Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Midwinter Wheel Turning

Ever since Neil Gaiman jumped from comic writing to novel writing, other writers associated with Vertigo comics have made the jump. Writers like Mike Carey and the latest writer to make the jump, Matthew Sturges whose debut novel Midwinter I recently reviewed:

Part of what made the novel so enjoyable for me was that we only see a snapshot of the world of Midwinter – just a portion of the Seelie and Unseelie worlds, and their relation to a greater Mutliverse including a reasonable facsimile of our own world. Some of the scenes Sturges laid out and depicted where quite cool, not the least of which involves the afore-mentioned Pontiac Le Mans shuttling through a fantasy-esque landscape. There’s a depth to this world, and it seemingly has connections to many other worlds. One of the most enjoyable scenes, and one I found to have a great deal of mythic resonance which I always enjoy, was the Thule Man. The Thule Man is literally a giant boogeyman come to life and along with characters names like Silverdun and Queen Titiania and places such as the City Emerald and the Uncontested Lands, Sturges added layers of mythic resonance that permeated the novel in a great way.

The Wheel of Time keeps turning, and at least the “fallout” from the recent announcement about the three volume final edition. Not long after the announcement at Tor, Brandon Sanderson put up his take on matters. What he says makes a lot of sense, is well-reasoned and gives a hint at the monumental pressure he must be feeling on many levels.

To borrow and modify a phrase from Jordan himself, “What if the creator tapped you on the shoulder and said ‘Hey, do you want to finish my masterwork?’” He’s got the weight of one of the fandom’s largest and most passionate groups of fans waiting on him. Is it annoying that what was promised as a single volume conclusion has come to be, essentially, a concluding trilogy? Yes, especially because readers will be forking over thrice the amount they thought. On the other hand, Robert Jordan was never really accurate with his book estimations. Where does that leave people? Some angry, some frustrated, and some understanding.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wheel of Time - A Memory of Light a trilogy

Via Tor.com - speculation wasn't too far off. The last volume of The Wheel of Time will actually be three volumes. Intarwebs SFF-Fandom, proceed to break in half. Here's the full press release:
New York, NY: Monday, March 30, 2009

Tor Books is proud to announce the November 3rd, 2009 on-sale date for The Gathering Storm, Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time and the first of three volumes that will make up A Memory of Light, the stunning conclusion to Robert Jordan’s beloved and bestselling fantasy series. A Memory of Light, partially written by Jordan and completed by Brandon Sanderson, will be released over a two-year period.

Robert Jordan, one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th and early 21st centuries, passed away in 2007 after a courageous battle with the rare blood disease amyloidosis. Brandon Sanderson, the New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor—his wife, Harriet McDougal—to complete the final book.

The Wheel of Time series has sold over 14 million copies in North America and over 30 million copies worldwide with translations into 28 languages. The last four books in the series were all #1 New York Times bestsellers, and for over a decade readers have been eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the epic story.

Harriet McDougal said on the process behind A Memory of Light: “The scope and size of the novel was such that it could not be contained in a single volume. It was a piece of marvellous good fortune that Brandon Sanderson undertook the work. He is a great pleasure to work with, as well as a wonderful writer.”

President and Publisher of Tor Books, Tom Doherty, also expressed his happiness with A Memory of Light, saying: “It is a magnificent closure to a great American epic fantasy whose journey began almost twenty years ago. There is no way Robert Jordan would have squeezed it to a single volume, and somehow it seems fitting that what began as a trilogy will also end as one.”

The first ever JordanCon will take place this April 17th – 19th, 2009 in Alpharetta, GA. Harriet McDougal, Tom Doherty, Brandon Sanderson, and other members of “Team Jordan” will attend as featured guests and speak personally on The Wheel of Time and The Gathering Storm and the stories behind the rich literary legacy of Robert Jordan. JordanCon will also include a special preview of The Gathering Storm.

This year will also see major publications of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time comic books and graphic novels with the launch of The Eye of the World comics in May and the New Spring graphic novel with bonus material in November. The Dabel Brothers will be releasing the comic book series, which will then be collected and published as graphic novels by Tor Books.

Universal Pictures acquired the movie rights to The Wheel of Time in August 2008, and currently plan to adapt The Eye of the World as the first movie.

A bit more at Dragonmount.com.

Let's hope they at least improve upon the cover.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/28/2009)

For the first time in the almost year that I've been posting the weekly haul here at the o' Stuff nothing arrived.

So instead, I'll just point out a Web site I found out about this week that is a monumental time-waster: SPORCLE.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wings of Wrath - Reviewed

C.S. Friedman is a writer who will always have a special spot in my heart. After all, on the plane to and from Hawai’i for my honeymoon, I read her wonderful Coldfire Trilogy. Everything else I’ve read by her was engaging, moving and enjoyable. The same can be said for Wings of Wrath, her latest novel, the review of which I posted last night:

One of the things that stood out to me in this volume (and a trend I’m noticing in a lot of the stronger fantasy writers such as C.S. Friedman) is that this second book doesn’t simply tread ground and hold things at a status quo for the eventual final volume. Certain plot elements gain closure, while others continue to set up for an eventual clash that I for one hope to see occur in the final volume.

An element I’ve enjoyed in all of Ms. Friedman’s novels is her ability to give weight to both sides of a conflict. In Feast of Souls, the Souleaters were monsters out of legend associated with only death and destruction. Here in Wings of Wrath, more background is given to these creatures and their history, which gives the beginning hints of a rational perspective to their existence. A Great Secret may lie at the heart of what they are (perhaps not unlike the world of Erna in her (Coldfire Trilogy) but the hints of such a secret may just be teases of What Could Be rather than What Is.

That will be all for today, except to say that I am enthralled by The Judging Eye.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So Say We All

Well, Battlestar Galactica came to a close after four seasons with many ups and downs. Actually, more downs than ups for the survivors of the Attack on New Caprica, but on the whole BSG was a moving show about humanity, toasters, and powers at play beyond human understanding.

Two very good write ups of the finale:
Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star-Ledger

Adam Whitehead/The Wertzone - Adam does (and has been doing) a spectacular job of review/summaries of each episode, so I’ll mostly just be throwing down my reactions to the series.


