Sunday, December 30, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-12-29)

The last full week of the year and the biggest book of 2013 arrives. Christmas was also this past week so not much else arrived.

Seven Kings (Books of the Shaper Volume 2) by John R. Fultz (Orbit Trade Paperback 01/25/2013) –Second installment of Fultz’s epic sword & sorcery saga, the first volume of which Seven Princes seemed to be a love-it-or-hate-it book.

In the jungles of Khyrei, an escaped slave seeks vengeance and finds the key to a savage revolution. 

In the drought-stricken Stormlands, the Twin Kings argue the destiny of their kingdom: one walks the path of knowledge, the other treads the road to war. 

Beyond the haunted mountains King Vireon confronts a plague of demons bent on destroying his family. 

Iardu the Shaper weaves history like a grand tapestry, spinning sorceries into a vision of apocalypse. 

Giants and Men march as one to shatter a wicked empire.

The fate of the known world rests on the swift blades of Seven Kings….

A Memory of Light < (The Final Volume of The Wheel of Time Novel, Book 14) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 01/08/2013) – DO I really need to say anything about this book? As of this writing of this blog post, I’m on book 12, The Gathering Storm

Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.

What was, what will be, and what is,

may yet fall under the Shadow.

Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

The Dread (Book One of The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga) by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit Books Trade Paperback 01/08/2013) – Since Martin’s first novel, The Summoner published in 2007, this is her sixth published novel and first to break away from her earlier series.

Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine "Mick" McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, as the world's magic runs wild, McFadden and the people of Velant must fight to survive and decide their fate ...

From Gail Z. Martin, author of the beloved series THE CHRONICLES OF THE NECROMANCER and THE FALLEN KINGS CYCLE, comes a new fantasy adventure for the ages.

Welcome to the end of the world.

Welcome to the beginning of THE ASCENDANT KINGDOMS SAGA.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

SFFWorld Reviewers' Top SF, Fantasy, & Horror of 2012

As we do every year at SFFWorld, Mark and I took a look back at what we read and reviewed at SFFWorld. This year, we pulled in KatG, who serves as one of the moderators, and Nila (N.E.) White (aka tmso) who moderates, writes reviews for us and makes sure the folks in the writing forum play nice with each other.

April saw a slew of Fantasy novels reviewed. Rob reviewed The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp, his first non-shared world/media tie-in which is a great example of modern Sword and Sorcery, as well as Elizabeth Bear’s ‘first true venture into Epic Fantasy’, Range of Ghosts. Mark read Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle and Fire by Kristin Cashore, occasional reviewer Kathryn read Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts and Nila reviewed the third Mike Shevdon novel, Strangeness and Charm. Rob’s favorite in April was his much anticipated Caine's Law by Matthew Woodring Stover
For the start of June SFFWorld went old-school, with the review of a game-book, Destiny Quest: The Legion of Shadow by Michael J. Ward. Mark found it quite fun. He also reviewed the UK re-release of George R.R. Martin’s Armageddon Rag, expanding on a short review he wrote for The Fortean Times. Rob enjoyed the fast-paced mayhem of Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, and the Young Adult tale Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell, but his favourite of the month (and of the year) was The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett, a Bradbury-esque tale of strange goings-on in a circus troupe.

January started strongly for Space Opera, with Alastair Reynolds’ Blue Remembered Earth which Mark reviewed. Rob reviewed The Recollection by Gareth L. Powell. We also reviewed something we should do more of at SFFWorld, an audio drama, when occasional reviewer Kathryn Ryan reviewed a Ciaphas Cain story Dead in the Water by Sandy Mitchell. Mark reviewed a superhero reimagining with Empire State by Adam Christopher and an old-fashioned duo of future-colony tales, Tau Ceti by Kevin Anderson and Steven Savile. Elsewhere, Paul Mc Auley’s In the Mouth of the Whale was another Space Opera liked by readers, as too Chris Beckett’s alien planet tale Dark Eden, though Mark was not as impressed. Lavie Tidhar’s Osama was published this month, with an audacious meta-fiction premise and was generally well liked, winning the World Fantasy Award for 2012 later in the year.
Just as impressive in June was David Brin’s Existence, which Rob loved for its big, bold ideas and complex plot, saying ‘Brin achieved an excellent gestalt of character, big ideas, and narrative energy.’ We also had the US release of John Scalzi’s Redshirts, a book Rob recommended because it ‘succeeded in making me laugh a great deal and had the all-important powerful pull to keep reading to find out what happens next.’ Mark also reviewed the book on its UK release in December.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hundred Year Christmas by David Morrell - Catching up with the Classics

Christmas stories are a dime a dozen, and I think that’s underselling the point. For a story about Christmas or Santa Claus to have some kind of impact, it needs to be different while still towing to the themes of faith, love, and hope. When the writer of First Blood turned his storytelling pen to a fable about Santa Claus not many people would have expected such a poignant and heartfelt tale. Well, that’s just what readers of The Hundred Year Christmas got when they closed the book illustrated by R. J. Krupowicz.

