Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows Read / Hallowe'en Reading 2011

All Hallows Read is in full effect so I’ll throw out some recommendations for 2011 (and all future Hallowe’ens):

What says Hallowe’en like a giant tentacle cosmic horror lurking deep beneath the sea? I am, of course, talking about Cthulhu and two recently published books fit the bill perfectly. Let’s start with Good ol’ H.P. Lovecraft himself.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft recently published in a beautiful classy edition from Penguin Classics. This one has some of the master’s greatest, including the titular Call of Cthulhu and includes introductions and edits by S.T. Joshi, the authority on all things Lovecraft. I reread the story and the creeping, lurking sense of horror is present throughout the story. Also included is Dagon, one of Lovecraft’s earliest tales, and a short one tying into the Cthulhu mythos. Also included, among others, are the following: The Rats in the Walls, The Colour out of Space, The Picture in the House, and perhaps one of my favorites, The Shadow Over Innsmouth with its links to Cthulhu and town of fish folk. The thing with Lovecraft’s stories is that many collections overlap with each other. For example, this volume has a fair amount of overlap with the excellent Science Fiction Book Club collection edited by Andrew Wheeler, Black Seas of Infinity. One of the two major tales that don’t overlap is At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s longer tales which appears in Wheeler’s volume. The major tale in the Penguin volume not in Wheeler’s selection is Herbert West—Reanimator, which is good, but because it appeared in installments rather than one single installment, tends to be a bit repetitive at the beginning of each passage. I can’t recommend either volume highly enough, but since the Penguin edition just published and is more widely available, that might be the easier book to buy. Really though, you can’t go wrong with either.

Another timely volume is The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Nightshade Books I’ve been dipping my toes into this one over the course of the month and I am very impressed. The book itself is quite attractive and follows the impressive line of themed anthologies at NightShade edited by John Joseph Adams. Lockhart cast his net very wide in bringing in stories ranging in source from Cthulhu themed anthologies from the 1970s to stories appearing in this anthology for the first time. Highlights include the moody and creepy Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Andromeda among the Stones where curiosity becomes an obsession to a fault and a good choice for an opening story. Dreams and the uncertainty of the Cosmos play a strong role in Ramsey Campbell’s The Tugging. I liked A Colder War Charles Stross quite a bit, too. Plays with communism, the Cold War (obviously) and links to ancient cults and religions. Kage Baker’s Calamari Curls plays with perhaps, voodoo connections to the Cthulhu mythos. All told, I haven’t read the whole anthology yet, but I like much of what I’ve read. I’m looking forward to getting through Tim Pratt’s story, based on how much I’ve enjoyed his Marla Mason stories which may (or may not) have ties to a certain cult.

I’ll finish out today’s post with a few links to past books I’ve highlighted at Hallowe’en and a short review of a what I think is a taut, solid ghost story.

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Isis by Douglas Clegg
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

No Doors, No Windows by Joe Schreiber
Small town secrets, an eerie house, and an unfinished manuscript form some of the support structures in Joe Schreiber’s haunted house novel No Doors, No Windows. It is also a story about a writer, Scott Mast who returns to his hometown in New Hampshire to attend his father’s funeral. Scott initially stays with his brother Owen, who is the lone parent of Henry, Scott’s nephew. Owen never recovered fully from the death of his and Scott’s mother a decade ago and has succumbed to alcoholism. This is only the tip of the iceberg’s darkness, because Scott, a writer himself, finds a manuscript revealing dark deeds, on which his father was working.

Scott returns to skeletons in the closet, people whom he left behind when he moved to Seattle and gave little consideration in the intervening years. These include an old girlfriend, a town-wide tragedy, the town’s most popular girl, and Round House – a dark house not far from where Scott’s father crashed his car and died.

On one level, No Doors, No Windows is very much a haunted house story. Scott soon finds himself spending a great deal of time in Round House trying to finish the creepy manuscript on which his father was working. He soon wonders if the dark events relayed in the unfinished manuscript actually occurred in Round House.

Some of the conventions in the novel are familiar – the darkness surrounding the ‘present’ of the novel is informed by events generations removed from the protagonist and a haunted writer struggling with his craft have been done on more than one occasion by Stephen King and recently to great effect by Caitlín R. Kiernan in The Red Tree. However, Schreiber terrifically takes the familiar elements and molds them into his own satisfying vision of darkness.

Schreiber’s style might be considered sparse and natural. Characters who have known each other don’t immediately unfold their histories when they come together; there are no paragraphs and/or pages of exposition. Characters simply act as themselves and speak without regard for the reader’s foreknowledge of these characters. In this respect, Schreiber paints a very realistic picture of how these people would interact.

No Doors, No Windows is a taut and emotional ghost story, the root of whose hauntings are revealed carefully and deftly. Schreiber has written a precise, solid and engaging novel that pulls no punches and is recommended.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-10-29)

A few interesting looking odds and ends, including two beautiful horror classics from Penguin. For one reason or another, just about all of the books that arrived this week interest me in one way or the other.

Revan (The Old Republic 3) by Drew Karpyshyn (Del Rey/Star Wars Books Hardcover 11/15/2011) –Considering Karpyshyn had a big hand in crafting the early early days of Star Wars in the Knights of the Old Republic games, I’m a bit surprised it has taken until the third book in the series for him to pen a novel-length story.

There’s something out there: a juggernaut of evil bearing down to crush the Republic—unless one lone Jedi, shunned and reviled, can stop it.

Revan: hero, traitor, conqueror, villain, savior. A Jedi who left Coruscant to defeat Mandalorians—and returned a disciple of the dark side, bent on destroying the Republic. The Jedi Council gave Revan his life back, but the price of redemption was high. His memories have been erased. All that’s left are nightmares—and deep, abiding fear.

What exactly happened beyond the Outer Rim? Revan can’t quite remember, yet can’t entirely forget. Somehow he stumbled across a terrible secret that threatens the very existence of the Republic. With no idea what it is, or how to stop it, Revan may very well fail, for he’s never faced a more powerful and diabolic enemy. But only death can stop him from trying.

Fenrir by M.D. Lachlan (PyrTrade Paperback 10/25/2011) – Mark had good things to say about Wolfsangel when it first published.

