Tuesday, November 27, 2012

King's Blood by Abraham & A Feast Unknown by Farmer at SFFWorld

We are winding down 2012 with only a few weeks remaining and while I’ve enjoyed a good portion of what I read, the book which I review in today’s post is my top Epic Fantasy for 2012.

Readers of my blog would like surmise that if any author has impressed me this year, based on the quantity of books I’ve read by him in 2012, it would be Daniel Abraham. Though published in the spring, I read The King’s Blood; the second installment of The Dagger and the Coin:

The King’s Blood builds on the strengths and foundation Abraham has thus far displayed in The Dragon’s Path, the first installment of The Dagger and the Coin. The races and politics of these divergent children of the dragon can be seen in greater detail; the threat hinted at in the first volume of the Spider Goddess gains more traction; the conspiracy against the nation of Antea becomes more of a plot element. As characters discover the deeper conspiracy taking root, it isn’t always easy to uncloud one’s judgment to find the heart of the conspiracy. Small thoughts lead to larger decisions, which can lead to war. Something Geder, Dawson (and his family) learns as The King’s Blood builds momentum with each page and chapter.

Through Geder’s eyes, Abraham evokes a great deal of sympathy for his plight, that ultimately, Geder seems to be trying to do what is best for the Prince under his watch and the land the Prince rules through him. His motivations come across as plausible outgrowths, particularly the less-than-savory aspects of his persona – his frustration, his anger, his jealousy, and his inadequacies. I’m not sure quite what Abraham is building with Geder, it is possible he is being whittled into something of a Big Bad for the series. On those aspects, I find a great deal of similarity between Geder and Walter White of Breaking Bad. Both characters are initially meek and weak, both characters struggle to overcome their fears in what might not be the best of fashions, and through various developments grow out of that shadow into something much more menacing.

Mark reaches into the past through the help of a re-issue of one of the early novels of the late Philip Jose Farmer with A Feast Unknown:

The story, as you might expect from its pulp foundations, is fairly simple and straightforward. Told as if from Volume Nine of the journal of Lord Grandrith (a surrogate Lord Greystoke), it tells of the conflict between Grandrith aka ‘the Apeman’, and the Lord of the Jungle, and Doc Caliban, Man of Bronze. They are clearly two opposites – the Lord of the Jungle is the epitome of man based on Nature, whilst Doc Caliban is a man of Science – although with the same father, Jack the Ripper. Both have been given an elixir that makes them near-immortal through the secret society known as The Nine. .

Farmer doesn’t stint on the details of this. There’s explicit sex, homosexual rape, bestiality, lots of talk about men’s genitalia, ejaculation, blood-drinking and cannibalism, castration, and throughout some quite odd sexual habits. Farmer’s clearly having a lot of fun with this. Through the Man of Bronze and He-of-the-Apes, we see a difference between rational Science and more emotional irrationality. Part of this is claimed to be because of the longevity elixir, though really perhaps what Farmer is emphasising is that often unspoken societal link between sex and violence, and that the two can be related.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-11-24)

A little bit of a break after last week’s relatively large haul of books, thanks I’m sure, to the Thanksgiving holiday. One of these is a definite read, one a maybe and the others…not so much.

Spirit’s End (Books 5 of Eli Monpress) by Rachel Aaron (Orbit Books, Trade Paperback 11/20/2012) – I thoroughly enjoyed the first four books of the series, having read the omnibus of the first three and book 4 The Spirit War earlier in the year.

Eli Monpress is clever, he's determined, and he's in way over his head.

First rule of thievery: don't be a hero. When Eli broke the rules and saved the Council Kingdoms, he thought he knew the price, but resuming his place as the Shepherdess's favorite isn't as simple as bowing his head. Now that she has her darling back, Benehime is setting in motion a plan that could destroy everything she was created to protect, and even Eli's charm might not be enough to stop her. But Eli Monpress always has a plan, and with disaster rapidly approaching, he's pulling in every favor he can think of to make it work, including the grudging help of the Spirit Court's new Rector, Miranda Lyonette.

But with the world in panic, the demon stirring, and the Lord of Storms back on the hunt, it's going to take more than luck and charm to pull Eli through this time. He's going to have to break a few more rules and work with some old enemies if he's going to survive.

