Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Benjamin Tate and Ciaphas Cain Reviewed at SFFWorld

Another Tuesday, another two-fer. This time, the part of Hobbit will be played by Kathryn…er rather the review comes from her rather than Hobbit. Right…

I’ve been catching up with some books from my to-read stack that have been lingering for a couple of years, the most recent review of which is for Benjamin Tate’s Well of Sorrows which applies fantastical elements (dark magic, elvish and dwarfish creatures, and demons) to the American Colonies and the pioneers who wagon-trained West:

Things go from bad to mildly hopeful when Colin’s father teaches the young boy how to use a sling to defend himself. When Colin confronts Walter and his gang of rouges, he gains a minor victory only to be arrested and grouped in with a bunch of insurgents who started a riot at the docks where Colin’s father is a day worker struggling to get a steady job. As a result of his incarceration and the Lord’s intimations, Colin’s father agrees to help lead a group of families out of the settled area in order to gain Colin’s freedom. Of course, the individual put in charge of the caravan is Walter, Colin’s nemesis. The only true brightspot for Colin during this first chunk of the book is his growing relationship with a girl name Karen, who, as they set out on their pilgrimage, becomes his betrothed.

The world-building, taking the form of a fantasized Colonial America, is realized to the point of being a character on its own. This aspect of the novel is subtle and expertly revealed, Tate introduces the main cast characters and moves them around their small town while they converse about the situation that forced them to make the journey to the New World. As these people leave Portstown and encounter the dangers in the unexplored lands, everything comes across to them as new, which works well to impart the details to the reader.

Kathryn sampled one of the Warhammer 40K audio dramas featuring Sandy Mitchell’s popular Ciaphas Cain, Dead in the Water:

Ciaphas Cain just can't stay out of danger for long. In Dead in the Water, Cain and Jurgen find themselves dispatched to a feral river world occupied by some of the Vostroyan Firstborn. The Firstborn have lost a unit of troops and been unable to recover them, and it's up to Cain to help locate the missing troops, but also to discover who has been at the helm of a wave of killing.

The script is very reminiscent of the short stories that Mitchell has written for Cain, again taking the form of his edited archives, with Inquisitor Vail responsible for turning Cain's post-retirment recollections into coherant stories. I found the similarities with the story made the drama more accessible, as someone new to audio dramas, but it also allowed Toby Longworth and Sandy Mitchell to play to the strengths of the existing Cain stories.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dauntless by Jack Cambpell, the First Lost Fleet Novel

It looks as if my appreciation of Jack Campbell's Dauntless (Lost Fleet #1) is closing out the book appreciations of Military Science Fiction Appreciation at Tor.com. I'd read Dreadnaught, the first in the sequel series last year and after having read Dauntless, I plan on reading the whole series.

I'm really glad to have been a part of this whole thing, considering the books included and some of the contributors (Myke Cole, David Drake, John Scalzi, and Jo Walton) who wrote thought-provoking and highly debatable topics.

Myke Cole Interview at SFFWorld FIXED

Thanks to one of my SFFWorld pals (tmso/Nila) I've now fixed the Myke Cole interview. I hadn't realized the interface for uploading the interview kept cutting off the interview part of the way through it. So, I've added an additional page so the full interview I conducted with Myke is complete and uploaded to SFFWorld.

So, here's the first page

Here's the second page

Logos knacked from Myke's site. The first is the emblem of the Supernatural Operations Corp and the second is the division for which the protagonist is assigned.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-01-28)

Three books this fine week here at the o' Stuff, so go on and peruse them.

The Burning Man (Kingdom of the Serpent #2) by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback 04/24/2012) – Pyr is employing that tried-and-true publishing schedule by issuing a trilogy over a three month period. This is the second in the series which continues to expand upon Chadbourn’s previous Celtic flavored.

After a long journey across the ages, Jack Churchill has returned to the modern world, only to find it in the grip of a terrible, dark force. The population is unaware, mesmerized by the Mundane Spell that keeps them in thrall. With a small group of trusted allies, Jack sets out to find the two "keys" that can shatter the spell.

But the keys are people—one with the power of creation, one the power of destruction—and they are hidden somewhere among the world’s billions.

As the search fans out across the globe, ancient powers begin to stir. In the bleak North, in Egypt, in Greece, in all the Great Dominions, the old gods are returning to stake their claim. The odds appear insurmountable, the need desperate . . . This is a time for heroes.

The Dread (Book Three of Fallen Kings Cycle #2) by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit Books Mass Market Paperback 02/01/2012) – Since Martin’s first novel, The Summoner published in 2007, she’s been on a tight book-a-year schedule and she’s grown an impressive base of readers, and jumped to Orbit. This is the second in what seems to be a sequel trilogy to her first trilogy, The Chronicles of the Necromancer.

Still reeling from plague and civil war, the Winter Kingdoms face an invasion force from across the Northern Sea led my a dark spirit mage in the name of ancient, vanquished gods. Summoner-King Martris Drayke and an untested generation of new rulers must stand against an unholy alliance of shadowy invaders. To prevail, Tris must win the uncertain support of the Dread, spirit-beings that stand guard within the sacred barrows over an even more fearsome threat imprisoned within. In the balance lies not only the freedom of the Winter Kingdoms, but Tris’s life and the soul of his young son, whose untested magic might be the biggest spoil of war.

War has come to the Winter Kingdoms. The Dread will rise. Kings will fall.

Summoner-King Tris Drayke takes what remains of his army north for a war he is ill-prepared to fight, as reports from spies confirm Tris's worst fear. A new threat rises across the sea: a dark summoner who intends to make the most of the Winter Kingdoms's weakness.

In Isencroft, Kiara's father is assassinated and she will now have no choice except to return and claim the crown. But she must leave behind her husband and their infant son to face the dark power that threatens her rule.

THE DREAD is the epic conclusion to the Fallen Kings Cycle.

Heir of Novron (Riyria Revelations Omnibus #3) by Michael J. Sullivan (Orbit, Trade Paperback 01/31/2011) – This one arrived the day before I posted my review of Rise of Empire, which I liked a lot and I thoroughly enjoyed, the first OmnibusTheft of Swords. I recently interviewed Michael for SFFWorld.

The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melengar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. On that same day the Empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there's just one problem-Royce and Hadrian have finally found the true Heir of Novron---and they have their own holiday plans.

When author Michael J. Sullivan self-published the first books of his Riyria Revelations series online, they rapidly became ebook bestsellers. Now, Orbit is pleased to present the complete series for the first time in bookstores everywhere.

Heir of Novron is the final volume of The Riyria Revelations and includes Wintertide and ---available for the first time--- the final volume, Percepliquis.

Rage of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras #3) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Tor, Hardcover 04/12/2012) – Through their DragonLance and Darksword sagas this author team helped to introduce me to the genre in the 1980s. introduced This is the third book of their latest collaborative effort – a six book series.

From New York Times bestselling authors Weis and Hickman comes Rage of the Dragon, the action-packed third book in their Dragonships fantasy series.

Skylan Ivorson is the gods-chosen Chief of all Vindras clans. But the gods from whom the Vindrasi draw their earthdwelling power are besieged by a new generation of gods who are challenging them for the powers of creation. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies within the Five Bones of the Vektia Dragon—the primal dragon forged during the creation of the world—which have been lost for generations.

With the Gods of the New Dawn amassing a vast army, Skylan finds allies in former enemies. Calling upon the ogres to fight their common foes, the Vindrasi soon find themselves in the middle of an even larger war. Skylan and his Vindrasi clan must sail the Sea of Tears into the heart of the Forbidden Empire of the Cyclops, to implement a cunning yet delicate plan that risks his life and leadership at every corner. But a new enemy lies deep in the sea, one who draws upon powers never harnessed by land dwellers.

Master world-builders Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, who have entertained generations of fans with the Dragonlance series and the Death Gate Cycle, prove they’re at the top of their game.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Myke Cole Interview at SFFWorld

Myke Cole's debut novel, Shadow OPS: Control Point is released into the wild next week (January 31, 2012) to be specific and has been garnering a heap of praise, including my review I posted last week. He's been very active on teh intarwebs of late, doing numerous interviews, DM'ing a Dungeons and Dragons session with a bunch of other writers, and penning some articles for Tor.com. Recently, he took some time out of his schedule to do an e-mail interview with yours truly.

Below this awesome image which serves as the background for his Web site, is a snippet of our interview, for which the full version can be found here.

The tag line the publisher is using is a great one – “Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men.” Is this the high concept you were aiming to achieve or did you just want to get these ideas swirling in your head into the form of a novel?

The latter. I was far more interested in seeing how the rigid, giant military bureaucracy would deal with magic than I was in writing a fast-paced, action-packed novel. But the story started out pre 9-11, when I was doing peacetime work at the Pentagon. Once I started going to Iraq, I changed dramatically, and the story changed with me, taking on a lot of the tactical camera I picked up in theater. My craft developed all along, and what emerged at the other end was (I hope) a great blending of all those lines into the book we’ve got today.