I’ve been back and forth with this show throughout its run, loving the miniseries and abandoning the series proper somewhere towards the end of the first season. I came back in the middle of the 2nd season and have enjoyed watching it throughout the remainder of its run, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff who really hates the show. The end of the New Caprica storyline was terrific, as was the reveal of four of the final five Cylons. Looking back at Galen Tyrol’s character arc for the series, he didn’t exactly have the best of events happen to him, but of all of the final five, I think his reveal as a Cylon works the best and Sam Anders works pretty well, too. Colonel Tigh’s reveal sort of works in that it shows how deep the Cylons were embedded in Caprica society. Tory was not much of a character throughout the show for me, and her reveal and turn as a sinister Cylon was just sort of there. However, I feel the revelation that Ellen Tigh was the final Cylon felt a bit forced and almost grasping at straws. Ronald D. Moore has stated on many occasions that the writers didn’t have an explicit plan for where they want to take things (the way the folks over at Lost do) and I think this is most evident in Ellen being a Cylon.

For the most part, I really liked the mythology/backstory of the show, the Exodus of Kobol 2 Millenia before the show began, which hints a more vast swath of humanity in the galaxy. I liked the resonant parallels between the Greek Gods and the Lords of Kobol – things like that really helped me to enjoy the series.

One of the questions I (and I assume many fans of the show) had over the course of the series was whether or not the events depicted in the series take place in a far future or distant past from the 21st Century. The name “Earth” was thrown around casually with mythological overtones as a place that could be either a past home from which people on Caprica descended or a future destination where the show would end. We are led to believe the Earth found at the midpoint cliffhanger of season four is indeed our Earth having been decimated thousands of years prior to the rediscovery of the planet. Here we are given to think the Battlestar Galactica universe is very much in our future.

The final reveal is perhaps one of the most divisive revelations in the entire series. Granted some of the details surrounding this reveal are suspect under closer scrutiny. 35,000+ people abandoning technology for a clean slate? Helo recovers from what seemed to be mortal bullet wounds pretty nicely, didn’t he? Even if it was a bit of a leap, I was glad for that, since I liked him as a character throughout the series. How did Romo just become ‘appointed’ president by Lee? Kara “Gandalf” Thrace just disappears? What is she, Batman? Everything was part of God’s plan? This last half of the last season saw Adama very easily accept the Cylons as part of the crew and society after such animosity towards them. I also thought the first part of the 3-hour finale felt strained and overwrought with the flashbacks. Maybe if I watched the all three parts of the finale in one sitting it would have worked better.

Other details that seem to rake the fans ire worked for me specifically because there exist an indefinite element to them – specifically, a higher power had been moving events and that Head Baltar and Head Caprica were “Angels.” Caprica-6 and Baltar shared moment of realization seeing their “Angels” and their really worked. I also really liked Baltar’s speech to Cavil about seeing the “Angels/”

The whole God’s plan works on another level, too with two instances of literal Deus Ex Machina –Racetrack’s hand hitting the button that fired the nukes, which in turn destroyed the Cylon Colony. This of course led Kara Thrace typing in the coordinates for their Final Destination – Earth. Coincidentally, both cases of a seemingly God driven hand moving events is the right hand, an extension of God’s power. Kara typing in the numbers worked, but the dead hand tapping the button to shoot the nukes was a little more hokey.

There’s an old adage in Science Fiction that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic and the higher power and “Angels” could be seen as just that – supremely advanced beings that could be interpreted as God, but don’t necessarily have to be God. Iain M. Banks’s Culture universe, which includes supremely advanced Artificial Intelligences the size of planets is a parallel to this notion. I think the ending dialogue of the show pins this home even more when Six reveals that the way our society is depicted final scene of the scene of the series is part of God’s Plan.

"You know it doesn't like that name," Baltar says. Six only looks back in mild defiance. "Silly. Silly me," he replies as the two walk away into the metropolis

The sometimes disagreeable io9, echoes some of my thoughts here and it is another swerve from the writers. Is it God or some other higher power?

I thought the soundtrack/music, not The Music per say, was pitch perfect in the finale.

The final episode also echoes the theme and basis of the original series in that humanity is much older than what we believe it to be on Earth and that humans as they are today were, for lack of a better term, uplifted through the intervention of space travelers/gods – humans from Kobol and Caprica maybe. This argument was posed in the controversial book The Chariots of the Gods, which served as a major inspiration for the original series. Alan Sepinwall echoes something I very much agree with about the finale:

For that matter, the idea of the characters winding up on our Earth centuries ago pays homage to the original series, which posited that its characters' ancestors had started out on Earth in the distant past and had done things like build the great pyramids of Egypt.

Well, I know my little rant/review here does not cover everything about the finale and the series itself. Was it a perfect series? No, as I said above, I abandoned the series at one point so parts of it were less entertaining throughout. Was the ending perfect? I can’t really say that either, with the continual ending teases a la The Revenge of the Sith and The Return of the King. However, the episode still sticks with me and I wound up watching the finale again last night via On Demand and it worked just as well on the second viewing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/21/2009)

The weekly flow of books continues with some good stuff. I’ve already started one book that arrived.

Blue Diablo: (Corine Solomon #1) by Ann Aguirre (Roc Mass Market Paperback 04/07/2009) – Although Ann Aguirre has published a handful of novels at this point, Blue Diablo is the launch of a new series that is in the ubiquitous “Urban Fantasy” sub genre.

Corine Solomon is a handler—when she touches an object she instantly knows its history and its future. Using her ability, she can find the missing—which is why people never stop trying to find her. Like her ex-boyfriend Chance, who needs Corine's gift to find someone dear to them both. But the search proves dangerous as it leads them into a strange world of demons and sorcerers, ghosts and witchcraft, zombies—and black magic...

The Judging Eye: (The Aspect-Emperor Book One) by R. Scott Bakker (Overlook Press Hardcover February 2009). – Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy is a defining fantasy saga of the early 21st Century and I was lucky enough to read the first one, The Darkness that Comes Before very early on in 2003 and it blew me away like few other debut novels I’d ever read before or since. Not long thereafter, I interviewed Scott and I’ve enjoyed each volume in The Prince of Nothing just as much (The Warrior-Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought). I’m already 130+ pages into it and I have a tough time putting it down.

The Darkness that Comes Before, The Warrior-Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought--collectively the Prince of Nothing Saga--were R. Scott Bakker's magnificent debut into the upper echelon of epic fantasy. In those three books, Bakker created a world that was at once a triumph of the fantastic and an historical epic as real as any that came before.

