Sunday, April 28, 2013

Books in the Mail (2013-04-27)

Just three books this week, one of which I’m already reading.

The Tyrant’s Law (The Dagger and the Coin #3) by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Trade Paperback 05/14/2013) – One of the books publishing this year I was most anticipating, I’ll be reviewing this for

The great war cannot be stopped.

The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide.

Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a “loyal traitor” and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him.

Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that’s taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder’s one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety.

And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako’s soldiers in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness (Viking Trade Paperback 05/29/2013) – Second in Harkness’s trilogy about a witch who becomes friends with a vampire. My wife really enjoyed the first book.

The #1 New York Times–bestselling sequel to A Discovery of Witches is as “enchanting, engrossing, and as impossible to put down as its predecessor” (Miami Herald)

J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice—only a few writers capture the imagination the way that Deborah Harkness has done with books one and two of her New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy. A Discovery of Witches introduced reluctant witch Diana Bishop, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and the battle for a lost, enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Harkness’s much-anticipated sequel, Shadow of Night, picks up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending. Diana and Matthew time-travel to Elizabethan London and are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana searches for a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

A Private Little War by Jason Sheehan (47 North Trade Paperback 06/11/2013) – Sheehan is a chef (he won the James Beard award, which is about the highest award a chef can win), this is his debut novel

He felt something in his belly twist up like cold fingers curling into a fist. This is it, he’d thought. This is when it all goes bad…

Private “security” firm Flyboy, Inc., landed on the alien planet of Iaxo with a mission: In one year, they must quash an insurrection; exploit the ancient enmities of an indigenous, tribal society; and kill the hell out of one group of natives to facilitate negotiations with the surviving group—all over 110 million acres of mixed terrain.

At first, the double-hush, back-burner project seemed to be going well. With all the advantages they had going for them—a ten-century technological lead on the locals, the logistical support of a shadowy and powerful private military company, and aid from similar outfits already on the ground—a quick combat victory seemed reasonable. An easy-in, easy-out mission that would make them very, very rich.

But the ancient tribal natives of Iaxo refuse to roll over and give up their planet. What was once a strategic coup has become a quagmire of cost over-runs and blown deadlines, leaving the pilots of Flyboy, Inc., on an embattled distant planet, waiting for support and a ride home that may never come….

The debut novel from acclaimed, James Beard Award–winning food critic Jason Sheehan, A Private Little War is the dark tale of a deadly war being waged in secrecy—and the struggle to stay sane in a world that makes no sense. A Catch-22 for a new generation,A Private Little War is sure to become a science fiction classic.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spirit's End by Rachel Aaron & Poison by Sarah Pinborough at the SFFWorld Review Blog

As I mentioned yesterday and last week Mark and I are now posting our new book reviews at the SFFWorld Review Blog.

With that, Mark posted one review over the weekend and mine just went live today.

I’ve enjoyed the previous four novels (two books one of which is an Awesome Omnibus) and put this one off for a bit because I didn’t want the series to come to end. Here’s the link to my review of Rachel Aaron’s Spirit’s End

For a novel that is set in a world that seems a bit sprawling and sizeable, Aaron manages to make Spirit’s End a very confining and claustrophobic novel. This is embodied by how Eli feels about his relationship with the Shepherdess. She loves him, adores him, but it is a suffocating love. Benehime sees Eli as a thing and barely a person. The closest approximation to a person she can see him as is a young child whose center of the universe is Benehime herself. This objectifying of the male is a neat switch on the all-too often idea of men objectifying women. Eli is revolted by Benehime and her cloying love, or rather, obsession about keeping him by her side. In a sense, I liken the relationship to some of the serial killers depicted on Criminal Minds (a popular American drama featuring an FBI unit who profiles and hunts serial killers, just don't go to the TVTropes page for it).

While the novel (and series itself) focuses primarily on Eli, Rachel Aaron has not forgotten her lost king Josef and his demoness companion Nico or the feisty and strong-willed Miranda who at beginning of the novel is appointed the Rector (Head) of the Spirit Court. Josef continues to rule by the most threadbare minimum and his arch enemy, the Lord of Storms’s pursuit of Nico does not abate. The fate of the world, Eli’s relationship with Benehime, and the heart of who Nico is come together as the novel rolls along to its conclusion.