With your military background, the military elements come across with great verisimilitude. You’ve mentioned Jack Campbell in previous interviews, what other Military SF writers can you point to and can say “They served, they got it right, too.”

Absolutely: Robert Buettner’s Jason Wander series. Buettner was Army, and it shows in his frank and complex depiction of the military and the people in it. He shows the organization as gigantic, hidebound and soul-crushing, but also glorious, triumphant and transcendent. And that’s really how the military is. It’s impossible to be “pro” or “anti” any organization so vast and complex. It’s very tempting to do that when you’re writing fiction (because polarity makes for an easy story), but the best works of art embrace the complexity and the reader enjoys it because they see reality reflected there. Campbell does this. Buettner does this. I have tried really hard to do it too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Empire and Empire Reviews at SFFWorld

Mark and I reviewed two books recently for SFFWorld and here’s where I provide a blurb, cover image and the link to the reviews.

Mark reviewed a debut novel from the fine folks at Angry Robot that’s generating quite a bit of buzz, for a number of reasons including the terrific cover/design, solid story, and marketing behind the book. The novel in question is Adam Christopher’s Empire State which involves gangsters and superheroes in a noirish New York City:

We have murder and gunshots in dark city streets, where it is always raining, detectives under streetlamps wrestling silently with their broody thoughts and dubious morals. We have Superheroes entwined with Gangsters. And with illicit booze, gang fights, car chases, airships, and robots, it’s a great mash-up of pulp fiction, film-noir and even a little SF ‘sensawunda’. It’s a book with the detective feel of Chandler and Marlowe living in the strange urban landscapes of China Mieville, mixed in with a good dose of Paul McAuley quantum universe SF. And above all, it’s a pulp style superhero book, one that is reminiscent of George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series, or my recent read of Paul Malmont.

In such tales where the writer is juggling so many aspects, there’s a great risk it isn’t going to work, that there’s too many references to the past and not enough originality, and that ‘the grand idea’ in the end peters out to nothing. There was an issue here in that the set up in the initial pages is quite impressive, although by the middle the novel suffers by a colossal slow-down of pace, with lots of running around between low-key locations which is a tad repetitive. In order to maintain the air of mystery before the big reveal midway through, we don’t see a lot of Empire State and so momentum is lost. Some things are kept deliberately enigmatic: the war between Empire State and ‘The Enemy’, the fact that most residents of the Empire State cannot remember much of their history, but seem to exist mainly in the now.

I read and reviewed the second Riyria Revelations omnibus by Michael J. Sullivan, Rise of Empire:

As the title of the omnibus would imply, the Empire and lineage of the thought-to-be lost heir of Novron is making a foothold in the world, absorbing smaller nation-states into its thrall. The empress Modina is a puppet, existing in a state of shock – almost zombie-like – since she was raised from the backwoods girl named Thrace to the role of Heir of Novron and “rightful” ruler of the empire. The ‘scheming manipulator’ behind her ascendancy, Saldur the uncle of Princess or Arista and King Alric of Melengar has posited himself as the one pulling the strings of the burgeoning empire. As such, he raises a random kitchen girl, Amilia to the post of tutor to the emperor. Considering Amilia’s predecessor was not successful in Saldur’s eyes and taken to task because of that failure, Amilia is less than thrilled about her new appointment.

In the two novels (
Nyphron Rising and The Emerald Storm) collected in the Rise of Empire omnibus, Michael J. Sullivan’s storytelling abilities continue to shine. It becomes clearer that he’s got the forest of a saga in mind, rather than just a few trees of story. A lot of nice set pieces (a gladiatorial fight involving Royce, Hadrian and some of the companions from The Emerald Storm against a pack of goblins; the various identities under which we meet Arista, etc) highlight the panache of Sullivan’s narrative arsenal. I particularly enjoyed the character journey on which he’s got Arista moving, though she was a primary character in the previous volumes, she fully came into her own in these two novels as a character on the same importance level as Royce and Hadrian, from my perspective.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-01-21)

Another batch of random assortments here at the ‘o Stuff. Have a look, won’t you?

Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham (Del Rey Hardcover 04/10/2012) – I read Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice when it first published, liked it, but just didn’t return to the series. This book brings to a conclusion the unnamed series begun with Without Warning.

When an inexplicable wave of energy slammed into North America, millions died. In the rest of the world, wars erupted, borders vanished, and the powerful lost their grip on power. Against this backdrop, with a conflicted U.S. president struggling to make momentous decisions in Seattle and a madman fomenting rebellion in Texas, three women are fighting their own battles—for survival, justice, and revenge.

Special agent Caitlin Monroe moves stealthily through a South American jungle. Her target: a former French official now held prisoner by a ruthless despot. To free the prisoner, Caitlin will kill anyone who gets in her way. And then she will get the truth about how a master terrorist escaped a secret detention center in French Guadeloupe to strike a fatal blow in New York City.

Sofia Peiraro is a teenage girl who witnessed firsthand the murder and mayhem of Texas under the rule of General Mad Jack Blackstone. Sofia might have tried to build a life with her father in the struggling remnants of Kansas City—if a vicious murder hadn’t set her on another course altogether: back to Texas, even to Blackstone himself.

Julianne Balwyn is a British-born aristocrat turned smuggler. Shopping in the most fashionable neighborhood of Darwin, Australia—now a fantastic neo-urban frontier—Jules has a pistol holstered in the small of her lovely back. She is playing the most dangerous game of all: waiting for the person who is hunting her to show his face—so she can kill him first.

Three women in three corners of a world plunged into electrifying chaos. Nation-states struggling for their survival. Immigrants struggling for new lives. John Birmingham’s astounding new novel—the conclusion to the series begun in Without Warning and After America—is an intense adventure that races from the halls of power to shattered streets to gleaming new cities, as humanity struggles to grasp its better angels—and purge its worst demons.

Body, Inc. by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey 03/27/2012) – I think Alan Dean Foster is neck and neck with Harry Turtledove for the amount of books I’ve received for review over the past few years. Unfortunately, a majority of these books are part of larger series – and deeply into the series at that – so I haven’t jumped into any of the books.

New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster has always been on the cutting-edge of science fiction. In Body, Inc., he creates a tomorrow where genetic manipulation has become ubiquitous, and the very meaning of what it is to be human is undergoing drastic transformation.

In a world deeply wounded by centuries of environmental damage, two unlikely souls join forces: Dr. Ingrid Seastrom has stumbled into a mystery involving quantum-entangled nanoscale implants—a mystery that just may kill her. Whispr is a thief and murderer whose radical body modifications have left him so thin he is all but two-dimensional. Whispr has found a silver data-storage thread, a technology that will make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. He is also going mad with longing for Dr. Ingrid Seastrom. Their quest to learn the secrets of the implant and the thread—which may well be the same secret—has led them to the South African Economic Combine, otherwise known as SAEC. Or, less respectfully, SICK. SICK, it seems, has the answers.

Unfortunately, SICK has also got Napun Molé, a cold-blooded assassin whose genetic enhancements make him the equivalent of a small army. Molé has already missed one chance to kill Ingrid and Whispr and now he has followed them to South Africa. This time, he is not only going to succeed, he is going to make them suffer.

Burton & Swineburne in Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder (Pyr, Trade Paperback 01/17/2012) – I read and enjoyed the first in this series, which subsequently received the Philip K. Dick Award. I still haven’t read the second book, but this book brings to conclusion Hodder's popular steampunk trilogy.

It is 1863, but not the one it should be. Time has veered wildly off course, and now the first moves are being made that will lead to a devastating world war and the fall of the British Empire.

The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, believes that by using the three Eyes of Naga—black diamonds possessing unique properties—he’ll be able to manipulate events and avoid the war. He already has two of the stones, but the third is hidden somewhere in the Mountains of the Moon, the fabled source of the Nile.

Palmerston sends Sir Richard Francis Burton to recover it. For the king’s agent, it’s a chance to redeem himself after his previous failed attempt to find the source of the great river. That occasion had led to betrayal by his partner, John Hanning Speke. Now Speke is leading a rival expedition on behalf of the Germans, and it seems that the battle between the former friends may ignite the very war that Palmerston is trying to avoid!

Caught in a tangled web of cause, effect, and inevitability, little does Burton realize that the stakes are far higher than even he suspects.

A final confrontation comes in the mist-shrouded Mountains of the Moon, in war- torn Africa of 1914, and in Green Park, London, where, in the year 1840, Burton must face the man responsible for altering time: Spring Heeled Jack!

Burton and Swinburne’s third adventure is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and bizarre events, completing the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.

Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Pyr Trade Paperback 01/17/2012) – This is Rusch’s third entry in the series following “Boss” an archaeologist who scavenges old spacewrecks. Dan liked the first one Diving into the Wreck, when he reviewed it a couple of years ago.

When multiple Hugo Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch decided to put her stamp on classic space opera, readers wanted more. Now Rusch’s popular character Boss returns in a whole new adventure, one that takes her far outside her comfort zone, to a sector of space she’s never seen before. Searching for ancient technology to help her friends find answers to the mystery of their own past, Boss ventures into a place filled with evidence of an ancient space battle, one the Dignity Vessels lost.

Meanwhile, the Enterran Empire keeps accidentally killing its scientists in a quest for ancient stealth tech. Boss’s most difficult friend, Squishy, has had enough. She sneaks into the Empire and destroys its primary stealth tech research base. But an old lover thwarts her escape, and now Squishy needs Boss’s help.

Boss, who is a fugitive in the Empire. Boss, who knows how to make a Dignity Vessel work. Boss, who knows that Dignity Vessels house the very technology that the Empire is searching for.

Should Boss take a Dignity Vessel to rescue Squishy and risk losing everything to the Empire? Or should Boss continue on her mission for her other friends and let Squishy suffer her own fate?

Filled with battles old and new, scientific dilemmas, and questions about the ethics of friendship, Boneyards looks at the influence of our past on our present and the risks we all take when we meddle in other people’s lives.

Boneyards is space opera the way it was meant to be: exciting, fast moving, and filled with passion.

Blood Angels: The Second Omnibus
(WH40K/Space Marines) by James Swallow (Black Library, Trade Paperback 02/07/2012) – This is yet another (and I mean that as a compliment!) repackaging of books into omnibus format from the fine folks at Black Library. Swallow has been playing in the Warhammer sandbox for quite some time, including the New York Times bestselling author of Nemesis.

The Blood Angels stand apart from the other Chapters of the Adeptus Astartes, descending from the skies on wings of flame. While they are renowned for their ten-thousand-year history of glorious battle and honourable deeds, these secretive Space Marines seek to hide the dark flaws at the core of their being – the Red Thirst and the Black Rage – from the rest of the Imperium. Do they fight any longer for the protection of mankind, or merely for their own salvation?

This omnibus edition continues the saga of the Blood Angels, featuring the novels Red Fury and Black Tide, as well as exciting short stories (Redeemed, Heart of Rage, Bloodline) and background material from New York Times bestselling author James Swallow.

Luthor Huss
by Chris Wraight (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 2/14/2011) – Wraight continues to churn out Warhammer novels, this one looks to have a link to Graham McNeill’s Sigmar/Time of Legends trilogy:

Witch hunter Lukas Eichmann investigates a series of bizarre murders, which ultimately lead him into the haunted depths of the Empire at the head of an army of fanatical warriors. In the Drakwald Forest, Luthor Huss, warrior priest of Sigmar, battles to free the denizens of the forest from a plague of the walking dead. As their fates entwine, the two warriors confront a threat that will decide their future, while Huss must face a secret from his past if he is to survive and embrace his destiny as the Hammer of Sigmar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

March Upcountry by Weber & Ringo - My First Post at Tor.com

Last year, I became an official blogger/contributor at Tor.com and today, the first post I contributed (written a little over a month ago) went live! The cover of the book below gives away the nature of my post, which is part of the Military Science Fiction Appreciation theme at Tor.com, a review/appreciation of March Upcountry by David Weber and John Ringo. So click the cover or the title of the book and comment away!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Two Debuts Reviewed: Myke Cole & John R. Fultz

Reviews of two debut novels hit SFFWorld, as usual, one review from Mark and the other from me. I liked the book I reviewed and well…Mark read the book he reviewed. Let’s start with the good, OK?

Myke Cole’s Shadow OPS: Control Point is a mash-up of Military Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Fantasy tropes that I couldn’t put down or stop thinking about long after I finished the novel. I’ll be posting an interview I conducted with Myke in about a week.

Superficially, Shadow OPS: Control Point may seem like just another military science fiction novel, with some of new ingredients. Cole is a better writer and storyteller than that; sure he mixes Urban Fantasy elements into the equation, but deeper themes are woven into the narrative. One of those, and perhaps it is punctuated by Oscar’s black skin color (which is mentioned in passing about 1/3 into the narrative), is the notion that people who manifest in ‘forbidden schools’ and latent people are treated as slaves to the military and government; tools of those in power and not really people at all. Oscar’s internal conflict about this issues stems for a lot of things – for starters, he’s the thing he once hunted. Another is that his whole life was the military and now that’s gone, he isn’t sure what kind of life he can have.

Told in a third person perspective, Cole still conveys the stress and conflict Britton experiences both physically and mentally in a supremely believable fashion. At times I found myself sympathizing with Oscar’s plight, other times, I wanted to whack him upside the head and shout “Just go with it!” It proved frustrating at times, but I’d almost say in a car-wreck kind of way because I wanted to see if Oscar would actually do what he’s told or continue to rebel. I don’t know if this is what Cole intended, but also found myself siding with characters that were likely set out as antagonists – specifically legally empowered magic practitioner Harlequin who was once part of Oscar’s team and then attempted to secure Oscar once he manifested. By novel’s end, the path on which Cole was placing Oscar became more evident and some of his actions that felt a bit frustrating came to a head in a way that made sense for the next steps on his journey.

Mark dove in headfirst to a Heroic Fantasy debut novel being published amidst great fanfare from the fine folks at Orbit, : Seven Princes edited by John R. Fultz:

The plot is basically The Magnificent Seven (or Battle Beyond the Stars, if you prefer), but using Princes instead of cowboys. Prince D’zan’s father, King Trimesqua, is slain by an army of the undead resurrected by Elhathym, a mysterious stranger who claims he has come back to reclaim the court of Yaskatha.

The only survivors of the massacre, D’zan and his bodyguard Olthalcus escape and try to enlist support and so reclaim the village kingdom. He enlists six other cowboys Princes to his cause. The duo travel to New Udurum to seek help from The Princes of Uurz – Tyro, the natural leader, and Lyrilan, the scholar - who pledge their support. Travelling to seek help from the Giant King Vod, they find that the King has abdicated, leaving the Kingdom in charge of his Queen, Shaira, with the help of their sons Fangodrel, Tadarus and Vireon, and daughter Sharadza. Lastly, Andoses, heir to the throne of Shar Dni, makes up the seventh. Together they go, in order to defeat the evil sorcerer and get D’zan back to where he rightfully belongs. Sharadza goes off to learn sorcery and be a witch in order to help.

I really wanted to like this one. Sadly, in the end I was disappointed, but in my opinion it’s not as bad as some would have it. The pace is a little uneven, but it moves along at a fair clip. It’s solidly written, but, in the end, commits the sin of being quite interchangeable with other Fantasy books out there.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-01-14)

Since is the first full week of releases I’ve received in 2012, I figured I’d drop the usual disclaimer, explaining these weekly posts.

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.

Some publishers are on a very predictable schedule of releases, making this blog post fairly easy to compose. For example, the fine folks at DAW publish exactly 3 mass market paperbacks a month and often, one of those books is a themed anthology of short stories, and most often, they send their books about a month prior to the actual publication date.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, 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 (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday").

Throne of the Crescent Moon (Book I of The Crescent Moon Kingdoms) by Saladin Ahmed (DAW, Hardcover 02/07/2012) –Ahmed already a finalist for the Nebula and Campbell Awards releases one for the most anticipated debut novels of the year, novel people have been talking about on the intarwebs for quite a few months

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron- fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near- mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time-and struggle against their own misgivings-to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 01/31/2012) – I finished this book just as the new year turned and loved it. A full review to come shortly, but here’s what I said when I received the ARC: 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.

The Order of the Scales (Memory of Flames Series #2) by Stephen Deas (Roc, Hardcover 02/07/2012) – Third in a series about which Mark/Hobbit of SFFWorld has said: this is something though that Stephen has done here. The book is an entertaining mix of Pern and Westeros, with the knowing characterisation of Abercrombie and the endearment of Novik. To be recognised alongside such authors is a real achievement. The book is a very nicely put together package that will satisfy many a Fantasy and dragon fan.

Having survived Jehal's betrayal, former Queen Zafir is determined to take back control of the kingdom. To that end, she seizes Jehal's wife and son as hostages. Desperate to save his queen and his heir, Jehal makes a tentative peace with the dragons of the north, and prepares to fly against his enemies.

But as politics throw the realms of men into turmoil, a far greater danger threatens. The dragons are awakening from the spells cast upon them, and returning to their native fury. They are out for revenge. And that revenge will be brutal.

Apocalypse: (Fate of the Jedi Book Nine) by Troy Denning (Hardcover 03/13/2012 Del Rey) – Another Star Wars series comes to a close with one of the Expanded Universes best and most consistent authors, Troy Denning.

