Monday, June 28, 2010

The Passage by Cronin - An Instant Classic of the Vampire Apocalpyse

I just posted my review of The Passage by Justin Cronin, quite possibly one of the biggest fiction (that’s right not just Science Fiction/Fantasy) releases of the year. The book comes with a great deal of prepublication buzz, with movie rights sold to Ridley Scott. Mark/Hobbit reviewed the book earlier in the year, and he, like many other people thought very highly of the book. I can only concur – the book will likely be one of the top 2 to 5 books I will have read by the end of the year.

In many ways, Justin Cronin’s epic doorstopper, with its continual shifts in narrative voice, shouldn’t work. But these various methods of laying out the story give The Passage its backbone and authenticity as a chronicle of what might happen if Vampires were genetically engineered and run roughshod over humanity.

While the early portions (about ¼) of the novel set the foundation for the new world, the remainder focuses on a stronghold in California where the people have been able to survive for the intervening 92 years since the original breakout. Here Cronin focuses his story on a group of people born after the outbreak - our heroes Peter, Michael, and Alicia. In this compound, Cronin steps back from the shifting narrative of the first third of the book and slows down the pace, and while it may seem a stretch that such an abrupt shift would work, the opposite is indeed true.

All told, think some parts 28 Days Later, I am Legend (the original novel), The Stand by King, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/27/2010)

Only two new books this week.

Quick programming note for my millions and millions of fans … I’ll be on vacation starting Tuesday until the following Monday, so there won’t be a books in the mail post next week.

After America by John Birmingham (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 07/06/2010) – I read Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice when it first published, liked it, but just didn’t return to the series. This is the second book of a duology, the first book of which I received two weeks ago.

March 14, 2003, was the day the world changed forever. A wave of energy slammed into North America and devastated the continent. The U.S. military, poised to invade Baghdad, was left without a commander in chief. Global order spiraled into chaos. Now, three years later, a skeleton U.S. government headquartered in Seattle directs the reconstruction of an entire nation—and the battle for New York City has begun.

Pirates and foreign militias are swarming the East Coast, taking everything they can. The president comes to the Declared Security Zone of New York and barely survives the visit. The enemy—whoever they are—controls Manhattan’s concrete canyons and the abandoned flatlands of Long Island. The U.S. military, struggling with sketchy communications and a lack of supplies, is mired in a nightmare of urban combat.

Caught up in the violence is a Polish-born sergeant who watches the carnage through the eyes of an intellectual and with the heart of a warrior. Two smugglers, the highborn Lady Julianne Balwyn and her brawny partner Rhino, search for a treasure whose key lies inside an Upper East Side Manhattan apartment. Thousands of miles away, a rogue general leads the secession of Texas and a brutal campaign against immigrants, while Miguel Pieraro, a Mexican-born rancher, fights back. And in England, a U.S. special ops agent is called into a violent shadow war against an enemy that has come after her and her family.

The president is a stranger to the military mindset, but now this mild-mannered city engineer from the Pacific Northwest needs to make a soldier’s choice. With New York clutched in the grip of thousands of heavily armed predators, is an all-out attack on the city the only way to save it?

From the geopolitics of post-American dominance to the fallout of Israel’s nuclear strike, After America provides a gripping, intelligent, and harrowing chronicle of a world in the maw of chaos—and lives lived in the dangerous dawn of a strange new future..

Noise by Darin Bradley (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 08/31/2010) – Debut novel that seems to be about a drastic societal shift.

In the aftermath of the switch from analog to digital TV, an anarchic movement known as Salvage hijacks the unused airwaves. Mixed in with its random noise are dire warnings of the imminent economic, political, and social collapse of civilization—and cold-blooded lessons for how to survive the fall and prosper in the harsh new order that will inevitably arise from the ashes of the old.

