Friday, July 31, 2009

Jordan/Sanderson's The Gathering Storm - First Review

As I’ve said before, with the Wheel of Time series finally coming to a conclusion in the not too distant future, I’ve been growing nostalgic to re-read some of the series and catch up with those volumes I’ve not yet read (Knife of Dreams and New Spring)

Dragonmount, one of the (perhaps THE) premier place on the intarwebs for all things Wheel of Time, posted a very early review of The Gathering Storm, which is of course the 13th volume co-authored/co-written by Brandon Sanderson. As a fan of Sanderson’s writing I think he’s as good a choice as any especially considering how much of a fan he is of the books.

Anyway, the reviewer, Jason Denzel, has some upbeat and encouraging things to say about the book. The review is lengthy and contains spoilers, but here's a good point:
The most obvious fact in all of this is that Brandon put his heart into this book. Even though it’s a thick tome, none of it feels padded or rushed. Before he was the writer tasked with finishing this series, he was a fan like you and me. He clearly knows what fans like and dislike, and has crafted a novel that primarily follows in the footsteps of its predecessor while also delivering in a way that he knows will go over well with the crowds.

Eventually, I'll start my re-read and maybe either post some of it here or as Official SFFWorld reviews.

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Thursday, July 30, 2009


One of the big stories at Comic-Con last week was that Marvel Comics now owns Marvelman (aka Miracleman). The comic was once a knock off of DC’s Captain Marvel (SHAZAM), but came into its own right as a distinct comic property under the writing of Alan Moore and later Neil Gaiman. While there are plenty of pre-Alan Moore stories, Moore and Gaiman’s stories are the most sought after, in terms of fans who want to see the stuff reprinted. Quite possibly, no other fictional character has had a more convoluted history in terms of copyrights and creators than Miracleman/Marvelman. This link at Sequart is pretty good as is the detail given in the Wikipedia entry on the character, and Stephen R. Bissette post below, which is also in the great Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman which I recently read.

Well, Neil Gaiman weighed in on the subject recently (and he’s had things to say about it before considering he was the last writer to legally write Miracleman stories, much to the chagrin of Todd McFarlane).

Personally, I've been searching for the issues for a while and haven't had much luck. Granted, I haven't been obsessively hunting them down, but I do look for them at new comics shops I visit. As a big fan of both Moore and Gaiman, I (like thousands of other comic book geeks) really want to see their stories brought back into print.

I'm one of the last people to post this, so here's some other good bloggage/coverage:

Mark Buckingham (the last person to legally draw Miracleman and possessor of the unreleased 25th issue)
Steve Bissette (Comic artist and Gaiman biographer)
Mike Sterling (Comics Blogger Extraordinaire)
Alan David Doane (one of the premier comics bloggers)
hueysheridan (Newish comic blogger with a good summation/positive outlook on the situation)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi and Reviewed by Me

Not all short fiction is initially published in written form, especially with iPods audio-format fiction has been on the rise relatively speaking. Well, my latest review doesn’t specifically cover an audio anthology per se, but rather the print version of a popular Web/Audio anthology METAtropolis thanks to Subterranean Press. The five stories are in this anthology are penned by Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, John Scalzi, and Karl Schroeder

Here’s the usual blurb from the review I posted last night:
Cities have long been characters in their own right in fiction, especially Science Fiction and Fantasy. One needs look no further than the seminal SF film Blade Runner to see the epitome of a sprawling future city. Cities in fiction often have their own quirks and personalities as much, and sometimes more, than the human characters who inhabit them. Modern writers like China Mieville and Jeff VanderMeer, and less recent writers like Fritz Leiber and M. John Harrison have made cities distinct and stand out settings of fantastic fiction. Here, editor John Scalzi gathers five well-regarded genre writers to peer into the telescope of the future and see what super-cities of the future might be like. Although this anthology began life as an audio book, Subterranean is publishing a limited and trade print edition of the anthology.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Matthew Stover to Write GOD OF WAR novel

Matthew Stover
will be writing a novelization of God of War, what I and many other people consider, one of the greatest video games of all time. I can't think of a writer better suited to this task. With all he's done in Star Wars and the mythic parallels to his superb Acts of Caine sequence, this should be a terrific novel when it hits bookshelves in March 2010.

