Sunday, September 30, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-09-29)

Another very light week here, but no complaints. I've got plenty from previous weeks to keep my busy reading.

Be My Enemy (Everness #2) by Ian McDonald (Pyr , Hardcover 09/04/2012) – Sequel to McDonald’s very successful Young Adult debut, Planesrunner.

Everett Singh has escaped with the Infundibulum from the clutches of Charlotte Villiers and the Order, but at a terrible price. His father is missing, banished to one of the billions of parallel universes of the Panoply of All World, and Everett and the crew of the airship Everness have taken a wild, random Heisenberg Jump to a random parallel plane. Everett is smart and resourceful, and, from a frozen earth far beyond the Plenitude, he plans to rescue his family. But the villainous Charlotte Villiers is one step ahead of him.

The action traverses the frozen wastes of iceball earth; to Earth 4 (like ours, except that the alien Thryn Sentiency occupied the moon in 1964); to the dead London of the forbidden plane of Earth 1, where the emnants of humanity battle a terrifying nanotechnology run wild—and Everett faces terrible choices of morality and power. But Everett has the love and support of Sen, Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, and the rest of the crew of Everness—as he learns that the deadliest enemy isn't the Order or the world-devouring nanotech Nahn—it's yourself

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn (Hardcover 12/26/2012 Del Rey) – Zahn returns to earlier days of the Star Wars Universe…think you know everything about Han Solo? Think again….

To make his biggest score, Han’s ready to take even bigger risks.
But even he can’t do this job solo.

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance. But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head—and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba—and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers . . . or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both—including his indispensable sidekick Chewbecca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Path of Daggers - The Wheel of Time Re-Read

Here we are, well here I am, with The Path of Daggers which is of course the eighth book of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. While it isn’t a terrible book, it is the weakest book in the series up to this point. Although Jordan overlaid a great level of detail in previous installments, here in The Path of Daggers those details border on obsessive bloat.  This does not bode well for future books in the series (he says knowingly). 

The Path of Daggers is an important book in the series for me personally, one that I recall reading quite well even if some of the plot details don't stick so strongly in my memory. For starters, it was the first installment of the series I bought new upon publication (much like Leigh Butler, curator of The Wheel of Time Re-read). While I was able to get other books on remainder shelves in hardcover at Barnes and Noble (The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos), in my frenetic reading of the series it was The Path of Daggers for which I anticipated its new release. It is also the first installment to reach #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, a string that has continued with each consecutive installment since. Furthermore, I  remember reading the book so well because I was on Jury Duty at the time of the book's publication (the first of three times I was called to perform my civic duty and each time in a different NJ County over the past 15 years) and one of my fellow jurors was just starting to read The Wheel of Time.

I remarked on the cover Sweet provided for A Crown of Swords, so I’ll do the same here since The Path of Daggers has Sweet’s best cover for the series. Rand looks…like Rand should look and the scene on the cover actually happened in the book. It is a majestic, grandiose cover and is bittersweet since it shows that Sweet really was able to put together a great cover. The eBook cover, while very eye-catching in how well it captures a scene in the book, strikes me as the cover of an X-Men comic (with Elayne as Jean Grey, Nynaeve as perhaps Psylocke, and Avihenda as a slightly demure looking Emma Frost). Then again,  our primary characters can really be considered superheroes.

Anyway, the book itself does feature events important to the overall story arc I enjoyed even if some sifting through the details was required.

The power trio of Elayne, Nynaeve, and Aviendha use the Bowl of Winds, the Macguffin of A Crown of Swords after much bickering with the Atha'an Miere aka The Sea Folk. Elayne later claims the throne Andor despite her mother being secretly alive and under the guise of another name.

Rand is a loony dickhead with a crazed demigod living in his head. We saw trickles of Lews Therin previously, but here Rand seriously questions his own sanity. Of course my gal Min (and maybe Davram Bashir who Rand says is the only person he can trust) is the only one who can keep him grounded.

The Seanchan finally invade and Jordan shows even more of their brutal society. I think The Path of Daggers, up to this point, provides the largest percentage of the books' narrative from the Seanchan point of view in the series to this point. It is not pleasant and illustrates, along with Padan Fain, the many obstacles not specifically related to Shaitan to the Light's hoped-for victory at Tarmon Gai'don. 

Rand’s storylilne interweaves with the Seanchan when their armies clash in a bout of great chaos which is brought to a close by Rand’s ill-advised use of the terangel Callandor. The effects are devastating both to Rand and the armies involved. The character of Cadsuane makes another appearance in an attempt to admonish Rand. I realize Cadsuane grates on quite a few fans/readers of the series, but I find here interesting.

The storyline that worked best for me was Egwene further cementing herself as the true Amyrlin Seat. Not comfortable or satisfied with being a puppet to other sisters, she takes bold, public steps to ensure her authority is not questioned. Previously I found her storyline not quite as compelling as the other characters initially from the Two Rivers, but I think Jordan stepped up her story a bit more in The Path of Daggers. At least she's much more than a simple Aes Sedai and will play nearly as crucial a role in the lead up to the end as will Rand.

Perrin’s POV took up a good portion of the novel, too. His frustration with the Wise Ones can be seen as a parallel to reader’s frustrations with those characters. More than any other character, I’ve long pegged Perrin as “our” eye in the series, a regular guy adjusting to irregular circumstances. Sure Rand is in the same situation, but as the Savior and Dragon Reborn he soon becomes “Other” and difficult for us to identify with as closely as we can with Perrin. 