The Vikings are laying siege to Paris. They want the Count's sister, in return they will spare the rest of the city. As houses on the banks of the Seine burn, a debate rages in the Cathedral on the walled island of the city proper. Can the Count really have ambitions to be Emperor of the Franks if he doesn't do everything he can to save his people? Can he call himself a man if he doesn t do everything he can to save his sister? His conscience demands one thing, the state demands another. The Count and the church are relying on the living saint, the blind and crippled Jehan of St. Germain, to enlist the aid of God and resolve the situation for them. But the Vikings have their own gods, and outside their camp, a terrifying brother and sister, priests of Odin, have their own agenda. An agenda of darkness and madness. And in the shadows a wolfman lurks. M. D. Lachlan's stunning epic of mad Gods, Vikings, and the myth of Fenrir, the wolf destined to kill Odin at Ragnarok, is a compelling mix of bloody horror, unlikely heroism, dangerous religion, and breathtaking action.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft (Penguin Classics Trade Paperback 10/27/2011) – This is a beautiful trade paperback edition with French flaps containing some of Lovecraft’s best known stories, including the titular tale which is his most famous. The book is edited by S.T. Joshi, the authority on Lovecraft.

A definitive collection of stories from the unrivaled master of twentieth-century horror in a Penguin Classics Deluxe edition with cover art by Travis Louie.

"I think it is beyond doubt that H. P. Lovecraft has yet to be surpassed as the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale." -Stephen King

Frequently imitated and widely influential, Howard Philips Lovecraft reinvented the horror genre in the 1920s, discarding ghosts and witches and instead envisioning mankind as a tiny outpost of dwindling sanity in a chaotic and malevolent universe. S. T. Joshi, Lovecraft's preeminent interpreter, presents a selection of the master's fiction, from the early tales of nightmares and madness such as "The Outsider" to the overpowering cosmic terror of "The Call of Cthulhu." More than just a collection of terrifying tales, this volume reveals the development of Lovecraft's mesmerizing narrative style and establishes him as a canonical- and visionary-American writer.

The White People and Other Weird Stories by Arthur Machen (Penguin Classics Trade Paperback 10/27/2011) – Machen is another purveyor of weird horror tales. This one, like the above-mentioned Lovecraft volume, is edited S.T. Joshi and contains an intro by Guillermo Del Toro.

"Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen." -H.P. Lovecraft

Actor, journalist , devotee of Celtic Christianity and the Holy Grail legend, Welshman Arthur Machen is considered one of the fathers of weird fiction, a master of mayhem whose work has drawn comparisons to H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Readers will find the perfect introduction to his style in this new collection. With the title story, an exercise in the bizarre that leaves the reader disoriented virtually from the first page, Machen turns even fundamental truths upside down. "There have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin," explains the character Ambrose, "who all their lives have never done an 'ill deed.'"

Crucible of Gold (Temeraire #8) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey, Hardcover 03/06/2012) – This is the seventh 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 and Novik’s been trucking along swimmingly since.

Naomi Novik’s beloved series returns, with Capt. Will Laurence and his fighting dragon Temeraire once again taking to the air against the broadsides of Napoleon’s forces and the friendly—and sometimes not-so-friendly—fire of British soldiers and politicians who continue to suspect them of divided loyalties, if not outright treason.

For Laurence and Temeraire, put out to pasture in Australia, it seems their part in the war has come to an end just when they are needed most. Newly allied with the powerful African empire of the Tswana, the French have occupied Spain and brought revolution and bloodshed to Brazil, threatening Britain’s last desperate hope to defeat Napoleon.

So the British government dispatches Arthur Hammond from China to enlist Laurence and Temeraire to negotiate a peace with the angry Tswana, who have besieged the Portuguese royal family in Rio—and as bait, Hammond bears an offer to reinstate Laurence to his former rank and seniority as a captain in the Aerial Corps. Temeraire is delighted by this sudden reversal of fortune, but Laurence is by no means sanguine, knowing from experience that personal honor and duty to one’s country do not always run on parallel tracks.

Laurence and Temeraire—joined by the egotistical fire-breather Iskierka and the still-growing Kulingile, who has already surpassed Temeraire in size—embark for Brazil, only to meet with a string of unmitigated disasters that leave the dragons and their human friends forced to make an unexpected landing in the hostile territory of the Inca empire, where they face new unanticipated dangers.

Now with the success of the mission balanced on a razor’s edge, and failure looking more likely by the minute, the unexpected arrival of an old enemy will tip the scales toward ruin. Yet even in the midst of disaster, opportunity may lurk—for one bold enough to grasp it.

Death's Heretic (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by James L. Sutter (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 11/29/2011) – Pathfinder is a relatively new RPG in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve got the core rulebook and it is a really nice piece of work, Sutter is one of the main architects behind Pathfinder. Though he’s published a fair amount of short fiction, this is his first novel length tale. They’ve strongly entered the fray of the gaming tie-in fiction with some interesting names, including tie-in veteran Elaine Cunningham, as well as authors like Howard Andrew Jones and Tim Pratt.

Nobody cheats death. A warrior haunted by his past, Salim Ghadafar serves as a problem-solver for a church he hates, bound by the goddess of death to hunt down those who would rob her of her due. Such is the case in the desert nation of Thuvia, where a powerful merchant on the verge of achieving eternal youth via a magical elixir is mysteriously murdered, his soul kidnapped somewhere along its path to the afterlife. The only clue is a magical ransom note, offering to trade the merchant's successful resurrection for his dose of the fabled potion. But who would have the power to steal a soul from the boneyard of Death herself? Enter Salim, whose keen mind and contacts throughout the multiverse should make solving this mystery a cinch. There's only one problem: The investigation is being financed by Neila Anvanory, the dead merchant''s stubborn and aristocratic daughter. And she wants to go with him. Along with his uninvited passenger, Salim must unravel a web of intrigue that will lead them far from the blistering sands of Thuvia on a grand tour of the Outer Planes, where devils and angels rub shoulders with fey lords and mechanical men, and nothing is as it seems...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hallowe'en Reading, Author Roundtable & Sulluvan Forum

Some interesting happenings at SFFWorld right now, check out the links below.

Countdown to Halloween 2011
The primary contributor to this thread is Randy M., SFFWorld’s resident expert in Horror literature. Randy’s posts have been well-informed and provide some great reading suggestions to startle and scare

Author’s Roundtable featuring John Levitt, Carolyn Crane and J.A. Pitts is now quite active.

We also launched an official forum for Michael J. Sullivan

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

McNeill and Jones - Two SFFWorld Reviews

Two reviews this week, from the usual suspects – Mark Yon and myself. Mine is fairly timely with Hallowe’en ‘round the corner.

