Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shadowrealm Reviewed

I was a little busy yesterday, so I neglected to mention that I posted my review of Shadowrealm, the concluding volume of Paul S. Kemp’s Twilight War trilogy

Something else Kemp did with this trilogy, was to broaden his canvas as a storyteller. Though one might have expected this trilogy to be simply a sequel to The Erevis Cale Trilogy, Kemp wasn’t content to just repeat himself. The scale of the story, the breadth of characters, and the effect of the events are much more global in The Twilight War than in the previous trilogy. Kemp gave more of a role to supporting characters and if any one character outshone the others it would have to be Drasek Riven. Though an antagonist to Cale in the first trilogy, Kemp wonderfully developed him into at first an uneasy ally, then a trusted friend of Cale in The Twilight War. I’m a bit predisposed to characters who have soft spots for canines, be those animals dogs or wolves (see a little book called A Game of Thrones or Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy), so I did take an immediate liking to Riven. That said, I doubt that I’m alone in hoping Kemp puts pen to paper for a Riven solo story.

Not much else today, since I’m working on my 2008 Wrap up post which will see the light of day next week sometime. I see some folks have beat me to the punch in their year-end wrap ups, but I’ll actually wait until, I don’t know the year ends.

Happy New Year to all and don’t forget to vote in SFFWorld’s annual reader’s poll!

Monday, December 29, 2008

SFFWorld Year in Review (Part 1) and Christmas in Review

Mark/Hobbit posted the first half of SFFWorld’s year in review yesterday. This is the third or fourth year we’ve done one of these wrap-ups and as we did last year, we invited some of the bloggers who frequent our forums: Aidan of A Dribble of Ink, Graeme (of Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review), Ken (Nethspace), and Pat from the Hotlist. The first part consists of Fantasy while the second part, when posted, will cover Science Fiction and the various media. This annual review at SFFWorld limits itself to (primarily) books and movies released in 2008 or whatever current year is in review. I'll be posting a more broad and personal year in review here at the blog next week after 2008 actually ends.

Santa treated me very well, and particularly well from a geekish perspective. I got more comic book boxes, which I desperately needed; what is now one of the coolest books I own: The New Annotated Dracula edited by Leslie Klinger with an introduction by Neil Gaiman; a Greatest American Hero t-shirt; both volumes of the US edition of George R.R. Martin’s Dreamsongs; a Miskatonic University sweatshirt; and the most fun gift: Lego Batman for my PS2.

Later Edit: Santa brought two awesome games, well one for Mrs. O Stuff and myself: Marvel Scene-It and one for me. This second game is quite legendary, I played it a lot when I was younger; it was a great combination of Dungeons & Dragons RPG style game and table top board game like Risk. The game, of course is Talisman.

Only 5 people voted in my poll about last week's Books in the Mail post; I suppose whoever voted that I wouldn’t be reading Stover’s new book doesn’t know me very well. I didn’t vote for obvious reasons, but some people were spot on in what I would be least likely to read.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book in the Mail (W/E 12/27/2008)

Only one arrival this week, Christmas really slowed up thing for the publishers, but that’s fine considering all the books I received last week.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Ballantine, Hardcover 01/13/2009) – I read Charlie Huston’s Already Dead a couple of years ago and intend to go back and read the remainder of his Joe Pitt Casebooks, but just haven’t yet. This is a return to crime noir for Huston and it’s getting raves from no less than Stephen King (just scroll down a bit). Anyway, here’s the synopsis:

With a style that is razor sharp, an eye that never shies from the gritty details, and a taste for stories that simultaneously shock, disturb, and entertain, Charlie Huston is one of a kind. And The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is the type of story–swift, twisted, hilarious, somehow hopeful–that only he could dream up.

The fact is, whether it’s a dog hit by a train or an old lady who had a heart attack on the can, someone has to clean up the nasty mess. And that someone is Webster Fillmore Goodhue, who just may be the least likely person in Los Angeles County to hold down such a gig. With his teaching career derailed by tragedy, Web hasn’t done much for the last year except some heavy slacking. But when his only friend in the world lets him know that his freeloading days are over, and he tires of taking cash from his spaced-out mom and refuses to take any more from his embittered father, Web joins Clean Team–and soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide’s brains from a bathroom mirror, and flirting with the man’s bereaved and beautiful daughter.

Then things get weird: The dead man’s daughter asks a favor. Her brother’s in need of somebody who can clean up a mess. Every cell in Web’s brain tells him to turn her down, but something else makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Is it her laugh? Her desperate tone of voice? The chance that this might be history’s strangest booty call? Whatever it is, soon enough it’s Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What’s thedeal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn’t have a clue, but he’ll need to get one if he’s going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again.

Full of black humor, stunning violence, singular characters, and neon dialogue, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is classic Charlie Huston: a wild ride that’ll leave you breathless and shaken, grinning and begging for more.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Festivus!

Since today is the day, Happy Festivus!