Widely praised by reviewers and a growing body of fans, Bakker has already established the reputation as one of the smartest writers in the fantasy genre--a writer in the line stretching from Homer to Peake to Tolkein. Now he returns to The Prince of Nothing with the long awaited The Judging Eye, the first book in an all-new series. Set twenty years after the end of The Thousandfold Thought, Bakker reintroduces us to a world that is at once familiar but also very different than the one readers thought they knew. Delving even further into his richly imagined universe of myth, violence, and sorcery, and fully remolding the fantasy genre to broaden the scope of intricacy and meaning, R. Scott Bakker has once again written a fantasy novel that defies all expectations and rewards the reader with an experience unlike any to be had in the canon of today's literature.

Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint (Tor Hardcover 03/24/2009) – Charles de Lint was writing Urban Fantasy before the label/subgenre was taken over by vampire hunters, werewolves and wizards for hire. One of the best fantasy novels I read was his The Little Country, and I’ve read some of his short stories and a couple of novels, which were all good. This is a rarity for de Lint – a ‘mythic’ novel set outside of his popular Newford universe.

On the Day of the Dead, the Solona Music Hall is jumping. That's where Altagracia Quintero meets John Burns, just two weeks too late.

Altagracia – her friends call her Grace – has a tattoo of Nuestra Señora de Altagracia on her shoulder, she's got a Ford Motor Company tattoo running down her leg, and she has grease worked so deep into her hands that it'll never wash out. Grace works at Sanchez Motorworks, customizing hot rods. Finding the line in a classic car is her calling.

Now Grace has to find the line in her own life. A few blocks around the Alverson Arms is all her world -- from the little grocery store where she buys beans, tamales, and cigarettes (“cigarettes can kill you,” they tell her, but she smokes them anyway) to the record shop, to the library where Henry, a black man confined to a wheelchair, researches the mystery of life in death – but she’s got unfinished business keeping her close to home.

Grace loves John, and John loves her, and that would be wonderful, except that John, like Grace, has unfinished business – he’s haunted by the childhood death of his younger brother. He's never stopped feeling responsible. Like Grace in her way, John is an artist, and before their relationship can find its resolution, the two of them will have to teach each other about life and love, about hot rods and Elvis Presley, and about why it's necessary to let some things go.

Other Earths edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake (DAW Mass Market Paperback 04/07/2009) – This is DAW’s monthly themed anthology proving once again that short fiction really isn’t dead. I’ve never really had more than a passing interest in Alternate History, but the writers in this anthology do interest me a great deal: Jeff VanderMeer, Gene Wolfe, Alastair Reynolds, and Robert Charles Wilson.

What if Lincoln never became president, and the Civil War never took place? What if Columbus never discovered America, and the Inca developed a massive, technologically advanced empire? What if magic was real and a half-faerie queen ruled England? What if an author discovered a book written by an alternate version of himself?

These are just some of the possible pathways that readers can take to explore the Other Earths that may be waiting just one page away.

The Burning Skies (Book #2 of Autumn Rain) by David J. Williams (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 05/19/2009) – Mark/Hobbit read and enjoyed the first novel (The Mirrored Heavens), which was also the author’s debut novel last year.

Autumn Rain’s plan to nail the president at the secret summit conference he’s holding with the Eurasian leadership.

Ballistic Babes ( Zach Johnson, P.I. Omnibus #2) by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem – (DAW Mass Market Paperback 04/07/2009) – This book is another great instance of DAW keeping an author’s backlist easily available and affordable. These are the 3rd and 4th novels set in a far future about the last human Private Investigator.
Two beauties. One volume. An omnibus edition of The Radioactive Redhead and The Frost-Haired Vixen

Double your pleasure, double the laughs with this omnibus edition featuring Zachary Nixon Johnson, the last freelance P.I. on Earth. It's 2057, and Zach is partnered with an experimental A.I. named HARV . In what is both an homage to and a parody of the great heyday of pulp fiction, they solve cases involving androids, future tech wizards, and of course, the occasional nuclear-powered, genocidal fembot.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hugo Awards 2009

This is the first Novel Ballot where I've read the majority of the nominees. Links on the novels, obviously, point to my reviews and for the shorter lengths, links point to the my review of the anthology in which I the story appeared. Locus gives a brief, and helpful analysis.

For all others, I've bolded the books I have, but haven't yet read, and italicized in orange in those I have read but not reviewed. Where I can, I've listed my selection under each category

Best Novel
(639 Ballots)

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)

Rob's Choice: I'm torn between The Graveyard Book and Little Brother even though I enjoyed the other two I read in this category. They happened to be 2 of the 3 of my best reads from 2008.

Best Novella
(337 Ballots)

“The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
“The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
“The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
“True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Novelette
(373 Ballots)

“Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008)
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
“The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
“Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)

Best Short Story
(448 Ballots)

“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
“Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
“Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
“From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)

Best Related Book
(263 Ballots)

Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press)
Spectrum 15: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art by Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)
The Vorkosigan Companion: The Universe of Lois McMaster Bujold by Lillian Stewart Carl & John Helfers, eds. (Baen)
What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications)
Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)

Best Graphic Story
(212 Ballots)

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle Written by Jim Butcher, art by Ardian Syaf (Del Rey/Dabel Brothers Publishing)
Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Fables: War and Pieces Written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, art by Steve Leialoha and Andrew Pepoy, color by Lee Loughridge, letters by Todd Klein (DC/Vertigo Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
Serenity: Better Days Written by Joss Whedon & Brett Matthews, art by Will Conrad, color by Michelle Madsen, cover by Jo Chen (Dark Horse Comics)
Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores Written/created by Brian K. Vaughan, penciled/created by Pia Guerra, inked by Jose Marzan, Jr. (DC/Vertigo Comics)

Rob's Choice: Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores - The ending was terrific to one of the landmark pieces of comic book/graphic novel fiction of the decade. This series was consistent, smart, entertaining and really cemented Vaughan as a premier writer of comics. I'm sure it also helped him get the Lost gig, which in turn, has helped to make the show as terrific as has been over the past season or two.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
(436 Ballots)

The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer, story; Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, screenplay; based on characters created by Bob Kane; Christopher Nolan, director (Warner Brothers)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Guillermo del Toro & Mike Mignola, story; Guillermo del Toro, screenplay; based on the comic by Mike Mignola; Guillermo del Toro, director (Dark Horse, Universal)
Iron Man Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, screenplay; based on characters created by Stan Lee & Don Heck & Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby; Jon Favreau, director (Paramount, Marvel Studios)
METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc)
WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)

Rob's Choice: It'll go to either WALL-E or The Dark Knight, but my choice is with the Bat. I thought WALL-E was good, but nothing compares to The Dark Knight.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
(336 Ballots)

“The Constant” (Lost) Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof, writers; Jack Bender, director (Bad Robot, ABC studios)
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen , writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant Enemy)
“Revelations” (Battlestar Galactica) Bradley Thompson & David Weddle, writers; Michael Rymer, director (NBC Universal)
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” (Doctor Who) Steven Moffat, writer; Euros Lyn, director (BBC Wales)
“Turn Left” (Doctor Who) Russell T. Davies, writer; Graeme Harper, director (BBC Wales)

Rob's Choice: This might be toughest of all, but I'm going with "The Constant." Each episode/Webisode was good on the list was very good, but "The Constant" might have been the strongest episode of Lost on the season that really put the show back on track.