Way back in May I attended the annual book publishing conference, BEA. At the meeting I met one of the fine folks of Fantasy Flight Publishing and they were in the process of launching a fiction tie-in line for some of their popular games. I received a few of those books at the end of the summer and finally made my way to Ghouls of the Miskatonic the first book in The Dark Waters Trilogy by Graham McNeill:

The nugget that gets the plot rolling is the death of a young college student at Miskatonic University discovered by Amanda Sharpe and Rita Murphy. The body of the girl looks to be eaten and this, combined with Amanda’s disturbing dreams of a creepy underwater city has her unsettled through much of the early part of the novel. Mysterious death and missing persons in Arkham is not something new, but when Amanda goes missing shortly after finding the body, her mentor Anthropology Professor Oliver Grayson becomes more interested in the disappearances, the plot gets rolling. Events are spurred on further since this dead girl’s father is a Pinkerton Detective, who helps to move things at a greater pace when he and Arkham Advertiser reporter Rex Murphy and photographer Minnie Kline spot him looking over the scene where his daughter was murdered. What follows is a briskly paced story mixing elements of horror/dark fantasy (duh), noir/mystery, and thriller. Along the way, deeper secrets about the dark cult of Cthulhu, strange and grotesque creatures, and smoky speakeasies enhance the plot.

The characters come across as believable on most counts and Grayson in particular fits the Lovecraftian protagonist out-of-his sorts quite well. Some of the dialogue and banter between Rex Murphy and Minnie Kline seemed a bit hokey, for lack of a better word, what with the colloquialisms of the roaring twenties in full swing. There was obvious (if not to the characters themselves) romantic tension between Rex and Minnie that looks to be developing as an undercurrent to the greater theme of humanity as a speck of dust in the cosmos.

Mark takes a look at another one from his lingering pile, a fantasy novel that was published way back in 1999 by J.V. Jones, the first book in what is growing into one of the more acclaimed ongoing fantasy sagas, Sword of Shadows. The first book is A Cavern of Black Ice:

JV Jones’s series (now up to Book Four, Watcher of the Dead, with Book Five currently being written) is initially set in a sub-Arctic-type world, with a culture and a subsistence lifestyle which made me think a la Inuit. Raif Sevrance is a young clansman with a secret magic power (the ability to guide, with his mind, arrows to the heart of a living thing) whose father and clan group are mysteriously murdered whilst they are on a hunting trip. Raif and his brother Drey return to the remainder of the clan, to find that the dead clanleader’s foster child, Mace Blackhail, has not only taken over as tribe leader but also has stirred the tribe into war with the neighbouring Bludd clan, blamed for the massacre. Raif finds the new leader, violent, unpleasant and vindictive and also suspects Mace to be the cause for the slaughter, wanting to lead the clan into a takeover of the other clan groups.

BUT... after the initial concern that it was a typical quest novel, after a rather slow start this is quite a page turner. Whilst there was still too much Clan of the Cave Bears at first for me, once our hero and heroine meet in the city of Spire Vanis, it’s a fast paced and intense read. What really works here is the characterisation. In particular, in the characters of Ash and Raif, we see the growing up of two young people who cope with varying degrees of success in situations neither would want. It’s a brutal world. As the book goes on, wider aspects of this world are revealed in an interestingly written, rich history and background rather reminiscent of George RR Martin’s rich tapestry of A Song of Ice and Fire. We have a long history of different clans and quite different races, details of previous rulers and famous people which deepen our knowledge and understanding of Raif and Ash’s world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-10-22)

Only two books this week after two very big weeks of arrivals.

Halo: Glasslands by Karen Traviss (Tor, Trade Paperback 10/25/2011) – Traviss has been focusing her writing on some of the most popular genre franchises over the past handful of years - Star Wars, Gears of War and now Halo. I’ve only read, but greatly enjoyed, her first three Wess’Har novels, but I think this could be an interesting book.

The Human-Covenant War may be over, but the age of good feelings has not begun. In fact, with the unity that war brings now gone, old divisions once again become visible. Even more ominous are rumblings of a new uprising in the heart of the former Covenant Empire. With dangers on all sides, the UNSC must somehow reassert its presence in hostile territories. A reliable author in a potent trilogy starter set in the post-HALO 3 world.

The Emperor’s Will by John Blanche (Black Library Hardcover 11/08/2011) – This is an oversized art book featuring covers and other assorted illustrations from Black Library’s Warhammer 40K line. More B&W illustrations than color, it seems.

Inquisitors, assassins, astropaths, navigators – these and many other agents of the Imperium are celebrated in this glorious full-colour art book.

Packed with previously unseen illustrations from John Blanche and David Gallagher as well as a host of classic images, The Emperor’s Will provides an unparalleled glimpse into the inner workings of the Imperium of man.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding

Chris Wooding is turning into what might be me favorite new-to-me author of 2011. This statement comes after I read his second Tales of the Ketty Jay novel The Black Lung Captain. The third one The Iron Jackal can’t get here soon enough.

Chris participated (along with Mark Lawrence and Liane Merciel) in the most recent Fantasy Authors roundtable discussion at SFFWorld.

Here's the usual excerpt of the review of The Black Lung Captain, with the cover linking to the review itself.

In this second novel charting the adventures of the crew of the Ketty Jay, about a year after the events of Retribution Falls … When another potential big score comes to Frey’s attention, he is compelled to lead his crew on the mission for what seems to be their biggest payday yet. The enigmatic Captain Grist comes to Frey in the hopes of convincing Frey to use Crake’s skills of daemonology to open a magicked door on a crashed airship from a distant land which could have a virtual Pandora’s box of riches and power on board. Grist has an archaeologist of sorts, think of a low-rent Indiana Jones, who knows where the ship containing this lodestone of these supposed untold riches may be.

Well, to say this is a thrilling ride is an understatement. As I said earlier, what makes the book so un-put-down-ably enjoyable is knowing these characters. The best scenes are those between Frey and Dracken, the words unsaid and the palpable tension between the two – how their past informs their ‘current’ interactions made for an extremely emotional ride. At times, I was reminded of the relationship between Shanna and Hari Michaelson in Matthew Stover’s superb Heroes Die. The past that informs Crake’s current situation is just as heart-wrenching, as is the inner conflict Jez is dealing with as she comes to accept what she is..

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-10-15)

This week brought odds and ends throughout the week from all different publishers. Included are two big epics I've been looking forward to all year, can you all guess which those two books are. Let's have a look, shall we?

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 01/31/2012) – This seems to be an inventive blending of fantasy, urban fantasy and military science fiction. The blurb I’ve been seeing says Black Hawk Down meets X-Men. Myke has the military background to inform the military elements of the novel. I’m looking forward to this one, plus, isn’t that a terrific Komarck cover?

