Friday, April 30, 2010

Martin's Wild and Weber's Dark

Like many people, I become a fan of George R.R. Martin because of his A Song of Ice and Fire saga. Reading this led me to some of his back list Dying of the Light, Fevre Dream as well as his prodigious short-story output, many of which have been included in several reprint anthologies. Although A Song of Ice and Fire has garnered him his most recent, and perhaps highest profile acclaim, as many genre fans know he had a very good reputation prior to ASOIAF and was nominated many times in the past for his SF and short stories, and rightfully so.

As “Tales from the Spinner Rack,” his intro to Warriors, indicates he was always a comic book fan. This leads me to the past project he oversaw which I’d always wanted to catch-up with was his shared-world series Wild Cards. As a lifetime comic book fan, this series about superheroes seems a natural for me and Tor will be reissuing the series this November with Wild Cards I. Aidan posting the Tor Catalogue led me to the discover of the pending imprint, so kudos to him.

I’ve been listening to the Dragon Page podcasts for the better part of the past year and find the hosts, Michael A. Stackpole and Michael R. Mennenga. Their latest episode features…you guessed it George R.R. Martin. Not a lot of stuff new to people who have been keeping up with the various updates and discussions on the intarwebs, but a nice interview nonetheless.

Also in the catalogue is Out of the Dark , the expansion of David Weber’s short story from the aforementioned Warriors. I thought the story one of the strongest in the anthology and was pleased to learn it will be a novel and series. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been coming ‘round to David Weber in the past couple of years and this story was a lot of fun. His Honor Harrington series; on the other hand, is a bit daunting to jump into at 15+ volumes.

To circle back to Dragon Page, I’d highly recommend listening to their feature on David Weber

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wake and Shadows

Just one new review at SFFWorld this week - Watch by Robert J. Sawyer. While I enjoyed the book, it felt, I don’t know a bit thin. I remark on this in my review, but I get the sense that these three books really could have been one novel.

One narrative trick Sawyer plays in Watch is effective. The majority is told in a third person omniscient POV, while the remainder is from Webmind’s first person narrative. This provides more insight into the growing life form and Sawyer captured the alien-ness of Webmind fairly well. Having only humans after which to model himself, it’s only natural for the artificial intelligence to be somewhat humanistic.

There is something almost naïve about Webmind’s development as a sentient and intelligent being. To be guided by a young relatively well-adjusted girl whose parents are scientists is a bit too optimistic a thing for which to hope and impinges a bit on the story’s credibility – things are a bit too convenient.

This convenience is tempered by the aforementioned WATCH, whose basic mission statement is the responsibility of shutting down any artificial intelligence that evolves and develops. While this group makes attempts at ‘killing’ Webmind, they aren’t fast enough and decide at a point where Webmind can outpace their fail-safes and still survive despite their attempts.

I’ve been catching up with Tad Williams Shadowmarch saga over the past couple of weeks having finished Shadowplay last week and soon I’ll be starting Shadowrise. Although I read Dragons of Ordinary Farm the YA novel he wrote with his wife that I really enjoyed, the Shadowmarch saga is the type of grand, epic sweeping saga for which he is famous.

I enjoyed Shadowplay and may have a review for it in the near future and hope to have an interview with Tad posted to SFFWorld in the near future.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/24/2010)

A random of assortment of SFF goodness this week...

The Hounds of Avalon by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback 04/11/2010) – Third book in the Chadbourn’s trilogy, itself a sequel trilogy to Age of Misrule which I read and enjoyed last year.

The Hounds of Avalon are coming....

For these are the twilight days, when eternal winter falls and the gods destroy themselves in civil war ... when an invasion force of ghastly power threatens to eradicate all life.

Humanity's last chance lies with two friends, as different as night and day, but bound together by an awesome destiny.

Hunter: a warrior, a rake, an assassin; Hal: a lowly records clerk in a Government office. They must pierce a mystery surrounding the myths of King Arthur to find the dreaming hero who will ride out of the mists of legend to save the world.

But time is running out, for when the Hounds of Avalon appear, all hope is lost....

