Sunday, March 31, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-03-30)

Another small batch this week, one of which I’m already reading (and enjoying a great deal)

Promise of Blood (Book One of The Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan (Orbit Hardcover / eBook 04/16/2013) – This book sounds quite interesting for a couple of reasons. A mix of gunpowder technology and magic and McClellan was a student of Brandon Sanderson. I’ll be interviewing Brian and he’ll also be doing a guest post on this here blog o’ mine. Brian was also lucky to get Tom Skerrit on the cover of his book. This is the physical hardcover of the eARC I received a while back and boy is this a beautiful book, perhaps the best looking book from a publisher who produces some of the best looking in the genre.

Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. Stretched to his limit Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But, the thing is, they should.

A Matter of Blood (The Forgotten Gods: Book One) by Sarah Pinborough (Ace Trade Paperback / eBook 04/02/2013) – Pinborough has established a very impressive reputation in her native UK for her horror novels, this is the first of a near future horror/sf trilogy.

In a world steeped in darkness, a new breed of evil has fallen…

London’s ruined economy has pushed everyone to the breaking point, and even the police rely on bribes and deals with criminals to survive. Detective Inspector Cass Jones struggles to keep integrity in the police force, but now, two gory cases will test his mettle. A gang hit goes wrong, leaving two schoolboys dead, and a serial killer calling himself the Man of Flies leaves a message on his victims saying “nothing is sacred.”

Then Cass’ brother murders his own family before committing suicide. Cass doesn’t believe his gentle brother did it. Yet when evidence emerges suggesting someone killed all three of them, a prime suspect is found—Cass himself.

Common links emerge in all three cases, but while Cass is finding more questions than answers, the Man of Flies continues to kill...

The Videssos Cycle: Volume OneThe Misplaced Legion and An Emperor for the Legion (Videssos Books 1 and 2) by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/02/2013) – This is an omnibus edition featuring the first two novels in one of the first series Turtledove wrote. As I’ve said many times before when I get one of his books, I’ve never read a novel by him and I’ve probably received more books by Turtledove than any other author. That said, this one has a greater chance of climbing to the top of Mount Toberead than any of the others I’ve received by him.

Experience one of the most beloved series in fantasy—as could only be imagined by “the standard-bearer for alternate history” (USA Today).

Harry Turtledove’s many New York Times bestsellers provide an intriguing take on history’s most crucial moments, but he honed his speculative talents in a different genre: fantasy. The Videssos Cycle is the perfect fusion of the two. Collected here are the first two novels of Turtledove’s one-of-a-kind saga, in which a Roman legion is transported to a strange realm where magic rules.


In a duel for survival, the Roman military tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus raises his sword, blessed by a Druid priest, against a Celtic chieftain, who brandishes a blade of his own. At the moment the weapons touch, Marcus and his legion find themselves under a strange night sky, full of unfamiliar stars, where Rome and Gaul are unknown. They are in an outpost of the embattled Empire of Videssos—a world that will test their skill and courage as no soldiers have ever been tested before.


In the capital of Videssos, a coward and betrayer has seized the throne. There, behind great walls that have always made the city impregnable to storm or siege, he rules with the aid of dark sorcery. Overthrowing him seems impossible and the imperial army has already fled in panic from the savage victors. But there is no panic in the legion. Now Marcus Scaurus leads his men through the chaos and enemy hordes in search of winter quarters, to regroup and do the unthinkable: take the untakeable city.

The Videssos Cycle: Volume TwoLegion of Videssos and Swords of the Legion (Videssos books 3 and 4) by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Trade Paperback 04/16/2013) – This is an omnibus edition featuring novels 3 and 4 in one of the first series Turtledove wrote.

The classic fantasy series from “one of alternative-history’s stalwarts” (The New Yorker) continues in the adventure of a lifetime.

Harry Turtledove’s brilliant re-imaginings of major world events have thrilled fans for decades, but he first captured readers’ attention with the Videssos Cycle, a unique blend of fantasy and speculative history. In this two-book volume, a Roman legion, thrown into another world, fights its way through sorcery, intrigue, and epic conflict.


Since the legion was mysteriously transported to this magical realm, Roman military tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus has valiantly served the rulers of the war-torn city of Videssos. However, Fortune is a fickle goddess. Returning in triumph after defeating a well-entrenched army of rebel mercenaries, Marcus is betrayed by a friend, seized as a traitor, and dragged before the Emperor. Only one person may be able to save him: the Emperor’s niece. But consorting with her could lead to exile . . . or worse.


As prisoner of the Emperor, Marcus Scaurus is in a desperate situation. He stands condemned for treason, unless he can reclaim a rebel province from a fanatic usurper—without the aid of his Romans. Now, with just one centurion by his side, Marcus sets out to once again do the impossible. Soon the fates conspire against the men, driving them toward the torture chambers of an evil, deathless wizard-prince. But an audacious last hope rallies behind them—the soldiers of the legion are on the march.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Retro Review: The Sword of Angels by John Marco

Here's the last of my retro-reviews for John Marco's first three novels in the The Bronze Knight Chronicles sequence.

With The Sword of Angels, John Marco brings the tale of Lukien, the Bronze Knight, to a close. The flawed, yet noble, knight has seen much in the two previous novels (The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor) and his trials are far from over when we meet up with him again in this massive tome. When last we left the cast of characters, Baron Glass was lording over Liira in the Devil's Armor, with Jazana Carr as his consort/queen. Gilwyn Toms, the young librarian, left Jador in hopes of saving Glass's soul, and Lukien was in search of the mythical Sword of Angels. At just over 900 pages, this is a large novel, and Marco uses all the pages to nicely bring the plot threads, cast of characters, and elements of the previous two novels together rather nicely. 