For a millennium, magic has been Latent in the world. Now, with the Great Reawakening, people are “coming up Latent,” manifesting dan­gerous mag­ical abil­i­ties they often cannot con­trol. In response, the military establishes the Supernatural Operations Corps (SOC), a deadly band of sorcerers dedicated to hunting down “Selfers” who use magic out­side government control. When army officer Oscar Britton comes up Latent with a rare and pro­hib­ited power, his life turns upside down. Transformed overnight from government agent to public enemy number one, his attempt to stay alive and evade his former friends drives him into a shadow world he never knew lurked just below the sur­face of the one he’s always lived in. He’s about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.

Legacy of Kings (Magister Trilogy Book 3) by C. S. Friedman (DAW Hardcover 09/02/2011) – Concluding volume of a fantasy trilogy that seems to be flying under the radar, a series I’ve enjoyed a lot through the first two books. Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath.

"C.S. Friedman makes fantastic things-and frightening things-seem very real." -New York Times bestselling author Tad Williams.

The young peasant woman Kamala has proven strong and determined enough to claim the most powerful Magister sorcery for herself-but now the Magisters hunt her for killing one of their own. Her only hope of survival lies in the northern Protectorates, where spells are warped by a curse called the Wrath that even the Magisters fear. Originally intended to protect the lands of men from creatures known only as souleaters, the Wrath appears to be weakening-and the threat of this ancient enemy is once more falling across the land.

Sisterhod of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor (Hardcover 01/12/2012) – Another in the long line of Dune stories told by KJA and Frank Herbert’s son, Brian. I’ve only read the very first Dune by Frank Herbert

It is eighty-three years after the last of the thinking machines were destroyed in the Battle of Corrin, after Faykan Butler took the name of Corrino and established himself as the first Emperor of a new Imperium. Great changes are brewing that will shape and twist all of humankind.

The war hero Vorian Atreides has turned his back on politics and Salusa Secundus. The descendants of Abulurd Harkonnen Griffen and Valya have sworn vengeance against Vor, blaming him for the downfall of their fortunes. Raquella Berto-Anirul has formed the Bene Gesserit School on the jungle planet Rossak as the first Reverend Mother. The descendants of Aurelius Venport and Norma Cenva have built Venport Holdings, using mutated, spice-saturated Navigators who fly precursors of Heighliners. Gilbertus Albans, the ward of the hated Erasmus, is teaching humans to become Mentats…and hiding an unbelievable secret.

The Butlerian movement, rabidly opposed to all forms of “dangerous technology,” is led by Manford Torondo and his devoted Swordmaster, Anari Idaho. And it is this group, so many decades after the defeat of the thinking machines, which begins to sweep across the known universe in mobs, millions strong, destroying everything in its path.

Every one of these characters, and all of these groups, will become enmeshed in the contest between Reason and Faith. All of them will be forced to choose sides in the inevitable crusade that could destroy humankind forever….

The Clone Redemption (Clone Army #7) novel by Stephen L. Kent (Ace Paperback 10/25/2011) – Kent keeps churning out this series, publishing at least one per year. I only read one installment, the fifth (The Clone Elite, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I want to go back and read the preceding novels (and then the later ones), but who knows when that’ll happen. In the end, solid and entertaining Military SF: Heck, if Ace were to reissue a couple of omnibus volumes of three novels each, I’d buy the first two omnibus volumes right now. Hear that ACE? Omnibus editions! They sucked me (and a lot of readers) into Brust’s Taltos novels.

Earth, 2516 A.D.: The Unified Authority has spread human colonies across the Milky Way, keeping strict order with a powerful military made up almost entirely of clones. But now the clones have formed their own empire, and they aim to keep matter who they must defeat.

Nocturne (A Tome of Fire Trilogy #3) by Nick Kyme (Black Library 11/04/2011) – I read and enjoyed the first two books in the series (Salamander and Firedrake) and have hopes for a good payoff in this one.

War has come to Nocturne. After decades of planning and slaughter Nihilan has mustered a vast armada of Dragon Warriors, dark eldar and Chaos renegades. In the name of vengeance he launches his assault on the Salamanders. Unrest plagues the Chapter’s ranks in the face of this invasion. A prophecy from the Tome of Fire has foretold of a saviour or destroyer, the psyker Librarian Dak’ir. As the attack begins and the Salamanders marshal their armies for battle, Dak’ir’s destiny is finally realised. Meanwhile, amidst the enemy fleet, Tsu’gan of the Firedrakes is held captive. With hell and fire all around them, a reckoning between these bitter rivals is at hand – its resolution will see the prophecy fulfilled and decide the fate of Nocturne.

Firebird (Alex Benedict #6) by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Hardcover 11/01/2011) – McDevitt is a solid and very dependable writer who has won/been nominated for multiple genre awards. I skipped the most recent in this mystery/space-opera series, but did enjoy the fourth book The Devil’s Eye

A new Alex Benedict novel from "a master of describing otherworldly grandeur." (Denver Post)

Forty-one years ago the renowned physicist Chris Robin vanished. Before his disappearance, his fringe science theories about the existence of endless alternate universes had earned him both admirers and enemies.

Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath discover that Robin had several interstellar yachts flown far outside the planetary system where they too vanished. And following Robin's trail into the unknown puts Benedict and Kolpath in danger...

The Outcast Dead (A Horus Heresy #17) by Graham McNeill (Black Library 11/04/2011) – The hottest series in Warhammer 40K that isn’t Gaunt’s Ghosts reaches volume #17 with the series #2 author.

The galaxy is burning. The Emperor’s loyal primarchs prepare to do battle with Warmaster Horus and his turncoat Legions on the black sand of Isstvan. Such dark times herald new and yet more terrible things still to come, and when Astropath Kai Zulane unwittingly learns a secret that threatens to tip the balance of the war, he is forced to flee for his life. Alongside a mysterious band of renegades, he plunges into the deadly underworld of Terra itself, hunted like a criminal by those he once trusted. In the face of betrayal, Kai must decide where his own loyalties lie and whether some truths should be buried forever.

Mastiff (Beka Cooper: : A Tortall Legend Book 3) by Tamora Pierce (Random House Children's Books Hardcover 10/25/2011) – Concluding volume of Pierce’s trilogy set in the past of her popular The Song of the Lioness.

The Legend of Beka Cooper gives Tamora Pierce's fans exactly what they want—a smart and savvy heroine making a name for herself on the mean streets of Tortall's Lower City—while offering plenty of appeal for new readers as well.