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Pyr Hardcover 07/10/2010) – McDonald is one of Pyr’s great success stories both in terms of the reissues and new novels – his books and stories have been nominated for quite a few awards and won some others. I thoroughly enjoyed River of Gods, Mark and Art liked Brasyl, and Dan liked Desolation Road

It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.

Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

Gas is power. But its power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.

The ancient power struggled between Sunni and Shia threatens like a storm: Ankara has watched the Middle East emerge from twenty-five years of sectarian conflict. So far it has stayed aloof. A populist Prime Minister has called a referendum on EU membership. Tensions run high. The army watches, hand on holster. And a Galatasary Champions' League football game against Arsenal stokes passions even higher.

The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, three interconnected story strands, one central common core--the eponymous dervish house, a character in itself--that pins all these players together in a weave of intrigue, conflict, drama and a ticking clock of a thriller.

The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia by Phil Jimenez and John Wells (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/27/2010) – I’ve been reading Wonder Woman on and off over the years, particularly enjoying what Greg Rucka and George Perez did with the character. This is a hefty, exhaustive tome that only falls short of the Essential tag by being mostly black and white, but I think that’s the standard for these Del Rey/DC Comics partnerships.


She’s as beautiful as Aphrodite and as wise as Athena, stronger then Hercules and swifter than Hermes. Blessed at birth by the gods themselves, Princess Diana left an idyllic island paradise ruled by wise and brave women to bring the peace, love, and nobility of the Amazons to the tumultuous world of humankind. In January 1942, Wonder Woman took the world of comics—and its pantheon of superpowered males—by storm. Wielding her impervious silver bracelets and golden Lasso of Truth, she’s battled forces of evil from the Axis powers to a slew of super-villains worldwide, teamed up with the likes of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash, and become a high-flying feminist icon and pop-culture superstar. Now, for the first time in more than thirty years, here’s a definitive A-to-Z volume that draws together all the knowledge about the star-spangled, action-packed history of Wonder Woman. In more than 400 fact-packed pages you’ll find

• The complete story of Wonder Woman’s origins, as imagined and reinterpreted by generations of comics writers—including her groundbreaking creator, William Moulton Marston
• Biographies of every major character in Wonder Woman’s universe, including her mother, Hippolyta; sister, Donna Troy; and mortal ally Steve Trevor—as well as such classic foes as Ares, Cheetah, Hades, and the members of Villainy Inc.
• Classic black-and-white comic book artwork throughout
• Two sixteen-page full-color artwork inserts—plus a dazzling original cover illustration by fan-favorite artist Adam Hughes

Written by veteran Wonder Woman artist and writer Phil Jimenez and comics historian John Wells, The Essential Wonder Woman Encyclopedia is the ultimate archive, proving that die-hard devotees of the gorgeous go-to goddess don’t have to visit Paradise Island for a taste of heaven on earth.

The Bear (Saga of the First King #2) by R.A. Salvatore (Tor Hardcover 08/17/2010) – I read the first of this new series The Ancient a couple of years ago but never made my way to the second.

A new adventure set in New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore’s popular world of Corona

The war of Honce drags on, and the roads and seas are littered with bodies. To everyone’s stunned disbelief, Yeslnik the Fool has tipped the war’s scales in his favor. The reign of the newly self-appointed King Yeslnik is already distinguished as the most bloody and merciless in Honce history.

Trapped, Dame Gwydre and Father Artolivan concoct a desperate plot to join forces with Laird Ethelbert, the lesser of two vicious evils. But Ethelbert’s paid assassins slew Jameston Sequin and nearly did the same to Bransen.

Embittered by it all, Bransen seeks to extricate himself from the selfish goals of all other combatants. But in an odd twist of fate and crossed loyalties, Bransen sees in his old nemesis, Bannagran — the Bear of Honce and the man who slew his adoptive father — a darker image of his own heart. Allies and battle lines become tangled, motives grow indistinguishable as old friends become enemies and old enemies become allies..

Wolf’s Cross by S. A. Swann (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 7/27/2010) – I read Wolfbreed last year and really enjoyed it and was pleased to know of this sequel..

