Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dirty Streets & Autumn - Williams and Abraham at SFFWorld

Back to two reviews, but we jump a day. Mark looks at a slight shift in genre for a very popular fantasist whilst I continue my season journey through Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet.

Mark and I are both big fans of Tad Williams, but Mark was lucky enough to read through The Dirty Streets of Heaven before my copy arrived:

For those used to Tad’s more traditional Fantasy (such as Memory, Shadow and Thorn and the Shadowmarch series) this one is different. So different in that, had the name not been on the front, I wouldn’t have said they were the same writer.
This is being widely seen as Tad’s take on Urban Fantasy: you know, moody male with issues, living a tough life, with ‘problems’, usually of the supernatural type.

My inner critic made me think that this tight focus could leave to a rather flimsy novel. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. Tad doesn’t avoid the big issues – How do you get to Heaven? What is heaven like? What happens to atheists when they die? – but he does cleverly side-slip them, by pointing out that he’s given up questioning and just accepts that you can’t know everything, and that often things are rather vaguely remembered, if at all. It’s rather like saying you don’t need a detailed knowledge of anatomy or biology to be human, which is probably how most of us live our lives, anyway.

Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet, takes a grander, more epic turn in the third installment, An Autumn War:


Abraham jumps another fourteen years between books at the beginning of An Autumn War, Otah is entrenched in his role as ruler trying to keep his nation together. While Otah is busy ruling, Maati spends much of his time in the novel reflecting. He’s a librarian now and takes great care to recount his experience with the andat (the powerful beings magically wrought who embody a powerful thought or idea brought to life), what went wrong with Seedless and Stone-Made-Soft (the andats featured in the previous two novels.  Maati’s experiences and life have given him a greater maturity and sense of care. Instead of rushing to the possibility of having an andat of his own, Maati realizes such a thing could very easily turn out to be the dark reflection of one’s hopes.

One thing I’ve remarked about this series is the idea of consequences. Here in The Autumn War, Abraham provides a vantage point into the world outside of the cities where the andat have such an impact. As previously indicated, Galt and how they’ve lived in fear and hatred of the poet sorcerers and their pet andat which are thoughts made form and life. Rather than a small glimpse, Abraham follows the story from both sides of the conflict, much as he laid out the story from both sides of the conflict in A Betrayal in Winter. The ultimate consequences to affect this world; it would seem, is the existence of the andat, for these magically born creatures keep one nation in power with the others in the shadows.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-08-25)

Only a few books this week, but no complaints here.

Reaper by K.D. McEntire (Pyr, Hardcover 08/15/2012) – Sequel to McEntire’s debut Lightbringer.

Reaper is set in a world a breath away from our own. After the death of her mother, Wendy is attempting to fill her mother’s shoes and discovering that the prospect is far more difficult than she ever imagined. Learning that she is part of a powerful and ancient family of Reapers that her mother had forsaken is just the first surprise – Wendy soon discovers that the San Francisco Bay Never is filled with political powers and factions both previously unknown and completely mysterious to Wendy. Since both her mother and Piotr are gone, Wendy must struggle to maneuver between the machinations of the dead and the dark intentions of her living Reaper family.

Eventually betrayed and made sick unto death, the clock is ticking before Wendy will fall – she has only a matter of days to unravel the mysteries her mother left behind and to convince her wary family to accept her as one of their own.

Rough Justice  by Alex Ross (PantheonKnopf, Paperback 09/11/2012) – Alex Ross is one of the top superhero artists of the past 25 years. His photo-realistic style is amazing dn this book takes a peek at what he does with the art before it arrives in the final form most people see it.


Alex Ross opens his private sketchbooks to reveal his astonishing pencil and ink drawings of DC Comics characters, nearly all of them appearing in print here for the first time in paperback.

Thousands of fans from around the world have thrilled to Alex’s fully rendered photo-realistic paintings of their favorite heroes, but, as they may not realize, all of those works start as pencil on paper, and the origins of the finished images are rarely seen—until now.

From deleted scenes and altered panels for the epic Kingdom Come saga to proposals for revamping such classic properties as Batgirl, Captain Marvel, and an imagined son of Batman named Batboy, to unused alternate comic book cover ideas for the monthly Superman and Batman comics of 2008–2009, there is much to surprise and delight those who thought they already knew all of Alex’s DC Comics work.

Illuminating everything is the artist’s own commentary, written expressly for this book, explaining his thought processes and stylistic approaches for the various riffs and reimaginings of characters we thought we knew everything about but whose possibilities we didn’t fully understand.