My father was and is a big Stephen King fan so when he first became a King fan back in the 1980s, he learned of The Dark Tower (at the time, only The Gunslinger) was published. He managed to get a first edition of The Gunslinger and subsequently got on the mailing list for the publisher Donald M. Grant books, the original publisher of The Hundred Year Christmas.

So, since my father bought the book nearly 30 years ago, I read it every couple of years and again yesterday for the first time in quite a while. It is basically an origin for Santa Claus and it’s got a little bit in common with the film The Santa Clause and hits upon some of the same thematic beats as the Rankin-Bass stop-motion special The Year without a Santa Claus.

The story is told as a bedtime story on Christmas Eve from  father to his two children. The story itself began as a tale Morrell told his two children. Intertwined into the story of Santa Claus is that of Father Time; Santa has a 100-year lifespan and Father Time a one-year lifespan. Both entities live in a magical house with a road leading over a hill where each must go when their time is up. EThe story chronicles the hundredth year of the Santa Claus from the 20th Century, for there have been multiple Santa Clauses throughout the years. very 100 years, Santa has to choose his successor while every year a new Father Time appears. Morrell crafts a wonderful story and in a short space, builds up a great deal of emotion and love between the two mythical characters.

To go into more detail would spoil the story (right, its a story nearly 30 years old now and not easy to acquire). I’m somewhat surprised this one hasn’t been made into a film or TV special of some sort. The illustrations by R.J. Krupowicz are a bit unsettling, the elves in the illustrations are creepy and they resemble gremlins. Away from the elves, the art does lend an appropriately classic look to the story.

Overlook Press recently reissued the story in an illustrated edition with some revisions and an introduction.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-12-22)

Some of the books I received this week, which are part of a series, had their previous installment appear just about exactly a year ago. What's most surprising about the standard three DAW mass market paperbacks in this usual spot of the month is that there's no themed anthology.

Throne of the Crescent Moon (Book I of The Crescent Moon Kingdoms) by Saladin Ahmed (DAW, Mass Market Paperback 12/31/2012) – Mass Market reissue of Ahmed’s stunning debut, which really impressed me, which “is a tightly packed sword and sorcery adventure that is great proclamation of a new voice in fantasy. I want to follow more adventures of Doctor Mahslood and his surrogate family, I want to see if the relationship between Zamia and Raseed grows and I want to learn more about the enigmatic Falcon Prince.”. For whatever reason, the publisher decided to pull the characters from the cover.

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

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

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

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

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

Luck of the Draw (Xanth #36) by Piers Anthony (Tor, Hardcover 12/24/2012) – What can I say about a book series, heavy on puns, that is now has three dozen installments in the sequence? Not much, at this point with Anthony’s Xanth novels you are either reading them or ignoring them. Lots of folks must be buying them if this is the 36th. Anthony is one of those “classic” fantasy authors I’ve never read

Bryce is summoned to Xanth as part of a wager between the Demons Earth and Xanth. To his surprise, he has left behind his home and family and eighty-year-old body forever, in exchange for youth and magic….and a quest. He must court and marry Princess Harmony, who is anything but willing to be courted!

Luck of the Draw is Anthony’s thirty-sixth pun-filled adventure in the magical land of Xanth.

Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter (Ace Hardcover 12/31/2012) – The folks at BBC are getting some heavy hitters for these Doctor Who novels

From Stephen Baxter, master of science fiction and national bestselling author of Bronze Summer, comes an all-new Doctor Who adventure…

Resilience. Remembrance. Restoration.
Whatever the cost.

Hurtling through a vortex beyond time and space is a police box that’s not a police box. The TARDIS has carried the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, to all sorts of places, but now, when they don’t want to go anywhere, the TARDIS makes a decision for them. Like it or not, they’re coming in for a landing, who knows where or when…

The Wheel. A ring of ice and metal turning around a moon of Saturn, home to a mining colony supplying a resource-hungry Earth. It’s a bad place to live—and a worse place to grow up.

The colony has been plagued by problems. Maybe it’s only a run of bad luck, but the equipment failures and thefts of resources have been increasing. And there are stories among the children of mysterious creatures glimpsed aboard the Wheel. Some of the younger workers are even refusing to go down into the warren-like mines any more.

And then one of them, surfing Saturn’s rings, saves an enigmatic blue box from destruction.

Once on the Wheel, the Doctor and his companions face a critical situation when they become suspected by some as the source of the ongoing sabotage.