Perrin’s frustrations are much more relatable since his problems involve real people, both from his home and those outside the circle of people he knows.  Conversely, Rand is a man of the world, the global leader of the Forces of Light. Although Jordan does convey empathy for Rand’s plight fairly well in some instances, there’s still a distance between the reader and Rand that isn’t present with Perrin. Additionally, though Mat is more of "a regular guy" than Rand, his luck and all prophecies surrounding him also create a distance from the "regular guy" mold that Perrin embodies. Not surprising since the gods after which he is modeled, Perun and Thor, are considered gods of the common man. This type of myth-matching and resonance is one of my favorite elements of The Wheel of Time.

Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of this book, is of course the absence of Matrim Cauthon whose fate at the end of A Crown of Swords was seriously in question. A chapter midway through the installment was emblazoned with the dice icon that had long been associated with Mat; unfortunately, it did not announce his appearance but rather the import of luck and members his army The Band of the Red Hand, particularly Talmanes Delovinde.

In a nutshell, The Path of Daggers is a book where important things happen, but you have to get through some more gristle than is comfortable to digest in order to get to the meat.  Engaging parts that don't add up to the sum of the whole all told, but I am still enjoying this re-read being and enmeshed in Randland a great deal.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Six Most Influential Books in My Life

Since Aidan and Nila did this based on Justin’s post, I might as well join the fray. Of course distilling a lifelong passion for consuming the written word into five six plus a few collections of those written words is not an easy task.

The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur

While other kids were reading about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I was riding along with The Three Investigators. I don’t recall which of the many The Three Investigators novels was the first I read, but I’m going to guess it was The Secret of Terror Castle since it was the first in the series. Well, as I originally read the series when I was a wee lad in New Jersey it was Alfred Hitchcock Presents the Three Investigators. I visited the library often to take out an unread book in the series and eventually, started buying the series in the mall stores like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. (Yeah, I just dated myself)

Like the best crafted series, these books could be read in any order, since Robert Arthur managed (and this is coming from a spot which has been in my memory for over two decades) to convey each of the three young investigators – Jupiter Jones, Bob Andrews, and Pete Crenshaw as distinct characters. The little logo onthe book sported Hitchcock's famous silhouette since he was a mentor for the boys. Sorting through my memories of these terrific books, I’m not surprised in the least that I was drawn to these books and tried to devour all the books in the series for they have a fair amount in common with one of my favorite cartoons of all time – Scooby Doo. Both properties involve youthful investigators and more often than not, the seemingly supernatural MacGuffin (or Red Herring) was a guy in a costume or something not supernatural at all. 

As the series continued, the agreement with Alfred Hitchcock lapsed and a famous “actor” named Hector Sebastian took over as the boys's mentor. The series was continued at one point with the three boys at older ages, re-released and even had a Disney movie (direct to cable) made a couple of years ago.

Anyway, The Three Investigators is what introduced me to the idea of an ongoing series in prose form. What I found pretty cool is that Brandon Sanderson has pointed to this series as influential

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

My parents were readers, though my mother more so than 'my father. One author they both agreed upon was Stephen King and like many children of the 1980s who enjoyed reading, I gravitated to Mr. King’s fiction. Although the first from him I read I think was Cujo (when I was in third grade and still is as good a POV from through the eyes of a dog as I've ever read), I’ll have to say the King novel to have the biggest impact on me was the fantasy novel he co-wrote with Peter Straub. Of course, I speak of The Talisman. It was the first book I read more than once and much of the landscape of The Territories still remains strongly in my memory. Although King & Straub were by no means the first to introduce parallel worlds / multiverse into fiction (Moorcock and the D.C. Universe predate them by a couple of decades), but The Talisman was my introduction to the concept. I still see the scenes of Jack Sawyer flipping, dealing with his friend Wolf and the hell he experienced thanks to Sunlight Gardner’s School quite vividly. My dad has the Donald M. Grant two-book limited slipcase edition which contains some gorgeous art.

I haven’t read it in years, but for a few years, I read The Talisman three or four times over the course of five years.

DragonLance: Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

If The Three Investigators introduced me to the concept of “series” in prose fiction and The Talisman was something of an introduction to fantasy, then the final piece of this here Triforce would be the Chronicles as fans have come to refer to these books. My young RPG group played Dungeons and Dragons quite often and my friend John had a copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight lying on his bookshelves and what about that Larry Elmore cover didn’t appeal to me at the time? I of course asked if I could borrow it from him. After devouring the book, I decided to get the first of what would eventually be many volumes in my personal Omnibus Hall of Fame – the Big White Book which contains all three novels in the original trilogy. This big ol’ omnibus is now dog-eared after multiple readings and served as my foundational fantasy series/novel.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

For a number of reasons, the least of which involves the words on the page. You see, as an undergraduate English major, this book was on the reading list of half of my classes so I read it quite often. The most important of those classes was my Science Fiction Literature class at Rutgers University in 1994. Why is that class so important? I met my wife in that class. Don’t get me wrong, I think Frankenstein is a masterpiece, a dark, gothic, brooding story of one man’s vanit, his weakness and god complex that serve as the foundation for both Science Fiction and Horror. But yeah, Frankenstein was the first book we covered in that class (of approx 200 students in a school of 30,000 students) where my wife and I met in Scott Hall 135. I've analyzed the book from a few standpoints and remembered being in awe of it. Also on that syllabus: Dune, Hello, America by J. G. Ballard, The Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick, the David Lapham comic books Warriors of Plasm, the marvelous Dawn by Octavia Butler and the two books I abhorred and couldn’t finish: The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson and Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. As part of that course, we were also required to watch Metropolis and Blade Runner.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

As I’ve mentioned on the blog previously, this is the book that sucked me fully into fantasy and science fiction after graduating college and having free reading time on my hands. Were it not for this book, I may not have discovered the SFFWorld forums back in 1999. Had I not joined those forums, the great overlord Dag Rambruat may not have asked me to join the behind-the-scenes workings as a forum moderator, and later book reviewer and this blog might not even exist.