Books in the Mail (W/E 07/25/2009)

Nothing to see here folks. Surprisingly, no new books arrived this week. No complaints, though since I've got a nice backlog to keep me busy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

RGP Goodness - D&D, Talisman, & Pathfinder

Are any of my faithful readers into RPGs? I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons first edition. If I recall correctly, in addition to the red player’s manual, there was a blue Game Masters book and other assorted goodies and it all came in a boxed set. That was when it was published by TSR (Tactical Rules Studies). We then moved onto Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, when the books were large 8.5 x 11 hardcover books:

At the time, my friends and I also played Gamma World, and I split time with one of my friends as GM for that.

For whatever reason, a friend moving, things going on in our lives, we moved away from D&D and RPGs to Talisman, which I've breifly discussed in the past - it captured the fun fantasy aspect of RPGs and the game could be started and completed in one day. Recently, I received an updated version of Talisman much to the chagrin of Mrs. O’ Stuff, and have started playing again.

I’ve also been playing D&D again, this time a mish-mash of 3rd Edition versions of Planescape, Dark Sun and magic systems based in some of the fantasy novels we’ve been reading. The “We” being my brother-in-law and a few of his friends.

At BEA, and through some posts by Matt Staggs, I’ve become aware of a new, impressive catch-all RPG that looks great: Pathfinder. The core book seems to contains all you need to get going on your adventures. Considering the book is 576 pages, it should contain a lot of stuff. The folks I met at the Paizo at BEA were terrific and the sample galley they had of the Pathfinder Core Rule book looked really impressive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Over the past few years, few young new writers have had as much of a groundswell of positive support as Joe Abercrombie. To say the least, his latest fantasy novel, novel Best Served Cold is/was one of the most anticipated 2009 novels in the genre. Mark/Hobbit reviewed the UK edition in June:
In typical Joe fashion, the heroine is not a typical hero-figure. More Ash than Scarlett O‘Hara, at first Monzcarro/Monza Murcatto comes across as an arrogant bitch, someone you wouldn’t trust, nor would you cross. She is, in fact, The Snake of Talins and The Butcher of Caprile, who along with her brother Benna, are the two most successful mercenary generals in Styria. Their actions, admittedly well paid, have established Duke Orzo as a man of influence and power, but also an intensely jealous one. Realising their increasing fame, in a jealous fit and without warning, he kills Benna and critically injures Monza, throwing her body down a mountainside.

For my part, I loved Joe’s First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged , Last Argument of Kings) and I thought the final book concluded extremely well. Although I enjoyed Best Served Cold, I had some minor pacing issues with it. Anyway, here’s the usual preview of my review:
Very early, as in the first chapter, Monza and Benna are ousted from their place in the employ of Duke Orzo in a rather violent fashion, to say the least. Benna is killed and Monza pushed to the edge of death, saved only because she landed on Benna’s body rather than the hard ground. It seems the mighty Duke is a jealous man and fears that Monza will try to usurp his place of power.

The plot is effective in its simple linear thread of revenge, but what Abercrombie does from beginning to end helps to make the novel, characters and story stand out more than just the story of an angry bitch seeking retribution.

Along the way, Monza recruits the typical motley crew of people to assist her – Caul Shivers, the Barbarian from the North looking to change his violent ways; the poisoner Morveer whose outward sense of civility offsets his aims of killing; the somewhat crazed Friendly; and a perhaps familiar swordsman Nicomo Cosca who does more dueling with wine bottles than with swords.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 07/18/2009)

I get a lot of books for review from various publishers. I, unfortunately, can’t read everything I get so I like to at least acknowledge what comes into the house for review so I do these Sunday postings of Books in the Mail. Here’s this week’s version:

Nightchild (Chronicles of the Raven #3) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 11/22/2009) – Third installment of The Chronicles of the Raven and again, set to release one month after the second book, which is set to release one month after the first. Nothing works better than shelf presence except maybe solid and entertaining writing/storytelling, which James Barclay has in spades:

The concluding volume of the Chronicles is an excellent capstone to a superb series of books. The Raven, again are faced with a world-shattering challenge. What makes this challenge even worse is that it is from their own ranks. The Nightchild refers to the daughter of Erienne and Denser, Lyanna. Lyanna is the prophesized uniting child of Magic, bringing the One magic back to Balaia, uniting the four colleges.