They soon find themselves caught in a mystery that goes all the way back to the creation of the solar system. A mystery that could destroy the Wheel—and kill them all...

Doktor Glass by Thomas Brennan> (Ace, Trade Paperback 12/31/2012) – Steampunk supernatural mystery!

Here’s the snippet:

In an age of Zeppelins and gyroplanes, atomics and horseless carriages, the Transatlantic Span is the industrial marvel of the nineteenth century. A monumental feat of engineering, the steel suspension bridge stretches across the Atlantic from Liverpool to the distant harbor of New York City, supported by no less than seven hundred towers. But in the shadows of its massive struts, on the docks of the River Mersey, lies a faceless corpse…

Inspector Matthew Langton is still seized with grief when he thinks of Sarah, his late wife. Tortured by nightmares and afflicted by breathless attacks of despair and terror, he forces himself to focus on the investigation of the faceless man. The victim wears the uniform of the Transatlantic Span Company but bears the tattoos of the Boers—could there be a Boer conspiracy to assassinate Queen Victoria on the upcoming Inauguration Day of the Span?

But the truth, as it begins to emerge, is far more bizarre than a political coup. As additional victims turn up—each with strange, twin burn marks on their necks—Langton draws a connection between the dead man beneath the bridge and chilling rumors of the Jar Bars, soul snatchers who come under cover of night. Most frightening of all is the mythic and elusive Doktor Glass, who may not only be behind the illicit trade in souls…but who may hold the key to what happened to the inspector’s own beloved wife on her deathbed…

Dinosaur Thunder by James F. David (Tor, Hardcover 12/24/2012) – Interesting premise here for the second book in David’s series. This cover seems to be a homage to the Del Rey cover of James Hogan’s Inherit the Stars

Eighteen years ago, the prehistoric past collided with the present as time itself underwent a tremendous disruption, transporting huge swaths of the Cretaceous period into the twentieth century. Neighborhoods, towns, and cities were replaced by dense primeval jungles and modern humanity suddenly found itself sharing the world with fierce dinosaurs. In the end, desperate measures were taken to halt the disruptions and the crisis appeared to be over.
Until now.

New dinosaurs begin to appear, rampaging through cities. A secret mission to the Moon discovers a living Tyrannosaurus Rex trapped in an alternate timeline. As time begins to unravel once more, Nick Paulson, director of the Office of Security Science, finds a time passage to the Cretaceous period where humans, ripped from the comforts of the twenty-first century, are barely surviving in the past. Led by a cultlike religious leader, these survivors are at war with another sentient species descended from dinosaurs.
As the asteroid that ends the reign of dinosaurs rushes toward Earth, Nick and his allies must survive a war between species and save the future as we know it.

Dinosaur Thunder is a terrifying, futuristic thriller in the tradition of Michael Crichton and Douglas Preston.

The Dog in the Dark (The Thirteenth Novel of the Noble Dead) by Barb and J.C. Hendee (Roc, Hardcover 12/31/2012) – Another year passes, and almost exactly to the date, the prolific Hendees publish another installment in their Vampire Epic Fantasy saga. I’d wanted to read the first one for a while, but it keeps getting pushed lower on the virtual Mount Toberead.

Here’s the snippet:

The Noble Dead series has been hailed as “a crowd-pleasing mix of intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror.”* Now, national bestselling authors Barb and J.C. Hendee present the latest thrilling novel following the adventures of dhampir Magiere and half-elf Leesil…

Barely escaping the city of Calm Seatt—and the assassins hunting them—Magiere, Leesil, and the elven dog Chap sail south to continue their quest to find the powerful Orb of Air before their enemies do. But they are not alone, much to their frustration.

The aging elven assassin Brot’an has forced himself on them by offering his protection. Chap doesn’t believe this ruse, however, and seeks to uncover the assassin’s true agenda—as well as the cause of the secret civil war that has erupted into the open among Brot'an's people.

Meanwhile, Magiere struggles with her own dark nature, using Leesil’s love as an anchor to keep her grounded. For the personal price she paid to procure the Orb of Fire was more than she thought—and more than she wants to reveal to anyone.

But that is exactly what the cunning Brot’an wants to know. And he is willing to do whatever it takes—even if he must reveal his own dreaded secrets that may cost the entire party their lives…and their very souls.

*Publishers Weekly

The Ramal Extraction (Cutter’s Wars Book 1) by Steve Perry (Ace Mass Market Paperback 12/24/2012) – I read Perry’s Star Wars novel Shadows of the Empire years ago and remember enjoying it. This is the first of a new military SF series.

