderators at SFFWorld in an interesting place, especially me since I have my own blog. The sense of community we’d built at SFFWorld over the past half-decade plus was now (at that point) perceived by the blogging community, by some of us behind-the-scenes folks, as nothing more than a free advertisement forum for these new bloggers. In the time since, I think (and hope) we’ve been able to build and tow a decent line between keeping SFFWorld discussions active the forums themselves while also continuing to foster a good genre community to consider cool for discussion. Essentially, I hope we’ve been able to foster a good community between the SFFWorld forums and the bloggers who visit.

So, where were we? Jonathan McCalmont started it, the returning Gabe continued it, Pat took the relay, and Larry kept the ball rolling. One of the points brought up was how (or if) getting paid for writing these reviews was viable. Getting paid would make it almost like a job, wouldn't it? A lot of us start doing this blogging / reviewing thing in our "personal time" out of our enjoyment of the books we read. This idea of payment could also bring into the validity of the reviews; after all couldn’t we just be seen as paid members of the PR machine – paid to pander to those who pay us to help promote their product? In one sense, we reviewers / bloggers are part of the PR machine, but right now we are basically unpaid independent contractors. What we need is a union!

The publishers, in about the past year, saw the sense of community between the bloggers/ reviewers and started paying attention to us. Granted I’d been receiving review copies for a few years, but the bloggers started receiving them for review on their blogs. Most notably, newer publishers like Pyr and Solaris, but the Del Reys, Roc & Aces, and Tors of the world are there too. It’s a tricksy place we find ourselves in nowadays. There seems to be an almost, I don’t know, over-worked sense to some of the discussions I’m seeing. As people have been posting their daily and weekly hauls of books they receive in the mail (both from publishers and bought on their own, but mostly the free books for review) it seems as if some of us are overwhelmed by our place in the genre community. Or perhaps, I’m speaking solely for myself here. Part of the issue is that (as I’ve said in comments on other blogs and probably here as well) it is impossible to review everything I (or any other blogger/reviewer) receives.

This begs the question posed and intimated in the links above – how does one decide which book to read out of the plethora of choices? Initially it can be pretty easy – Book 4 of a series in which I haven’t read or even own books 1 through 3 get shunted to the pile of unread books. That eliminates about a book a week. I’ve had Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains on the pile for a few months and I feel it is a book I have to read and review since it seems to be one of “the” books this year. Matt Stover’s next Caine novel, Caine Black Knife arrived recently and that’s a definite. Conversely, if one of the books I receive doesn’t seem to be getting all that much attention around the blogosphere (at least those limited to my sidebar), I’ll try to get that book into the mix. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, a media tie in arrived and primarily because I really enjoy the writer, Sean Williams, I’ll be reading/reviewing it. But I wonder what affect, if any, reviews from our portion of the genre community, will have on a book that basically has a built-in audience of Star Wars fans and gamers. (This could be a topic all to itself.) What of a book like The City at the End of Time by Greg Bear? The book sounds like pretty interesting Big Idea novel and I’ve enjoyed much of what I’ve read by Bear, yet there doesn’t seem to be much chatter about the book, so how do I factor that into the decision on whether or not to read the book?

In terms of quantity vs. quality, one Harriet Klausner is enough and the majority of us are self-aware enough of what we don’t want to do in our reviews. As such, we’ve all crafted our own personalities and quirks. In a more snarky sense, McCalmont seems to be contrarian, Adam’s reviews are solid and very balanced, and not a one of us can figure out Pat’s damned number ratings.

I recall Cheryl Morgan’s last postings at Emerald City and her talk of review burn-out. I’ve been posting at least one new book review a week for the majority of this year and much of 2007 and times, more than one review. I know some of the reviews are stronger than others, it’s only natural. I can feel it when I force myself to write some of the reviews both the positive and the negative reviews, and some would say I often lean towards the positive in my reviews. I also don’t want to keep saying the same things over and over again, even if I’m lucky enough to be reading books that often work for me. I’ve also thought about taking a break, if not completely putting and end to this whole reviewer thing. The thing of it is, I love the genre and I really like being a part of it even in my small capacity as reviewer and administrator/moderator at SFFWorld and maintaining this blog. I’m also working on my own fiction and generating these reviews, irrespective of their length, do take a decent amount of time to think about and craft. In some form, though, I feel a great drive to write, be it review of my own fiction.