As a record of a pivotal era in comics history, Rough Justice is a must-have for Alex’s legion of fans, as well as for anyone interested in masterly comic book imagination and illustration.

The Blinding Knife (The Lightbringer Trilogy #2) by Brent Weeks (Orbit, Hardcover 09/11/2012) – I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Night Angel Trilogy by Weeks (The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge and Beyond the Shadows ) but when I tried the first installment in this series The Black Prism it didn’t quite connect with me. With the second book soon-to-be publishing, I think I may revisit the series since a fair amount of the folks whose reading taste mirrors mine and I trust thought highly of it;
Gavin Guile is dying.

He'd thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies. Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hamilton, Abraham & Anderson/Peart at SFFWorld

Mark happened to post a couple of reviews since last week (one the day after last Tuesday’s post), so I’ll sandwich my review of second installment of Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet between his reviews.

Being in the UK, folks like Mark get to read UK authors like Peter F. Hamilton before folks like myself here in the US. Here’s what he had to say about Great North Road:

To deal with the crime issues, instead of Paula Myo, superspy, we have the slightly less active but still quite effective Sidney Hurst. Sid is basically the new Paula Myo, although whereas Paula was a kind of James Bond super-spy with a broad jurisdiction, Sid is more of a super-cop, a family-man following the same type of actions in a much smaller pool (even allowing for the large planet of St Libra.) I suspect his down to earth approach dealing with crime in a systematic fashion will make him quite popular and he’s about as solid a hero as we’re going to get here.

I was pleased that the book is a standalone, although there are many themes from Peter’s Commonwealth books than fans will recognise. There’s lots of big machinery around, with plenty of what I call ‘Thunderbirds’ type moments: huge (and perhaps improbable) pieces of technology that are there for display and explained in enormous detail. People are still able to lengthen their life-spans. Cloning is possible. Crime still happens. Old men still lust after young women (see Misspent Youth.) Aliens (and nasty ones at that) do exist (see the Commonwealth Saga /Pandora’s Star books). Clearly there are ideas here Peter likes, and his typical readers do too, and they are dealt with as well as we would expect.

I trek ahead with my first read through of Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet, and it continues to impress me a great deal. Another subtle, yet engaging volume in a series that grows in my estimation with each volume: A Betrayal in Winter

So, taking a bit of a step away from the first volume, Daniel Abraham gives readers what is essentially a fantastically infused murder mystery set in the imagined city of Machi. Though the events in the previous volume were indeed climactic, Abraham’s story illustrates how far ranging the consequences of one’s actions can be. From the moment Otah renounced the robes of a poet to the events in this novel, nearly everything he’s done has grown out of that one act. Otah is perhaps the character who plays the most roles throughout these first two installments - he’s a prince in exile, Itani the laborer, a courier, father, and lover.

Gender politics become more prevalent in A Betrayal in Winter with the character of Idaan, the Khai’s daughter. Daughters cannot rule in the land of Machi and it is something which Idaan covets knowing it is something she cannot attain. The consequences of her actions as a result of her justifiable frustrations, again, have a very large ripple effect. As those consequences become steeper, Idaan has difficulty coping with all the changes being wrought. The women’s roles were pretty clear in A Shadow in Summer, but though they may be clear in Betrayal, the primary female character is not content by any means.

The band Rush has a long history as one of the most influential and popular rock bands in the past thirty years. Their lyrics have often had the feel and influence of science fictional and fantastic themes. Their drummer Neil Peart enlisted Kevin J. Anderson to bring themes from their latest album Clockwork Angels

Plot Summary: In the world of Albion, Owen Hardy, assistant orchard manager in the small village of Barrel Arbor, is, at the age of sixteen, about to become an adult. In his safe, ordered world, known as the Stability, this means settling down in a secure lifestyle knowing where he is and what he will be, managing the apple orchard and being married to his sweetheart Lavinia.

As a piece of genre fiction, it is as you would expect from that synopsis above – a fairly straightforward tale, well written, that looks at some great big ideas but shouldn’t scare off the casual reader. We’re not talking intense Mieville-ean debate here, more Terry Brooks entertainment. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in its use of the carnival as a place of security as well as fear, a smidgen of techno-magic in its coldfire energy, steampunk airships and clockwork guardians, a hint at quantum universes along the way. It would work well for a Young Adult audience, though it’s entertaining enough for adults.