There can be no surrender.
There will be no mercy.
It’s not just the future of the galaxy at stake—
It’s the destiny of the Force.

In the stunning finale of the epic Fate of the Jedi series, Jedi and Sith face off—with Coruscant as their battlefield. For the Sith, it’s the chance to restore their dominance over the galaxy that forgot them for so long. For Abeloth, it’s a giant step in her quest to conquer all life everywhere. For Luke Skywalker, it’s a call to arms to eradicate the Sith and their monstrous new master once and for all.

In a planetwide strike, teams of Jedi Knights take the Sith infiltrators by swift and lethal surprise. But victory against the cunning and savage Abeloth, and the terrifying endgame she has planned, is anything but certain. And as Luke, Ben, Han, Leia, Jaina, Jag, and their allies close in, the devastating truth about the dark side incarnate will be exposed—and send shock waves through the Jedi Order, the galaxy, and the Force itself.

Mass Effect: Deception by William C. Dietz (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 01/31/2012) – Dietz, author of the popular Legion of the Damned Military SF has been penning some video game adaptations of late, including the hugely popular Mass Effect.

An all-new adventure inspired by the award-winning videogame from BioWare!

The universe is under siege. Every fifty thousand years, a race of sentient machines invades our galaxy to harvest all organic life-forms. They are the Reapers.

Two people who know the truth are desperately searching for a way to stop the cycle: Navy admiral David Anderson and his partner, Kahlee Sanders. They have uncovered grisly evidence proving that the Reaper threat is real. But in so doing they have exposed the machinations of Cerberus, a secretive paramilitary organization, and its mysterious leader, the Illusive Man—putting David and Kahlee in mortal danger, for Cerberus will stop at nothing to protect its secrets.

But along the way, they find an unlikely ally in Gillian Grayson, a young woman with extraordinary powers. Once the subject of horrifying scientific experiments, Gillian is now free—and beginning to master her deadly abilities. But after learning that Cerberus was responsible for the death of her father, Gillian swears vengeance against the group and the Illusive Man—threatening to unravel everything Kahlee and David are fighting for.

Forest Moon Rising (A Tess Noncoire Adventure #4) by P.R Frost (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/07/2012) – Fourth in a series about a woman who is both a fantasy writer and the defender of a Faery realm.

Tess Noncoiré, successful fantasy writer and Celestial Blade Warrior, has made a deal with the Powers That Be, forfeiting her own dreams in order to save those nearest and dearest to her. Having survived this unprecedented experience, Tess, along with her imp Scrap, is determined to hunt down a demonic intruder from another dimension, the Norglein, who seems bent on ravishing young women, leaving them pregnant, and waiting for the proper time to steal their babies away for his own purposes.

Human for a Day by Martin H. Greenberg and Jennifer Brozek and (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/07/2012) – The January 2012 monthly themed anthology from DAW contains a baker’s dozen stories that are western/sf, western/fantasy, western/weird mash-ups, including stories by Seanan McGuire, Jay Lake, Anton Strout, and Brenda Cooper.

From a Western circus where monsters and heroes collide, to a Civil War robot that clanks into battle, to a mining family that encounters parallel universes, Westward Weird features thirteen original stories that open the Old West to new frontiers of science fiction and fantasy.

Wrong Side of Dead (Dreg City 4)by Kelly Meding (Bantam, Mass Market Paperback 01/31/2012) – Strahan has been doing a bang-up job with this annual best of anthology, which combines both branches of the genre. This would be as good a spot as any for me to read some more short fiction.

Monster hunter Evangeline Stone woke up on the wrong side of dead this morning—and now there’s hell to pay.

Barely recovered from her extended torture at the hands of mad scientist Walter Thackery, Evy can use a break. What she gets instead is a war, as the battered Triads that keep Dreg City safe find themselves under attack by half-Blood vampires who have somehow retained their reason, making them twice as lethal. Worse, the Halfies are joined by a breed of were-creature long believed extinct—back and more dangerous than ever. Meanwhile, Evy’s attempts at reconciliation with the man she loves take a hit after Wyatt is viciously assaulted—an attack traced to Thackery, who has not given up his quest to exterminate all vampires . . . even if he has to destroy Dreg City to do it. With Wyatt’s time running out, another threat emerges from the shadows and a staggering betrayal shatters the fragile alliance between the Triads, vampires, and shapeshifters, turning Evy’s world upside down forever.

Apocalypse to Go (Nola O’Grady Book 3) by KatherineKerr (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/07/2012) – Kerr’s best known for her enormously popular Deverry saga releases the third book in a year in this newish urban fantasy/paranormal romance series..

Nola O'Grady has enough trouble when a were-leopard accuses her of receiving stolen property. But when her younger brother Michael goes searching for their missing father, he lands himself and his brother, Sean, in a world of hurt-quite literally-in a deviant world version of San Francisco.

Can Nola and her partner in the Apocalypse Squad, Israeli Interpol agent Ari Nathan, find her brothers in time to save them from death by radiation poisoning? The search will lead them through a city of secrets, but the worst secret of all lurks at the heart of the only thing Nola loves more than Ari: her family.

Embassytown by China Miéville (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 01/31/2012) – Miéville turns his pen to far-future (some might say space opera) in what looks to be another terrific, and at the very least, interesting novel.

China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Six edited by Jonathan Strahan (Nightshade Books, Trade Paperback 03/07/2011) – Strahan has been doing a bang-up job with this annual best of anthology, which combines both branches of the genre. This would be as good a spot as any for me to read some more short fiction.

Table of Contents:
Introduction, Jonathan Strahan / The Case of Death and Honey, Neil Gaiman, (A Study in Sherlock) / The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees, E. Lily Yu, (Clarkesworld, 4/11) / Tidal Forces, Caitlín R Kiernan, (Eclipse Four) / Younger Women, Karen Joy Fowler, (Subterranean, Summer 2011) / White Lines on a Green Field, Catherynne M. Valente, (Subterranean, Fall 2011) / All That Touches The Air, An Owomoyela, (Lightspeed Magazine, 4/11) / What We Found, Geoff Ryman, (F&SF, 9-10/11) / The Server and the Dragon, Hannu Rajaniemi, (Engineering Infinity) / The Choice, Paul McAuley, (Asimov‘s, 1/11) / Malak, Peter Watts, (Engineering Infinity) / Old Habits, Nalo Hopkinson, (Eclipse Four) / A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong, K. J. Parker, (Subterranean, Winter 2011. ) / Valley of the Girls, Kelly Link, (Subterranean, Spring 2011) / Brave Little Toaster, Cory Doctorow, (TRSF) / The Dala Horse, Michael Swanwick, (Tor.com, 7/11) / The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece, M Rickert, (F&SF, 9-10/11) / The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu, (F&SF, March/April 2011) / Steam Girl, Dylan Horrocks, (Steampunk!) / After the Apocalypse, Maureen F. McHugh, (After the Apocalypse) / Underbridge, Peter S. Beagle, (Naked City) / Relic, Jeffrey Ford, (The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities) / The Invasion of Venus, Stephen Baxter, (Engineering Infinity) / Woman Leaves Room, Robert Reed, (Lightspeed Magazine, 3/11) / Restoration, Robert Shearman, (Everyone’s Just So So Special) / The Onset of a Paranormal Romance, Bruce Sterling, (Flurb, Fall-Winter 2011) / Catastrophic Disruption of the Head, Margo Lanagan, (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower Vol. 1) / The Last Ride of the Glory Girls, Libba Bray, (Steampunk!) / The Book of Phoenix (Excerpted from The Great Book), Nnedi Okorafor, (Clarkesworld, 3/11) / Digging, Ian McDonald, (Life on Mars) / The Man Who Bridged the Mist, Kij Johnson, (Asimov’s, 10-11/11) / Goodnight Moons, Ellen Klages, (Life on Mars)

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon Owner's Workshop Manual) by Ryder Windham and illustrated by Chris Trevas and Chris Reiff (Hardcover 03/13/2012 Del Rey) – Haynes Manuals are actual real-life auto manuals, so it is quite a clever piece of publishing to release one of these things for the Falcon..

The Millennium Falcon is a legendary spaceship, made famous by its adventures under the command of smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca, who made numerous special modifications to transform the beat-up Corellian light freighter into one of the fastest ships in the galaxy.

This Haynes Manual traces the model history of the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s YT series of spaceships and the development of the YT-1300 model line before focusing on the Millennium Falcon, itself a modified YT-1300. Onboard systems, controls, and their operation are described in detail and supported by a host of photographs, line art, floor plans, exploded diagrams, and stunning computer-generated artwork, all newly created by acknowledged Falcon experts Chris Reiff and Chris Trevas. Text is by Ryder Windham, author of more than fifty Star Wars books.