Five years have past since the events of Noonshade e and the Raven have gone their separate ways, finally following through on the promise to retire the made in the beginning of Dawnthief. It is one event in Dawnthief that sets everything in motion for Nightchild, the consummation of Denser and Erienne’s relationship.

The Martian Chronicles: The Complete Edition by Ray Bradbury (Subterranean Press/PS Publishing [1] Limited and [2] Lettered Hardcover December 2009) – The Martian Chronicles is one of those hallmarks and IT books of Science Fiction I’ve (embarrassingly) never read. Luckily, Subterranean Press/PS Publishing decided to get together and co-publish a lavish, dense, and beautiful (based on the ARC) edition of these seminal stories in one massive volume inside a terrific cover by Edward Miller, sporting introductions by John Scalzi, Joe Hill, Richard Matheson and Mark Scott Zicree.

In the course of his long, illustrious career, Ray Bradbury has created some of the most memorable and enduring fiction of our time. While no one work can adequately represent the range and depth of his achievement, it may well be that The Martian Chronicles will come to stand as his most singular accomplishment. A visionary account of the first attempt to extend the human enterprise to another planet, this unique and resonant book is both a seminal work of science fiction and a permanent addition to modern popular culture.

The episodic saga begins during the “rocket summer” of 1999, when the first outbound ships depart for Mars, leaving the bleak Ohio winter behind. It ends, 27 years later, during a “million year picnic” which casts a harsh, reflective light on an entire civilization. Along the way, Bradbury introduces a gallery of distinctive characters, all of whom have powerful reasons for seeking a newer life. Some are actively escaping--from racism, from political and cultural repression, from the never-ending prospect of war. Some are actively searching--for adventure, for uncharted horizons, for a sense of spiritual renewal. Together, they create a frontier society as complex, varied, and tragically flawed as the one they left behind.

The result is a work of philosophical humanism filled with memorable scenes and indelible images. A wealthy settler builds a new “House of Usher” and wages bloody war against a dull and lifeless bureaucracy. Translucent “fire balloons” offer intricate lessons in matters of the spirit. A telepathic Martian helplessly absorbs the hopes, grief, and memories of the surrounding human populace. A solitary survivor creates an automated family to help keep loneliness at bay. Moments like these offer something deeper and grander than simple entertainment. As the author pointedly reminds us: “It is good to renew one’s wonder.” The Martian Chronicles accomplishes this task with wit, grace, and unselfconscious artistry. It will doubtless continue to do so for generations to come.

With more than 50 stories, essays, introductions and two full-length screenplays by Bradbury himself, The Martian Chronicles: the Definitive Edition is a volume for the permanent shelf, one which chronicles the evolution of Bradbury’s Mars from the original classic volume and beyond.

Alpha and Omega (Alpha and Omega/Mercedes Thompson) by Patricia Briggs (Subterranean Press Limited (1000 copies) Edition Hardcover Fall 2009) – Brigg’s thoughts on this novella, which was originally in the On the Prowl anthology and takes place in the same world as her Mercedes Thompson novels:

"Alpha and Omega" is Charles's story. Charles is one of those characters who comes on stage to fill out a scene -- or, in this case, to make the Montana pack feel like a "real" pack, one that doesn't just exist for the sake of a novel. But as I wrote a little about him I found out a lot more -- and since he didn't have a real role in the plot, I had to set him aside once he'd performed his alloted role. It would have bothered me more, but I knew that Moon Called was the first in a series so I figured I could use him later. When my editor called to ask me if I thought I could write a novella in Mercy's world -- I thought about it for a while, and decided to give Charles his chance upon the stage. I already had a plot -- he'd been sent to deal with one of the Chicago alphas in Moon Called. Even so, the story took me a little by surprise (which is a good thing). I didn't expect such a strong romance angle in this story, but I liked how it turned out. I hope you enjoy getting to know Charles as much as I did.

Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert (Tor (Hardcover 08/04/2009) – This would be the sixth and final Dune novel by Frank Herbert. Although I’ve read the first one a couple of times, I always wanted to go back and read the remaining book by Herbert. I’ve got some fill in to do before I get to this one, though. This edition is updated in that it contains an introduction by Brian Herbert, Frank’s son. Brian, for good or bad, has gone on to continue the Dune series with Kevin J. Anderson for 11 additional books (which is almost double what Frank wrote himself). Be that as it may, here’s what can be gleaned about Frank’s last book:

The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. Now, the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune’s power, have colonized a green world—and are tuning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile.

Chapterhouse Dune is the last book Frank Herbert wrote before his death: A stunning climax to the epic Dune legend that will live on forever.

The Grave Thief (Book #3 of The Twilight Reign) by Tom Lloyd (Pyr Trade Paperback September 2009) – These books have found an audience here in the US, I’m just not part of it.

Scree has been wiped from the face of the Land in a brutal demonstration of intent. While those responsible scatter to work on the next step in their plan, the stakes are raised - all the way to the heavens - as the Gods themselves enter the fray. Returning home to a nation divided by fanaticism, Lord Isak is haunted both by the consequences of his actions in Scree and by visions of his own impending death. As the full extent of Azaer's schemes become clearer, he realises prophecy and zealotry must play their part in his battle-plans if there is to be any chance of surviving the coming years. As a white-eye, Isak has had to embrace the darker parts of his own soul, but now the savage religious fervour sweeping his nation must also be accepted and turned to purpose, in the name of survival. With the battle lines vague and allegiances uncertain, the time for heartless decisions and ruthless action has come. Two figures oppose Isak and his allies: the greatest warrior in history, who dreams of empire and Godhood, and a newborn baby whose dreams have no limit.

Desolation Road by Ian McDonald (Pyr Trade Paperback July 2009) – Pyr continues to bring Ian McDonald’s work to US audiences in this re-issue of his 1998 debut novel, which seems a mix of steampunk and future SF. I loved River of Gods and have read some of his shorts.

On a partially terraformed Mars (comfortable temperature and atmosphere, although still mostly desert) a lone scientist is hunting a mysterious being across the desert, using a device best described as an anti-gravity sailboard for transportation. While taking a rest, he neglects to secure the board thoroughly and wakes up in time to see it blown away by the wind. Stranded in the desert, he is fortunate to discover an artificial oasis (created by a long-lost terraforming AI) near a line of railway. With all the necessities of life around him, he awaits rescue or company. Eventually, he is joined by other strays and castaways, and together they found the town of Desolation Road.

Although not a steampunk novel, much of the technology featured in the book, such as locomotives (albeit Fusion) and propellor-driven aircraft, appears to hearken back to Earth's near-history rather than to standard visions of the future. This gives the novel an atmosphere of anachronism and timelessness.

The Sheriff of Yrnameer: A Novel by Michael Rubens (Pantheon Hardcover 8/4/2009) – 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 a little bit for me. I received the ARC for this back in April and the finished/final book arrived this week in all its green and yellow glory. Rubens is a writer on The Daily Show staff.

Meet Cole: hapless space rogue, part-time smuggler, on a path to being full-time dead. His sidekick just stole his girlfriend. The galaxy's most hideous and feared bounty hunter wants to lay eggs in his brain. And the luxury space yacht Cole just hijacked turns out of be filled with interstellar do-gooders, one especially loathsome stowaway, and a cargo of freeze-dried orphans.