S. A. Swann continues to reinvent the werewolf myth in this fantastic new novel set in the medieval world of the celebrated Wolfbreed. Like its predecessor, Wolf’s Cross is unafraid to cross boundaries and break taboos to tell an unforgettable story of romance and adventure that will forever change how you think about werewolves.

Maria lives a simple life in a small Polish village, working for the lord of the nearby fortress. Motherless since birth, Maria has been raised by her father and stepmother. Around her neck she wears—as she has always worn—a silver crucifix, to protect her from the devil. Or so her father tells her.

But when a contingent of badly mauled Teutonic knights, including a handsome and gravely wounded young man named Josef, ask for succor at the fortress, Maria’s quiet and comfortable world shatters. For the knights are Wolfjägers, an order dedicated to the extermination of werewolves, and Maria, unknowingly, is one of the creatures they hunt. Only the crucifix about her neck prevents her body from changing into a lethal killing machine.

When Maria meets Darien, a wolfbreed bent on exacting a terrible revenge on humans, she will learn the truth about herself, and find her loyalties—and her heart—torn in two.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spells and Favors - Two New Reviews

Another week another couple of reviews up at SFFWorld this past week.

My contribution is a review of a debut that comes with some advance praise/buzz, Spellwright by Blake Charlton. I think the rash of knock-it-out-of-the-park debuts over the past few years raised unfair expectations on this one, but I still enjoyed it:

Like all good world-building, the world is much of a character itself with a deep history and a seeming richness beyond the small college of magic on which Charlton focuses the novel. Though the novel primarily takes place in Starhaven, the hints to the world at large and the history of the Chthonic race who established many of the rules of magic help to enrich the story and lend weight to the world.

While the novel is dressed up as a fantasy, some of the other layers are mystery and horror. The deaths at Starhaven and search for murderer provide one nice flavor, while the dreams that haunt Nicodemus provide the horror flavor. The novel is paced quite well, with short chapters and a lot occurring in those chapters. Charlton’s ability to convey a lot of story with a relative small number of words is impressive. Charlton resolves the tale he set out to tell with this novel, but Spellwright is obviously the first of a larger series.

Mark reviewed Small Favor, the 10th book in the Dresden Files saga by Jim Butcher:

This book shows Jim cleverly plotting and leading the reader a merry dance as we relentlessly move from one situation to another. The number of characters now involved in the series is now quite lengthy and the links to earlier books more complex, though I guess most readers will not be starting here in the series. For those of us who’ve been here a while, its good fun to see how they all fit into the plotline.


As we get deeper into some of the issues that make Harry’s life and background so complex, the pages continued to turn rapidly. This is one of the fastest moving Dresdens to date, starting quickly and then moving up gears rapidly. The set scenes at Chicago Airport and the Aquarium are very well done, as too the grand finale.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/17/2010)

A step down in quantity this week’s books received, but some nifty looking books nonetheless.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow (Tor Hardcover 05/11/2010) – I really enjoyed Dorctorow’s Little Brother. and thought it the best SF book I read in 2008. This one sounds just as fun:

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual “gold,” jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.” In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power—including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once—a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

Imbued with the same lively, subversive spirit and thrilling storytelling that made LITTLE BROTHER an international sensation, FOR THE WIN is a prophetic and inspiring call-to-arms for a new generation.

Legends of the Space Marines (A Warhammer 40,000 anthology) by Christian Dunn (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 04/27/2010) – Anthology feature BL mainstays as well as Paul Kearney.

Space Marines and their evil counterparts, the Traitor Marines, epitomize the war-torn Warhammer 40,000 universe. This short story collection focuses entirely on these superhuman warriors, telling high-action tales of heroism and savagery. Combining the talents of Black Library favorite authors such as Mike Lee and Nick Kyme with hot new talent, this collection is not to be missed

Pinion by Jay Lake (Tor Hardcover 03/30/2010) – Third in Lake’s well-received “clockpunk” series. I haven’t read the previous, but have enjoyed the short fiction from Lake I’ve read.

The third volume in Jay Lake’s Clockwork Earth series continues the story of Paolina Barthes, Emily Childress, and Boaz the mechanical man as each seeks control of their destiny.

