Sunday, May 30, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 05/29/2010)

BEA, the annual Book Publishing Conference was this week and we are approaching the Memorial Day Weekend. So 1 + 1 = 2, with 2 being a relatively slow week of arrivals at the ‘o Stuff.

Twelve (Book 1 of the Danilov Quintent) by Jasper Kent (Pyr Trade Paperback 09/01/2010) – This book received a fair amount of praise when it was published in the UK in January 2009. Mark/Hobbit read the UK version and had good things to say.

"Russia, 1812

It began as a last stand against Napoleon’s invading army. It would end as a fight against an enemy of mankind itself…

As his face came close to mine, a sudden miasma surrounded me, the stench of his breath. I recalled years ago standing over a mass grave where the bodies of brave soldiers had been lying for many days. It was that same odour of decay and I felt the same urge to run as I had then, accompanied by an even deeper sense of dread which I could not place...

The voordalak – a creature of legend; the tales of which have terrified Russian children for generations. But for Captain Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov – a child of more enlightened times – it is a legend that has long been forgotten. Besides, in the autumn of 1812, he faces a more tangible enemy – the Grande Armée of Napoleon Bonaparte.

City after city has fallen to the advancing French, and it now seems that only a miracle will keep them from Moscow itself. In desperation, Aleksei and his comrades enlist the help of the Oprichniki – a group of twelve mercenaries from the furthest reaches of Christian Europe, who claim that they can turn the tide of the war. It seems an idle boast, but the Russians soon discover that the Oprichniki are indeed quite capable of fulfilling their promise…and much more.

Unnerved by the fact that so few can accomplish so much, Aleksei remembers those childhood stories of the voordalak. And as he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these twelve strangers, he wonders at the nightmare they’ve unleashed in their midst ...

Full of historical detail, thrilling action and heart-stopping supernatural moments, Twelve is storytelling at its most original and exciting.

Shadow’s Son by John Sprunk (Pyr Trade Paperback 06/01/2010) – Debut novel which has been generating some good buzz ‘round the intarwebs. John hangs out at the SFFWorld Forums and has been a solid member. This book has a really nice cover by Michael Komarck.

In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples.

Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last victim, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. But in this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won't be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir's hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must claim his birthright as the Shadow's Son....

Speculative Horizons edited by Patrick St-Denis (Supterranean Press, Limited Edition 06/16/2010) – Blog and SFFWorld pal Pat (of the Fantasy Hotlist) brought together a pretty impressive group of contributors for this anthology. Publishing in November, proceeds from the book go to the American Cancer Society.

Speculative fiction is wide in scope and styles, and Speculative Horizons showcases the talent and storytelling skills of five of the genre’s most imaginative voices:

In C. S. Friedman’s “Soul Mate, it’s love at first sight for Josie at the arts and crafts festival when she meets the handsome Stephan Mayeaux. It all sounds too good to be true until her newfound boyfriend starts to act strangely and unexplained occurrences begin to take place around her.

In Tobias S. Buckell’s The Eve of the Fall of Habesh, contragnartii Jazim must carry out one final assignment before the armies of the Sea People lay waste to the city he loves.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the universe of his bestselling Recluce saga in The Stranger. A young herder’s existence will be forever changed by the unexpected arrival of the black-clad man recounting tales of angels living on the summit of the Roof of the World.

In Flint, Brian Ruckley introduces us to a young and inexperienced shaman who must venture into the spirit world to discover the source of the sickness which afflicts his tribe before they are all wiped out.

Talk to any cop working for Homicide, Narcotics, or Vice, and they’ll tell you that they get the worst cases imaginable. But in Hal Duncan’s The Death of a Love, you realize that they have nothing on Erocide.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost Neverland

I posted the review of the second Douglas Clegg book I read yesterday, Neverland , which I enjoyed a great deal:

Clegg employs an easy-going first-person narrative in Neverland, with Beau as our storyteller. His voice is extremely effective, having lulled me into the story with a sense of comfort. The style is, for the most part, matter of fact, but Clegg manages to balance that element with the horrific things Beau and his cousins experience in Neverland. The tension is ratcheted up as Sumter’s ‘god’ begins to hold more sway over Sumter, and it seems to have an adverse affect on the adults as well. When the adults drink and argue, the children inevitably seek out Neverland as something of a twisted haven creating a cycle of discord.

There’s a timeless nature to Clegg’s depiction of the children, Beau in particular as our protagonist is very relatable and that fact (and its effectiveness) cannot be underestimated. In many ways, the loss of childhood innocence here in Neverland is very comparable to the same type of loss of innocence the boys in Stephen King’s masterful short novel The Body (basis for the film Stand by Me) experience. Though Beau’s tale is much more ostensibly supernatural, the similarity in the way he and Gordon Lachance lament the episodes featured in their respective stories is very similar.

A small television program ended on Sunday, one that a few people may have heard of - Lost. I’ve touched on the show here at the o’ Stuff in the past but never really gone too deep into analyzing the show. There are already quite a few folks on the intarwebs doing a spectacular job of this, the best of whom is the venerable Doc Jensen, although Alan Sepinwal covers things nicely, as do Doc Artz and whole slew of other folks.

