Sunday, October 31, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-10-30)

Back to the old format this week, what the hell.

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (Orbit Hardcover 02/14/2010) – I’m a big fan of Joe Abercrombie and this will be one of the highlight releases of 2011, but I’ll likely read it before then \.

War: where the blood and dirt of the battlefield hide the dark deeds committed in the name of glory. THE HEROES is about violence and ambition, gruesome deaths and betrayals; and the brutal truth that no plan survives contact with the enemy. The characters are the stars, as ever, and the message is dark: when it comes to war, there are no heroes...


Curnden Craw: a ruthless fighter who wants nothing more than to see his crew survive.

Prince Calder: a liar and a coward, he will regain his crown by any means necessary.

Bremer dan Gorst: a master swordsman, a failed bodyguard, his honor will be restored - in the blood of his enemies.

Over three days, their fates will be sealed..

Echo City by Tim Lebbon (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Paperback 11/03/2009) – I’ve seen favorable things about Lebbon’s work, Hobbit of SFFWorld is a pretty big fan and this might be the Lebbon book I finally try..

Surrounded by a vast, poisonous desert, Echo City is built upon the graveyard of its own past. Most inhabitants believe that their city and its subterranean Echoes are the whole of the world, but there are a few dissenters. Peer Nadawa is a political exile, forced to live with criminals in a ruinous slum. Gorham, once her lover, leads a ragtag band of rebels against the ruling theocracy. Nophel, a servant of that theocracy, dreams of revenge from his perch atop the city’s tallest spire. And beneath the city, a woman called Nadielle conducts macabre experiments in genetic manipulation using a science indistinguishable from sorcery. They believe there is something more beyond the endless desert . . . but what?

It is only when a stranger arrives from out of the wastes that things begin to change. Frail and amnesiac, he holds the key to a new beginning for Echo City—or perhaps to its end, for he is not the only new arrival. From the depths beneath Echo City, something ancient and deadly is rising. Now Peer, Gorham, Nophel, and Nadielle msut test the limits of love and loyalty, courage and compassion, as they struggle to save a city collapsing under the weight of its own history.

Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt, Jr (Tor Mass Market Paperback 10/27/2010) – I think this is like the 48th book Modesitt published this year

In the far future, an indestructible and massive canal more than 2,000 miles long spans the mid-continent of Earth. Nothing can mar it, move it, or affect it in any fashion. At its western end, where it meets the sea, is an equally indestructible structure comprising three levels of seemingly empty chambers.

Scientists from three different civilizations, separated in time by hundreds of thousands of years, are investigating the canal. In the most distant of these civilizations, religious rebellion is brewing. A plot is hatched to overthrow the world government of the Vanir, using a weapon that can destroy anything-except the canal. If used at full power it might literally unravel the universe and destroy all life forever. The lives and fates of all three civilizations become intertwined as the forces behind the canal react to the threat, and all three teams of scientists find their lives changed beyond belief.

Trio of Sorcery by edited by Mercedes Lackey (Tor Hardcover 11/09/2010) – Three novellas by the prolific author about, you guessed it, Sorcery.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mercedes Lackey presents three exciting short urban fantasy novels featuring three resourceful heroines and three different takes on the modern world and on magics both modern and ancient.

Arcanum 101: Diana Tregarde, practicing witch, romance novelist, Guardian of the Earth. Studying at Harvard, Diana is approached by Joe O’Brian, a young cop who has already seen more than one unusual thing during his budding career. The distraught mother of a kidnap victim is taking advice from a “psychic” and interfering in the police investigation. Will Diana prove that the psychic is a fake? Unfortunately, the psychic is not a fake, but a very wicked witch—and the child’s kidnapper.

Drums: Jennifer Talldeer, shaman, private investigator, member of the Osage tribe. Most of Jennie’s work is regular PI stuff, but Nathan Begay brings her a problem she’s never seen before. His girlfriend, Caroline, is Chickasaw to his Navaho, but that’s not the problem. Somehow, Caroline has attracted the attention of an angry Osage ghost. Thwarted in love while alive, the ghost has chosen Caroline to be his bride in death.