Bard’s Oath by Joanne Bertin (Hardcover 11/27/2012 Tor ) – Final novel in the sequence which began with The Last Dragonlord. Martin fans think they have long waits? The second installment in this particular sequence first published in 1999.

In The Last Dragonlord and Dragon and Phoenix Joanne Bertin created a world 
unlike our own, where Dragonlords soar in the skies above the many realms of the land. 
The Dragonlords’ magic is unique, giving them the ability to change from dragon to 
human form; to communicate silently among themselves; and other abilities not known 
to mortals.

For many millennia, the Dragonlords have been a blessing to the world, with their 
great magic and awesome power. And though they live far longer than the humans who 
they resemble when not in their draconic state, these fabled changelings are still loyal to 
their human friends. Now in Bard's Oath, their magic is not the only power abroad in the world. And not all the magic is as benign as theirs.

Leet, a master bard of great ability and vaulting ambition, has his own magic, but of a much darker nature. Years ago, death claimed the woman he loved, setting him on a course to avenge her death, no matter the consequences. Now, mad with hatred and consumed by his thirst for revenge, Leet has set in motion a nefarious plot that ensnares the friend of a Dragonlord, using his bardic skills . . . and dark powers only he can summon, to accomplish his bitter task.

Raven, a young horse-breeder friend of the Dragonloard Linden Rathan, is ensnared by Leet and under the bard’s spell, is one of the bard’s unwitting catspaws. When accused of a heinous crime, Raven turns to Linden, and while Dragonlords normally do not meddle in human affairs, Linden comes to Raven’s aid, loath to abandon him in his time of desperate need.

But Raven, and others victimized by Leet, are at the mercy of human justice. Can even a Dragonlord save them from a dire fate before it is too late?

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (Del Rey, Hardcover 02/12/2013) – This is Lord’s second novel and looks to be a winner. In addition to the names listed in the blurb below, I’ll say that superficially, I get an Octavia Butler feel.

Karen Lord’s debut novel, the multiple-award-winning Redemption in Indigo, announced the appearance of a major new talent—a strong, brilliantly innovative voice fusing Caribbean storytelling traditions and speculative fiction with subversive wit and incisive intellect. Compared by critics to such heavyweights as Nalo Hopkinson, China Miéville, and Ursula K. Le Guin, Lord does indeed belong in such select company—yet, like them, she boldly blazes her own trail.

Now Lord returns with a second novel that exceeds the promise of her first. The Best of All Possible Worlds is a stunning science fiction epic that is also a beautifully wrought, deeply moving love story.

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team—one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive—just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

“This fascinating and thoughtful science fiction novel breaks out of the typical conflict-centered narrative paradigm to examine adaptation, social change, and human relationships. I’ve not read anything quite like it, which it makes that rare beast: a true original.”—Kate Elliot, author of the Crown of Stars series and the Spiritwalker Trilogy

The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi (Hardcover 11/27/2012 Tor ) – Sequel to Rajaniemi’s extremely well-received debut The Quantum Theif.

The good thing is, no one will ever die again. The bad thing is, everyone will want to.”

A physicist receives a mysterious paper. The ideas in it are far, far ahead of current thinking and quite, quite terrifying. In a city of “fast ones,” shadow players, and jinni, two sisters contemplate a revolution.
And on the edges of reality a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrödinger box for his patron. In the box is his freedom. Or not.

Jean de Flambeur is back. And he’s running out of time.

In Hannu Rajaniemi’s sparkling follow-up to the critically acclaimed international sensation The Quantum Thief, he returns to his awe-inspiring vision of the universe…and we discover what the future held for Earth.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Triumph over Tragedy Anthology Updates

I've recently begun helping out with the Triumph over Tragedy anthology, editing some stories.  Another author to join the ranks is Adrian Tchaikovsky, as Sarah recently highlighted on her blog. If you haven't been following her blog before, you should now. In addition to her tireless efforts to raise awareness for the anthology, she runs one of the best genre blogs on teh intarwebs. 