I really enjoyed the finale and think Darlton did a helluva job bringing closure to these characters. Granted we didn’t see what happened to Kate, Sawyer, (and perhaps most potentially interestingly, Alpert) once they escaped The Island that Houses the Soul of the World, but that’s not important. As Christian Shepherd said, what happened on the island was real and was the most important part of these character’s lives. After all, do we want to see Frodo’s daily chores in the years before he gains possession of the One Ring?

I will admit, I was getting a bit scared towards the end when everybody was converging on the Church of All Holy Symbols. My fear was that we would get a reveal much like that of the film Identity wherein all the characters are actually one of multiple personalities in a character’s head, either Hurley or Jack, take your pick. What we got instead was the reveal that the Side-Flash was the way station before ascending to Heaven. I can buy that, I like that. These characters went through the most emotionally powerful time of their lives on the Island. I think the Island’s power allowed them to create the way station so they could meet each other one last time anew and whole in a manner they wanted themselves to be, the way they always sought to become.

The stuff on the Island worked great as well. The uncorking of the Golden Light, which made Smokey Locke vulnerable was a necessary step in the progress of the characters and towards The End. O’Quinn’s fear when he was in pain and bleeding from the mouth was played superbly and showed that the magic leaving the island allowed for mortality and other bad things. I see The Heart of the Island as a repository for all the souls of the world – as Jacob’s “mother” said, a little bit of the same light that is in the cave is inside every man but that people always want more … while the other people can't take the light, they might try and if the light goes out here it goes out everywhere.

Desmond popping the cork began sucking the souls away, leaving all people with just their physical shells and no inner power. It happened to Smokey and the islanders first since he was so close to the source. If Jack never put the cork back in its place, the effect would have spread. Of course, Jack (and the viewers by extension) had to take that with a leap of faith and the power of the series’s narrative in the previous 100+ episodes made that leap of faith, for me, possible.

With Jack’s last act before his heroic sacrifice, he anoints Hurley as the guardian of the island, recreating the circle which gave Jacob the reins in a way – that is both are initially reluctant guardians. Although much of the entire series focused on Jack as the protagonist and “Hero” much of the surrounding elements focused on Hurley – in the flash-forwards he helped to bring people together, he brought Jacob’s message to Dogen, his soul and uplifting attitude made him the Heart of the Losties. With him so connected to the numbers, it made logical sense that he would become the new Island Guardian. The scene outside the Church of All Holy Symbols between Hurley and a humble Ben was bittersweet and touching as was the scene between Ben and Locke.

Many things were seemingly unanswered –

The Polar Bears – Nothing was really explicitly stated why they were on the Island, but many things can be deduced. They are big and strong, the donkey wheel was difficult to push and was in a ice-cave when Ben pushed the wheel. It isn’t a stretch to believe they could have been used by the Dharma Initiative for pushing the wheel, amongst other things.

The Dharma Initiative fizzling out of relevance – Again nothing explicit, but their connection to the Hanso family, who owned the Black Rock, and their tampering with the Island’s properties could be a cautionary tale that maybe Man just wasn’t ready to understand the heart of the island.

The Island itself – I think I covered my theory on just what the Island was supposed to be.

Walt and his powers – Was he a potential candidate for Island guardianship? Maybe, but more likely that the character grew to be a nine-foot tall kid and just couldn’t be worked back into the story.

Widmore’s quick death and seemingly unsatisfying end at Ben’s hands. – The creators are big fans of King’s Dark Tower and his death, and role as a Big Bad in previous seasons, mirrors the role and fall of King’s mainstay baddie Randal Flagg. I was quite annoyed with how King disposed of one of his signature characters. Was it frustrating that we didn’t get a knock-down, drag-out confrontation similar to Jack and Flocke? Of course, Widmore was built up so long as a relatively mysterious, power player that his final moment and quick death were unsatisfying and a bit frustrating. What did Widmore do to be exiled from the Island? Was it because he left the Island when he shouldn’t have? We’ll never know. This is probably the one element of the series with which I have the most issues.

The Pregnancy Thing - This is likely some kind of mythological side-effect of Jacob’s fake mother braining his real mother.

In the end, these seemingly unanswered elements don’t add up to much in the larger picture. If Darlton had told us, through perhaps Pierre Chang, that the Polar Bears were brought to the island to use in experiments to determine bear shit makes good fertilizer how would that add to the overall story or its ending? Leaving such things for the viewer to ponder works for me.

The finale was a great ride, and will leave me and many of the show’s fans thinking and debating for a long time. I’ll be saving this on my DVR for quite a while.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 0522/2010)

With two books received this week being final versions of ARCs I previously received only two new books. No complaints since the arrival pile is quite large.

The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine Hardcover 06/11/2010) – This is a big, fat, end-of-the-world novel with echoes of King’s The Stand and McCammon’s Swan Song and probably not coincidentally, the ARC has a big, fat blurb from Stephen King. Mark/Hobbit read the UK version and had good things to say. This here is the hardcover of the ARC I received in March

"It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born."

