Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Starfinder by John Marco - Reviewed

I’ve been enjoying John Marco’s novels ever since I read his first one, The Jackal of Nar back in 2000. He has a new novel, Starfinder coming out in a week so I figured now would be a good enough time to post the review. The book is the first in a series he’s calling The Skylords and Starfinder is a promising start.

Starfinder is a coming-of-age tale that may be familiar in its structure to many readers, but the backdrop against which it is set, while also containing familiar elements, has been shuffled around freshly to give the story a nice sense of fantastical wonder. Marco does a great job of showing the Reach through the eyes of Moth and Fiona, for as he encounters mermaids and centaurs, his sense of wonder at meeting these creatures resonates quite well. His meeting with the Skylords, the Greek/Norse god like higher beings who rule the Reach, comes across quite entertainingly. This is especially true with the youthful “reverence” he shows when told he must respect these once-legendary powerful overlords of humanity.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/25/2009)

Another mix of interesting books this week, with the Abercrombie as the major standout for me.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Orbit Books Hardcover 7/28/2009) – This has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2009, I loved The First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings) and this is a standalone set in the same world:

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. Armies march, heads roll and cities burn, while behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback January 2009) – I’ve seen some good buzz on the intarwebs about Barron and his short stories. In fact, this collection (in its Hardcover release from 2007) won the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection.

Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella "The Imago Sequence," the International Horror Guild Award-nominated "Proboscis," and the never-before published "Procession of the Black Sloth." Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and ravenous insectoid hive-minds hidden just beneath the seemingly benign surface of the Earth.

With colorful protagonists, including an over-the-hill CIA agent, a grizzled Pinkerton detective, and a failed actor accompanying a group of bounty hunters, Barron's stories are resonant and authentic, featuring vulnerable, hardboiled tough guys attempting to stand against the stygian wasteland of night. Throughout the collection, themes of desolation, fear, and masculine identity are played out against the backdrop of an indifferent, devouring cosmos.


  • Old Virginia
  • Shiva, Open Your Eye
  • Procession of the Black Sloth
  • Bulldozer
  • Probiscis
  • Hallucigenia
  • Parallax
  • The Royal Zoo is Closed
  • The Imago Sequence

Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 07/28/2009) – Sequel to last year’s Havemercy, which received some good buzz last year. Other than that, I can’t find much on this, the sequel.

The metallic dragons of Volstov have defeated their Ke-Han neighbors—but what happens after the last shots are fired? Charged with the tricky task of establishing diplomatic relations as well as a viable succession plan are four new characters: two from the conquering kingdom and two from the defeated land. From their clash of cultures, a lasting peace must be forged. And amidst politics and plotting, the strengths and loyalties of these four men will be tested in the crucible of peace—which may prove deadlier than the crucible of war.

The Pretender's Crown (Book Two of The Inheritors' Cycle) by C. E. Murphy (Del ReyTrade Paperback 04/28/2009) – Sequel to last year’s The Queen’s Bastard, which I own but haven’t read. This is the final copy of the ARC I received in February.

Fiercely intelligent, beautiful, and ready to claim her birthright, she navigates a dangerous world torn between war and witchpower.

Seduction and stealth are Belinda Primrose’s skills–weapons befitting the queen’s bastard daughter, a pawn of espionage conceived by Lorraine, ruler of Aulun, and her lover and spymaster, Belinda’s father. Now an accomplished assassin, Belinda uncovers the true game her father never intended her to play. For Belinda has found her witchpower, a legacy born from something not of this earth. In a treacherous world where religion and rebellion rule, Lorraine is now in a position to sweep over the countries of Echon and to back her chosen successor to the throne: Belinda.

But Belinda is no longer anyone’s pawn. Lured by the sensual dark magic of Dmitri, envoy to a neighboring throne, yet still drawn to the witchlord embrace of her former lover, Javier, Belinda knows that she has entered a realm where power and control go to those who can master and manipulate their fiercest desires. For the witchpower depends on the skill its wielder holds.

Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/21/2009) – This is a sequel to Maledicte, which I haven’t read but received some decent praise. The copy I received this past week is the final copy of the ARC I received in February:

Controlled by an aristocracy whose depraved whims bow to neither law nor god, the kingdom of Antyre is under siege from the only man who can save it. He is Janus Ixion, the new Earl of Last, a man whose matchless fighting abilities and leadership strike terror in Antyre’s powerful noble houses.