Marco has a knack for opening his stories with oversized vistas on a large canvas. The opening passage in this novel is no different and sets the tone for the whole novel, I think.

"The Desert of Tears seemed eternal, like an ocean, stretching the corners of the world."

The world Marco has laid out is expansive, and the scope of action and cast of characters equally epic. This nearly dwarfs the reader in comparison, serving a warning that there is much in front of them. In the case of Marco’s writing, this is a good thing, for his tale does not stutter or slow throughout.

In this fantastical world, through the use of enchanted objects, people can bond with Akari who have passed on from the world of the living. Often, the bond is a benefit to the living person, granting them extended life, or magical powers and abilities. In the case of Lukien, he has been wearing one of the Eyes of God since the first book in the saga, which grants him long life and an incredible ability to heal any wounds. While Glass destroys all would-be challenges to his power with the Devil’s Armor, Lukien searches for the Sword, a sword inhabited by the Akari Malator, the brother of Kahldris. Many, many years ago the two brothers had a falling out over the Devil’s Armor, created by Kahldris for Malator’s use in defending the Akari. To say Lukien is a reluctant hero is an understatement, he wishes only for his long, scarred life to end so he can finally meet with his beloved Cassandra in the afterlife.

I found it somewhat interesting that while the title of the novel is of Lukien’s sought after sword, Marco spent as much, if not more, time in focusing on the character of Baron Glass, and his relationship with Kahldris, the dark Akari with whom he shares a bond through the Devil's Armor. In each scene featuring Baron Glass, we can see him descend deeper into insanity and corruption as he continues to feed and be fed by the Devil’s Armor. The Baron's struggle with Kahldris is one of the strengths of this novel, that while the milieu of their struggle is the fantastical enchanted armor, the essence is a very human one. A struggle of control of oneself, a struggle for power and doing whatever you feel is necessary to meet your ends, regardless of the consequences. In Glass’s ambition for his own good, he has become blind to what serves the greater good, and his blindness and lust for power are palpable. He wants to return his land of Liira to its former glory. In essence, Thorin has become a force of nature out of control, falling ever more under the sway of Kahldris.

In previous reviews, I’ve mentioned how well Marco is able to give most, if not all, characters a sense of believability. That is, you know Glass is corrupted by the Devil’s Armor and that he has performed some very despicable acts. However, Marco, at least early on in the novel, portrays Glass as a very convincing character, making his plight almost understandable. Other characters, like King Lorn, once known as King Lorn the Wicked, who were not exactly pleasant, now come across in a more sympathetic light. He makes all the characters convincing of their plight, which in turn makes the characters more humanely drawn and less of the simplistic good vs. evil cardboard cutouts.

So, keeping in mind that this is a concluding volume in a three-book sequence, does Marco deliver on the promise of the previous two volumes? Yes, I truly think he does. As I indicated above, in the justifiable size of this novel, he does a more than commendable job of tying up the plot threads he scattered in the previous two volumes. How does this stand on its own, judging it as a single novel? Knowing what has happened in the previous two volumes makes it somewhat difficult to give a concise positive or negative. However, there have been a couple of years between the publication of The Devil’s Armor and The Sword of Angels, so I don’t remember the specifics of the previous events, merely the generalities. Quite frankly, the summation on the back of the book does a decent job of bringing readers up to speed; however, a page or two briefly recapping the previous two volumes would have been very welcome (as is the case with Tad Williams’ novels, also published by DAW as well as Donaldson’s Covenant novels). I was also a little disappointed not to see a list of characters in an appendix, especially considering the sizeable cast Marco created. Of course these are just nitpicks and don’t really detract from the overall quality of the story Marco put to the many wonderful pages of this fantastic novel.

Marco threw a nice curve ball towards the end, unfolding some events unexpectedly. Despite the strong sense of closure, Marco left the door open should he ever choose to return to these characters. To sum up, this was a very enjoyable novel and a great wrap-up to an entertaining series. With the trilogy complete, I can fully recommend all three novels.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey up at

My latest review for is now live, Joseph D'Lacey's Black Feathers the first of his two-part apocalyptic duology The Black Dawn. I read the book in less than two days, there was an extremely powerful narrative pull and despite the post-apocalyptic/apocalyptic subgenre having a great many stories in it already, D'Lacey's story is a must-read for any fan of the subgenre.

Click here or the cover to read my full review. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Retro Review: The Devil's Armor by John Marco

Here's another review from the archives, originally posted to SFFWorld back in 2003...

John Marco's The Devil's Armor, is a direct follow-up to his first hardcover release, The Eyes of God, picking up the story of the characters’ lives where we last left them. Lukien, the Bronze Knight resides in Grimhold, stoic sentinel of the legendary land of the InHumans; Baron Thorin Glass, having left the renegade Jazana Carr, settles into a tenuous residence there as well. Gilwyn, the hobbling Librarian's Apprentice, is now regent to Grimhold's neighbor, Jador.