Best Editor, Short Form
(377 Ballots)

Ellen Datlow
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Rob's Choice: I've read more Strahan-edited fiction last year than the others, so he's my choice.

Best Editor, Long Form
(273 Ballots)

Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
David G. Hartwell
Beth Meacham
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Rob's Choice: Without any other easy way to find out what books these fine folks edited/commissioned in the nomination year, this is a tough one, too. Patrick Nielsen Hayden edited two of the books on the novel short list and Pyr/Lou Anders published 4 of my favorite books of 2008. Ginjer Buchana, I think, was responsible for one of the better debut authors I read last year, Taylor Anderson, as well as Saturn’s Children on the short list. I think I’d lean towards Lou Anders, on this one but reserve the right to modify my choice in the future.

Best Professional Artist
(334 Ballots)

Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
John Picacio
Shaun Tan

I'll go with Picacio, followed closely by Dos Santos.

Best Semiprozine
(283 Ballots)

Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, &; Liza Groen Trombi
The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kris Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, & Kevin J. Maroney
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer &; Stephen H. Segal

Rob's Choice: Clarkesworld gets my nod here.

Best Fanzine
(257 Ballots)

Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger edited by Guy H. Lillian III
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer

Best Fan Writer
(291 Ballots)

Chris Garcia
John Hertz
Dave Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist
(187 Ballots)

Alan F. Beck
Brad W. Foster
Sue Mason
Taral Wayne
Frank Wu

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
(288 Ballots)

Aliette de Bodard*
David Anthony Durham*
Felix Gilman
Tony Pi*
Gord Sellar*

*(Second year of eligibility)

Rob's Choice: Only having read Gilman and Durham, my nod would definitely go to Durham.
A total of 799 nomination ballots were cast.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


552 Regular Season Wins – current record
Seven 40 win seasons, more than double the next in line
100 Shutouts, 3 away from the record
3 Stanley Cups
4 Vezina Trophies (Best Goaltender)
4 Jennings Trophies (Fewest Goals against)
1 Regular Season Goal & 1 Playoff Goal

If there was any doubt up until last night, Marty’s now the Best Ever. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Enclave Reviewed on a Green Day

I gave up on the book I was talking about yesterday after reading another chapter or two without making a connection to the character or the story. Essentially, and nothing at all worked for me. I couldn’t get over my initial annoyance with the protagonist, so off to the discard pile goes the book.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Kit Reed’s latest novel, Enclave, which I thought was both dark with shots of hope injected throughout. Here’s a sampling of my review:

As often happens in such Utopic settings, something shatters the sought-after idyllic setting. The monastery in which the novel takes place is supposed to be impregnable and unbreachable, which is why Sarge chose it for his boarding school. Sarge and his crew try to tell the children they are at the Academy for their own good, to save them from the pending apocalypse. These children are initially told the reason for their installment at this Academy is to further their education, when in reality all these kids have some sort of troubled past. As such, their parents want to get rid of them. “Killer” Stade got his nickname from killing a peer, another young man was sent to the Academy because his epileptic fits would be too embarrassing for his royal family to handle, while another child is sent because she/he is confused about his/her gender.
Genre Wars reignites!
Jeff VanderMeer leads an interesting discussion about what books are Dark Fantasy and what books are Urban Fantasy after seeing a table of books labeled "Dark Fantasy."

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

When to Stop Reading a Book?

Is it bad that in the second chapter of a book I started yesterday, I’m already annoyed by the protagonist? Especially when the novel is a first person-narrative? At this point, all I can think is that I’ve got this protagonist telling me her story for another 300+ pages, and I don't like her or her voice. I might have to set this book aside.

I generally try to make it through more than 25 pages of a book before giving up, but this protagonist makes me want to just hang up the proverbial phone on the conversation that this book is. I like to get a little deeper into a book before realizing it might not work for me – page 100 or 1/3 into the book are two pretty solid markers. With an ever-increasing pile of unread books; however, I suppose a stricter cut off point might be in order.

Now don’t get me wrong, I go into every book hoping I’ll enjoy it and wanting to make it to that last page. However, I’ll sometimes see how much more of the book in question I’ve got to read and compare that to all the other unread books I’ve got and I soon have to make a choice. I’ve already given up on one book this year, and very recently, so I’m reluctant to stop this soon into another book. Before that, the last book I completely stopped reading was back in March 2007, so maybe I'm due again?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/14/2009)

Another huge week as the Penguin (Roc, NAL, Ace, DAW) imprints begin rolling out their April books. Some other books I’ve really been wanting to read arrived as well, but the highlight might be the ARC of Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker. Once again, I’m feeling the “too many appealing books and not enough time” thing.

Magic Strikes (Book Three of Kate Daniels) by Ilona Andrews (Ace Mass Market Paperback 03/31/2009) – The third in an Urban Fantasy series (haven’t read the first two) about a Paranormal fixer-uppper:

Drafted into working for the Order of Merciful Aid, mercenary Kate Daniels has more paranormal problems than she knows what to do with. And in Atlanta, where magic comes and goes like the tide, that's saying a lot. But when Kate's werewolf friend Derek is discovered nearly dead, she must confront her greatest challenge yet.

Angelic by Kelley Armstrong (Part of her Otherworld Saga) – (Subterranean PressHardcover 12/31/2009) – I haven’t read any of Armstrong’s Urban Fantasies, but they’ve been on the “To Try” list for a while. This here’s a novella in her massively popular Otherworld saga:

Eve Levine, ghost and part-time avenging angel, is ready for her already overdue annual vacation from her work for the Fates, who have just one small, simple job that she needs to take care of before they’ll let her go. And as all things involving fate, it’s neither small, nor simple.