For Janus is the illegitimate son who has returned from the brutal slums to reclaim his birthright, and will go to any lengths to become king and reverse his country’s decline. But with a conquering foreign prince sowing chaos throughout the kingdom, Janus must battle the terrifying power of Antyre’s forgotten god, one who has gifted Janus’s vengeful wife with mysterious and dangerous skills. As Antyre nears irrevocable collapse, Janus’s manipulations and all-consuming ambition will force him and his country to choose between the rule of resurgent gods, or a victor’s throne of ashes.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press Leatherbound & Limited Edition August 2009) – Scalzi and Subterranean have been publishing books together for quite some time and this is their latest partnership. I read The Last Colony when Tor published it in 2007 and really enjoyed it then. The book was subsequently nominated for the Hugo Award and this edition has some nifty artwork by Vincent Chong. Here’s part of my review:

The whole story, from the dialogue to the action, move very quickly. The book is rather short at just over 300 pages, so the book is a quick read. For all the briskness of plot and brevity of the book, quite a lot happens. Perry and Sagan travel from one world to another, start a colony on a new planet, meet more genetically modified humans, encounter hostile aboriginal aliens on Roanoke, avoid planetary destruction, start a war, and travel to a third world. It really is impressive how tightly Scalzi packs such a complex and entertaining story into The Last Colony. What makes the novel an even more rewarding experience is how often I was surprised throughout the course of the story. While [thankfully] not a vertiginous novel of plot twists, Scalzi did take the story in unexpected directions that by story’s conclusion, came together logically. If I have any complaint, it is a minor one. An element that seemed a key plot point in the first third of the novel is not quite followed up fully or completely consistently with what came before, in the series or novel. Then again, the story is more about John Perry, Jane Sagan and daughter Zoe, so this point could easily be fodder for future stories in this universe, despite Perry’s story having concluded.

The Skylark by Peter Straub (Subterranean Press Lettered & Limited Edition Fall 2009) – I’ve read Straub’s collaborations with Stephen King as well as Mr. X but I’ve always wanted to read more by him. This book is an interesting thing in that it is a “rough” version of a novel to be published in an edited/streamlined version as A Dark Matter:

In the fall of 1966, a group of students, led by a charismatic wanderer named Spencer Mallon, meet in a deserted field outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Their purpose: to conduct an “experiment” that will, if successful, alter the nature of reality itself. The outcome of that experiment is astonishing and inexplicable, and will affect the destinies of everyone involved in fundamental ways.

The Skylark remains the clearest expression of the author’s original intentions. With precision, delicacy, and great narrative power, it traces the endless reverberations of a single catastrophic event. In the process, it takes us deep into the lives of a diverse group of fully realized characters, among them a thief, a killer, a best-selling novelist, and a magnetic, luminously beautiful blind woman--the skylark of the title. The result is both a visionary novel about the mystery and terror that lie beneath the surface of the visible world and a moving account of believable people struggling to come to terms with the defining moments of their lives. Moving effortlessly, and with great authority, between the past and the present, the magical and the mundane, The Skylark is the kind of intense, wholly absorbing reading experience that only Peter Straub could have created.

The Subterranean Press edition of The Skylark is approximately 200 manuscript pages longer than the trade edition, to be published as A Dark Matter.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I’ve recently begun listening to podcasts on my iPod, pretty much downloading a new podcast every day. Granted, one of those podcasts is of a daily radio show out of Philadelphia – The Preston and Steve Show so there’s something new every day, but I usually throw something else into the mix. Unsurprisingly, that ‘something else’ is more often than not, a genre podcast. Unfortunately by the time I discovered Adventures in SciFi Publishing, creator Shaun Farrell placed the podcast on hiatus.

Another very good podcast I’ve been following is The Dragon Page Cover to Cover which is led by Michael R. Mennega and Michael Stackpole.

I just started listening to Scott Sigler’s Infected, which he released as a free audiobook through iTunes. I recall a very humorous brew-ha-ha over on Jeff VanderMeer’s Ecstatic Days blog when Infected was published in hardcover.

I know I’m a little behind the curve with listening to podcasts, but I only got my iPod about a year ago, so forgive me.

So, does anybody from my millions…and millions of readers listen to any good podcasts?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Considering Phlebas

I reviewed another modern classic of the genre, Consider Phlebas, the first novel in Iain M. Banks’s Culture saga. I enjoyed the book a lot (and after corresponding with the great Hobbit of SFFWorld) I realized how much this book reminded me of Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity Here’s a portion of the review:
Although this novel is set within a very wide galactic milieu, one of the first things that comes to light is how much this novel can be considered a character journey. For all the grandeur of space opera, Banks uses a very familiar plot – the heist. Our point character through the majority of the novel is the Changer Bora Horza Gobuchul, referred to as Horza through most scenes. As the name implies, Horza can alter his appearance and essentially his whole physical identity and is also something of a mercenary. Horza is something of an antihero, not really caring about hurting people or much of anything except himself and his mission. Horza’s is tasked by his Idirian Empire employers with trying to find a Culture Mind, an entity which is seen as an abomination by the religiously fanatical Idirans.
George R. R. Martin is officially ending his business relationship with the Dabel Brothers. The only thing that surprises me about this is that Mr. Martin had the patience to keep the agreement going on as long as he did. Although I didn’t order a copy of calendar which caused the great brew-ha-ha, I can understand the frustrations of those who did. I’m not surprised though, considering the many past issues with the Dabels and their varied partnerships, which is a shame because some of the stuff they produce is solid.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/18/2009)

Here’s the usual Sunday post – I get a lot of books for review but can’t possibly read all of them. These Sunday “Books in the Mail” posts are my way of at least acknowledging what’s arriving here and not ignoring the books publishers have put effort into sending out for review.