Spoilers for The Eyes of God follow

Marco starts this novel with a similar, if truncated, plot device as he employed in The Eyes of God, to start this novel. We see the ending of Jazana Carr's years’ long struggle as her forces finally conquer the land of Norvor, ruled by King Lorn. King Lorn “the Wicked” flees his nation with his infant daughter Poppy as nearly all he held precious and trusted implodes. Though somewhat graphic in the early scenes, the investment of emotion and display of intensity set the mood for the course of the novel. Marco re-introduces the primary characters, and reveals more layers of the magical land of Grimhold. With the climactic battle at the end of The Eyes of God, many now know Grimhold is a reality, and not just a mythical realm to dream about. Pilgrimages are undertaken by many who are suffering and wounded in the after math of The Eyes of God, simply feeling it is their right to receive the marvelous benefits of Grimhold. Such is not the case; these people have little understanding of the Akari, the undead residents and source of magic in Grimhold, and their limits.

With Akeela (the king from The Eyes of God) dead, Marco invests more time into the characters of Baron Glass and Minkin, the maternal leader of Grimhold. We see more of their inner strengths and weakness as the crises come to the doorstep of both Grimhold and eventually, Glass and Lukien’s homeland, Liiria. How Marco naturally plays out each character’s crisis seamlessly unfolds more layers of each character’s personality. Baron Glass, justifiably fearful of Jazana Carr's promise to invade Liiria, struggles with the temptation of the titular Devil's Armor, an indestructible suit of glistening magical black armor. Though much of it is veiled in dark mystery Minkin dutifully informs Glass and Lukien of the toll it exacts on its wearer. Very little is said about the toll it would exact, excepting for the magnitude. Not very much is seen of Lukien early on, as he patrols the borders of Jador and Grimhold, fighting of raiders of all sorts, with Gilwyn acting as regent of Jador. As the plot unfolds, the titular Armor is only hinted at until the midpoint of the novel. From that point, the characters begin their convergence, again for both the greater good of the people involved and their own personal reasons.

What Marco has always excelled at in his previous novels, is again, a highlight in this novel. Regardless of the character, be he/she a despot, a thief, a turncoat, a bold warrior, a brash young man or a insipid young girl, John Marco makes you trust the character. He makes their story and reasons for their actions, while not always wholly approvable, nearly always understandable. For example, throughout the novel, Jazana Carr is portrayed as an evil witch by the people of Liiria, Grimhold, and Jadar. When scenes of Jazana Carr arrive and we see her motivations and reasons, she doesn’t come across as the witch the other characters maker her out to be. What this does is play not so much a struggle against good and evil, but of two strong sets of characters, with believable motivations and understandable reasons for what they do. While there are great deeds of evil and scenes of cruelty and death, the characters themselves are not cardboard flat ‘evil’ characters, they are real people with real motivations, and most importantly, real weaknesses.

The character of Lorn also has a maligned past as a wicked tyrant. In his arduous struggle against Carr, he has been starving his people, becoming a despot and bled his nation dry. While this may indeed be the case, the hardships Marco pulls him through breathes life into the character, shedding a light of goodness on the character. An example of this is how he deals with his daughter Poppy. Being born deaf and most probably blind, children with such disabilities have their lives ended at birth in Lorn’s native land of Norvor. Lorn could not bring himself to do this, as he cares for her as any father would. Perhaps he sees her as his means of redemption, more likely, it is his love as father shining through, not even considering this sort of emotional display as redemption. As Lorn’s journey through the novel progresses, he continues to impress those he meets, breaking the proverbial mold of what they thought to expect from him.

Another of this book’s strengths is the depth Mr. Marco invests into the magic inherit in Grimhold, the ‘dead’ race of the Akari and their bonds to the InHumans. A major portion of the novel takes place in Grimhold, and we see more of the inhabitants, get to know more of the history behind the people only glimpsed at in The Eyes of God. A triangle of love/obsession and power traps a few of the characters, binding them into their ultimate fates.

How does this novel compare to its contemporaries? From the novels published in the genre this year (2003), it easily holds up quite well. There is a sense of epic about this novel, as in the best of fantasy novels, yet you get a sense of Marco holding back, not revealing his whole hand, in terms of what can be told in this world. The sense of wonder in the Grimhold scenes, the scenes of the battle against Azar, all equate to a fine, entertaining reading experience. There have been quite a few worthy epic fantasy novels published this year, and Marco’s novel, along with Greg Keyes’ The Briar King, stand out as greats among this year’s offerings. Both novels illustrate the grandness of scale in the epic work, while still managing to focus on each character, giving them a sense of uniqueness in the novel; an individuality in a genre otherwise wrought with overstated clichés. In both Keyes and Marco’s novels, despite the epic-ness of the events, the characters stand out on the same grand scale of the story.

As the novel draws to a close, it becomes evident the whole story will not end in this volume. This may be my only complaint; while The Eyes of God was pretty much a standalone, with the possibility subsequent volumes, Marco leaves no doubts of future volumes following The Devil’s Armor. At its heart, though, this is a novel about people, and the human spirit. Yes there are magical trinkets and talismans, yes there are bonds between the living and unloving and yes there are creatures nonexistent in our world. However, what drives this novel are the characters --- what brings them to the brink of self-destruction, the lengths they will go to redeem themselves and their lands. In all of this, John Marco has again illustrated why he is one of the preeminent novelists at the gates of fantasy literature. With The Devil’s Armor, John Marco continues to build his reputation as an Epic storyteller.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Retro Review: The Eyes of God by John Marco

This is the first of a series of older reviews I wrote and posted to SFFWorld that I’ll be re-posting here on my blog in my effort (as I said the soft re-boot post) to have a more centralized location for my reviews and ramblings and to also make this blog more than "Rob's Blog O' Stuff I Got Sent." Also, this review in particular is the first of three reviews of John Marco’s Bronze Knight Chronicles I’ll be posting leading up to my review of his latest (April 2013) novel featuring Lukien, The Forever Knight.