At the close of the 24th Century, a series of revolutions has caused the galaxy to descend into chaos. With the Galactic Union’s Army stretched thin, mercenary units have arisen for those who have the need—and the means—to hire them…

Captained by former Detached Guerrilla Forces Colonel R.A. “Rags” Cutter, the Cutter Force Initiative is one of the best. A specialized team consisting of both aliens and humans, the Cutters offer services ranging from fight training and protection to extraction and assassination—as long as the target deserves it and their employer makes good on payday.

When they’re hired to find and rescue Indira, the soon-to-be-married daughter of the Rajah Ramal of New Mumbai, the teams’ first task is to identify the kidnapper. The obvious suspects are insurgents who want to overthrow the rajanate, but as other forces enter the game and an assassination attempt is made on Ramal, the Cutters realize that their in-and-out extraction job is about to get a lot more interesting—and a lot more lethal…

Touch of the Demon (Kara Gillian, Book 5) by Diana Rowland (DAW Mass Market 12/31/2012)– Fifth in a series about vampire hunter on the police force. This is one of two ongoing series Rowland has with DAW.

Kara Gillian is in some seriously deep trouble.

She’s used to summoning supernatural creatures from the demon realm to our world, but now the tables have been turned and she’s the one who’s been summoned. Kara is the prisoner of yet another demonic lord, but she quickly discovers that she’s far more than a mere hostage. Yet waiting for rescue has never been her style, and Kara has no intention of being a pawn in someone else’s game.

There’s intrigue to spare as she digs into the origin of the demonic lords and discovers the machinations of humans and demons alike. Kara is shocked to discover that she has her own history in the demon realm, and that the ties between her and the demonic lords Rhyzkahl and Szerain go back farther than she could have ever imagined. But treachery runs rampant among all the lords, and she’s going to have to stay sharp in order to keep from being used to further their own agendas. The lords have a secret that dates back to earth’s ancient history, and it could have devastating repercussions for both worlds.

Yet more than anything else, Kara’s abilities as a homicide detective will be put to the test—because this time the murder she has to solve is her own.

The Griffin’s War (The Risen Sun Trilogy #1) by K.J. Taylor (Ace Mass Market Paperback 12/24/12) – First in a sequel trilogy to Taylor’s debut trilogy, The Fallen Moon, chronicling the further exploits of people bonded with Griffins

Laela Redguard was born with the black hair of the Northern kingdom and the blue eyes of the Southern people, forever marking her as a hated half-breed child of both. When her only family tie is severed, the fierce and strong-willed Laela decides to leave her adoptive father’s home in the hopes of finding acceptance in the North, where the ruthless King Arenadd and the dark griffin Skandar rule.

While Laela’s Northern features allow her to blend into the crowds of the King’s seat at Malvern, she cannot avoid falling victim to a pair of common thugs. When a stranger saves her life and gives her a place to stay, Laela is shocked to learn he is Arenadd himself—a man said to be a murderer who sold his soul to the Night God—the King without a heart.

Arenadd is unsure what compels him to help this girl, but there is something about her that seems familiar, something he cannot remember—something that may rise up to banish the darkness forever…

Skirmish (The House Wars Book 4) by Michelle West (DAW Mass Market Paperback 12/31/2012) – This is the fourth in her < House War, which is set in the same world as her Sacred Hunt duology and her six-book Sun Sword series.

Skirmish is the fourth novel in the long-awaited House War series. Set in the same rich fantasy universe as Michelle West’s Sacred Hunt duo logy and her six-volume Sun Sword series, the House War novels recount the events leading to the momentous battle between the demonic minions of the Lord of the Hells and the defenders of the Essalieyan Empire — a realm with a long and bloody history. The empire is ruled by the Twin Kings, sons of the gods. It is also controlled by The Ten, the heads of the most influ­ential Houses in Aver­alaan, the capital of the Empire.

But The House War focuses not only on the larger war but also, and more impor­tantly, on the campaign to control the most powerful of the ruling Houses in the Essalieyan Empire – House Terafin.

As Skirmish opens, Amarais ATerafin – The Terafin – lies dead, assas­si­nated by a demon at the very moment that Jewel ATerafin returns from the war in the South, appearing as if out of thin air, having traveled by hidden paths. Jewel is accom­panied by her domicis Avandar, known as the Warlord, by Lord Celle­riant of the Winter Queen’s court, and she rides on the back of a giant stag – the Winter King. Yet still she cannot arrive in time to save her leader, but only in time for Celle­riant to slay the demon assassin.

Jewel returns to a city beset by a myste­rious “sleeping sickness” for which there appears to be no cure. Only one healer – a young man who shelters with Jewel’s den – can temporarily wake the sleepers so they make take enough suste­nance to survive. And the sickness continues to spread unchecked. As the Empire strives to combat this insidious disease, and stave of demonic attacks, House Terafin begins prepa­ra­tions for the funeral of its Lord. And four members of the House declare them­selves as candi­dates to claim the House Seat, ready to do whatever it takes to wrest control.