Mark reviews Poison by Sarah Pinborough, which is a modern twist/take on fairy tales:

Let’s make it clear, though. Poison is definitely adult in tone. As a result, It’s sexy, deliciously dark and, in places, rather bitter in taste. Sometimes reading about people’s darker feelings and thoughts highlights aspects of ourselves that might be better left untouched. What Sarah has done is take many of the parts of the old stories you may remember, but then given them more adult motivations and backgrounds to create a tale like the original adult Grimm’s Tales but rewritten for a contemporary audience. I enjoyed it a lot, reading it in just about one sitting.

It’s dark, but fun. I enjoyed spotting all the links to other fairy tales. Disney, this definitely isn’t.

Dreamy and Grouchy, the two dwarves here, are stolid and loyal, and there is a fair amount of sympathy for their tough existence. Lilith is suitably scheming, not afraid to use sex as a weapon, but also given a sensible rationale for her actions. Snow White is not always the innocent young maiden of the traditional tales.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-04-20)

Mark Yon and I have launched the SFFWorld blog where our future reviews will be appearing. Have a hop over there, read our little ‘mission statement’ and be sure to check there a couple of times per week for new reviews or reviews pulled from the archive.

The Darwin Elevator (The Dire Earth Cycle #1) by Jason Hough (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 07/30/2013) – Warrington’s fairy-tale trilogy comes to a close with this volume.

Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.
Advance praise for The Darwin Elevator

“A brilliant debut, full of compelling characters and thick with tension.”—Kevin Hearne, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles

“Claustrophobic, intense, and satisfying . . . I couldn’t put this book down.”—Hugh Howey, New York Times bestselling author of Wool

“This book plugs straight into the fight-or-flight part of your brain.”—Ted Kosmatka, author of The Games

Grail of the Summer Stars (An Aetherial Tale #3) by Freda Warrington (Tor Hardcover 04/23/2013) – Warrington’s fairy-tale trilogy comes to a close with this volume.

The climactic concluding novel in the spellbinding magical contemporary fantasy Aetherial Tales trilogy

A painting, depicting haunting scenes of a ruined palace and a scarlet-haired goddess in front of a fiery city, arrives unheralded in an art gallery with a cryptic note saying, “The world needs to see this.” The painting begins to change the lives of the woman who is the gallery's curator and that of an ancient man of the fey Aetherial folk who has mysteriously risen from the depths of the ocean. Neither human nor fairy knows how they are connected, but when the painting is stolen, both are compelled to discover the meaning behind the painting and the key it holds to their future.
In Grail of the Summer Stars, a haunting, powerful tale of two worlds and those caught between, Freda Warrington weaves an exciting story of suspense, adventure and danger that fulfills the promise of the Aetherial Tales as only she can.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Promise of Blood reviewed at SFFWorld and a Note about SFFWorld

I posted my review of Brian McClellan's debut novel, Promise of Blood on Monday a day before the book published.  While I go into greater detail in my review, this book impressed the hell out of me.  McClellan's world-building and inventiveness with magic were standouts. The book isn't without its flaws (gender imbalance), but the story is only one third complete at this point and there is potential to bring that divide into balance.

With the coup and execution of the novel taking the very early portions of the novel, McCellelan drew me into the novel very strongly and very quickly. The slight change in pace, though not entirely smooth, made for a more relaxed pace that I felt very comfortable reading. The threads follow, primarily, Adamat’s investigations and ducking of the people to whom he owes money, Taniel on the outskirts of Adopest’s borders fighting the Kez, and Tamas’s struggles with the Church to set the nation on a better path. Oh yeah, the gods might be returning to the world and a laundress is watching over the sole heir (though not a direct heir) of the executed king in seclusion. In short, the realistic conflicts of war and civilization are tightly interwoven with prophecies and more fantastical elements.

While the inventiveness is similar, Brian’s sheer ability to show both positives and negatives of the powder magic is a standout. Though both Tamas and Taniel employ powder in their magic, Taniel has become addicted to the substance; the downside to ingesting the powder. It proves to be a major strain on the already strained relationship between father and son. However, that strain is an ever-present thing, especially for Taniel. He feels his father looks down upon him and has little respect for him, which adds to Taniel’s growing discontent with his father and abuse of the powder – a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy.