I wrote this review over a decade ago, in 2002, when The Eyes of God first published. It was John Marco’s first hardcover release and introduction to the character of Lukien the Bronze Knight.

Also of particular note, the beautiful character-study of a cover was created by the late Keith Parkinson in one of the last pieces of art he created.

So, here’s what I had to say about a dozen years ago, slightly edited. I’ve not changed too much, but it is interesting (for me at least) to see where I was as a book review then and how I write them now (hint, I got better):

Buy this book and read it. There, that’s why you’re really reading this review right? Well you probably want to know why you should read this book. The characters are believable, the world and nations are mirrors of those in our own world. And magic, what would a great secondary-world fantasy novel be without a dose of magic? There’s that too, don’t worry.

Marco has created a world of wondrous lands such as the kingdom of Liira, the distant land of Jador and the magical land of Grimhold, home to the Inhumans, a group of strange people, each with their own special knack or ability. Add to this the shining Bronze Knight Lukien, his king Akeela, the magical Eyes of God and Devil’s Armor and you have some very key ingredients necessary for a secondary-world Fantasy novel.

From the opening sentence “He was a giant,” Marco immediately gives this novel a a sense of epic proportion. At the end of the almost 800 pages of this book, you will feel as if you’ve lived the triumphs of the Inhumans, the tragedies of Akeela, in the lands of Jador and the complexities of Lukien’s many choices. As big as this book is, every word, scene and word spoken by the characters is essential and necessary.

The novel begins with the end of a quest which is where many a story or novel ends. In The Eyes of God, we see what can happen AFTER the journey, when what characters quested after is achieved. To a great extent, Marco shows that the end of the quest is not the answer for which Lukien was searching, his life doesn’t exactly get easier once he secured that for which he sought. The answers get harder to find because the questions change.

The relationship between Akeela and Lukien is a strong one, as are many relationships with powerful, life-long bonds, whether they are on the same side or opposing sides. Raised almost as brothers, their friendship is perhaps the strongest and most defining aspect of this novel.

It was easy to empathize, almost sympathize, with even the character’s most despicable acts. Marco sets up so many events you expect to happen, only to twist your expectations into something better. None of these characters are defined by “good” or “evil,” rather by their strongest beliefs and reaching what they feel is the right thing. 

There were little things that Marco sprinkled throughout the story that added significance, just a few words while he was putting you in the heads of various characters. There is resonance of Arthur in Akeela, Lancelot in Lukien and Guinevere in Cassandra and of course Camelot a bit in Liira.

John Marco progressively gets better with each book he writes. There are some things in The Eyes of God that will remind you of his previous work, The Tyrants and Kings Trilogy, yet there is so much new and alive in this book.

With excellent characters, a gripping believable story and a world that comes alive off the pages, Marco has created an engaging and enjoyable fantasy novel. Ultimately this novel worked because I couldn't stop turning the pages and HAD to find out what was going to happen next.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-03-23)

The Sweetest Dark by Shanna Abe (Bantam, Hardcover 04/02/2013) – First YA novel from Abe, who’s published some well-received paranormal romances. 

For fans of Lauren Kate and Libba Bray, The Sweetest Dark is filled with thrilling romance, exciting adventure, and ancient magic. Shana Abé brilliantly captures the drama of post-Victorian England, while unfolding a passionate love story that defies time.

“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.” 

Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.

Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.
“A wonderfully refreshing story of self-discovery, love, courage—and dragons . . . I was enchanted.”—Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Lovely

The City by Stella Gemmell (Ace, Hardcover 06/04/2013) – Any and everybody reading this blog probably recognizes the Gemmell name. The writing bug must have bit hard after Stella helped to finish off her husband’s Troy series, she went and wrote a big damned epic of her own. 

In her debut solo novel, Stella Gemmell, coauthor of the “powerful” (Booklist) conclusion to David Gemmell’s Troy series, weaves a dark epic fantasy about a war-torn civilization and the immortal emperor who has it clutched in his evil grasp.

The City is ancient, layers upon layers. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its bounds, inciting endless wars with neighboring tribes and creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.

In the center of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some grimly speculate that he is no longer human, if he ever was. A small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the war is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty (Orbit Trade Paperback 05/28/2013) – Lafferty’s been working at the writing gig for quite a while, in addition to being a SFF podcast pioneer. This is her first novel from a major publisher and it looks like a lot of fun. 

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume --- human.

Not to be put off by anything -- especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker -- Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble -- with Zoe right in the middle. 

Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry (Tor Mass Market Paperback 03/26/2013) – Debut novel from Parry, who is a medical resident at the Mayo Clinic. He must have incredible time-management skills if he can be in the medical field and find time to write.

Virus Thirteen is an irreverent and contagious thriller from debut author Joshua Alan Parry.

Scientists James Logan and his wife, Linda, have their dream careers at the world’s leading biotech company, GeneFirm, Inc. But their happiness is interrupted by a devastating bioterrorist attack: a deadly superflu that quickly becomes a global pandemic. The GeneFirm complex goes into lockdown and Linda’s research team is sent to high-security underground labs to develop a vaccine. 

