Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paul S. Kemp and Isaac Asimov at SFFWorld

As it is Tuesday, I present to you, my faithful readers, two new SFFWorld reviews. The usual suspects this week: me and a review from Mark.

I’ve been enjoying Paul S. Kemp’s brand of Sword and Sorcery through his Erevis Cale novels (here’s my recent Awesome Omnibus feature) and was very pleased to learn we wrote, The Hammer and the Blade an original (non-shared world) novel and it would be publishing later this year from Angry Robot Books. So, with all that, Paul was kind enough to pass along a super early advance e-copy of the book to me, the the review of which I posted today:

Through an engaging prologue Kemp introduces the readers to Egil and Nix through a quick dungeon adventure whereby the Priest (Egil) and Thief (Nix) rob the tomb of an ancient entity. The prologue would work excellently as a short story but also sets a solid foundation for the story Kemp will tell in The Hammer and The Blade by giving a sense of the relationship between the two protagonists. Egil and Nix planned on using the payout from their treasure to buy their favorite tavern so they could retire and live out their days in relaxation rather than fighting and adventuring.

Revealing too much more would rob the potential reader from enjoying the novel themselves, though I will say the final quarter of the novel was exhilarating, leading to an extremely satisfying conclusion. What I will speak to, in general terms, are the elements that worked, didn’t work, etc. First and foremost, what comes across very strongly is how much fun Kemp seemed to have writing this story. The protagonists are old chums in the greatest sense of the word and their humorous, sarcastic rapport provides for a smooth way to reveal story elements. This sense of camaraderie extends as Egil and Nix become more acquainted with Rakon’s ‘crew’ over the course of their journey since our heroes and Rakon’s men don’t exactly see eye to eye with the sorcerer’s means and goals.

The ‘catching up with the classics’ theme for Mark continues with a classic novel from Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel:

A book that tackles issues of race, bigotry and hatred, written before the US race riots of the 1960’s? This still has a narrative drive and the power to shock. Whilst it is a mystery story, what makes it work is the matter of fact placing into a future regulated society where atomic war has led people to live in vast regimented ‘caves of steel’, where food is regulated (and mainly yeast-based), travel is not by car but by walkway, living space is a premium and jobs are increasingly scarce and under threat of being given to a robot at any time.

What was amusing in my teens - Lije's use of 'Jehoshaphat!' as a swear-word - is a little annoying now and the need to end some chapters on a grand reveal ("Your honour, it was the butler that did it!") belies its pulp origins. The singular view of the Bible as the most important religious book in the world may also jar in today’s more secular global network, though perhaps understandable from a 1950’s viewpoint. So too the use and acceptance of tobacco in social circumstances.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Books in the Mail (2012-03-24)

Some interesting books arrived this week. Cany anybody guess which will be read first from this group of arrivals?

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 and is the ‘final’ version of the ARC I received in January.

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.

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.

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.

Soul Hunters (A Night Lords Novel by Aaron Dembski-Boween (Black Library , Mass Market Paperback 04/07/2012) – This trilogy is Dembski-Bowden’s baby much like Kyme’s got the Tome of Fire trilogy to his own. This would be the final book in the trilogy.

The Night Lords form an uneasy allegiance with the Black Legion in order to assault the valuable planet of Crythe Primus. The Imperial world puts up a stern defence, but the biggest obstacle to success will be the disunity and mistrust between the two Legions. Will their covenant last long enough for them to succeed in their mission?

Architect of Fate edited by Christian Dunn (Black Library, Trade Paperback 4/14/2012) – Collected for the first time, all four parts of the Architect of Fate novella series are presented in a single printed volume. The infamous Kairos Fateweaver, greater daemon of Tzeentch and master of manipulation, has discovered the limits of his power – even one so prescient as he cannot divine beyond the event horizon at the end of the 41st Millennium.:

The Space Marines stand against the darkness, and yet on countless battlefields they play unwitting roles in the schemes of Fateweaver. From the doomed world of Ilissus, through the embattled corridors of the Endeavour of Will, to the borders of the Eye of Terror itself – friend and foe alike follow the great plan that he set in motion many thousands of years ago. But not even the Architect of Fate himself can foresee the destiny that lies in wait for him...