I reread the book two years ago and was pleased at how well it stood up to my initial reading memories. Having read much of the series, it was also impressive to see how impactful much of what happened in the first book is for later installments in the series.

Heroes Die by Matthew (Woodring) Stover 

This is the book that changed the prescription of my fantasy-reading lens. Stover’s violent novel mixes elements of fantasy/mythology and physics in a novel that launched. Stover’s Caine (aka Hari Michaelson) is one of the most complex, interesting, and engaging characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Each subsequent installment in what has become The Acts of Caine shows Stover flexing his writing muscles, but this is the one that started it all and the book that forced me to look at the genre differently and experience it differently than I did before reading the book.

It remains my favorite book published in the last 15 years and I suspect if Heroes Die were published today, it would be more widely read and appreciated. In short, I think Matt Stover was ahead of his time with this book.

OK, some honorable mentions, two of which are considered The Great American Novel (at least of their respective centuries of publication) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.  I think Chabon's Pulitzer for Kavalier and Klay says it all.  I'd also add to the almost list 1984 (one of the few perfect novels, IMHO) and perhaps the pinnacle of superhero deconstruction Watchmen, a graphic novel I read about once per year and discover something I'd missed on previous readings.

Right, so there you go. I would't be surprised if I changed my mind at a later date, but the six books highlighted above have probably had the most influence on me as a reader.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nightmare Magazine Launching October 1, 2012

edited by John Joseph Adams

About Nightmare
Nightmare is an online horror and dark fantasy magazine. In Nightmare’s pages, you will find all kinds of horror fiction, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror.

Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Nightmare will bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Nightmare, it is our hope that you’ll see where horror comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.

Nightmare will also include nonfiction, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories. The publication schedule each month will include two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with a feature interview, an artist gallery showcasing our cover artist, and our monthly column about horror, “The H Word.” We will publish ebook issues on the first of every month, which will be available for sale in ePub format via our website and also available in other formats such as Kindle and Nook. We will also offer subscriptions to our ebook edition in a variety of formats. Each issue’s contents will be serialized on our website throughout the month, with new features publishing on the first four Wednesdays of every month.

Issue #1

As described above Nightmare will typically feature two original stories and two reprints in every issue. For our debut issue, however, we will be bringing you four all-new, never before published horror stories. Issue #1 will feature new fiction by the following authors:

Property Condemned” by Jonathan Maberry
Jonathan Maberry is a NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. He’s the author of many novels including Assassin’s Code, Flesh & Bone Dead of Night, Patient Zero, and Rot & Ruin; and the editor of V-Wars: A Chronicle of the Vampire Wars. His nonfiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to zombie pop-culture. Since 1978 he has sold more than 1200 magazine feature articles, 3000 columns, two plays, greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, and textbooks. Jonathan continues to teach the celebrated Experimental Writing for Teens class, which he created. He founded the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founded The Liars Club; and is a frequent speaker at schools and libraries, as well as a keynote speaker and guest of honor at major writers and genre conferences.

Frontier Death Song” by Laird Barron
Laird Barron is the author of several books, including the short story collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation, and the novel The Croning. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Inferno, Lovecraft Unbound, Sci Fiction, Supernatural Noir, The Book of Cthluhu, Creatures, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and Best Horror of the Year. He is a three-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, and a three-time finalist for the Stoker Award. His work has also been nominated for the Crawford, World Fantasy, International Horror Guild, and Locus awards.

Good Fences” by Genevieve Valentine
Genevieve Valentine is the author of the novel, Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. Her short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from magazines such as Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod, and in many anthologies, including Armored, Under the Moons of Mars, Running with the Pack, The Living Dead 2, The Way of the Wizard, Federations, Teeth, and The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, among others. Her writing has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award.

Afterlife” by Sarah Langan
Sarah Langan is the author of the novels The Keeper and The Missing, and her most recent novel, Audrey’s Door, won the 2009 Stoker for best novel. Her short fiction has appeared in the magazines Lightspeed, Cemetery Dance, Phantom, and Chiaroscuro, and in the anthologies Brave New Worlds, Darkness on the Edge, and Unspeakable Horror. She is currently working on a post-apocalyptic young adult series called Kids and two adult novels: Empty Houses, which was inspired by The Twilight Zone, and My Father’s Ghost, which was inspired by Hamlet. Her work has been translated into ten languages and optioned by the Weinstein Company for film. It has also garnered three Bram Stoker Awards, an American Library Association Award, two Dark Scribe Awards, a New York Times Book Review editor’s pick, and a Publishers Weekly favorite book of the year selection.

Future Issues
Issue #2 (November 2012) will contain an all new tale from horror legend Ramsey Campbell, along with a new story by young writer Desirina Boskovich, as well as classic reprints by award-winning authors Joe Haldeman and Poppy Z. Brite.

Future issues will contain work Daniel H. Wilson, Sarah Langan (a second story!), Jeff VanderMeer, Marc Laidlaw, Ted Kosmatka, J. B. Park, Tamsyn Muir, Matt Williamson, and more!

About the Publishers
Nightmare will be a joint venture between John Joseph Adams (who is also editing the magazine) and Creeping Hemlock Press.