Flood by Stephen Baxter (Roc Hardcover 05/05/2009) – Hobbit/Mark very favorably reviewed this Gollancz published it in the UK last year. In fact, a blurb from his review is prominently on the cover just under the title and a larger blurb is on the back cover. I plan on reading this, but again when is the real question.

Four hostages are rescued from a group of religious extremists in Barcelona. After five years of being held captive together, they make a vow to always watch out for one another. But they never expected this...

The world they have returned to has been transformed by water—and the water is rising. As it continues to flow from the earth's mantle, entire countries disappear. High ground becomes a precious commodity. And finally, the dreadful truth is revealed: before fifty years have passed, there will be nowhere left to run...

Dreamdark: Blackbringer (Draemdark #1) by Laini Taylor (Putnam Paperback 05/14/2009) – Dreamdark: Blackbringer is Taylor’s debut novel and the first of an ongoing series about Faeries.

When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she?s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself?the creator of the world?she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer?

At a time when fantasy readers have an embarrassment of riches in choosing new worlds to fall in love with, this first novel by a fresh, original voice is sure to stand out.

Dreamdark: Silksinger (Draemdark #2) by Laini Taylor (Putnam Hardcover September 2009) – This here’s the sequel

Silksinger picks up a few months after the end of Blackbringer, and it weaves together two storylines, one involving the characters from the first book, and one following new characters. They’re two young faeries with desperate secrets who meet on a dragonfly caravan crossing the Sayash Mountains. One is the title character, Whisper Silksinger, the other is a young mercenary who isn’t who he claims. There are hobgoblins and apothecaries and devils, flying carpets and jungles and dungeons and Djinn.

The Onion Girl (A Newford novel) by Charles de Lint (Subterranean Press Hardcover August 2009) – Charles de Lint was writing Urban Fantasy before it was all about wizards for hire and hot chicks with back tattoos fighting vampires. Subterranean Press has published quite a few de Lint books in the past few years in nice packages and this looks to be no different.

In novel after novel, and story after story, Charles de Lint has brought an entire imaginary North American city to vivid life. Newford: where magic lights dark streets; where myths walk clothed in modern shapes; where a broad cast of extraordinary and affecting people work to keep the whole world turning.

At the center of all the entwined lives in Newford stands a young artist named Jilly Coppercorn, with her tangled hair, her paint-splattered jeans, a smile perpetually on her lips--Jilly, whose paintings capture the hidden beings that dwell in the city's shadows. Now, at last, de Lint tells Jilly's own story...for behind the painter's fey charm lies a dark secret and a past she's labored to forget. And that past is coming to claim her now.

"I'm the onion girl," Jilly Coppercorn says. "Pull back the layers of my life, and you won't find anything at the core. Just a broken child. A hollow girl." She's very, very good at running. But life has just forced Jilly to stop.

The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume One: Crimson Shadows by Robert E. Howard (Subterranean Press Hardcover August 2009) – Robert E. Howard wrote tons of short stories and this is the first collection which is something of a companion to the Kull volume I reviewed last year.

The UK based small press Wandering Star issued glorious editions of Robert E. Howard’s work, including The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, The Ultimate Triumph, as well as two volumes of Howard’s Conan tales.
Subterranean Press is proud to continue this series of limited editions, beginning with Kull: Exile of Atlantis, exquisitely illustrated with color plates and black and white illustrations illuminating the text. We now continue with our second offering, Crimson Shadows, The Best of Robert E. Howard, volume one. We plan to match or better the quality of materials used in the Wandering Star editions, and will be doing a number of other books in the series.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer: A Novel by Michael Rubens (Pantheon Hardcover August 2009) – It isn’t very often you see a Stephen Colbert blurb on a book not by Stephen Colbert. That combined with the Douglas Adams-ish feel, push this book up the 'to read' pile a little bit for me:

Our hero, Cole, is having a bad day. His sidekick has run off with his girlfriend. His ride has been disintegrated by an officious traffic robot. And the spaceship he’s stolen to escape from a tentacled alien bounty hunter turns out to be filled with freeze-dried orphans. Reluctantly compelled to deliver the de­fenseless, fluid-less children to safety, Cole recruits a support team of humans, aliens, and one friendly–if cognitively challenged–computer. Their destination: the mysterious Yrnameer, thought to be the last untrammeled planet in the galaxy. Imagine their consternation, then, when they arrive to find it threatened by Cole’s archenemy, the most infamous outlaw in the cosmos.