Kris Longknife: Daring (Kris Longknife #9) by Mike Shepherd (Ace Mass Market Paperback 10/25/2011) – This is the ninth novel in an ongoing military science fiction series that superficially resembles David Weber’s Honor Harrington Novels. Not having read any, I can’t say for sure, so here’s the very brief synopsis, but what I said about Kent’s books going into omnibus form? Same here. :

Lieutenant Commander Kris Longknife leads a reconnaissance mission of the vast uncharted regions of space. No one, least of all Kris, expects to find a hostile alien starship. Now, she must determine the extent of the alien threat-and whether to start an interstellar war...

How Firm a Foundation (Safehold #5) by David Weber (Tor Hardcover 09/13/2011) – Weber’s Safehold series is turning into one of my favorite ongoing epics. Part SF in the outer shell, but with an inner core of epic/political fantasy. I reviewed the second By Schism Rent Asunder for SFFWorld.

The Charisian Empire, born in war, has always known it must fight for its very survival. What most of its subjects don’t know even now, however, is how much more it’s fighting for. Emperor Cayleb, Empress Sharleyan, Merlin Athrawes, and their innermost circle of most trusted advisers do know. And because they do, they know the penalty if they lose will be far worse than their own deaths and the destruction of all they know and love.

For five years, Charis has survived all the Church of God Awaiting and the corrupt men who control it have thrown at the island empire. The price has been high and paid in blood. Despite its chain of hard-fought naval victories, Charis is still on the defensive. It can hold its own at sea, but if it is to survive, it must defeat the Church upon its own ground. Yet how does it invade the mainland and take the war to a foe whose population outnumbers its own fifteen to one? How does it prevent that massive opponent from rebuilding its fleets and attacking yet again?

Charis has no answer to those questions, but needs to find one…quickly. The Inquisition’s brutal torture and hideous executions are claiming more and more innocent lives. Its agents are fomenting rebellion against the only mainland realms sympathetic to Charis. Religious terrorists have been dispatched to wreak havoc against the Empire’s subjects. Assassins stalk the Emperor and Empress, their allies and advisers, and an innocent young boy, not yet eleven years old, whose father has already been murdered. And Merlin Athrawes, the cybernetic avatar of a young woman a thousand years dead, has finally learned what sleeps beneath the far-off Temple in the Church of God Awaiting’s city of Zion.

The men and women fighting for human freedom and tolerance have built a foundation for their struggle in the Empire of Charis with their own blood, but will that foundation be firm enough to survive?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Military SF Reviews at SFFWorld (McCarthy, Turtledove, Weber)

Another Tuesday brings links to three SFFWorld reviews to today’s blog post – one from Mark, one from Kathryn (aka Loerwyn aka Cheerwell in the forums) and one from me.

I’ll start with mine, for the rather unscientific and random reason that my review is of a debut novel. T.C. McCarthy’s Germline is not only a debut, but the first book in The Subterrene War Trilogy. I was very impressed with his ability to convey war, bleakness and his overall narrative power. Here’s the standard snippet/cover/linkage::

Did I mention this is a bleak novel? Raw might also be appropriate, disjointed as well. McCarthy is after all telling a story of war and nothing is spared – the death, the blood, the sickness, even the pure discomfort of having what is essentially power armor which includes a system to get rid of personal waste – there’s the rawness, and that is merely one fraction of it. Some people may consider disjointed a negative comment, but here, the disjointed feeling of the narrative is, I gather, completely intentional on McCarthy’s part. Again, this is a novel depicting war on the front lines from a protagonist with serious addiction issues and mental instability. There’s almost a dream, rather nightmare, sense as Oscar bounces from platoon to platoon over the course of the novel thanks to the many battles and near battles in which his squads get involved.

McCarthy is juggling a number of themes in Germline, and what shows his skill to an even greater degree is how these themes integrate into a sum of a novel that is greater than their parts. It should be noted that McCarthy has a governmental background so a good deal of the elements in the plot feel genuine.

Kathryn/Loerwyn takes a look at a new book (also the first of a series and the author’s first aimed at a young adult audience) from a writer both she and I have been coming to read a lot more of recently, David Weber. The book is A Beautiful Friendship and is the first of the Stephanie Harrington series spun out of the Honorverse. I liked the story as a short story when I read it the big Weber anthology and hope to get to the novel soon:

As a read, it's enjoyable. There are moments where I found myself laughing at something a character (usually Stephanie) said, and moments where I was concerned that something terrible would happen to one of the characters. Stephanie and Climbs Quickly are good protagonists and drive the book well, and they interact with other characters in a fairly natural and organic manner. The main plot itself is also interesting and is arguably relevant to what is happening with our own planet and the harm we may be causing to the creatures with which we share the world.

Despite the fun I had with this book, I feel as if it's confused as to what it wants to be. On the one hand, the prose is written in a fitting style and it's centred around a twelve-to-fourteen year old girl. On the other, Weber spends considerable time explaining things to readers, such as scientific principles and legal rights, which seem unnecessarily over-complex for a young-adult novel. At one point there was a discussion relating to planetary land rights, the details of which seemed largely unnecessary to the plot whereas a more simplistic explanation would have sufficed. Weber also leaves a lot of the terminology unexplained, although a glossary at the back attempts to explain details such as the dates, but I felt it did so poorly and left me with no greater understanding.

Mark’s catching up with one of the dozen or so, and most recent, of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history sagas, Hitler’s War: The War That Came Early

Hitler’s War, the first in an ongoing series, is one whereby the origins of World War Two are altered. In this scenario, there are two major changes. The first is that José Sanjurjo, a general in exile in Portugal returns to lead Spain’s Nationalist fascists in 1936 (during their Civil War) surviving a plane crash. The second is when, during the Munich Conference in 1938, Konrad Henlein, a political leader of Sudetenland Germans is assassinated by a Czech.

Against these global backdrops, Harry tells the tale through a broad range of people, from a variety of different backgrounds. The range is broad, the characterisation shallow, though there’s a nice variety of viewpoints from characters as diverse as Czech soldier Vaclav Jezek, Russian bomber pilot Sergei Yaroslavsky, German Panzer Sergeant Ludwig Rothe, stranded American civilian Peggy Druce, Japanese soldier in Mongolia Hideki Fujita, and American mercenary soldier in China Corporal Pete McGill. The list is lengthy! Some survive all manner of awful events, whilst others don’t make it. Part of the fun of these broad sweeps is working out who lives and who doesn’t, as well as realising the difficulties and hardships the author puts the characters through.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-10-08)

Most of the early November releases from the Penguin imprints (Ace/Roc and DAW) along with a big box from Nightshade Books and a couple of books from Tor arrived this week.