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he's done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Dragon Soul by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 06/08/2010) – Third in a steampunk-fantasy series featuring dragons made of magic and mechanics. The author team impressively jumped from trade paperback to hardcover with this volume. This is the hardcover version of the ARC I received a couple of months ago

With just two novels under their belts, young writers Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett have established themselves as two of the hottest new stars in fantasy. Havemercy introduced readers to a brilliantly realized world riven by an intractable war between the kingdoms of Volstov and Ke-Han—a war in which the great dragons of Volstov—deadly hybrids of machine and magic—and their equally fierce human riders were all that kept the dark sorcery of Ke-Han at bay. In Shadow Magic, Jones and Bennett brought the common humanity of the opposing sides to life in an adventure that showcased once again their talent for creating not only fantastic settings but vivid characters to inhabit them.

Now Jones and Bennett are back with their most accomplished novel yet, featuring the return of two beloved characters, the brothers Rook and Thom. When the war was at its height, there was no fighter on either side who could match Rook for sheer arrogance and skill. Only Rook could ride the great dragon Havemercy, whose savagery and bloodlust matched his own. Thom could not be more different. Bookish, diffident, reserved, he yearns for his brother’s approval—yet fears he can never earn it.

With the war over, and an uneasy truce holding between Volstov and Ke-Han, it seems the perfect opportunity for the long-lost brothers to forge a bond by taking a trip together. At least, that’s how it seems to Thom. Rook hasn’t given a rat’s ass about anything since the end of the war, his brother included, and he’s not about to start now. Not when the one thing he loved in the world—Havemercy—lies scattered in pieces across Ke-Han.

Then Rook and Thom discover that someone is buying up bits of the fallen dragons, including Havemercy. Though the dragons are dead, the magic that powered them is not—and if that magic and the technology created to harness it should fall into the wrong hands, the fragile peace could shatter. An agent from Ke-Han, a sorceress from Volstov, and a group of desert tribesmen are all in the race, and the future rests on whoever gets there first. But all that matters to Rook is that someone is desecrating his girl, so he vows to leave no stone unturned in laying her to rest—and taking his revenge.

Bloodborn (Warhammer Fantasy #2) by Nathan Long (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 06/16/2010) – Like a lot of fantasy fans who found the genre in the 1980s, the duo of Weis/Hickman helped to introduce me to the genre, through their DragonLance and Darksword sagas. This is the second book of their latest collaborative effort – a six book series and the final book of the ARC I received back in January.

Ulrika, recently turned as a vampire, attempts to adjust to her new way of life. But when a fellow vampire is killed in Nuln, Ulrika and her mentor, Gabriella, are sent to investigate. Soon they find themselves facing danger from all sides as they attempt to solve a mystery that threatens the very existence of the Lahmian bloodline. How can they hope to destroy something with the power to kill a vampire?

Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts (Trade Paperback 5/25/2010 Tor) – Debut novel featuring swords, dragons and Norse mythology in modern days.

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group.

The lead actor breaks Sarah’s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that’s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the "dwarf" claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?

And as if things weren’t surreal enough, Sarah’s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… “I love you.” As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move.

And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real…and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Miéville's Kraken & Hughes's Spiral Labyrinth

We’ve got two new reviews up at SFFWorld, one from me and one from the venerable Hobbit. Let’s start with his, shall we?

Mark beat me to the punch with China Miéville’s latest weird novel Kraken:

The books lengthy narrative involves a trawl through city alleys and derelict buildings and amongst the shady denizens of a historical urban environment – the Londonmancers, the god of the sea, and many that I hadn’t heard of. It is a tour-de-force of all things odd, from a skilful writer managing to keep many things spinning in the air at once.

Perhaps surprising to many will be the dark humour that diffuses throughout the novel. Though many of his books have it, the humour of Kraken is dark yet much more palpable. Could this be Mieville having fun? This is, in that respect, more like Un Lun Dun than The City and the City, though undeniably darker and most definitely adult.

For my part, I reviewed an entertaining novel by a seemingly underlooked SF&F writer, Matthew Hughes. The novel in question is the second featuring the ‘discriminator’ (private investigator) Hengis Hapthorn, The Spiral Labyrinth:

Set in a far future, the world and stories are a combination of many things, comedy, detective fiction, science fiction, and fantasy.
The plot itself is somewhat circuitous, but one might suspect as much from the title. Hughes clever hand for dialogue, and spare prose is quite effective. The humor comes through in Hapthorn’s reactions and his internal dialogue, both with himself and especially with his other personality Osk Reivor. Many similar hybrids of mystery and fantasy and/or science fiction employ banter between two characters – protagonist and sidekick let’s say. Brust does this exceptionally well with his Vlad Taltos novels in the dialogue between Vlad and his familiar Loiosh, Jim Butcher does it very well between Harry Dresden and Bob the Skull, so does Hughes with Hapthorn and Osk. This helps to progress the plot in an effective and entertaining manner.

Monday, May 17, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio \m/

One of the greatest rock and metal singers and frontmen of all time passed away yesterday. Another metal god has passed, but his voice will live on forever.

Here's Rainbow in the Dark

Black Sabbath - Neon Knights: "Best of the Dio Years"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 05/15/2010)

Only a few this week, but one of them I’ve been really anticipating…

The Living Dead 2 by John Joseph Adams (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback 09/15/2010) – I really enjoyed Adams’s predecessor volume The Living Dead. One of the main differences with this volume is all the stories are new:

Two years ago, readers eagerly devoured The Living Dead. Publishers Weekly named it one of the Best Books of the Year, and Barnes & called it "The best zombie fiction collection ever." Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is back for another bite at the apple -- the Adam's apple, that is -- with 43 more of the best, most chilling, most thrilling zombie stories anywhere, including virtuoso performances by zombie fiction legends Max Brooks (World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide), Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), and David Wellington (Monster Island).