Will Cole and his band of men and assorted oth­ers be able to defeat the vicious Runk? Will Yrnameer remain unspoiled and unsponsored (and unpronounceable)? Will the orphans be rehydrated? Get all the answers right here, in a rollicking first out­ing from a new comedic talent.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bakker's The Judging Eye Reviewed and Miscellanea

R. Scott Bakker gets the treatment this week on review Monday/Tuesday. Ever since I first read The Darkness that Comes Before, I’ve been a huge fan of Scott’s writing and I feel he is on a very short list of writers who are taking the fantasy genre in a stark and wonderful direction. For whatever reason, I was a little slow in getting to his latest, The Judging Eye. I finally read it recently and posted the review last night:
There are no absolutes in Bakker’s fictional world, or rather once something is thought of as an absolute, something or someone thrusts that absolute into the fire both illuminating and destroying what could be considered absolute. Take Sorweel again - his hatred for Kellhus is thrown asunder once Kellhus appears. The dichotomy of conflicting absolutes drives much of the fiction and can be seen in the mirrored journeys of Achamanian and the Skin Eaters and the march of the Great Ordeal. Both are striving towards what they see as the greater good, although part of what fuels Achamanian is his hatred of Kellhus. Whereas the Great Ordeal is marching in the name of good against an accepted evil, Akka’s march in the depths of darkness may eventually illuminate the true nature of Kellhus. The Great Ordeal is an army of knights and order, Akka’s march is basically a mish-mash of chaos and those on the fringes of society.
While I’m probably one of the last folks on the genre intarwebs to post it what the hell: the shortlist for The David Gemmell Awards was announced (included below are the links to those I reviewed):

Joe Abercrombie – Last Argument of Kings (Gollancz/Pyr)

Juliet Marillier– Heir to Sevenwaters (Tor UK)

Brandon Sanderson - The Hero of Ages (Tor US)

Andrzej Sapkowski - Blood of Elves (Gollancz)

Brent Weeks - The Way of Shadows (Orbit)

This award is fan voted, similar to the Locus award, although the focus here is mainly on epic fantasy. As the links above point out, I read three of the books, although I have read books by the other two authors. I will likely be voting for Joe Abercrombie’s Last Argument of Kings which was one of my top reads for last year. Much as I loved The Hero of Ages Joe’s book just nudged it out.

Sadly, Harry Kalas, Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster and voice of the NFL since 1975 passed away yesterday. Anybody who has an interest in Baseball or even a passing interest in the NFL knows Kalas’s deep voice. He actually died in the booth just before calling a Phillies game. Is it poetic or sad to die while doing the job you loved in life? Either way, his voice will be missed.

Lastly, to end on an up note, I hadn’t realized it but thanks to Adam, Steven Erikson’s Malazan saga is officially 10 years old. That is, the first book, Gardens of the Moon published in 1999. It’s been almost a year since I read The Bonehunters, so I need to do a little bit of catching up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/11/2009)

Here's the post where I mention the books I receive for review from the various genre publishers. I know I can't possibly read everything I receive, but I can at least mention it here. A big haul this this week, from the usual suspects/publishers.

The Sam Gunn Omnibus by Ben Bova (Tor Trade Paperback 04/14/2009) – Hobbit/Mark reviewed this when it published in hardcover:

A hero without peer or scruples, Sam Gunn has a nose for trouble, money, and women—though not necessarily in that order. A man with the ego (and stature) of a Napoleon, the business acumen of a P. T. Barnum, and the raging hormones of a teenage boy, Sam is the finest astronaut NASA ever trained… and dumped.

More than money and women, Sam Gunn loves justice. Whether he’s suing the Pope, helping twin sisters entangled in the virtual sex trade, or on trial for his life on charges of interplanetary genocide, you can be sure of one thing: this is one space jockey who’ll meet every challenge with a smile on his lips, an ace up his sleeve…and a weapon in his pocket.

This Omnibus presents all of the tales of Sam Gunn to date, including three never before collected in book form. Here is the entire chronicle of Sam Gunn, trailblazer and scoundrel, as he scams his way from one end of the Solar System to the other, giving bold new meaning to the term venture capitalist.

Conspirator (Foreigner #10) by C. J. Cherryh (DAW Hardcover 05/05/2009) – This is the first of a new trilogy set in Cherryh’s Foreigner universe of books and the 10th overall.

Cajeiri is the young son of the powerful leader of the Western Association—and he has become a target for forces bent on destroying his father's rule. For Cajeiri is the first ateva youth to have lived in a human environment. And after hundreds of years of fragile atevi-human coexistence, he may very well be the first of his people to ever truly understand the so similar—yet so dangerously different—aliens who share his home planet and threaten the hidebound customs of his race.

Blood of Ambrose by James Enge (Pyr Trade Paperback April 2009) – I’ve been looking forward to this one since I heard about it and read some of Enge’s Morlock stories in Black Gate Magazine

Behind the king's life stands the menacing Protector, and beyond him lies the Protector's Shadow...

Centuries after the death of Uthar the Great, the throne of the Ontilian Empire lies vacant. The late emperor's brother-in-law and murderer, Lord Urdhven, appoints himself Protector to his nephew, young King Lathmar VII and sets out to kill anyone who stands between himself and mastery of the empire, including (if he can manage it) the king himself and his ancient but still formidable ancestress, Ambrosia Viviana.