Reluctantly compelled to deliver these defenseless, fluidless children to safety, Cole gathers a misfit crew for a desperate journey to the far reaches of the galaxy. Their destination: the mysterious world of Yrnameer, the very last of the your-name-heres—planets without corporate sponsors. But little does Cole know that this legendary utopia is home to a murderous band of outlaws bent on destroying the planet's tiny, peaceful community.

Follow Cole's adventures through a delightfully absurd science-fiction universe, where the artificial intelligence is stupid, dust motes carry branding messages, and middle-management zombies have overrun a corporate training satellite. In the spirit of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, The Sheriff of Yrnameer is sci-fi comedy at its best—mordant, raucously funny, and a thrilling page-turner.

Dragons and Dwarves:Novels of the Cleveland Portal by S. Andrew Swann (DAW Mass Market Paperback 08/04/2009) – As I was saying about two weeks ago regarding DAW in specific and Swann in particular, here’s one of those terrific backlist-author-omnibus editions containing two Urban/Epic Fantasy hybrids - The Dragons of the Cuyahoga and The Dwarves of Whiskey Island:

The Dragons of the Cuyahoga – A decade after the Portal opened a gate between Cleveland, Ohio and a universe of mages, elves, and dragons, reporter Kline Maxwell works the political beat for the Cleveland Pressand does his best to avoid “fuzzy gnome” stories.

However, when fifteen tons of dragon takes a nose-dive into the Cuyahoga River, killing the supposedly immortal creature, Kline finds himself drawn into the story against his will. Soon, he discovers that the dragon was not just any dragon, and the death was no accident.

Soon he is running from cops, elves and gargoyles— and finds himself wrapped in a web of intrigue that ranges from a network of underground mages, the mayor’s office, the port authority, the possibly-corrupt police Special Paranormal Unit, all the way to the federal government.

The Dwarves of Whiskey Island – Two years after investigating the high-profile death of a dragon for the Cleveland Press, reporter Kline Maxwell is safely back on the political beat. Then he receives a call from a dwarf claiming to have information on the suicide of a former city council president, a dwarf who quickly suffers a gruesome death. Soon Kline is again wrapped in a mystical conspiracy of wide-ranging implications.

And at the center of the conspiracy is an ancient evil that has taken an interest in Kline and his family. . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

Robert Charles Wilson has written some of the best received science fiction over the past decade or so. His spectacular novel Spin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006. I also enjoyed Darwinia, which was nominated for the Hugo and Locus Award in 1999. His latest novel, Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America is at least as good as Spin, and quite possibly better. It hasn’t sunk in quite enough for me to determine that yet.

With that having been said, here’s the part of my review, which I posted yesterday:
The tone is very comfortable and Wilson’s prose is just wonderful to read and digest. The comfortable to which I’m referring is the tone is inasmuch as we the reader, through Adam’s positioning of words, know who Julian Comstock really is. Essentially, the feel of the novel is that we are taking a peek behind the curtain at how the real events transpired around a legendary and historical figure.

While not quite a post-apocalyptic tale, the novel is definitely the story of a nation (and one suspects of a world) struggling to rise through the mire of sin and decadence from its societal predecessor. The world isn’t a typically blasted landscape seen in post-apocalyptic fiction, rather Wilson has envisioned a regressed future. In many ways, this is an elegiac and depressing novel, but the pathos we hear through Adams voice lends an understated elegance and hope to the tale.

It isn’t through info dumps or anything obtrusive that the reader learns about the world at large, technology like cars and travel to the moon are viewed as nearly magical things of the past or fallacies of fantasy outright banished from collective thought. Wilson also manages to conjure the reality of the future world and layer the details very well through the characters thoughts, actions, and words.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 07/11/2009)

Sundays mean posting about the review books I received the prior week, so here goes with a lot of stuff from the various Penguin imprints:

Enigma by C. F. Bentley (DAW Hardcover 08/04/2008) – Bentley is one of three pseudonyms, the other two being P.R. Frost and Irene Radford, and I haven’t read any of the three, but under each name, she writes slightly different fiction. Bentley is the name under which she writes Science Fiction and the book here is a sequel to Harmony

The follow-up to Harmony, from "a bright star in the outer space galaxy of science fiction."(Midwest Book Review)

The world of Harmony, along with its close-knit colony planets, has been isolated from the rest of the universe for many generations. Now, Harmony's High Priestess Sissy and Confederated Star System Agent Jake have traveled to space station Labyrinthe VII, otherwise known as The First Contact Café, where they hope to establish diplomatic relations between the Harmonic Empire and the wider universe. But when an alien ship crashes into the Harmony Diplomatic Wing of Labyrinthe VII, the precarious balance Sissy and Jake have established begins to dissolve.