John Joseph Adams, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief
John Joseph Adams, in addition to serving as co-publisher and editor-in-chief of Nightmare, is the bestselling editor of many anthologies, such as Other Worlds Than These, Armored, Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, The Living Dead, The Living Dead 2, By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard. Upcoming anthologies include: Epic, Robot Uprisings, and The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination. He has been nominated for four Hugo Awards and four World Fantasy Awards, and he has been called “the reigning king of the anthology world” by Barnes & Noble. John is also the editor and publisher of Lightspeed Magazine, and is the co-host of’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Find him on Twitter @johnjosephadams.

R.J. and Julia Sevin, Publishers
Husband-and-wife creative duo R.J. and Julia Sevin (seh-VAN) are the founders of Creeping Hemlock Press. As sometime writers, often-time readers, they found themselves frustrated with the scarcity of generous-paying, atmospheric and bizarre short story anthologies. They took matters into their own hands in late 2004 when they began to accept submissions for their own anthology. Many months, one baby, two hurricanes, and one soggy home later, Corpse Blossoms was born to critical success and a nomination for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker award. As their post-Katrina wanderings carried them to Texas and back, the Sevins published many fine editions from such authors at Tom Piccirilli, Adam-Troy Castro, Tim Lebbon, and Lawrence Block. In 2011, they unveiled Print Is Dead, an imprint devoted to zombie fiction and endorsed by none other than George A. Romero. After nearly a decade in the business, they’re just getting started. Learn more at

John Joseph Adams, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief:
R.J. Sevin, Publisher:
Julia Sevin, Publisher:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Corey, Fowler & Christopher Reviews at SFFWorld

I catch up with a book Mark read earlier in the year while Mark continues on with a newly found series he’s quite enjoying and Nila takes a look at a Superhero novel.

James S. A. Corey’s Expanse sequence has received deserved award nominations with the first volume and the second volume has already received a fair amount off praise. Here, I give my thoughts on Caliban’s War:

The plot itself is fairly familiar, ship on the run trying to find a missing girl, same macguffin from previous novel, interplanetary politics. But so what, the novel is a lot of fun and perhaps more fun than it’s predecessor because we can see more of the characters both new and old. With familiar situations established, Corey can delve further into the interpersonal relationships of the crew of the Rocinate, and more importantly, give us new strong characters to follow. While Prax is an interesting character, the ladies really shine in Caliban’s War. Bobbi is a complex character - a large, imposing woman whose thoughts and actions come across very naturally and realistic. Conversely, the ascerbic Avasarala provides some snarky humor throughout. Her uncompromising attitude is balanced by her interactions with her family. There’s also a good deal of political weaving especially through her character as she interacts with people very high up in the solar system’s hierarchy including a particularly grin-inducing scene with one individual at the novel’s conclusion. I hope to see much more of her in this series as it progresses..

Mark catches up with the second installment of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May Mystery, and the book is The Water Room:

With the events of Full Dark House (reviewed here) I found the series a very pleasant surprise. The Water Room develops them further. Whereas the first book introduced them in their most recent reincarnation (they did appear in some of Christopher’s other writing previously) and Full Dark House was mainly about their first case back in 1940’s London, this one is resolutely ‘now’, with the book’s beginning at the time of the reopening of the redecorated Peculiar Crimes Unit’s base after the explosion in Full Dark House.

It’s not long before we’re into ‘the weird stuff’. Bryant is contacted by an old colleague whose elderly sister has been found dead in her house and in possibly mysterious circumstances. The body was in the cellar, sitting, as if at rest, but with water around her feet and Thames river water in her mouth. The house is nowhere near the river. Bryant is intrigued and involves the PCU. However, when her various and varied neighbours are interviewed, it seems initially innocuous, a case of relatively simple sudden-death.

Last, and most certainly not least, Nila jumps aboard the growing trend of Superhero Fiction in her review of Adam Christopher’s Seven Wonders:

Set in a fictitious town in southern California, Seven Wonders introduces us to Tony Prosdocimi; a regular guy, nothing special. Except for the fact that at the ripe age of 23, he has suddenly developed superhuman powers. Powers just like the Seven Wonders, a team of superheroes that supposedly protect the City of San Ventura from the last supervillain on earth, The Cowl.

After this, the story then follows a myriad of protagonists and antagonists vying to either save the city, save their own skin, or hold the city hostage for some unsaid reason. In the midst of it all, a regular guys ends up being the last thing he thought he’d be, a cop’s dead body get’s hijacked by an alien, and the world is indeed saved - but not safe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-09-22)

Since only three books showed up this week, I’ll give the intro-spiel 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...

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (Tor Hardcover 10/02/2012) – Debut novel from Gladstone which mixes fantasy, mystery and steampunk. This combination has proven successful for other others.

A god has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart.

Her client is Kos, recently deceased fire god of the city of Alt Coulumb. Without Him, the metropolis’s steam generators will shut down, its trains will cease running, and its four million citizens will riot.

Tara’s job: resurrect Kos before chaos sets in. Her only help: Abelard, a chain-smoking priest of the dead god, who’s having an understandable crisis of faith.

When Tara and Abelard discover that Kos was murdered, they have to make a case in Alt Coulumb’s courts—and their quest for the truth endangers their partnership, their lives, and Alt Coulumb’s slim hope of survival.

Set in a phenomenally built world in which justice is a collective force bestowed on a few, craftsmen fly on lightning bolts, and gargoyles can rule cities, Three Parts Dead introduces readers to an ethical landscape in which the line between right and wrong blurs.