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (Tor Hardcover 05/10/2011) – Scalzi is one the smartest and most accessible Science Fiction writers publishing today. In other words, he writes stuff SF readers will enjoy as well as readers who tend not to read as much SF. What I’ve read by him, I’ve enjoyed enormously, though unfortunately I missed this one last year. This initially began as a fun exercise for Scalzi. Usually, when good writers do things for fun, the readers like us are the beneficiaries.

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

Redshirts by John Scalzi (Tor Hardcover 06/05/2011) – Scalzi is having fun again, this time playing with the time-honored “Redshirt trope” which originated on Star Trek. This sounds like fun stuff indeed. Tor is also doing a giveway for the book.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

The Mongoliad by Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E. D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, Neal Stephenson, and Mark Teppo (47North, Trade Paperback 04/24/2012) – What started as a fictional experiment across several multimedia platforms not comes to book form.

Hugo and Nebula Award-winning authors Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear have teamed up with an ensemble of respected authors and newcomers to create The Mongoliad: Book One, the first book in the epic Foreworld Series, which chronicles the birth of Western martial arts.

It is the spring of 1241. The Mongol takeover of Europe is almost complete. The hordes commanded by the sons of Genghis Khan have swept out of their immense grassy plains and ravaged Russia, Poland, and Hungary... and now seem poised to sweep west to Paris and south to Rome. King and Pope and peasant alike face a bleak future - until a small band of warriors, inheritors of a millennium-old secret tradition, conceive of a desperate plan to kill the Khan of Khans.

Their leader, an elder of the order of warrior monks, will lead his elite group on a perilous journey into the East. They will be guided by an elusive and sharp-witted young woman, who believes the master’s plan is insane. But this small band is the West’s last, best hope to turn back the floodtide of the Mongol Empire.

Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover (The Acts of Caine #4) (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/03/2012) – Stover is one of my three or four favorite writers to begin publishing in the last decade and a half, as long-time readers of this blog will know. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time so I’ll be jumping into it real soon now.


From the moment Caine first appeared in the pages of Heroes Die, two things were clear. First, that Matthew Stover was one of the most gifted fantasy writers of his generation. And second, that Caine was a hero whose peers go by such names as Conan and Elric. Like them, Caine was something new: a civilized man who embraced savagery, an actor whose life was a lie, a force of destruction so potent that even gods thought twice about crossing him. Now Stover brings back his greatest creation for his most stunning performance yet.

Caine is washed up and hung out to dry, a crippled husk kept isolated and restrained by the studio that exploited him. Now they have dragged him back for one last deal. But Caine has other plans. Those plans take him back to Overworld, the alternate reality where gods are real and magic is the ultimate weapon. There, in a violent odyssey through time and space, Caine will face the demons of his past, find true love, and just possibly destroy the universe.

Hey, it’s a crappy job, but somebody’s got to do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Aaron's Eli Monpress and Shevdon's Bedlam at SFFWorld

This week’s reviews are brought to you by Nila and myself.

I took a headfirst dive into Rachel Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress, which is an omnibus of the first three novels in the series The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater

Set in what seems to be a vaguely fantasized France and Italy, Rachel Aaron’s
Eli Monpress novels, the first three of which (The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater) appear in The Legend of Eli Monpress could be characterized as many things within the fantasy genre. High Fantasy, Swords and Sorcery, Adventure Fantasy, Light Fantasy – all are apt, but mostly, they are just fun, entertaining reads. In Aaron’s world, every object has a spirit (rocks, doors, dogs) and magic is employed by a wizard’s cooperation and employment of these spirits. When Spirits are enslaved or made to act against their will, the body of magicians known as the Spirit Council steps into the situation.

Let’s look at the characters: Eli Monpress would be the first person to tell you he’s the greatest thief in the world, he’d also tell you that he’s charming, smart, and a lot of fun. Sometimes characters and people who boast about themselves are full of hot air and quite the opposite of what their words say. In the case of Eli, he’s pretty much telling the truth. I don’t think I can get out of this review without drawing a comparison to Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora because the similarities are there – both characters are confident, snarky, and head strong thieves. Though Aaron and Lynch may be drawing from the same source material and the sense of fun is present in both author’s works, that’s where the strong similarities end.