Cape Storm (Weather Warden #) by Rachel Caine (Roc Mass Market Paperback 08/04/2009) – This here’s the eighth book in the popular series about people who control the weather. Caine is very prolific and has four or five series running at the moment.

Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin and her new husband, the Djinn David, are running from a malevolent hurricane bent on destroying her. Joined by an army of fellow Wardens and Djinn onboard a hijacked luxury liner, Joanne has lured the storm into furious pursuit. But even their combined magic may not be enough to stop it—nor the power-mad ex-Weather Warden controlling it...

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt (Tor (Hardcover 07/21/2007) – Third book set in the universe Hunt created in The Court of the Air. Hunt, owner of SF Crowsnest has received some positive buzz about these steampunky books. Since this book in particular seems standalonish, I might jump into it.

Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilization of Camlantis, a legendary city from pre-history that is said to have conquered hunger, war, and disease with the creation of the perfect pacifist society. Without official funding, Amelia is forced to accept an offer of patronage from Abraham Quest, the man she blames for her father’s bankruptcy and suicide. She hates him, but he has something that Amelia desperately wants--evidence that proves that Camlantis existed and that the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sea-like lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli.

Amelia will blackmail her old friend Commodore Black into ferrying her along a huge river on his ancient U-boat. With an untrusty crew of freed convicts, Quest’s force of fearsome female mercenaries on board, and a lunatic steamman acting as their guide, Amelia’s luck seems to be going from bad to worse. Her quest for the perfect society has a good chance of bringing her own world to the brink of destruction…

The Kingdom Beyond The Waves is Stephen Hunt’s third novel, set in the same universe as The Court of the Air. Amelia Harsh is a female Indiana Jones if there ever was one, and this novel is a rollicking steampunk adventure that will hook readers for one dynamite ride.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Roc Trade Paperback 08/04/2009) – I’ve been wanting to read Kiernan for quite some time, and this book looks like a pretty good opportunity to do just that. She’s garnered some high praise and has worked with Neil Gaiman in the past.

Sarah Crowe left Atlanta, and the remnants of a tumultuous relationship, to live alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. Within its walls she discovers an unfinished manuscript written by the house's former tenant—a parapsychologist obsessed with the ancient oak growing on a desolate corner of the property. And as the gnarled tree takes root in her imagination, Sarah risks her health and her sanity to unearth a revelation planted centuries ago...

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Viking Hardcover 08/11 2009) – Lev Grossman is no stranger to fantasy and science fiction, he’s the book reviewer for Time magazine who dubbed George R.R. Martin “The American Tolkien” and runs the Nerd World blog for Time. The Magicians is his second novel and though it is explicitly fantasy in nature, it is being positioned with a great deal of mainstream appeal.

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he's still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin's fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren't black and white, love and sex aren't simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.

House of Windows by John Langan (NightShade Books Trade Paperback 08/15/2009) – I may have read a couple of Langan’s short stories, this is his (I think) debut novel.

From John Langan (Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters) comes House of Windows, a chilling novel in the tradition of Peter Straub, Joe Hill, and Laird Barron.

When a young writer finds himself cornered by a beautiful widow in the waning hours of a late-night cocktail party, he seeks at first to escape, to return to his wife and infant son, but the tale she weaves, of her missing husband, a renowned English professor, and her lost stepson, a soldier killed on a battlefield on the other side of the world, of phantasmal visions, a family curse, and a house... the Belvedere House, a striking mansion whose features suggest a face, hidden just out of view, draws him in, capturing him. What follows is a deeply psychological ghost story of memory and malediction, loss and remorse.