When Ambrosia is accused of witchcraft and put to trial by combat, she is forced to play her trump card and call on her brother, Morlock Ambrosius—stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk. As ministers of the king, they carry on the battle, magical and mundane, against the Protector and his shadowy patron. But all their struggles will be wasted unless the young king finds the strength to rule in his own right and his own name.

The Patriot Witch (Book #1 of Traitor to the Crown) by C. C. Finlay (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 04/28/2009) – I’ve read a couple of Finlay’s short stories and from what I remember, I liked them. For this series, Del Rey is employing a great strategy, one in fact that was very successful for them in the past (Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels) and Orbit (Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy) – releasing a finished trilogy in successive months. Few things can give a writer success like immediate shelf presence. The premise here sounds really interesting and immediately brings to mind Greg Keyes somewhat under-rated Age of Unreason and Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker. Also, this first book has been released as a free eBook.

The year is 1775. On the surface, Proctor Brown appears to be an ordinary young man working the family farm in New England. He is a minuteman, a member of the local militia, determined to defend the rights of the colonies. Yet Proctor is so much more. Magic is in his blood, a dark secret passed down from generation to generation. But Proctor’s mother has taught him to hide his talents, lest he be labeled a witch and find himself dangling at the end of a rope.

A chance encounter with an arrogant British officer bearing magic of his own catapults Proctor out of his comfortable existence and into the adventure of a lifetime, as resistance sparks rebellion and rebellion becomes revolution. Now, even as he fights alongside his fellow patriots from Lexington to Bunker Hill, Proctor finds himself enmeshed in a war of a different sort–a secret war of magic against magic, witch against witch, with the stakes not only the independence of a young nation but the future of humanity itself.

The Turning Tide - A Novel of Crosspointe #3 by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – I have the second book in this series, which I received in October, but not the first.

They were the best of friends: Ryland, the son of the king, is bound by loyalty. Shaye is both a majicar and a Weverton, both rebellious factions. Fairlie, a fiery metal-smith, is the iron bond that held them all together. Until now.

Crosspointe's greatest advantage at sea is its ship's compasses—but the compass makers are dying. Without them, Crosspointe will fall. To save his country and repel the coming Jutras invasion, the king orders Ryland to commit an unforgivable act. And soon Ryland, Shaye, and Fairlie find themselves at war...with each other.

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories by Mary Robinette Kowal – (Subterranean Press Hardcover November 2009) – This is the first collection for Ms. Kowal, who has penned some acclaimed short stories. She must be good since she won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer on the strength of her short story writing. I will be checking this one out. The stories in this book are:

Table of Contents:

  • Portrait of Ari
  • Death Comes but Twice
  • Some Other Day
  • Just Right
  • Scenting the Dark
  • Locked in
  • This Little Pig
  • Jaiden’s Weaver

Unchained and Unhinged by Joe R. Lansdale - (Subterranean Press Hardcover Fall 2009) – I’ve read some shorts and comics by Landsdale as well as the terrific Edgar-award winning novel The Bottoms, so I’ll be divining into this collection before its published. Sadly, I’ve yet to catch Bubba Ho-tep

Table of Contents:

Unchained (essays)
  • Just Do It
  • Little Boys Unite
  • Typewriter Mystique, the Bull of It
  • Kuttner Sharpens His Literary Sword
  • Leslie Whitten: Neglected Master

Unhinged (stories)
  • Surveillance
  • Coat
  • Dragon Chili: From the Grand Church Cookbook
  • Big Man: a Fable
  • Jack’s Pecker
  • Hanging
  • Little Kitty
  • Hole
  • December
  • Rainy Weather

Starfinder (Book 1 of The Skylords by John Marco (DAW Hardcover 05/05/2009) – This is the final/finished copy of the ARC I received back in January, boy does time fly. I’ve been enjoying John Marco’s books ever since I read The Jackal of Nar and up through The Sword of Angels. I’m glad to see a new book by John, which he just sent to me. The book/series (Skylords) has a steampunkish feel, but is also a coming of age story. The book might have more of a YA appeal than his previous work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading it. In John’s own words:

Steam trains and electricity are rapidly changing the world. Moth of Calio is obsessed with the airships developed by his friend Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, and dreams of taking to the air one day like his heroes, the Skyknights.

But not everyone is happy to see humans reach the skies. For thousands of years, the mysterious and powerful race known as the Skylords have jealously guarded their heavenly domain. But Moth and Fiona are about to breach the magical boundary between the world of humans and the world of the Skylords.

Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom #2) by Devon Monk (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – I read the first book by Monk in this series, Magic to the Bone, earlier in the year and thought it was an entertaining, if flawed, page turner.

Working as a Hound—tracing illegal spells back to their casters—has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn't about to quit. Then the police's magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic.

Ghost Ocean by S.M. Peters (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – This is Peters’s second novel; I wanted to read his first, Whitechapel Gods when it came out last year, I just didn’t get around to picking it up. For what seems like an Urban Fantasy, the page count is pretty high at nearly 500 pages. There isn’t much information about the book on the Web, the author (surprisingly) does not have a visible Web presence.