After this sense of review burnout creeps in; however, I’ll read a book like Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and want to shout how great it is or, on the other hand, I’ll read a book that didn’t agree with me like Karen Miller’s Empress and feel the drive to put my thoughts about that book down. Or, right now I’m reading a book that didn’t initially interest me too much based on the premise and the author was untested (by me), but I figured I would go outside my comfort zone and give it a try. I think that’s something we all need to do, is go outside our reading comfort zone and Jeff VanderMeer has said as much. Conversely, I really enjoy Epic Fantasy and I’ve really begun to enjoy Urban Fantasy / Detective Wizard, so if something new with one of those slants comes down the pike, I feel a responsibility (for lack of a better word) to measure it against other books if its kind.

As I said, this whole reviewing thing started out because I enjoy reading and sharing my thoughts about what I read. The reviewing gives me an opportunity to voice my thoughts and opinions on a larger scale. Contrary to this though, sometimes I just want to read a book without having to write a review or with a review as the ‘endgame.’ Books like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Steven Erikson’s Malazan saga, the Star Wars Legacy of the Force series, an anthology like the Strahan/Dozois edited New Space Opera, Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road, or other books that have remain unread for upwards of a year or two, but at times, I’ll feel a little guilty about reading one of those while 10-20 books I’ve received from publishers await on the TBR pile for reviewing. This doesn’t even factor in my weekly/monthly haul of comics and graphic novels.

Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t life-shattering decisions or frustrations (I don’t think), but they are things I and (probably) my peers think about. I enjoy being involved, knowing what books are out there, and being afforded the opportunity to have my voice heard. I also have to admit that I like getting the free books, but I think it’s only natural (based on the resonance I’ve seen in other’s thoughts) to feel a bit guilty about not being able to read all that arrives. Strange dichotomy, I realize.

Where does this all leave us? Still in that strange place between fan and critic, I suppose. Granted, my blog is not as trafficked nor does it have the volume (and consistent substance) of postings as many others, but I feel responsibility to maintain it. I enjoy maintaining it and being part of this community. In the end, my drive to write (be it my fiction, the book reviews, on this blog, or if somebody wants to be kind enough to compensate my monetarily for my thoughts) will continue and push me to be a presence.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

David Louis Edelmen Interview & SFFWorld Round Up

We’ve been posting a slew of new stuff up at SFFWorld in the past couple of days. I posted the e-mail interview I recently conducted with David Louis Edelman:

Science Fiction is a language of mirrors by which we (readers and writers) can compare and contrast our own society and its problems. This is clearly the case with the Jump 225 trilogy, so when you created this future history, how necessary do you feel it was to sort of destroy everything and restart?

Wiping the slate clean with an Armageddon scenario five hundred years before the events of Jump 225 was really just a narrative trick. It enabled me to focus on the things I wanted to focus on -- namely, software and business and sociology -- and conveniently ignore the things I didn’t want to talk about. AIs? Boom! They were destroyed in the Autonomous Revolt. Nuclear weapons? Boom! Used in the Revolt and then subsequently abandoned. Cloning and genetic engineering? Same thing.

Mark/Hobbit has churned out some top notch reviews:

The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod

The Night Sessions is set in the near future with an intriguing premise: what if the world secularized religion, if the world decided that there was to be a total severance of religion from state and politics, with religion prevented from interfering with state affairs and from controlling government or exercising political power?

The Ten Thousand by Paul Kearney

To their rescue then, we can add Paul Kearney. His latest, The Ten Thousand, is an unusual book that could appear to the reader simultaneously as perversely both contemporary Fantasy and old-fashioned style Fantasy, in the sense that it will appeal to those readers who like the current vogues in the genre (dark, gritty, melancholic) that make Fantasy quite popular

The Mirrored Heavens by David J Williams

Consequently the book is pretty well paced but, unlike the cover may lead you to expect, there is an emphasis on more talk than action, though the action pieces, when they happen, are well done.