As promised last Tuesday, I’ve posted my review of Shadowbred, the second installment in Paul S. Kemp’s Twilight War trilogy. A lot of writers taking the trilogy route lately (aside from one recent example which killed any chance of me finishing that trilogy) are managing to not-just-tread-water in their middle book, Kemp is no exception. Here’s a passage from my review:

Kemp juggles quite a few storylines in this novel and that might be where my only criticism can be leveled. Cale and Riven are trying to help Mags deal with his problems with his father and his gradually shifting personality; Tamlin and Rivalen are fighting off civil war in Selgaunt; Rivalen’s motivations are slowly being revealed; Tamilin is unraveling at the seams after living in his father and Cale’s shadow; and we see hints at the other side of the war Tamlin and Rivalen are fighting. On the whole, Kemp balances these very well, and in fact, integrates one into the other quite seamlessly. For my enjoyment, and again, this is only minor, the story veered away from Cale and Riven more than I would have liked.
I’m not sure if I’ll post here again before Christmas, so Merry Christmas (or Happy Christmas to my friends across the pond). I’ll leave you all with some holiday imagery:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 12/20/2008)

It’s Sunday, so you know what that mean’s here at the Blog o’ Stuff. I tell you, my millions…and millions, of readers the books I received for review the prior week. I of course can’t read all of them, but I don’t want to ignore them either. For shits and giggles, I’ll run a poll for the week - Which of these books is Rob least likely to read?

Mean Streets four novellas by Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson, and Thomas E. Sniegoski (Roc , Trade Paperback 01/06/2009) – Butcher’s story is (surprise, surprise) a Harry Dresden story, Green’s is a Nightside novella featuring John Taylor, Richardson’s is a Harper Blaine/Greywalker story and Sniegoski’s novella features Remy Chandler. All in all, it looks a solid collection of Roc’s top Urban Fantasy authors. I've read one and this contains the first of two Green stories in what I received this week.

Airs of Night and Sea (The Horsemistress Saga #3 novel) by Toby Bishop (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 12/30/2008) – This is the third book in a trilogy about women who ride flying horses. Driven by insane jealousy, Duke William is determined to found his own flying school, where the valuable flying horses of Oc will learn to bond with well-born young men-instead of arrogant women. Now, Larkyn Hamley and her beloved Black Seraph must gather all of their allies from the air to the ground. For if they do not soar now, none will ever see the skies again.

Regenesis by CJ Cherryh (DAW, Hardcover 01/06/2009) – This is a sequel to her Hugo-award winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen. I read Downbelow Station when it was the SFFWorld Science Fiction Book Club Selection back in September 2006 and it left me feeling rather meh and nonplussed. It is a genre classic and no doubt a great many people are looking forward to Regenesis

Just Another Judgement Day (The Tenth Novel of the Nightside) by Simon R. Green (Ace, Hardcover 01/06/2009) – Green is an extremely prolific author who goes between several subgenres of Speculative Fiction. The Nightside novels are his take on the ever-growing Urban Fantasy subgenre and since this is the 10th, he’s obviously doing something right. I tried one of his Deathstalker novels years ago and felt neither here nor there about it, but have wanted to give his writing another try so this seems a good book with which to go.

In Shade and Shadow (The Tenth A Novel of the Noble Dead) by Barb and JC Hendee (Roc, Hardcover 01/06/2009) –I’ve been curious about the Noble Dead for a while and this may be an opportunity to give the series a try, since this book in particular is the first of second series in this world. Considering the series began as mass market paperback originals (like E.E. Knights terrific Vampire Earth saga and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, so things seem to be going well for the Hendees. Here’s the snippet:
After escaping the castle of ancient vampires with Magiere and Leesil, Wynn Hygeorht has returned to Calm Seatt, home of the Guild of Sagecraft, bearing texts supposedly penned by vampires from the time of the Forgotten History and the Great War. Her superiors seize both the ancient texts and her personal journals, dismissing her tales of the undead as delusional fancies.

But the guild's scholars have not dismissed the texts. Without Wynn's consent, they begin sending the texts out to scriptoriums for copying. Then one night several pages disappear — and the two sages charged with conveying these pages are murdered. Suspicious of the Guild, separated from the only friends she fully trusts, and convinced the Noble Dead are responsible for the killings, Wynn embarks on a quest to uncover the secrets of the texts, unaware of her allies from unexpected quarters....

The Stepsister Scheme (Princess Series #1) by Jim C. Hines (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback January 2009) – After a successful ‘revisionist humorous’ trilogy detailing the exploits of Jig the Goblin, Jim C. Hines turns his pen to the fairytale princess most often associated with the Disney films. Here, the princesses and their life “happily ever after” are given a modern twist as Charlie’s Angels type kick-butt women. I’ve been intending to try his novels for a while and this seems a great spot. Jim runs a great blog / LiveJournal, particularly the now defunct lol cats book cover features and seems an affable and generous writer.