"Hiram and Levi are two young men, former Boy Scouts and veterans of countless D&D campaigns. Now, on the blood-drenched battlefields of university campuses, shopping malls, and gated communities, they will find themselves taking on new identities and new moralities, as they lead a rag-tag band of hackers and misfits to an all-but-mythical place called Amaranth, where a fragile future waits to be born.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Empire in Black and Gold reviewed at SFFWorld

This week’s review at SFFWorld is a book that received a nice amount of positive buzz when initially published in the UK in 2008. Smartly, Lou Anders at Pyr snapped up the series and published in their proven monthly installment format beginning in March. The book in question is Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the first book in his Shadows of the Apt series/milieu:

What Tchaikovsky does to really set his novel and creation apart is the inventive world building. Nations are associated with an insect totem (or kinden), such as the Wasp-kinden of the title who can take to the air, or the Mantis-kinden known as great warriors, or Beetle-kinden who are considered tinkers of technology. Each of these kinden have a specific knowledge and technical skill, or aptitude, thus the Shadows of the Apt umbrella under which this series falls.

This world; however, isn’t a flat-out horse-and-carriage fantasy world. Oh no, no. In many ways, there’s a steampunk feel to the world, with machinery and factories giving a feel almost reminiscent of the World Wars of the first half of the Twentieth Century. This is contrasted nicely with the magic hinted at throughout the novel. What makes it more impressive is how Tchaikovsky weaves the technology and magic together.

While the book didn’t completely connect with me, I recognize some cool things Tchaikovsky did and will likely return to the subsequent books in the series at a later day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/19/2010)

Another week of review books here at the o’ Stuff

Enforcer (Shira Calpurnia Omnibus) by Matt Farrer (Black Library Trade Paperback 07/07/2010) – Along comes another one of BL’s popular Omnibus editions, featuring an…Enforcer? Superficially, these books would seem to appeal to Joel Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov novels.

The Shira Calpurnia novels tell the story of Shira Calurnia, a member of the Adeptus Arbites who is transferred to the Hydrapur system. This system is of major importance for the Imperium, being a major port of the Imperial Navy. It is a place of high society, proper etiquette, countless intrigues, and assassins and murderers who hide behind the thin veneer of civilization. Enforcer Shira Calpurnia maintains a tough line on law and order in the Hydraphur system. Home to Imperial warfleets, this area of space is riven with violence and corruption. Calpurnia's duty is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty - with extreme prejudice. This omnibus collects the novels Crossfire, Legacy and Blind as well as new content from Matt Farrer.

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.

Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire #6) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, Hardcover 07/13/2010) – This is the sixth book of in Novik’s popular Dragons-in-Napoleonic-War series. I read the first three when they first hit shelves a few years ago (His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War) and enjoyed them. I haven’t yet returned, but perhaps soon. This is the on-the-shelf version of the ARC I received back in March

A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers—they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

Path of the Warrior (Eldar/Warhammer 40,000) by Gav Thorpe (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 07/07/2010) – This book is the launch of a new mini-series set within the vast WH40K universe, which sounds pretty interesting.

The ancient eldar are a mysterious race, each devoting their life to a chosen path which will guide their actions and decide their fate. Korlandril abandons peace for the Path of the Warrior. He becomes a Striking Scorpion, a deadly fighter skilled in the art of close-quarter combat. But the further Korlandril travels down this path, the closer he gets to losing his identity and becoming an avatar of war.

The Way of Kings (Book One of The Stormlilght Archive) by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 8/31/2010) – To say that Tor is making a concerted marketing (Facebook Page mini-site, etc) push with this book is like saying the ocean is wet. Easily one of my 2 or 3 most anticipated novels of the year. It will also likely be the largest book I read this year, topping out over 1,000 pages.

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar's niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan's motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of over ten years of planning, writing, and world-building, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before Destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

The Office of Shadow by Matthew Sturges (Pyr Hardcover 06/03/2010) – I enjoyed the first novel in this sequence Midwinter, so it’s nice to see another book following the crossing worlds of the Seelie Courts and our world

Midwinter has gone, but that cold season has been replaced by a cold war in the world of Faerie, and this new kind of war requires a new kind of warrior.

Seelie forces drove back Empress Mab at the Battle of Sylvan, but hostilities could resume at any moment. Mab has developed a devastating new weapon capable of destroying an entire city, and the Seelie have no defense against it. If war comes, they will almost certainly be defeated.

In response, the Seelie reconstitutes a secret division of the Foreign Ministry, unofficially dubbed the "Office of Shadow," imbuing it with powers and discretion once considered unthinkable. They are a group of covert operatives given the tasks that can't be done in the light of day: secretly stealing the plans for Mab's new weapon, creating unrest in the Unseelie Empire, and doing whatever is necessary to prevent an unwinnable war.