Merge / Disciple: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley (Tor Hardcover 10/02/2012) This is the second ‘double’ book this year from Mosley/Tor, it seems to work well.

MERGE Raleigh Redman loved Nicci Charbon until she left him heartbroken. Then he hit the lotto for twenty-four million dollars, quit his minimum-wage job, and set his sights on one goal: reading the entire collection of lectures in the Popular Educator Library. As Raleigh is trudging through the eighth volume, he notices something in his apartment that at first seems ordinary but quickly reveals itself to be from a world very different from our own. This entity shows Raleigh joy beyond the comforts of twenty-four million dollars . . . and merges our world with those that live beyond.

DISCIPLE Hogarth "Trent" Tryman is a forty-two-year-old man working a dead-end data-entry job. Though he lives alone and has no real friends besides his mother, he's grown quite content in his quiet life, burning away time with television, the Internet, and video games. That all changes the night he receives a bizarre instant message. At first he thinks it's a joke, but in just a matter of days Hogarth Tryman goes from a data-entry clerk to the head of a corporation. His fate is now in very powerful hands as he realizes he has become a pawn in a much larger game with unimaginable stakes.

The Skybound Sea (The Aeons' Gate #3) by Sam Sykes (Pyr, Trade Paperback 09/25/2012) – The final novel in Syke’s popular trilogy for Pyr. My favorite quote on the book is this one: "I do not wish Sam Sykes dead." —John Scalzi, author of Redshirts

She comes.

The skies bleed. The earth groans. The sea howls. The world is rent asunder as the Kraken Queen claws her way from hell. And the only ones standing in her way are a young man with a piece of steel and a voice in his head, his many companions, and their many, many problems.

As Lenk journeys to the Island of Jaga, the tomb of Ulbecetonth, he is hunted. By enemies, by the woman he loves, by the demon he has to kill, by an army of any number of bloodthirsty purple berserkers, savage lizardmen, vicious monsters, and colossal demons.

In the lands where sky and sea have forgotten they were ever separate, Lenk and the companions' destinies await at the tip of a sword and the mouth of hell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lovegrove's Aztecs and Smith's Vampires

Mark and I have a review each this week, which as all my millions and millions of readers know by now, is the norm here at the o’ Stuff. Mark takes a look at a novel that’s a bit of a turn for the writer whilst my review concerns itself with the (at the time of this blog post) latest in a popular mythologically-infused Military Science Fiction series.

James Lovegrove’s Pantheon sequence is growing in popularity and the latest in the series (book four) drops the “The” from the title and simply goes with Age of Aztec:

Two characters form the center of the novel, Stuart Reston – a rich, powerful man whose wife and child gave themselves over as sacrifices to the Great Speaker, the leader of the world. The other protagonist is Chief Inspector Mal Vaughn, who due to her superiors’ ritualistic deaths because of the inability to capture the Conquistador, becomes head of the investigation to learn the identity of the Conquistador and capture him. She suspects Stuart is her man and after a drug induced spirit-dream confirms his identity.

The first half of the novel, then, is much of a cat and mouse game between Stuart and Mal and all the while, Lovegrove does a good job of providing a believable background for the characters and the world in which they inhabit. The Aztec presence is everywhere, subverting what was once the culture’s societal norms and mores, as well as art and technology. Religion and science have become one under the Aztechnology banner as the gods (Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, Tezcatlipoca, etc) granted the Aztec people much of the technology (flying discs, their weapons) that power their empire.

Mark takes a look at a vampire/mystery novella from L. Neil Smith and the book is Sweeter Than Wine:

The story set up’s pretty straightforward. J Clifford is the sort of guy you wouldn’t notice much about if you bumped into him in the street. No major debts, (in fact, all bills paid), nice to children and his small-town neighbours.

In reality, he’s a ninety-year old who was turned into a vampire in World War Two after a sexual liaison with a fantastic looking young girl. Now, in the twenty-first century, he’s a twenty-something-looking guy living a seemingly-respectable life as an unlicensed private investigator in New Prospect, Colorado, with a cat named Fiddlestring.

Neil’s vampire keeps some of the traditional vampire tropes and ignores the rest. J prefers to use a syringe, rather than a bite. In the manner of Matheson’s I Am Legend, vampirism is a symbiotic virus. Here it protects the vampire from disease, aging and injury, makes them strong and allows them to grow parts of the body back. In Smith’s version of vampirism, being bitten can actually improve the victim’s life: they become healthier and less prone to disease, and usually remember nothing about being the vampire’s meal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Libriomancer and BookStore-BookBlogger Interview

Only one review this week (mine), but Mark posted an interview which I’ll mention after I call out my review.

I’ve been following Jim C. Hines since about the time I joined twitter last year and reading his blog fairly regularly. Though I have a few of his novels, I haven’t read any yet. Well, after reading Libriomancer that will definitely change. Here’s a bit of my review:

Told in the first person (like the majority of Urban Fantasies), Jim wastes little time in getting the ball rolling. While Isaac is cataloguing books at the Copper River Library, a group of Sanguinarius Meyerii, “informally known as sparklers” (vampires conjured through Stephenie Meyers’s Twilight novels) comes blasting through, attacking Isaac. The library is damaged and in the fight, Isaac is assisted by his pet fire-spider Smudge and last minute aid from Lena Greenwood, a nymph. (Readers of Jim’s fiction might also recognize Smudge from a certain set of novels about a goblin.) Isaac soon realizes the Porters are being targeted; especially when he discovers his mentor Ray is killed. Lena’s lover, Dr. Nidhi Shah, the psychiatrist who helps libriomancers keep their sanity after they expend energy to draw out objects from books, is also missing and a hostage of the vampires. She’s an easy target since she likely knows many of the Porter’s secrets.