Enemy's Son by James Johnson

The Enemy’s Son is a rip-roaring space opera debut novel from new writer and artist James Johnson. It reads pretty much as old-style SF with a modern twist. There are Slan-style mutants, flying cities, old-Venusian-style continental jungles and tales of a lost Erth reminiscent of Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Neil Gaiman Writing Batman

A lot of stuff happened/was announced at Comic-Con, but probably the biggest news comic-wise is that Neil Gaiman is writing a two-part Batman story, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Drawn by Andy Kubert (Gaiman's partner on 1602), the title of the story could be an homage to the Alan Moore penned Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Although a lot of people (myself included) would like to see perhaps a longer Batman story from Neil Gaiman, this is cool news inded.

Kevin Smith is also writing a Batman story.

Not Batman related, but since I'm a big fan of The Flash and the creative team involved, Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver (the creative team behind Green Lantern: Rebirth) are the team behind Flash: Rebirth. I'm a bit nervous since I like the Wally West Flash a lot (one of my favorite comic book characters), so I don't want to see him go. However, I've been pretty happy with a lot of Johns work, especially his run on The Flash a few years ago and what he's now doing with JSA and Green Lantern. Although the Flash's history isn't exactly a mess, Johns has an ability to take all the aspects of a character's past and streamline them (i.e. Green Lantern and Hawkman). Regardless, I'll be reading.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 7/26)

The City at the End of Time by Greg Bear – This is the final book, I received the ARC a few months ago and the actual on sale date is August 5, 2008.

In a time like the present, in a world that may or may not be our own, three young people–Ginny, Jack, and Daniel–dream of a doomed, decadent city of the distant future: the Kalpa. Ginny’s and Jack’s dreams overtake them without warning, leaving their bodies behind while carrying their consciousnesses forward, into the minds of two inhabitants of the Kalpa–a would-be warrior, Jebrassy, and an inquisitive explorer, Tiadba–who have been genetically retro-engineered to possess qualities of ancient humanity. As for Daniel: He dreams of an empty darkness–all that his future holds.

But more than dreams link Ginny, Jack, and Daniel. They are fate-shifters, born with the ability to skip like stones across the surface of the fifth dimension, inhabiting alternate versions of themselves. And each guards an object whose origin and purpose are unknown: gnarled, stony artifacts called sum-runners that persist unchanged through all versions of time.

Hunted by others with similar powers who seek the sum-runners on behalf of a terrifying, goddess-like entity known as the Chalk Princess, Ginny, Jack, and Daniel are drawn, despite themselves, into an all but hopeless mission to rescue the future–and complete the greatest achievement in human history.

The Diamond of Darkhold (the fourth BOOK OF EMBER) by Jeanne DuPrau – I love getting the fourth (or any non first) book in a series after not having read any of the previous books. This is an ARC with the actual book publishing at the end of August.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars by Karen Traviss – I’ve read a few books by Traviss, so this might jump the pile a bit so I can read it before the movie hits theaters. This is, if it couldn’t be surmised by now, the novelization of the upcoming CGI-animated Star Wars flick.

The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld – For some reason, Tor reissued this series in trade paperback. To me, it would make sense to bind the two books in this duology, planned from what I’ve gathered as a single volume, rather than two trades which are double the price of the mass market paperback which went out of print. Those marketing choices aside, I read the first book a while ago and it was the selection of the SFFWorld Science Fiction book club back in 2005, but never made it to the second book. The arrival of this book is a good opportunity to revist Westerfeld’s saga, since I’ve enjoyed his YA vampire novels.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You're Just Too Much Fun - The Dark Knight

So with great fanfare, promotion and anticipation, The Dark Knight opened on July 18th and I was able to sit and watch the film with Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff. The film starts a bit slowly but pretty powerfully – a nice gradual reveal of The Joker. Mark Hamil’s Joker was probably the definitive interpretation of the Joker for me, but because the exceptional Dini/Timm Batman Animated series was aimed at a younger audience, the Joker couldn’t quite be as insane and murderous. Well with The Dark Knight, there are no limits and Ledger has redefined the villain and what he represents. When I initially heard of the three villains from Batman’s rouge gallery being in the film – The Joker, Scarecrow and Two-Face, I thought it would be villain overload. Boy was I wrong, but more on why I was wrong later.

