Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Griffin, Goodman, & Wooding reviewed at SFFWorld

We’ve got three, count ‘em THREE new reviews at SFFWorld for you this week. First up, our new reviewer Bridie Roman gave us a nice review of Alison Goodman’s The Two Pearls of Wisdom (aka Dragoneye: Reborn in the US:

Goodman’s strength in this book is the pace; where some writers would choose to show more of Eon’s training process and lessons, she has chosen to start the story the day before the ceremony in which the next Dragoneye apprentice is picked and this is something that she sticks with throughout the book. A lot of this choice may be due to the fact that Eon is forced to discover a lot of things on his own and so there is no need to show the lesson he attends but the action is always there. There are few moments in the book where there is little going on; the continual action forces you not only to read on but to pay attention. In a lot of books like this you might feel that you are missing out - that it is going too fast, but when I read this I felt that there was a good balance of action with information so it wasn’t a rough ride - it was smooth.

The second is a book that’s been generating quite a buzz on the intarwebs, Chris Woodiing’s
Retribution Falls
which MarkY/Hobbit reviewed:

Retribution Falls is a rip-roaring full blown space-pirate adventure, SF with a touch of Fantasy, driven at a pace that scarcely leaves the reader time to deal with its implausibilities. It is a plot and character driven piece that opposes airships with machine guns, magic with science, betrayal with loyalty.

It’s also one of the best pieces of fun I’ve read in a long while.

The tale is thus: roguish Darian Frey, captain of the Ketty Jay, is down on his luck and looking for easy money to pay his debts. He is forced into a deal which involves him hijacking a cargo for magnate Gallian Thade from the Ace of Skulls. When it all goes badly wrong, Frey is forced to go on the run until he can clear his name, or find and kill the villains that caused Darian to mistakenly murder innocent people. Even if this means going against the might of the Coalition Navy and the Archduke’s personal elite, the Century Knights.

With him go his motley crew. An irregular rag-bag of misplaced individuals, their varied personalities reflect an interesting mix of traits and create much of the tension for the novel. These include the silent but loyal Murthian engineer, Silo; the ship’s cat, Slag; manic outflyer pilot Pinn and paranoid outflyer pilot Harkins; Grayther Crake, an aristocratic Daemonist whose loyalty to the captain is strained at the outset of this novel; the golem Bess, containing a daemon controlled by Crake; Malvery, the alcohol-dependent ship’s doctor, and the newest recruit, navigator Jez, with more to her than you might expect.

Last, and certainly not least, is Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels, a very entertaining Urban Fantasy that is a nice melding of what Urban Fantasy is today and what it was in the late 80s/early 90s:

Matthew Swift is a sorcerer who wakes up two years after being murdered, with a need to find his killer. Like many Urban Fantasies of today, Griffin utilizes first person narrative as Swift tells us his story as he experiences it. Early on; however, it becomes clear that Matthew Swift isn’t the only entity telling the reader the story of this novel. References to “we” and/or “us” are in spots that one would expect to see “me” or “I” making the true identity of this revived sorcerer hazy.

On one hand, the story can be seen as essentially a revenge story. Man dies, comes back to life and wants to payback the man who killed him. It’s the backdrop and inventive sense of mundane magic Griffin injects that sets it apart. Not that the magic is boring, but rather that things a non-sorcerer would consider mundane like telephone lines, a Bag Lady, rats, or subways can contain immense amounts of magic. This is what Griffin, by proxy of Swift, calls Urban Magic.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/27/2009)

It’s Sunday, so here’s where I tell my faithful readers about the books I received for review during the previous week since I can’t possibly get to all of the books publishers send me.

All that said, this week was a good week, a bunch of books I plan on reading and others that look interesting, along with the two I've been wanting to see on US shelves for a while...

Bone Dance by Emma Bull (Tor/Orb Trade Paperback 07/02/2009) – Although I’ve never read anything by Emma Bull, many consider her one of the progenitors of Urban Fantasy. That is, not so much the books about modern day vampire hunters, but rather novels that take place in cities with an underlying magical current. This book was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards in 1991 and is being reissued by Tor’s Orb imprint, which is often a sign of a very good book.

Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling pre-nuke videos from the world before. I know how to get a high price, especially on Big Bang collectibles. But the hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen—the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after.

But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind.

The Horsemen are coming.

By Blood We Live edited by John Joseph Adams (NightShade Books Hardcover 08/17/2009) – Adams is developing into a smart anthologist, publishing definitive anthologies like The Living Dead and Wastelands. Here, he turns his eye towards Vampires

From Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; from Castlevania to Tru Blood, the romance between popular culture and vampires hearkens back to humanity's darkest, deepest fears, flowing through our very blood, fears of death, and life, and insatiable hunger. And yet, there is an attraction, undeniable, to the vampire archetype, whether the pale European count, impeccably dressed and coldly masculine, yet strangely ambiguous, ready to sink his sharp teeth deep into his victims' necks, draining or converting them, or the vamp, the count's feminine counterpart, villain and victim in one, using her wiles and icy sexuality to corrupt man and woman alike... Edited by John Joseph Adams (Wastelands, The Living Dead), By Blood We Live gathers together the best vampire literature of the last three decades from many of today's most renowned authors of fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Joe Hill, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Ken Macleod, Harry Turtledove, Carrie Vaughn, and Tad Williams.