The new leader of the "Shadows" is Silverdun. He's the nobleman who fought alongside Mauritane at Sylvan and who helped complete a critical mission for the Seelie Queen Titania. His operatives include a beautiful but naïve sorceress who possesses awesome powers that she must restrain in order to survive and a soldier turned scholar whose research into new ways of magic could save the world, or end it.

They'll do whatever is required to prevent a total war: make a dangerous foray into a hostile land to retrieve the plans for Mab's weapon; blackmail a king into revolting against the Unseelie Empire; journey into the space between space to uncover a closely guarded secret with the power to destroy worlds.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

Only one new review at SFFWorld this week, but it really stands out in big way. Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis will likely make my top 5 or at the least, top 10 of 2010 and as of now, is the best debut I’ve read this year:

I’ve not read Tregillis’s short fiction, so this is my first exposure to any of his work and I am impressed. Though I’m not averse to Alternate History and enjoy it, I don’t typically seek it out. Tregills’s novel worked on many levels, partially for the characters, partly for the iconic setting, partly for the thrilling plot, and wholly for the combination of all of these elements into a cohesive entertaining story.
This is the first installment of what’s being called the Milkweed Tryptich – after the secret British organization who commune with the Eidolons. WWII is far from over by novel’s end, and in fact, plot notes towards the end of the novel point to a several developments that both hang in great anticipation and great dread for the characters. The promise of the expanding war, at least as it played out in the ‘real world,’ add to the level of anticipation for the second volume.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/12/2010)

It’s been a few weeks since I gave the general disclaimer, so here goes:

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, like this week, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels. So, without further adieu, here are the books that arrived on my doorstep/in front of my garage/in my mailbox this week:

Without Warning by John Birmingham (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 07/06/2010) – I read Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice when it first published, liked it, but just didn’t return to the series. This is the first of a duology.

In Kuwait, American forces are stacked up, locked and loaded for the invasion of Iraq. In Paris, a covert agent, a woman who inhabits a twilight of lies and death, is close to cracking a terrorist cell. And just north of the equator, a forty-foot wood-hulled sailboat, manned by a drug runner, a pirate, and two gun-slinging beauties, is witness to the unspeakable. In one instant, all around the world, for politicians and peasants, from Gaza to Geneva, things will never be the same. A wave of inexplicable energy has slammed into the continental United States.

America, as we know it, is gone. . . .

Final Crisis by Greg Cox (Ace Trade Paperback 07/06/2010) – Greg Cox continues his string of novelizing major DC Comics storylines.

The novelization of the superhero event starring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the heroes and villains of the DC Comics Universe

Victorious at long last against his enemies on the world of New Genesis, Darkseid has unleashed the forces of Apokolips on Earth. With the secret of the Anti- Life Equation at his command, Darkseid now possesses the ability to eradicate all free will from humanity-and usher in an end to the age of super heroes.

Facing an ever growing army of mindless slaves and corrupted heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the remnants of the Justice League of America find themselves consumed by the ever spreading darkness. They remain humanity's only hope-the only light that will not be extinguished in the world's darkest hour

Kraken by China Miéville (Del Rey Hardcover 06/29/2010) – Mieville channeling Lovecraft – ‘NUFF SAID! (Second copy I’ve received after the ARCh back in April)

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.

Nights of Villjamur (Book #1 of Legends of the Red Sun) by Mark Charan Newton (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 06/29/2010) – Mark/Hobbit read and enjoyed this when it published in the UK Last year , and has garnered quite a lot of positive buzz since then. I’m really looking forward to this one. This is the final published copy, I received the ARC back in March.

Following in the footsteps of writers like China Miéville and Richard K. Morgan, Mark Charan Newton balances style and storytelling in this bold and brilliant debut. Nights of the Villjamur marks the beginning of a sweeping new fantasy epic.

Beneath a dying red sun sits the proud and ancient city of Villjamur, capital of a mighty empire that now sits powerless against an encroaching ice age. As throngs of refugees gather outside the city gates, a fierce debate rages within the walls about the fate of these desperate souls. Then tragedy strikes—and the Emperor’s elder daughter, Jamur Rika, is summoned to serve as queen. Joined by her younger sister, Jamur Eir, the queen comes to sympathize with the hardships of the common people, thanks in part to her dashing teacher Randur Estevu, a man who is not what he seems.