Nila is continuing with Mike Shevdon’s The Courts of the Feyre with the second novel, The Road to Bedlam:

The Road to Bedlam by Mike Shevdon is the second book in the Courts of the Feyre series. The story begins nine months after the concluding events in Sixty-One Nails, the first book in this series. Niall Petersen, our hero, is training hard to be a Warder of the Seven Courts and Blackbird, his half-feyre partner, is well on her way to being a mom for the first time in her 800 year-or-so existence.

Though not as fast paced as the first in this series, Mr. Shevdon does not disappoint his fans with The Road to Bedlam. The magical fabric of Mr. Shevdon’s world is expanded in this book. We learn more of how humans have lived alongside the feyre, and how that relationship has grown and changed with the rapid changes modern technology has brought. Niall gets to use some of his newly learned skills against humans and fey. The fight scenes are real and gritty, intense enough to shock, and entirely believable..…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Books in the Mail (2012-03-17)

Only two books this week, one of which some of you may have heard of before…

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin (Bantam Spectra, Mass Market Paperback 03/06/2012) – I’ve read this book three times at this point, so it is somewhat convenient to have a mass market paperback edition to carry around rather than the big ol’ hardcover for the re-read I’ll do before The Winds of Winder .


In this thrilling sequel to A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a work of unsurpassed vision, power, and imagination. A Clash of Kings transports us to a world of revelry and revenge, wizardry and warfare unlike any we have ever experienced.

A comet the color of blood and flame cuts across the sky. And from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns. Six factions struggle for control of a divided land and the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, preparing to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war. It is a tale in which brother plots against brother and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside. Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, victory may go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel . . . and the coldest hearts. For when kings clash, the whole land trembles.

Judgment at Proteus (Quadrail #5) by Timothy Zahn (Tor, Hardcover 06/05/2012) – This is the fifth and concluding volume in Zahn’s space opera series Quadrail, which began with Night Train to Rigel.

The climactic novel of the star-spanning Quadrail space opera

In Timothy Zahn's Judgment at Proteus, the Quadrail that connects the twelve civilizations of our galaxy has been the flashpoint of a battle for dominance fought mostly unnoticed by humankind. But Frank Compton of Earth, aided by the enigmatic woman Bayta, has fought on the front lines, using every bit of his human ingenuity and secret agent skills to outwit the Modhri, a group intelligence that would control the minds of every sentient being it can touch.

Following a trail of deception and death to Proteus Station, Compton has discovered a conspiracy that threatens all life in the galaxy: the Shonkla’raa, an ancient enemy thought to be long dead, is rising again. So serious is the danger that the Modhri, the enemy of his enemy, may now be his friend, as the burgeoning threat of a race of invincible soldiers emerges.

If Compton and Bayta can’t stop them, the Shonkla’raa will decimate all who oppose them, destroying the Quadrail and billions of lives throughout the galaxy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Awesome Omnibus: The Erevis Cale Trilogy by Paul S. Kemp

In a growing trend for The Awesome Omnibus feature, I’m featuring the past work of an author I’m reading RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT. Okay, maybe not RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT since I'm sitting at a desk in front of a computer, but the book I’m currently reading is is Paul S. Kemp’s forthcoming Sword and Sorcery novel The Hammer and the Blade publishing in June from Angry Robot

So, the Awesome Omnibus for today is The Erevis Cale Trilogy, one of Paul’s early works in the Forgotten Realms for the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast, a publisher with a long history of publishing their series in omnibus format. One of my RPG group friends was reading this omnibus when we last had our gaming session and was enjoying it. Fun Rob fact: The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy, originally published as the big white book to the left when Wizards of the Coast was known as TSR, is one of the major gateway books that pulled me into fantasy.

Back to Paul, who has been plying his brand of Sword and Sorcery for a while now and when Wizards of the Coast released The Erevis Cale Trilogy as an omnibus, they repackaged the books more in line with his later Forgotten Realms novels by gracing the covers with iconic and superb artwork by Raymond Swanland who manages to pack so much energy and action into his images:

Although I don’t own the omnibus, I do have the books which comprise the omnibus as I reviewed the trilogy in their original Mass Market Paperback form as whole almost five years ago (!):

Paul S. Kemp’s Erevis Cale Trilogy is no exception; the quality of his writing and storytelling is what should be judged on its own merits, and those merits are quite good indeed. The story, as is no surprise given the title, follows the former assassin and a current priest of the dark god Mask as he tries to make peace with himself, for those he once respected, and to save the world.