Libriomancer is an engaging, quickly paced novel that doesn’t shy away from examining the deeper elements that make up the whole of the novel (Gutenberg’s true intentions and nature, the problems of a large secretive organization overseeing something extremely powerful, the moral ambiguity of whether one should take advantage of a creature created specifically to serve). What a lot of this proves is that Jim C. Hines is a very smart, careful writer and one whose fiction I’ve overlooked far too long.

Mark interviewed Andrea Johnson and Elizabeth Campbell, the fine ladies behind BookstoreBookblogger Connection, of which SFFWorld is a participating site:

You both have a blogger’s background. Was this an important factor in your creation of BookstoreBookblogger Connection? Is it just for bloggers?

E: The blogging background is important I think because of the connections you end up making as a blogger, specifically an SF/F book blogger. These bloggers put so much work and love into doing these reviews, it’s important that they get more recognition for the hours of labor that goes into the reviews.

A: One of our goals for Bookstore Bookblogger Connection is to further promote bloggers and the book review blogging community. How cool would it be to walk into your favorite bookstore and see them promoting a book you like with a quote from a review blog you frequent, or even your own?

Blurbs submitted do need to be part of an existing review on your blog, or a group site that hosts reviews by many reviewers, such as SFFWorld.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Crown of Swords - Wheel of Time Re-Read

Wherein I post my latest installment of my Wheel of Time re-read (and once I hit Crossroads of Twilight read through for the first time) in anticipation of A Memory of Light publishing in January 2013. As I intimated in a past post, I’d initially read the series immediately after graduating college back in 1997 and alternated a book in this series with another book from my then-quite small Mount Toberead, which was probably more like Knoll Toberead. If I want to catch up with the remaining six novels in the series prior to the release of A Memory of Light, I’ll have to implement a similar reading plan. If nothing else, I am looking forward to tackling this series again for the first time.

Anyway, off to my ‘reaction’ to A Crown of Swords

Almost a year after reading book six in The Wheel of Time (Lord of Chaos), I dive back into the pattern with A Crown of Swords. I know the late cover artist Darrell K. Sweet has been criticized heavily (and sometimes rightfully so, just look at the of Lord of Chaos), there were times when he captured something pretty well and I think that’s the case with A Crown of Swords. Granted, Rand looks likes he’s flexing for the reader, but I like the creepy feel of Shadar Logoth and for once, Sweet gets the Trolloc correct as a monster-headed human rather than a man in a horned helmet.

What about words/story in the book? Well, I’ll admit that A Crown of Swords might be the book I remember the least from my initial reading of the series over a decade ago. Maybe that is due, in part, to how large of an impact the events in other books felt when compared to this one (The Shadow Rising has Rand enter Rhuidean and receive the Dragon markings on his while Mat is hanged, in The Shadow Rising, Moiraine “dies” and Lord of Chaos features the battle of Dumai Wells). Or maybe the glossing over of A Crown of Swords is because I read it so fast, but re-reading it helped me to enjoy it a great deal more than I recalled and it turns out some significant events occur here.

For starters, the characters who feature the most in this are Mat, Egwene, Perrin, Rand and Nynaeve. The two characters who have risen in my estimation during the course of this re-read is Mat and as previously mentioned Nynaeve. Unfortunately, when these two characters on the page together interacting, the scenes are a bit frustrating. They butt heads all the time to the point where it is almost irrationally unbelievable. But, reading through one of Leigh Butler’s terrific pieces on her Re-Read project sort of cast things into a different light, that Mat managed to pinpoint some nerves with Nynaeve early in the story and since, then Nyn’s been a bit fearful of the man with luck.

One of the more uncomfortable elements in this novel is the whole Mat-Tylin ‘relationship’ which can be seen as Tylin raping Mat. In none-too-uncertain terms, she forces him at knife-point to sleep with her. On one hand, Jordan has continually alluded to Mat being – as the kids’ say these days – a playa’ yo. Here with Tylin, he’s the quarry and she’s the pursuer, which turns the tables a bit. He does say no, however. The ladies reaction, Nynaeave and Elayne, is derision which casts a lot of the gender relationships in WOT into question.

One of the better scenes was when Mat and Birgitte realized they could be drinking buddies. For some reason, I thought they’d met previously but that was really only in passing in The Great Hunt. Hell, a majority of the top scenes in this installment involve Mat, not the least of which is the conclusion to his storyline with the gals as they finally retrieve the Bowl of Winds. His determination to protect Elayne and see the mission through to its end is what elevated him above Perrin in my eyes. It also doesn’t help Perrin’s case that his relationship with Faile begins to annoy in this volume.

Rand’s power really starts to go to his head with good and not-so-good consequences, he becomes much more headstrong in A Crown of Swords and the weight of the world begins to wear him down. Of course it doesn’t help that he’s hearing the voice of Lews Therin in his head. Still, his anger towards the Aes Sedai is a blazing fire when the novel opens but becomes more tempered thanks to Perrin and Min. Of the three ‘wives of Rand al’Thor’ I think Min is the one whom I’ve enjoyed the most. Of the three, if I were Rand, Min is the one with whom I try to devote the most time Her playfulness with Rand has always been a strong point and she’s the one who grounds him the most, I think.