Meanwhile, the grisly murder of a councillor draws the attention of Inspector Rumex Jeryd. Jeryd is a rumel, a species of nonhuman that can live for hundreds of years and shares the city with humans, birdlike garuda, and the eerie banshees whose forlorn cries herald death. Jeryd’s investigation will lead him into a web of corruption—and to an obscene conspiracy that threatens the lives of Rika and Eir, and the future of Villjamur itself.

But in the far north, where the drawn-out winter has already begun, an even greater threat appears, against which all the empire’s military and magical power may well prove useless—a threat from another world..

Pathfinder by (Major Ariane Kedros #3) Laura E. Reeve (Roc Mass Market Paperback 07/06/2010) – Third book in a military SF series.

Reserve Major Ariane Kedros needs a shot at redemption-and the mysterious aliens known as the Minoans need an extraordinary human pilot with a rejuv-stimulated metabolism like Ariane for a dangerous expedition to a distant solar system. But there's a catch. The Minoans have to implant their technology in Ariane's body, and it might not be removable. Ariane is willing, but as she begins the perilous journey, there is an old enemy hiding within the exploration team who is determined to see them fail...

Ancestor by (Major Ariane Kedros #3) Scott Sigler (Crown Hardcover 06/22/2010) – I was listening to Sigler’s Infected on iTunes and liked it.

"The ancestors are out have to believe me."

From acclaimed author Scott Sigler--New York Times bestselling creator of Infected and Contagious--comes a tale of genetic experimentation's worst nightmare come true.

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee ... and imagine what a company would do to get a monopoly on that technology.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding's team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create humankind's common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, and with no chance of transplant...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Five New Reviews at SFFWorld

Lots of new SFFWorld this past week, thanks to a big slew from Mark/Hobbit…

With my review of Shadowrise by Tad Williams, I’m all caught up with his Shadowmarch saga so I’ve just got to wait until the final book publishes in the fall. Here’s a snapshot of my review of the third book:

The story here in the third volume continues along the lines established in the previous two volumes. Barrick Eddon continues his journey deeper into the Twilight Lands where he learns a great deal more about his heritage and the heritage of humanity and Qar in the world. His journey is quite fascinating and in this volume, and the mythic resonance becomes richer as he encounters more dark fae creatures. Protected in the previous volumes by Vansen and Gyir, now the young prince is on his own with only Skurn, the wisecracking crow who possesses a strange speech pattern as conversation partner. Barrick relies more and more on himself and is able to because he had two role models helping him along on his adventure. His ultimate quest in this novel is to reach the mythical city of Qul-na-Qar.

Mark is moving though David J. Williams ’s Autumn Rain trilogy, and after reading his review of the second book The Burning Skies, I’m realizing I might want to catch-up with the trilogy:

The narrative moves quickly and at times blindingly fast between these characters. Those who have read the previous novel will be aware of this – others may find that takes a little bit of getting used to. At times, this can lead to characters being a tad interchangeable if you’re not careful, though there are helpful hints along the way, such as the main characters each being given a symbol to show from which perspective the narrative is coming from.

What we have here is David’s style of fast-paced action and complex political machinations. There are intricate power plays and struggles for power as things reassert themselves, crossed and counter-crossed agents where no one trusts anyone else and the differentiation between right and wrong is deliberately blurred.

Mark reviewed a book I had a look at earlier this year, and seemed to like it more than I did: Mark Chadbourn’s, Sword of Albion:

It takes a special kind of book these days for a jaded reviewer like myself to make specific time for – ignore the family, go to bed early, that sort of thing.

And having read a few of these with a similar theme over the last couple of years – Marie Brennan’s MIDNIGHT NEVER COME, Dan Abnett’s TRIUMFF, for example – you might expect this one as a result to move down the ‘to be read’ pile a fair way.

Where this one scores is that the tale is told with enough pace not to get bogged down with political and historical detail, nor too humorous to disengage readers from the gravitas of the plot. There is a real sense of menace and evil here, which Mark uses with full relish. Parts of it are most unpleasant. Will is also a character with a bit of depth and not always as clear cut as the reader would perhaps expect him to be.