Having these quite well known ideas is not too important; it’s what the authors do with them that counts. Though some of the ideas are used and then dropped without being developed too far, generally it is a great page-turner.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-08-18)

Another week of releases here at the ‘o Stuff, a small mix of books but a couple which I am very eager to read.

Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1) by Jim C. Hines (DAW Books, Hardcover 08/07/2011) – I still have a handful of Jim’s earlier books to read (i.e. The Princess Series staring at me from the unread shelf), but this one sounds too cool not to leapfrog ahead of those books. By all accounts, Jim seems to be about the nicest and best guy writing fantasy today.

Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic. . . .

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso (Tor Hardcover 08/21/2012) – This is the sequel to (and second half of the duology began with) The Last Page

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desparate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.

Dark and rich, epic in scope, Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Tor Hardcover 06/26/2012) – This is Walker’s debut novel and quite a bit of buzz has been surrounding it for a while now.

With a voice as distinctive and original as that of The Lovely Bones, and for the fans of the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood, Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles is a luminous, haunting, and unforgettable debut novel about coming of age set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world.

“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.”

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven (Volume One of Bobby Dollar) by Tad Williams (DAW Hardcover 09/04/2012) – Tad is one of my three or four favorite fantasy writers, I’ve read nearly all of his novels. This one; however, is a bit of a departure as he transitions from the big fat epics to the more slim and trim world of Urban Fantasy. This one has the feel, at least through the description, to Neil Gaiman and Kate Griffin. In other words, good stuff.

Bobby Dollar is an angel—a real one. He knows a lot about sin, and not just in his professional capacity as an advocate for souls caught between Heaven and Hell. Bobby’s wrestling with a few deadly sins of his own—pride, anger, even lust.

But his problems aren’t all his fault. Bobby can’t entirely trust his heavenly superiors, and he’s not too sure about any of his fellow earthbound angels either, especially the new kid that Heaven has dropped into their midst, a trainee angel who asks too many questions. And he sure as hell doesn’t trust the achingly gorgeous Countess of Cold Hands, a mysterious she-demon who seems to be the only one willing to tell him the truth.

When the souls of the recently departed start disappearing, catching both Heaven and Hell by surprise, things get bad very quickly for Bobby D. End-of-the-world bad. Beast of Revelations bad. Caught between the angry forces of Hell, the dangerous strategies of his own side, and a monstrous undead avenger that wants to rip his head off and suck out his soul, Bobby’s going to need all the friends he can get—in Heaven, on Earth, or anywhere else he can find them.

You’ve never met an angel like Bobby Dollar. And you’ve never read anything like The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

Brace yourself—the afterlife is weirder than you ever believed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Consequences in Fiction: Breaking the Long Price

Two pieces of fiction which I’ve been enjoying a great deal over the past few weeks are the marvelous television program Breaking Bad and Daniel Abraham’s slow-burn but rich and enjoyable Long Price Quartet. I’m finding something in common with both fictions the deeper I get into each (a rapid watching of Breaking Bad from episode one through to the episode 3 of season 5.A of this writing over the course of a few weeks) and book 3 of The Long Price Quartet, The Autumn War.

You might think what would be in common between a four-book fantasy series set in an imagined world with hints of magic and a television series about a bland chemistry teacher who begins cooking meth and is well on the way to becoming Scarface? Well, aside from the fact that Vince Gilligan (show-runner, primary creative force behind Breaking Bad) and Daniel Abraham are brilliant storytellers, quite a few things, but I’ll just highlight one element..

Consequences – both stories feature as a main theme the element of consequences. With a series title like The Long Price Quartet, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that consequences of past actions are playing out in the decades that thus far span the series (thee books into the quartet). Decisions made by the main players in The Long Price Quartet, Maati and Otah, from the very beginning of the series in the prolog to A Shadow in Summer are felt throughout and even more so, the closing event of that novel.

In Breaking Bad, Walter White (played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston in a sharp turn from his earlier comedic work) decides that to pay for his soon-to-be mounting Cancer treatment bills, he will begin cooking meth. He’s a brilliant chemist, we later learn a large company he helped to start was named in part for him. To sell his meth, he just requires the assistance of somebody in the drug world to distribute what turns out to be a revolutionary product. Of course entering the illicit world of the drug trade is rife with consequences, but the degree to which the consequences of Walter’s actions have effect is far ranging. Case in point (for those in the know) – Jesse’s girlfriend Jane and how Walter’s action (or rather inaction), results in catastrophic results for people extremely far removed from Walter’s situation. As the series progresses, the consequences of Walter – who very early in the series adopted the moniker Heisenberg to mask his true identity.