I interviewed Brian last week
Brian provided me with a guest post last week

In other news, folks who've been visiting the SFFWorld forums may have noticed problems in there.  Particularly the slowness of the pages loading in the forum and occasional double posts (likely as a result of the slow loading) as well as the lack of activity.  Mark and I have had issues uploading reviews and we may have a solution to at least that aspect - a place to continue posting reviews under the SFFWorld name.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-04-13)

Two books this week here at the o’ Stuff. If this downward trend continues, I might put these weekly books in the mail posts on hiatus or just post about the books as they arrive rather than wait until Sunday.

Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines (Crown Trade Paperback 04/23/2013) – Sequel to Clines’s recently reissued super-hero novel Ex-Heroes.

It's been two years since the plague of ex-humans decimated mankind. Two years since the superheroes St. George, Cerberus, Zzzap, and Stealth gathered Los Angeles’s survivors behind the walls of their fortress, the Mount.

Since then, the heroes have been fighting to give the Mount’s citizens hope, and something like a real life. But now supplies are growing scarce, the zombies are pressing in . . . and the heroes are wondering how much longer they can hold out.

Then hope arrives in the form of a surviving US Army battalion—and not just any battalion. The men and women of the Army's Project Krypton survived the outbreak because they are super-soldiers, created before mankind's fall to be better, stronger, faster than normal humans—and their secure base in Arizona beckons as a much needed refuge for the beleaguered heroes and their charges.

But a dark secret lies at the heart of Project Krypton, and those behind it wield an awesome and terrifying power.

Without a Summer (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Chris Jackson (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 04/24/2013) – Jackson’s first book for the fine folks at Paizo in their award-winning and popular Pathfinder world.

Rough seas…

A pirate captain of the Inner Sea, Torius Vin makes a living raiding wealthy merchant ships with his crew of loyal buccaneers. Few things matter more to Captain Torius than ill-gotten gold—but one of those is Celeste, his beautiful snake-bodied navigator. When a crafty courtesan offers the pirate crew a chance at the heist of a lifetime, it’s time for both man and naga to hoist the black flag and lead the Stargazer’s crew to fame and fortune. But will stealing the legendary Star of Thumen chart the corsairs a course to untold riches—or send them all to a watery grave?

From award-winning author Chris A. Jackson comes a fantastical new adventure of high-seas combat and romance set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interview: Brian McClellan Talks Powder Mages, Cleveland, and Influences

Brian McClellan's debut novel is making waves as the publication date of April 16 looms.  Orbit is pushing the book in a big way, rightfully so, it is an impressive novel. Brian's been all over the place the last few weeks promoting the book, as evidenced by the recent guest post here on my blog, among other places.  He answered some questions I shot over to him.

Q: What about muskets fascinated you to the point of mixing them with magic?

A: The musket is alluring for a writer of epic fantasy. It shares the word "gun" with what we think of as modern day weapons, but the musket wasn't a point and kill method of warfare. Its noise and smoke made it a terrible thing to behold on the battlefield, for certain, but you could get off only a few shots per minute and the accuracy wasn't fantastic.

Basically, muskets allow me to keep the "epic" in "epic fantasy" while still dealing with gunpowder and a more modern world. The warfare is still very personal as compared to say, the World War I era with gas attacks and long range artillery. There are still bayonet charges and hand to hand combat. A hero can still make a discernable difference in the melee.

Q: Are you of the clan McClellan, and if so, have you seen the Kurgan or any of his cousins?

A: We can trace ourselves back to Clan MacLellan, but our little branch so diluted that we don't think of ourselves as a particularly Scottish family. We do share the clan motto of "Think On."

We try to avoid the Kurgan as much as possible. Let the immortals fight amongst themselves.

Q: According to the theme song to The Drew Carey Show, Cleveland Rocks. As a person who lives in Ohio, can you tell me if this is true?

A: People talk a lot of crap about Ohio, and Cleveland in particular. I love it here. I love the snow. I love how green it gets in the spring and summer and the myriad colors of fall. I like how people are generally nice to each other. As a very moderate person, I enjoy how average it is politically. It's a quiet and fantastic place to live.

Q: Fan Fiction…some within the genre (readers, writers, publishers, fans) think it a dirty term. Others encourage it. Your bio states you started writing Wheel of Time RPGs. How did this early form of fan fiction help you to develop as a writer?

A: I only wrote fan fiction for a few months and quickly grew past it with my desire to write original content. But I can't say too many bad things about fan fiction. It was my first real outlet as a writer. It gave me a framework within which I could write adventure and characters.