Also reviewed by Mark was Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth, which tells of a vampire helping various US Presidents over the years:

OK: so my glib summary may give the impression that the book’s a little incredulous. And there are places where my credulity was stretched – the bad guy is a cliché, a near-immortal ‘mad scientist’ on whom the novel Frankenstein was based, for example. But what the book lacks in originality (though there are some nice little twists along the way) it gains in pace and style. There’s a nice series of flashbacks to earlier events in Cade’s lengthy life – his signing of the blood oath that ties him to the president, where he was when 9/11 happened. Refreshingly (for me), there is little romance, (although there is definitely some sex!) though there are hints of one earlier in Cade’s life. There’s a lot you could do here with events that are not contemporary and I could see a series of prequels, if the author felt like it.

Mark has been reviewing a lot of histories/genre retrospectives, the latest of which is a reissue of a seminal overview of the genre The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence by Alexi and Cory Panshin:

The book under review here is also a non-fiction book, a history of science fiction, starting with its genesis (Panshin suggests that Walpole’s gothic novel The Castle of Otranto, published 1794, as an origin point) up to the end of the 1950’s.

It won the Hugo award in 1990 for Best Non-Fiction book. Issac Asimov at the time said, "The best, the best, history of science fiction I have ever read...I expect to read The World Beyond the Hill over and over for the rest of my life. It is an unbelievably wonderful book."

Twenty years on, does the book stand up to scrutiny on the other side of the 20th century?


It is a massive book, a big book with a big history. It tells of events that set the context of the development of SF from the pre-rocket days (The Romantic Era) to the Technological Era and up to the Atomic Age.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/05/2010)

The theme here this week at the o’ Stuff for most of the books is repeats – many of the books I received this week were the second or third version of the book I received, between ARC, Hardcover, and Paperback.

God of Clocks (The Deepgate Codex Book 3) by Alan Campbell (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Paperback 6/22/2010) – Third in steampunkish trilogy. Hobbit reviewed the first book, Scar Night when it was published in the UK 2006. The first two books seem pretty well received, which I haven’t yet read. This is the Mass Market Paperback of version of the ARC I received last year. Here’s some blurbage:

War, rebellion, betrayal—but the worst is still to come. For in the cataclysm of the battle of the gods, a portal to Hell has been opened, releasing unnatural creatures that were never meant to be and threatening to turn the world into a killing field. And in the middle, caught between warring gods and fallen angels, humanity finds itself pushed to the brink of extinction. Its only hope is the most unlikely of heroes.

Queen of Sinister by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback 06/03/2010) – Second book in the Chadbourn’s trilogy, itself a sequel trilogy to Age of Misrule which I read and enjoyed last year.

The plague came without warning. Nothing could stop its progress: not medicines, not prayer. The first sign of the disease is black spots at the base of the fingers; an agonising death quickly follows. But this is no ordinary disease ...Caitlin Shepherd, a lowly GP, is allowed to cross the veil into the mystical Celtic Otherworld in search of a cure; her search takes her on a quest to the end of a land of dreams and nightmares to petition the gods. Caitlin is humanity's last hope, but she carries a terrible burden: a consciousness shattered into five distinct personalities ...and one of them may not be human. THE QUEEN OF SINISTER is the latest instalment in Mark Chadbourn's riveting 'Dark Age' sequence: a masterful blend of Celtic myth and Arthurian legend in a modern setting.

Flinx Transcendent (A Pip & Flinx Adventure) by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 06/22/2010) – Foster is an extremely prolific writer and this book brings his longest running series (Commonwealth which began with The Tar-Aiym Krang back in 1972) to a close. This version is the mass market paperback and third version I’ve received after the ARC and the final hardcover.:

From science fiction icon Alan Dean Foster comes the highly anticipated final Pip & Flinx adventure for fans of the green-eyed redhead with awesome mental powers and his miniature flying dragon. In this dazzling novel Foster answers all the questions that his fans have been asking about their favorite hero over the years, while saving the universe in the process.

Flinx Transcendent wraps up the storylines that Alan Dean Foster has been weaving through thirteen Pip & Flinx novels. Twice as long as any previous book in the series, this represents a major milestone in science fiction publishing.