Darkest Hour (Age of Misrule 2) by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback June 2009) – I started the first book, World's End the day before this, the second in the series arrived. It hooked me pretty quickly so I was thrilled to see the second one arrive, which I can jump into as soon as I finish the first one.

The eternal conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danaan, golden-skinned and beautiful, filled with all the might of angels. On the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race. Church, Ruth, Ryan, Laura and Shavi have joined forces with Tom, a hero from the mists of time, to wage a guerrilla war against the iron rule of the gods. But they didn't count on things going from bad to worse ...this is the stunning continuation of a powerful fantasy saga by one of Britain's most acclaimed young writers.

Always Forever (Age of Misrule 3) by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback July 2009) – Sure enough, the great folks at PYR sent the third book along with the second book in the same package, so no wait between volumes for me and little wait for readers who have already read the first volume. This is another case of a publisher smartly releasing a completed trilogy in three successive months (see Brent Weeks, Naomi Novik and Charles Coleman Finlay for other examples). It worked for Pyr since this third volume is already going to a second printing before hitting bookshelves.

The modern world has been transformed into a land of myth, a magical place where fabulous beasts soar on the air currents, a terrifying place where shape-shifting monsters stalk the cities. Mankind’s days appear numbered. Our only hope—the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons —are scattered and broken after a terrible defeat.

Their last chance may lie in the great court of the old gods, reached by an otherworldly ship filled with fantastical and frightening creatures. But if our champions fail, the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain will dawn, and the dark god Balor will usher in the eternal night.

An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat (A Chronicle of the Dread Empire) by Glen Cook (NightShade Books Hardcover 05/27 2009) – I read the first two omnibus editions NightShade published A Cruel Wind and A Fortress in Shadow

Glen Cook has been heralded as the godfather of modern heroic fantasy; his influence on the genre is unquestionable. But long before Garrett, P.I., before The Instrumentalities of the Night, before The Black Company, there was The Dread Empire... The Dread Empire, a gritty world of larger-than-life plots, nation-shattering conflict, maddening magic, strange creatures, and raw, flawed heroes, all shown through the filter of Cook's inimitable war-correspondent prose. The Dread Empire, spanning from the highest peaks of the Dragon's Teeth to the endless desert lands of Hammad al Nakir, from besieged Kavelin to mighty Shinshan, the Empire Unacquainted with Defeat, with its fearless, masked soldiers, known as the Demon Guard...

The Lees of Laughter's End (A Tale of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach/Malazan) by Steven Erikson (NightShade Books Hardcover 06/03/2009) – I’ve been slowly reading and catching up with Erikson’s massively enjoyable Malazan saga and this little tale is the third in a series of novellas focusing on minor characters to the overall saga.

West of Theft, on a vast stretch of ocean known as the Wastes, the free-ship Suncurl pilots its way along the Lees of Laughter's end, away from the city of Lamentable Moll. Aboard the ship, three passengers have become the subject of the crew's gossip: the luckless manservant Emancipor Reese, and his masters, the homicidal necromancers known as Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. But a bizarre force pursues them along the cursed sea-lane known as Laughter's End, even as an arcane thing awakens aboard the Suncurl. What secrets do the captain and her First Mate conceal from the rest of the crew? What lurks in the darkness of the ship's hold? And what of the eunuch's strange behavior... or his frightening offspring?

Princes of the Golden Cage by Nathalie Mallet (NightShade Books Mass Market Paperback 08/03/2007) – Art read and reviewed this book when it was first publishedback in 2007 and had some interesting things to say about it. She has the first chapter available for preview on her Web site.

Prince Amir lives in a lavish and beautiful cage. He lives in a palace with hundreds of his brothers, all barred by law from ever leaving the palace until he, or one of his brothers, becomes the next Sultan. Living under constant threat of death at the hands of his scheming brothers, Amir has chosen a life of solitude and study. His scholarly and alchemical pursuits bring him under suspicion when his brothers begin to die from seemingly supernatural means. Amir finds himself thrown together with his brother Erik, the son of a barbarian princess. Together they must discover the dark secret that is stalking the halls of their golden cage

The King’s Daughter by Nathalie Mallet (NightShade Books Mass Market Paperback 05/27/2009) – … and here’s the sequel to the above . Again, .Mallett has the first chapter available for preview on her Web site.

Far to the north of the hot desert land of Telfar lies the frozen kingdom of Sorvinka. Prince Amir has traveled there, leaving his sultanate in the hands of his half-brother Erik as he seeks to ask the king, the father of the beautiful Princess Eva, for her hand in marriage. But Sorvinka has grown dangerous during Princess Eva's absence, as she and Amir discover to their terror, when their force of guards and eunuchs is cut down by ruthless brigands. And upon their arrival, their welcome to Eva's family stronghold is as bitterly cold as the land itself. Accustomed to the golden cage of his upbringing, Prince Amir must navigate his way through the strange and cold-blooded customs of the Sorvinkans, and somehow find the truth behind the kidnapping of the king's youngest daughter, the Princess Aurora, by the Sorvinkan's traditional enemies, the neighboring Farrellians. But what can a stranger in a foreign land do?