The City and the City by China Miéville (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/27/2010) – This is the third version of the book I have, including an ARC of the Subterranean Press limited edition and a signed hardcover. Hobbit enjoyed this quite a bit last year.

New York Times bestselling author China Miéville delivers his most accomplished novel yet, an existential thriller set in a city unlike any other–real or imagined.

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights

Brunner the Bounty Hunter by C.L. Werner (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 04/27/2010) – Again, Black Library continues to omnibify©® their back list. I’ve sampled some of the the WH40K stuff and maybe this omnibus will be a good entry for their fantasy worlds.

This is the dark saga of the ruthless bounty hunter who goes by the name of Brunner. Goblins, vampires, outlaws and even dragons – they're all fair game for this dark hero's blade. Across the length and breadth of the grim Warhammer Old World, Brunner plies his trade, tracking down and killing monsters. But he also faces challenges from within his own dubious profession as a rival hunter stakes a claim to his bounty.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Buchanan, Moorcock, McAuley, and Roberson reviewed at SFFWorld

Four big reviews at SFFWorld this past week, all from the most recent usual suspects (Art, Mark, Dan, and me).

Art reviewed the second in Tor’s attractive reissues of Moorcock’s seminal Hawkmoon saga, The Mad God's Amulet:

The Mad God's Amulet picks up where The Jewel in the Skull left off, with Hawkmoon and his hirsute companion Oladahn in the Middle East, Hawkmoon having rid himself of the jewel's curse and eager to return to France, Kamarg, and his betrothed Yisselda. Traveling through the desert, they come upon the ruins of an ancient city called Soryandum, but before Hawkmoon and Oladahn have a chance to investigate it, they are captured by a Granbretan regiment l ed by the Frenchman Huillam D'Averc. Mysterious wraithlike beings, the original occupants of the city, offer to help Hawkmoon and Oladahn escape from the Granbretans if they will obtain for them an artifact that will allow the beings to save Soryandum from being razed by Granbretan. What follows is a series of adventures as Hawkmoon and Oladahn make their way back to Kamarg through Granbretan-occupied lands, are waylaid by pirates and the cult of the Mad God, and search for Yisselda, whom the Granbretans finally succeeded in kidnapping. Along the way they are first pursued and then joined by D'Averc, whose skill with the blade, urbanity and fluid loyalty make him one of the most entertaining characters in the series.
Mark reviewed a book that’s been buzzing about the intarwebs recently Farlander by Col Buchanan:

Pleasingly though, there was a point in the book about halfway through where things changed. The murder of Rianna by Kirkus, leads to a vendetta killing being instigated, as she was under protection of the Roshun. Ash and Nico, with Nico’s co-trainee friend Aleas and Ash’s uneasy colleague Barachas volunteer to take on the dangerous mission and avenge her death for the Roshun. The book, like Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold, becomes focused as a tale of revenge.

Now with this impetus, the book kicked up a gear. Characters started to have meaning, the dialogue became less excruciating and the action scenes kept things moving along, as long as I didn’t think about things too much. (A lot of the problems in the book could’ve been solved by using airships, it seems to me, for one.)

Dan reviewed Gardens of the Sun the conclusion to Paul McAuley's duology which began with The Quiet War:

The folk in the Outer Worlds tend to work at the far ends of a liberal spectrum while the folk on Earth work at the far end of a conservative spectrum. The Outer Worlds’ experiments have led to life spans ranging to two hundred years and cuts to their bodies to make them individually unique. A cut can be anything from the nip-and-tuck that we are familiar with to a radical gene modification.

In order to make the distances manageable, Sri Hong-Owen’s labs, in The Quiet War, came up with a fusion motor that drives space ships at really fast speeds enabling the players to get to any place in the Solar System quick.

I’ve enjoyed the novels I’ve read Chris Roberson thus far as well as the small sampling of Warhammer 40,000 fiction I’ve read. Logic would dictate that I’d enjoy Roberson writing Warhammer 40,000. This truth is born out in my review of Sons of Dorn:

Though not told in the first person, Roberson emulates Starship Troopers in that Sons of Dorn follows the three recruits and former enemies through the training, through indoctrination, though the Pain Glove, through the history to their graduation as Space Marines the Adeptus Astartes. In this respect, the storyline is familiar, but it allows Roberson to flesh out the mythology of the Astartes, while also fleshing out the three recruits.