Author R.T. Kaelin immediately grabbed his bootstraps and put together Triumph over Tragedy, a benefit anthology for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sarah of the terrific blog Bookworm Blues has been pitching in as well.

More information, and how to contribute, can be found at the Indie Go Go page for Triumph over Tragedy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Almasi, Palma & JAWS reviewed at SFFWorld

It is the week of Thanksgiving here in New Jersey and we’ve got three new reviews at SFFWorld for which I hope you, my millions …. and millions of readers will be thankful. We’ve got a translation/international bestseller, reflection on film masterpiece and a debut novel today

G.T. Almasi is a graphic designer turned writer, with Blades of Winter; he launches both his novel writing career and a the inventive Alternate History/Spy Thriller/Cyberpunk Shadowstorm series

Set in the 1980s, the United States’s greatest enemies, at least the threats against which Alix and Ex-Ops defend the US against are Greater USSR, Greater Germany, and China. This imagined balance of power brings Germany out of defeat from World War II because of one critical event – the successful murder of Adolf Hitler by his own men, allowing the Nazi party to flourish. This tenuous balance of power reminded me a bit of the changing enemies of George Orwell’s 1984.

Presented in both Alix’s voice as the first person narrator and ‘official’ government communiques and news clippings, Almasi achieves a great level of authenticity in
Blades of Winter. The dialogue between Alix, her colleagues, her lover, and her mother all ring true. The slight changes, or ripples in the lake, Almasi’s world posits lends a more plausible feel. History and urban legend have combined in the Shadowstorm saga to give the Nazis a greater level of technological prowess allowing for the advancements in biomechanical enhancements employed by Alix and her peers. The novel brings things a bit more contemporary with conflict in the Middle East taking center stage towards the end of the novel.

Nila is on tap with the translation/international bestseller in the form of Félix J. Palma’s Map of Time: 

Told in three parts, we are welcomed to the world of The Map of Time by an unnamed narrator, a sort of ring-master, who tells us, “Your emotion and astonishment are guaranteed.” After raising an eyebrow to that, the reader might pause to think upon this bold statement, but once you turn the page, there’s no looking back, because we immediately meet Andrew Harrington, a young, well-to-do gentlemen in a bit of predicament: He can’t decide which of his father’s pistols he should use to kill himself.

Though The Map of Time is well-written, it needed a much stronger editor. There were large passages where the same information was re-told (I imagine a holdover from when the stories stood on their own), overly long letters dump the story on the reader (yes, I know, that’s a literary style), and moral and philosophical tangents, while interesting, were entirely superfluous. The book could have been cut in half and made much better for it – in my opinion.

With the debut and translation out of the way, that leaves Mark’s review as the one focused on a memoir whose subject is the first Summer Blockbuster Jaws. The book is Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor:

The book is more than a reminder of the film. It is a record of the making of a classic film on the New England island of Martha’s Vineyard. Not only do we have a foreword by Spielberg on the importance of the location in setting the scene for the movie, but the book has interviews with production designer Joe Alves and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb about how the film was developed. For this new second edition, there are sixteen pages of photos never seen before, including storyboards from Joe Alves and photos from crew members’ private photos.

The film was, by many accounts, not an easy one to make, with problems on location and with the mechanical shark prop, budget overruns and scheduling issues, amongst many others. The book does not gloss over these issues, and as a result shows how difficult such a film can be to make. (It also made me realise how difficult making any film involving the ocean can be, which is probably why we don’t see that many!) In the days of filmmaking before ‘everything was done in a computer’, it is a summation of the craft of old-fashioned filmmaking.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-11-17)

The flavor this week seems to be Steampunk, at least for half of the books I received this week.  Five authors I've never read and one of these books does look interesting.

The Lazarus Machine (A Tweed &; Nightingale Adventure
by Paul Crilley (Pyr Hardcover 11/06/2012) – Pyr has been doing quite impressive things in the market of Young Adult Steampunk. This is another snazzy looking book, from an author well-versed in genre storytelling (short stories and work on Star Wars media properties)

An alternate 1895. . . 

A world where Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace perfected the Difference Engine. Where steam and Tesla-powered computers are everywhere. Where automatons powered by human souls venture out into the sprawling London streets. Where the Ministry, a secretive
government agency, seeks to control everything in the name of the Queen.