Slightly related, as I’ve been obsessed with Breaking Bad over the past month or so, I’ve considered doing seasonal recaps/reviews of the show here on the blog. Would that be of interest to you, my faithful readers?

For any of you who haven't been watching, Breaking Bad do yourselves a favor and remedy that situation. It is the best written and best acted television show I have ever watched. Also, Alan Sepinwal covers the show in great detail on his HitFix blog What's Alan Watching and he's interviewed many of the actors on the show.

I'll just end with this, not necessarily related thought...I know a lot of you folks watch Game of Thrones and are happy that Peter Dinklage is nominated for the best supporting actor Emmy for the second consecutive year, as am I. Much as I like him and his portrayal of Tyrion, the deserving winner is the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito who played Gustavo Fring on Breaking Bad in what is the most chilling, composed and compelling 'villain' role to perfection I've ever watched.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham (The Long Price Quartet #1)

Just one review so far this week and its mine. I *might* have another later in the week, but we shall see. Confession time, I originally started the book I reviewed in 2007, the year following its publication and stopped halfway through to read and review a then forthcoming novel. A few years later, this series gets tons of praise from readers whose opinions I respect and Abraham publishes two terrific novels in 2011. So I realized with greater excitement I need to revisit Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet, something I’d planned for a while. (not to mention that these books have gorgeous covers by Stephan Martinier) All that said, here’s my review of the first book A Shadow in Summer

A Shadow in Summer has many elements in common with Abraham’s fantasy contemporaries – imagined world with echoes of our own, archaic governments that hearken to our past, hints of magic and non-human creatures. Where the novel (and series) differs is in how these elements play together in Abraham’s sandbox. The magic is subtle, only one andat is a primary player in A Shadow in Summer, the imagined world feels more like an old-world Asian setting rather than what’s become the template – Renaissance/Middle Ages Europe. Though the ripple effects of events in the novel are global, it is a plot involving not that many characters, or in other worlds, a world shaped not by war but a chosen few in power. Hints of the power of commerce which take more of a role in The Dragon’s Path can be seen here in A Shadow in Summer. The comparison to Guy Gavriel Kay has been made by many people and I’ll add my voice to the crowd, it is difficult to ignore if you’ve read both writers. Another writer to whom I’d compare Abraham, at least with this novel, is Sean Russell – subtle magic, elegant prose, and ripple effects of a few men on a large scale.

The movements throughout the novel are like that, subtle in the small pieces until the results come to light as something far greater than the sum of their parts. What is unfortunate is that this series did not get the attention from the fantasy reading masses it rightly deserved when first published, having attained something of a cult status. With Abraham’s profile growing in recent years – close ties with George R.R. Martin will do that, not to mention his two great novels I mentioned earlier with Orbit US, this series is growing out of that ‘cult’ status into a defining Fantasy work for the early 21st Century. Smartly, Tor books the original U.S. publisher of The Long Price Quartet is ensuring the series will be imprint by issuing two omnibus editions containing the four books.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-08-11)

Most of the Penguin SFF releases arrived this week (Ace/Roc and DAW) plus a handful of other interesting releases

Endgame (Samantha Jax (Ace Paperback 04/28/2012) – Sixth (and final?) in a “romantic science fiction” about a young girl, Jax, who has the ability to jump ships through grimspace. Aguirre is quite prolific, this is the sixth book in this series in four years and she’s penned over a dozen in about a deecade

Sirantha Jax has the J-gene, which permits her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. She loves nothing more than that rush, but the star roads have to wait…

Her final mission takes her to La’heng, a planet subjugated during first contact. Since then, the La’hengrin homeworld has been occupied by foreign conquerors.

All that’s about to change.

Now, as part of a grass-roots resistance, Jax means to liberate the La’hengrin. Political intrigue and guerrilla warfare are new to her; this will be the most dangerous game she’s ever played—spies and conspiracies, a war of weapons and hearts, and everyone might not make it out alive…

Blades of Winter (Shadowstorm #1) by G.T. Almasi (Del Rey Tall Paperback 08/28/2012) – This is Almasi’s debut novel and launch of a new series that seems quite appealing. The first thing I thought of when I received the book was Joel Shepherd’s terrific Cassandra Kresnov novels. I’d heard/seen nothing about this book before receiving it, which is pleasantly surprising.