The entire trilogy has a caper-like feel to it, as the titular character, himself a rogue, becomes embroiled in a plot to irrevocably change the world of Faerûn for the worse. Kemp introduces the villains, or antagonists, into the story line first. It does not become clear in the first book why the bad things are afoot; however. Cale, intends to get to the bottom of the matter, and takes his friends and the reader along for the ride. Kemp reveals these things to the reader as Cale and his companions discover what is occurring.


So, how to compare this book to others? Well, my only other experience reading anything from the Forgotten Realms was R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt novels, and some of my earliest reading in fantasy/science fiction was Weis/Hickman’s original DragonLance trilogy. The Erevis Cale Trilogy at the very least, holds up well against my memory of those books, not the least of which is due to Kemp’s ability to put the reader in the character’s head.

Basically, it's like this: if you are looking for some fun, entertaining novels in the sword and sorcery vein, this omnibus is fine place to go.

As with my Eli Monpress Awesome Omnibus Feature, I'll drop some other links/bits of information:

Sample chapters from Twilight Falling the first novel/book in this omnibus

Paul continues the story of Erevis Cale in the The Twilight War.

After some delays and changes at Wizards, Paul continues stories in his corner of the Forgotten Realms with Godborn, the first book of The Cycle of Night.

Paul's also been writing some well-received Star Wars novels.

Lastly, bringing this post full circle to what inspired it, here are samples from Paul’s forthcoming novel The Hammer and the Blade, his first non-shared world novel coming from Angry Robot in June. I’d go so far as to say the prologue works as an excellent short story, although the novel builds nicely on that foundation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

David Constantine and Mark L. Van Name Reviews at SFFWorld

Back to normal on Tuesday here at the ‘o Stuff with a review from me and a review from Mark.

Let’s start with Mark’s review, which is the first of a new series and the first novel by a previously published author under a new pen name. The novel mixes Ancient Greece and Macedonia with steampunk, David Constantine’s, The Pillars of Hercules:

The story starts straightforwardly. Lugorix is a Gaulish soldier with a sword called Skullseeker. His best friend is Grecian Matthias, an archer. The story begins by the two being hired to protect and travel with Barsine, a mystic witch, on her journey from Athens with her retainer Damitra.

In another storyline we have Alexander and his relationship with Philip, his father, as told through Eumenes, one of Alexander’s officers and Aristotle. And of course we also have the increasingly paranoid Alexander, who kills previously trusted friends whilst trying to overthrow his father..

The Ancient World is a rich tapestry of resources that is ripe for the use of Fantasy novels. However this is not without its complications. Trying to explain the complications of Macedonian and Grecian politics from a standing start isn’t easy, and then getting accustomed to the names can take a while: knowing your Diocles and Xanthippus from your Hephaestion is quite important. Unfortunately here there’s a lot of characters who all speak with similar voices and it was at times difficult to differentiate between them, even those we are meant to care more about.

I continued my “catch-up-with-books-that-have-been-on-my-looming-to-read-stack-for-well-over-a-year” quest with Overthrowing Heaven, the third Jon and Lobo novel by Mark L. Van Name:

On to the novel at hand…Jon decides to help a woman (Pri Suli) find her missing child, but soon after he agrees to the job, he comes under the lens of one of the governmental bodies of the galaxy who wishes to secure Wei, the man responsible for kidnapping her son. Wei is conducting illegal experiments on children on the fantastical planet Heaven. This hits very close to home for Jon, since he was once a young boy upon whom doctors like Wei experimented. His conscience overrides his frustration with government and he agrees to help Suli find her son, and in turn to find the mole the government placed in Dr. Wei’s staff, and bring Dr. Wei to justice.

Overthrowing Heaven is mostly a Space Opera, but it also has flavors of Military SF and posits some very thought provoking philosophical arguments. I found the ending to be very satisfactory as it brought to a close the full arc of the novel. There’s indeed a promise of more stories for Jon and Lobo and I for one will be following these protagonists on their next adventures.