How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce (NightShade Books Hardcover 06/15/2009 / Trade Paperback 02/2010) – Joyce is a superb writer, what I’ve read by him, I enjoyed a great deal: The Tooth Fairy, Dreamside, and Dark Sister. Here’s what this one is about:

William Heaney is a man well acquainted with demons. Not his broken family - his wife has left him for a celebrity chef, his snobbish teenaged son despises him, and his daughter's new boyfriend resembles Nosferatu - nor his drinking problem, nor his unfulfilling government job, but real demons. For demons are real, and William has identified one thousand five hundred and sixty-seven smoky figures, dwelling on the shadowy fringes of human life, influencing our decisions with their sweet and poisoned voices. After a series of seemingly unconnected personal encounters - with a beautiful and captivating woman met in the company of an infuriating poet, a troubled and damaged veteran of Desert Storm with demons of his own, and an old school acquaintance with whom he shared a mystical occult ritual - William Heaney's life is thrown into a direction he does not fully comprehend. Past and present collide. Long-dormant choices and forgotten deceptions surface. Secrets threaten to become exposed. To weather the changes, William Heaney must learn one thing: how to make friends with demons.

Vanished (Greywalker #4) by Kat Richardson (Roc Hardcover 08/04/2009) – Fourth book in an Urban Fantasy series about a P.I. who was dead for a couple of minutes and can now see things. Richardson is a another fine example of Roc “promoting” an author to hardcover.

Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker—walking the line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she's discovering that her new abilities are landing her in all sorts of "strange cases."

But for Harper, her own case may prove the most difficult to solve. Why did she—as opposed to others with near-death experiences—become a Greywalker? When Harper digs into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father's early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. Forced by some very demanding vampires to take on an investigation in London, she soon discovers her present troubles in England are entangled with her dark past back in Seattle—and her ultimate destiny as a Greywalker.

Treason’s Shore (Inda #4) by Shrewood Smith (DAW Harddcover 08/04/2009) – I’ve been kind of intrigued by this set of books since the first volume was published a few years ago, I’ve seen good things about them and Smith has a pretty informative and interesting blog/LiveJournal. The series even has a dedicated Wiki. Here’s the blurbage:

Inda, fresh from his triumph on the battlefield against the Venn, takes his place beside King Evred as Harskialdna, the King's Shield. But the Venn are far from defeated and only Inda's fame is strong enough to inspire all the squabbling kingdoms to unite and raise a force mighty enough to protect the strait and repel the enemy. Evred has also ordered Inda to take over the strait once the battle is won, but Inda, a former pirate, knows that this is a very bad idea. Now Inda must choose between obeying his liege—or committing treason.

Lightbreaker (The Codex of Souls #1) by Mark Teppo (NightShade Books Mass Market Paperback 05/18/2009) – First time author Mark Teppo launches an intriguing Urban Fantasy that has already garnered some positive reviews. Teppo is the second or third of NightShade’s mass-market original authors.

Markham has returned to Seattle, searching for Katarina, the girl who, a decade ago, touched his soul, literally tearing it from his body. But what he discovers upon arriving is dark magick - of a most ancient and destructive kind!

An encounter with a desperate spirit, leaping destructively from host to host, sets Markham on the trail of secretive cabal of magicians seeking to punch a hole through heaven, extinguishing forever the divine spark. Armed with the Chorus, a phantasmal chain of human souls he wields as a weapon of will, Markham must engage in a magickal battle with earth-shattering stakes!

Markum must delve deep into his past, calling on every aspect of his occult training for there to be any hope of a future. But delve he must, for Markham is a veneficus, a spirit thief, the Lightbreaker...