In one of the most exciting debuts in years, G. T. Almasi has fused the intricate cat-and-mouse games of a John le Carré novel with the brash style of comic book superheroes to create a kick-ass alternate history that reimagines the Cold War as a clash of spies with biological, chemical, and technological enhancements.

Nineteen-year-old Alix Nico, a self-described “million-dollar murder machine,” is a rising star in ExOps, a covert-action agency that aggressively shields the United States from its three great enemies: the Soviet Union, Greater Germany, and the Nationalist Republic of China. Rather than risk another all-out war, the four superpowers have poured their resources into creating superspies known as Levels.

Alix is one of the hottest young American Levels. That’s no surprise: Her dad was America’s top Level before he was captured and killed eight years ago. But when an impulsive decision explodes—literally—in her face, Alix uncovers a conspiracy that pushes her to her limits and could upset the global balance of power forever.
“Smart, sassy, and seriously appealing: a stunning debut.”—Jeff Long, New York Times bestselling author of The Descent

Wrayth (A Book of the Order #3) by Philippa Ballantine (Roc Mass Market Paperback 08/28/2012) – One of three ongoing series Ballantine has on the shelves, this one seems more straightforward fantasy than her other two sagas.

In the Empire of Arkaym, the Order of Deacons protects and shelters the citizens from the attacks of the unliving. All are sworn to fight the evil forces of the geists—and to keep the world safe from the power of the Otherside…

Although she is one of the most powerful Deacons in the Order, Sorcha Faris is still unable to move or speak after her last battle. Even her partner, Merrick Chambers, cannot reach her through their shared Bond. Yet there are those who still fear Sorcha and the mystery of her hidden past.

Meanwhile, Merrick has been asked to investigate a new member of the Emperor’s Court. But when Sorcha is abducted by men seeking Raed Rossin, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, Merrick must choose where his loyalties lie.

Legacy of Kings (Magister Trilogy Book 3) by C. S. Friedman (DAW Mass Market Paperback 09/04/2012) – Concluding volume of Friedman’s High fantasy trilogy, which I reviewed about a year ago when it published in Hardcover, following the first two Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath.

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

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

Ghost of a Dream (A Ghost Finder Novel #3) by Simon R. Green (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 04/28/2012) – Green is EXTREMELY prolific, he’s got three series currently active (as of this posting) with the fine folks at Penguin, this is another supernatural fantasy/mystery hybrid.

The new Ghost Finders novel from our New York Times bestselling author.

The Ghost Finders are investigating the long-abandoned Haybarn Theater, which is being renovated. Work has been thrown off-schedule by the some peculiar activities. And after the potentially world-altering recent events of their previous assignment, the team thinks that a haunted theater (aren’t they all?) will be a walk in the park. Until they encounter the Phantom of the Haybarn — an ancient evil whose ability to alter reality itself will test the skills, science, and blind luck of the Ghost Finders to the limit.

Clean (A Mindspace Investigations Novel) by Alex Hughes (Roc Mass Market Paperback 09/04/2012) – Debut novel from Hughes, who is also an editor.


I used to work for the Telepath’s Guild before they kicked me out for a drug habit that wasn’t entirely my fault. Now I work for the cops, helping Homicide Detective Isabella Cherabino put killers behind bars.

My ability to get inside the twisted minds of suspects makes me the best interrogator in the department. But the normals keep me on a short leash. When the Tech Wars ripped the world apart, the Guild stepped up to save it. But they had to get scary to do it—real scary.

Now the cops don’t trust the telepaths, the Guild doesn’t trust me, a serial killer is stalking the city—and I’m aching for a fix. But I need to solve this case. Fast. I’ve just had a vision of the future: I’m the next to die.

Ashes of Honor (An October Daye Novel) by Seanan McGuire (DAW Mass Market 09/04/2012) – Because two books per year isn’t enough, McGuirre/Grant decided three books would be her new standard.

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities — training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills — but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before — and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

“Toby’s unusual heritage and her uneasy relationships with her mother’s family will remind readers of Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series, and Thompson fans will appreciate Toby’s tough and self-reliant character…a must for fans of genre-bending blends of crime and fantasy.” — Booklist (starred review)

Blood Spirits (Dobrenica Urban Fantasy Series #2) by Sherwood Smith (DAW Mass Market Paperback 09/04/2012) – Second novel in a historical/portal fantasy/sword-and-sorcery/fantasy/romance.