Only Jewel remains silent, though she is the heir secretly desig­nated by Amarais before her departure to the South. While some seek to intim­idate Jewel or recruit her for their own bids, others begin to gather around her: her own den, the most loyal of House Terafin’s Chosen, Haval the dress­maker, powerful magi, and three myste­rious ‘winged cats’ who come to her in the midst of a deadly encounter in a forest not meant for mortals to walk….

Jewel is deter­mined not to make any deci­sions before the Terafin is laid to rest. But as the enemies of House and Empire mobilize, it becomes terri­fy­ingly clear that everyone – including Jewel and her other­worldly allies – must survive the three days of the funeral rites before they can even be certain that there will be a House Terafin left to fight over….

Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright (Tor Hardcover 12/24/2012) – Second in Wright’s Space Opera which began with Count to a Trillion. The two books appeared just about a whole calendar year apart.

Continuing from Count to a Trillion, Menelaus Illation Montrose—Texas gunslinger, idealist, and posthuman genius—has gone into cryo-suspension following the discovery that, in 8,000 years, a powerful alien intelligence will reach Earth to assess humanity’s value as slaves. Montrose intends to be alive to meet that threat, but he is awakened repeatedly throughout the centuries to confront the woes of an ever-changing and violent world, witnessing millennia of change compressed into a few years of subjective time. The result is a breathtaking vision of future history like nothing before imagined: sweeping, tumultuous, and evermore alien, as Montrose’s immortal enemies and former shipmates from the starship Hermetic harness the forces of evolution and social engineering to continuously reshape the Earth in their image, seeking to create a version of man the approaching slavers will find worthy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ahmed and Cobley Reviewed at SFFWorld

A couple of days later than usual, but we’ve got another debut for Mark’s review and my review is (as it was for last week) the second installment of a trilogy. Our reactions from last week (Mark thumbs down and me big thumbs up) are a bit reversed, though my thumbs aren’t quite as drastically down as Mark’s thumbs.

Mark’s review concerns the Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel Throne of the Crescent Moon, which recently appeared in the UK after appearing in the US earlier in the year (and leaving me very impressed):

Crescent Moon taps into an area of Fantasy that seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years. With the genre’s concentration on Western pseudo-Medieval type tales, the ancient Arabian Nights type tales, based less on European culture, is ripe for revisiting.

There’s certainly enough here. We have Kingdoms, rebellion, canny thieves and honourable heroes, combined with mystical supernatural elements. It reminded me of those Arabian stories from Weird Tales in the 1930’s, but with a contemporary re-imagining.

In talks of gods and religion, ancient evils and older spells, Saladin has tapped into the well-stone of good old-fashioned storytelling in an old established setting of ancient Arabia. This is Arabian Nights meets Clark Ashton Smith but with less purple prose and more adventurous actions.

I enjoyed The Orphaned Worlds the second novel of Michael Cobley’s Humanity’s Fire trilogy, but not quite as much as the first book:

With the universe a-flutter about the discoveries on Darien of potential ancient races and the reuniting of two of humanity’s lost colonies, Cobley paints his story on a very wide canvas and delves further into the past of Darien and the ancient races who may or may not still have their fingers in affairs. While Seeds of Earth focused primarily on the planet Darien and the inhabitants from the seed ship Hyperion and a bit of a focus on the planet of Pyre, populated by of the seed ship Tenebrosa, as well as the final seed ship Forrestal on the planet Tygra.

One of the smaller plot strands, at least thus far, is that of Robert Horst, an ambassador from Earth and the artificial intelligence that has taken the form of his daughter. Horst is a tragic and sympathetic character at times, at others desperate to change the past. These sequences show something larger at play than any of the characters, especially Robert himself, could imagine. What I also found intriguing was how Robert’s ‘daughter’ aged as quickly as she did, not remaining at a static age as one would expect a simulated intelligence based on one’s memories to be. Here, I thought, Cobley’s playing with the A.I. trope of SF handled very well and differently than I’d previously seen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

R.T. Kaelin Interviewed at SFFWorld

Today I posted my interview with R.T. Kaelin, the mastermind behind the Hurricane Sandy benefit Anthology, Triumph over Tragedy.  We also discussed his fantasy saga, which begins with the novel Progeny.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-12-15)

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit Trade Paperback  02/12/2013) – With The Troupe, Robert Jackson Bennett may have written my favorite novel of 2012 (hint: he did) and one of the best novels I read in the past five or ten years so yeah, you could say this is high on the anticipation list for 2013.

Ex-cop Mona Bright has been living a hard couple of years on the road, but when her estranged father dies, she finds she's had a home all along: a little house her deceased mother once owned in Wink, New Mexico.