Covering operational history, piloting, propulsion, weapons, engineering systems, sensors, and crew facilities, this is the most thorough technical guide to the Millennium Falcon available.

This Haynes Manual is fully authorized and approved by Lucasfilm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams

I reviewed a late 2011 novel, The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams, and posted it to SFFWorld today. This novel generated a healthy amount of discussion on the intarwebs and was published in mid-2011 in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books and December by Night Shade Books. The book didn’t work for me quite as well as I hoped it would:

The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams tells the tale of a disease spreading through the Cerani Empire, and how it affects the Emperor, the people and the fate of the Empire itself. This disease leaves pronounced, clear markings on its victims so keeping an affliction secret is a most challenging prospect.

Set in a fully realized secondary world, the Asiatic / Middle Eastern flavor comes across as exotic and vivid. At times, I was reminded a bit of Eärwa, the world in which R. Scott Bakker’s Second Apocalypse saga takes place or even elements the world of Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esselmont’s Malazan saga and the saga begun with Peter V. Brett’s The Warded Man. In addition to the solid world-building employed through the characters, Williams also unravels a plot that is not predictable or entirely straightforward. A great deal of subterfuge is part of the novel as the truth of Sarmin’s life is not known. Much of the Empire believes Beyon is the only surviving member of his family as a result of a purging and a plan is proposed that should the Emperor Beyon succumb to the disease, Sarmin will be placed on the throne. Though large external conflicts exist and threaten the Empire, Williams chooses to show this conflict through the lenses of his fractured characters. This provides a nice contrast of the intimate and large scope.

Monday, January 09, 2012

On the Horizon - 2012 Reading Possibilities

Readers can be a forward-thinking bunch, especially readers of Speculative Fiction. We're always planning out what we want to read, often as we are reading books we enjoy a great deal. This includes looking at the books coming out in a given year, despite the size of our current stack of books that have yet to be read.

We’ve got a couple of threads running at SFFWorld for this topic (Fantasy & Horror, Science Fiction), but I figured I’d mention 2012 books I’m looking forward to here on the blog. This list is blatantly copied and pared down from the venerable Locus Web site’s Fortchoming books with some additions. Since I live in the US, I’m only mentioning the US releases

January 2012

  • Myke Cole - Shadow OPS: Control Point by – I’ve already read this terrific debut novel, but the book deserves mention since I think it will be a very talked-about book for 2012.
  • Michael J. Sullivan – Heir of Novron - I’m reading the second Riyria Revelations omnibus now so I’ll be all over the concluding omnibus in the next month or so.

February 2012

  • Rachel Aaron - The Legend of Eli Monpress - This omnibus contains the first three novels in Rachel Aaron’s fantasy saga. Hobbit had some good things to say about the first novel, The Spirit Thief.
  • Saladin Ahmed - Throne of the Crescent Moon - Lots of good things have been said about Ahmed’s short fiction. This novel is poised as an early contender for most promising Debut Epic Fantasy of 2012.
  • Tobias S. Buckell - Arctic Rising - I’ve got an e-ARC of this one, Buckell’s first original novel in a couple of years.
  • Tony Daniel Guardian of Night - I’ve only read one novel by Mr. Daniel, enjoyed it a great deal, but then he seemed to have disappeared form the shelves. The fine folks at Baen have signed him up and this looks like good ol’ SF adventure with invading aliens in the future.
  • Elizabeth Moon Echoes of Betrayal - This is the third in Moon’s Paladin’s Legacy series, which is a sequel series to her popular fantasy trilogy, The Deed of Paksenarrion, which I read and loved in 2011. I have an ARC of Echoes of Betrayal though I may not get to the book until the finished/final version arrives.

March 2012
  • Seanan McGuire Discount Armageddon - This is the launch of a new urban fantasy series by the author who is also known as Mira Grant. Typically, this might not be a book I’d normally read but loving her work as Grant might get me to read this book.

April 2012

  • Kevin Hearne Tricked - the fourth in his Iron Druid Chronicles, which I called the logical heir to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. These books are quick, enthralling, funny reads.
  • Stephen King - The Dark Tower VIII: The Wind Through the Keyhole - I was a long-time fan of King, but the last book I read by him was the (at the time) final Dark Tower novel so this could be an interesting read.
  • James Lovegrove - Age of Aztec - I thoroughly enjoyed two of books I read in Lovegrove’s Pantheon sequence, so I’m looking forward to this one.
  • Matthew Stover Caine's Law - The fourth installment in The Acts of Caine, one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction series and perhaps the most under-rated current SF sequences.

May 2012
  • Daniel Abraham The King's Blood - The second installment in Abraham’s The Dagger and the Coin. Considering I placed The Dragon’s Path as one of my top 2011 novels, yeah, I’ll be reading this one.

June 2012

  • Eric Brown - Weird Space: The Devil's Nebula - The first of a new shared world Space Opera series Brown created for Abaddon Books. This one sounds like fun and considering I named The Kings of Eternity by Mr. Brown my favorite 2011 book, I'll be reading this book.
  • James S. A. Corey - Caliban's War - The second book in The Expanse sequence, which began with Leviathan wakes, another favorite SF novel from 2011
  • Mira Grant - Blackout - The concluding volume of The Newsflesh Trilogy and one of my most anticipated 2012 novels. Nuff said.
  • Paul S. Kemp The Hammer and the Blade - Kemp’s first original/non-shared world novel is the first in series recounting the adventures of the rouges Eagle and Nix. Modern Sword and Sorcery by a guy who does S&S proud with his Forgotten Realms novels, can’t wait for this one.
  • Alastair Reynolds - Blue Remembered Earth - It’s a new novel, which launches an epic SF saga about the next 11,000 years of humanity’s evolution and expansion to the stars. What else needs to be said? Yeah, look at that jaw-dropping cover, too.
  • John Scalzi Redshirts - Sclazi mixes humor and SF very well, I hope to get to this one; however, I still have yet to read Fuzzy Nation.

July 2012

  • Ian Tregillis - The Coldest War - After far-too long a delay, the second installment in Tregillis’ alternate history/superhero fiction/Cthulhu mytos/Science Fiction Milkweed Tryptich hits shelves.

August 2012

  • David Brin - Existence - I’ve never read David Brin, something I hope to rectify this year by the time this novel publishes, or at the very latest with this novel.
  • Justin Cronin - The Twelve - Sequel to Cronin's blockbuster The Passage, a favorite of mine in 2010
  • Mark Lawrence - King of Thorns - Sequel to what I thought was the best debut of 2011 and second in The Broken Empire trilogy? Yeah, this one is a priority read for me.

Not Scheduled (through September 2012)
  • Scott Lynch - The Republic of Thieves - The third Gentlemen Bastards novel has seen some long delays, hopefully this one gets to us in 2012
  • Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - A Memory of Light, the final Wheel of Time novel. I’ve got some catching up to do, which leads to the next section of this blog post….

Backlist Reading/Non-new Releases
You’d think I have enough to read with the books publishing through August 2012, right? Well, chances are I may not get to all of the books noted above because of some other books I want to read

So, the last book I mentioned was A Memory of Light. I’m in the middle of re-reading Wheel of Time, plus I’ve got the books after Winter’s Heart to read before reading A Memory of Light. I think I might go a WOT book a month between now and November, the anticipated pub date of A Memory of Light.

I might be re-reading the three Caine books before Caine’s Law publishes, though I’ve read both Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle at least twice already

I’d really like to get to some of the older titles I picked up last year at used bookshops, like:

  • The Giants Trilogy by James P. Hogan
  • The Evergence Trilogy by Sean Williams and Shane Dix – Space Opera from an author who has delivered for me in the past.
  • Legend by David Gemmell – I never read this book. I know, please don’t stone me.
  • The Gap Sequence by Stephen R. Donaldson – This series is supposedly as good, some say better, than his Thomas Covenant books. I’d been hunting the series down in used book shops in NJ for a while, never finding a complete set until this past summer
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz - by Walter M. Miller – Another landmark novel of the genre I haven’t read. Remember, please hold the stones.

Other Books I’ve Had Laying about the House

  • The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham – I tried the first book, A Shadow in Summer a few years ago and it just didn’t completely click with me at the time. I now have all four books and based on how much I enjoyed Abraham's books from last year, I need to catch up with this series.
  • Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky – I only read the first of the series, liked it enough that I’ve hung onto the subsequent installments.
  • Honor Harrington - I picked up books 2-5 used last year. Weber has really risen in my personal ranks. I may wind up doing a read-through of the entire series starting this year. Over a dozen books in the series, what am I, crazy?
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – I usually read at least one or two of these a year, perhaps I’ll finally catch up to the publication schedule
  • The Black Company by Glen Cook – I’ve had the second and third omnibuses for a couple of years.
  • Heris Serrano by Elizabeth Moon – Another omnibus I’ve had for a couple of years. Having enjoyed Moon’s fantasy, I want to try her SF stuff.