In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood Knopf Hardcover 11/11/2011) – Atwood is a literary, if not giant, very tall person. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s all I’ve read by her. I find this book surprising because Atwood for so long eschewed (to be polite) the SF label put upon many of her books, now she’s publishing a book about the genre. Many of the works she discusses are over a quarter century old so it doesn’t seem as if this book will give a reflection of what’s going on in the genre right now.

In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination is Margaret Atwood’s account of her rela¬tionship with the literary form we have come to know as science fiction. This relationship has been lifelong, stretch¬ing from her days as a child reader in the 1940s through her time as a graduate student at Harvard, where she explored the Victorian ancestors of the form, and continuing with her work as a writer and reviewer. This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures of 2010—“Flying Rabbits,” which begins with Atwood’s early rabbit superhero creations and goes on to speculate about masks, capes, weakling alter egos, and Things with Wings; “Burning Bushes,” which follows her into Victorian other-lands and beyond; and “Dire Cartographies,” which investi¬gates utopias and dystopias. In Other Worlds also includes some of Atwood’s key reviews and musings about the form, including her elucidation of the differences (as she sees them) between “science fiction” proper and “speculative fiction,” as well as “sword and sorcery/fantasy” and “slip¬stream fiction.” For all readers who have loved The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood—not to mention Atwood’s 100,000-plus Twitter fol-lowers— In Other Worlds is a must.

Stone Spring (Book One of The Northland Trilogy) by Stephen Baxter (Roc Hardcover 11/01/2011 – Baxter is a leading Hard SF writer, though here, he turns his pen to the distant past, something he’s done in previous books. This could be an interesting set of books.

Alternate history at its most mindblowing-from the national bestselling author of Flood and Ark.

Ten thousand years ago, a vast and fertile plain exists linking the British Isles to Europe. Home to a tribe of simple hunter-gatherers, Northland teems with nature's bounty, but is also subject to its whims.

Fourteen-year-old Ana calls Northland home, but her world is changing. The air is warming, the ice is melting, and the seas are rising. Then Ana meets a traveler from a far-distant city called Jericho-a city that is protected by a wall. And she starts to imagine the impossible...

Reap the East Wind (Volume One in The Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire) by Glen Cook (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 10/11/2011) – I read the first two omnibus editions Night Shade published A Cruel Wind and A Fortress in Shadow a couple of years ago so it is very nice to see Night Shade continuing to publish the series, especially this new one.

Vol 1 in the Last Chronicle of the Dread Empire
It has ended. It begins again. In Kavelin: Lady Nepanthe's new life with the wizard Varthlokkur is disturbed by visions of her lost son, while King Bragi Ragnarson and Michael Trebilcock scheme to help the exiled Princess Mist re-usurp her throne - under their thumb. In Shinsan: a pig-farmer's son takes command of Eastern Army, while Lord Kuo faces plots in his council and a suicide attack of two million Matayangans on his border.

But in the desert beyond the Dread Empire: a young victim of the Great War becomes the Deliverer of an eons-forgotten god, chosen to lead the legions of the dead. And the power of his vengeance will make a world's schemes as petty as dust, blown wild in the horror that rides the east wind.

Thomas World by Richard Cox (NightShade BooksTrade Paperback 09/06/2011) – I’m continued to be impressed with the interesting sounding debut novels Night Shade has been publishing this year. The cover on this one looks VERY much like the Vintage trade paperback re-issues of Philip K. Dick’s backlist. Not surprising since the book is compared to PKD.

Thomas Phillips knows he''s losing his mind. He''s been losing it for as long as he can remember. And yet, when a strange old man asks him to consider that he, out of everyone in the world, knows the real truth, Thomas'' life begins to spiral out of control. He loses interest in his job and is fired. He refuses his wife''s suggestion of psychiatric care, and she leaves him. In the end, Thomas is alone. Except he''s not, because someone seems to be following him. What if you were Thomas? Where would you go? What would you do? What if you realized every person in your life had been scripted to be there? What if you were haunted by the idea that you''d lived all these encounters before, hundreds or even thousands of times before? And what if the person watching all this time was you?

Thomas World explores what happens when the borders of reality start seeming a bit pores... when things start bleeding through the edges, challenging ones perceptions of the universe. The grand tradition of Dickian, New Wave SF is explored by Richard Cox in this 21st century thriller!

Necropolis by Michael Dempsey (NightShade BooksTrade Paperback 09/06/2011) – Zombies and noir mix in Dempsey’s debut novel, which to me has a similar premise to James Knapp’s State of Decay

Paul Donner is a NYPD detective struggling with a drinking problem and a marriage on the rocks. Then he and his wife get dead--shot to death in a "random" crime. Fifty years later, Donner is back--revived courtesy of the Shift, a process whereby inanimate DNA is re-activated.

This new "reborn" underclass is not only alive again, they're growing younger, destined for a second childhood. The freakish side-effect of a retroviral attack on New York, the Shift has turned the world upside down. Beneath the protective geodesic Blister, clocks run backwards, technology is hidden behind a noir facade, and you can see Bogart and DiCaprio in The Maltese Falcon III. In this unfamiliar retro-futurist world of flying Studebakers and plasma tommy guns, Donner must search for those responsible for the destruction of his life. His quest for retribution, aided by Maggie, his holographic Girl Friday, leads him to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Shift's origin and up against those who would use it to control a terrified nation.

A Fighting Chance(A Novel of the Legion of the Damned) #9 by William C. Dietz (Ace, Hardcover 11/01/2011) – Dietz brings his popular Military SF saga to a close with this volume. I haven’t read any of them myself, but with a ninth volume publishing, one can imply Mr. Dietz had done some things very well in this series

The all-new, thrilling conclusion to the Legion of the Damned series from the national bestselling author of When Duty Calls.

Earth has fallen. And the men, women, and cyborgs of the Confederacy must dig deep within their warrior hearts to make one final stand against an alien aggressor...

On a rim world, Captain Antonio Santana is reunited with diplomat Christine Vanderveen to protect the severely wounded Ramanthian Queen, who has fled there to avoid assassination. And they'll risk everything to save the Confederacy, billions of lives-and their future together.

Twilight of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback 10/04/2011) – This seems to be a sequel to Geillor’s Zombie novel set in Woebegotten with a humorous twist on a certain northwest group of vampires:

A small town... a plucky heroin, a shiny vampire, and a hunkey Native American rival with a secret. But all is not as it seems in Lake Woebegotten. Let Harrison Geillor reveal what lies beneath the seemingly placid surface. You’ll laugh. We promise.