And though every map denies Wink exists, Mona finds they're wrong: not only is Wink real, it is the perfect American small town, somehow retaining all the Atomic Age optimism the rest of world has abandoned.

But the closer Mona gets to her mother's past, the more she understands that the people in Wink are very, very different - and what's more, Mona begins to recognize her own bond to this strange place, which feels more like home every day.

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.

Limits of Power (Book Four of Paladin’s Legacy) by Elizabeth Moon (Del Rey Hardcover 02/21/2012) – I liked the first two in this series (Oath of Fealty and Kings of the North) quite a bit and last year I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) the first trilogy set in this world, The Deed of Paksenarrion) which is now in my Omnibus Hall of Fame [© PeterWilliam]. For reasons that I can’t explain even to myself, I didn’t yet get around to reading the third installment, Echoes of Betrayal. Hopefully, I’ll catch up in early 2013

Elizabeth Moon is back with the fourth adventure in her bestselling fantasy epic. Moon brilliantly weaves a colorful tapestry of action, betrayal, love, and magic set in a richly imagined world that stands alongside those of such fantasy masters as George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb.

The unthinkable has occurred in the kingdom of Lyonya. The queen of the Elves—known as the Lady—is dead, murdered by former elves twisted by dark powers. Now the Lady’s half-elven grandson must heal the mistrust between elf and human before their enemies strike again. Yet as he struggles to make ready for an attack, an even greater threat looms across the Eight Kingdoms.

Throughout the north, magic is reappearing after centuries of absence, emerging without warning in family after family—rich and poor alike. In some areas, the religious strictures against magery remain in place, and fanatical followers are stamping out magery by killing whoever displays the merest sign of it—even children. And as unrest spreads, one very determined traitor works to undo any effort at peace—no matter how many lives it costs. With the future hanging in the balance, it is only the dedication of a few resolute heroes who can turn the tides . . . if they can survive.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Best of Lists are Appearing...

With December fully upon us, many outlets are putting forth their best of the year lists.  Hell, some outlets did this in October and November.  I'm currently working on the annual round-up for SFFWorld with Mark, Nila, and Kat while also cribbing together the annual review post for this blog.

The short of it is, posted their round up: Reviewers’ Choice 2012: The Best Books We Read This Year, and as I've contributed three reviews/appreciations to the site, I was invited to contribute. I won't reveal what I slotted as my top three (we were asked to limit the list to three choices, but some of us cheated a bit), you'll have to click over there to see what I thought.  I'll say it is pretty neat to be one of the part of this post with some of's more visible and respected reviewers (folks like Jo Walton, Liz Bourke, Ron Hogan, Stefan Raets and Niall Alexander whose reviews have always been insightful and some of the most thoughtful in the genre) in specific, and on the whole to be a contributor for

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues Interviewed

As I've said a few times here at the 'o Stuff, I'm helping out with the Triumph over Tragedy anthology. One of the lead editors on the project is Sarah Chorn, who runs the terrific blog Bookworm Blues.

As such, I've conducted an e-mail interview with Sarah, which I posted in two parts to SFFWorld:

Interview with Sarah Part 1

Interview with Sarah Part 2

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Malice, The Coldest War, and Redshirts Reviewed at SFFWorld

Another high fantasy debut for one Mark’s review, I take a look at the (long-delayed) second installment in an ambitious alternate history/SF/horror hybrid, and Mark's review of the UK release of a popular SF novel round out this post.

A book that’s been generating a fair amount of buzz on both sides of the Atlantic is the subject of Mark’s review. While Malice; John Gwynne’s debut novel. Mark wasn’t quite as happy with this debut fantasy as he was with the previous

For all its length, and, to be fair, the pages can turn, my feeling at the end was that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table that I haven’t read before. Nor indeed anything I couldn’t see coming. For new Fantasy readers, this may be fine. If it helps, I will say that I had similar issues with Brent Weeks’ Night Angel series and Michael J Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations series. (And, conversely, that might mean that if you enjoyed those two series, you might like this novel.)

In addition, whereas books of this type usually show a progression towards an epic climax to create tension and anticipation, in Malice it didn’t. Instead, I found myself wanting to hurry things along, not because I wanted to read what happens, but because I wanted it to finish, never a good sign when reading a book.

I’ve had The Coldest War on Mount To'be-Read (© Fred Kiesche) for quite a few months and finally read it last week. Tregillis really managed to render sorrow and anger in this volume and has me very anticipated for book three Necessary Evil:

In The Coldest War, Ian Tregillis picks up the story threads from his debut novel Bitter Seeds to bring readers back into the lives of Raybould Marsh and Will, the former British spies who worked for the Milkweed group. In the twenty years since, Marsh married Liz and had a son, John, while Will married Gwendolyn and is a prominent member of society. All is not rosy; however. Will has been working for the Soviets providing information on the warlocks whose contact with the eldritch Eidolons allowed for the British victory. With the help of Gretel and Klaus, two of the super soldiers created by Nazi mad scientist von Westarp Marsh attempts to halt the growing power and influence of the Soviets.