It is in this claustrophobic, paranoid city that seventeen-year-old Sebastian Tweed and his conman father struggle to eke out a living.
But all is not well. . . 

A murderous, masked gang has moved into London, spreading terror through the criminal ranks as they take over the underworld. As the gang carves up more and more of the city, a single name comes to be uttered in fearful whispers. 

Professor Moriarty.

When Tweed's father is kidnapped by Moriarty, he is forced to team up with information broker Octavia Nightingale to track him down. But he soon realizes that his father's disappearance is just a tiny piece of a political conspiracy that could destroy the British
Empire and plunge the world into a horrific war.

Crown of Vengeance(Book One of The Dragon Prophecy) by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory (Tor Hardcover 11/13/2012) – Lackey is another writing machine, she’s got many series ongoing and overall, this is her seventh collaboration with Mallory in the same world, though this looks very approachable for new readers. Every time I saw one of their earlier books, I thought they looked like pretty interesting High Fantasy and Lackey seems like a writer I should at least try once. This might be the book

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, bestselling authors individually and together, return to the world of their New York Times and USA Today bestselling Obsidian and Enduring Flame Trilogies with Crown of Vengeance.

Here, readers will learn the truth about the Elven Queen Vielissiar Faricarnon, who was the first to face the Endarkened in battle and the first to bond with a dragon. She worked some of the greatest magics her world has ever known, and paid the greatest Price.

Crown of Vengeance is an exciting fantasy adventure that will appeal to fans of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. No previous knowledge of Lackey and Mallory's collaborations is necessary to enjoy this fast-paced, action-packed novel, but returning readers will be excited to discover this amazing story.

King of the Dead (Book One of The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles #2) by Joseph Nassise (Tor Hardcover 11/27/2012) – Sequel to Eyes to See published just about a year ago and the second in his urban fantasy series.

Joseph Nassise shook up the urban fantasy genre with Eyes to See, a novel New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry called “heartbreaking, deeply insightful, powerful and genuinely thrilling.” In a devil’s deal, Jeremiah Hunt sacrificed his human sight in exchange for the power to see the hidden world of ghosts and all of the darker spirits that prowl the streets. Hunt uncovered a world of murder and magic that took his daughter from him and nearly cost him his life, but that was only the beginning....

Now Hunt is on the run from the FBI, who have pegged him as a mass-murdering dark sorcerer. His flight from the law is diverted to New Orleans when his companion, a potent witch, has a horrific vision of the city under magical siege. When they arrive, they realize that the situation is more dire than they could have imagined: the world of the living faces a terrifying attack by forces from beyond the grave. King of the Dead, the second book in this groundbreaking series, promises more of Nassise’s electrifying writing that will enthrall readers looking for a supercharged, supernatural thrill.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow) by Liesel Schwarz (Del Rey 03/05/2013) – Schwarz’s debut novel is also the launch of a Steampunk series with what seems to be vampires added for good measure. This one seems like it would appeal a great deal to fans of Gail Carriger.

LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Triumph over Tragedy: Hurricane Sandy Benefit Anthology

As many of my readers know, I live in New Jersey.  Superstorm Sandy hit two weeks ago and to say that the natural disaster transformed  parts of the region into an apocalyptic landscape would be an understatement.  In other words, I'll take the five-day power outage and dozen or so toppled trees around my property as a win compared to what happened in other parts of New Jersey and New York.

Author R.T. Kaelin immediately grabbed his bootstraps and put together Triumph over Tragedy, a benefit anthology for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sarah of the terrific blog Bookworm Blues has been pitching in as well, most recently securing Elizabeth Bear for a story. Additionally, the VERY IMPRESSIVE list of contributors looks something like this:
  • Robert Silverberg (Hugo and Nebular Award winner)
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley (Locus Award winner) (donated by the MZB Literary Trust)
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Bradley P. Beaulieu
  • Phillip Athans
  • Stephen D. Sullivan
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Rick Novy
  • Jean Rabe
  • Maxwell Alexander Drake
  • SM Blooding
  • Erik Scott de Bie
  • Alex Bledsoe
  • Matthew Wayne Selznick
  • R.T. Kaelin
  • Ari Marmell
  • Jaym Gates
  • C.S. Marks
  • C.J. Henderson
  • Marian Allen
  • Bryan Young
  • Donald Bingle
  • Janine Spendlove
  • T.L. Gray
  • Miya Kressin
  • Steven Saus
  • Addie King
  • Rob Knipe
  • Vicki Johnson-Steger
  • Tracy Chowdhury
  • Doris Stever
  • Gregory Wilson