Dragons Luck by Robert Asprin (Ace Trade Paperback 04/07/2009) – I can only assume this book was completed before Mr. Aspirin’s unfortunate passing last May, but it is the second in a series involving talking Dragons in New Orleans.

Griffen McCandles is adjusting well to running his gambling operation in the French Quarter of New Orleans and to his newfound status as head dragon. Other dragons are getting a whiff of his reputation, though, and they're not happy about it. Which is why there's suddenly a hit out on him.

And, just in time for Halloween, the ghost of a voodoo queen wants Griffen to moderate a supernatural conclave. And though the strange goings-on will barely be noticed in a city used to drunken conventioneers and wild revelers, it's Griffen's chance to spread his wings-or crash and burn.

The Edge of the World (Terra Incognita Book One) by Kevin J. Anderson (Orbit Trade Paperback 06/08/2009) – I may have read some Star Wars fiction by Mr. Anderson, but not much else. His reputation for taking over the Dune series is less than stellar, but his original fiction seems to get relatively positive reviews. This is the launch of a brand new Epic Fantasy series, actually Anderson’s first foray into the subgenre. Here’s a widget from his Web site:

Terra Incognita - the blank spaces on the map, past the edge of the world, marked only by the words ‘here be monsters.’Two nations at war, fighting for dominion over the known, and undiscovered, world, pin their last hopes at ultimate victory on finding a land out of legend.Each will send their ships to brave the untamed seas, wild storms, sea serpents, and darker dangers unknown to any man. It is a perilous undertaking, but there will always be the impetuous, the brave and the mad who are willing to leave their homes to explore the unknown.Even unto the edge of the world…Kevin J. Anderson’s spectacular fantasy debut is a sweeping tale of adventure on the high seas, as two warring kingdoms vie for the greatest treasure of them all.

Where Everything Ends by Ray Bradbury (Subterranean Press Hardcover October 2009) – Subterranean Press continues its impressive line of fine, limited edition Ray Bradbury books. This book is a collection of three mystery novels, Death is a Lonely BusinessA Graveyard for Lunatics, and Let’s All Kill Constance, as well as the short story Where Everything Ends

Freely acknowledging the influence of the genre’s masters (Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald, and Cain), all of these stories successfully transcend those influences, filtering them through their author’s wholly unique sensibility. The result is a powerfully nostalgic evocation of time and place, and an unforgettable portrait of a writer in love with language, with movies, and with the transformative power of stories themselves.

Curse the Dawn: (Cassandra Palmer Series #4) by Karen Chance (Onyx Paperback 04/07/2009). – This would be the fourth book in a Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy series. For some strange reason, the first three books were published in the ROC imprint of Penguin and with the fourth book, the powers-that-be at Penguin decided to switch to the ONYX imprint. Odd, that.

Cassandra Palmer may be the all-powerful Pythia now, but that doesn't mean people have stopped trying to kill her. Most of the supernatural power players don't want the independent minded Cassie as chief clairvoyant—and they'll stop at nothing to see her six feet under.

The Vampire Senate does support Cassie in her position, but their protection comes with a price: an alliance with the sexy master vampire Mircea, who has claimed Cassie as his own. But even the vampires will have trouble keeping Cassie alive now that the self-styled god Apollo, the source of the Pythia's power, has it in for her in a big way. To save her life—and the world—Cassie's going to have to face down her creator once and for all.

Forever Twilight 2: Windows to the Soul by Peter Crowther (Subterranean Press Hardcover 07/30/2009) – Crowther is known primarily as an editor of short fiction and a co-founder of PS Publishing, but this sounds quite interesting indeed.

The second volume (the first volume is already available) of Crowther's exciting new SF/Horror series concerning the adventures of a small group of human survivors roaming what is left of our Earth. Part alien invasion, part epic vampire yarn, the Forever Twilight series pits our main characters against a fearless and powerless race of invaders who can only operate under the cover of darkness!

Nebula Awards Showcase 2009 edited by Ellen Datlow (Ace Trade Paperback 04/07/2009) – I’ve had intentions for the past few years to pick up this annual collection, and I realize I’ve read a good portion of the stories/excerpts in this volume, including Chabon’s Nebula-award winning The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Andy Duncan’s Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse in the Strahan-edited Eclipse One. Although the fiction looks interesting in this one, some of the nofiction looks good, including an essay on Young Adult fiction by Gwenda Bond and an appreciation of Michael Moorcock.

This annual tradition from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America collects the best of the year's stories, as well as essays and commentary on the current state of the genre and predictions of future science fiction and fantasy films, art, and more. This year's award-winning authors include Michael Chabon, Karen Joy Fowler, Ted Chiang, and Nancy Kress, plus 2008 Grand Master Michael Moorcock.

The Stranger (Book One of The Labyrinths of Echo) by Max Frei (Overlook Press Hardcover 04/14/2009) – I’ve been hearing/seeing little things about this book for a while now and it sounds really cool. Overlook, of course, is the publisher of the great R. Scott Bakker so I know they have a good track record and this one comes highly recommended.

Max Frei was a twenty-something loser-a big sleeper (that is, during the day; at night he can't sleep a wink), a hardened smoker, and an uncomplicated glutton and loafer. But then he got lucky. He contacts a parallel world in his dreams, where magic is a daily practice. Once a social outcast, he's now known in his new world as the "unequalled Sir Max." He's a member of the Department of Absolute Order, formed by a species of enchanted secret agents; his job is to solve cases more extravagant and unreal than one could imagine-a journey that will take Max down the winding paths of this strange and unhinged universe.

Troy: Fall of Kings (Book 3 of The Troy Series) by David and Stella Gemmell (Del Rey Trade Paperback 03/24/2009) – Del Rey Sent me the Hardcover back in December 2007 and the version I received this past Monday is the Trade Paperback. Gemmell is one of this authors whose work I’ve barely read(embarrassingly), though I’ve got a decent amount of his stuff in boxes at home. This is his last published work:

Darkness falls on the Great Green, and the Ancient World is fiercely divided. On the killing fields outside the golden city of Troy, forces loyal to the Mykene King mass. Among them is Odysseus, fabled storyteller and reluctant ally to the Mykene, who knows that he must soon face his former friends in deadly combat.

Within the city, the Trojan king waits. Ailing and bitter, his hope is pinned on two heroes: his favourite son Hektor, and the dread Helikaon who will wreak terrible vengeance for the death of his wife at Mykene hands. War has been declared — a war filled with bloodlust, and peopled by heroes who will live forever in a story that will echo down the centuries.