Heldenhammer (Book One of the Sigmar Trilogy /Time of Legends) by Graham McNeill (The Black Library Mass Market Paperback 04/39/2009) – Although I haven’t read any Warhammer books, I’ve been seeing good things about them for quite a while, and McNeill in particular seems like one of the more respected writers in their stable. This book looks like a very good jumping in point for the universe ofWarhammer, which is one of the world’s most popular shared worlds.

It is a time of legends. The lands of the old World are wild and untamed, where the primitive tribes of men struggle for survival. In this time of peril, by virtue of his valorous deeds, a young man claims leadership of the Unberogen tribe. His name is Sigmar Heldenhammer, and his actions will change history forever. This is the story of how Sigmar rose to power, culminating in the Battle of Black Fire Pass, where men and dwarfs fought against the vast hordes of orcs in their quest to safeguard the future of the Empire.

Heldenhammer is the first in a ground–breaking new series bringing the history of the Warhammer world to life.

Wicked City: Black Guard by Hideyuki Kikuchi (Tor/Seven SeasP Paperback 09/29/2009) – This book looks pretty interesting – the author is the creator of the hugely, globally popular Vampire Hunter: D manga & anime series. Kikuchi is considered something like Japan's Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft.

The classic anime Wicked City is based on a series of novels by master horror writer Hideyuki Kikuchi. Seven Seas is pleased to present these novels to the North American audience for the first time, featuring brand new cover art and interior illustrations by fan favorite illustrator Ayami Kojima, the concept artist for the Castlevania series of video games.

For centuries, a secret peace treaty has existed between Earth and The Black World, a parallel dimension populated by shape-changers who possess awesome supernatural powers. Now that pact is up for renewal and a militant faction from the Black World will do everything in its power to stop the treaty from being signed. The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a pair of special agents, one a human, the other a shape-changer from the dark dimension. "

Wicked City "is an epic tale of supernatural horror and martial arts in ten volumes, in the vein of Vampire Hunter D.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Prohpets by Swann Reviewed + Al and George Talk

The Guardian published a follow up interview with Alastair Reynolds after breaking news that he received a £1m deal (just over $1.6M). (via SF Signal)

George breaks the silence. Sort of:
But I am making a small exception now because... well, I'm feeling rather jazzed right now, and for the first time in a very long while, I think I can see a glimmering that might just be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Bouncing back to Science Fiction after last week’s review, comes Prophets by S. Andrew Swann the first book in a new trilogy which itself is set in the same world as his The Hostile Takeover Trilogy and Moreau series. As the review indicates, I enjoyed the book. Below is a snapshot of the review:
Swann throws quite a few SF tropes into this novel – for starters, the novel is a Space Opera set 500 years into the future. You’ve also got genetically engineered humans and demi-humans, high-speed space travel, alien super-intelligences, and artificial intelligences. What’s more impressive is that he makes it work very well, with each element serving the next and the ones before it in a smooth and complimentary fashion.

The far future setting is well-thought out and ingeniously crafted. The sense of depth to the universe and some of the characters (particularly Nickolai and Tjaele Mosasa) further lends weight to the rich history of which Prophets shows just a snapshot. Swann could have easily overloaded the reader with infodump after infodump about his future history. As I’ve said about other writers who do what Swann did here, he filters in the details in a very balanced manner through his character’s conversations and internal thoughts.

Swann’s one of those DAW authors* who seems to churn out books regularly and to whom the publisher seems very loyal. For the trilogies he’s released with them, DAW published omnibus versions of their trilogies/series (The Hostile Takeover Trilogy and The Moreau Omnibus, as well as the forthcoming Dragons and Dwarves: Novels of the Cleveland Portal).

*DAW has done the same thing with authors like Marion Zimmer Bradley, C.J. Cherryh, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Jennifer Roberson, and John Zakour to name just a few.

So what am I saying? The fact that DAW is doing this is great for the authors since it keeps their stories in print. It’s great for readers since it makes it easier to ‘catch up’ with authors who have a backlist with whom said reader has recently been acquainted.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alastair Reynolds lands £1m book deal

Nacked from Next Read

This is cool news, I've just started getting back into Reynolds with Pushing Ice, which I really like at about the halfway mark. The short fiction I've read from him has been excellent, he's won and been nominated for major awards and many consider him to be one of, if not, the standard bearer for the New Space Opera and British SF. I've got House of Suns on the to-read pile, plus Chasm City plus a couple of novellas issued by Subterranean Press.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/20/2009)

This was a nice slow week of only two arrivals after a monster week last week..

Abyss: (Fate of the Jedi Book Three) by Troy Denning (LucasBooks Hardcover 08/18/2009) – This would be the third in the series of Expanded Universe novels under the Fate of the Jedi banner. I still haven’t read the Legacy of the Force series, but I do enjoy some of these Expanded Universe novels. Denning’s Star by Star was one of the stand out entries in The New Jedi Order series and the folks at LucasBooks/Del Rey/Star Wars seem to like him as well, since he’s written quite a few of the recent EU books.