While I enjoyed The Coldest War a great deal, the overall tone of darkness, anger, and bitterness was inescapable. As a result of the efforts of Marsh and Will during the war, their lives have changed irrevocably. Tregillis does an amazing job of conveying the stress of post-war trauma on both of these men, especially with Marsh and his wife Liz. The two were very happy and hopeful at the conclusion of Bitter Seeds, but here in The Coldest War there is nothing but blame and hatred in their marriage and the primary symbol of this is their despondent, (seemingly) mentally handicapped son John.

Last week, Mark posted his review of John Scalzi's Redshirts:

Here Scalzi follows it through to a logical literary development. Andrew Dahl is a newly assigned crew member to the Universal Union Capital Ship Ensign. Working in the Xenobiology Department, he soon realises that the ship has a fast turnover of crew, often in bizarre and quite imaginative ways. He soon realises that being assigned to an away team is not a privilege but a means of making up the numbers, with the chances of coming back increasingly unlikely. Most of the story is about how Dahl and his other newly-assigned friends survive, and avoid being put on an Away Mission.

The main problem is that Scalzi can’t keep it all quite going at the very end. What he does about 80 pages in is do something that is either ‘crazy’ or ‘genius’. There is a moment for what many readers will be where the story ‘jumps the shark’ and fiction in another medium is connected to this literary tale. Dahl has a Truman Show moment, and he and his colleagues become aware that they are slaves to the Narrative in an alternate timeline.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-12-08)

Only a few books this week, and two of them from the same author in the same series...

The Orphaned Worlds (Book Two of Humanity’s Fire) by Michael Cobley (Orbit Mass Market Paperback 10/30/2012) – I read the first in this trilogy a couple of months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to where Cobley takes the series. This here’s book two with more great Steve Stone cover art.

The fight is on. So let the battle begin.

Darien is no longer a lost outpost of humanity, but the prize in an intergalactic struggle. Hegemony forces control the planet, while Earth merely observes, rendered impotent by galactic politics. Yet Earth's ambassador to Darien will become a player in a greater conflict as there is more at stake than a turf war on a newly discovered world.

An ancient temple hides access to a hyperspace prison, housing the greatest threat sentient life has never known. Millennia ago, malignant intelligences were caged there following an apocalyptic struggle, and their servants work on their release. Now a new war is coming.

The Ascendant Stars (Book Three of Humanity’s Fire) by Michael Cobley (Orbit Mass Market Paperback 11/20/2012) – I read the first in this trilogy a couple of months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to where Cobley takes the series. This here’s book three with more great Steve Stone cover art.

War erupts in the depths of space...

Battle-ready factions converge above Darien, all with the same objective: to control this newly discovered planet and access the powerful weapons at its heart. Despotic Hegemony forces dominate much of known space and they want this world too, but Darien's inhabitants are determined to fight for their future.

However, key players in this conflict aren't fully in control. Hostile AIs have infiltrated key minds and have an agenda, requiring nothing less than the destruction or subversion of all organic life. And they are near to unleashing their cohorts, a host of twisted machine intelligences caged beneath Darien. Fighting to contain them are Darien's hidden guardians, and their ancient ally the Construct, on a millennia-long mission to protect sentient species. As the war reaches its peak, the AI army is roaring to the surface, to freedom and an orgy of destruction.

Darien is first in line in a machine vs. human war -- for life or the sterile dusts of space.

Called to Darkness (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Robin Laws (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 01/13/2013) – These Pathfinder novels have been coming out regularly and seem to capture the world fairly well. Byers has penned quite a few Forgotten Realms novels so he’s got the chops to handle a setting like Pathfinder.

Kagur is a warrior of the Blacklions, fierce and fearless hunters in the savage Realm of the Mammoth Lords. When her clan is slaughtered by a frost giant she considered her adopted brother, honor demands that she, the last surviving Blacklion, track down her old ally and take the tribe’s revenge. This is no normal betrayal, however, for the murderous giant has followed the whispers of a dark god down into the depths of the earth, into a primeval cavern forgotten by time. There, he will unleash forces capable of wiping all humans from the region—unless Kagur can stop him first.

From acclaimed author Richard Lee Byers comes a tale of bloody revenge and subterranean wonder, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Red Knight by Miles Cameron and Embedded by Dan Abnett

Mark takes a look at a hot new Epic/High Fantasy from an established non-genre author trying something new under a slightly changed name and I pull a review from the (not so old) archives. Let’s take a look, shall we?