Above ground, James learns that GeneFirm security has been breached and Linda is in danger. To save her he must confront a desperate terrorist, armed government agents, and an invisible killer: Virus Thirteen.

Kitty’s Rocks the House (Kitty Norville #11) by Carrie Vaughn (Tor Mass Market Paperback 03/26/2013) – The continuing adventures of Werewolf Kitty Norville who hosts a radio advice-show for the supernatural folks

On the heels of Kitty’s return from London, a new werewolf shows up in Denver, one who threatens to split the pack by challenging Kitty’s authority at every turn. The timing could not be worse; Kitty needs all the allies she can muster to go against the ancient vampire, Roman, if she’s to have any hope of defeating his Long Game. But there’s more to this intruder than there seems, and Kitty must uncover the truth, fast. Meanwhile, Cormac pursues an unknown entity wreaking havoc across Denver; and a vampire from the Order of St. Lazaurus tempts Rick with the means to transform his life forever.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Soft Re-Boot for Rob's Blog o' Stuff

So, after a little about three years, I've rejiggered the blog again.  I've kept the red but changed background to white and I've settled on this current look.  For my eyes, this seems a cleaner and more professional look than what I had before.  I believe this is the fifth layout change I've made since I started this blog back in 2004.  In blog years, that makes me something like 83 years old

I've also changed the URL to 

Along with the modified look and feel, I'll be posting more content here - more reviews rather than linking to them at SFFWorld, (though a decent number of reviews will be reposted older reviews from SFFWorld), some more interviews, and maybe some guest posts from authors and/or maybe some blogger/reviewers from the online genre community. Basically, I'm aiming for a more unified and singular location for my my reviews and ramblings

To close out the post, and for the hell of it, here's another picture of my dog Sully. Like me, she's looking forward to what the future will bring.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-03-16)

A smattering of books this week, all except one of them is from the fine folks at Tor. One of this is a must read for me, which I'm sure will be easy enough to determine.

Range of Ghosts (The Eternal Sky #2) by Elizabeth Bear (Tor, Hardcover 03/17/2013) – I read the opening novel in this sequence last year and was blown away

The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, "Bone and Jewel Creatures" is also set there.

The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card (Tor Hardcover 03/19/2013) – Second installment in Card’s Urban Fantasy which began with The Lost Gate

In this sequel to The Lost Gate, bestselling author Orson Scott Card continues his fantastic tale of the Mages of Westil who live in exile on Earth.

Here on Earth, Danny North is still in high school, yet he holds in his heart and mind all the stolen outselves of thirteen centuries of gatemages. The Families still want to kill him if they can't control him…and they can't control him. He is far too powerful.

And on Westil, Wad is now nearly powerless—he lost everything to Danny in their struggle. Even if he can survive the revenge of his enemies, he still must somehow make peace with the Gatemage Daniel North.

For when Danny took that power from Loki, he also took the responsibility for the Great Gates. And when he comes face-to-face with the mages who call themselves Bel and Ishtoreth, he will come to understand just why Loki closed the gates all those centuries ago.

The Shape Stealer by Lee Carroll (Tor Trade Paperback 03/05/2013) – Third book in to the Carroll’s sequence (who is a pseudonym for the husband and wife author team of Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimisky) which began with, Black Swan Rising, which Mark enjoyed when it published in the UK last year.

Jewelry designer Garet James is the Watchtower—the last in a long line of powerful women sworn to protect the world from evil. Although she had once defeated evil in New York City, her pursuit of her true love, the 400-year-old vampire Will Hughes, has now unleashed an age-old evil onto the modern world, and the entire planet is at risk.

Marduk, the ageless descendant of a demonic Babylonian deity, is now loose in Paris. He has joined forces with the villainous John Dee in a plan to destroy the world’s economy and plunge the entire world into chaos.

To fight this threat, Garet enlists the help of a modern-day band of knights who are dedicated to preserving the sanctity of the timeline. As she and her allies face this threat, new challenges arise in the form of a rival faction of knights who will stop at nothing to bring about the destruction of everything Garet holds dear.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc, Trade Paperback 04/02/2013) – Kay is a magnificent writer, I’ve enjoyed all of what I’ve read by him. This is set in the same world as Under Heaven though it seems as if it could stand on its own. This is the finished copy of the ARC I received back in January.

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.
Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling (Tor, Trade Paperback 03/17/2013) – Datlow and Windling are the pre-eminent short-fiction editorial duo, for years they edited the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology as well as many, many themed anthologies.

“Gaslamp Fantasy,” or historical fantasy set in a magical version of the nineteenth century, has long been popular with readers and writers alike. A number of wonderful fantasy novels, including Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Prestige by Christopher Priest, owe their inspiration to works by nineteenth-century writers ranging from Jane Austen, the Brontës, and George Meredith to Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and William Morris. And, of course, the entire steampunk genre and subculture owes more than a little to literature inspired by this period.

Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an anthology for everyone who loves these works of neo-Victorian fiction, and wishes to explore the wide variety of ways that modern fantasists are using nineteenth-century settings, characters, and themes. These approaches stretch from steampunk fiction to the Austen-and-Trollope inspired works that some critics call Fantasy of Manners, all of which fit under the larger umbrella of Gaslamp Fantasy. The result is eighteen stories by experts from the fantasy, horror, mainstream, and young adult fields, including both bestselling writers and exciting new talents such as Elizabeth Bear, James Blaylock, Jeffrey Ford, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire, Delia Sherman, and Catherynne M. Valente, who present a bewitching vision of a nineteenth century invested (or cursed!) with magic.