I used to read tons of Star Wars fan fiction. Some of it was absolutely incredible. I mean, far more engaging than even official Extended Universe books. I loved it. But for every good story there were fifty terrible ones.

I think that as long as fan fiction writers are respectful to the source material and don't try to make money off of property that doesn't belong to them, they can have at it. Of course, I might change my opinion the first time I read something that has made an abomination out of my work.

I'll try to keep an open mind about it.

Q: Your connection to The Wheel of Time is two-fold, the above-mentioned foray into the RPG and you were taught by Brandon Sanderson. How much of that connection to WOT affected your course with Brandon as your instructor?

A: Not a ton. I was certainly delighted to hear he had been chosen, but by that time I had moved on to reading George RR Martin and other authors and I never really got my excitement back for Wheel of Time. That shouldn't reflect on Brandon's work, but on my own changing tastes as a reader.

Q: I’ve seen comments about your work as a bit of a mirror to the French Revolution. For me I felt more of a parallel to Colonial America (and that could be because I’m in the midst of playing Assassin’s Creed 3). Regardless, the story takes place during a time of change. What are you trying to say in A Promise of Blood about the cost of change?

A: I don't think I was trying to say much of anything. I was just trying to tell a fun story. Consciously, anyways.

Subconsciously? Change has a cost. It takes steely determination. There will always be people who benefit, and people who suffer. Only the history books will tell us whether it was worth it (and they may very well be lying).

Q: As a follow-up to the above question, gunpowder, the use of it especially in the military, is a great game changer. How much of the world in this books is shaped around the use (and sometimes abuse) of gunpowder?

A: The entire world is shaped around industrialization. Gunpowder is only a part of that, but it is very important in the warfare and in the magic system.

Q: Some writers publish the first books they write, others wind up publishing the fourth book they submitted, which was actually an idea they had when they were 12. Where does Promise of Blood and The Powder Mage Trilogy fit into that model?

A: Promise of Blood is my second epic fantasy, and my third book written overall. I developed the idea over the course of the spring of 2010 and then wrote it that summer.

Q: Your bio indicates you live with two dogs and a cat, which is a better writing companion, cat or dog?

A: I tell people that the dogs are my wife's and the cat is mine.

Leto, my cat, if a big snowshoe Siamese. He doesn't bother me unless he's hungry, but he never runs away if I want some companionship. He'll curl up in my beanbag chair and sleep while I'm writing, which is perfect.

Q: Reading Promise of Blood, I saw some DNA of your genre predecessors. Clearly, questions I ask above call out some influences. Who in the genre aside from those mentioned above, inspired you to put the words down for these stories? Who or what books outside the genre?

A: Joe Abercrombie is a personal hero of mine. I read his First Law trilogy during that spring that I was formulating Promise of Blood and it quickly shot to the top of my "favorites" list. It became a goal of mine to write something that would appeal to both readers of Abercrombie and Sanderson—to create something right in the middle.

My two favorite books are Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo. Looking back, it can't be coincidence that I wound up writing a world with the same geo-political basis as both of them.

Q: When you finish writing a book, do you have any “completion rituals?” In the film and book Misery by Stephen King, Paul Sheldon likes to have a cigarette. Is there anything you like to do to celebrate, other than breathing a sigh of relief?

A: Not yet. Like I said, I've only finished three books. The sigh of relief is definitely there.

When I finished Promise of Blood, my wife brought me home a giant Lego castle. I spent the weekend putting it together. I've always loved Legos, even as an adult, so it was a very enjoyable way to decompress. I might be doing that again when I turn in the final copy of The Crimson Campaign.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Campbell and Crompton Reviewed at SFFWorld

Two weeks in a row for new reviews? Say it ain’t so! Seriously, I catch up with a late 2012 SF release and Mark reviews a book that provides a somewhat depressing snapshot of the UK’s most important and renowned comic artists.

I’ve been enjoying Jack Campbell’s Military SF/Space Opera hybrid novels set in The Lost Fleet universe for a couple of years now. He turns the tables a bit with The Lost Stars the series which kicks off with  Tarnished Knight  and takes a look at the "other side" of the war depicted in The Lost Fleet.

The narrative focuses on two individuals who form an uneasy alliance at the outset of the novel. Reeling from the defeat at the hands of the Alliance and “Black Jack” Geary, Artur Drakon and Gwen Iceni, once CEOs in the Syndicate hierarchy, must find a way to trust each other and rebuild their broken government. In addition to trying to recover from such a serious blow to their worldview and egos, Iceni and Drakon must quell any uprisings on Syndicate ruled worlds, while deflecting their Internal Services group – arguably the most powerful governmental organization in the Syndicate – as they rebuild their government.