Others/Books I don’t Have

Since I received a Kindle for my birthday in November, I’ve downloaded a bunch of freebies from Baen as well as some from amazon. So here's a random of assortment of other books I might get to this year:

  • David Weber - Empire from the Ashes - seems like fun Big Dumb Object SF – The Moon is actually an ancient Warship!
  • Lois McMaster Bujold - The Vorkosigan Saga - All of these books are free at the Baen Fifth Imperium. Another SF series I’ve been wanting to catch up with since reading one of the many omnibus editions (Young Miles) collecting the series.
  • The Uplift Series by David Brin – These books have been in the back of my mind for quite some time (especially since Adam Whitehead recently reviewed the series on his blog) and with Brin releasing a new book in 2012, I think it’s about time I get to his most famous set of books. I do have a copy of Earth I may get to, as well.
  • Arthur C. Clarke - One of the Big Three, I’ve only read one book by him. Shame on me, must rectify.
  • John Ringo and David Drake – Two modern masters of Military SF with a decent amount of their work available free through the Baen Fifth Imperium

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-01-08)

Just one, lonely book arrived this week, the first full week of 2012. I suppose publishers are still playing a bit of catch-up with the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 miscellania.

Jack of Ravens (Kingdom of the Serpent #1) by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback 03/11/2012) – First in a newish series which continues to expand upon Chadbourn’s previous Celtic flavored trilogies and is the first of the last trilogy of trilogies. This one was Short-listed for the British Fantasy Award.

Jack Churchill, archaeologist and dreamer, walks out of the mist and into Celtic Britain more than two thousand years before he was born, with no knowledge of how he got there. All Jack wants is to get home to his own time where the woman he loves waits for him. Finding his way to the timeless mystical Otherworld, the home of the gods, he plans to while away the days, the years, the millennia, until his own era rolls around again . . . but nothing is ever that simple.

A great Evil waits in modern times and will do all in its power to stop Jack’s return. In a universe where time and space are meaningless, its tendrils stretch back through the years . . . Through Roman times, the Elizabethan age, Victoria’s reign, the Second World War to the Swinging Sixties, the Evil sets its traps to destroy Jack.

Mark Chadbourn gives us a high adventure of dazzling sword fights, passionate romance and apocalyptic wars in the days leading up to Ragnarok, the End-Times: a breathtaking, surreal vision of twisting realities where nothing is quite what it seems.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011 Reading Year in Review

I’ve done this for a few years now (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006), so in order to maintain the middling credentials as a genre blogger/book reviewer I have, I'm doing it again for 2011.

As I have in the past, I’ll start with some stats…According to goodreads, I read (or at least attempted to read) 77 books in 2011. I say attempted because a few books I simply dropped because nothing about the book compelled me to keep reading. Many of those, 40, were new/2011 releases, but I have been trying to get back into some of the older stuff and the fact that nearly half of what I read was pre-2011 means I did just that.

In 2010, I posted 46 reviews to SFFWorld and 5 to the Sacramento Book Review /San Francisco Book Review, plus a couple here at the blog.

Some of the older stuff included catching with series I’ve been following like Dredsen Files, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, David Weber’s Safehold and of course a re-read of the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series in preparation for both A Game of Thrones on HBO and A Dance with Dragons

Here are some stats:
  • 32 can be considered Fantasy
  • 40 2011/current year releases
  • 25 books by authors new to me
  • 32 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 9 can be considered 2011 debuts
  • 6 can be considered Horror
  • 12 Books by women (Not necessarily 12 different women because, for example, I read 4 total novels [one novel and an omnibus] by Elizabeth Moon)

All that said, on to the categories for the 2011 … Robloggies? ManBearPiggies? Stuffies? Sullys? I don’t know! As I said last year, this isn’t a typical top 10 or 12 or anything, but whatever you want to call them, here are some categories for what I read in 2011 and what I put at the top of those categories.

Rob Favorite Science Fiction Novel(s) Read in 2011

It’s already getting tough because three books vie for this spot and I might give a slightly different answer today compared to a week from today. The best way to go over these three books is chronologically, that is the order in which I read them.

I’ve only read one Eric Brown novel prior to reading The Kings of Eternity, but that is going to change. I found the book amazing with a powerfully addictive narrative strength:
In 1999 a reclusive writer named Daniel Langham shuns all forms of publicity living a truly introverted life on a remote Greek Island. His only real contact with the outside world is the restaurant owner where he eats every day. That is until he meets Caroline, an artist who intrigues Daniel both for her beautiful art as well as her charming personality. Because Daniel is so reclusive, he is unwilling to trust anybody very easily and his fears of being discovered on the remote island come to fruition when an investigative report hunts him down. Daniel finds solace both in the words he writes as well as the journal of his grandfather, Jonathon Langham.

In 1935 a writer named Jonathon Langham is summoned to the cottage of his editor Jasper Carnegie, along with fellow writer Edward Vaughan to witness a strange phenomena. Carnegie has everything planned for his friends and almost tortuously reveals what he wishes to show his friends. When he brings them to a clearing in Hopton Wood, Langham and Vaugham behold a portal to another world that appears strange, wondrous, and alien. Repeated viewings bring a visitor in the form of a dwarf-like alien on the run from aliens of another race who are hunting him. This meeting, of course, has a great impact on Langham, Vaughan, and Carnegie such that they are friends for the remainder of their lives.

Daniel Abraham is no stranger to the genre, though his novel with his friend George R.R. Martin’s assistant Ty Franck under the James S.A. Corey name is new. The author team with one name launched a classic Space Opera in 2011, a novel laced with noir and horror. Leviathan Wakes is the first installment of The Expanse and here’s what I said about it:
Holden’s crew is very much a family and from my most recent reads, I was reminded of the crew of the Ketty Jay from Chris Wooding’s terrific Retribution Falls. I mentioned in my review of that book, the parallels I found with Firefly. The landscape in Leviathan Wakes, though confined ‘only’ to our solar system plays off both epic and personal, space after all is large, but the sense that all the characters have a comfortable level of knowledge of the solar system much like seasoned business travelers would have a good working knowledge of the United States. Part of what makes the solar system so believable is how the problems of big business seemingly controlling things from behind the scenes and the clash of societies mirrors today’s world, just on a larger canvas.

Much like Abraham did in The Dragon’s Path, the narrative is told through a cycling of third-person POV characters, though here we only see the aforementioned Miller and Holden. Again, this style of storytelling makes sense considering Abraham is something of a protégé of George R.R. Martin and Franck is GRRM’s assistant, and this is by no means a negative thing. Martin does this better than any writer, so why not adopt a style that proved effective, unless you can’t pull it off. Fortunately for readers, this one specifically, Corey pulled it off very well.

The last of the 2011 standout novels I’d classify as Science Fiction for two reasons: (1) Science is the impetus behind the state of the world and (2) the spine of the book says “Science Fiction” as opposed to “Horror” or “Fantasy.” Deadline is the second novel of The Newsflesh Trilogy, Mira Grant’s Zombie-Apocalypse trilogy. The second novel maintained the same tension and narrative power as the first and has set the bar high for the concluding volume. Here’s some of what I said about Deadline:
As the layers of conspiracy are revealed, Grant examines the ethics involved in the medical profession, specifically those researchers involved in curing diseases, the power of government, and how those two – when at absolutes – can lay the foundation for an apocalypse. The ethical dilemmas were handled, I felt, very well and engaging through the characters of Dr. Connolly and Dr. Abby. Dr. Abby is introduced in the early stages of the novel as a rogue scientist with a giant mastiff immune to the Kellis-Amberle virus who is in constant hiding from the CDC. Reading through their ideological positions and their conflicts with each other, which was punctuated by the matter of fact and almost cold dialogue between Connolly and Maggie was some of the more ethically thought-provoking science fiction I’ve read in quite some time.

The Newsflesh Trilogy is turning into one of my favorite SF stories and one that is continuing to surprise me – up until the very end of Deadline. This second installment raises the stakes considerably and brings new players into the game, while maintaining the blistering pace of Feed, its predecessor. I can’t say enough good things about this novel, which has made the concluding volume Blackout, quite possibly my most anticipated novel publishing in 2012.

Rob’s Favorite Fantasy Novel(s) Read in 2011

2011 was another strong year for Fantasy, with more impressive debuts and highly anticipated books/installments in popular ongoing sagas (A Song of Ice and Fire, The Kingkiller Chronicle, Sword of Truth) – guess which one of those makes the cut?

As I did with the best SF, I’ll run through the top books in the order in which I read them.