Following a trail of clues across the galaxy, Luke Skywalker continues his quest to find the reasons behind Jacen Solo’s dark downfall and to win redemption for the Jedi Order. Sojourning among the mysterious Aing-Tii monks has left Luke and his son Ben with no real answers, only the suspicion that the revelations they seek lie in the forbidden reaches of the distant Maw Cluster. There, hidden from the galaxy in a labyrinth of black holes, dwell the Mind Walkers: those whose power to transcend their bodies and be one with the Force is as seductive and intoxicating as it is potentially fatal. But it may be Luke’s only path to the truth.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, the war of wills between Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala and the Jedi Order is escalating. Outraged over the carbonite freezing of young Jedi Knights Valin and Jysella Horn after their inexplicable mental breakdowns, the Jedi are determined to defy Daala’s martial tactics, override Council Master Kenth Hamner’s wavering leadership, and deal on their own terms with the epidemic of madness preying on their ranks. As Han and Leia Solo, along with their daughter Jaina, join the fight to protect more stricken Knights from arrest, Jedi healers race to find a cure for the rapidly spreading affliction. But none of them realize the blaster barrel is already swinging in their direction–and Chief Daala is about to pull the trigger.

Nor do Luke and Ben, deep in the Maw Cluster and pushing their Force abilities beyond known limits, realize how close they are–to the Sith strike squad bent on exterminating the Skywalkers, to a nexus of dark-side energy unprecedented in its power and its hunger, and to an explosive confrontation between opposing wielders of the Force from which only one Master–good or evil–can emerge alive.

Faust 2 by Faust Editors (Del Rey Manga Trade Paperback 06/23/2009) – Second anthology of Manga short stories .

A brilliant anthology featuring manga-inspired fiction from today’s best writers with artwork from top manga creators, including

“ECCO,” by Tatsuhiko Takimoto (illustrated by D.K): Is life nothing but a cruel joke? One young rebel decides to find out.

“Jagdtiger,” by Kouhei Kadono (illustrated by Ueda Hajime): She’s a combat-ready synthetic human with a dangerous flaw: a heart.

“Where the Wind Blows,” by Otsuichi (illustrated by Takeshi Obata): A newspaper from the future carries a very disturbing story for one particular woman: She will die by the hand of the man she loves.

“Magical Girl Risuka,” by NISIOISIN (illustrated by Kinu Nishimura): She’s a beautiful witch with magical powers that could change the world. And he’s the boy who will give her a reason to do it.

“Gray-Colored Diet Coke” by Yûya Satô: He’s nineteen, surrounded by morons, and desperate to escape his crummy part-time job. His best friend’s plan worked great, but surely suicide can’t be the only way out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Keeper of Light and Dust Reviewed

Sometimes a book will arrive on my doorstep that seems out of my normal realm of reading tastes, slightly to the left or right of what I’d normally read. That was the case with Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert, which I received back in November, read in May and finally posted the review yesterday.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and mysticism are the two main ingredients in Natasha Mostert’s Keeper of Light and Dust. The novel centers on two protagonists, Nick Duffy and Mia Lockhart who have known each other since they were children. Mia is a Keeper, almost like a guardian angel who has taken a number of fighters on the London circuit under her ‘protection” who also works as a tattoo artist. Nick is a MMA fighter on the London independent circuit, who as the story begins, is training for a fight that could earn him a championship.
While I enjoyed the meat, the middle of the novel, I felt the ending was something of a let down. Mostert built up the conflict between Mia and her antagonist very well – there was dramatic tension, and they never really came face to face until the novel’s conclusion.
I learned a valuable lesson this past weekend – wine can really creep up on you and punch you in the throat if you aren’t careful. Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff, wise woman that she is, tells me to stick to what I know – namely beer and whiskey. I think I’ll be following that advice for a long time to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Books in the Mail (06/13/2009)

This is the post where I tell my faithful readers about the books I received for review during the previous week. It is impossible for me to get to all of the books publishers are kind enough to send me, so I figured I could at least mention them on the blog so I'm not totally ignoring what arrived. Some weeks are thinner than others, and around the second week of each month is usually when I get a lot of stuff with an official pub date for the following month (i.e. this, the second week of June saw a number of arrivals that will be on the shelves during the first week of July) - those are the "final" books as they appear on shelves. The other types of books I receive are ARCs (Advance Reader/Reading Copies) which publishers send to reviewers and booksellers weeks (and often months) in advance to generate early feedback and anticipation for the books.

All that said, this week was a good week, a bunch of books I plan on reading and others that look interesting, along with the two I've been wanting to see on US shelves for a while...

Dawntheif (Chronicles of the Raven #1) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 09/22/2009) – Finally! A U.S. publisher picked up the great work of James Barclay. I read his Raven novels back in 2001 under the UK Gollancz imprint and reviewed them for SFFWorld* and thoroughly enjoyed them at the time. What I couldn’t figure out was why a U.S. publisher never picked up the series. Well, little to my surprise Pyr comes along and decides to do the immediate shelf-presence thing by releasing the first three books in successive months.

*I’m not going to link to those reviews since they were written a long time ago when my reviewing skills weren’t quite what they are today.

The Raven have fought together for years, six men carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it . . . DAWNTHIEF is a fast paced epic about a band of all-too-human heroes.

Noonshade (Chronicles of the Raven #2) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 10/22/2009) – Second The Chronicles of the Raven and again, here we are with that simple and effective immediate shelf presence idea quite a few publishers are employing nowadays.