Ghost in the Machine: Ellen McBridge: computer programmer extraordinaire, techno-shaman. The programmers and players of a new MMORPG find that the game’s “boss,” a wendigo, is “killing” everyone—even the programmers’ characters with their god-like powers. A brilliant debugger, Ellen discoveres that the massive computing power of the game’s servers have created a breach between the supernatural world and our own. This wendigo isn’t a bit of code, it’s the real thing . . . and it’s on the brink of breaking out of the computers and into the real world.

The Griffin’s Flight (The Fallen Moon #2) by K.J. Taylor (Ace Mass Market Paperback) – Second in a trilogy of books originally published in the author’s native Australia.

Although he was once chosen as a griffin's companion, Arren Cardockson was reviled, betrayed, and ultimately killed. Brought back to life by a power beyond his understanding, Arren flees for the frozen sanctuary of the North. With the man-eating griffin Skandar by his side, and an entire country hunting him, Arren has little hope of reaching the place of his ancestry and of lifting his curse. But then he comes across a wild woman who may hold the key to making his lifeless heart beat once more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SPOTLIGHT: Hallowe'en Reading - Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

Norman Partridge's Dark Harvest has been on my radar for a couple of years now having won the Bram Stoker award and receiving mentions by SFFWorld's resident Horror Expert Randy. M. The book was published first in limited edition by specialty horror press Cemetery Dance then by Tor with that terrific Jon Foster cover.

Small towns are often the settings for some of the best horror stories. Dark secrets add to the mix, and the sense of everybody knowing everybody, is the tip of the iceberg. In Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest, these elements set the tension for the annual Hallowe’en night event where young boys try to catch the October Boy. Penned up and unfed by their families in the days leading up to Hallowe’en, these boys are released into the town to chase and take down the October Boy. In a sense, this is reminiscent of the mythical Wild Hunt. The boy who takes down the Pumpkin-headed monstrosity gets to leave the dead end town and his family is showered with prizes.

See, nobody ever leaves this unnamed town. Ever. Taking down the October Boy is the only chance anybody has of leaving and Hallowe'en and the hunt for the Boy is the focal point for this small town which has had wonderful crops as long as anybody can remember. Just like young men have been chasing the October Boy for as long as anybody can remember.

Our point-character is Pete McCormick. He’s got father issues, and is determined to win and leave the past and the down behind. We know Pete, or so the narrator tells us, and we do get to know Pete. Pete gets to know more about the October Boy than most other boys who hunt ol’ Hacksaw face, another nickname for the walking Jack O' Lantern.

With a flaming pumpkin-head, the October Boy is that iconic Hallowe’en image personified. That coupled with the evocative fall nights having turned from summer and the bristling cornfields adds to the ghostly, iconic resonance in which Partridge steeps his novel.

Partridge does something interesting with the voice used in the novel, switching from third person omniscient to second person conversational. It works very well on a number of levels, not the least of which is to put the reader into the heart of the story, to feel almost a participant who knows the players. This is an extremely effective way to make the novel all the more intimate.

What turns this novel from something of a typical and straightforward story to a more layered narrative is a little trick Partridge plays about halfway through the novel. The narrative lead me to believe the story was about one character, but Partridge very skillfully, and quickly, turns the story on its rear, and makes it more than just one boy’s wish to escape.

Partridge depicts the teens very well here, they aren’t whiney and are on par (wait for it) with Stephen King’s depictions of the Losers from IT and the kids from his short novel The Body. Sorry, but it is pretty tough not to compare a youthful protagonists in horror novel to Stephen King.

In the end, the imagery is powerful, the themes of youth awakening and small town dark secrets familiar, and the narrative pull thrillingly addictive. The fact that the town is never named and little background is given about the events leading up to those events that take place in the novel, gives the novel a greater sense of mythic resonance. I think it’s pretty fair to say that Norman Partridge has crafted one of those novels readers will return to in future Hallowe’en readings – in other words an iconic novel.