Beings of unimaginable power, classified as myths and legends, have been imprisoned in the secludedtown of St. Ives for centuries?watched over by guardians with supernatural skills. Te Evangeline?sfather was one such guardian, a ?binder? who died in the line of duty and who passed along his abilityto his daughter. Now, Te must awaken the magic within her before her father's killer releases hisfellow prisoners on an unsuspecting world.

Terribly Twisted Tales by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – This is would be the DAW’s May Martin Greenberg-edited themed anthology. This one contains 18 stories by folks like Dennis L. McKiernan, Jim C. Hines, Mickey Zucker Reichert, and Michael Stackpole.

From Hansel and Gretel and Goldilocks, to Snow White, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and more, here are eighteen stories that take familiar fairy tales and twist them around to give them an entirely new slant. Any fan of far-out fantasy is sure to be delighted.

Darkborn by Alison Sinclair (Roc Trade Paperback 05/05/2009) – Hoffman’s been writing for quite a while, having garnered a few awards and a pretty good reputation.

For the Darkborn, sunlight kills. For the Lightborn, darkness is fatal. Living under a centuries-old curse, the Darkborn and the Lightborn share the city of Minhorne, coexisting in an uneasy equilibrium but never interacting. When Darkborn physician Balthasar Hearne finds a pregnant fugitive on his doorstep just before sunrise, he has no choice but to take her in. Tercelle Amberley's betrothed is a powerful Darkborn nobleman, but her illicit lover came to her through the daytime. When she gives birth to twin boys, they can see, something unheard of among the Darkborn. When men come for the boys, Balthasar is saved by the intervention of his Lightborn neighbor—and healed by the hands of his wife, Telmaine. Soon he finds himself drawn deeper into political intrigue and magical attacks, while Telmaine must confront a power she can no longer keep sheathed in gloves, a power she neither wants nor can control.

Terra Insegura by Edward Willett (DAW Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – This looks like a sequel to Marseguro but also seems like it could stand on its own

Marseguro, a water world far from Earth, is home to a colony of humans and the Selkies, a water-dwelling race created from modified human DNA. For seventy years the colony has lived in peace. Then Earth discovers Marseguro, and a strike force is sent to eradicate this "abomination." But Marseguro has created a genetically tailored plague to use against Earth's Holy Warriors. With the enemy defeated, the people of Marseguro feel they are safe. But Chris Keating, the traitor who signaled Marseguro's location to the Holy Warriors, has fled to Earth, unknowingly carrying the deadly plague within him. The people of Marseguro feel they must send a ship to Earth with a life-saving vaccine. Only time will tell what awaits them when they reach their destination.

Shadowplay (Volume Two of Shadowmarch) by Tad Williams (DAW Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – I’m a pretty big fan of Tad Williams and I have this (still unread) in hardcover. Maybe the MMPB will push me to read it soon.

With their father and brother taken from them, the royal Eddon twins Barrick and Briony have done their best to hold the kingdom together. But now Barrick has been captured in a failed war against the immortal Twilight People and Briony has been forced to flee the castle. Old magics are stirring beneath the ancient castle and behind the Shadowline, and the machinations of gods, fairies, and mortals threaten to spread devastation across the entire world.

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi – (Pantheon Paperback 04/19/2009)

Acclaimed graphic artist Marjane Satrapi brings what has become her signature humor and insight, her keen eye and ear, to the heartrending story of a celebrated Iranian musician who gives up his life for music and love.

When Nasser Ali Khan, the author’s great-uncle, discovers that his beloved instrument is irreparably damaged, he takes to his bed, renouncing the world and all its pleasures. Over the course of the week that follows, we are treated to vivid scenes of his encounters with family and friends, flashbacks to his childhood, and flash-forwards to his children’s future. And as the pieces of his story fall into place, we begin to understand the breadth of his decision to let go of life.

The poignant story of one man, it is also stunningly universal—a luminous tale of life and death, and the courage and passion both require of us.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hunter Prey & Glen Cook Reviewed

Sandy Collora, who directed the fantastic fan film Batman: Dead End, has a cool looking feature-length movie coming out in the near future: Hunter Prey. The trailer is being hosted exclusively by io9, so I’d suggest clicking over there for a sneak peek.

Here’s the “Mission” of the movie:
Hunter Prey centers around a group of elite intergalactic commandos that have crash-landed on a harsh and unknown planet while transporting an alien prisoner. Now they must track down and recapture the escaped creature, and their orders are to bring it in ALIVE.

The soldiers begin to question their orders while finding themselves at a severe disadvantage, not being able to harm the prisoner. The team starts getting picked off, one by one, by their dangerous adversary, until the odds become even.

With one soldier remaining, he's faced with a decision. Does he risk his life playing the creature's game or does he disobey his orders and kill it. The realization he comes to, after finding out why his superiors want the prisoner alive and why the alien is trying to escape, starts to change the way he thinks not only about his situation, but himself, as he finds out who's really hunting whom?