Getting to Know You by David Marusek (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 12/30/2008) – I received the ARC of this back in September and with the publication date ‘round the corner, the final Trade Paperback version arrived. David Marusek has been on my radar since his debut novel, Counting Heads, was released almost two three years ago now, to much acclaim. His short stories have won awards (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award) and acclaim as well. This collection was originally offered as a limited edition by Subterranean Press last year.

The Vacant Throne (Throne of Amenkor #3) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback January 2009) – Joshua sent me the trilogy two weeks ago and I received the third of the trilogy this past week in paperback from DAW.

The city is on the brink of starvation, and the trading ships sent out to bring back supplies needed to feed the city have disappeared without a trace. Both Varis and Eryn, the former Mistress, are obsessed with a vision they alone share of Amenkor invaded by an unknown enemy, the harbor watchtowers destroyed, wrecked ships sinking in waters stained red with blood, even as the city itself is engulfed in flames. . . .

Then their vision comes true, and, forced to draw on all of Amenkor's remaining resources, both ordinary and magical, Varis must fight a desperate battle for the city's survival against these ruthless invaders known as the Chorl. But victory is not without its price. And perhaps that price is too high, as the very heart and soul of Amenkor's power, the Skewed Throne, is irrevocably damaged--totally drained of the magic, knowledge, life force, and memories of previous rulers.

The city's last hope lies with its sometime ally, the city of Venitte, rumored to be home to the only throne that is twin in power to Amenkor's, the two created at the same time by a magical working which no one can now duplicate.

The Vampire Agent (A The Annals of Alchemy and Blood #2 novel) by Patricia Rosemoor and Marc Paoletti (Del Rey , Mass Market Paperback 12/30/2008) – On the sultry streets of New Orleans, Captain Scott Boulder and Leah Maguire are about to begin a deadly mission. The traumatized, genetically altered subjects of a Department of Defense experiment gone wrong have escaped, among them Rachel Ackart, a beautiful, seductive, and powerful woman–who is now under the dangerous influence of Andre Espinoza de Madrid, a vampire of incomparable evil and power.

Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor by Matthew Stover (Del Rey, Hardcover December 30, 2008) – Any year with oneMatthew Stover is cause for reading celebration; a year with two Stover novels is just awesome. His Star Wars novels are the cream of the crop, and his novelization of Episode III is head and shoulders above the film itself. This is Stover’s crack at the original heroes (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando) with the story set shortly after Return of the Jedi. Clearly, this will be put atop the “To Be Read” pile.

Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are dead. The Empire has been toppled by the triumphant Rebel Alliance, and the New Republic is ascendant. But the struggle against the dark side and the Sith order is not over. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and their faithful comrades have had little time to savor victory before being called on to defend the newly liberated galaxy.

Powerful remnants of the vanquished Empire, hungry for retaliation, are still at large, committing acts of piracy, terrorism, and wholesale slaughter against the worlds of the fledgling Republic. The most deadly of these, a ruthless legion of black-armored stormtroopers, do the brutal bidding of the newly risen warlord Shadowspawn. Striking from a strategically advantageous base at the planet Mindor, they are waging campaigns of plunder and destruction, demolishing order and security across the galaxy—and breeding fears of an Imperial resurgence. And another reign of darkness beneath the boot-heel of Sith despotism is something General Luke Skywalker cannot and will not risk.

Mobilizing the ace fighters of Rogue Squadron—along with the trusty Chewbacca, Threepio, and Artoo-Detoo—Luke, Han, and Leia set out to take the battle to the enemy at the site of its stronghold, and neutralize the threat before it's too late. But their imminent onslaught against Mindor will be playing directly into the hands of their cunning new adversary. Lord Shadowspawn is no freshly anointed Sith Chieftain, but in fact a vicious former Imperial Intelligence officer—and Prophet of the Dark Side. The Emperor's death has paved the way for Shadowspawn's return from exile in the Outer Rim; and mastery of ancient Sith knowledge and modern technology has given him the capability to mount the ultimate power play for galaxy-wide dominion. Dark prophecy has foretold that only one obstacle stands in his way, and he is ready—even eager—for the confrontation.

All the classic heroes, all the explosive action and adventure, all the unparalleled excitement of Star Wars come breathlessly alive here, as the further adventures of Luke Skywalker continue.

Eclipse Two edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books , Trade Paperback December 2008) – I thought (Eclipse One) was a strong collection. When the TOC for this volume was announced it caused a considerable stir and a great deal of undue ire aimed at Jonathan Strahan. Regardless of that, new stories from Jeff Ford, Alastair Reynolds, Ted Chiang, and Margo Lanagan are always good things.