Highly recommended

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/24/2010)

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch; Firedrake by Nick Kyme; Warrior Priest by Darius Hinks; Wulfrik by C.L. Werner; The Dark Griffin by K.J. Taylor; The Remembering by Steve Cash; The Human Blend by Alan Dean Forster; The King of the Crags by Stephen Deas; March in Country (a Vampire Earth) by E.E. Knight; The Emperor’s Finest by Sandy Mitchell; Shadowheart by Tad Williams (concluding of what seems to be an overlooked fantasy series by a brand name); and Vietnamerica by GB Tran.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Books in the Mail (w/e 10/16/2010)

Kris Longknife: Redoubtable by Mike Shepherd; The Silver Mage (final Deverry novel) by Katherine Kerr; The Clone Empire by Steven L. Kent; Gilded Latten Bones (A Garrett P.I. novel) by Glen Cook; Shotgun Sorceress by Lucy A. Snyder; Wolfsbane by Patrica Briggs; Trolls in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome; Stone Rabbit by Eric Craddock; Surface Detail (a Culture novel) by Iain M. Banks; Echo (an Alex Benedict novel) by Jack McDevitt; The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valentine; Agatha H. and the Airship City (a Girl Genius novel) by Phil and Kaja Foglio; Shadowrise (Shadowmarch #3) by Tad Williams; and Catacombs (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

For my loyal readers, please post in the comments, if you so choose, the 2 books you think I’m most likely to read and the 2 books you think I’m least likely to read.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Desert Spear, Horror, H.G. Wells, and Sully

It’s been a while since I showed off my pooch, so here she is:

We’ve posted some new reviews at SFFWorld in recent days, including review of one of the more anticipated installments of a newish multi-volume fantasy saga, Peter V. Brett’s The Desert Spear:

When I read The Warded Man last year, I was thoroughly impressed with Peter V. Brett’s storytelling ability and how assured his voice as a writer was. I ranked the book in my top five reads of 2009 and it was easily the best debut I read in 2009. In other words, Mr. Brett set the bar pretty high for himself, and perhaps unsure of whether or not The Desert Spear could live up to the promise of The Warded Man, I did not read The Desert Spear immediately upon the book’s publication. I shouldn’t have hesitated because Brett follows his superb debut with a novel that is at least the equal of its predecessor in The Desert Spear and in other cases, improves upon the foundation he initially laid.

As with the first volume, Brett handles the world-building aspect very well. The details are not overwrought and come through the characters themselves, giving the world a more rich and vibrant feel. We see more of civilization with the people of Krasnia and just how divergent people have become as they’ve effectively lost the ability to live at night.

Mark has reviewed a couple of classics which have recently been re-issued. With Hallowe’en just around the corner, his review of The Pan Book of Horror Stories by Herbert van Thal is quite timely:

So: in this reissue, with a new introduction by Johnny Mains, we have a new edition of a book that otherwise stays the same, even down to the original cover of a black cat’s face on a black background (related to the Bram Stoker tale in the book) and the 3’6 price label in the bottom right corner of the cover.

We have twenty-two tales, from some familiar names – as well as the aforementioned Bram Stoker, there’s also Jack Finney, Nigel Kneale, C.S. Forester, and Seabury Quinn – to others which are less so these days – Hester Holland, L.P. Hartley, Hamilton Macallister, anyone?

The subject of Mark’s other review is The Food of the Gods by H.G. Wells:

For a book that is over a hundred years old, this book (as mentioned in the new introduction by Adam Roberts) is surprisingly relevant in these days of Frankenstein foods and genetic modification. The corrupt politician, the restrictions of a hierarchical class society, bureaucratic ineptitude, the gullibility of the masses and the influence of the media are surprisingly apt keystones, not just for the 20th but also for the 21st century. In this study of ‘Man versus Science’, though the technology in Wells’ tale may be different, the social consequences are both appropriate and thought-provoking. Wells manages to show the consequences of scientific progress, whilst warning of corruptible politicians and evoking the inequality of slavery.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/09/2010)

Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber; When Wicked Craves by J.R. Beck; Dreamfever by Karen Marie Morning; Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi; Star's End (Book Three of The Starfishers Trilogy) by Glen Cook; Twelve by Jasper Kent; Betrayer of Worlds (Ringworld Prequel) by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner; and X'ed Out by Charles Burns.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/02/2010)

Odd is on Your Side by Dean Koontz, Fred Van Lente, and Queenie Chan; Siren Song by Cat Adams; All Clear by Connie Willis; and Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt) by Adrian Tchaikovsky.