From Left 4 Dead to Zombieland to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, ghoulishness has never been more exciting and relevant. Within these pages samurai warriors face off against the legions of hell, necrotic dinosaurs haunt a mysterious lost world, and eerily clever zombies organize their mindless brethren into a terrifying army. You'll even witness nightmare scenarios in which humanity is utterly wiped away beneath a relentless tide of fetid flesh.

The Living Dead 2 has more of what zombie fans hunger for -- more scares, more action, more... brains. Experience the indispensable series that defines the very best in zombie literature.

Introduction - John Joseph Adams
Alone, Together - Robert Kirkman /Danger Word - Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due / Zombieville - Paula Stiles /The Anteroom - Adam-Troy Castro / When the Zombies Win - Karina Sumner-Smith / Mouja - Matt London / Category Five - Marc Paoletti / Living with the Dead - Molly Brown / Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco - Seth Lindberg / The Mexican Bus - Walter Greatshell / The Other Side - Jamie Lackey / Where the Heart Was - David J. Schow / Good People - David Wellington / Lost Canyon of the Dead - Brian Keene / Pirates vs. Zombies - Amelia Beamer / The Crocodiles - Steven Popkes / The Skull-Faced City - David Barr Kirtley / Obedience - Brenna Yovanoff / Steve and Fred - Max Brooks / The Rapeworm - Charlie Finlay / Everglades - Mira Grant / We Now Pause For Station Identification - Gary Braunbeck / Reluctance - Cherie Priest / Arlene Schabowski Of The Undead - Mark McLaughlin & Kyra M. Schon / Zombie Gigolo - S. G. Browne / Rural Dead - Bret Hammond / The Summer Place - Bob Fingerman / The Wrong Grave - Kelly Link / The Human Race - Scott Edelman / Who We Used to Be - David Moody / Therapeutic Intervention - Rory Harper / He Said, Laughing - Simon R. Green / Last Stand - Kelley Armstrong / The Thought War - Paul McAuley / Dating in Dead World - Joe McKinney / Flotsam & Jetsam - Carrie Ryan / Thin Them Out - Kim Paffenroth, Julia Sevin & RJ Sevin / Zombie Season - Catherine MacLeod / Tameshigiri - Steven Gould / Zero Tolerance - Jonathan Maberry / And the Next, and the Next - Genevieve Valentine / The Price of a Slice - John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow / Are You Trying to Tell Me This is Heaven? - Sarah Langan

The Evolutionary Void (The Void Trilogy Book 3) by Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey Hardcover 08/24/2010) – This is one of my most highly anticipated SF novels of the year after enjoying the first two (The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void ). This series is setting the benchmark for the term Epic Science Fiction:

Peter F Hamilton's startling perspectives on tomorrow's technological and cultural trends span vast tracts of space and time; his stories are as compelling as they are epic in scope, and yet they are always grounded in characters - human, alien and other - who, for all their strangeness, still touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. Now, in The Evolutionary Void, Hamilton concludes the highly acclaimed Commonwealth saga that has unfolded in The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void.

Having finally mastered his astonishing psychic abilities and how to harness the power of the city itself, Edeard is dismayed to find that life in Makkathran is as challenging and dangerous as ever. No matter what he does, there always seem to be threats to quash and unrest to settle. Although he knows he can eventually rid the city of corruption and anarchy, he is coming to understand that he himself will have to pay a terrible price for Makkathran's peace and liberty.

Inspired by their shared vision of Edeard's story, millions of Living Dream pilgrims embark on their gigantic, ultradrive ships, heading towards a new and perfectible life within the Void that lies at the centre of the galaxy. Their arrival will trigger a super-massive expansion of the Void which will devour everything in its path - ultimately the galaxy itself - and, for those of the Greater Commonwealth who would stop the pilgrimage, time is running out.

On the run from planet to planet, pursued by every Commonwealth faction, Second Dreamer Araminta realizes she can no longer flee her destiny and chooses a course of action that will not only confound Living Dream but also will transform her in a way no one could have expected.

Unable to deliver the Second Dreamer to the Commonwealth's ruthless field operative, the legendary Paula Myo, a desperate Oscar Monroe brings together a team of players who may just be able to stop Living Dream's pilgrimage. Unfortunately his plan includes the genius recluse Ozzie, who has no intention of embarking on any kind of mission to save the galaxy - besides, Ozzie is not quite the man he used to be... if he is a man at all.

The Accelerator faction, intent on supporting the pilgrimage so that it can gain access to the technology behind the Void, finally activates its mysterious swarm with disastrous political and military consequences for the Commonwealth. This leaves the Delivery Man, a one-time faction agent with devastating firepower at his disposal, teamed up with an unlikely ally as he frantically tries to limit the damage. Together with his new partner he travels to an alien world which has abandoned evolution in favour of fate, hoping to find a solution.