Here’s the TOC:

Introduction - Jonathan Strahan
The Hero - Karl Schroeder
Turing's Apples - Stephen Baxter
Invisible Empire of Ascending Light - Ken Scholes
Michael Laurits is: Drowning - Paul Cornell
Night of the Firstlings - Margo Lanagan
Elevator - Nancy Kress
The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm - Daryl Gregory
Exhalation - Ted Chiang
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - David Moles
The Rabbi's Hobby - Peter S. Beagle
The Seventh Expression of the Robot General - Jeffrey Ford
Skin Deep - Richard Parks
Ex Cathedra - Tony Daniel
Truth Window: A Tale of the Bedlam Rose - Terry Dowling
Fury - Alastair Reynolds

The Jennifer Morgue (Book Two of the Laundry Series) by Charles Stross (Ace, Trade Paperback 01/06/2009) – This I’ve a handful of stuff by Stross, most recently (Saturn’s Children) but have yet to read any of these stories which sound like a really cool marriage of James Bond and Cthulu.

When he's not trying to save the world from unearthly horrors, Bob Howard — an agent for the British supersecret organization known simply as The Laundry — has time sheets to complete and field liaison meetings to attend. (And don't get Bob started on how much he despises corporate PowerPoint presentations!)

In The Jennifer Morgue, Lovecraft meets Ian Fleming in this highly anticipated new "Bob Howard" adventure from Charles Stross, author of the 2005 Hugo Award-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle."

In 1975, the CIA made an ill-fated attempt to raise a sunken Soviet ballistic missile submarine from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. At least, "ill-fated" was the information leaked to the press. In reality, the team salvaged a device, codenamed "Gravedust," that permitted communication with the dead — the very long dead. Enter Ellis Billington, glamorous software billionaire, who has acquired Gravedust by devious means. Billington plans to raise an eldritch horror, codenamed "Jennifer Morgue," from the vasty deeps, and communicate with this dead warrior for the purpose of ruling the world. Worse still, he's prepared occult defenses that can only be penetrated by one agent walking a perilous path.

But James Bond doesn't work for the Laundry. Instead, they send Bob Howard, geekish demonology hacker extraordinaire. Bob must inveigle his way aboard Billington's yacht, figure out what the villain is up to, and stop him. But there's a fly in Bob's ointment by the name of Ramona Random — a lethal but beautiful agent for the Black Chamber, the U.S. counterpart to The Laundry. Billington's yacht is docked in the Caribbean, and Her Majesty's Government is not allowed to operate in this area without an American minder. The Black Chamber has sent Ramona to ride shotgun on Bob, but Ramona has her own agenda that conflicts with her employer's . . .

Bob and Ramona become entangled (literally), and are then captured by Billington and used to further his insidious plot. But let's not forget Bob's significant other, Dr. Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, also an agent of The Laundry, who has been trained especially for this mission. Can these intrepid agents stop Billington from raising the dead horror and thus save the world from total domination? The Jennifer Morgue takes the reader on a wild adventure through the worlds of Lovecraft and Ian Fleming, non-Euclidian mathematics and computer hackerdom — sort of like Austin Powers, only more squamous and rugose — with fast cars and faster women.

In addition to the novel-length The Jennifer Morgue, this volume also includes an added bonus story, Pimpf, featuring agent Bob Howard in the world of virtual gaming, along with a thought-provoking Afterword entitled The Golden Age of Spying.

Beyond the Shadows (The Night Angel Trilogy #3) by Brent Weeks (Orbit, Mass Market Paperback December 2008) – I read the first two (The Way of Shadows and Shadow’s Edge) last month and really enjoyed them, so I’m really looking forward to this novel. This series and author is also drawing quite a bit of positive attention in the SFFWorld forums. I think Weeks might be the most impressive fantasy writer to emerge in 2008 and if this final volume lives up to the promise of the first two, then that might becomes will.

This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams (Orbit, Hardcover March 24, 2009) – Williams is a terrific and smart writer; I enjoyed the novel he published with NightShade Books earlier this year, Implied Spaces. Here’s the synopsis::
This Is Not a Game is a novel built around the coolest phenomenon in the world.

That phenomenon is known as the Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. It's big, and it's getting bigger. It's immersive and massively interactive, and it's spreading through the Internet at the speed of light.

To the player, the Alternate Reality Game has no boundaries. You can be standing in a parking lot, or a shopping center. A pay phone near you will ring, and on the other end will be someone demanding information.

You'd better have the information handy.

ARGs combine video, text adventure, radio plays, audio, animation, improvisational theater, graphics, and story into an immersive experience.

Now, one of science fiction's most acclaimed writers, Walter Jon Williams, brings this extraordinary phenomenon to life in a pulse-pounding thriller. This is not a game. This is a novel that will blow your mind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Detective Wizards, Vampire Hunters, and Werewolves Oh My! (Urban Fantasy Re-Re-Revisted)

Ever the magnet of SF Bloggery ControversyTM©®, Pat has posted a guest essay by Urban Fantasy writer Lilith Saintcrow. As is his wont, Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen, has posted something of a response. The article is also generating some interesting discussion at SFFWorld and Westeros.

Larry also points to a very cogent and fairly right-minded post/essay on the subject by Tempest Bradford from the time when she guested at Jeff VanderMeer's Ecstatic Days blog.