Monday, March 12, 2012

SFFWorld's Favorite 2011 Novel was

Well, it took a bit longer than I would have liked (which seems to be the norm rather than the exception) but the votes have been tallied. SFFWorld’s favorite 2010 release was…

A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Right, like anybody was surprised about that. Here’s the full rundown of the top 10:

  1. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  2. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
  3. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  4. The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
  5. The White Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker

For what it’s worth, here’s how I voted:

  1. The Kings of Eternity by Eric Brown
  2. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  3. A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  4. Tie: Deadline by Mira Grant and The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
  5. Among Others by Jo Walton

The rest of the top 10 and discussion can be found here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Books in the Mail (2012-03-09)

It’s about time I did the whole preface to the Books in the Mail post, so here goes….

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

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"). Have a guess in the comments about which book fits my reading labels “I’ll Never Read…” “Zero Appeal” or “cannot wait” "maybe I'll get to it later" and so forth...

Here's the rundown of what arrived either in the mailbox, in front of my garage (where most packages from USPS and UPS are placed) or on my doorstep...

Range of Ghosts (The Eternal Sky #1) by Elizabeth Bear (Tor, Hardcover 03/27/2012) – Bear is one of the most consistent genre writers, both in quality and quantity. I’m sort of embarrassed I’ve yet to read one of her novels, but this is the one that changes that status quo.

Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.

Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.

The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett (BantamSpectra, Trade Paperback 03/27/2012) – Concluding volume of the series which began with The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, which seems to be a Victorian magic and manners series. Becket is also known as Mark Anthony.

Even as her husband is about to attain undreamed-of power, Ivy Quent fears for her family’s safety. With war looming and turmoil sweeping the nation of Altania, Ivy finds the long-abandoned manor on the moors a temporary haven. But nowhere is really safe from the treachery that threatens all the Quents have risked to achieve. And an even greater peril is stirring deep within the countryside’s beautiful green estates. As Ivy dares an alliance with a brilliant illusionist and a dangerous lord, she races to master her forbidden talents and unravel the terrible truth at the heart of her land’s unrest—even as a triumphant, inhuman darkness rises to claim Altania eternally for its own.

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.

Alien Diplomacy (Kitty Kat: Alien Super-Being Exterminator Book 5) by Gini Koch (DAW Mass Market Paperback 04/5/2012) – Koch’s writing speed is very impressive, this is the fifth book in the series since it launcehd in 2010.

Being newlyweds and new parents is challenging enough. But Jeff and Kitty Martini are also giving up their roles as super-being exterminators and Commanders in Centaurion Division while mastering the political landscape as the new heads of Centaurion's Diplomatic Corps. Enter a shadowy assassination plot and a new set of anti-alien conspirators, and nothing will ever be the same...

Age of Aztec (The Pantheon Saga#4) by James Lovegrove (Solaris Books, Mass Market Paperback 03/27/2010) – I read and thoroughly enjoyed Age of Zeus Age of Odin (second and third in the Pantheon Saga) last year and this book focuses on the Gods who held sway over the Americas before Europeans landed on the shores..

The date is 4 Jaguar 1 Monkey 1 House – November 25th 2012 by the old reckoning – and the Aztec Empire rules the world.

The Aztecs’ reign is one of cruel and ruthless oppression, encompassing regular human sacrifice. In the jungle-infested city of London, one man defies them: the masked vigilante known as the Conquistador.

Then the Conquistador is recruited to spearhead an uprising, and discovers a terrible truth about the Aztec and thier gods. The clock is ticking. Apocalypse looms, unless the Conquistador can help assassinate the mysterious, immortal Aztec emperor, the Great Speaker. But his mission is complicated by Mal Vaughn, a police detective who is on his trail, determined to bring him to justice.

A Game of Thrones The Graphic Novel Volume 1 (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin (adaptation by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson Bantam Spectra, Hardcover 03/27/2012) – What can I say about Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire that hasn’t been said or people don’t know? Well, relevant to this volume, the artist, Tommy Patterson, did work for Boom!’s FarScape comic and his work looks better now .