Then there is Gore Burnelli, one of the oldest, most influential humans left from the pre-Commonwealth era who claims to know much more than he is letting on and perhaps knows just enough to save the galaxy - if he can outwit Ilanthe, the driving force behind the Accelerator faction. But Ilanthe has the Cat on her side, and that can only mean big trouble for anyone who gets in her way.

The Evolutionary Void will leave no reader in doubt as to why Peter F Hamilton is Britain's number one bestselling SF Novelist.

The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback 09/15/2010) – All I know about this book is what I pulled from the publisher’s website below:

The town of Lake Woebegotten, MN is a small town, filled with ordinary (yet above average) people, leading ordinary lives. Ordinary, that is, until the dead start coming back to life, with the intent to feast upon the living. Now this small town of above average citizens must overcome their petty rivalries and hidden secrets, in order to survive the onslaught of the dead.

Harrison Geillor was born in a small three-room farm house in central MN, sometime in the middle of the twentieth century. He attended one of Minnesota's prestigious institutions of higher learning, were he obtained a degree in English. Like English majors everywhere, he want on to work in a variety of jobs that had nothing to do with books or literature. At some point in his life he decided that the best way to appreciate Minnesota was to appreciate it from afar. He splits his time between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, only returning to Minnesota for smelt fishing, and the occasional family reunion.

The Chapter’s Due (A Ultramarines/Warhammer 40,000 novel) by Graham McNeill (Black Library Hardcover 06/01/2010) – McNeill is a superstar at Black Library and churns out novels in a number of the subseries of both WH Fantasy and WH 40K.

War is unending in the life of a Space Marine. After defeating tau forces, Captain Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines has returned to the Chapter’s homeworld of Macragge, but there is little respite. The Ultramarines are thrust back into battle, and this time the enemy is the Chapter’s greatest nemesis. The traitorous Iron Warriors, led by renegade Warsmith Honsou, have gathered together a massive and brutal warband. Their target is the realm of Ultramar. Their objective is total annihilation. It is a final showdown between legendary Space Marines, and Uriel Ventris must take on the might of Honsou if he is to save his Chapter’s homeworld..

Courage and Honour (A Ultramarines/Warhammer 40,000 novel) by Graham McNeill (Black Library Hardcover 06/01/2010) – McNeill is a superstar at Black Library and churns out novels in a number of the subseries of both WH Fantasy and WH 40K, this is the predecessor to the above hardcover volume:

Book five in the Ultramarines series follows the tale of Uriel Ventris as he tries to regain the trust of the 4th company and the Ultramarines chapter after his time in the Eye of Terror and his continued fight against the powers of chaos.

The noble Ultramarines epitomise the Space Marines, the genetically enhanced warriors who protect the Imperium from its foes. Newly returned from the Eye of Terror, Captain Uriel Ventris must redeem himself in the eyes of his battle-brothers, who fear he may have been tainted by Chaos. When the planet Pavonis is invaded by tau, what better opportunity could Uriel have to join his Chapter in combat and prove that his honour is beyond reproach?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Habits Meme - Spring 2010 Version

Nacked from James, who nacked it from The World in the Satin Bag

What is your favorite drink while reading?

Usually a glass of water or beer. The type of beer depends on the season, of course. In cooler months, maybe a pint of Guinness or pumpkin in warmer months, maybe a Hoegaarden or summer ale.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

No, not never.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Either a book mark or the promotional/marketing letter included with the book.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?

Mostly fiction, but occasionally a sports biography, a war book (like the excellent With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge, the basis for HBO’s The Pacific.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I try to read through to the end of a chapter, or one of those double-paragraph breaks – the sub chapter.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

The only book I every threw across the room in disgust, since I’ve been reviewing, is Sara Douglass’s Hades Daughter. I came close with a couple of others, though.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

If I’m near a computer, I’ll rock a Wiki.

What are you currently reading?

Shadowrise by Tad Williams and Swords and Dark Magic edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders.

What is the last book you bought?

With all the books I get for review for, I don’t buy books for myself very often any more. The most recently purchased book is With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

No more than two at a time. One I will read during my lunch break at work and the other at home.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

Any time and everywhere

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?

Not really, although from a distance it would seem series since many of the books I’ve been reading are part of a series. I think that’s more a condition of the genre itself, really.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

Matthew Stover’s Acts of Caine, beginning with Heroes Die, George R.R. Martin’s Ice and Fire, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Joe Abercrombie, Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

Haphazardly, at best. I’ve got bookshelves in different rooms in the house, so there’s no real rhyme or reason other than…hmmm, all of my Tad William’s doorstoppers will fit on this shelf in this room, so here they go or I’ll put my first edition A Game of Thrones in the living room bookshelf so all can see it in its Silvery foil glory.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Speculative Horizons Anthology (American Cancer Society)

From Pat St-Denis… proprietor of the Pat’s Fantasy Hot List:

Hey guys,

You may or may not know this, but my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Fortunately enough, though it was extremely hard on the family, my mom went through chemo and surgery, and now she's doing great.

Still, witnessing how tough it was for her to get through this ordeal and feeling woefully inadequate in the support I was giving her through it all, I always promised myself that I'd try to do something if the occasione ever presented itself. And it did in the summer of 2008, when the folks at Subterranean Press invited me to compile and edit a speculative fiction anthology for them.