For what it's worth, here are a couple of my past overview posts on Urban Fantasy.
Detective Wizards, Vampire Hunters, and Werewolves Oh My! (Redux)
SPOTLIGHT: Detective Wizards, Vampire Hunters, and Werewolves Oh My!
and the long-running SFFWorld topic on the subject:
Supernatural Fantasy: Ghosts, Vampires, Werefolk and Wizards

My little write-ups didn't quite touch upon the gender/female gender issue in my posts, because it didn't jump out at me as one of the issues at the forefront of this subgenre. After all, a number of the authors and some of the most prominent in the subgenre write about male protagonists: Jim Butcher, Charlie Huston, Mike Resnick, Simon R. Green, Mike Carey, and Liz Williams. I also think, by extension, the definition of Urban Fantasy presented in the article is a bit limiting and suited to fit more in with the article's point.

Regardless, the article and subsequent discussion, is giving me things to consider in the novel I'm writing/working on right now since it can easily be labeled an Urban Fantasy.

EDIT #1 - Lilith posted a follow-up as a response here:
More Thoughts On Angry Chicks In Leather

Later EDIT #2 Larry Responds to Lilith's response:
What's in a Name

Later Edit #3 - Jeff/Bossfan2000 of Fantasy Book News & Reviews posts his thoughts:
Angry Dwarves With Pointy Beards

Thanks Larry!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wandering Twilight

Regular readers of my blog should know the drill by now; on Tuesdays, I post links the reviews I uploaded to SFFWorld the previous night. Today is no exception, but rather an addition since I posted two(TWO!) reviews last night. Orphan’s Alliance by Robert Buettner and Shadowbred by Paul S. Kemp.

Orhpan’s Alliance is the fourth book in Robert Buettner’s highly engrossing and entertaining Jason Wander series.
This story is set a year or two after the events of the previous novel, though it features very much the same cast of characters – Howard, Ord, Munchkin, and Jude as well as a minor character and potential romantic interest for Jason (Mimi). Buettner has naturalistically progressed these characters from the previous novel, Jude becoming more entrenched in the military, Munchkin and Mimi becoming bureaucrats. Without infodumping the reader and halting the quick narrative pace, Beuttner provided us as the reader with the right amount of information to give a clear picture of each character. This would also serve to welcome new readers to the fold, too.

Paul S. Kemp returns to his Forgotten Realms character Erevis Cale in Shadowbred, the first in the Twilight War trilogy:

The novel starts off really well with the return of a long forgotten floating city and a superb re-introduction of the character of Erevis Cale. Kemp delivers Cale through the eyes of a young, scared boy who sees Cale as “the Shadowman” of local legend. This iconic imagery reminds readers of how ambiguous a character Cale is and is just a teaser of neat things to come.

Cale walks a tenuous line dividing his nature and a promise he made to his deceased friend, Jak. As a result of this promise, Cale tries to fight the dark thoughts his god Mask imparts, but fighting those urges to kill and derive power from his god prove difficult. In much of the Forgotten Realms, individuals swear fealty to one of many gods. In Cale’s case, his god Mask is the god of thieves and shadows and Cale is the First of Mask, so this struggle against his god is even more difficult.
Remember, don’t forget to vote in SFFWorld’s annual membership poll for your favorite 2008 read(s)!

Monday, December 15, 2008

SFFWorld's Favorite 2008 Book

Voting is now open for
SFFWorld's Favorite 2008 Book

Here are the general rules

With 2008 coming to a close, we can start compiling what members of these forums thought was the best Speculative Fiction book(s) published in 2008.

As in the past we should keep this simple so the minimal criteria is as follows:

  1. You actually read the book between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008
  2. It was published in 2008. This can be either the first Hardcover edition or the first paperback edition (for the paperback to qualify, it has to be the First paperback edition i.e. while White Night by Jim Butchers was first published in US Hardcover in 2007, the US paperback was published in February 2008 so it falls within the criteria for a 2008 release).
  3. If the book was published by a small press publisher prior to 2008 and received a wider release through one of the Big publishers this year.
  4. If the book, (like Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged), was published by a UK/Australian publisher earlier (2007 in this case) and received a US release in 2008.
This topic resides in the Fantasy/Horror forum, since it is the forum with the most traffic. However, all genre books under the above criteria will be eligible: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and all combination(s) of the three. I will be posting an announcement/topic to the whole site to get people who normally don't visit the fantasy forums to come here and post their choices.

Pick five (5) books you enjoyed the most. Points will be doled out as follows – 8 points for the best book, 4 points for 2nd best book, and 3 point for 3rd best book, 2 points for the 4th book and 1 point for the 5th book, such that:

  1. Book A by Rob 8 points
  2. Book B by Gary 4 points
  3. Book C by Hobbit 3 point
  4. Book C by KatG 2 point
  5. Book C by Dag 1 point
We can run this thing through the end of January, and I'll add up the votes/points and post the results in February.