More information, and how to contribute, can be found at the Indie Go Go page for Triumph over Tragedy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Red Country & Unholy Night at SFFWorld

As is often the case, Mark and I will both receive copies of some of the larger titles and such is the case with the book for which I’ve posted today’s review. Meanwhile, Mark looks at another genre mash-up from one of the first purveyors of the mash-up.

Few authors not with the initials GRRM are as popular in the SFFWorld Forums as Joe Abercrombie. Mark reviewed it a couple of weeks ago and now it’s my turn to catch up with Joe’s Red Country:

A man’s past can’t always stay in the past, it affects his decisions and how he lives his life. Sometimes, that past comes knocking and despite how a man may hide from that past, it may or may not go away. When that past helps the man reach an important goal – such as saving his adopted children from kidnappers – then that past is even more difficult to keep buried. The past…just one of the themes that proves very informative for Joe Abercrombie’s sixth novel, Red Country.

Many have likened the feel and plot to a western novel, and indeed, it is easy to see why. The sparse land, the grey-and-black morality of the characters and the revenge theme all share much in common with some of the classic Western films like The Unforgiven and True Grit. That having been written, the story/film that continued to resonate with the most me as I addictively kept turning the pages was A History of Violence, coincidentally enough, two stars of that film (Viggo Mortsensen and Ed Harris) were in a recent western film Appaloosa.

Familiar themes are powerful, but for me what’s often worked best with Joe’s novels is the dialogue. Each character has a distinct voice, even without the qualifying …Lamb said or Shy asked, it would be pretty easy to determine which character is speaking. It is this quality that separates, among others qualities, Joe from his peers in the genre.

Seth Graham-Smith mashes up “history” with fantasy in Unholy Night and Mark liked the results.

As we approach Christmas 2012 (It’s really not that far away!), the ever-so-busy author turns his trademark mash-up style to the Nativity. The book tells of the ‘real’ story of the three Kings of the Magi. Led by Balthazar, it seems that, at least according to Seth, these enigmatic heralds of the birth of Jesus are not quite the wise old men scriptures would have us believe.

At first the idea of a Fantasy based Nativity story sounds quite preposterous. Yet, if you take away most of the religious connotations, it does make quite an exciting adventure tale. The discovery of the manger is not because the Three Kings followed a star (although there is one of great luminosity over Bethlehem in this tale, heralding the Messiah), but rather because they accidentally came across it whilst attempting a jailbreak. The ‘wise men’ the Bible would have us believe in are, in fact, petty thieves who spend most of their time trying to get out of trouble, rather than the benefactors of gifts to the Messiah.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-11-10)

It looks as if the publishers made up for no books last week with a big batch this week. The three authors for whom I’ve received the most books over the past few years had books arrive on my doorstep this week,.

The Red Knight (Book 1 of The Traitor Son Cycle #1) by Miles Cameron (Orbit (Hardcover 01/22/2013) – This one’s getting quite a bit of pre-publication buzz. This seems to be RIGHT up my alley.

Twenty eight florins a month is a huge price to pay, for a man to stand between you and the Wild.

Twenty eight florins a month is nowhere near enough when a wyvern's jaws snap shut on your helmet in the hot stink of battle, and the beast starts to rip the head from your shoulders. But if standing and fighting is hard, leading a company of men - or worse, a company of mercenaries - against the smart, deadly creatures of the Wild is even harder.

It takes all the advantages of birth, training, and the luck of the devil to do it.

The Red Knight has all three, he has youth on his side, and he's determined to turn a profit. So when he hires his company out to protect an Abbess and her nunnery, it's just another job. The abby is rich, the nuns are pretty and the monster preying on them is nothing he can't deal with.