When Bonnie Grayduck relocates from sunny Santa Cruz California to the small town of Lake Woebegotten, Minnesota, to live with her estranged father, chief of the local two-man police department, she thinks she’s leaving her troubles behind. But she soon becomes fascinated by another student - the brooding, beautiful Edwin Scullen, whose reclusive family hides a terrible secret. (Psst: they're actually vampires. But they're the kind who don't eat people, so it's okay.) Once Bonnie realizes what her new lover really is, she isn't afraid. Instead, she sees potential. Because while Bonnie seems to her friends and family to be an ordinary, slightly clumsy, easily-distracted girl, she’s really manipulative, calculating, power hungry, and not above committing murder to get her way - or even just to amuse herself. This is a love story about monsters... but the vampire isn't the monster.

Courts of the Fey by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis and (DAW Mass Market Paperback 6/07/2011) – The monthly themed anthology from DAW for November 2011 focuses on the realm of the Faerie.

Fantasy, whether classic or contemporary, has always been based on the conflict between the forces of Light and Darkness. Now some of the genre's most inventive authors bring readers into the Seelie Court, where all serve the Queen of Air and Light, and the Unseelie Court, where the forces of Darkness hold sway.

The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff (DAW Hardcover 11/01/2011) – Huff is incredibly prolific, bouncing between fantasy, urban fantasy and military science fiction: This book is the sequel to The Enchantment Emporium.

"The Gales are an amazing family, the aunts will strike fear into your heart, and the characters Allie meets are both charming and terrifying." -#1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris

Alysha Gale's cousin Charlotte is a Wild Power, who allies herself with a family of Selkies in a fight against offshore oil drilling. The oil company has hired another of the Gale family's Wild Powers, the fearsome Auntie Catherine, to steal the Selkies' sealskins. To defeat her, Charlotte will have to learn what born to be Wild really means in the Gale family...

Infidel by Kameron Hurley (Trade Paperback 10/11/2011 Night Shade Books) – Second novel in the “Bugpunk” trilogy which began with God’s War.

The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...

Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.

When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.

In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.

Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you.

Fire Works in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome (Paperback 11/1/2011 DAW) –Third novel in Jerome’s series which began with Trolls in the Hamptons

Graphic novelist Willow Tate has a paranormal talent for "drawing" beings from the realm of Faerie into our world. So why did she foolishly make the hero of her next book a fire wizard? Now she has to contend with a rash of "fire" flies, a gorgeous firefighter, and an arsonist who seems determined to set East Hampton ablaze...

Stan Lee's How to Write Comics by Stan Lee (Watson-Guptill Hardcover 10/11/2011) – Stan “The Man” Lee shares his insight about comic scripting in this attractive coffee-table book. Seems more appropriate than the book he penned on how to Draw comics, since Stan was the writer-creator responsible for the X-Men, Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Fantastic Four.

Comics icon Stan Lee, creator of the Mighty Marvel Universe, has set about to teach everything he knows about writing and creating comic book characters. In these pages, aspiring comics writers will learn everything they need to know about how to write their own comic book stories, complete with easy to understand instruction, tips of the trade, and invaluable advice even for more advance writers. From the secrets to creating concepts, plots, to writing the script, the man with no peer — Stan Lee—is your guide to the world of writing and creating comics.

Z: Zombie Stories edited by J.M Lassen (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback 10/04/2011) – J.M. Lassen is the man behind the scenes at Nighsthade and this themed anthology focuses on zombies (of course) but aimed at young adults.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, it's not just those crusty old folks who will struggle against the undead, it's the young people. What happens when you come of age during the zombie apocalypse? Z: Zombie Stories has the answer to that question.

Z: Zombie Stories gathers together some of the hottest zombie fiction of the last two decades, from
authors including Kelly Link, Jonathan Maberry, and Catherynne M. Valente. These stories focus on those who will inherit a world overrun with the living dead: a young man who takes up the family business of dealing with the undead, a girl struggling with her abusive father... who has become a zombie, a poet who digs up the wrong grave, and a Viking maiden
imprisoned with the living dead...

The Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback 10/04/2011) – Ross has been in the Night Shade fold for quite a while and this is his first full anthology with them. Who doesn’t love some Cthulhu craziness? Only crazy folks and this looks to be another in an impressive line of themed anthologies from the NSB folks.

The Cthulhu Mythos is one of the 20th century''s most singularly recognizable literary creations. Initially created by H. P. Lovecraft and a group of his amorphous contemporaries (the so-called "Lovecraft Circle"), The Cthulhu Mythos story cycle has taken on a convoluted, cyclopean life of its own. Some of the most prodigious writers of the 20th century, and some of the most astounding writers of the 21st century have planted their seeds in this fertile soil. The Book of Cthulhu harvests the weirdest and most corpulent crop of these modern mythos tales. From weird fiction masters to enigmatic rising stars, The Book of Cthulhu demonstrates how Mythos fiction has been a major cultural meme throughout the 20th century, and how this type of story is still salient, and terribly powerful today.

Table of Contents:

Caitlin R. Kiernan - Andromeda among the Stones Ramsey Campbell - The Tugging Charles Stross - A Colder War Bruce Sterling - The Unthinkable Silvia Moreno-Garcia - Flash Frame W. H. Pugmire - Some Buried Memory Molly Tanzer - The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins Michael Shea - Fat Face Elizabeth Bear - Shoggoths in Bloom T. E. D. Klien - Black Man With A Horn David Drake - Than Curse the Darkness Charles Saunders - Jeroboam Henley''s Debt Thomas Ligotti - Nethescurial Kage Baker - Calamari Curls Edward Morris - Jihad over Innsmouth Cherie Priest - Bad Sushi John Hornor Jacobs - The Dream of the Fisherman''s Wife Brian McNaughton - The Doom that Came to Innsmouth Ann K. Schwader - Lost Stars Steve Duffy - The Oram County Whoosit Joe R. Lansdale - The Crawling Sky Brian Lumley - The Fairground Horror Tim Pratt - Cinderlands Gene Wolfe - Lord of the Land Joseph Pulver, Sr. - To Live and Die in Arkham John Langan - The Shallows Laird Barron - The Men from Porlock

The Ninth Circle (A Novel of the U.S.S. Merrimack) by R.M. Meluch (DAW Hardcover 11/01/2011) – I’ve been wanting to read more Military SF as of late and this book, fifth in the series, continues the saga of the conflict between an Earth-based military and a colony which is a reborn Roman empire, with alien life mixed into it. The first book in the series sounds interesting and maybe this one can stand on its own.