You’ve read the books. You’ve watched the hit series on HBO. Now acclaimed novelist Daniel Abraham and illustrator Tommy Patterson bring George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy masterwork A Game of Thrones to majestic new life in the pages of this full-color graphic novel. Comprised of the initial six issues of the graphic series, this is the first volume in what is sure to be one of the most coveted collaborations of the year.

Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.

Yet a more immediate threat lurks to the south, where Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, has died under mysterious circumstances. Now Robert is riding north to Winterfell, bringing his queen, the lovely but cold Cersei, his son, the cruel, vainglorious Prince Joffrey, and the queen’s brothers Jamie and Tyrion of the powerful and wealthy House Lannister—the first a swordsman without equal, the second a dwarf whose stunted stature belies a brilliant mind. All are heading for Winterfell and a fateful encounter that will change the course of kingdoms.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Prince Viserys, heir of the fallen House Targaryen, which once ruled all of Westeros, schemes to reclaim the throne with an army of barbarian Dothraki—whose loyalty he will purchase in the only coin left to him: his beautiful yet innocent sister, Daenerys

Railsea by China Miéville (Del Rey, Hardcover 04/15/2012) – Miéville’s first Young Adult novel since the terrificUn Lun Dun .

Playful and clever, this is the new gloriously imagined novel from China Miéville

On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt.

The giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one’s death and the other’s glory are extraordinary. But no matter how spectacular it is, travelling the endless rails of the railsea, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life. Even if his philosophy-seeking captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-coloured mole she’s been chasing – ever since it took her arm all those years ago.

When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But the impossible salvage Sham finds in the derelict leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides: by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters and salvage-scrabblers.

And it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.

The Shining City: (Book 3 of the Warriors of Estavia by Fiona Patton (DAW Mass Market Paperback 04/05/2012) - The concluding volume in Patton’s trilogy and the third copy of this book I’ve received:

"Expert world builder"* Fiona Patton concludes The Warriors of Estavia saga. *Midwest Book Review

With the three children of prophecy-the seers Spar and Graize, and the warrior Brax-now grown, and the young God Hisar ready to stake his claim to a place in the pantheon of Anavatan, a time of chaos and change is fast approaching. For only if sworn enemies Spar and Graize can come together as Hisar's priests will the God stand any chance of surviving the coming battles with both the hungry spirits seeking to devour him, and the war with the mortal invasion fleet, which is even now sailing for Anavatan.

Year Zero: A Novel by Rob Reid (Del Rey, Hardcover 04/15/2012)– SF Humor, and a debut that seems like it could be fun..

An alien advance party was suddenly nosing around my planet.
Worse, they were lawyering up. . . .

In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Reid takes you on a headlong journey through the outer reaches of the universe—and the inner workings of our absurdly dysfunctional music industry.

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

Shadow’s Son by John Sprunk (Pyr Trade Paperback 03/27/2012) – Mr. Sprunk has impressively managed to publish this trilogy over the course of three years and to a fair amount of positive buzz. John hangs out at the SFFWorld Forums and has been a solid member. This book has a really nice cover by Michael Komarck.


A land of death and shadow where only the strongest survive. Yet that is where Caim must go to follow the mystery at the heart of his life. Armed only with his knives and his companions, he plunges into a world of eternal night where the sun is never seen and every hand is turned against him.

Caim has buried his father's sword and found some measure of peace, but deep in the north an unfathomable power lies waiting. To succeed on this mission, Caim will have to do more than just survive. He must face the Shadow's Master.

With this novel, Jon Sprunk brings his action-packed trilogy to an epic conclusion.

The Helix War by Edward Willett (DAW Mass Market Paperback 04/03/2012) – As the fine folks at DAW are wont to do with their authors backlist, this book is an omnibification of Marseguro and Terra Insegura.

Marseguro Water world Marseguro is home to the Selkies, a water-dwelling race created from human DNA. When an unmodified human seeks revenge on a Selkie by activating a distress beacon taken from the remains of the original colony ship, a strikeforce is sent from Earth to eradicate the genetic abomination. Yet Marseguro will not prove as easy to conquer as the Earth force anticipates...