Along with the indoctrination of the three recruits, the novel also follows the story of Taelos, the captain and primary authority figure throughout the novel. His story is something of a redemption story, but nicely parallels the growth of s’Tonan, Zan, and du Queste.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/10/2010)

A big week with a lot of the May Releases from the Penguin Imprints plus some other odds and ends:

Ark by Stephen Baxter (Roc Hardcover 05/04/2010) – Hobbit/Mark read and enjoyed the first in this duology a couple of years ago.. Now that I have both books, maybe I’ll get to them.

With the discovery of another life-sustaining planet light years away, there is hope for a chosen few to leave the soon-to-be submerged Earth. Holle Groundwater is one of the candidates, having been trained for this purpose since childhood, when the ships Ark One and Ark Three were being built. But as Holle prepares to endure life aboard the Ark, she comes to realize that her attempt at escape may be more dangerous than trying to stay afloat on a drowning planet...

The Loving Dead by Amanda Beamer (NightShade Books Trade Paperback 07/14/2010)– Zombie love sotry

Kate and Michael are roommates living in the Oakland hills, working at the same Trader Joes supermarket. A night of drunken revelry changes their lives forever, but not in the way that anyone would expect. A slow-spreading plague of zombie-ism breaks out at their house party, spreading amongst their circle of friends, and simultaneously through the Bay Area. This zombie plague - an STD of sorts - is spread through sex and kissing, turning its victims into mindless, horny, voracious killers. Thrust into extremes by this slow- motion tragedy, Kate and Michael are forced to confront the choices they've made in their lives, and their fears of commitment, while trying to stay alive and reunite in the one place in the Bay Area that's likely to be safe and secure from the zombie hoards: Alcatraz.

Ghosts and Echoes (A Shadows Inquiries #2) by Lyn Benedict (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/04/2010) – Second in a series, where “The things that go bump in the night are real. Werewolves stalk the Everglades, legends hide in modern form, and even the old gods may occasionally make an appearance.”

Sylvie is back from vacation, and all she wants out of life right now is for the Magicus Mundi to leave her alone for a bit. No dead things, no mayhem, no life-and-death struggles. Just because Sylvie managed to take some time off doesn't mean that the Magicus Mundi has to follow her example, though, and it's been piling things up on her doorstep while she was away.

Still, she can pick and choose her cases, right? Solving a string of burglaries sounds perfect--mind-numbingly boring and mundane. Until you throw in Sylvie's missing sister, a generous helping of necromancy, and a Chicago cop possessed by a disturbingly familiar spirit.

As the Rolling Stones sang, "You can't always get what you want."

Conspirator (Foreigner #10) by C. J. Cherryh (DAW Mass Market Paperback 05/04/2010) – This is the first of a new trilogy set in Cherryh’s Foreigner universe of books and the 10th overall and the MMPB version of the hardcover I received exactly a year a go.

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

Deceiver (Foreigner #11) by C. J. Cherryh (DAW Hardcover 05/04/2010) – If nothing else, Cherryh maintains an impressive schedule of output, this is the 11th in the series for which I received the 10th exactly a year ago.

The civil war among the alien Atevi has ended. Tabini-aiji, powerful ruler of the Western Association, along with Cajeiri, his son and heir, has returned to the Bujavid, his seat of power. But factions that remain loyal to the opposition are still present, and the danger these rebels pose is far from over.

Starfishers Volume Two of The Starfishers Trilogy by Glen Cook (Night Shade Books, Trade Paperback 04/09/2010) – Night Shade continues to re-issue program Glen Cook’s backlist in these attractive trade paperbacks. I’ve a feeling I’ll be reading quite a bit of Glen Cook this year and since I’ve hankering for SF with a Space Opera feel.