Fifth in the hard-hitting military science-fiction series.

On the distant world of Zoe, an expedition finds DNA-based life. When alien invaders are also discovered, Glenn Hamilton calls on the U.S.S. Merrimack for help. But the Ninth Circle and the Palatine Empire have also found Zoe. Soon everyone will be on a collision course to determine the fate of this planet.

Eyes to See (Book One of The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles) by Joseph Nassise (Tor Hardcover 10/11/2011) – This urban fantasy seems to add a thicker layer of horror than many of the UF novels to arrive at the o’ Stuff. Nassie is a veteran writer, this is his first book with Tor.

In an urban fantasy that charts daring new territory in the field, Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: his marriage, his career, his reputation. Desperate to reclaim what he has lost, Hunt finally turns to the supernatural for justice.

Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and even more dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead and the powers that stalk his worst nightmares, Hunt embarks upon a strange new career—a pariah among the living; a scourge among the dead; doomed to walk between the light of day and the deepest darkness beyond night.

His love for his departed daughter sustains him when all is most hopeless, but Hunt is cursed by something more evil than he can possibly imagine. As he descends into the maelstrom of his terrifying quest, he discovers that even his deepest fears are but prelude to yet darker deeds by a powerful entity from beyond the grave…that will not let him go until it has used him for its own nefarious purposes.

I, Robot: To Protect by Mickey Zucker Reichert (Roc Hardcover 11/01/2011) – I’ve only read one novel by Reichert (The Last of the Renshai) and that was years ago. Most of her fiction has been danced around themes of myth, particularly Norse myth so this could be seen as a bit of a departure from what she typically writes. This book is authorized by the Asimov estate.

First in an all-new trilogy inspired by Isaac Asimov's legendary science fiction collection I, Robot.

2035: Susan Calvin is beginning her residency at a Manhattan teaching hospital, where a select group of patients is receiving the latest in diagnostic advancements: tiny nanobots, injected into the spinal fluid, that can unlock and map the human mind.

Soon, Susan begins to notice an ominous chain of events surrounding the patients. When she tries to alert her superiors, she is ignored by those who want to keep the project far from any scrutiny for the sake of their own agenda. But what no one knows is that the very technology to which they have given life is now under the control of those who seek to spread only death...

The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 10/11/2011) – Debut novel about the Zombie apocalypse from Roche, who has published short stories and seen work as an editor.

Ex-mercenary, pirate, and gun-runner Dante Bogart knows he's screwed the pooch after he hands one of his shady employers a biological weapon that made the dead rise from their graves, laugh like hyenas, and feast upon the living. Dante tried to blow the whistle via a tell-all video that went viral -- but that was before the black ops boys deep-sixed him at a secret interrogation site on the Panama-Colombia border.

When Dante wakes up in the jungle with the five intervening years missing from his memory, he knows he's got to do something about the laughing sickness that has caused a world-wide slaughter. The resulting journey leads him across the nightmare that was the Panama Canal, around Cape Horn in a hijacked nuclear warship, to San Francisco's mission district, where a crew of survivalist hackers have holed up in the pseudo-Moorish-castle turned porn-studio known as The Armory.

This mixed band of anti-social rejects has taken Dante's whistle blowing video as an underground gospel, leading the fight against the laughing corpses and the corporate stooges who've tried to profit from the slaughter. Can Dante find redemption and save civilization?

Tribulations by Ken Shufeldt (Tor Mass Market Paperback 01/03/20132) – Religious overtones and the apocalypse! Fun for all. This seems to be Shufeldt’s second novel and it isn’t clear whether the two books are related as Shufeldt doesn’t seem to have an internet presence.

The world has ended…. The war is only beginning.

An asteroid storm has obliterated the Earth. Billy and Linda West have built enough space-going arks to save a small number of people who now roam the void in search of a new home.

Desperate to find a safe haven, Billy makes a dangerous attempt to exceed the speed of light. When his plans go terribly wrong, the Wests’ severely-damaged ship is separated from the fleet and left drifting near a mysterious planet.

This world’s conditions are hospitable—but its inhabitants are not. Suddenly the Wests and their fellow survivors are caught in the middle of an ancient war between two brutal nations. Faced with horrific dangers, they are forced to choose a side just to survive.

Shadowrise (Volume Three of Shadowmarch) by Tad Williams (DAW Mass Market Paperback 11/01/2011) – I read this on hardcover about a year ago and think the series, as a whole, is excellent and seemed to fly under the radar more than it deserved, from the review: For all the mythic action and world building, Williams never skimps on his characters. The whole cast is relatable, engendered a sense of empathy, and general concern-for-what-happens-to-them in me. With each chapter that brought a close to that particular episode in the characters story arc, I was frustrated it ended, but conversely comforted by the movement of the story to another character about whom I cared.

A year ago, the March Kingdoms were at peace, the Eddon family held the throne, and all was right in Southmarch Castle. Now the family has been shattered. King Olin Eddon is a prisoner and his heir is slain. The royal twins Barrick and Briony have done their best to hold the kingdom together, but now Barrick has been captured and Briony has been forced to flee the castle. Old magics are stirring beneath the ancient castle and behind the Shadowline, and the machinations of gods, fairies, and mortals threaten to spread devastation across the entire world.

Shadowheart (Volume Four of Shadowmarch) by Tad Williams (DAW Trade Paperback 11/01/2011) – This was as very good conclusion to the four book trilogy, as I said in my review: This entire saga started out with great promise, albeit a bit slowly as is often the case with Tad Williams’s epics. What that does is provide for a solid foundation for which Tad can throw his story and play with the gods he creates, give the true Epic sense to his character’s journeys they richly deserve, and allow a true sense of world changing events to be felt within his narrative. Each character gets an emotional spotlight, through either the scenes in which they appear, or through the reflections of other characters.

"When it comes to inventing new worlds, he's as skilled as J.R.R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert." -Christopher Paolini, bestselling author of Eragon.

Southmarch Castle is about to be caught between two implacable enemies, the ancient, immortal Qar and the insane god-king, the Autarch of Xis. Meanwhile, its two young defenders, Princess Briony and Prince Barrick, are both trapped far away from home and fighting for their lives.

And now, something is awakening underneath Southmarch Castle, something powerful and terrible that the world has not seen for thousands of years. Can Barrick and Briony, along with a tiny handful of allies, ordinary and extraordinary, find a way to save their world and prevent the rise of a terrible new age-an age of unending darkness?