• “The Fairy Enterprise” by Jeffrey Ford
• “From the Catalogue of the Pavilion of the Uncanny and Marvelous, Scheduled for Premiere at the Great Exhibition (Before the Fire)” by Genevieve Valentine
• “The Memory Book” by Maureen McHugh
• “Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells” by Delia Sherman
• “La Reine D’Enfer” by Kathe Koja
• “Briar Rose” by Elizabeth Wein
• “The Governess” by Elizabeth Bear
• “Smithfield” by James P. Blaylock
• “The Unwanted Women of Surrey” by Kaaron Warren
• “Charged” by Leanna Renee Hieber
• “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey
• “Phosperous” by Veronica Schanoes
• “We Without Us Were Shadows” by Catherynne M. Valente
• “The Vital Importance of the Superficial” by Ellen Kushner and Caroline Stevermer
• “The Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown” by Jane Yolen
• “A Few Twigs He Left Behind” by Gregory Maguire
• “Their Monstrous Minds” by Tanith Lee
• “Estella Saves the Village” by Theodora Goss

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bradley Beaulieu's The Flames of Shadam Khoreh Kickstarter

Bradley Beaulieu's taking control of his project here, by releasing the final volume of his The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy through a Kickstarter Initiative. Although I haven't read the first two book yet (something I'll be remedying in the near future), I have nothing but respect for what Bradley's doing.

It is a bold move and he's nearly funded the thing in under a day.  Publishing has evolved so much in the past two years alone.  Two years ago, an author self-publishing in this fashion might not be looked upon too favorably, but Brad's going about this in quite the professional manner.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's build up a readership over the course of two novels in the series.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kent & Knight Reviewed at SFFWorld

Another pair of reviews from the usual suspects, (Mark and I), Mark reviews a US author’s book reaching UK shores after success here in the US and I review a UK author’s debut.

On tap for Mark is the first book in a Military Science Fiction series whose fifth book I reviewed a couple of years ago, Steven L. Kent’s The Clone Republic:

It is the year 2508AD. The Unified Authority rules over the galaxy, using clones for much of its policing across the colonies. The story is told from the perspective of one of these clones, Private First-Class Wayson Harris, initially newly assigned to the small and obscure desert outpost of Gobi on a planet called Ravenwood. As a clone, he’s trained to obey without question, and clearly finds the rather laidback setup at Gobi disconcerting.

Part of this attraction may be that initially, for all intents and purposes, the book doesn’t stray too far from the tried and trusted model for military stories. The Marines of 2508 pretty much act and talk like soldiers in 2013. What happens here on a desert-type world in 2508 is very similar to, say, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan in 2013, a point further emphasized when some of the hardware used has familiar names such as Harrier and Tomahawk which could place the book as easily in the 1980’s as the 2500’s. This reminds the reader that a Marine is a Marine, regardless of time, and nothing really changes that, whether now or in the future. Here they complain, gamble, sleep around and fight one another like any other typical armed force, past, present and (presumably) future.

I take a look at Fade to Black, Francis Knight’s debut novel and the launch of her Rojan Dizon Urban/Dark Fantasy series:

Fade to Black has been categorized as an urban fantasy, but by no means is this the tramp-stamp, sexy magic version of the sub-genre. Rather, this is Urban Fantasy where the city is as much of a character as the people themselves, a novel with more similarities to China Mieville’s King Rat and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. The protagonist, Rojan Dizon, in addition to being a people finder/bounty hunter, is a pain mage. By inflicting pain unto himself, Dizon is able to locate his quarry more easily; find the proverbial needle in the haystack..

Mahala…a dark sprawling city with layers upon layers of grit and darkness, not exactly the streets of Chicago, Atlanta, or New York. Ruled by the Ministry, perhaps in an allusion to Orwell’s 1984, there’s a great sense of claustrophobia throughout the entire novel. There seems to be nowhere to hide and the characters who inhabit this world, particularly Rojan, have no privacy. There’s a mixed feel of potentially dark future with a hint of pre-industrial city – guns are relatively new, the city is powered by magic, yet the class structure to me felt more modern, something out of a film like American Psycho or even Wall Street. The city itself reminded me a bit of the towering metropolis of Alastair Reynolds’ Terminal World and the dark city of John Meany’s Bone Song, or on the film front the rainy, unnamed city of the film Seven. I also felt a strong resonance with Richard Morgan’s fiction, both his SF and fantasy novels.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-03-09)

Just two review books this week, both electronic ARCs.

Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins (Orbit Hardcover / eBook 03/23/2013) – Alternate history fused with Russian myth, this book has a lot of appeal. Orbit has done a book trailer for this, too:

Inspector Vissarion Lom has been summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist --- and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head.