Though published in January, I didn’t get around to it until April, Among Others was a powerful novel that hit so many notes perfectly – Coming of Age Novel, a novel about The Power of Story, Witchcraft, the Outsider – that it worked wonderfully for me and a book I think may require a second reading:

A novel like this is very difficult to sum up without giving away too many spoilers or revealing the joy of discovering what Mor experiences. Essentially, Among Others is epistolary novel told through Mor’s diary. Though I haven’t read too many novels structured in this manner, I wonder if they all hold the same addictive, powerful and voyeuristic appeal as does Walton’s novel. What made this novel work so well for me, and many readers of SF, is Mor’s unbridled love of the genre and perhaps more importantly, how it essentially saved her and allowed her to move on from the tragedy she experienced into the next stage of her life. The novel can be seen as a testament to not only the power of story and the written word, but also the power of community so strongly associated with SF. In fact, as I was reading the novel I very much wanted to visit some of the books Mor read. I made a journey to the local used bookshop to pick up some older SF contemporary with many of the novels Mor read, as well as Walton’s debut novel The King’s Peace.

Another appearance from Daniel Abraham here, this time a book he wrote all by his lonesome. The Dragon’s Path is the first novel in the series he's calling The Dagger and the Coin:

The novel starts with a prologue, hinting at the return of a very dark magic. The Spider Goddess, to be specific, and how she will consume the world. The POV character in this prologue does not receive a name other than “The Apostate.” The remaining chapters are titled based upon the character on whom Abraham focuses his engaging third person omniscient point of view. If this structure is somewhat familiar (especially to those who’ve read Daniel’s mentor George R.R. Martin) then the meat giving that structure bulk does stand apart. For example, the orphan hero is a very popular character type, especially in fantasy fiction. But how often is this orphan taken in by bankers and taught their trade? Not very often, from the many fantasy novels I’ve personally read. In the character of Cithrin Bel Sarcour, Daniel Abraham has given readers that character and watching her grow over the course of the novel was very enjoyable and plausible. At first shy and downtrodden, Cithrin comes into her own and becomes a very confident, assured character by novel’s end.

The plot revolves around power struggles for a throne under hints and threats of war, familial political machinations (primarily from Killian Dawson’s POV), the coming of age of two of the three primary protagonists (Cithrin and Geder), and the redemption of the third (Wester). Where Abraham further separates his novel from other Epic Fantasies dealing with war is where he shows how the wars begin, and through the economic maneuverings that often power the undercurrent of war. On the surface it may not seem that such a premise would make for the most compelling reading, but Abraham infused the narrative with that all important addictive quality of “I need to know what happens next.” In fact, my wife noted while I was reading the book that I couldn’t put the book down and was always reading it. She doesn’t make such a remark very often and I read about a book or two a week.

The last of the Fantasy trio should be no surprise: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin , I didn’t do proper review of this beast, just a little response on goodreads

Rob's Favorite Debut(s) of 2011

Two of these novels could have easily been in the Fantasy category, but I wanted to spread the love, so to speak.

My favorite debut of the year was from Ace books and was a bit of a controversial title over in the SFFWorld forums. I speak of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, the first installment in The Broken Empire trilogy. A crazed, many-ogonistic protagonist, a crapsack world, and powerful narrative made this book impossible for me to stop reading:
Prince Jorg was forced to watch his mother and brother tortured and killed as he was entangled in the thorny briar, unable to move or tear his eyes away from the carnage. This happened when he was nine years old. Fast forward a few years and he’s left the confines of his father’s kingdom and is leading a band of cutthroat bandits and mercenaries extracting coin; questing for revenge upon Renar, the ruler who killed his mother and brother; and pretty much doing whatever they want. As the title of the series, The Broken Empire, implies, the world is not whole. Scattered kingdoms, and that word applies quite loosely, vie for power against the Hundred, the dark powers seemingly in control of the world.

Prince Jorg was forced to watch his mother and brother tortured and killed as he was entangled in the thorny briar, unable to move or tear his eyes away from the carnage. This happened when he was nine years old. Fast forward a few years and he’s left the confines of his father’s kingdom and is leading a band of cutthroat bandits and mercenaries extracting coin; questing for revenge upon Renar, the ruler who killed his mother and brother; and pretty much doing whatever they want. As the title of the series,
The Broken Empire, implies, the world is not whole. Scattered kingdoms, and that word applies quite loosely, vie for power against the Hundred, the dark powers seemingly in control of the world.

The next debut author released three novels over the course of three months, a publishing strategy that has proven very successful in the past (Naomi Novik and Brent Weeks, to name just two). Kevin Hearne kicked off an Urban Fantasy series focusing on a 2,000 year old Druid (Atticus) and his Irish Wolfhound familiar (Oberon) in modern Arizona as he runs into various supernatural entities. The first book is titled Hounded. Hexed and Hammered are the other two, but here's an excerpt from my review of Hounded:

Atticus is a 2,000-plus year old Druid who lives with his Irish Wolfhond Oberon in Tempe, Arizona; runs a shop that specializes in herbal remedies and arcane books; communes with Celtic and native American tribal gods, witches and all sort of supernatural characters. When his arch enemy cranks up the hunt for Atticus, the Druid decides to stop running and confront the Celtic God Aenghus Óg. Aenghus has a somewhat fair reason to have hounded Atticus (whose true name is Siodhachan O’Suileabhain), appropriated Aenghus’s magical sword Fragrach during a battle. So, Aenghus sends his minions after Atticus and the minions get more powerful as the novel progresses until there’s an all-out spectacular battle of magic, gods, and Tuatha Dé Danann to cap off this fine novel.

The tagline I’ve seen thrown around for this book/series is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods meets Jim Butcher’s
Harry Dresden, which I feel is more than apt. Primarily for the heavy Celtic flavor, I’d also recommend these books to readers who enjoyed Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy. Hearne’s pacing and humor make the page turnings rather quickly, he’s got an addictive storytelling style. As a person who grew up with dogs and currently has a dog, I was very impressed with Hearne’s ability to really “get” the relationship between human and canine companion so much so that I imagine my dog thinking some of the same things Oberon says to Atticus. In the relationship between Atticus and Oberon, I was also reminded of Vlad Taltos and his familiar Loiosh, or even Harry Dresden and Bob the Skull. Having the protagonist/sidekick relationship allows for good story progression without the protagonist monotonously spouting a monologue at the reader and Hearne captured this element quite brilliantly, perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel.

Since I’m doing this in threes, why not continue with the debuts? The third debut that knocked my socks off was one of the grittiest, dirtiest, bleakest military SF novels I’ve ever read. It also came across as brutally honest and genuine. I refer to T.C. McCarthy’s Germline

Few novels I’ve read have depicted the dirtiness, pain, monotony and sheer distress involved in war with such believability. Wendell is not a hero, he has serious drug problems, which have led to and compounded his family problems, he isn’t the nicest or bravest guy in the world, and he has a tendency not to turn his writing assignments in on time. One thing at which Oscar excels; however, is endearing himself to the soldiers with which he follows on their tours of duty. Here is where McCarthy shows nice touches, after a minor bit of hazing from the Marines, Wendell fits in with the Marine nicknamed Ox. The camaraderie between them throughout the novel is one of the strengths and something that continually returns as Oscar travels through various points in the war zones.

Adding to Wendell’s instability are the genetics – squads of genetically engineered female supersoldiers placed on the front lines as the elite fighting forces. For reasons that come to light as the novel progresses the only supersolders are females. Just when the novel seems to be about Wendell’s struggles for sanity, cleanliness and war, in comes the relationship angle and the question of “What is humanity?” The genetics are perfected humans, at least physically, but they unfortunately have a very short shelf life, very few living beyond 18-20 years. When Oscar first sees one from a distance, he’s fascinated, though his comrades in arms try to dissuade him from engaging with the genetics. When he does meet and talk with one in particular, Sophie, his fascination grows and becomes a physical attraction that one might say leads to obsession.

Favorite Backlist / Book Not Published in 2011 Read in 2011

I’m not including Mr. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire in this category since (1) I’ve previously read all the books save A Dance with Dragons (2) That really wouldn’t be fair. So, here goes:

The top spot goes to novel that was recently nominated for the prestigious Hugo award. It involves zombies, a political campaign, the power and evolution of news reporting. I speak of course, of Mira Grant’s FEED:

The characters are terrific and believable. Georgia is a bottom-line no-nonsense character who upholds telling the truth as the ultimate ideal. Shaun is the more adventurous type and can be seen as a charming and intelligent character from Jackass – think Johnny Knoxville or Bam Margera fighting zombies for our entertainment. The relationship between the brother and sister, adopted after their parents the Masons had to kill their own son when he became a zombie, is one of trust, love, and respect. Shaun and George are not related by blood; however, their bond is no less strong because of it. In presidential candidate Peter Ryman, Grant gives readers what seems to be the ideal man running for the most powerful job in the world. The relationship between Ryman and his wife Emily is painted as ideal as well. As much as the characters themselves are incredibly well drawn, it is in their one-on-one relationships that Grant’s ability to lend emotion to her characters really shines. Georgia/Shaun, Peter/Emily are not the only two, but the best examples in the book. When a third character comes into the picture of the paired characters; however, is when things start go, for lack of a better term, a little wonky. Again, I feel revealing the specifics might take away from the true power of Grant’s story, so I leave it to the reader to explore these themes in the novel.