Starfish: Treasure troves of power. They were creatures of fusion energy, ancient, huge, intelligent, drifting in herds on the edge of the galaxy, producing their ambergris, the substance precious to man and the man-like Sangaree alike. In deep, starless space the herds were protected by the great harvestships of the Seiners, or Starfishers - the independent, non-Confederation people who dared to skirt the deadly boundaries of Stars' End and battle the Sangaree. It is with them on the harvestship Danion that Confederation agents Mouse Storm and Moyshe BenRabi have to fly and fight, probing mystery and myth. And where BenRabi, man of many names, must surrender his dreams and his mind itself to the golden dragons of space and their shepherds, the gathering... Starfishers.

The Dragon and the Stars edited by Derwin Makand Eric Choi (DAW Paperback 05/04/2010) – The DAW monthly anthology for May, featuring stories about Chinese/Asian Dragons.

This unique collection of science fiction tales demonstrates the diversity of the Chinese experience around the world, merging China's rich heritage with new traditions, offering North American readers an opportunity to discover these exciting writers.

The Sweet Scent of Blood ( #1) by Suzanne McLeod (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/04/2010) – Mark reviewed this when it published in the UK in 2008:

Genevieve Taylor is a Sidhe-one of the noble fae-and she's unusual, even in a London where celebrity vampires, eccentric goblins, and scheming lesser fae mix freely with humanity. But she's about to learn that some magive isn't all its cracked up to be.

Kraken by China Miéville (Del Rey Hardcover 06/29/2010) – Mieville channeling Lovecraft – ‘NUFF SAID!

With this outrageous new novel, China Miéville has written one of the strangest, funniest, and flat-out scariest books you will read this—or any other—year. The London that comes to life in Kraken is a weird metropolis awash in secret currents of myth and magic, where criminals, police, cultists, and wizards are locked in a war to bring about—or prevent—the End of All Things.

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery

with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.

Magic in the Shadows (Allie Beckstrom #3) by Devon Monk (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/04/2010) – I read the first book by Monk in this series, Magic to the Bone, way back in 2008, boy does time fly.

Allison Beckstrom's magic has taken its toll on her, physically marking her and erasing her memories-including those of the man she supposedly loves. But lost memories aren't the only things preying on Allie's thoughts.

Her late father, the prominent businessman-and sorcerer-Daniel Beckstrom, has somehow channeled himself into her very mind. With the help of The Authority, a secret organization of magic users, she hopes to gain better control over her own abilities-and find a way to deal with her father...

Redemption Corps (Warhammer 40,000/Imperial Guad) by Rob Sanders (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 04/23/2010) – This is Sanders debut novel set in the same sub series as Aaron Dembeski-Bowden’s well-received Cadian Blood

Redemption Corps is the latest Imperial Guard novel from debut author, Rob Sanders, featuring an elite regiment of SAS type stromtroopers. The Redemption Corps must fight the enemies of the imperium as well as internal foes who fear that chaos has tainted the hard bitten Col of the Regiment Mortensen. Full of characters, action and twists.

Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares #4) by Lisa Shearin – (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/04/2010) – This is the fourth book in a fantasy/mystery/Renaissance hybrid.

Raine Benares is a seeker. She finds lost things and missing people- usually alive. But now she's been bonde with the Saghred, a soul- stealing stone of unlimited power, and must hunt down its escapees. Especially since one of them is also hunting her...

Fritz Leiber: Selected stories edited by Jonathan Strahan and Charles N. Brown (NightShade Books, Hardcover April 2009) – Leiber is one of the greats of the genre’s golden age, with the ability to switch gears between genres in a hearbeat.

Known in his lifetime primarily to readers of science fiction and fantasy, Fritz Leiber is now recognized as one of the finest writers of popular fiction of the twentieth century. An intimate of H. P. Lovecraft, Leiber crafted the twentieth century's first great stories of urban horror, created the sword and sorcery tale almost single-handedly, and wrote strong, resonant science fiction. Nothing less than a visionary American author, Leiber is considered by critics and fans alike to be one of our most original and versatile storytellers.