Some other things to keep in mind:
  • Keep it only to your top 5 books.
  • If you feel only 3 or 4 books make your cut, that is fine.
  • Don't start a discussion explaining why you disagree with a person's choice... there are other topics for that... just post your top 5 and leave it at that. (I will be printing this whole thing once voting closes and I don’t want to have to go through reams of paper containing explanations)
  • Make sure you post in order of Preference... and if you post 7 favorites... only the top 5 will be used for voting tabulations. I know this is common sense... but trust me... it does and has happened.
  • Moderators/Admins WILL be deleting any large explanations as to why people chose their top 5 books.
  • Moderators/Admins will also delete any titles beyond 5
  • You can list a TIE for one of the five places; however, the points will be divided between the books. i.e. if you place Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson as tied for 3rd place, each book will only get 1½ points

Publication dates:

Go Vote!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 12/13/2008)

Things seem to be back on pace this week. In addition to the normal stuff from publishers, . I received the full Throne of Amenkor trilogy byJoshua Palmatier for review.

Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, Hardcover December 2008) – Atwater-Rhodes is something of a prodigy, having published her first novel when she was only 15 back in 1999 and this is her most recent and is a vampire novel, much like her earlier novels. Here's the skinny:

Sixteen-year-old Erin Misrahe just wants to be like everyone else in her new school. But Erin has more to worry about than passing AP Chemistry or making friends. In times of stress, she has always been overcome by her alter ego, Shevaun, whose violent behavior wreaks havoc on those around her. Erin can never remember anything about these episodes, and she’s grateful to have been spared them for a while.

But when a protective friend comes back into Erin’s life, he insists that Shevaun is a vampire who actually exists apart from Erin. Shevaun has dangerous allies, like the handsome witch Adjila—and they’re determined to sever Shevaun’s connection to Erin once and for all.

Busted Flush (A Wild Cards novel) edited by George R.R. Martin (Tor, Hardcover December 2008) – The Wild Cards series is probably the most popular and long running prose fiction series about superheros, as most people know, since the Wild Cards are the brainchild of George R.R. Martin. You know, George R.R. Martin, the guy who has this small little series about a bunch of kids who find a wolf pups? I haven’t read any of them, this ‘mosaic novel’ includes contributions from Carrie Vaughn, Caroline Spector, Ian Tregillis, S. L. Farrell, John Jos. Miller, Melinda Snodgrass, Victor Milán, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and Walton Simons.

The Skewed Throne (Throne of Amenkor #1) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback November 2006) – This is the first book in Josh Palmatier’s Throne of Amenkor trilogy set in a fantastical city of Amenkor centering on the character of the street urchin Varis, a young girl who becomes a bodyguard for a member of high society. The Skewed Throne was one of four finalists for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for 2007

Amenkor, city of legend, a trading port through which the riches of many lands passed. At its height, Amenkor had been a center of wealth and culture, a place where those of many different backgrounds coexisted in peace and prosperity. Then, a millennium ago, Amenkor was caught in the White Fire, a mysterious force that swept across the land spreading madness, drought, famine, and disease in its wake. With the passing of that first Fire, the ruling Mistress of the era had been found dead on the steps leading up to the palace. And since that time the city had begun a slow, inexorable downward spiral.

Now the Dredge--the bustling market street that snaked between the slums and the prosperous center of the city--marked the dividing line between plenty and poverty; between safety and peril; between those who could walk their streets without fear and those who dwelled in the shadows preying upon the helpless and unwary even as they were preyed upon themselves.

Varis had learned the art of survival as a very young child, when an unexpected act of violence tore her away from her mother's loving protection. Then, when the White Fire blasted through Amenkor for the second time, Varis-- along with the entire city--had been trapped in this unstoppable blaze of power. And for this child of the streets and alleys, for Amenkor itself, everything changed.

The Cracked Throne (Throne of Amenkor #2) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback November 2007) - The second installment in Palmatier’s Throne of Amenkor trilogy:

Fifteen hundred years ago, the legendary trading city of Amenkor faced a seemingly unstoppable threat that appeared out of nowhere to attack and destroy city after city along the Frigean coast. Only a masterful working of magic could turn back this devastating invasion. And so the Seven Adepts combined their power and knowledge to create the Skewed Throne. Since that time Amenkor had been ruled by the individual who held the Throne, and down through the centuries the city had prospered and that ancient threat had been all but forgotten.

Then, a millennium ago, Amenkor was caught in the White Fire, a mysterious force that swept across the land spreading madness, drought, famine, and disease in its wake. With the passing of that first Fire, the ruling Mistress of the era had been found dead on the steps leading up to the palace. And since that time the city had begun a slow, inexorable downward spiral.