The number two slot goes to an omnibus that is in my personal Omnibus Hall of Fame PeterWilliam) The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon.

I don’t have a review of it up anywhere, but I liked nearly everything about the three books contained in the big grey/blue book published by Baen. What’s more impressive is that these three books are the first three published by Elizabeth Moon. I think she developed the character of Paks very well throughout the novel and the world came across as quite real. Rumor has it Mrs. Moon sort of wrote these books as a reaction to how Paladins are portrayed in Dungeons and Dragons and on one hand I can see that. On the other, for my reading sensibilities, the omnibus just simply worked. This is one I’d point to if somebody was looking for what is now considered Classic High/Military Fantasy.

Rounding out the triumvirate for this category is the first book in a massively popular series by an author whose work I’ve been finding myself drawn to reading over the past couple of years with growing regularity. (I’m sure you readers are sick of me saying that). The author is David Weber and the book is the first of his Honor Harrington series On Basilisk Station:

Since this novel is set in space and deals with spaceships, a space navy, and a space station, a space battle is inevitable and rollicking. The last 100 pages or so depicting the conflict was terrific reading. Perhaps what made the book so enjoyable for me; however, was Weber’s wonderful handling of characters in tense situations. For example, there's a lot of tension in the air between Honor Harrington and one of her officers, particularly her Executive Officer McKeon. Weber depicts it very well and the resolution of that tension comes off nicely and plausibly. The level of respect that grew from their initial tension was as emotionally satisfying (perhaps more so for me) than the thrilling space battle. Tangentially, Weber relays a great deal of information about the universe set up through narrative info dumps as well as dialogue between the characters. The term info dump often holds an air of negative connotation, but in this case, it worked very well for me.

Weber openly acknowledges the Honor Harrington novels are basically
Horatio Hornblower novels IN SPACE, but that does not deter from any enjoyment I experienced reading On Basilisk Station. Another admirable aspect of what Weber does with his characters in this novel is the balance between believable and heroically over the top. My only problem with his book is the somewhat rocky start. The first few chapters were a little scattershot, in terms of setting up the remainder of the novel. However, once Honor took center stage there was no turning back for and On Basilisk Station turned into a truly entertaining, engaging, and addictive novel.

MVP Author of 2011

For the first time in two years, of doing this on my year-ender Brandon Sanderson doesn't get the mention. It should come as no surprise that it is …

The fact that “in the US it [A Dance with Dragons] had the highest single and first-day sales of any new fiction title published this year” is a testament to his fans and the continuing power of the written word.

Of course, the popularity of the book series is on the rise in small part to a little TV show on a relatively obscure cable network . Remember how I said before I re-read the four books leading up to the release of book 5? Yeah, I guarantee many other fans did just that, both the long-time fans and the new fans thanks to the show.

Hell, George was named by Time.com as one of their "People Who Mattered in 2011", Game of Thrones received many award nominations including a win for Peter Dinklage. I’m just scratching the surface here folks.

Honorable mention goes to Seanan McGuirre / Mira Grant – she published three books in 2011 (two in her popular October Daye urban fantasy series, the middle book of her superb Newsflesh trilogy, and spent a good portion of the year as a Hugo nominee.

Favorite ‘New To Me’ Author(s) of 2011

I’ll mention two, as I did last year. One author is squarely in the Fantasy genre, the other skirts the line between genres and perhaps has created a genre – bucklepunk.

The bucklepunk guy, is of course, Chris Wooding. I’d seen good things about his writing, particularly from readers across the pond who’ve been reading Chris’s work for a few years. This year, the fine folks at Bantam Spectra published the first two books in his Tales of the Ketty Jay, the first of which is Retribution Falls:

Sky Pirates of the Future could easily be the tagline for Chris Wooding superbly entertaining SF novel Retribution Falls, if it were written half a century ago. Perhaps Wooding could have thrown that tagline into the subtitle since the sense of wonder, thrill of adventure, and pure fun that is laced throughout the entirety of the novel evokes those pulpy stories which helped to provide a basis for today’s SF.

As the novel proceeds from the point when the too good becomes the crew of the Ketty Jay’s potential downfall, Wooding does an excellent job of revealing the character’s back stories. I thought this a particularly clever method for getting to know and care about the characters as the character’s history and growth read seamlessly along with the action pieces of the novel.

Wooding starts the novel out very strongly, with Frey and Crake in a sticky situation that immediately establishes what I mentioned before – Frey’s #1 concern is the Ketty Jay, even more than the life of a crew member. In some ways, this reminded me of the beginning of Scott Lynch’s Red Seas under Red Skies, except that here in Retribution Falls, we don’t know the characters quite as well. Nevertheless, the scene itself establishes the overall feel for the book and the beginnings of solid character development.

The other author is squarely in the Fantasy section of town, and at this point, the Sword and Sorcery district. Michael J. Sullivan published his first novel in 2009 electronically and with a small press. Orbit re-released his first two novels in what is now in my Omnibus Hall of Fame - Theft of Swords. I mentioned him fair amount on the blog this year and I interviewed him for SFFWorld. Here's a bit from my review:

Theft of Swords contains The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha, the first two novels in the series. Both books are just over 300 pages. In The Crown Conspiracy, readers are introduced to the anti-heroic duo of Royce Melborn, thief, and Hadrian Blackwater, mercenary. The two call themselves Riyria and are known as a competent duo, working outside the thieves’ guild taking on jobs for nobles who would otherwise not want to get their hands dirty. Off the bat, Sullivan gives readers fully formed protagonists who are mature and not the typical farmboys of epic fantasy. In fact, the feel I got throughout The Crown Conspiracy was more of a Sword and Sorcery adventure rather than Epic Fantasy. Of course, the comparison many people have made to Royce and Hadrian is to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. The relationship between Royce and Hadrian comes across as something that is long-standing, but as of yet, Sullivan has yet to reveal how the two rogues became partners. This is good, and a pattern of storytelling which Sullivan employs throughout The Crown Conspiracy and a method at which he excels..

Orbit was very smart to (1) snap up these books, (2) pair up two books into one omnibus, and (3) publish the three books in three months. Sullivan’s story fits in great with some of the recent books published by Orbit– I’d recommend the books to people who enjoyed the ‘old-school fantasy’ aspect of Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon’s Path and Brent Weeks
Night Angel Trilogy.

Favorite Publisher of 2011

If you’ve made it this far along the blog post, and you are familiar with who publishes what books, then this shouldn’t come as a surprise…

Orbit Books had a terrific year, though a fair amount of that carried over from 2010 as multiple books they published were on multiple award shortlists. For my reading time, no publisher produced books that worked as consistently from book-to-book for me. That is, on the whole, all the books I read published by Orbit worked for me in a big way. From the smart The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, to the aforementioned Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan, to the two novels I read by Mira Grant to the uncompromising debut by T.C. McCarthy as well as Philip Palmer’s Hellship to the rollicking top 3 SF book Leviathan Wakes, it all worked in a big way for me.

This isn’t to say that other publishers didn’t publish great stuff I enjoyed, just that nothing I read from Orbit fell into the disappointment/clunker/meh category. I can't say the same for the other publishers whose books I read in 2011.

Odds and Ends of 2011

For my birthday, I received a Kindle Fire and I absolutely LOVE IT! At this point, I’ve only read one full book on it, but I’ve downloaded a bunch from Baen Fifth Imperium and the free books available through the Baen Free Library so perhaps I’ll do a read through of the Honor Harrington saga in the coming year.

Sully, the dog who became part of our family last year and is looking at you above this section, is now a year older. She's just as loveable, sweet and a pure joy to have in our lives and everything Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I could have hoped for when we finally decided to bring a dog into our home.

So, in conclusion 2011 was a mixed bag. It was a good reading year for me, but some really crappy things (well, one major crap thing) in my personal life that I hope is on the way to resolving itself. I hope.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Sully and her boyfriend Cooper have their backs turned on 2011 and are waiting to see what 2012 has in store for them, and all of us.

What does 2012 bring?
  • Season 2 of Game of Thrones
  • More Walking Dead
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Prometheus
  • The Hobbit (part 1)
  • The Avengers
  • Caine's Law the fourth Act of Caine by Matthew Stover
  • The final Wheel of Time novel
  • Caliban's Law the second in James S.A. Corey's The Expanse
  • The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King (Dark Tower 4.5)
  • The King's Blood book 2 of Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin
  • The final novel of Mira Grant's Newsflesh Trilogy

Looks like a decent batch of major releases on the small screen, big screen, and page for me. Let's just hope some of it lives up to the hype.