Only it's not just a job. It's going to be a war. . .

The Creative Fire (Book one of Ruby’s Song by Brenda Cooper (Pyr Trade Paperback 11/06/2012) – Cooper launches a new series with Pyr, this one looks quite interesting.

Nothing can match the power of a single voice. . . .

Ruby Martin expects to spend her days repairing robots while avoiding the dangerous peacekeeping forces that roam the corridors of the generation ship the Creative Fire. The social structure of the ship is rigidly divided, with Ruby and her friends on the bottom. Then a ship-wide accident gives Ruby a chance to fight for the freedom she craves. Her enemies are numerous, well armed, and knowledgeable. Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, and a deep stubbornness. Complicating it all—an unreliable AI and an enigmatic man she met—and kissed—exactly once—who may hold the key to her success. If Ruby can't transform from a rebellious teen to the leader of a revolution, she and all her friends will lose all say in their future.

Like the historical Evita Peron, Ruby rises from the dregs of society to hold incredible popularity and power. Her story is about love and lust and need and a thirst for knowledge and influence so deep that it burns.

Andromeda’s Fall by William C. Dietz (Ace Hardcover 12/04/2012) – First in precursor series to Dietz’s popular Legion of the Damned Military SF series.

The roots of the Legion of the Damned lie deep within the mythology of the future. But now, national bestselling author William C. Dietz goes back to the Legion’s early days with the story of one recruit’s rebirth and redemption…

Hundreds of years in the future, much has changed. Advances in medicine, technology, and science abound. Humanity has gone to the stars, found alien life, and established an empire.

But some things never change...

All her life, Lady Catherine Carletto (called Cat) has lived for nothing but the next party, the next lover, the next expensive toy. Until, in a bloodthirsty power grab, Imperial Princess Ophelia and her cadre of synth assassins murder her brother the emperor, and go on to purge the galaxy of his friends and supporters—including Cat’s family. The Carlettos are known to be staunch supporters of the Emperor and Carletto Industries has been in the forefront of his pet project—developing cybernetic technology for use by the masses.

Now Cat, one of the last surviving Carlettos, is on the run. And, like countless others before her, she finds her sanctuary among the most dangerous of society’s misfits.

Welcome to the Legion.

Cat Carletto vanishes, and in her place stands Legion recruit Andromeda McKee. A woman with a mission—to bring down Empress Ophelia—or die trying.

The Sum of Her Parts (Tipping Point Trilogy #3) by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey 11/27/2012) – Third in the series which began with The Human Blend.

In this thrilling science fiction adventure—the triumphant conclusion to the Tipping Point trilogy—New York Times bestselling author Alan Dean Foster returns to a near future in which genetic manipulation and extreme body modification have changed profoundly what it means to be human.

Dr. Ingrid Seastrom was once a respected American physician. Whispr, whose body has been transformed to preternatural thinness, was once a streetwise thief. Now, in a world on the edge of catastrophe from centuries of environmental exploitation, they are allies—thrust together by fate to unravel an impossible mystery—even as they are stalked by a relentless killer.

Ingrid and Whispr are hunted fugitives bound together by a thread: a data-storage thread made of a material that cannot exist, yet somehow does. Their quest to learn its secrets—and, in Whispr’s case, sell them to the highest bidder—has brought them to South Africa’s treacherous Namib desert. Beyond its dangers waits a heavily guarded research facility that promises answers, if they can survive long enough to get there. But that won’t be easy, not with Napun Molé on their trail. They’ve already escaped the assassin twice, and as far as Molé is concerned, finishing them off isn’t just a job anymore . . . it’s personal.

Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles #5) by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 11/27/2012) – This is one of my more highly anticipated 2012 releases, not only because my review of Hammered is blurbed don the front, but because I also really enjoyed Hounded, loved it and posted the Hexed. I thought Tricked was good even if it felt a bit like a placeholder.

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.
Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

Alien vs Alien (Kitty Kat: Alien Super-Being Exterminator Book 6) by Gini Koch (DAW Mass Market Paperback 12/04/2012) – Koch’s writing speed is very impressive, this is the sixth book in the series (and second this year) since it launched in 2010.