Bale is more confident as Batman in The Dark Knight, which might be because of the new suit with which he was outfitted for the majority of the film. His Bruce Wayne is the perfect arrogant fop, but the Wayne persona isn’t in the film quite as much as the first. The Batman persona has fully taken over Bruce Wayne. Granted, Bale performs a great many scenes without the Batsuit, but in a good portion of those, he’s in the new/ temporary Batcave plotting his plans with Alfred and Lucius Fox. Unlike the Spider-Man films, seeing Bruce Wayne/Bale without the Batmask is not contrived. Bale’s Batman in this is even darker than in Begins and his methods at the film’s conclusion lead one to question whether he has gone too far. This methods is a great parallel to fairly recent events (JLA: Tower of Babel and Infinite Crisis) in the DC Universe. I thought those themes that have been present in the comics over the past few years worked in the film without asking the general audience to have the vast knowledge of the comics a lot of geeks and fanboys like I have.

Goyer and the Nolans flesh out the players of the film very well, with the primary new characters being (of course) the Joker and Harvey Dent. A lot of people are praising Ledger’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime, and rightfully so, but there doesn’t seem to be as much chatter about Eckhart’s ownership of the Harvey Dent role. Dent/Two-Face has never been one of my favorite Bat-villains, but Eckhart’s intense performance, seemingly ripped from Jeph Loeb’s stellar portrayal of the character in The Long Halloween was really good. Not to sound too corny, but after Eckhart’s portrayal, I Believe in Harvey Dent. He stood in great contrast and comparison to Bruce/Batman.

Although Jim Gordon was an important character in Batman Begins, here he takes another step up in both the filmed Batman mythos and as a character in his own. Gary Oldman is becoming one of my favorite actors and I’m learning why he is considered a great actor. He must have read Batman: Year One and a lot of the Gotham Central comics to really get Gordon, because he just is the character.

Fox and Alfred, as Batman’s ‘assistants’ were perfect and like a lot of the other players in the film, Caine is the perfect Alfred. Gyllenhal’s Rachel Dawes was just sort of there, she is a better actress than Katie Holmes and her role served its purpose. Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni was very good too, once I got over the fact that it was Eric Roberts.

As for the plot of the film, in its barest simplicity, the Joker arrives and stirs up a lot of shit. Of course there are a lot of layers and threads to the film, all of which are amazingly tight and feed well off of each other. There isn’t any plot element that seems unnecessary or just filler; everything is necessary to the greater good of the film and establishing the character of Batman, his world, and ultimately, his relationship with the Joker. The same night of the Joker’s robbery, Batman breaks up a heist led by the Scarecrow. It wouldn’t be such a tough job for Batman except for all the Batman imposters who want to help Batman. After The Joker’s bank robbery, which began the movie, he soon enters a mob meeting where a Japanese “businessman” and potential partner of Wayne Enterprises is telling all the mob heads how he can secure their money after he learns of an attempt from the police and Harvey Dent to seize their marked money. The Joker; however, offers a deal to the collected mob heads after poo-pooing the Japanese businessman– give him half of their money and he’ll kill Batman.

The stuff between Dent, Gordon, and Batman was played really well, essentially a triumvirate of good. Corny analogy aside, what these characters represented to the film, to Gotham and each other was a strong theme from the movie and one that was [again] played out equally well in Loeb/Sale’s aforementioned The Long Halloween.

The Joker is more of a terrorist in this film and promises to kill one person a day until Batman unmasks. Batman contemplates revealing himself in order to save lives, but here the story mirrors the threat of terrorism in the real world. Does Batman give into the terrorist and let the Joker “win?” Dent makes the decision for him and ‘reveals’ himself to be Batman.

The scenes in the Police HQ are absolutely brilliant and where Ledger’s Joker is spectacular. His tone and vocal affectations take on a darker and more considered approach – the Joker walks a fine line between speaking the truth of the world as he sees and flat out insanity; and it is scary how right he just may be. Of course that is the power of an individual like the Joker – his insanity is laced with truth and sane talk.

As the scenes in the Police station continue, it becomes clear the Joker wanted to be caught, again showing how everything in this film is tied together. The chaos the Joker spins touches everything, from Batman, to Dent to the Police and as a theme it is convincing and effective. As the Joker says, he is “an agent of chaos” and “I just *do* things.” Even though the Joker hints at a “multiple choice” origin, his past is never revealed truly revealed and that’s just how it should be- the Joker is, aftera all, probably the most famous unreliable narrator .