After seeing Batman: Dead End, and World's Finest I’m really looking forward to this movie. From the trailer, the movie has a good look and feel, and has potential to be a thrill ride of a film along the lines of Pitch Black which I liked a lot and is easily Vin Diesel's best film outside of Boiler Room, which is sort of a back-handed compliment. A Roger Zelazny novel I read a few years ago also evokes some of the same feel - Eye of the Cat - in that both involve intergalactic bounty hunters and a story that has an action feel with more beneath the surface.

Collora's been designing monsters in Hollywood with cool people like Rick Baker and Stan Winston Studios for a while. So yeah, this movie has a lot of potential to be fun and entertaining.

Since it is Tuesday here at the 'o Stuff, that means it is book review time. Glen Cook is most famous for his Black Company saga, but before that, he wrote of a messiah-figure coming to power in a windswept desert. This series, of course, is The Dread Empire saga and a couple of years ago, I read the first NightShade Books omnibus of the first three novels A Cruel Wind. Late last year, I was happy to receive A Fortress in Shadow for review. I posted the review last night:

As prequels, the novels work extremely well for people who read the initial trilogy, either in single book format or the lovely NightShade edition A Cruel Wind. On its own terms, these two novels tell the cohesive story of a world of mounting forces and conflicting beliefs. Though the story that unfolds between the covers of this volume is entertaining, it really is set up for grander events, more sweeping character arcs and might serve as only a teaser for people yearning for more of the same.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/04/2009)

We are back on track here with a the flow of books...

Sins and Shadows by Lyn Benedict – (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – X-Files meets Dresden Files? Either way, there isn’t much on the intarwebs about either the author or the book..

Sylvie Lightner is no ordinary P.I. She specializes in cases involving the unusual, in a world where magic is real—and where death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.

But when an employee is murdered in front of her, Sylvie has had enough. After years of confounding the dark forces of the Magicus Mundi, she's closing up shop—until a man claiming to be the God of Justice wants Sylvie to find his lost lover.

And he won't take no for an answer.

Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom (Doc Wilde #1) by Tim Byrd– (Ace Mass Hardcover 05/14/2009) – Pulp Fiction in the vein of The Shadow and Doc Savage for a younger set – this could be cool.

There is never a dull moment when it comes to Doc Wilde and his family of swashbuckling explorers. Brian and Wren have been trained from an early age to keep up with their worldfamous father. With their driver Declan mac Coul and their butler Phineas Bartlett in tow, there is no obstacle they can’t overcome, no evil they can’t defeat, including mutant frogs from another dimension.

With an over-the-top nod to classic pulp adventure series, Tim Byrd has created a rip-roaring ride. Buckle your seat belt, and hold on tight!

Lost Fleet: Relentless (Book #5 of The Lost Fleet) by Jack Campbell (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – Campbell (real name John G. Hemry) has been churning out these Military Science Fiction books pretty consistently since he published the first in the series The Lost Fleet: Dauntless in 2006.

After successfully freeing Alliance POWs, "Black Jack" Geary discovers that the Syndics plan to ambush the fleet with their powerful reserve flotilla in an attempt to annihilate it once and for all. And as Geary has the fleet jump from one star system to the next, hoping to avoid the inevitable confrontation, saboteurs contribute to the chaos.

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi - Omen: (Fate of the Jedi Book One ) by Christie Golden (Hardcover 06/23/2009 Del Rey) – The Star Wars Expanded Universe keeps on truckin’ as another hardcover/mega series continues. Christie Golden has written quite a few media-tie in novels.

The Jedi Order is in crisis. The late Jacen Solo's shocking transformation into murderous Sith Lord Darth Caedus has cast a damning pall over those who wield the Force for good. Two Jedi Knights have succumbed to an inexplicable and dangerous psychosis. Criminal charges have driven Luke Skywalker into self-imposed exile. And power-hungry Chief of State Natasi Daala is exploiting anti-Jedi sentiment to undermine the Order's influence within the Galactic Alliance.

Forbidden to intervene in Jedi affairs, Luke is on a desperate mission to uncover the truth behind Jacen's fall to the dark side -- and to learn what's turning peaceful Jedi into raving lunatics. But finding answers will mean venturing into the mind-bending space of the Kathol Rift, and bargaining with an alien species as likely to destroy outsiders as deal with them. Still, there is no other choice and no time to lose, as the catastrophic events on Coruscant continue to escalate. Stricken by the same violent dementia that infected her brother, Valin, Jedi Knight Jysella Horn faces an equally grim fate after her capture by Daala's police. And when Han and Leia Solo narrowly foil another deranged Jedi bent on deadly destruction, even acting Grand Master Kenth Hamner appears willing to bow to Daala's iron will -- at the expense of the Jedi Order.

But an even greater threat is looming. Millennia in the past, a Sith starship crashed on an unknown, low-tech planet, leaving the survivors stranded. Over the generations, their numbers have grown anew, the ways of the dark side have been nurtured, and the time is fast approaching when this lost tribe of Sith will once more take to the stars to reclaim their legendary destiny as rulers of the galaxy. Only one thing stands in their way to dominance, a name whispered to them through the Force: Skywalker.