The enthralling sequel to DAWNTHIEF takes the adventure into a new dimension. The Raven must fight to help the dragons of the Brood Kan defend the dimensional rip opened in the skies of Balaia by the casting of Dawnthief. And then they must somehow close the rip. And all the time the Wesmen are rampaging through Balaia, laying waste to its cities and besieging the mages of Julatsa in Dordova.

Servant of a Dark God by John D. Brown (Tor Hardcover 10/13/2009) – First in a new Epic Fantasy series. The ARC has some nice quotes from David Drake, David Farland, Kage Baker, and Ken Scholes and the cover is another stellar piece of art by Raymond Swanland. With the book not releasing until October, there isn’t much available on the Web about it but from skimming over his Web site, Brown seems an interesting fellow. I left the cover on this one a bit larger just because Swanland’s art for it is awesome.

Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal from man and beast and become twisted by their polluted draws, know the secrets of this power. This land’s Divine has gone missing and soul-eaters are found among Talen’s people.

The Clans muster a massive hunt, and Talen finds himself a target. Thinking his struggle is against both soul-eaters and their hunters, Talen actually has far larger problems. A being of awesome power has arisen, one whose diet consists of the days of man. Her Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle. She has emerged to take back what is rightfully hers.

Trapped in a web of lies and ancient secrets, Talen must struggle to identify his true enemy before the Mother finds the one whom she will transform into the lord of the human harvest.

Orphan's Triumph (Jason Wander #5) by Robert Buettner (Orbit Mass Market Paperback 06/09/2009) – I’ve reading and enjoying Buettner’s brand of Military Science Fiction since the books were under the WarnerAspect imprint before Orbit took over an snazzed up the covers (although I like the originals, too). I reviewed Orphanage (#1), Orphan's Destiny (#2), Orphan's Journey (#3), and Orphan's Alliance (#4). Here’s the blurb/synopsis for this volume:

Jason Wander is ready to lead the final charge into battle.

After forty years of fighting the Slugs, mankind's reunited planets control the vital crossroad that secures their uneasy union. The doomsday weapon that can end the war, and the mighty fleet that will carry it to the Slug homeworld, lie within humanity's grasp.

Since the Slug Blitz orphaned Jason Wander, he has risen from infantry recruit to commander of Earth's garrisons on the emerging allied planets. But four decades of service have cost Jason not just his friends and family, but his innocence.

When an enemy counter stroke threatens to reverse the war and destroy mankind, Jason must finally confront not only his lifelong alien enemy, but the reality of what a lifetime as a soldier has made him.

Countdown by Greg Cox (Ace Trade Paperback 07/07/2009) – I’m a DC fanboy but I wasn’t even following this comic series as it was published, which was a letdown after the mostly good 52. That said, Cox has a good reputation for writing these adaptations. I recall reading both the novelization of both The Death of Superman and Knightfall and thinking it was a pretty impressive job to transfer the comics story to prose.

Cosmic legend has it that when the primordial gods of antiquity perished in some bygone cataclysm, the universe gave birth to a new breed of gods who reigned from two eternally warring worlds, the heavenly New Genesis and the hellish Apokolips. Now, a vast conspiracy of evil is determined to eradicate the New Gods, stealing their souls to wield universal power that can destroy all of reality.

At the end of an age in which time, space, and reality may bow before such sinister forces, the fate of the Earth lies in the hands of five unlikely super heroes who have one destiny to fulfill: to save the world at all costs, regardless of the consequences.

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock #1) by Faith Hunter (Roc Mass Market Paperback 7/07/2009) – The first in (what some might say is yet another) Vampire Hunter series. The twist here is that the hunter is a Native American shapeshifter.

Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she's been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie's Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who's killing other vamps...

Rift in the Sky (Stratification #3) by Julie E. Czerneda (DAW Hardcover 7/07/2009) – Third novel in a trilogy, which itself is a prequel to a larger series, the Trade Pact Universe. I haven’t read anything by Ms. Czernada (unfortunately), but she’s one of those authors who has rattled off 13 novels in just over a decade, which is pretty impressive in and of itself.

Despite all good intentions, the lure of the Talent to move through space using the M'hir dimension is too much for the Om'ray of Cersi to resist. As the awareness of this talent spreads, all those Om'ray who are capable converge on the settlement at Sona. To prevent the disruption of the Agreement and the destruction that it would unleash, the M'hiray, as they now call themselves, agree to leave Cersi forever and try to establish their own haven within the Trade Pact worlds—only to learn that not everybody wants peace.

Gamer Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes (DAW Mass Market Paperback 7/07/2009) – DAW’s July monthly themed-anthology revolves around (as the title implies) the intersection of “real world” with worlds in games, mostly of the video or role playing variety. Contributors include Jim C. Hines, Ed Greenwood, S.L. Farrell, and Bill Fawcett

Let the games begin!

These thirteen original stories by veterans of the fantasy realms take role-playing games and universes to a whole new level.

From a teenager who finds a better future in virtual reality; to a private investigator hired to find a dying man's grandson in the midst of a virtual reality theme park; from a person gifted with the power to pull things out of books into the real world; to a psychologist using fantasy role-playing to heal his patients; from a gaming convention where the real winners may not be who they seem to be; to a multi-layered role-playing game that leads participants from reality to reality and games within games—these imaginative and fascinating new tales will captivate both lovers of original fantasy and anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of role-playing games.