Jeff and Kitty Katt-Martini and the rest of the American Centaurion Diplomatic Corps are still recovering from their introduction to Washington D.C. politics, parties, and conspiracies. So when compromising pictures arrive, no one’s too surprised. They’re also the least of anyone’s worries.

Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters by Mercedes Lackey (DAW Mass Market Paperback 12/04/2012) – Lackey opens up another of her popular secondary worlds to other writers.

This collection of all-new stories revisits Mercedes Lackey's universe in which the powerful Lord Alderscroft and his fellow Masters monitor the magical doings in their realm, and find, guide, protect and train all those in the British Isles who have the ability to control the elements. Original.

Crossed Blade (Crossed Blade #2) by Kelly McCullough (AceMass Market Paperback 12/04/2012) –Third in a series which began last year, and second published this calendar year so McCullough seems to be a quick writer.

For six years, former temple assassin Aral Kingslayer has been living as a jack of the shadow trades, picking up odd jobs on the wrong side of the law. But the past is never dead, and Aral’s has finally caught up to him in the beautiful, dangerous form of Jax Seldansbane—a fellow Blade and Aral’s onetime fiancée.

Jax claims that the forces that destroyed everything Aral once held dear are on the move again, and she needs his help to stop them. But Aral has a new life now, with a fresh identity and new responsibilities. And while he isn’t keen on letting the past back in, the former assassin soon finds himself involved in a war that will leave him with no way out and no idea who to trust…

Iced by Karen Marie Moning (Dellacorte Press Hardcover 10/30/2012) – A new series from the popular Moning, though this one seems as if it is connected to her previous work, the Fever Series.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules — and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the few humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.
Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks — and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin — before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

Mecha Rouge (A Novel of the Armor Wars) by Brett Patton and (Roc, Mass Market Paperback 12/04/2012) – A year later and the sequel to Patton’s first novel in this future Military SF series hits shelves. Say one thing for the folks at the Penguin imprints…they keep most of their authors on a pretty good schedule.

When you don’t know which side to trust, go rogue.

Matt Lowell is the hottest new recruit in the Universal Union’s select group of pilots. Their job—control the supremely powerful biochemical robotic avatars known as Mecha. Now, the Prime of Universal Union herself has offered him an unprecedented opportunity: return to Earth to train a new elite force for a covert mission that’s imperative to the future of the Union.

When he and his team embark on their mission—on a border world that may be a target for the anarchical Corsairs—Matt finds that everything is not as it seems. The world is home to a dark secret that underlies the very foundation of the Union itself, and suddenly Matt doesn’t know which side he and his mighty Mecha should be fighting for—or against.

< Supervolcano: All Fall Down by Harry Turtledove (Roc Hardcover 12/04/2012) – Here is book #43 by Turtledove I’ve received over the past few years.

In Supervolcano: Eruption, one of nature’s most destructive forces released its ferocity on an unsuspecting world. Now,New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove reveals how the survivors of the disaster adapt to their new environment…
In the aftermath of the supervolcano’s eruption in Yellowstone Park, North America is covered in ash. Farmlands cannot produce food. Machinery has been rendered useless. Cities are no longer habitable. And the climate across the globe grows colder every day.

Former police officer Colin Ferguson’s family is spread across the United States, separated by the catastrophe, and struggling to survive as the nation attempts to recover and reestablish some measure of civilization… .

Uglies: Cutters by Scott Westerfeld (W), Devin Grayson (W), and Steven Cummings (A) (Del Rey 12/042012) – Second graphic novel installment in Westerfeld’s extremely popular near future SF saga

Experience the riveting, dystopian Uglies series seen as never before—through the eyes of Shay, Tally Youngblood’s closest and bravest friend, who refuses to take anything about society at face value.

“From the moment we are born, we are considered threats in need of ‘special’ management. We are watched and shaped and exploited by a force most of us never see. . . . All to keep us safe. . . . Do you feel safe?! Or do you feel like you’re in a cage?”—Shay

In Pretties, Tally Youngblood and her daring best friend, Shay, both underwent the operation that turned them from ordinary Uglies into stunning beauties. Now this thrilling new graphic novel reveals Shay’s perspective on living in New Pretty Town . . . and the way she sees it, there’s more to this so-called paradise than meets the eye.