The Tarnished Knight is a fine enough starting place for readers unfamiliar with Campbell’s Lost Fleet novels, for it can easily be read as a story about the issues surrounding post-war rebuilding on the side of the defeated. Campbell alludes to enough of what he’s created in this milieu not to exclude the newer readers. On the negative side, Iceni and Drakon, continually repeat how they must “do things differently than in the past, the Syndicate failed” both in their internal dialogue and to each other and other characters to the point where I was saying to myself “OK, I get it, we all get it.”

Alastair Crompton’s Frank Hampson: Tomorrow Revisited is a retrospective of the popular comic artist. Here’s part of what Mark had to say:

Though not a name many know well these days, his work in the 1950’s until the 1970’s, in particular in the UK, was instantly recognisable and iconic. Although Frank drew Westerns, adventure stories and even Biblical tales, it is his drawings of Dan Dare for the Eagle comic that set a phenomenally high standard, influencing contemporary artists such as Dave Gibbons, Graham Bleathman and Chris Foss. The first edition of the Eagle comic, published on the 14th April 1950, sold a previously unheard of number of copies – widely recognised to be about 900 000 – when comics in the UK typically sold less than 100 000 in a very good week* – and Hampson’s front page spread of Dan Dare, in colour, was seen to be a key factor in the comic’s continued success for the next twenty years. At its peak the Eagle has been estimated to have sold around one million copies a week.

In his engagingly honest Introduction Alastair explains his take on the issue and tries to keep things as even-handed and as accurate as possible through presenting many interviews and transcripts from details at the time. With rare photos and interviews throughout, the book shows what an innovative and inspirational place the offices of the Eagle must have been in the 1950’s and 60’s, although ultimately relentless and unforgiving.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Guest Post: Brian McClellan on Learning to Write from Brandon Sanderson

Brian McClellan's debut novel, Promise of Blood publishes in a week - April 16, 2013. It has (rightfully) been getting quite a bit of praise in the weeks leading up to the book's publication. I finished reading it last week and really enjoyed it.  Brian provided the following guest post:

I had just turned nineteen, a freshman in my second semester at Brigham Young University, when I first met a man named Brandon Sanderson. He was co-teaching a junior-level class on writing science fiction and fantasy and his first book, Elantris, was about to hit shelves. I'd already decided I wanted to a be a professional novelist. Brandon would help me realize my dream.

The class was just under three hours every Thursday night. There was a lecture that Brandon alternated with an older, more experienced creative writing teacher, Sally Taylor, followed by an hour and twenty minutes where the class split up into writing groups of between four and six people.

It was similar to the creative writing class I had taken my first semester but with two very important differences. First, it focused on genre fiction. This included a teacher and classmates who really understood my love of fantasy and had some idea of what to expect from my writing. Second, the lectures were given by a guy who was about to be published by the biggest fantasy publisher out there!

We got to hear about how Brandon's book was progressing and see his excitement as the publishing date approached. He told us what to expect during a book sale and how he had acquired an agent and editor, as well as the value of going to conventions as an aspiring author. We got to see parts of his contract and read bits of his hitherto-unpublished work. I thought these lectures were fascinating. Here was nitty gritty of the industry. Here was the journey I wanted to go through myself some day.

During the second half of the class, he and the other teacher would sit in on our writing groups and provide comments for whomever was being critiqued, and help teach the members of the group how to get more value out of workshopping manuscripts. I met some awesome people during those writing groups. Some of them I'm still in touch with today.

The final exam of the class was to turn in a portfolio of our writing from the semester. I turned in the first quarter of a novel. It was a daft thing filled with elves, dwarves, dragons, racial prejudice between said elves and dwarves (surprise!), the "promised hero" and more. Brandon's comments? That I'd need to write better and be more creative if I was going to go somewhere with this.

I took the class again the next year (it was a repeatable elective). Brandon was teaching by himself this time, Elantris ad done quite well as a stand-alone novel, and MISTBORN had a publication date. I had one aim in retaking the class: to become a better writer. It seemed to pay off when Brandon's comments on my final—a short historical fantasy story—were that I had serious talent and would eventually find a place in the industry if I kept at it.