The Dark Reaches by Kristin Landon (Ace Mass Market Paperback 07/07/2009) – Third in a space-opera/science fiction romance/military science fiction series. When I first saw the cover I said to myself, “Self, that sure looks like Aeryn Sun.” The previous books in the series are The Hidden Worlds (#1) and The Cold Minds (#2). Here’s the synopsis for this volume:

After the Earth was destroyed by ruthless machine intelligences known as the Cold Minds, the remnants of the human race sought refuge among the Hidden Worlds. Now, renegade pilot Linnea Kiaho and her fellow pilot Iain sen Paolo embark on a dangerous journey to Earth's solar system, where humans may have survived. But what they find is a secret so powerful it may save the Hidden Worlds—or shatter them forever.

Son of Retro Pulp Tales by Joe. R. Landsdale and Keith Landsdale (Subterranean Press Hardcover 08/15/2009) Continuing in the vein of the Award winning Retro Pulp Tales, Joe R. Lansdale and his son Keith Lansdale present Son of Retro Pulp Tales. More stories in the tradition of the pulps, early digest magazines and pre sixties films, this one contains everything from Lovecraftian monsters to demons to hardboiled shootouts to plain ole unchained oddness.

So, tuck yourself in bed with a reading light and a snack, and prepare to be transported to wild worlds and weird situations by the pure storyteller tradition. Come on in, the pulp is fine.:

  • The Toad Prince by Harlan Ellison
  • Quiet Bullets by Christopher Golden
  • Border Town by James Grady
  • The Crawling Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Lizard Men of Blood River by Stephen Mertz
  • The Perfect Nanny by William F. Nolan
  • Catastrophe Box by Cherie Priest
  • The Forgotten Kingdom by Mike Resnick
  • A Gunfight by David J. Schow
  • Pretty Green Eyes by Timothy Truman
  • The Brown Bomber and the Nazi Werewolves by Matt Venne
Darkness Calls (Hunter Kiss #2) by Marjorie M. Liu (Ace Mass Market Paperback 07/07/2009) – Second in a series about a Tattooed Zombie Hunter. Liu has written for Marvel Comics and has authored a couple of other series, she’s hit the New York Times bestseller list, too.

Demon hunter Maxine Kiss, inked with living tattoos, is on a mission to rescue the man she loves from a bloodthirsty army. To save him, Maxine has only one choice: to lose control—and release her own powers of darkness.

Red Gold Bridge by Patrice Sarath ( Ace Mass Market Paperback 07/07/2009) – This is a sequel to the author’s debut Gordath Wood, which I haven’t read. Here’s the synopsis for this book:

In the heart of the gordath, danger is waiting...

A year ago, Lynn Romano and Kate Mossland stumbled through the gordath, a portal between our world and the war-torn society called Aeritan. Now, a powerful Aeritan general has crossed through to Earth, and his obsession with Kate could tear both worlds apart.

As a guardian of Red Gold Bridge, it’s Joe Felz’s job to keep the portal closed between worlds. After all, last time it opened, all hell broke loose. But some old enemies are back, and they want to stir things up again. It’s up to Joe to stop them. When strange things start to happen on her horse farm in New York, Lynn knows it means one thing: the gordath is open and Joe’s in trouble.

Kate just wants to be a normal teenager again. Then General Marthen shows up, and Kate has to choose between two worlds and two fates.

The God Engines by John Scalzi (DAW Trade Paperback 12/15/2009) – As a fan of Scalzi, I’m very interested to read his take on fantasy. This is a novella-length story with a very interesting cover. .

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given. Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It’s what he doesn’t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...

Author John Scalzi has ascended to the top ranks of modern science fiction with the best-selling, Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. Now he tries his hand at fantasy, with a dark and different novella that takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling.

Say your prayers... and behold The God Engines.

Wireless by Charles Stross (Ace Hardcover 07/07/2009) – I’ve slowly come to like what Stross is doing in Science Fiction and this volume contains one of my favorite pieces of fiction by him Missile Gap which was included in the and One Million A.D. anthology I reviewed a couple of years back. The whole of this collection includes:

  • Missile Gap
  • Snowball's Chance
  • The Colder War
  • Trunk and Disorderly
  • Rogue Farm
  • Antibodies
  • Palimpsest (Previously unpublished)

Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Hardcover 08/04/2009) – Another re-imagining of the outcome of World War II from the writing machine that is Harry Turtledove. Over the past couple of years, I’ve probably received between 6 and 10 Turtledove books for review.

Alternate history master Harry Turtledove sets his sights on one of the most fascinating periods in history—World War II. In gripping detail, he imagines how the war in Europe would have ended had British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain refused to allow Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fantasy Writer Quiz/Meme - I'm Gene Wolfe!

Ganked from the ol' Hornswaggler and Grasping for the Wind

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?...

Gene Wolfe (b. 1931)

15 High-Brow, 25 Violent, 3 Experimental and -1 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Romantic! These concepts are defined below.