Promise of Blood (Book One of The Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan (Orbit Hardcover / eBook 04/16/2013) – This book sounds quite interesting for a couple of reasons: (1) mix of gunpowder technology and magic and (2) McClellan was a student of Brandon Sanderson. I’ll be interviewing Brian and he’ll also be doing a guest post on this here blog o’ mine. Brian was also lucky to get Tom Skerrit on the cover of his book

Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and greedy scrambling for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. Stretched to his limit Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But, the thing is, they should.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Cover p0rn: Brian McClellan's Crimson Campaign

Not that I plan on replacing Aidan as the go-to blogger for cover art posts,  but this cover really stands out. At least to me. Brian McClellan's Powder Mage Trilogy hasn't even officially launched yet (the first book Promise of Blood publishes in about a month, but the fine folks at Orbit have already released the cover image of the second installment, The Crimson Campaign:

Whereas Tom Skerritt seemed to be on the first cover, this guy (who I suspect is the same character, looks more like James Brolin.  Regardless, Orbit clearly has big things planned for Brian and this series. I've got the first installment on my Kindle and I'll be interviewing Brian, too.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Burn Zone & A Conspiracy of Alchemists at SFFWorld

Mark and I are both up with new reviews this week at SFFWorld. One an SF thrill ride (my book reviwe) another an alternate history/steampunk (Mark’s book review)

It isn’t often that a book surprises me, but that’s exactly what happened with James K. Decker’s The Burn Zone. I’d seen some good reviews run through my tweet stream and realized I needed to give the book a try, and I am very glad I did:

Though The Burn Zone is the first novel to be published under the James K. Decker byline, the author published the Revivors trilogy under the name James Knapp, a zombie-noir series which began with the novel State of Decay. I read and enjoyed that novel and see some of the same sensibilities here in The Burn Zone. A non-stop narrative pace kept the plot moving, the pages turning, and this reader guessing which fork in the road the story would take. The noir-ish and gritty feel of The Burn Zone evokes a similar used, grimy, and dirty future as did State of Decay; there’s a clear inspiration from Blade Runner in Decker’s writing.

The novel takes place in the fictional city of Hangfei, which Decker set in a future analogue of China, based on some of the locations and character names. Smartly, he doesn’t specify the nation is China. As the novel progresses and Sam learns more about the haan and their relationship to our world since their ship crashed nearly fifty years ago, the full scope of the aliens effect on Earth becomes much more far ranging than either Sam or this reader could have expected.

Mark dives into a great looking steampunk debuy from Liesel Schwarz,  A Conspiracy of Alchemists:

This is a steam punk romance, in all senses of the word. There’s a love story, combined with a love of technology and some travel across Europe to strange and exotic places. Despite its obviousness (in that it’s pretty clear where it’s going from the beginning) there’s enough energy and enthusiasm here to make this an enjoyable read.

I found this reminiscent of the Studio Ghibli anime movies, which to my mind can only be a good thing. There’s a real joy in the storytelling and it comes across as you read it. Generally the dialogue’s not wincingly twee, the places visited give the reader a definite itch to travel there and the plot’s quite entertaining, although it probably is not one to think about for too long.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Chronicle (2012) Max Landis & Josh Trank

Through ‘found footage,’ Chronicle tells the story of three young men, seniors in high school, who find a strange object and gain telekinetic powers; the ability to move objects with the power of their mind and eventually the ability to fly. Sounds a bit like an origin for a silver age super-hero story doesn’t it? If anything, the film is a response to such stories and embraces wholly the fears people would hold against such super-powered individuals.

One of the young men, Andrew, is awkward, introverted and shy teen who blossoms with the powers he gains. He and his cousin Matt attend a party, or rather, Matt convinces Andrew that he should socialize with his peers and brings Andrew to a party. Andrew’s begun videotaping his day-to-day life, initially in what seems to be an attempt to film his drunken father beating him, but it soon turns to an obsession. Of course Andrew brings the camera with him to the party. Later in the night, Steve Montgomery, the most popular kid in school – jock, class presidential candidate, all around nice guy, beckons Andrew to follow him and Matt down into a mysterious hole emitting a strange noise, near the site of the party. The three boys venture forth and find a giant blue crystal that distorts the camera’s vision, causes the boy’s noses to bleed. The crystal turns red before the camera blacks out.

Andrew’s camera, a new sleeker version, focuses on the boys learning to use their abilities but they briefly mention blacking out and now knowing how they got out of the hole. After a few days of learning more about their abilities, they return to the hole which has been filled and they are soon turned away by police who shoo them away.

The three boys continue learning the strength of their powers with Andrew’s powers growing into the strongest and most daring of the three. The turning moment for the three young men is when Andrew ‘inadvertently’ causes a truck that has been tailgating them to swerve off the road and into a lake. Anybody who has seen commercials for the film has seen this scene.

The three young men argue about the rules governing their powers, with Matt sensing the instability in his cousin. Matt basically invokes Stan Lee’s great saying that “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” though in not so many words. The scene closes then switches to the two cousins who are summoned to what appears to be a rock quarry by a call from Steve, who is floating. The young men learn to fly. More scenes of the young men exploring their powers, including one point when Andrew states his wish to fly to Tibet in order to learn to harness and control his power and for calm and quiet.

The story departs from the typical silver age superhero origin story in that Max Landis’s story depicts the angst of the teenagers realistically. Andrew, in particular, as the abused son of an alcoholic father has a great deal of pent of anger and frustration dealing with his fears of his home life. Andrew is bullied at school, too, so in short, Andrew might be the last person you’d want to give the powers of a god.

When Andrew splits from his two super-powered friends, and by virtue of the shared experience the three young men had when they gained their powers, each of the three can sense when the other is agitated through a nose bleed.