I accepted the gig, but only if a portion of the proceeds would go breast cancer research. Fast-forward today, and the pre-order page for SPECULATIVE HORIZONS has just gone up. And from now till May 21st, 10% of the cover price for each copy sold will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

So if you feel like supporting this worthy cause, please follow the link and place your order. Here's what the publisher had to say about the anthology:

Speculative Horizons is the newest in our series of short anthologies, helmed this time by Patrick St-Denis, best known for running Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, the place to go for fantasy news, contests, excerpts, and interviews.

Pat’s gathered an eclectic mix of contributors, including L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (with a new Recluce short story), C. S. Friedman, Tobias S. Buckell, Brian Ruckley, and Hal Duncan, who has written a story so wrenching it’ll rip out your heart and come back for your lungs.

If that’s not incentive enough to preorder a copy, until the end of day, May 21, 2010, we’ll be donating 10% of the price of each copy sold direct through SubPress to the American Cancer Society."

Don't do it for me, as I've been paid a flat fee to edit this book. So I'm not likely to see another dime unless we get multiple printings. Do it to help raise funds for cancer research. It beats buying a lame T-shirt, after all!

And feel free to spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, your blog, website, etc. The more copies pre-ordered, the more money will be donated to the American Cancer Society.



I’ve got family members who have been affected by Breast Cancer as well, so I can only agree about how worthy a cause this is. For twenty bucks you are getting stories by some very good writers and a percentage of the profits go to the American Cancer Society.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moorcock Interviewed and Tad Williams Reviewed

As my blog posts have indicated, I’m on something of a Tad Williams kick, what with the recent interview, which brings me to the latest review Shadowplay the second installment of his Shadowmarch saga:

Williams often flings out a wide canvas of characters, so while the twins are the major protagonists, Shadowplay also focuses on many supporting characters. The troupe in which Briony finds herself after journeying over the land with Shaso is a close knit, if eccentric bunch. Shaso was one of the characters in Shadowmarch who stood out the most to me, so I was hoping to see a bit more of him in the second volume. Conversely, Vansen walks into the spotlight next to Barrick. His development, both emotional and mental, was one of the strongest aspects of the novel. The interaction between Vansen, Gyir and Barrick especially stood out for me as a great thread of enemies coming together to combat a greater foe.

Though seen more through other character’s eyes, the Autarch Sulepis is an imposing force throughout the novel. The ruler fashions himself a god and his will is difficult to defy. The character of Qinnitan, once part of the Autarch’s hive (i.e. brothel), who escaped in the first volume is still in hiding. She has a chance encounter with Olin, which though small in and of itself, holds great portentous weight and may prove a keystone scene in the series or perhaps a hint of deeper character relations.

Also up at SFFWorld is an interview Art conducted with the legendary Michael Moorcock, so head over there and read it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 05/08/2010)

The late May/Early June releases from Penguin (Roc, NAL, Ace, DAW) imprints arrived en masse, plus some other assorted books.

Distant Thunders (Destroyermen Book 4) by Taylor Anderson (Roc Hardcover 06/01/2010) – I’ve read and enjoyed the first trilogy (Into the Storm, Crusade, and (Maelstrom) in the series and enjoyed them so I’ll be getting to this one at some point, too.
After the battle in which the men of the destroyer Walker and their Lemurian allies repelled the savage Grik, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy is shocked by the arrival of a strange ship captained by one Commodore Jenks of the New Britain Imperial Navy-an island-nation populated by the descendants of British East Indiamen swept through the rift centuries before.

With the Walker undergoing repairs, Reddy already has a great deal on his hands. For the Grik will return, and Reddy will need all hands on deck to fight them off when they next attack. But Jenks' uncertain loyalties make Reddy question whether he can trust the man.

As tension between the Allies and the Imperials mount, Reddy will come to realize that his suspicions are not misplaced-and that a greater danger than the Grik is closer than he ever suspected...

Magic Bleeds (Book Four of Kate Daniels) by Ilona Andrews (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/25/2010) – The fourth in an Urban Fantasy series about a Paranormal fixer-uppper who wields a glowing sword in a world where magic is overtaking technology.

Kate Daniels cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to deal with-especially if they involve Atlanta's shapeshifting community.

And now there's a new player in town-a foe that may be too much for even Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family.

Inhuman Resources (Tess Corday/OSI #3) by Jes Battis (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/25/2010) – CSI Meets Vampires and Demons in Battis’s third novel featuring Occult Special Investigator Tess Corday

When a powerful necromancer is killed, Occult Special Investigator Tess Corday must handle the heavy politics in the occult community as carefully as she handles the scant evidence. But with her sometime lover Lucian Agrado representing the necromancers in the grisly matter, things are about to get out of

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.

The Wihte Road (Kara Gillian, Book 2) by Lynn Flewelling (Bantam Mass Market 02/23/2010)– I read a couple of Flewelling’s novles, The Bone Doll’s Twin was the SFFWorld Fantasy Book Club selection back in June 2003. I think this book is set in the same world, but separated by a few years and a few books.

: Dissolute nobles, master spies, and the unlikeliest of heroes, Alec and Seregil have survived exile, treachery, and black magic. But the road that lies ahead is the most hazardous they’ve ever traveled. For with enemies on all sides, they must walk a narrow path between good and evil where one misstep might be their last.