Buyout by Alexander Irvine (Del Rey Trade Paperback 3/31/2009) – I’ve read a few of his books (A Scattering of Jades and One King, One Soldier) so I’m hoping this is just as good, it’s just a matter of when I actually get to the book. The book in this past week’s mail is a finished copy of the ARC I received in January.

One hundred years from now, with Americans hooked into an Internet far more expansive and intrusive than today’s, the world has become a seamless market-driven experience. In this culture of capitalism run amok, entrepreneurs and politicians faced with rampant overcrowding in the nation’s penal system turn to a controversial new method of cutting costs: life-term buyouts. In theory, buyouts offer convicted murderers the chance to atone for their crimes by voluntarily allowing themselves to be put to death by the state in exchange for a one-time cash payment, shared among their heirs and victims, based on a percentage of what it would have cost taxpayers to house and feed them for the rest of their natural lives. It’s a win-win situation.

At least that’s what Martin Kindred believes. And Martin is a man who desperately needs something to believe in, especially with his marriage coming apart and the murder of his brother, an L.A. cop brutally gunned down in the line of duty, unsolved.

As the public face of the buyout program, Martin is a lightning rod for verbal and physical abuse–but he embraces every challenge, knowing his motives are pure. But when evidence comes to light that a felon in line for a buyout may have been involved with his brother’s death, Martin’s professional detachment threatens to turn into a personal vendetta that will jeopardize everything–and everyone–he holds dear. Inspired by today’s politics, Buyout is an unforgettable look at an all-too-believable future . . . and one man’s struggle to do the right thing.

Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku (Anchor Books Trade Paperback 04/07/2009) – Dr. Kaku is the closest thing to a Rock-Star Scientist, having published several books which seemingly explain physics in very readable terms. This book sounds pretty interesting.

Teleportation, time machines, force fields, and interstellar space ships—the stuff of science fiction or potentially attainable future technologies? Inspired by the fantastic worlds of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Back to the Future, renowned theoretical physicist and bestselling author Michio Kaku takes an informed, serious, and often surprising look at what our current understanding of the universe's physical laws may permit in the near and distant future.

Entertaining, informative, and imaginative, Physics of the Impossible probes the very limits of human ingenuity and scientific possibility.

Dark Haven (Book Three of The Chronicles of the Necromancer) by Gail Z. Martin (Solaris Books Mass Market Paperback January 2009) – I read the first book in the series, The Summoner and didn’t care for it, but the books are doing well.

Matris Drayke, king of Margolan, is faced with the challenge to rebuild his shattered kingdom. With his wedding weeks away, Tris must address the trials and executions of those responsible for the atrocities against Margolan’s people. Jonmarc Vahanian, the new Lord of Dark Haven, and one of Tris's allies, faces trouble with the Blood Council, where there is defiance against the prospect of a mortal lord. And beneath Dark Haven, the Flow, the vast river of power damaged when Arontala wrested the Soulcatcher from Dark Haven’s foundation, is becoming unstable, threatening the balance of magic itself, and the future of the Winter Kingdoms.

Corambis (Book Four of The Doctrine of Labyrinths) by Sarah Monette (Ace Hardcover 04/07/2009) – Although I haven’t read any books by Sarah Monette, I’ve heard/seen very good things about them. This is the fourth book in the series that began with Mélusine

Exiled from Mélusine for the crime of heresy, the once powerful Cabaline wizard Felix Harrowgate and his half-brother Mildmay, former cat-burglar and assassin, journey to Corambis to face judgment from a ruling body of wizards. Corambis, however, is a land plagued by civil strife. Kay Brightmore, the Margrave of Rothmarlin, is part of an insurrection to restore the monarchy in the southern half of the country. In desperation, Kay and his rebels seek out the engine of Summerdown, an ancient magical device rumored to have terrible powers. Once the engine is awakened, only a powerful wizard can stop its awesome potential for destruction. Felix and Mildmay arrive just in time for their greatest challenge-and ultimate destiny . . .

Some Girls Bite (Book One of The Chicagoland Vampires) by Chloe Neil (Ace Trade Paperback 04/07/2009) – The first book in a new Urban Fantasy/Vampire series about (I assume from the cover) a cute, young, sassy girl who becomes a vampire and learns the ins and outs of Chicago’s Vampire society.

Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was Merit’s. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker—and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.

Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she’s traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan “Lord o’ the Manor” Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries’ worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude— and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan’s attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone’s still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago’s nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war—and there will be blood.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 06/09/2009) – Brandon Sanderson’s star continues to rise and his ability to churn out big ol’ fat fantasies continues to be very impressive. Especially considering the high quality of the Mistborn Trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed and the pending mega-boost his profile will receive once A Memory of Light. This novel is a stand-alone and along with the great-looking ARC I received, came a promo letter including a large and generous blurb from none other than Michael Moorcock.

Warbreaker is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, and the God King one of them has to marry; the lesser god who doesn’t like his job; and the immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago. Their world is one in which those who die in glory return as gods, to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city of T’Telir. A world where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an essence, an inherent energy or élan vital, known as “breath,” which can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people. By using breath and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri, princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of bravery; and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker

WWW:Wake (Volume 1 of the WWW Trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace Hardcover 04/07/2009) – I’ve read a couple of Mr. Sawyer’s novels (Factoring Humanity, Starplex) and enjoyed them, so I’m looking forward to this one, too. It’s got a really catchy cover.

Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math-and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind. But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. So when she receives an implant to restore her sight, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something-some other-lurking in the background. And it's getting more and more intelligent with each passing day . . .