That cover image I mentioned before? Yeah, as I said if Sweet doesn’t necessarily capture some of the specifics perfectly, I think it captures the mood perfectly of Rand’s encounter with Sammael and the darkness of Shadar Logoth. The events preceding that encounter whereby Padan Fain re-ignites Rand’s abdominal wound during an attack from creatures of the dark, of course, contrasts his prideful boasts and wish to show off. Cadsuane also takes charge, along with Asha'man in healing Rand. Once healed, Rand and the Asha’man head to Shadar Logoth to take care of Sammael.

Jordan also continues to show the parallel development of the two new Amyrlin Seats – Elaida and Egwene. Both begin to believe more in themselves, but the results couldn’t be more different. Where Egwene’s development is more of becoming who she is supposed to be in realizing her true power and abilities, Elaida’s descent into a power-trip induced delusion continues. The largest evidence for Elaida’s thinning grip on sanity and reality is the fact that she wishes to build her personal tower in Tar Valon larger than that of the White Tower.

Some of the things I glossed over included the Aiel scenes and the Perrin/Faile stuff; A Crown of Swords is again really where Mat surpassed Perrin in my estimation. Even some of the scenes with Elaida and Egwene were glossed over a bit this time ‘round. On the whole, A Crown of Swords turned out to be a very solid entry in the series.So, this turned out to be a very enjoyable read for me that might likely because I’d forgotten so much of what happened. Again, more than a decade since I first read the book, probably about fifteen years now that I reconsider. Things were accomplished in this volume: Quest for Magic Object – DONE. Hero falls then defeats villain – DONE. Character Development – CONTINUING. Foundation for future volumes: CONTINUING.  All in all, a very enjoyable read and reacquantance with Randland.

On to The Path of Daggers in a couple of weeks. 

As always, Leigh Butler's Re-Read is great whilst reading through the books, as are The Wheel of Time Wiki and Adam Whitehead's (The Wertzone) extensive posts on The Wheel of Time, including his own Story So Far posts.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-09-08)

Another week, another set of review books arriving at the o' Stuff compund.

Dearly Beloved by Lia Habel (Del Rey Hardcover 09/25/2012) – Sequel to Dearly Departed, the debut novel from Lia Habel which continues the zombie-romance-steampunk mash-up

Can the living coexist with the living dead?

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the illness—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Lia Habel’s spellbinding, suspenseful sequel to Dearly, Departed takes her imaginative mash-up of period romance, futuristic thriller, and zombie drama to a whole new level of innovative and irresistible storytelling.

The Cold Commands (A Land Fit for Heroes #2) by Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey Trade Paperback 10/25/2012) – Trade paperback version of the novel I received in both hardcover and an ARC last year.

With The Steel Remains, award-winning science fiction writer Richard K. Morgan turned his talents to sword and sorcery. The result: a genre-busting masterwork hailed as a milestone in contemporary epic fantasy. Now Morgan continues the riveting saga of Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a peerless warrior whose love for other men has made him an outcast and pariah.

Only a select few have earned the right to call Gil friend. One is Egar, the Dragonbane, a fierce Majak fighter who comes to respect a heart as savage and loyal as his own. Another is Archeth, the last remaining daughter of an otherworldly race called the Kiriath, who once used their advanced technology to save the world from the dark magic of the Aldrain—only to depart for reasons as mysterious as their arrival. Yet even Egar and Archeth have learned to fear the doom that clings to their friend like a grim shadow . . . or the curse of a bitter god.

Now one of the Kiriath’s uncanny machine intelligences has fallen from orbit—with a message that humanity faces a grave new danger (or, rather, an ancient one): a creature called the Illwrack Changeling, a boy raised to manhood in the ghostly between-world realm of the Grey Places, home to the Aldrain. A human raised as one of them—and, some say, the lover of one of their greatest warriors—until, in a time lost to legend, he was vanquished. Wrapped in sorcerous slumber, hidden away on an island that drifts between this world and the Grey Places, the Illwrack Changeling is stirring. And when he wakes, the Aldrain will rally to him and return in force—this time without the Kiriath to stop them.

Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (Tor Hardcover 09/04/2012) – Two of SF/Tech geekdoms biggest names come together for a near future SF novel I’ve read a couple novels from each other and this one looks interesting.

Welcome to the fractured future, at the dusk of the twenty-first century.

Earth has a population of roughly a billion hominids. For the most part, they are happy with their lot, living in a preserve at the bottom of a gravity well. Those who are unhappy have emigrated, joining one or another of the swarming densethinker clades that fog the inner solar system with a dust of molecular machinery so thick that it obscures the sun. 

The splintery metaconsciousness of the solar-system has largely sworn off its pre-post-human cousins dirtside, but its minds sometimes wander…and when that happens, it casually spams Earth's networks with plans for cataclysmically disruptive technologies that emulsify whole industries, cultures, and spiritual systems. A sane species would ignore these get-evolved-quick schemes, but there's always someone who'll take a bite from the forbidden apple.