Everyone's favorite sword-wielding California girl returns-from the author of Coronets and Steel.

With the man she loves set to marry a look-alike princess, Kim Murray returns to California from the magical country of Dobrenica to heal her broken heart. But family politics soon have her leaving for London, where she is forced into a duel with a Dobrenican nobleman. He reveals that her great sacrifice, leaving Alec, was a disaster. To fix her mistake, Kim returns to Dobrenica, but what she finds there is far more shocking and dangerous than she ever imagined. Not just politics and personalities but ghosts and magic, murder and mystery, await her as she struggles to understand the many faces of love. Once again Kim has to take sword in hand as she tries to make peace and learn the truth. Only, whose truth?

The Mongoliad Book 2 by Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E. D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo,and Mark Teppo (47North, Trade Paperback 09/25/2012) – What started as a fictional experiment across several multimedia platforms not comes to book form.

e Mongoliad began as a social media experiment, combining serial story-telling with a unique level of interaction between authors and audience during the creative process. Since its original iteration, The Mongoliad has been restructured, edited, and rewritten under the supervision of its authors to create a more cohesive reading experience and will be published as a trilogy of novels. This edition is the definitive edition and is the authors' preferred text.

This riveting second installment in Stephenson and company’s epic tale focuses on the aftermath of the world-shattering Mongolian invasion of 1241 and the difficult paths undertaken by its most resilient survivors.

The Shield Brethren, an order of warrior monks, search for a way to overthrow the horde, even as the invaders take its members hostage. Forced to fight in the Mongols’ Circus of Swords, Haakon must prove his mettle or lose his life in the ring. His bravery may impress the enemy, but freedom remains a distant dream.

Father Rodrigo receives a prophecy from God and believes it’s his mission to deliver the message to Rome. Though a peaceful man, he resigns himself to take up arms in the name of his Lord. Joining his fight to save Christendom are the hunter Ferenc, orphan Ocyrhoe, healer Raphael, and alchemist Yasper, each searching for his place in history.

Deftly blending fact and fantasy, The Mongoliad: Book Two captures the indomitable will to survive against immense odds.

Lord of Mountains (A Novel of the Change #6) by S. M. Stirling (Roc Hardcover 09/04/2012) – Like clockwork, it’s September and time for a new novel in Stirling’s Change universe where technology stops working.

“[A] gifted author,”* S.M. Stirling created a fascinating neo-medieval world in his Novels of the Change where the remnants of humanity struggle to survive in a post-technological environment. Now, the New York Times bestselling epic continues as a king faces a challenge beyond the battlefield…

Rudi Mackenize, now Artos the First, High King of Montival, and his allies have won several key battles against the Church Universal and Triumphant. But still the war rages on, taking countless lives, ravaging the land once known as the United States of America. Artos and his Queen, Mathilda, must unite the realms into a single kingdom to ensure a lasting peace.

If the leaders of the Changed world are to accept Artos as their ruler, he will need to undertake a quest to the Lake at the Heart of the Mountains, and take part in a crowning ceremony—a ceremony binding him to his people, his ancestors, and his land.

Then, once he has secured his place and allegiances, Artos can go forward, and lead his forces to the heart of the enemy’s territory…

*San Francisco Book Review

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Strange Launch & Full Dark - Two New Reviews

Two launch titles in this week’s post. One launch title is the debut from a very promising writer whose book launches an imprint and the other book is from an established author who launched a new on-going supernatural mystery series

Strange Chemistry is the new Young Adult imprint from the fine folks at Angry Robot Books and they’ve (SMARTLY) decided to launch the imprint with Gwenda Bond’s engaging debut novel, Blackwood:

The disappearance of the Roanoke Colony of North Carolina is one of the great American mysteries and one of the largest documented disappearances in the history of the world. 116 people in total disappeared and many theories have tried to account for these missing people. In Gwenda Bond’s debut novel Blackwood she takes the historical fact of the disappearance, fills in with some more history, and adds some conjecture of dark magic to the disappearance. All of that is in the background for most of the novel and instead Ms. Bond focuses her novel on Miranda Blackwood, a young lady who works for the local theater and cares for her drunk father, her mother having passed away long before the novel begins. Phillips* Rawlings, an equally distraught young man who was sent off the island after being caught in a mischievous act, plays as central a role, is the police chief’s song who happens to hear strange voices.
Once Phillips gets back to Roanoke, it is left to he and Miranda to solve the mystery of the missing people. Along the way, spirits inhabit bodies, people seemingly return to life, ancient weapons of magic are discovered, and a few red herrings crop up to keep the plot moving. Adding to the tension is the (somewhat obvious) romantic subplot between Phillips and Miranda. Bond plays their budding romance pretty well, thought at times it felt a bit rushed but that’s likely due to the briskly paced narrative.