Varis had learned the art of survival as a very young child in the slums of Amenkor. And when the mysterious White Fire swept through the city for the second time in a millennium, Varis had survived that as well. But she had been changed by the Fire’s spell, and she was not the only denizen of Amenkor marked by the White Fire. Eryn, Mistress of the Skewed Throne, had continued to reign over the city after the Fire’s passing. Yet from that moment, Amenkor’s decline had escalated, and Eryn herself seemed to hover on the edge of madness.

As Amenkor continued to deteriorate, Varis came to the attention of some of the most powerful people in the city, people who could see her unique potential. And she found herself transformed from gutterscum to unofficial Seeker to bodyguard to assassin. Yet none of her skills could save her from a destiny she would never have wished for or imagined.

After a confrontation that perhaps no one else could have survived, Varis became the new Mistress of the Skewed Throne. Untrained, unprepared, and not certain who she could trust, Varis took the Throne at the most perilous point in Amenkor’s long history. The city was on the brink of starvation, thanks to a fire that had destroyed most of the warehouse district, and the trading ships sent out to bring back the supplies needed to feed the city had disappeared without a trace. And both Varis and Eryn were obsessed with a vision only they had shared—a vision of Amenkor invaded by an unknown enemy, the harbor watch towers destroyed, wrecked ships sinking in waters stained red with blood, even as the city itself was engulfed in flames.

The Vacant Throne (Throne of Amenkor #3) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback January 2009/Hardcover January 2008) – This, of course, is the concluding volume in Throne of Amenkor trilogy. Without giving anything away (and not having read it) it seems our heroine Varis has risen very high from her station as street urchin/assassin/killer.

The city is on the brink of starvation, and the trading ships sent out to bring back supplies needed to feed the city have disappeared without a trace. Both Varis and Eryn, the former Mistress, are obsessed with a vision they alone share of Amenkor invaded by an unknown enemy, the harbor watchtowers destroyed, wrecked ships sinking in waters stained red with blood, even as the city itself is engulfed in flames. . . .

Then their vision comes true, and, forced to draw on all of Amenkor's remaining resources, both ordinary and magical, Varis must fight a desperate battle for the city's survival against these ruthless invaders known as the Chorl. But victory is not without its price. And perhaps that price is too high, as the very heart and soul of Amenkor's power, the Skewed Throne, is irrevocably damaged--totally drained of the magic, knowledge, life force, and memories of previous rulers.

The city's last hope lies with its sometime ally, the city of Venitte, rumored to be home to the only throne that is twin in power to Amenkor's, the two created at the same time by a magical working which no one can now duplicate.

Starship Rebel (Book Four of the Starship Series) by Mike Resnick (Pyr, Hardcover December 2008) – This I’ve read the first three books (Starship: Mutiny, Starship: Pirate, Starship: Mercenary) in the series and really enjoyed them, so I’m hoping this book continues the trend.

Almost a year has passed since the events of Starship: Mercenary. Captain Wilson Cole now commands a fleet of almost fifty ships, and he has become the single greatest military force on the Inner Frontier.

With one exception. The Republic still comes and goes as it pleases, taking what it wants, conscripting men, and extorting taxes, even though the Frontier worlds receive nothing in exchange. And, of course, the government still wants Wilson Cole and the starship Theodore Roosevelt. He has no interest in confronting such an overwhelming force, and constantly steers clear of them.

Then an incident occurs that changes everything, and Cole declares war on the Republic. Outnumbered and always outgunned, his fleet is no match for the Republic's millions of military vessels, even after he forges alliances with the warlords he previously hunted down.

It's a hopeless cause...but that's just what Wilson Cole and the Teddy R. are best at.

Starfist : Wings of Hell by David Sherman & Dan Cragg (Del Rey, Hardcover 12/30/2008) – This is the 13th entry in a Military Science Fiction saga set in the 25th Century. I received the ARC for this way back in September, and another StarFist novel a couple of years ago for review and neither book really compels me to read them. Sherman and Cragg have Military experience, so maybe that translates into the books. I haven’t seen much chatter about the books online or at SFFWorld, either they are not that good or an overlooked gem.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dimebag, Destroyermen, and Declarations

It’s a day late, but four years ago yesterday guitar god Dimebag Darrell Abbot was senselessly gunned down on stage doing what he loved most, playing guitar. I think about it every once and again, when Pantera or Damagepan (or Black Label Society’s In this River) comes up on my iPod or radio and it still pisses me off and saddens me. All Dime wanted to do was jam out, drink, and hang with his pals. So, light a candle, raise your drink and toast to the memory of one of the greatest Metal and Rock guitarists ever. I was lucky enough to see both Pantera and Damageplan live.

In this River by Black Label Society

is probably Pantera’s most famous song, and rightly so. The main riff is so recognizable and just charges you up with adrenaline, it works when you’re in a good mood or when you’re pissed off.

However, Cemetary Gates might be my favorite song from Pantera, it’s got both a great slow side and a hard edge and the way Anselmo’s voice and Dime’s guitar “duel” at the end is just great.