The Joker reveals that Rachel and Dent are in two separate locations and Batman can only save one of them. This eventually leads to Dent becoming Two-Face and allowing Eckhart’s acting ability to shine even more. As Two-Face, we see just how much of a vigilante and dark demon Batman can be come if his conscience were left uncheck. At times, I found myself rooting for Two-Face, but that was somewhat short-lived.

Paralleling Two-Face’s revenge is Batman’s chase and final confrontation of the Joker. Nolan and Co. have said they used The Killing Joke as inspiration for the portrayal of the Joker and his relationship to Batman – itself one of the landmark stories in both characters evolution. No surprise that Alan Moore wrote it and damn if the echoes of that story weren’t loud and clear in this confrontation. The theme of one bad day changing a person forever, though not implicitly stated in the film, is another great parallel to The Killing Joke.

“I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness...and I won't kill you're just too much fun.”

Of course talk of a follow-up to the film is inevitable. I almost don’t want to see a follow-up, this film is too good and I fear anything might be a pale specter of the greatness of this film.

As good as Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins were this movie is in a whole other league. There were a lot of plot threads but all of them were necessary for the whole of the film. The same goes for the themes, most notably chaos v. order. This film shows how three villains can be used effectively in one film. This is absolutely the best comic book/superhero movie, hands down. On its own merits, it was a great film, a great crime/caper film, and it is in my all time top 5 films. I can’t fully judge how high that ranking goes, if for nothing else that is reason enough for me to see this film in repeated viewings.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Into the Storm reviewed, Heroes Die Pondered

Up now at SFFWorld is my latest review, Destroyermen I: Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson. It is a bit flawed, but on the whole, I felt Anderson delivered an entertaining story and set the groundwork for a good series. Sometimes a good entertaining novel fits the reading bill and here, Anderson delivered for me.

Heroes Die thoughts…

As I’m reading through Heroes Die, I’m also noticing how much of the narrative is NOT focused on Caine. Though Caine left such a strong impression on my earlier two readings, I hadn’t recalled that Stover really did some interesting things with Pallas/Shanna and even (maybe especially) Kollberg. Strike that, not that he did interesting things with the supporting characters so much as he gave them solid character arcs and developed them very well. I likely noticed these elements before, but they are standing out to me on this third reading of the book. Duality is a pretty strong theme throughout the novel, which should be unsurprising since the nature of some of the characters is that they play a dual role. Although Caine/Hari has his own duality issues, one can see how Berne is the flip side of Caine. Or rather, Berne is what Hari/Caine could become if his morals were checked at the door. Ma’elKoth is a god who wears two faces, in some respects. Outwardly he emits a radiance of benevolence, but as Caine is trudging through the Donjon, it becomes clear his benevolence only goes so far.

I'm still working on my response to The Dark Knight.

Books in the Mail (W/E 7/19)

Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton - 2040. After decades of concentrated research and experimentation in the field of genetic engineering, scientists of the European Union believe they have at last conquered humankind’s most pernicious foe: old age. For the first time, technology holds out the promise of not merely slowing the aging process but actually reversing it. The ancient dream of the Fountain of Youth seems at hand.

The first subject for treatment is seventy-eight-year-old philanthropist Jeff Baker. After eighteen months in a rejuvenation tank, Jeff emerges looking like a twenty-year-old. And the change is more than skin deep. From his hair cells down to his DNA, Jeff is twenty–with a breadth of life experience.

This novel is set in Hamilton’s Commonwealth Universe and I’m looking forward to reading this one whilst waiting for the next Void novel. What I received was an ARC of the book which publishes in September

The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke & Fred Pohl – This is the final published version of the ARC I received a few weeks ago. The two SF giants collaborate on a story of one man’s mathematical obsession, and a celebration of the human spirit and scientific method. Throw in the thread of all-but-omnipotent aliens and you might have the makings of an instant modern classic. The story is of a young Sri Lankan mathematician who finds a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and is hired by the CIA because of the high interest in cryptographic applications of the proof.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks - The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances’ foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.