Mark’s review concerns Christopher Fowler’s first Bryant and May Mystery Full Dark House a mystery/supernatural story hybrid :

It’s a witty, clever little book, written with panache and humour, whilst using Christopher’s horror origins to throw in the odd little shock as we veer slightly into Twilight Zone or X-Files territory. The characters are great (although a little rude in places, so they might shock your typical crime fan) and the setting, both in the past and the present, wholly immersive. The suspects all appear as identifiable as in a game of Cluedo or an Agatha Christie novel, and it’s great fun trying to work out whodunnit. The details of their first case together for the Peculiar Crimes Squad, set in 1940’s Blitz-hit London are wonderfully well written. As richly detailed as Connie Willis’s recent Blackout/All Clear, there’s a palpable sense of being in the city whilst there’s rationing and a war on. With none of the technical gubbins of today’s detectives, Bryant and May have to use good, old-fashioned deduction to make their conclusions work. A knowledge of Ancient Greek mythology is quite useful here. That, and a little understanding of the occult that wouldn’t go amiss from a pulp-fiction 1930’s tale.

I’m sure some readers will be struck by how such tales have recently struck a popular chord. Treading similar ground (or is that a policeman’s beat?) to Ben Aaronovitch’s recent Rivers of London/Peter Grant novels, I must say that as much as I enjoyed Ben’s first novel, I enjoyed this one much, much more. Full Dark House is a more subtle tale, cleverer in its plot twists, sexier and more stylish, although less genre related, perhaps.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-08-04)

A mixed bag of novels this week, with a good handful of Del Rey’s August 2012 releases arriving this week.

Wards of Faerie (The Dark Legacy of Shannara) by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Hardcover 8/21/2012) – I’ll repeat my little mantra about Brooks from previous times I’ve received his books: I find him a frustrating writer in that I like the concepts of what he wants to do, but my reading sensibilities don't always agree with his execution of those concepts. I really enjoyed The Scions of Shannara when I read it and think Brooks is one of the most important fantasy writers of the last 25-30 years. Every handful of novels I give Mr. Brooks another try and I think this will be the one.

Seven years after the conclusion of the High Druid of Shannara trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks at last revisits one of the most popular eras in the legendary epic fantasy series that has spellbound readers for more than three decades.

When the world was young, and its name was Faerie, the power of magic ruled—and the Elfstones warded the race of Elves and their lands, keeping evil at bay. But when an Elven girl fell hopelessly in love with a Darkling boy of the Void, he carried away more than her heart.

Thousands of years later, tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. Elves have distanced their society from the other races. The dwindling Druid order and its teachings are threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl’s heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous—as Aphenglow quickly learns when she’s set upon by assassins.

Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. For whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come. But Aphenglow and her allies—Druids, Elves, and humans alike—remember the monstrous history of the Demon War, and they know that the Four Lands will never survive another reign of darkness. But whether they themselves can survive the attempt to stem that tide is another question entirely.

Fable: Edge of the World by Christie Golden (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 08/21/2012) – Golden has been penning tie-in/franchise novels for years with good results. The Fable franchise switches to Del Rey (from Penguin) with this novel.

The official prequel novel to the Xbox 360 videogame, Fable:™ The Journey

It’s been almost a decade since the events of Fable 3, when the Hero vanquished the threat across the sea and claimed his throne. As king he led Albion to an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. But on the night of his wedding to his new queen, ominous word arrives: The darkness has returned.

Beyond a harrowing mountain pass, the exotic desert country Samarkand has been overrun by shadowy forces. Within the walls of its capital city, a mysterious usurper known only as the Empress has seized control. To protect his realm, the king must lead his most trusted allies into a strange land unknown to outsiders. As they forge ahead along Samarkand’s ancient Great Road, populated by undead terrors and fantastic creatures once believed to be the stuff of legend, the king is drawn ever closer to his greatest challenge yet.