The seventeen tales selected for this volume showcase Leiber's virtuoso range and unforgettable characters: from the fabled, decadent streets of god-haunted Lankhmar to the eerie underworld of a Martian gambling hall; from a sunless, frozen Earth to the shattered, bombed, and violent wreckage of a post-atomic New York, and beyond. Edited by master anthologist Jonathan Strahan and Locus magazine founder Charles N. Brown, Fritz Leiber: Selected Stories presents a wide sampling of his best short fiction so that a new generation of twenty-first century readers can continue to discover and enjoy his groundbreaking and memorable fiction.


Introduction by Neil Gaiman / Smoke Ghost / The Girl with the Hungry Eyes / Coming Attraction / A Pail of Air / A Deskful of Girls /Space Time for Springers / Ill Met in Lankhmar / Four Ghosts in Hamlet / Gonna Roll the Bones / The Inner Circles (aka The Winter Flies) / America the Beautiful / Bazaar of the Bizarre / Midnight by the Morphy Watch / Belsen Express / Catch That Zeppelin! / Horrible Imaginings / The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chadbourn Reviewed and Moon Interviewed

I posted my latest review to SFFWorld yesterday, The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn

The story here concerns finding a missing weapon that can possibly turn the tide of the war in which England is embroiled. Although the novel takes place in the 1500s the enemy in question is not quite Spain, it is the Unseelie Court and the world of faerie. This has mostly been a hidden war for many years, but Swyfte is at the forefront of the battle lines. Swyfte has a bit of James Bond, and maybe with his sidekick Nat, something of a Holmes/Watson feel. In other words, Chadbourn hits some familiar notes with his protagonist, but he adds enough to make Swyfte more than a rehash of his fiction spy/sleuth peers.

Though not explicitly stated, this novel and the series which it launches, Swords of Albion, seems to be set in the same world as Chadbourn’s earlier novels – Age of Misrule. In that series set in modern day, the protagonists attempted to thwart the emerging threat of magical beings like dragons and fae creatures.

Mark and I tag teamed, or rather Mark did a lot of the leg-work and I provided a couple of questions, in an interview with Elizabeth Moon, which was posted to SFFWorld late last week.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 04/03/2010

Some really nice looking books from PYR in this big week of arrivals:

Neverland by Douglas Clegg (Vanguard Press, Paperback 04/16/2010) –I really enjoyed Isis, by Clegg last year. This is a reissue of one of his early novels, which has garnered some nice praise over the years.

Beau Jackson and his cousin Sumter were only six when they first met. But even then, Beau recognized his cousin's obsession with evil. Every summer, Beau and Sumter vacation with their families on the dreary bluffs of Gull Island, and every year Beau watches as his cousin grows increasingly more powerful. But nothing prepares him for the terror that emerges when Sumter introduces him to Neverland, the place where grownups are forbidden and Sumter reigns supreme. In Neverland, the boys and their sisters escape their parents' authority, only to discover a nightmarish world of garish rituals, evil games, and ultimate bloodshed.

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc, Hardcover 04/27/2010) – Kay is a magnificent writer, I’ve read about 1/3 to ½ of what he’s written and I wasn’t disappointed by any of it. This will be his first novel since the World Fantasy Award winning Ysabel and is the final version of the ARC I received at the end of January.

Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire’s last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.

To honour his father’s memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.

The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.

It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead.

You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor.

Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace – and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

Shades of Gray (The Icarus Project #2) by Jackie Kessler & Caitlin Kittredge (Bantam Spectra, Trade Paperback 06/22/2010) – Second in a fantasy series about superheroes, the first of which I don’t have or haven’t read


Jet and Iridium—best friends turned bitter enemies—teamed up to foil the evil plans of the rogue superhero known as Night, but in defeating him they inadvertently destroyed the secret Corp-Co transmitter whose frequency kept the metapowered heroes of the Squadron in line. Now these heroes have turned against New Chicago, ransacking the city they once protected.

Even worse, the powerful antisuperhero group known as Everyman has taken advantage of the chaos to fan the flames of prejudice against all superpowered men and women. Just when New Chicago needs them most, Jet and the small band of heroes who have remained on the right side of the law find themselves the targets of suspicion and outright hatred.

Things aren’t going much better for Iridium. When she springs her father, a notorious supervillain, from prison to help her fight the marauding ex-superheroes, she finds that Corp-Co still has some nasty tricks up its sleeve.