Fall of Light by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Ace Hardcover 05/05/2009) – Hoffman’s been writing for quite a while, having garnered a few awards and a pretty good reputation.

Opal LaZelle is a special effects make-up artist, transforming actors into fantastical and grotesque creatures. Unknown to the casts and crews of the films she works on, Opal is gifted in the art of magic—and she applies more than make-up when altering an actor's features.

Her latest job requires turning Corvus Weather into a dark god of the forest. But when Corvus's performance becomes too convincing—on set and off—Opal realizes he's not acting. Something has taken possession of Corvus. Something sinister tied to the town's past, with the ability to absorb the very essence of life. Something Opal doesn't have enough power to confront, much less drive from the man she has fallen in love with.

Wolverine 1: Prodigal Son by Antony Johnston and Wilson Tortosa (Del Rey Manga Paperback 04/07/2009). – With the film of the long-lived mutant hitting theaters in the next month, the barrage of Wolverine books and products will be flooding everywhere. I read a few of Johnston’s comics, Wasteland being the one to stick out the most, so this is a pretty nice gig for him.

The gripping, all-new adventure of the X-men's greatest icon, completely reimagined in the Manga style

This is not the Wolverine you know.

Logan is a teenage rebel with a real good reason for having a real bad attitude. Ever since being left in a nearby forest–with no memory of who he was or how he got there–Logan (or Wolverine, as his classmates sometimes call him) has been stuck in a martial arts school in the icy wilds of Canada. No wonder he’s bored, restless, yearning. There’s a whole world out there, and Logan can almost taste it. But he’s chained to a past he can’t remember and can’t escape. Now it just may destroy his future.

The Betrayal by Pati Nagle Mass Market Paperback 03/24/2009 Del Rey) – Vampires-check. Elves-check. Sultry woman on the cover-check. This looks to appeal to the Urban Fantasy set, but is set in secondary world. Superficially, the description reminds me of the Hendee’s Noble Dead saga. Nagle’s written a number of historical fiction novels as well as a handful of short stories, so this book is more of a rebranding for the author than a debut.

The noble and magical aelven were riven by war when a rogue clan embraced a forbidden source of magic: the drinking of blood. In the bitter fighting that ensued, the vampiric Clan Darkshore were cast out of the aelven and driven across the Ebon Mountains. Stripped of their various clan colors, they were thenceforth known only as “alben,” hated and shunned. An uneasy peace now holds over the land, but it is whispered that Shalár, the beautiful and bloodthirsty queen of the alben, is readying a surprise attack to win back all that was lost–and none can say where or when she will strike.

The fate of the clans will depend on two young aelven lovers, Eliani and Turisan, who are blessed with a legendary gift: the fabled power of mindspeech. But this ability comes with great risks. Time is running out as the alben mount their attack–and their ultimate betrayal.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy (The Chathrand Voyage Trilogy Book 1) by Robert V.S. Redick (Del Rey Hardcover 4/28/2009) – This is the finished copy of the ARC I received in January. SFFWorld members outside the US read itwhen Gollancz published it last year. Hobbit reviewed it at the time and liked it. Pirates, talking rats, and a strange artifact. What’s not to like?

Scant years after a terrible war that shook empires, a six-hundred-year-old ship sets sail for enemy lands in an attempt to forge an enduring peace between the world’s two greatest monarchies. A vast city afloat, the ancient vessel bears a royal bride-to-be; a stowaway tribe of foothigh warriors; an honest young tarboy with a heritage of treason; a rat with a magical secret; and a dark conspiracy centered around the Red Wolf, a legendary and dangerous artifact.

When the conspiracy is uncovered, the voyage takes a turn into perilous waters, and the sword-wielding young bride and her quick-witted tarboy companion must face deadly assassins, treacherous mermaids, and monstrous slavers to uncover secrets at the highest levels of power—secrets that will send heroes and traitors alike careening towards a mysterious destination that could destroy both empires at a stroke.

A publishing sensation in England, The Red Wolf Conspiracy marks the debut of a remarkably gifted young writer.

The Trouble With Demons (Raine Benares #3) by Lisa Shearin – (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/05/2009) – This is the third book in a fantasy/mystery/Renaissance hybrid.

For seeker Raine Benares, a demon infestation on the Isle of Mid couldn't come at a worse time. Already fighting the influence of the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, Raine discovers she is also magically bonded to a dark mage and a white knight, two dangerous and powerful men on opposing sides.

Turns out, the demons want the key to unlock the Saghred. As a seeker, Raine should be able to find it first. As the axis of light and dark powers, she's a magical cataclysm waiting to happen.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Warded Wolf

I’ve got two debuts published by Del Rey and I can’t decide which one to read first. Both are generating quite a bit of chatter and buzz on the intarwebs, not unlike certain debuts a couple of years back by Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. Clearly, Del Rey made great signings with Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man and Robert V.S. Redick’s The Red Wolf Conspiracy. When these two books were released in the UK last year, they received a lot of positive buzz from the fan communities I moderate and and frequent, as well as some good reviews.