In less somber news, I posted up my latest review last night, the second novel in Taylor Anderson's highly entertaining Destroyermen sequence, Crusade. While the two books haven’t been perfect, they’ve fit the bill as solid entertainment. With that in mind, here’s a brief glimpse of my review:

Once again, Anderson’s background as a military historian informs much of the narrative. Whereas the first novel, this was a bit of a speed bump in the story, Anderson managed to smooth that out and the narrative here in Crusade moved along at a better pace because of it. I was also pleasantly surprised at how well Anderson managed to maintain both the tension and plausibility of the evolving relationship between the Lemurians and Humans. What I hinted at earlier, the men’s anxieties, came to a well-handled head towards the middle of the book. Anderson, in his dedication, mentions Honor as an important thing to him and obviously, to the characters he’s created. This honor helped to keep the Lemurian-human relationship intact in the face of dishonorable human actions.

Over the weekend I finished Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, one of the most powerful and haunting novels I’ve ever read. The thing that amazed me, perhaps the most, about the novel is that the translation manages to hold such beautifully rendered language together. I don’t speak or read Spanish so I can’t compare the translation to the original, but there is a very magical quality to not just the story itself, but in how it was told. I’m going to let this one percolate a bit before I attempt to write a review.

Last but not least, 10 years ago today I asked my wife for her hand in marriage.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 12/07/2008)

A veeeerry slow week, which is probably in part due to Thanksgiving and Black Wednesday, so just one book arrived this week. And on Saturday. And from the great British publisher Victor Gollancz/Orion Books.

Heritage of the Xandim by Maggie Furey (Orion/Gollancz Books , Hardcover 2/15/2009) – I haven't read anything by Maggie Furey and this book looks like a decent starting point for her work:

This series returns to the lands of Aurian, and is set in the distant past of the Magefolk, when even the land was a different shape, and the sea between the northlands and the south did not exist. This was the time when the Artefacts of Power were created, and lives were torn apart by the Mage Wars. In those days, the Magefolk were comprised of four disparate races: the human Wizards, masters of earth magic; the winged Skyfolk, who controlled the magic of air; the Leviathan, who ruled the powers of the watery realms; and the great Dragonfolk, whose province was the magic of fire. But while the four races of the Magefolk strove and vied amongst themselves to master the powers of magic both good and evil, a new race was emerging, who would come to play a vital part in these phenomenal events.

As the story opens, the Xandim are little more than simple beasts. Enslaved by the fey and powerful Phaerie, masters of the Old Magic, they have been trapped in their horse forms for so long that they have forgotten they once held a human shape. Only one of the tribe knows better: the Windeye, the shaman of the Xandim. This is the story of his epic quest to free his people.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Last Argument of Kings and an Argument for the Raven

Last night I posted my review to the suberb conclusion of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, Last Argument of Kings. I know I was a little behind in getting to this one, but it was worth the wait for me. Just when I thought I had my favorite reads of the year figured out, I read a book like this one. Anyway, here’s a teaser from my review:

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he can spin an incredible tale. The story begun in the superb The Blade Itself comes to an inspired and jaw-dropping end in Last Argument of Kings. The comfort level Abercombie flirted with in the previous two volumes is just as tenuous here, both in terms of the surface-level similarities to genre standards as well as the predicaments in which he places his characters.
It’s this synthesis of plot and character which pushes The First Law trilogy at the forefront of modern epic fantasy. Joe Abercrombie plays games with plot and expectation so deftly that even though I might have been able to predict what happens over the course of Last Argument of Kings, I was no less wowed and enthralled with how the plot and events transpired.

I saw Hellboy II over the weekend and thought it OK. Del Toro put lots of cool monsters and creatures, especially in the Troll Market scene, and a lot Hellboy fighting stuff. I think the first movie was better, but this one was still entertaining.

Last, and certainly not least, James Barclay’s first novel Dawnthief is available for free download at the Book Depository (thanks for noting this Jeff!). Dawnthief introduces Barclay’s signature creation, the mercenary band of rogues known as The Raven. I read the first five or so books chronicling The Raven a few years ago, James was even kind enough to mention me in the acknowledgments of Shadowheart. James is a terrific writer whose work is sadly unpublished by a US publisher. James writes in the same vein as David Gemmell and actually struck up a friendship with Gemmell prior to the legendary writer’s passing. I’d even suggest James’s writing would appeal to people who enjoy Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie a as well, two writers who are receiving both critical acclaim and legions of readers here in the US.

Orbit, Pyr, Tor, Bantam Spectra, Del Rey, or DAW (to name only a few) should be publishing James Barclay here in the US. He’s got wo trilogies and a duology published overseas meaning books ready for quick publication over a nice monthly to bi-yearly schedule. This approach to publishing quick succession and immediate shelf presence did great things for Naomi Novik, Joe Abercrombie, Karen Miller and Brent Weeks. Steven Erikson, Gemmell and even Abercrombie were big overseas before a US publisher caught on and published them here in the US. Let's hope the same holds out for James.