So until the overminds bore of stirring Earth's anthill, there's Tech Jury Service: random humans, selected arbitrarily, charged with assessing dozens of new inventions and ruling on whether to let them loose. Young Huw, a technophobic, misanthropic Welshman, has been selected for the latest jury, a task he does his best to perform despite an itchy technovirus, the apathy of the proletariat, and a couple of truly awful moments on bathroom floors.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Price of Spring & Hobbit's Herbert Horror

Back to Tuesday this week despite the (US) Labor Day holiday. Mark’s got a horror novel while I finish off Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet,

I reached the end of Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet a little over a week ago, but the novel still sits with me, as does the whole series. In short I loved the experience of reading these books so let me share my thoughts about The Price of Spring:


In many ways The Price of Spring is an elegiac novel; there’s a great melancholic weight to the novel and the feelings espoused by the characters. As I indicated, Maati is a tragic figure and the regret he oozes is, at times, a painfully uncomfortable thing. Perhaps because the feeling hit home a bit with me in terms of recent life events, but this also returns to the main theme as I’ve seen it in these four books – consequences. Every action from the opening of the first book to the conclusion of The Long Price either pays forward to the consequences of the character’s actions or is a consequence of earlier actions.
With any concluding volume, the quality of the series rests on the execution of the finale. The Long Price Quartet is an ambitious saga, one that shows a young writer willing to take smart, calculated risks in telling a story he wanted to tell. I indicated in my review of A Shadow in Summer these four books didn’t get the widespread recognition they deserved (this final volume never received a mass-market publication, for example). As time has helped these novels grow in the modern genre canon, it turns out the story Daniel Abraham wanted to tell in The Long Price Quartet is something readers are wanting to read. Though firmly entrenched in the fantasy genre, Abraham’s story didn’t quite take the ball and run with expectations. Rather, he shunned expectations told a rich and rewarding story despite that.

Mark takes another step into the recent past (a 2006 release) with a horror novel from James Herbert, one of the more ‘luminary’ horror writers of the UK. Here's The Secret of Crickley Hall:

The Secret of Crickley Hall is basically a haunted house story, in the same manner as, say, Shirley Jackson’s The Legend of Hill House or Richard Matheson’s Hell House.
The Caleigh family decide to move away from London for a while, following the disappearance of Gabriel and Eve’s five-year-old son Cam, a year ago. American husband Gabe thinks that Eve could do with a rest after her near-breakdown and the two remaining children, Loren and Cally, agree.

This déjà-vu was re-emphasised when we have the arrival of Lili Peel, a local psychic, who, when brought in by Eve, definitely feels presences. Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s Eleanor Vance, Lili picks up on the presence of children and a darker, more malignant adult who seems to be stopping them from moving on. There’s a lot of filling in of back history as we read: the children were war orphans, kept in the hall when evacuated there in 1943. They were kept under the harsh regime by a brother-and-sister pairing of Augustus and Magda Cribben, whose punishments usually involved liberal use of the cane. A flood from the underground river there seems to have drowned Augustus and the children, but as the story continues, we find out other reasons.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-09-01)

Only a couple of books arrived this week and one of those is as thick as all the others combined.

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova (Tor Trade Paperback 08/29/2012) – First in a new series by Bornikova (pen name for Melinda Snodgrass) about a Vampire Law firm.

What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by “the Spooks,” and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid becoming their prey. Very loyal humans are rewarded with power over other women and men. Very lucky humans are selected to join the vampires, werewolves, and elves—or, on occasion, to live at the Seelie Court.

Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.

But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe….

A Guile of Dragons (A Tournament of Shadows #1) by James Enge (Pyr Trade Paperback 08/22/2012) – I two of the three novels featuring the adult Morlock, (The Blood of Ambrose and The Wolf Age), and enjoyed them but felt some connection missing. This one looks interesting, too

It’s dwarves vs dragons in this origin story
for Enge’s signature character, Morlock Ambrosius!

Before history began, the dwarves of Thrymhaiam fought against the dragons as the Longest War raged in the deep roads beneath the Northhold. Now the dragons have returned, allied with the dead kings of Cor and backed by the masked gods of Fate and Chaos.

The dwarves are cut cut off from the Graith of Guardians in the south. Their defenders are taken prisoner or corrupted by dragonspells. The weight of guarding the Northhold now rests on the crooked shoulders of a traitor’s son, Morlock syr Theorn (also called Ambrosius).

But his wounded mind has learned a dark secret in the hidden ways under the mountains. Regin and Fafnir were brothers, and the Longest War can never be over...

The Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton. (Del Rey Hardcover 12/26/2012) – Hamilton’s latest epic is a standalone (much like his superb Fallen Dragon).  The book is out in the UK and Mark/Hobbit had some good things to say.

New York Times bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton’s riveting new thriller combines the nail-biting suspense of a serial-killer investigation with clear-eyed scientific and social extrapolation to create a future that seems not merely plausible but inevitable.

A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.

Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.

Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood. The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime.

Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.

Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite . . . all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

Ghost Key by Trish J. MacGregor (Tor Hardcover 08/29/2012) – Sequel to the author’s 2010 debut Esperanza

Dominica and her tribe of brujos, hungry ghosts, were driven from Esperanza on the summer solstice of 2008. In this great battle, most of Dominica's tribe was annihilated - freed to move on in the afterlife. But Dominica managed to survive the destruction of her tribe and in retaliation for Tess Livingston's role in the destruction of her tribe, she seizes Maddie, Tess's 19-year-old niece, and flees Esperanza.

Dominica ends up in the U.S., on the island of Cedar Key, off Florida's Gulf coast. Here, she tries to rebuild her tribe by recruiting new ghosts. But in attempting to take over Cedar Key, she arouses the suspicion of the U.S. government when a remote viewer, Nick Sanchez, glimpses the island - and Dominica's host, Maddie - in connection with thirteen unexplained deaths. The government believes the deaths were the result of a biological terrorist weapon and that Cedar Key is the perfect place for such a weapon, isolated, small, containable.

Meanwhile, Dominica is being pursued by Wayra, a shape shifter from Esperanza, Dominica's oldest lover and most bitter enemy, who is intent on freeing Maddie. Dominica hasn't taken into account the fierce independence of the island locals, in particular that of a single mother and bartender, Kate, who will fight to the death to protect her teenaged son- and the island she loves.