Chimera (The Subterrene War #3) by T. C. McCarthy (Orbit, Mass Market Paperback 07/31/2012) – McCarthy’s debut and the first in this series, Germline was excellent which was followed up in impressive fashion with Exogene so I’m really looking forward to reading how he finishes off the trilogy.  These Military SF novels are perhaps the the most realistic in their depiction of a near future war..

Escaped Germline soldiers need to be cleaned up, and Stan Resnick is the best man for the job. A job that takes him to every dark spot and every rat hole he can find.
Operatives from China and Unified Korea are gathering escaped or stolen Russian and American genetics, and there are reports of new biological nightmares: half-human things, bred to live their entire lives encased in powered armor suits.

Stan fights to keep himself alive and out of prison while he attempts to capture a genetic, one who will be able to tell them everything they need to know about this new threat, the one called "Project Sunshine."

Chimera is the third and final volume of The Subterrene War Trilogy which tells the story of a single war from the perspective of three different combatants. The first two volumes GERMLINE and EXOGENE are available now.

Fate of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner (Tor, Hardcover 08/22/2012) – I really enjoyed Fleet of Worlds, the first of this Ringworld prequel series, but was very disappointed by the second book Juggler of Worlds and three books later, I haven’t continued with the series. This book; however, looks to tie up EVERYTHING in the Ringworld saga.

For decades, the spacefaring species of Known Space have battled over the largest artifact—and grandest prize—in the galaxy: the all-but-limitless resources and technology of the Ringworld. But without warning the Ringworld has vanished, leaving behind three rival war fleets.

Something must justify the blood and treasure that have been spent. If the fallen civilization of the Ringworld can no longer be despoiled of its secrets, the Puppeteers will be forced to surrender theirs. Everyone knows that the Puppeteers are cowards.

But the crises converging upon the trillion Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds go far beyond even the onrushing armadas:

Adventurer Louis Wu and the exiled Puppeteer known only as Hindmost, marooned together for more than a decade, escaped from the Ringworld before it disappeared. And throughout those years, as he studied Ringworld technology, Hindmost has plotted to reclaim his power …

Ol’t’ro, the Gw’oth ensemble mind—and the Fleet of World’s unsuspected puppet master for a century—is deviously brilliant. And, increasingly unbalanced …

Proteus, the artificial intelligence on which—in desperation—the Puppeteers rely to manage their defenses, is outgrowing its programming. And the supposed constraints on its initiative …

Sigmund Ausfaller, paranoid and disgraced hero of the lost human colony of New Terra, knows that something threatens his adopted home world. And that it must be stopped …

Achilles, the megalomaniac Puppeteer, twice banished—and twice rehabilitated—sees the Fleet of World’s existential crisis as a new opportunity to reclaim supreme power. Whatever the risks …

One way or another, the fabled race of Puppeteers may have come to the end of their days in this final installment to Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner's Fleet of Worlds series.

Trucker Ghost Stories edited by Annie Wilder (Tor Trade Paperback 08/07/2012) – Something I learned this week – there’s a market for a book about ghost stories involving truckers. .

In a uniquely entertaining book by a rising star, here are uncanny true tales of haunted highways, weird encounters, and legends of the road.

It may have happened to you; it’s happened to almost everyone who’s ever driven down a highway at night, or in the fog, or snow. Something suddenly appears: a flash of movement, a shadow...what was it? It could be, as the true stories in this book attest, a ghost.

These are true stories from the highways and byways of America. These firsthand accounts are as varied as the storytellers themselves—some are detailed and filled with the terror and suspense that made people feel they had to share what happened to them with others; others are brief and straightforward retellings of truly chilling events.

Here is a chupacabra attack on the desert highway between L.A. and Las Vegas; ghost trains and soldiers; UFOs; the prom girl ghost of Alabama; a demon in Texas, and other accounts of the creepy, scary things that truckers and other drivers and passengers told to editor Annie Wilder.

With so many different stories, Trucker Ghost Stories moves beyond the usual haunted house to offer stories to entice any ghost story reader...and anyone who’s ever wondered....

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Paul S. Kemp Official Author Forums @ SFFWorld

I’ve blogged in the past about how much I enjoy Paul S. Kemp’s fantasy novels, from his heavily Sword and Sorcery flavored Forgotten Realms novels which happen to feature the anti-hero Erevis Cale

... to his balls-to-the-wall Sword and Sorcery original debut The Hammer and the Blade

Recently, as of Monday of this past week, SFFWorld has started hosting official author forums for Mr. Kent so jump in and talk about his books!