Dancing on the Head of a Pin (Book Two of Remy Chandler) by Thomas E. Sniegoski (Ace Trade Paperback 04/07/2009) – Urban Fantasy about a former Angel from Heaven who is now a private investigator with supernatural cases. Sounds similar to The Dresden Files but with enough of a twist (angels rather than faerie) to make this worthy of consideration:

Still mourning the loss of his wife, fallen angel Remy Chandler has immersed himself in investigating dangerous supernatural cases. His latest: the theft of a cache of ancient weaponry stolen from a collector who deals in antiquities of a dark and dubious nature. The weapons, Remy knows, were forged eons ago and imbued with unimaginable power. And if they fall into the wrong hands, they could be used to destroy not only Heaven but also Earth.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stross, Banks, & Sturges - Review and Thoughts

Charles Stross is one of the more prolific writers, releasing a book or two a year in each of the different series he writes, or stand-alones like Saturn’s Children. The latest wide release for Mr. Stross is The Jennifer Morgue, the review of which I posted yesterday. Mixing James Bond and Cthulhu pastiche, the book was a lot of fun, here’s part of my review:

Part of the fun of this book is reveling in the clichés Stross himself pokes fun at and uses to tell the story. Much of the early spy plot mirrors Casino Royale in that Bob Howard finds himself in a casino gambling at high stakes. However, whereas Bond is smooth, debonair, and a single ladies-man, Howard is awkward, romantically linked and can’t gamble worth a lick. When he meets up with his partner Romana, a drop-dead gorgeous American counterpart, the Bond parallels only continue, but this is where the Lovecraftian/Cthulhu elements really take hold. It turns out the titular JENNIFER MORGUE is something of a lodestone between our world and the world of the DEEP SEVEN, beings who mirror Lovecrafts Old Ones. When billionaire Ellis Billington, who does have cat much like Blofeld, hatches a plot to take the MORGUE for his own purpose, the Bond elements are in full effect.

While I’ve read, and for the most part enjoyed, some of Stross’s other fiction (Singularity Sky; Saturn’s Children; Missile Gap) this is the most over-the-top and readable book I’ve read by him. I also get the sense that Stross had a great deal of fun putting Bob Howard through the proverbial wringer in this story. The humour abounds, and one of the most entertaining aspects of the story is the use of footnotes throughout the novel that either provide additional narrative insight from Howard or provide “facts” about the world in which the story takes place.

The two books I’m reading at the moment, Consider Phlebas and Midwinter, are hitting some of the same thematic notes. Granted the Banks novel takes place in the deep reaches of space and involves strange aliens who can shift their shapes and the Sturges novel takes place in a Faerie-land with elves and talking horses…well right there you’ve got a similarity of Other places. But also, both novels can be consider capers or heist stories. I hadn’t even planned to be reading them simultaneously, so I find it kind of cool how they both work on that level. Regardless, I like both of them quite a bit so far.

Monday, March 09, 2009

There are No Endings – A Watchmen Mini-Review

What else can be said about Watchmen (the film)? It is perhaps one of the most scrutinized films of its kind and anticipated adaptations in the last couple of decades. I initially read Watchmen in its single issue format and have re-read it numerous times in the past decade or so, having poured over the Absolute Edition a couple of times, including a re-read the week prior to the film’s release. With that in mind, I don’t think the film could have been translated from page to screen any better than it was by Snyder. The overall theme, character arcs (with some modifications) are in place. The feel of the film is very much a mirror of the comic, with a little more blood and broken bones. On to some more thoughts…

One of the most logical decisions Snyder made is perhaps the one that has given rise to the most outcry – the ending. Whereas the Giant Squid in the graphic novel is effective and built up rather well over the course of the 300+ pages of the novel, the re-written ending of the film is more organic to the story and is a more contextually logical ending for the film. It is a more tight and convincing ending to the story.

Even though Jackie Earle Haley’s performance as Rorshach is the one everyone’s talking about, I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan was superb as the Comedian. I’m surprised at how much I liked Patrick Wilson as Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II and Crudup and CGI were terrific as Dr. Manhattan. Akerman works well in the physical scenes as Silk Specter but isn’t as convincing in the emotional scenes. Matthew Goode was more than OK as Ozymandius if a bit foppish, but I would like to see more of his character which I suspect will be the case for the extended cut of the DVD. In short, the cast is nearly perfect. Nearly.

A few other things, and they are minor, didn’t quite work for me. I liked some of the slow motion scenes that mirrored their exact counterpart in the comic, but felt many of the fight scenes were bloodier than the comic, particularly when Dreiberg and Laurie fight the Topknots in the alley. Their bated breath and exhilaration at getting back in the game upon the fight's conclusion; however, was displayed very well by Akerman and Wilson. This was perhaps Akerman at her most convincing in her role. I didn’t quite like Ozymandius’s costume and didn’t like that they called themselves Watchmen – in the comic the heroes are only referred to as this in a graffiti scene and never really refer to themselves in any kind of collective manner outside of the meeting where the Comedian burns the map. Granted, those are comic-geek quibbles that may not bother other folks and considering just how much detail from the comic Zack was able to put into the film, the minor quibbles really are negligible.

As for how the film worked for non-comic fans Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff, her brother, and his girlfriend didn’t read the comic and liked it. Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff even said it was better than she expected it would be. Their only real complaints was that there was too much blue penis; I can’t argue that one even if Manhattan was brought to life very well in the film

So, Zack Snyder has done it – he’s crafted an intelligent superhero mystery that is very true to the roots of its source material. At times some of the lingering shots lingered too long, but creating a film under three hours was an achievement in and of itself. The fact that the film was excellent and just under the greatness of the two new Batman films is an even greater achievement.

On a side note, our little group noticed a young boy, who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old leaving the film. Call me crazy but that is complete irresponsibility on the side of the parents of this child, who left more than 2/3 into the film so he got to see the rape scene, a lot of blue penis, and bones breaking the surface of the skin.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 03/07/2009)

Everything that arrived this week is a repeat. That is, I received ARCs of these titles in the past, I think that's a first for these weekly round ups.

Outcast: (Fate of the Jedi Book One) by Aaron Allston (Hardcover 3/24/2009 Del Rey). This is the “final” copy of the ARC I received back in January. I’ve got to get through the nine (!) books in the Legacy of the Force before thinking about this one. Either way, the Star Wars Expanded Universe franchise rolls on strongly…

After a violent civil war, and the devastation wrought by the now-fallen Darth Caedus, the Galactic Alliance is in crisis -- and in need. From all corners, politicians, power brokers, and military leaders converge on Coruscant for a crucial summit to restore order, negotiate differences, and determine the future of their unified worlds. But even more critical, and far more uncertain, is the future of the Jedi.

In a shocking move, Chief of State Natasi Daala orders the arrest of Luke Skywalker for failing to prevent Jacen Solo's turn to the dark side and subsequent reign of terror as a Sith Lord. But it's only the first blow in an anti-Jedi backlash fueled by a hostile government and suspicious public. When Jedi Knight Valin Horn, scion of a politically influential family, suffers a mysterious psychotic break and becomes a dangerous fugitive, the Jedi become the target of a media-driven witch-hunt. Facing conviction on the charges, Luke has only one choice. He must strike a bargain with the calculating Daala: his freedom in exchange for his exile -- from Coruscant and from the Jedi Order.