US author Gene Wolfe is a very typical example of the kind of writer who is more appreciated by critics and, above all, other writers, than by the wider public. Science fiction writer Michael Swanwick has, for example, dubbed Gene Wolfe the greatest writer in the English language alive today. However, Wolfe's novel in four parts, The Book of the New Sun (1980-83), is widely known and considered a classic within both fantasy and science fiction (the book is generally considered fantasy although it is actually set in a distant future, where some technology may seem like magic to the novel's characters).

Wolfe, a veteran of the Korean war, is un-afraid of describing the fear and violence caused by warfare and the protagonist of his most well-known piece of fiction is a torturer, who at one time openly defends the importance of his work.

Wolfe is well-known for his stylistic excellence, often using first person narration in a masterful way. His narrators are often unreliable, for different reasons, sometimes leaving it up to the reader to read between the lines and figure out what's really going on.

Being a "literary" author, one of those few writers whose books it's worth the time and effort of reading more than once, does not stop Wolfe from being a great storyteller who is quite able to create all the magic and page-turning suspence of a typical best-selling writer. Much of this might stem from Wolfe's empathy with his characters and his almost religious commitment to his worlds. Several critics have pointed out the influence of Wolfe's strong Roman Catholic faith to his fiction.

No fantasy fan should go through life without having at least tried to read Wolfe. There are few writers who manage to put imagination back into the word fantasy like he does.

You are also a lot like Mary Gentle.

If you want something more gentle, try Tove Jansson.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Robert Jordan.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you're at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn't mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received 15 points, making you more High-Brow than Low-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, rather than the best-selling kind. At their best, high-brows are cultured, able to appreciate the finer nuances of literature and not content with simplifications. At their worst they are, well, snobs.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 25 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don't hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received 3 points, making you more Experimental than Traditional. Your position on this scale indicates if you're more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, experimental people are the ones who show humanity the way forward. At their worst, they provoke for the sake of provocation only.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received -1 points, making you more Romantic than Cynical. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you'll find the sentence "you are also a lot like x" above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, romantic people are optimistic, willing to work for a good cause and an inspiration to their peers. At their worst, they are easily fooled and too easily lead.

Author picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Genewolf1.png Click the link for license info.

Take Which fantasy writer are you?
at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

City Without End reviewed

Kay Kenyon has published ¾ of her stellar and sweeping four book series The Entire and the Rose. Lat night, I posted my review of City Without End:
Kenyon skips around from chapter to chapter focusing on the various people affected by Quinn’s actions, people in both the Entire and the Rose (Earth). One of the aspects about the previous volume I would have liked to see embellished was Quinn’s estranged daughter Sydney who has adopted the name Sen Ni in the Entire’s colloquial as her name to further embody her distance from Earth. Here, Kenyon shows how Sydney has completely enmeshed herself in the politics and climate of the Entire and the distance and time away from her father has affected her. Kenyon sets father and daughter on opposing ends of conflict and the painful tension in their interactions comes through very well.
In short, she excellently manages to make the book (and series) feel intimate and Epic.

It’s been a busy few days outside of the Blog o’ Stuff, so this may be it for the week.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/06/09)

The first week of June brings three books...

Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint (Subterranean Press Hardcover 10/15/2009) – Subterranean is continuing it’s impressive series of de Lint reprints and long-lost stories with this big fantasy novel.

Magic is already fading in the Green Isles, but it's still a time when myths walk the world and the children of the ancient gods are engaged in one final confrontation. But when legendary creatures wage war, it s the ordinary people who suffer the consequences--unless they, themselves, can find a way to bring an end to the hostilities. The trouble is, not all of them are able to pick a side.

Eyes Like Leaves was written in the days of Moonheart and Charles de Lint's other high fantasy novels. The tale slept like a long-forgotten lover until he recently chose to revisit (and polish) this never-before-published gem.

First Rider's Call (Green Rider #2) by Kristen Britain (DAW Trade Paperback 06/09/2009) – I read the first book, Green Rider, in this series years ago, and I think I read this one two in hardcover release. For whatever reason, DAW is reissuing the book in Trade Paperback after having made it available in Hardcover and Mass Market Paperback. .

Once a simple student, Karigan G'ladheon finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand, when she becomes a Green Rider—one of the magical messengers of the king. Forced to accept a fate she never would have chosen, she attempts to return to her life as the daughter of a wealthy merchant, but the magic in her blood is too strong. Pursued by the ghost of the legendary First Rider, she rejoins the Green Riders to confront an ancient evil.

Winter Duty (Vampire Earth #8) by E.E.Knight (Roc Hardcover 07/07/2009) – I’ve been following this series from the beginning but I’m just short of being caught needing only the previous book Fall With Honor to be completely caught up before jumping into this one. I like the post-apocalyptic milieu quite a bit and Knight is a solid and entertaining writer. I reviewed The Way of the Wolf (#1), Choice of the Cat (#2), Tale of the Thunderbolt (#3), Valentine's Rising (#4), and interviewed Mr. Knight in the past for SFFWorld. Here’s the synopsis for this volume:

Major David Valentine and his fugitive battalion are the remnants of an expeditionary force shattered in its long retreat from disaster in the Appalachians. Between a raging blizzard, bands of headhunters, and the need to recover wounded soldiers lost during the retreat, Valentine is in for the toughest winter of his life.