Crystal Healer (Stardoc #9) by S.L. Viehl (Roc Mass Market Paperback 08/04/2009) – Viehl is an extremely prolific writer, with several current series under multiple pseudonyms, with the Stardoc series being her foot in Science Fiction

Genetically engineered interstellar surgeon Dr. Cherijo Torin, her husband Duncan Reever, and a handpicked crew journey to the planet oKia to locate a strange black mineral that is the source of an intergalactic epidemic. When one of the crew members becomes infected, his body slowly begins to crystallize. While Cherijo races to save the crew member, mercenaries arrive in the oKia system, wanting Cherijo's genes—and her near immortality. It will take all of her abilities to elude the mercenaries and discover the black crystal's secrets before it's too late.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Wake by Robert J. Sawyer - Reviewed

Robert J. Sawyer is one of the genre’s most recognized and decorated writers with a lot of his novels having either been nominated or receiving genre awards. I’ve read a couple of his books and enjoyed them (Factoring Humanity and Starplex) so I was pleased to receive a review copy of his latest. Sawyer’s one of those authors I enjoyed, but just never managed to pick up again. That said, I posted my review of that latest book Wake, the first novel in his new WWW trilogy yesterday. Ace is very much behind this book in a strong way, with a nice dedicated site to the series: and Rob (as he does for all of his books) has a nice page for the book on his Web site:

Anyway, here’s the usual snippet from my review:
Wake centers on Caitlin Decter a young girl blind from birth. Despite this handicap and moving from Texas to Canada, she has adjusted pretty well and is able to browse the internet through a text-to-voice interface that reads the Web pages to her. One day, she receives a promising message about a new technology developed in Japan that might allow her to finally see. What she gets is not exactly the vision for which she hoped, for this procedure allows here to see the connections of the World Wide Web, which she comes to call her Websight. She begins to see something else though, something that respond, something that seemingly has free will and the ability to act on its own.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 07/04/2009)

It's time for the usual Sunday post where I inform my faithful readers of the books that arrived on my doorstep/in front of my garage/in my mailbox the prior week. With the holiday, it was a pretty slow week. Here goes...

Zadayi Red by Caleb Fox (Tor Hardcover 07/07/2009) – A debut novel publishing in hardcover from Tor is a good sign for this Native American flavored fantasy.

A young Shaman of the Galayi people has had a powerful and frightening vision: it is of the Eagle Feather Cape, the gift of the Thunderbird, which is worn by the Seer of the People to see the future and gain the guidance of the gods. The cape is torn and bloody, and it will no longer bring visions to the Seer of the People. But the Shaman's vision also tells her of the cure: a child will be born to the People, a hero who will restore the cape and return the goodwill of the gods to the People.

Dahzi may be that hero, if he can survive the hatred of his grandfather. He was born after his mother’s death, as she fled from her father’s anger. But Dahzi carries the hope of all of his People, along with the power to become a great Chief. He will be tested--by his family, by his people, and by the Gods.

Zadayi Red is a magnificent retelling of a Cherokee legend. It brings to life an ancient people and a time of magic in a warm and intimate storyteller’s voice.

Not Less Than Gods (A novel of Company) by Kage Baker (Subterranean Press Signed/Numbered (limited to 474) Hardcover 12/17/2009) – Victorian Steampunky goodness from a writer who revels in such stories. This novel takes place in the same universe as Baker’s popular Company novels and stories.

On a dark evening in 1824, a lady is offered a ride home in the carriage of a dark and mysterious stranger and a boy is conceived, to the strains of Beethoven's brand-new setting to the Ode to Joy. Groomed from childhood to become a perfect British hero, young Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax proceeds uncertainly through public school, a career in the navy, mutiny and court-martial before discovering his true place in life. There is, in Whitehall, a comfortable and slightly shabby club called Redking's. Downstairs from Redking's, however, is concealed the London headquarters of the Gentlemen's Speculative Society... a centuries-old fraternity devoted to the development of what its members call Technologia. Their goal is to bring about a Utopian paradise of science, through the manipulation of men and governments. Edward, as one of their agents, sets off on an odyssey across 19th-century Europe, encountering on the way flying machines, self-propelled carriages, and an Underground Galvanic Railway... and learns that the Society, in its various disguises, is everywhere.