With the endless parties and custom-made clothes, life as a Pretty should be perfect. Yet Shay doesn’t feel quite right. She has little to no memory of her past; it’s as if something in her brain has inexplicably changed. When she reunites with Tally and the Crims—her rebellious group of friends from Uglyville—she begins to recall their last departure to the wild, and the headstrong leader she used to be. And as she remembers the truth about what doomed their escape, Shay decides to fight back—against the status quo, against the mysterious Special Circumstances, even against her own best friend.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Martin's Fevre Dream and van Thal's Second Pan Book of Horror

It’s a week after Hallowe’en but Mark and I have two reviews that keep the dark mood going.

George R.R. Martin needs no introduction, though some of his early work may. Thanks to the success of A Song of Ice and Fire his back list is being reissued, including the CLASSIC Vampire novel, Fevre Dream, here’s part of what I thought:

Abner Marsh is a man down on his luck; while considered a good steamboat captain, his most recent ship was destroyed in icy water. Joshua York, enigmatic man to say the least, sees something in Marsh that he thinks will be a key to his mysterious goals. The two men met and despite Marsh’s warnings to the contrary, enter a business arrangement to build and operate the greatest steamship to chart the waters of the Mississippi River – the Fevre Dream. The novel is set against the back-drop of the American South shortly before the Civil War, Martin’s novel features a great mix of characters many of whom are black men, both free and slaves.

In a parallel narrative, Martin introduces Damon Julian, also a vampire and whose actions more closely reflect to the evil vampire that has come to be the accepted model of the blood sucker. Julian lives a decadent life in the dark, the plantation which he took over is fraying at the edges and Julian’s reputation in the slave community and the region in general is becoming unsavory. What’s even more unsavory is Sour Billy, the human who keeps Julian’s world in order during the day. Few characters I’ve encountered are as slimy and disgusting as Sour Billy Tipton, in other words, he’d probably be pals with some of Martin’s more lurid characters from A Song of Ice and Fire like Roose Bolton and there’s a part of Sour Billy that reminded me of Ike Clanton as portrayed by Stephen Lang in the film Tombstone.

Mark continues his look back at some classics of genre in Herbert van Thal’sThe Second Pan Book of Horror Stories:

At the time of writing this we approach Halloween (again) and my thoughts turn to Horror stories for this time of year. Two years ago I reviewed the re-release of the first of these collections. This year I had to raid the vaults of Hobbit Towers for this 52-year-old classic.

There are fifteen stories in the collection, ranging from the classic (from Edgar Allen Poe, HG Wells and Bram Stoker, for example) to the rather unknown these days (Guy Preston, Oscar Cook, Stanley Ellin). There’s also the odd surprise: Agatha Christie and Carl Stephenson.

In summary, there are more hits than misses here. Personal favourites would be The Fly, The Black Cat, and The Judge’s House, all of which are recognised as classics. Almost as good, and much more unknown was By One, By Two and By Three and The Specialty of the House.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-11-03)

As of Friday, the time I wrote and post-dated this entry for Sunday mornings normally scheduled Books in the Mail post, I've received no books for review because of the near apocalyptic affects of Hurricane Sandy to New York (where the majority of the publishers who send me books are located) and New Jersey (where I live).  Also as of Friday, I've been without power, internet, or phone in my home since Monday 10/29/2012) when Hurricane Sandy made landfall so even if something does arrive on Saturday or is waiting for me at home on Friday, chances are I won't be able to update by Sunday.

For our part, I'd say the 'o Stuff household was fairly lucky despite the loss of power, heat, water, and connectivity to the outside world. Of the dozen or so trees that were toppled on and around my property, none of them fell on the house or did any damage.

We are very lucky all things considered, but the same can't be said for the rest of the region, specifically  most of New Jersey, New York City and some of its Five Boroughs

Please, if you've got some extra scratch to spare, consider donating to the Red Cross as virtually the entire Jersey Shore has been destroyed and the estimates of the economic impact to the region is in the tens of billions of dollars.