Transformers: Exodus: The Official History of the War for Cybertron by Alex Irvine (Del Rey Hardcover 06/22/2010) – Like many people of my generation, I grew up watching the Transformers weekday afternoons once I got home from school. I wasn’t a big fan of the first Michael Bay movie, but the storyline in this novel sounds interesting and what I’ve read from Irvine has been good. This version is the hardcover and second version I’ve received after the ARC:

For twenty-five years the colossal battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime has captivated Transformers fans around the world. Yet the full story of the conflict between the two most famous Transformers—everything that happened before Optimus and Megatron arrived on planet Earth—has always been a mystery . . . until now. Here, for the first time told in its entirety, is the thrilling saga of Optimus and Megatron before they were enemies, before they even knew each other.

“Freedom is every Cybertronian’s right!” After Megatron utters these immortal words, the caste-bound planet of Cybertron is rocked to its foundations. Megatron, an undefeated gladiator thug, gives voice to the unspoken longings of the oppressed masses—and opens the mind of an insignificant data clerk to possibilities previously unthinkable.

Long before becoming the honorable Optimus Prime, Orion Pax is a mere office underling, an unlikely candidate to answer an outlaw’s call to revolution. But Orion is determined to meet this defiant enemy of all that Cybertron stands for, no matter what he has to do, or how many laws he has to break.

What happens between Orion Pax and Megatron forever changes the destiny of all Transformers. This gripping, action-packed novel reveals all the loyalties and treacheries, trust and betrayals, deadly violence and shining ideals, as well as the pivotal roles played by other characters, including Starscream, Sentinel Prime, Omega Supreme, and one of the thirteen original Primes, the last link to Cybertron’s glorious Golden Age.

Discover how meek disciple Orion Pax becomes the fearless leader Optimus Prime; follow the tantalizing clues about the lost Matrix of Leadership and the lore surrounding it; find out why the two allies fighting a corrupt regime suddenly turn on each other, and what triggers their epic war. Transformers: Exodus provides everything fans ever wanted to know about one of the fiercest rivalries of all time.

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. This is the second version of the book I received, after the ARC I received in April.

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.

Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Trade Paperback 06/22/2010) – Another re-imagining of the outcome of World War II from the writing machine that is Harry Turtledove. Over the past couple of years, I’ve probably received between 6 and 10 Turtledove books for review, and for this book specifically, this version is the trade paperback and third version I’ve received after the ARC and the final hardcover.

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

Sword of Justice (Warhammer Heroes Book 3) by Chris Wraight (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 6/22/2010) – This is part of a new sub-series in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe – “This series follows some of the most legendary Heroes in the Warhammer World, telling their tales of victory and danger as they fight for glory:”

Fresh from the slaughter of the Emperor's enemies in the north, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, Emperor's Champion, is sent to Averland to oversee the inauguration of a new elector count. Beset by greenskins, and hampered on all sides by the ambitions of rival magnates, he is soon fighting to keep the fractious province together. But the rot runs deep. Powerful forces in Altdorf seem determined to see him fail, and suspicion falls on even his most trusted allies. When all is at its bleakest, the mark of Chaos and the full horror of his task is finally revealed. Alone, doubted by those closest to him, this will be Schwarzhelm's greatest ever challenge, one on which the destiny of the Empire itself depends.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Book Review/Stats Meme

Since Adam and Pat are doing it, among others, I figured I might as well do it, too with a couple of disclaimers. The tally is for all the books I’ve read (35), not just those I reviewed (20) and not all are 2010 books. 15 of the books are 2010 books and all the 2010 books (graphic novels excluded) I read were for review.

Here's the Publisher List:

Ace: 3 (3)
BantamSpectra: 1 (1)
Black Library: 1 (1)
DAW: 2 (2)
DC Comics: 2
Del Rey: 3 (2)
Eos: 1 (1)
Marvel: 5
Night Shade Books: 1 (1)
Orbit: 2 (2)
Presidio Press: 1
Pyr: 2 (2)
Roc: 2
Tor: 8 (4)
Vanguard: 1 (1)

3 women
32 Men
2 mixed (anthologies)
9 authors were new to me, 3 were debuts.

The reviews are primarily up at SFFWorld, with two (one from EOS and one from Orbit) over at the San Francisco / Sacramento Book Review. The large spike with Tor is due to my Wheel of Time re-read.