The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman’s life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Orbit was kind enough to send me the first two books in Banks's Culture series a month or two ago and now I have the third. After reading Matter, I'll be jumping into these books at some point. Orbit is using a simple, yet effective and nice little logo and design treatment for the whole series that works really well.

On a separate note, I saw The Dark Knight on Friday, but that really deserves a post of its own.

Reading through Heroes Die, I'm realizing what a tricksy writer Matt Stover really is. I hadn't taken note before, but the way he plays with narrative voice in this novel is something subtle, but all the more effective because of its subtlety.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MultiReal - Future Histories and Past Thoughts

I posted my review of MultiReal today, the second (wonderful) novel in David Louis Edelman’s excellent Jump 225 trilogy. I know I tend to throw around the superlatives when I like something, but I try to be genuine with what I like. David’s novels are no exception, and this has nothing to do with my name appearing in the acknowledgments. Maybe it’s because he’s throwing some different ingredients into the mix, I don’t know. His books really work for me on a lot of levels. I said of the first book that "it may be THE Science Fiction novel of the year," something of a passive positive. I can only question my reviews in hindsight because at the time, one doesn’t know what one will read in the future. Where does MultiReal stand in this year’s slew of (SF) book releases? At this point it’s right at the top with Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother. I’m also in the middle of conducting an e-mail interview with David for SFFWorld (which is on the fritz again, sorry folks).

That having been said, re-reading Heroes Die just after recently reading David’s books is an interesting experience. Matt Stover touches upon some of the future corporate politics in the novel that so strongly characterize the milieu Edelman create. This is my second reading of Heroes Die and I’m sucked in just as much as the first two readings. One other thing which is striking me about the novel is how much Hari Michaelson was a tool of the studio before going into Overworld to take down Ma’elKoth (one of the few acceptable fantasy uses of the apostrophed name). Other things are brimming to the top, too, but I’ll hold off on some until I do a proper overview of the novel. For now, I’ll just pepper in some thoughts on my semi-regular postings here.

I caught Wall●E over the weekend and enjoyed it, but I have to admit to being let down. I was expecting to be blown away, based off of what I’ve been reading and seeing about it. I guess my major problem is how much this is marketed as a kid’s movie and I don’t know that many kids will enjoy it, at least depending on their age. But that line of thinking is more expectations versus delivery. Also,

[SPOILER ALERT] Roll cursor over, I put it in white text.

I didn’t know plants could grow in a closed, dark (no sunlight for photosynthesis since it may have been closed for upwards of 700 years), quite possibly un-temperate refrigerator AND the vacuum of space. That’s one magic plant.


I went with Mrs. O’ Stuff, a friend and their soon-to-be 4 year old son. The first portion of the movie is a bit too drawn out – no human voices (which is OK for adults), no real action either. The beginning sets the mood and atmosphere pretty well, but for a young kid there isn’t enough to grab their attention. As a fan of Science Fiction and SF films, I appreciated a lot of the homages thrown into the film and the plot itself. I thought the cynical commentary about fat, lazy, humans in the future was handled pretty well. Overall, I liked the movie quite a bit. I think I’d like to see it again and will likely pick up a copy on DVD if for nothing else to really appreciate the animation and can give the film a solid recommendation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 7/12)

It was a good week this past week, one of the better weeks for book hauls. I received a book I’ve been wanting to read since I read that particular author’s last book set in his secondary world and I received a beautiful advance of a modern classic of world literature. The list of books will be bookended by those two, the two I’m most looking forward to reading from this week's haul. Here goes:

Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover – I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s written and I’m really excited to see his return to Overworld and Caine. I will be re-reading both Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle before jumping into this one. The linked review for Blade was written a long time ago and quite a while after I read the book. I'll likely be posting my thoughts to both books as I re-read them.

The Man with the Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove – the master of Alternate History’s latest twisting of the past. Here, Hitler’s number 2 man Reinhard Heydrich, was not assassinated in 1942 changing the outcome of WWII and the rest of history drastically. I received the ARC for this almost two months ago.

Lord Tophet by Gregory Frost – I read and loved the first one, misplaced the ARC of this and was very pleased to see the final version of the book arrive in the mail this week. This is the direct sequel to Shadowbridge, which I really enjoyed earlier this year.

Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt – I read a handful of his novels a few years ago and like them, for the most part. He’s one of those authors with whose work I really want to catch up. This looks pretty interesting and will be published by Subterranean in February 2009.

The Six Directions of Space by Alastair Reynolds - What if Genghis Khan got his wish, and brought the entire planet under the control of the Mongols? Where would he have gone next? A thousand years after Khan's death, Yellow Dog is the codename of a female spy working for a vast Mongol-dominated galactic empire. When she learns of anomalous events happening on the edge of civilised space -- phantom ships appearing in the faster-than-light transit system which binds the empire together -- Yellow Dog puts herself forward for the most hazardous assignment of her career.

I’ve read Revelation Space by him and some short fiction, too. This looks like an interesting little book from Subterranean set to publish in January 2009.

MultiReal by David Louis Edelman - This, of course, is the sequel to his brillant debut novel Infoquake, which published in 2006. If you skip to the acknowledgements section of the book, you might see a familiar name there. Well, I saw that acknowledgement after I nearly finished the book, which was absolutely brilliant. I read through the ARC and what arrived this week was the final book, with its glorious Stephan Martiniere cover.

A is for Alien by Caitlin R. Kiernan
- Award-winning author Caitlín R. Kiernan’s first collection devoted entirely to her science-fiction work. It includes the critically acclaimed novelette “Riding the White Bull” (chosen for The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 22nd Annual Collection), along with seven other tales of a less-than-utopian future. Ranging from the wastelands and mountains of Mars to the streets of a late 21st-Century Manhattan, from the moons of Europa and Saturn to an iceless Antarctica, these tales bring Kiernan’s trademark brand of the eco-gothic to bear on what it means to be human and the paths and decisions that may face mankind only a little farther along. This is an ARC, the book publishes in February 2009.

Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi – This is basically the best of John’s Blog, one of my daily “must-visits” on the Web. There’s always something insightful or entertaining there. I loved his fiction (reading Zoe’s Tale right now) so this is a cool book to have. This one is publishing in September, again from Subterranean.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind has become an international phenomenon, a best-seller in dozens of countries.

"There's a great deal of love in Shadow, doomed and otherwise. Much of it is lavished upon a romantic dream of Barcelona as it might have been in the mid-20th century (in Zafon's hands, every scene seems to come from an early Orson Welles movie); even more is reserved for books. Shadow's narrator is a sweet kid named Daniel Sempere, whose mother has died and who is horrified to realize he can no longer clearly remember her face. When he tells his father this, the elder Sempere takes him to what is surely one of the more delightful locales in modern fiction: the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There, he's told, a visitor may adopt one book which he will care for ever after, making sure it is never lost. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind, by a forgotten writer (the Dow Mossman of his day, one might suppose) named Julian Carax, only to discover that a terrifying man -- if he is a man -- has made it his life's work to burn every Carax novel in existence. The story that follows includes murders, false identities, and two supremely satisfying love affairs. Be warned, you have to be a romantic at heart to appreciate this stuff, but if you are, this is one gorgeous read." - Stephen King

This is a really beautiful ARC, I can only imagine how great the final book will look. I was just speaking with a colleague at work about how we both wanted to read this one.

Caine Black Knife

The ARC of this book arrived on Friday! Easily, the book I'm most looking forward to reading this year. Hell, since Blade of Tyshalle published in 2002.

Here's the Back Cover copy/info:

In Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle, Matthew Stover created a new kind of fantasy novel, and a new kind of hero to go with it: Caine, a street thug turned superstar, battling in a future where reality shows take place in another dimension, on a world where magic exists and gods are up close and personal. In that beautiful, savage land, Caine is an assassin without peer, a living legend born from one of the highest-rated reality shows ever made. That season, Caine almost single-handedly defeated–and all but exterminated–the fiercest of all tribes: the Black Knives. But the shocking truth of what really took place during that blood-drenched adventure has never been revealed . . . until now.

Thirty years later, Caine returns to the scene of his greatest triumph–some would say greatest crime–at the request of his adopted brother Orbek, the last of the true Black Knives. But where Caine goes, danger follows, and he soon finds himself back in familiar territory: fighting for his life against impossible odds, with the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.