Terra Insegura
Marseguro, a water world far from Earth, is home to a colony of humans and the Selkies, a water-dwelling race created from modified human DNA. For seventy years the colony has lived in peace. Then Earth discovers Marseguro, and a strike force is sent to eradicate this "abomination." But Marseguro has created a genetically tailored plague to use against Earth’s Holy Warriors. With the enemy defeated, the people of Marseguro feel they are safe. But Chris Keating, the traitor who signaled Marseguro's location to the Holy Warriors, has fled to Earth, unknowingly carrying the deadly plague within him. The people of Marseguro feel they must send a ship to Earth with a life-saving vaccine. Only time will tell what awaits them when they reach their destination.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Heir of Novron and The Rook Reviews

Another mid-week post announcing the newest, latest, and greatest reviews at SFFWorld. This week’s reviews are brought to you by Dan and me. .

I finished off Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations saga with the third and final omnibus Heir of Novron. As with reviews of most concluding volumes, I give a brief assessment of the series towards the end of my review. Here’s the cover and excerpt:

The princess is imprisoned, the heroes are separated, and the manipulator is about to take the reigns of the burgeoning empire fully within his grasp. This is what’s at stake upon the beginning of Wintertide, the fifth book in Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations and the first half of Heir of Novron, the third and final omnibus.

Said manipulator is Saldur, who forced events to place Modina on the throne of the Empire as the Heir of Novron, in the hopes of playing her like a puppet to do as he wishes. Modina is starting to realize she can be her own person after living in shock of the events leading to her being placed on the throne, that is, the death of her father, destruction of much of her village, and that she killed a dragon-like monster. Her assistant, Amilia, was hand-picked by Saldur to prepare the listless Empress to do his bidding, but little did Saldur suspect the two puppets he thought he was controlling would turn into young women who could think for themselves. Compounding the difficulties in Aquesta is the impending invasion of the Elves who after years of seclusion, wish to return and claim the Empire as their own.

One thing that Sullivan has played with throughout the series is the idea of Prophecy (yes, with a capital “P”). In this respect, he’s treading ground (successfully, for my mileage) that Tad Williams treads in his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (a trilogy that should be read by every fantasy fan and one that predates A Song of Ice and Fire for more adult, and darker turns on Epic Fantasy). Like Williams, Sullivan is splaying with readers expectations of how to use Prophecy and characters expectations on how to read certain prophecies. In other words, just because the Prophecy is written and “known” doesn’t mean that you really know its true meaning. I particularly enjoyed how Sullivan played with the dwarf Magnus – his character arc moved along at a nice pace as Sullivan revealed more about his past and how he came to interact with Royce and Hadrian. The character who turned out to be the most annoying (by design, no doubt) was Degan Gaunt. In the early volumes, he was the charismatic leader of the resistance, and by the end of the series, he turned into a whiny, complaining, self-centered ass.

Dan is aback this week with another review, Daniel O'Malley’s debut novel The Rook which is also the first in a series

Up to now Thomas has been a shy retiring accountant, fearful of using her talent, but thoroughly engrossed in the administration of the Court. The Court, consisting of a Lord and Lady, two Bishops, two Chevaliers, and two Rooks plus all the supporting staff of Pawns and Retainers required to fulfill its mission, is a centuries-old organization charged with protecting Britain from supernatural calamity. Over time, the Court has meshed with the mundane government while maintaining its secrecy. The trouble is there is a traitor among the Court. The story is her journey to find and expose the traitor.

Over and above the traitor's threat, she discovers another organization, the Grafters, is also planning an invasion of the Isles. Likewise a supernatural threat, the Grafters use biology and science to create their monsters whereas the Court uses natural talent. A long time ago, centuries, the Grafters attempted an invasion of Britain but were soundly defeated on the the Isle of Wight. The Grafters haven't forgotten. They intend to even the score.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-03-03)

Here's the weekly round-up of arrivals for review at the o' Stuff...

The Isis Collar (Blood Singer #4) by Cat Adams (Tor, Trade Paperback 03/13/2012) – Very nearly a year after the third book in the series published, the fourth hits bookshelves. The series is about a half-human/half-vampire professional bodyguard Celia Graves who lives in an alternate California where vampires stalk the alleys at night, werewolves are dangerous animals to be feared and the police have witches and telepaths to help do their job. Of course, so do the criminals.