Steve senses problems with Andrew and the two meet in the clouds during a thunderstorm. Steve, always the level headed guy, tries desperately to help Andrew. Unfortunately, Andrew is still reacting to the fight with his father.

Andrew later breaks his cousin’s rule and begins inflicting pain on his tormenters and soon robs neighborhood bullies and eventually a gas station to get money his mother desperately needs. Money his father spends on alcohol, it is implied. When the gas station robbery goes from bad to worse, Andrew is burned and hospitalized. There’s a brief hope, seen through the hospital camera’s that Andrew’s father might have some inkling of sympathy for his son’s injuries, but the hope is turned to rage. Mom died, as dad says, when Dad was looking for Andrew. It is Andrew’s fault his mother died. This is the last thread of humanity left in Andrew and he explodes, blowing out the windows of the hospital and dropping his father from the sky above the hospital.

Meanwhile, at a part with his girlfriend, Matt through a profusely bloody nose noticed by the other party goers, comes to realize Andrew is feeling troubled and using his powers. Matt swoops in and saves Andrew’s father.

What then ensues is quite possibly the most frightening and realistic depiction of super-powered individuals using their full powers in combat ever depicted on film. Carnage, devastation, and the sheer level of damage as a result of the fallout between the battle between Andrew and Matthew is nearly cataclysmic.

The film ends when through the lens of Matt flying and landing in Tibet, telling Andrew that “You made it.”

Chronicle is a film that is sitting with me days after having viewed it. I grew up reading comic books, particularly DC comics beginning in the 1980s and of and on until today. SO much of this film resonated with a lot of the comics I read and specifically, the unfathomable levels of destruction just two super-powered individuals can cause when they aren’t getting along. I’m thinking a bit of the destruction of Metropolis in the battle between Doomsday in Superman in Superman #75 when Superman died. I’m also thinking of the issues of Miracleman written by Alan Moore and lavishly illustrated by John Totleben, specifically the destruction of London in issue fifteen of the Eclipse series published in the US.

Unanswered is the origin of the blue crystal which granted the three young men their powers. While learning more about this thing would be interesting, it is just a MacGuffin for the film, it gets the ball rolling. As in Cloverfield, although the monster’s origins are of great debate and interest, it is the reaction to regular people that defines the story.

In some senses, even though about a decade separates me from Max Landis, I almost feel like this film was written exactly for somebody like me with the background of 20+ years of comic book reading. Conversely, by avoiding the capes and tights inherit in the superhero genre and featuring teens in everyday clothes, the film is grounded in a reality with which folks who don’t read superhero comics can more easily identify.

When the Matrix sequels were released, some said the rain-soaked battle between Neo and Agent Smith was the best depiction of a superhero / supervillan fight on the screen. While that wanton destruction was a good translation of such a fight, the stakes were not very high – it was a virtual world in a city with no real inhabitants. Chronicle raises the stakes – people get hurt, buses and cars are flung into buildings and buildings are destroyed.  In other words, the otherwise happy supehero feel turns to horror and dread.

Quite simply, Chronicle is a superb film, rounding out a quartet of essential “found footage” films with The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity. It is an essential science fiction film and an essential super hero film for the audacity of Andrew to spit in the face of Stan Lee’s “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” and his cousin’s ultimate embracing of that ethos.

A sequel is in the works, though one hopes (and would like to think) Max Landis and his co-horts learned a valuable lesson from the second Blair Witch film and the Paranormal Activity sequels. There is great potential for more stories about the crystal’s origins or Matt’s exploits in and after Tibet.

Highly, highly recommended.

As a coda, anybody who has seen this film and/or has a knowledge and interest in superheroes, specifically the Death of Superman, should take about ten minutes to view this great youtube video which Landis released to the internet the same day Chronicle hit theaters.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-03-02)

Just two more books this week, one electronic and one physical.

Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Lays of Anuskaya Book Three) by Bradley P. Beaulieu (e-book/Trade Paperback 06/25/2013) – Beaulieu wraps up his trilogy and in doing so, breaks away from Night Shade to publish the books himself. Now is a good time for me to finally read these books. (Also, Brad is one of the two guys who runs the excellent Speculate SF! Podcast.)

Nearly two years after the harrowing events of The Straits of Galahesh, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim. The clues they find lead them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces.

Worse, the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

From Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the critically acclaimed debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, comes the concluding volume in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories
by Connie Willis (Del Rey Hardcover 07/09/2013) – Willis has won every major genre award and she’s a grandmaster, this is a massive collection of her short stories.

Few authors have had careers as successful as that of Connie Willis. Inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and recently awarded the title of Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Willis is still going strong. Her smart, heartfelt fiction runs the gamut from screwball comedy to profound tragedy, combining dazzling plot twists, cutting-edge science, and unforgettable characters.

From a near future mourning the extinction of dogs to an alternate history in which invading aliens were defeated by none other than Emily Dickinson; from a madcap convention of bumbling quantum physicists in Hollywood to a London whose Underground has become a storehouse of intangible memories both foul and fair—here are the greatest stories of one of the greatest writers working in any genre today.

All ten of the stories gathered here are Hugo or Nebula award winners—some even have the distinction of winning both. With a new Introduction by the author and personal afterwords to each story—plus a special look at three of Willis’s unique public speeches—this is unquestionably the collection of the season, a book that every Connie Willis fan will treasure, and, to those unfamiliar with her work, the perfect introduction to one of the most accomplished and best-loved writers of our time.