Just the way Caine likes it.

My extended Books in the Mail post will follow later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Orphan's Journey & SFFWorld Status

My review of Robert Buettner’s latest Jason Wander novel, Orphan’s Journey, went up at SFFWorld yesterday. As I mentioned in an earlier post I really enjoyed Orphanage and Orphan’s Destiny, the first two books in the series. With the third volume, Buettner takes things in a slightly different direction. Overall, a very solid and entertaining novel.

I recently finished David Louis Edelman’s MultiReal and should have a review posted soon. The short of it is that the book was great and Edelman didn’t lose any momentum since publishing Infoquake. The long if it, well, will be in my review.

SFFWorld and its forums and are back to normal, for now. Speaking of which, our Fantasy Book Club selection for July 2008 is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Yes, I know the book has been around for a while, but in the SFFW Book club, we typically only consider books in mass market paperback in order not to impose a $25 (or more) book on the folks who want to participate. which can often result in a year lag between book publication and discussion in the book club. Anywhoo, I liked the book quite a bit and even considered it one of the best of last year’s novels.

That is all for today.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 7/05)

Destroyermen I: Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson – Pressed into service when World War II breaks out in the Pacific, the USS Walker—a Great-War vintage “four-stacker” destroyer—finds itself in full retreat from pursuit by Japanese battleships. Its captain, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Patrick Reddy, knows that he and his crew are in dire straits. In desperation, he heads Walker into a squall, hoping it will give them cover—and emerges somewhere else.

Familiar landmarks appear, but the water teems with monstrous, vicious fish. And there appear to be dinosaurs grazing on the plains of Bali. Gradually Matt and his crew must accept the fact that they are in an alternate world—and they are not alone. Humans have not evolved, but two other species have. And they are at war.

With its steam power and weaponry, Walker’s very existence could alter the balance of power. And for Matt and his crew, who have the means to turn a primitive war into a genocidal Armageddon, one thing becomes clear. They must decide whose side they’re on. Because whoever they choose to side with is the winner.

Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross – Sometime in the twenty-third century, humanity went extinct—leaving only androids behind. Freya Nakamichi 47 is a femmebot, one of the last of her kind still functioning. With no humans left to pay for the pleasures she provides, she agrees to transport a mysterious package from Mercury to Mars. Unfortunately for Freya, she has just made herself a moving target for some very powerful, very determined humanoids who will stop at nothing to possess the contents of the package.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

SFFWorld Status & The 100 book meme

I know some of the folks who visit here are members of the forums - we are experiencing some problems with the site. The backend software was recently updated, so hopefully the ship will right itself soon. I can't access the site from all the places I usually do.

I know iPods have been around for a few years now, but I finally got one last week. Or rather, Mrs. Blog o' Stuff, awesome wife that she is, gave me one for our Anniversary. I've got the 8 gigger and it is already nearly filled, although I won't be putting any of my old Aerosmith or Guns n' Roses on it since I could hear either of them at any given point if I tune into either XM or FM stations. I swear, those two bands are played more now then they were 15 years ago. I've heard enough of both bands in my life, don't need to hear them again. Granted Appetite for Destruction is a seminal album. Rant aside, one of the cool things is listening to stuff I haven't listened to in a while, as I load music into it. So, that's me, cutting edge.

Since a lot of people are doing it, here's my stab at the 100 book meme.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own so we can try and track down these people who've read six and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
(I read this in a really cool course at Rutgers - The Bible as Literature).
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
I hated this novel; I had to read it in an early English course at Rutgers. I still can’t decide if this or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the book I loathed the most from my English courses
8 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles– Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
(I took two Shakespeare courses at Rutgers– comedies and histories/tragedies so I read a bunch of them)
15 Rebecca– Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (If I haven’t read it by now, I probably won’t)
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
(Well duh, see #33)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47 Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon (Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff read this and keeps asking when I’ll read it)
60 Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick – Herman Melville (I was surprised how enthralled I was by this book that has a reputation for being boring)
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (I read this waaay back in I think 4th grade, but recall nothing of it)
74 Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – A.S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web – E.B. White (saw the movie)
88 The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Only 24 of the above books read – wow do I feel like a plebe.