Celia Graves was once an ordinary human, but those days are long gone. Now she strives to maintain her sanity and her soul while juggling both vampire abilities and the powers of a Siren.

Warned of a magical “bomb” at a local elementary school, Celia forces an evacuation. Oddly, the explosion seems to have no effect, puzzling both Celia and the FBI. Two weeks later, a strangely persistent bruise on Celia’s leg turns out to be the first sign of a magical zombie plague.

Finding the source of the plague isn’t Celia’s only concern. Her alcoholic mother has broken out of prison on the Sirens’ island; her little sister’s ghost has possessed a young girl; and one of Celia’s boyfriends, a powerful mage, has disappeared.

Phalanx edited by Ben Counter (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 04/03/2012) – Counter’s latest is a jump from his Horus Heresy novels, though still set in the far future of WH40K.

Phalanx, the great star fort of the Imperial Fists, is playing host to Space Marines from half a dozen Chapters, alongside Inquisitors, Sisters of Battle and agents of the Adeptus Mechanicus. They have come together to witness the end of a Space Marine Chapter, as the once-noble Soul Drinkers, now Chaos-tainted renegades and heretics, are put on trial for their crimes against the Imperium. But dark forces are stirring and even this gathering of might may not be enough to guard against the evil that is about to be unleashed...

The epic Soul Drinkers series concludes in this action-packed novel from the acclaimed author of Galaxy in Flames. Phalanx first appeared as a serialised novel in Hammer & Bolter issues 1 to 12.

Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology edited by Christian Dunn (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 04/03/2012) – A collection of short stories centering on the most popular duo from the “Old World” of Warhammer, the Fahfrd and Grey Mouser if you will.

Gotrek and Felix: unsung heroes of the Empire, or nothing more than common thieves and murderers? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between, and depends entirely upon whom you ask... Within these pages you will find the untold tales of the adventuring duo, some of which undoubtedly even they would rather remain a secret. From the wastelands of the north to the mystical cities of Araby, and from the orcs of Karak Azgal to the ogres of Skabrand – their exploits are recalled and their legend grows.

Featuring the brand new novella-length tale Slayer’s Honour by Nathan Long, this anthology also contains a swashbuckling selection of great stories including a previously unpublished tale by renowned SF writer John Brunner.

Slayer’s Honour Nathan Long
A Cask of Wynters Josh Reynolds
A Place of Quiet Assembly John Brunner
Kineater Jordan Ellinger
Prophecy Ben McCallum
The Tilean’s Talisman David Guymer
Last Orders Andy Smillie
Mind-stealer C.L. Werner
The Two Crowns of Ras Karim Nathan Long
The Funeral of Gotrek Gurnisson Richard Salter

Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 04/03/2012) – This is Sanders third novel for Black Library, and like the previous two, is set in the far future WH40K.

Following the trajectory of a blood-red comet, the berserk World Eaters blaze a path of destruction across the galaxy in its wake. The small cemetery world of Certus Minor appeals to the Space Marines of the Excoriators Chapter for protection, but the force dispatched to deal with this grim threat is far too small and their losses against the renegades are high. Just as all seems lost, salvation is borne out of legend itself as sinister spectral warriors descend upon this planet of the dead, and the enemies of the Imperium come face to face with those who have already travelled beyond the realm of the living...

Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace Hardcover 04/03/2012) – Here Sawyer turns his hands back to the SF thriller, something at which he is equally adept at writing:

On the eve of a secret military operation, an assassin's bullet strikes President Seth Jerrison. He is rushed to the hospital, where surgeons struggle to save his life.

At the same hospital, researcher Dr. Ranjip Singh is experimenting with a device that can erase traumatic memories.

Then a terrorist bomb detonates. In the operating room, the president suffers cardiac arrest. He has a near-death experience-but the memories that flash through Jerrison's mind are not his memories.

It quickly becomes clear that the electromagnetic pulse generated by the bomb amplified and scrambled Dr. Singh's equipment, allowing a random group of people to access one another's minds.

And now one of those people has access to the president's memories- including classified information regarding the upcoming military mission, which, if revealed, could cost countless lives. But the task of determining who has switched memories with whom is a daunting one- particularly when some of the people involved have reason to lie...