Now, though forbidden to intervene in Jedi affairs, Luke is determined to keep grim history from being repeated. With his son, Ben, at his side, Luke sets out to unravel the shocking truth behind Jacen Solo's corruption and downfall. But the secrets he uncovers among the enigmatic Force mystics of the distant world Dorin may bring his quest -- and life as he knows it -- to a sudden end. And all the while, another Jedi Knight, consumed by the same madness as Valin Horn, is headed for Coruscant on a fearsome mission that could doom the Jedi Order . . . and devastate the entire galaxy.

Truancy: Origins by Isamu Fukui (Tor Hardcover 3/3/2009). This final book of the ARC I received in January. Origins is the prequel to the successful novel by the then teenaged Fukui. Truancy: Origins looks at two of the characters from the first novel, and how they came to be who there were in the dystopic totalitarian alternate future of Truancy.

Fifteen years ago, the Mayor of the Education City was presented with an unwelcome surprise by his superiors: twin six-month-old boys. As the Mayor reluctantly accepted the two babies, he had no way of knowing that they would change the city forever….

Raised in the comfort of the Mayoral mansion, Umasi and Zen are as different as two brothers can be. Umasi is a good student; Zen an indifferent one. They love their adoptive father, but in a city where education is absolute, even he cannot keep them sheltered from the harsh realities of the school system. But when they discover that their father is responsible for their suffering, affection turns to bitterness. Umasi and Zen are thrust onto two diverging paths. One will try to destroy the City. The other will try to stop him.

Duke Elric (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: Volume 4) by Michael Moorcock (Del Rey Trade Paperback March 2009) – This is the fourth volume in Del Rey’s terrific looking repackaging of Moorcock’s iconic Anti-hero, Elric. Each volume has had a different artist, this one’s cover and interior is by Justin Sweet. There’s also an introduction by Michael Chabon. I’ve read most of the Elric stories in various forms, either in the Science Fiction Book Club omnibuses or the White Wolf versions.

Has there ever been a hero–or anti-hero–to match Elric of Melniboné, last emperor of an ancient civilization sunk into decadence and inhuman cruelty? Elric the albino, weary of life and enamored of death, bearer of the soul-devouring black sword Stormbringer, cursed to betray all he loves and to save that which he despises: In the unending battle between the forces of Law and Chaos, he is the wildest card of all.

Del Rey proudly presents the fourth in its definitive collection of stories featuring fantasy Grand Master Michael Moorcock’s greatest creation. Here is the full novel The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, the script of the DC comic Duke Elric, the new story “The Flaneur des Arcades de l’Opera,” essays by Moorcock and others, and a selection of classic artwork.

Lavishly illustrated by Justin Sweet, with a Foreword by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, Duke Elric is essential for all fans of the fantastic.

The Twilight Herald (Book Two of the Twilight Reign) by Tom Lloyd. This is a “final” copy of the ARC I received in early January. Since then, I tried reading the first book, The Stormcaller, but the book just didn’t work for me. That said, this book looks great in the finished product.

Now the eyes of the land turn to the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan flexes his powers. Scree is suffering under an unnatural summer drought and surrounded by volatile mercenary armies that may be its only salvation.

This is a strange sanctuary for a fugitive abbot to flee to – but he is only the first of many to be drawn there. Kings and princes, lords and monsters, all walk the sun-scorched streets. As elite soldiers clash after dark and actors perform cruel and subversive plays that work their way into the hearts of the audience, the city begins to tear itself apart – yet even chaos can be scripted.

There is a malevolent will at work in Scree, one that has a lesson for the entire land: nations can be manipulated, prophecies perverted and Gods denied. Nothing lies beyond the reach of a shadow, and no matter how great a man’s power, there some things he cannot be protected from.

Midwinter by Matthew Sturges. Sturges has been making a good name for himself the past few years in comic book circles, co writing Jack of Fables and The House of Mystery with Bill Willingham. The book on my doorstop is the final copy of the ARC I received in January.

Mauritaine was a war hero, a captain in the Seelie Army. Then he was accused of treason and sentenced to life without parole at Crere Sulace, a dark and ancient prison in the mountains, far from the City Emerald. But now the Seelie Queen – Regina Titania herself – has offered him one last chance to redeem himself, an opportunity to regain his freedom and his honor.

Unfortunately, it’s a suicide mission, which is why only Mauritaine and the fe w prisoners he trusts enough to accompany him, would even dare attempt it: Raieve, beautiful and harsh, an emissary from a foreign land caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; Perrin Alt, Lord Silverdun, a nobleman imprisoned as a result of political intrigues so Byzantine that not even he understands them; and Brian Satterly, a human physicist, apprehended searching for the human victims of the faery changeling trade.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Luke Skywalker Reviewed & Wheel of Time Date Set

It is always good news when a new Matthew Stover novel is published, and in this case his most recent is Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, which brings readers to the years immediately following Return of the Jedi. Although not Stover’s strongest effort, it was still an enjoyable adventure. Here’s a snapshot of the review:
What provided perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the novel is one of Stover’s strongest abilities as a storyteller – the examination of the hero. He’s given many ‘faces’ of the hero in his wonderful Acts of Caine sequence and here he puts one of the world’s most iconic heroes under the lens – Luke Skywalker. One of the more clever and entertaining ways by which Stover examines Luke as Hero is through the holo films in the Star Wars universe marketed, some may say, as propaganda for Skywalker’s heroics during the Galactic Civil War. One of the examples of this is through the “alternate” story as depicted in Luke Skywalker and the Jedi’s Revenge. Such commentary can be seen as both how heroism can be twisted to fit the needs of a story one is trying to promulgate, while it can also be seen as a remark about the films themselves. Of course, the title itself is an Easter Egg of sorts – Revenge of the Jedi was the original tile of Episode VI. This examination of Skywalker also works very much like Stover’s excellent character examination of Darth Vader in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith.
In Internet terms, this is probably old news by now, but it seems as if Tor has set a November 2009 publication date for the first half of A Memory of Light the final volume of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I’ve gone on in the past about The Wheel of Time and will probably post more about it as I commence re-reading the series, but the short is that I’m looking forward to re-reading the first ten books I read in the series, catching up and reading the new one.

Lastly, today is Will Eisner's birthday, so go out and buy some comics.