But when the most dangerous man alive, the sociopath known as Doctor Hypnotic, suddenly surfaces, Jet and Iridium will once again be called upon to set aside their differences. Yet in the process, deeply buried secrets will come to light that will change everything the former best friends think they know about each other and themselves.

Ghosts of Manhattan by George Mann (Pyr , Trade Paperback 04/13/2010) – I’ve been seeing interesting things about Mann’s writing for a while, this is a superhero steampunk mash up that sounds like a lot of fun. The cover very much evokes Will Eisner’s The Spirit and actually reminds me of The Gray Ghost from the great Batman: Animated Series from the 90s.

1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters, and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. It is a time for The Ghost. A series of targeted murders are occurring all over the city, the victims found with ancient Roman coins placed on their eyelids after death. The trail appears to lead to a group of Italian American gangsters and their boss, who the mobsters have dubbed "The Roman." However, as The Ghost soon discovers, there is more to The Roman than at first appears, and more bizarre happenings that he soon links to the man, including moss-golems posing as mobsters and a plot to bring an ancient pagan god into the physical world in a cavern beneath the city. As The Ghost draws nearer to The Roman and the center of his dangerous web, he must battle with foes both physical and supernatural and call on help from the most unexpected of quarters if he is to stop The Roman and halt the imminent destruction of the city.

Ares Express by Ian McDonald (Pyr Trade Paperback April 2010) – Sequel/set in the same world as Desolation Road and have read some of his shorts, Dan reviewed (and thought very favorably) of Desolation Road.

A Mars of the imagination, like no other, in a colorful, witty SF novel, taking place in the kaleidoscopic future of Ian McDonald's Desolation Road, Ares Express is set on a terraformed Mars where fusion-powered locomotives run along the network of rails that is the planet's circulatory system and artificial intelligences reconfigure reality billions of times each second. One young woman, Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Asiim 12th, becomes the person upon whom the future—or futures—of Mars depends. Big, picaresque, funny; taking the Mars of Ray Bradbury and the more recent, terraformed Marses of authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Bear, Ares Express is a wild and woolly magic-realist SF novel, featuring lots of bizarre philosophies, strange, mind-stretching ideas, and trains as big as city blocks.

Well of Sorrows by Benjamin Tate (DAW , Trade Paperback 05/04/2010) –Debut fantasy which has an interesting premise, a book that seems to be flying under the radar.

An epic tale of a continent on the brink of war, and a deadly magic that waits to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Colin Harten and his parents had fled across the ocean to escape the Family wars in Andover. But trouble followed them and their fellow refugees to this new land, forcing them to abandon the settled areas and head into unexplored territory-the sacred grounds of a race of underground dwellers and warriors. It was here that they would meet their doom. Driven to the borders of a dark forest, they were attacked by mysterious Shadow creatures who fed on life force. Only Colin survived to find his way to the Well of Sorrows-and to a destiny that might prove the last hope for peace in this troubled land.

Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt 2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr , Trade Paperback 04/13/2010) – One (of the many) things Lou Anders and the fine folks at Pyr have been very good at doing is rolling out these trilogies in monthly succession. It worked great for Mark Chadbourn and James Barclay and I suspect it will work well for Adrian Tchaikovsky. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen and read good things about this series of book. This is an ARC of the 2nd book of the series.

The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark, which is even now preparing for siege. Within its walls Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden take a stand, against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen.

After his earlier victory against them, the Empire's secret service has decided that veteran artificer Stenwold Maker is too dangerous to live. So disgraced Major Thalric is dispatched on a desperate mission, not only to eliminate Stenwold himself but to bring about the destruction of his beloved city of Collegium, and thus end all hope of intelligent resistance to the remorseless imperial advance.

While the Empire's troops are laying waste all in their way, the young Emperor himself is treading a different path. His thoughts are on darker things than mere conquest, however, and if he attains his goal he will precipitate a reign of blood that will last a thousand years.

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Tor, Hardcover 04/13/2010) – Debut novel featuring ghosts and Nazi ubermen against British Demons. This sounds really cool.

It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.