And Valentine is losing allies fast. Some of the clans in the region have declared themselves in favor of the Kurians, throwing Kentucky into civil war. But the Kurian overlords have determined that the region isn't worth the effort of another conquest. Their order: extermination.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 06/09/2009) – This is the final version of the ARC I received back in March. Here's part of my review

Consistent, engaging and well crafted – these are just three ways one can describe Brandon Sanderson and his second stand-alone fantasy novel, Warbreaker. Sanderson tells the story of a land ruled by a faceless God King and focuses on the woman (Siri) who is sent to be his wife. That core of the plot feeds several subplots – Vivenna, the sister of the God King’s wife (Siri) trying to save her; a brewing war between nations; the machinations of the Gods who live amongst men and just who and what the God King really is.
Warbreaker is another top-notch novel from Brandon Sanderson – a novel that will likely be one of the top fantasy novels of the year.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Review - Other Earths edited by Gevers & Lake

With a backlog of unposted reviews, I figured I’d post one before the weekend starts. Other Earths edited by Nick Gevers and Jay Lake is impressive with good stories by Gene Wolfe (Donovan Sent Us), Robert Charles Wilson (This Peaceable Land, or, The Unbearable Vision of Harriet Beecher Stowe), and Stephen Baxter (The Unblinking Eye) among others.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Tuesday Reviews - Sanderson, Abercromie, and Newton

It’s Tuesday, so that must mean it is review time at the o’ Stuff. Technically, my review was posted to SFFWorld yesterday, but the Tuesday post announces it to my millions…and millions of readers. It’s a bonus week in some ways since Mark/Hobbit, my pal and colleague at SFFWorld, posted two solid reviews over the past couple of days. The book I reviewed is Brandon Sanderson’s latest novel, Wabreaker:
Sanderson tells the story of a land ruled by a faceless God King and focuses on the woman (Siri) who is sent to be his wife. That core of the plot feeds several subplots – Vivenna, the sister of the God King’s wife (Siri) trying to save her; a brewing war between nations; the machinations of the Gods who live amongst men and just who and what the God King really is.
So, after a successful trilogy, Brandon Sanderson has given readers a done-in-one (for now, at least) Epic Fantasy novel that is engaging, entertaining, and like his Mistborn trilogy, gives a new lens with which to view familiar elements of a pleasing story.

Mark’s reviewed two highly anticipated novels for 2009, at least on the World Wide Intarwebs. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, about which Mark says:

The great news is for those who thought Joe couldn’t top his First Law trilogy, this one is up there.

As a result of his enthusiasm and good buzz for the book from a couple of folks at BEA, I’ll be starting this one today.

The other book Mark reviewed was Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton. Here’s a blurb-quote from Hobbit/Mark on this one:

Imagine a book that reads like Joe Abercrombie, set in a Jack Vance-like Dying Earth and written with characters the equal of Moorcock and Mieville. Too good to be true? This book might just meet your expectations.

Monday, June 01, 2009

When Work and Fun Coincide - BEA 2009

I attended BookExpo America (BEA) over the weekend representing Baker & Taylor, the company for which I work. It was a great show for the company and a terrific show from a business opportunity standpoint. I’ll leave the business end of the show out of this post since I try to keep that end a little more behind the o’ Stuff curtain. One of the great things about attending conferences like this is connecting the e-mail/phone voice with the face (both for my company and outside the company).

Aside from that, I was lucky enough to meet Neil Gaiman (for about 1 minute) and have him sign a copy of The Graveyard Book. I hadn’t realized he was going to be at the show until I heard he was signing in one section of the building, then moments later he walked right past me. I was pulled out of line since I work for Baker & Taylor (the US's largest wholesaler of books) because the press wanted Mr. Gaiman to have a photo with a wholesaler. Alas, by the time I got up to him, the photo was already taken. Nonetheless, I got the book signed with a nice little gravestone showing my name, so I was a happy geek. Essentially, I felt like Brodie Bruce in Mallrats when he realizes Stan Lee is in his mall and he didn’t know about it: To say I was a little star struck was an understatement. The folks running this signing at HarperCollins booth were absolutely terrific.

As my “lunch break” on Saturday, I stood in on the Science Fiction and Fantasy panel, which included John Ringo, China Miéville, and Kelly Link. It was an interesting panel – John Ringo wore a kilt and played to the audience while China and Kelly were both a bit more reserved. I stuck around and met Mr. Miéville while he signed a copy of The City and the City for me.

I also snagged a signed ARC-copy of Soulless by Gail Carriger, which sounds like a cool mix of vampires, werewolves, and steampunk.

Over the course of the two days, I met the fine folks at Orbit Books (Alex Lencicki, Devi Pillai, and Tim Holman) and had some good conversation with them; Dot Lin, Tor publicist extraordinaire; Jill Maxick, super-duper Pyr publicist; Vida Engstrom, Overlook Press’s (R. Scott Bakker’s US Publisher) superb publicist, Ellen Datlow, anthologist extraordinaire; Andrew Wheeler, blogger extraordinaire; and last but certainly not least Colleen Lindsay, all-around cool literary agent and genre-PR guru.

What made the event so great is that I was able to mix my work in the publishing industry with the fun I have in it by reading and reviewing in many ways.