Having escaped death and slavery in Plenimar, Alec and Seregil want nothing more than to go back to their nightrunning life in Rhíminee. Instead they find themselves saddled with Sebrahn, a strange, alchemically created creature—the prophesied “child of no woman.” Its moon-white skin and frightening powers make Sebrahn a danger to all whom Alec and Seregil come into contact with, leaving them no choice but to learn more about Sebrahn’s true nature.

With the help of trusted friends and Seregil’s clan, the duo set out to discover the truth about this living homunculus—a journey that can lead only to danger or death. For Seregil’s old nemesis Ulan í Sathil of Virèsse and Alec’s own long-lost kin are after them, intent on possessing both Alec and Sebrahn. On the run and hunted, Alec and his comrades must fight against time to accomplish their most personal mission ever.

The Turning Tide - A Novel of Crosspointe #4 by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Roc Mass Market Paperback 06/01/2010) – Pirates and romance and fantasy! Fourth book in Francis’s saga.

After the murders of the king and queen, the island empire of Crosspointe is on the verge of chaos. The ruthless Lord Chancellor has taken the throne and made slaves of most of the royal family. Now, in order to sabe the country they love, the king's heirs are determihed to rally whatever allies they have left and overthrow the Lord Chancellor- before the Jutras invade.

Faery Moon (A Tess Noncoire Adventure #3) by P.R Frost (DAW Mass Market Paperback 06/01/2010) – Third in a series about a woman who is both a fantasy writer and the defender of a Faery realm. I received the hardcover exactly a year ago.

Tess Noncoiré, successful fantasy writer and Celestial Blade Warrior, has gone to a writers' conference in Las Vegas, taking along her mother, who is depressed over the death of her demon husband.

Taking in one of Vegas' Big Acts, Tess is amazed to see winged dancers flying about the stage, seemingly unsupported by any wires. Then she discovers the dancers are actually faeries, held captive in the casino against their will. And if Tess and her sidekick demon Scrap don't help the faeries return to their own dimension, they—and their realm—will die.

Dragongirl edited by Nick Gevers and Marty Halpern (DAW Mass Market Paperback 06/01/2010) – The monthly themed DAW anthology is about the eternal question posed by science fiction – are we alone? An impressive list of contributors are lined up for this anthology.

Beyond our skies...and imaginations.

Are we alone in the universe, and if not, who else-or what else-is out there? Here are thought-provoking stories that explore such questions as: Do intelligent species invariably destroy themselves by nuclear war or ecological collapse? Are the sentient aliens that do exist just too far away? Do they exist in forms beyond our comprehension? Are they among us, but undetectable? These are just some of the possibilities explored by a stellar lineup of contributors.

From Hell With Love (Secret Histories/Eddie "Shaman Bond" Drood #7) by Simon R. Green (Roc Hardcover 06/01/2010) – Green’s fourth in a series that mixes spy fiction with myth and magic.

It's no walk in the park for a Drood, a member of the family that has protected humanity from the things that go bump in the night for centuries. They aren't much liked by the creatures they kill, by ungrateful humans, or even by one another.

Now their Matriarch is dead, and it's up to Eddie Drood, acting head of the family, to figure out whodunit. Unpopular opinion is divided: it was either Eddie's best girl, Molly. Or Eddie himself. And Eddie knows he didn't do it.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff (DAW Mass Market Paperback 06/02/2010) – This looks like either a standalone or new series for the popular Huff. I’ve seen good things about her Vampire seriesThe Blood Books, but this is a modern day fantasy: I received the hardcover exactly a year ago.

The bestselling author of the Blood Books delivers a masterful new urban fantasy.

Alysha Gale is a member of a family capable of changing the world with the charms they cast. Then she receives word that she's inherited her grandmother's junk shop in Calgary, only to discover upon arriving that she'll be serving the fey community. And when Alysha learns just how much trouble is brewing in Calgary, even calling in the family to help may not be enough to save the day.

SpellCrash by Kelly McCullough (Ace Mass Market Paperback 05/25/2010) – Fifth in a series that mixes fantasy magic and Cybperbunk.

Ravirn is the best hacker around. But when the system controlling the multiverse needs a massive reboot, Ravirn must utilize all of his skills as a mage and prevent complete chaos-even if it costs him his life.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor and John Wells (DAW Hardcover 06/02/2010) – I think I’ve read a couple of short stories by Okorafor and this one comes with some decent praise on the back from Peter Straub and David Anthony Durham.

An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny-to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself.

Lightborn by Alison Sinclair (Roc Trade Paperback 06/01/2010) – The second book in the Regency-flavored fantasy trilogy of magic and manners from the author of Darkborn.

The Darkborn aristocracy has rejected magic, viewing the pursuit of science as the only worthy goal. But Lady Telmaine Hearne does not have that luxury. She has kept her own powers secret, fearful of being ruined in society...until her husband Balthasar draws her into a conspiracy to protect the archduke and his brother against a magical enemy. But who will protect them from her?

Chimera by Rob Thurman (Roc Mass Market Paperback 06/01/2010) – A stand alone science fiction thriller from the very prolific Thurman, who is primarily known for her Urban Fantasy. .

A sci-fi thriller that asks the questions...

What makes us human...
What makes us unique...
And what makes us kill?