A book that’s been generating a fair amount of buzz on both sides of the Atlantic is the subject of Mark’s review. While The Red Knight; the first installment of Miles Cameron’s The Traitor’s Son Cycle publishes in the US in early 2013, Mark reviewed the UK edition (logically since he lives there) which published this past October (2012):

In essence we have a siege tale that starts simply but becomes increasingly more epic, both in scale and complexity. The book begins with The Red Knight setting out with his company of men and women to help people in need. A convent has been attacked and the people inside killed by something monstrous.

In terms of characters there is an impressive range, from the King and his knights to the lower class mercenaries, and from those in court to those living in the Wild. Fantasy readers usually enjoy such a complicated setup, as such a technique does give that impression of a broad canvas. However, some may find the stylistic conceit used here of moving from one character’s perspective to another, often after a mere paragraph, can be a challenge. I must admit that initially with each change it did take me a while sometimes to remember who each character was, what they were doing, and where a character had got to and why. It was a little annoying to find that sometimes once I had then remembered all of this, I was whisked off to another character to start the process again, although given time the characters become recognizable.

I pull a review from the archives today since I don’t yet have a review for the book I’m currently reading (The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis). Last year I read Dan Abnett’s original SF debut and the short review I wrote disappeared from its original place on teh intarwebs so rather than let it be relegated to The Nothing, I beefed up a bit for SFFWorld. Here's the standard linkage, cover, and review preview for Embedded:

In this milieu, the United Status (US) has settled worlds far beyond Earth, and it is on one of these planets in which the action in Embedded takes place. The planet designated Settlement 86, where conflict has existed between the US and the Central Bloc (Russian powers) for 300 years is where protagonist Les Falk has his consciousness literally embedded in the body of Nestor Bloom, a soldier on the front lines of the conflict. When Bloom’s body is shot, then Falk personality becomes the dominant mind in the body. This gives the first person narration familiar to many military SF novels a new twist and one that works very well over the course of the rather than just a change to the norm for change’s sake.

Abnett’s greatest skills in this novel are two fold –his ability to keep the tension high through minimal details. Not that the novel isn’t layered and detailed, but Abnett manages to hold enough information from the reader to keep the curiosity level very high, which translates into rapid page turns. The other skill that is readily apparent was his pacing, although the mystery/tension did help to build great pace.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-12-01)

Just three books this week, but they all look VERY interesting, one of which is an absolute must read.

The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett Del Rey, Hardcover 11/27/2012) – This is one of my most anticipated 2013 book releases, I really enjoyed the first two installments of the series The Daylight War and The Desert Spear

With The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett surged to the front rank of contemporary fantasy, standing alongside giants in the field such as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Brooks. The Daylight War, the eagerly anticipated third volume in Brett’s internationally bestselling Demon Cycle, continues the epic tale of humanity’s last stand against an army of demons that rise each night to prey on mankind.

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men, both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons—a spear and a crown—that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all—those lurking in the human heart.

Fade to Black (Rojan Dizon Book One) by Francis Knight (Orbit Trade Paperback 11/13/2012) – Debut novel from Knight which has an interesting concept (a vertical city) in a proven genre (Urban Fantasy in the China Mieville vein). This one looks pretty cool.

From the depths of a valley rises the city of Mahala

It's a city built upwards, not across - where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under.

Rojan Dizon doesn't mind staying in the shadows, because he's got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can't hide for ever.

Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan - this is going to hurt.

Bones of the Old Ones (Book II of The Swords and Sands Chronicles ) by Howard Andrew Jones (Thomas Dunne Books, Hardcover 12/11/2012) – I’ve seen very good things about Jones’s brand of sword and sorcery duo in The Desert of Souls. Although this is the second in the series, it is billed as a stand alone. Jones has done lots of good things for the fine fantasy magazine Black Gate plus this one has a cool title.

A thrilling, inventive follow-up to The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones, a "rare master of the storyteller’s art" (

As a snowfall blankets 8th century Mosul, a Persian noblewoman arrives at the home of the scholar Dabir and his friend the swordsman Captain Asim. Najya has escaped from a dangerous cabal that has ensorcelled her to track down ancient magical tools of tremendous power, the bones of the old ones.

To stop the cabal and save Najya, Dabir and Asim venture into the worst winter in human memory, hunted by a shape-changing assassin. The stalwart Asim is drawn irresistibly toward the beautiful Persian even as Dabir realizes she may be far more dangerous a threat than anyone who pursues them, for her enchantment worsens with the winter. As their opposition grows, Dabir and Asim have no choice but to ally with their deadliest enemy, the treacherous Greek necromancer, Lydia. But even if they can trust one another long enough to escape their foes, it may be too late for Najya, whose soul is bound up with a vengeful spirit intent on sheathing the world in ice for a thousand years...