Ten years ago, Stefan Korsak's younger brother was kidnapped. Not a day has passed that Stefan hasn't thought about him. As a rising figure in the Russian mafia, he has finally found him. But when he rescues Lukas, he must confront a terrible truth-his brother is no longer his brother. He is a trained, genetically-altered killer. Now, those who created him will do anything to reclaim him. And the closer Stefan grows to his brother, the more he realizes that saving Lukas may be easier than surviving him...

Revenant (Zoë Martinique Investigation #4) by Phaedra Weldon (Ace Trade Paperback 06/01/2010) –Fourth in a series about a paranormal investigator, releasing exactly a year since book #3.

The smart, sassy, single, and "highly original" (#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs) Zoë Martinique is back- and she's seeking clues on the other side...

Zoë Martinique's life hasn't been ordinary for quite awhile. First she developed the ability to travel outside her body at will-where she encountered some seriously weird things. Things that left her with powers that she didn't really want or need. Still, a person can get used to almost anything- even being a Wraith. Though more often than not, it plays serious havoc with her love life.

But for once, Zoë is glad of her abilities. Bodies are showing up all over Atlanta, drained of blood. They're beings from another astral plane, called Revenants-and they're being stalked by her old enemy, the Phantasm. The Revenants are hardly the nicest of creatures-but to preserve the cosmic balance, Zoë will need to put everything on the line to save them..

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tad Williams Interview at SFFWorld

I recently had the opportunity, in collaboration with the great Mark/Hobbit of SFFW, to conduct an interview with one of my favorite authors: Tad Williams. As I mentioned in previous posts here at the o’ Stuff, I’ve long been a fan of Tad Williams. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn stands as one of my favorite fantasy trilogies and one of my favorite epic fantasy worlds as well.

In the interview, we touch on Shadowmarch, Tad's experience writing for DC Comics, and the craft of Writing in general.

So, go on and click over to the interview and check out what Tad had to say for himself!

I could probably give a nice overview of Tad's work, but it is easier pointing Adam’s terrific Author Profile of Tad Williams. Adam gives a nice assessment of Tad Williams place in the genre, though I’m much more positive in my reaction to Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Adam also gives Otherland a great overview and some well-deserved praise.

I’ll just add a bit about War of the Flowers, which shows that Mr. Williams can contain his epic storytelling to one volume. The novel is a “crossover,” wherein a young, somewhat successful musician is pulled into a world where magic runs the world. This world in which the protagonist Theo Vilmos has a great feel – part steampunk, part elfpunk, part epic, part urban fantasy. All told, a very engaging novel and despite its nature as a stand-alone novel, one whose fictional world is rich enough for repeat visits.

His young adult novel, The Dragons of Ordinary Farm, the launch of a new series written with his wife, was a lot of fun, too. It is exactly the type of book I would find myself reading and re-reading in my youth.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 05/01/2010)

A very quite week of arrivals here at the o' Stuff

Dragongirl by Todd J. McCaffrey (Del Rey Hardcover 04/27/2010) – Like clockwork a new Pern novel appears. The last Pern novel I read was about a decade and a half ago - Dragonsdawn

Young Fiona, rider of the gold queen Talenth, has returned from the past, where she and a group of dragons and riders fled so that the wounded could heal from their previous battles with Thread and the younger dragons could safely grow to fighting age. Gone only three days, yet aged more than three years, Fiona is no longer a child but a woman prepared to fight against the Thread that threatens to destroy her world.

Fiona’s life takes a pivotal turn when a shocking tragedy thrusts her into a position of authority. Now she finds herself leading weyrfolk who have a hard time trusting a senior Weyrwoman who is both young and an outsider.

But even greater challenges lie ahead: Thread is falling and there are too few dragons to stem the tide. Many have died from the recent plague, and even with the influx of newly mature dragons from the past, the depleted fighting force is no match for the intensifying Threadfall. Fiona knows that something must be done, and what she proposes is daring and next to impossible. But if her plan succeeds, it just might save them all.

With a cast of familiar characters from previous Pern novels—including Lorana, who sacrificed her own queen dragon so that all the dragons of Pern would have a chance to survive, and Kindan, the harper Fiona has loved her whole life—Dragongirl is another triumph for Todd McCaffrey, and a riveting new chapter for the Dragonriders of Pern.

The Stuff of Legend Book One: The Dark by Brian Smith, Mike Raicht, and Charles Paul Wilson III (Villard Trade Paperback 05/04/2010) – This is a nice looking collection with quotes from Brian K. Vaughan and Frank Quietly. I’ll be posting a review for this at SFFWorld.

The year is 1944. As Allied forces fight the enemy on Europe’s war-torn beaches, another battle begins in a child’s bedroom in Brooklyn. When the nightmarish Boogeyman snatches a boy and takes him to the realm of the Dark, the child’s playthings, led by the toy soldier known as the Colonel, band together to stage a daring rescue. On their perilous mission they will confront the boy’s bitter and forgotten toys, as well as betrayal in their own ranks. Can they save the boy from the forces of evil, or will they all perish in the process? The Stuff of Legend is a haunting and ultimately redemptive tale of loyalty, camaraderie, and perseverance.

This edition includes a brand-new story featuring the Colonel’s war journal, maps, sketches, and other original material!