And I did keep at it. I wrote more short stories. I worked on a new novel. I submitted to magazines and publishing houses. I was rejected. I took Brandon's class three times in total and then audited it another year. He was kind enough to let me sit in and take advantage of the writing groups, and not get annoyed when I missed a lecture. He let me tag along at a couple of conventions, where he introduced me to both his editor and his agent.

Watching Brandon grow as a newly published author was invaluable. He always had intelligent thoughts and new ideas for both books and ways to broaden his scope as a brand name. He never let the business of being an author get in the way of his writing—in fact, he married the two facets of the career in a way that has made him the success he is, which is something I respect profoundly.

A little over eight years ago, I was just a kid who wanted to be an author. On April 16th, my epic fantasy debut Promise of Blood will be coming out internationally from Orbit Books in hardcover, audiobook, and ebook. I very much doubt that would be happening if it weren't for the guidance that Brandon provided as a teacher.

Visit Brian McClellan's website.

Become a fan of The Powder Mage Trilogy on facebook.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-04-06)

A few physical books, an electronic arc comprise this week’s batch of arrivals.

Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Evolution, and Revolution edited by Victoria Blake Trade Paperback 02/26/2013) – Underland Press is a relatively new small press, but they’ve got an impressive stable of authors, including Elizabeth Hand, Matthew Hughes, and Jeff VanderMeer. Blake is also the publisher at Underland..

Before email, before “the web,” before hackers and GPS and sexting, before titanium implants, before Google Goggles, before Siri, and before each and every one of us carried a computer in our pockets, there was cyberpunk, and science fiction was never the same.

Cyberpunk writers—serious, smart, and courageous in the face of change—exposed the naiveté of a society rushing headlong into technological unknowns. Technology could not save us, they argued, and it might in fact ruin us. Now, thirty years after The Movement party-crashed the science fiction scene, the cyberpunk reality has largely come to be. The future they imagined is here.

In this book, you’ll find stories by legendary cyberpunk authors like Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, as well as stories by new cyberpunk voices like Cory Doctorow and Jonathan Lethem. You’ll find stories about society gone wrong and society saved, about soulless humans and soulful machines, about futures worth fighting for and futures that do nothing but kill.

Welcome to your cyberpunk world.

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor;Hardcover 04/02/2013) – Third in Kowal’s series of novels that seem to fit squarely in the Fantasy of Manners subset of books.

Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and Vincent Ellsworth. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.

Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.
Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.

Stepping Stone / Love Machine: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley (Tor;Hardcover 04/02/2013) This is the third ‘double’ book this year from Mosley/Tor, it seems to work well.

Stepping Stone: Truman Pope has spent his whole life watching the world go by. A gentle, unassuming soul, he has worked in the mailroom of a large corporation for decades without making waves, until the day he spots a mysterious woman in yellow. A woman nobody else can see. Soon Truman's quiet life begins to turn upside-down.

Love Machine: The brainchild of an eccentric, possibly deranged scientist, the "Love Machine" can merge individual psyches and memories into a collective Co-Mind. Tricked into joining the Co-Mind, as part of a master plan to take over the world, Lois Kim struggles to adapt to her new reality and abilities. Is there any way back to the life that was stolen from her, or is she destined to lead humanity into a strange new era??

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot Books Mass Market Paperback 05/28/2013) – Chuck is an author whose fiction I really need to read. I’ve been following him on twitter since I joined and his blog where he dispenses some smart, smart writing advice. The guy works it to the nth degree. What better place to start than a novel with a protagonist named Mookie.

Meet Mookie Pearl.
Criminal underworld? He runs in it.

Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.

Nothing stops Mookie when he's on the job.

But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something's gotta give...

File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Family Matters | When Underworlds Collide | Thrill of the Hunt | Chips and Old Blocks ]

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (Putnam Juvenile Hardcover 05/07/2013) – Alien apocalypse for the younger set, looks mildly intriguing from a very popular author. The publisher is marketing this in a big way, the book arrived in a a fancy custom envelope.

The Passage meets Ender's Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Forever Knight, NOS4R2, and Book of Sith at SFFWorld

Mark’s got two reviews over the past week (one a catch up due to technical difficulties at SFFWorld) and I’ve got one.

After my re-posts of my reviews of the first three novels in John Marco’s, Bronze Knight Chronicles it should come as no surprise that my review is John’s newest novel The Forever Knight .

The first thing in Marco’s latest novel to distinguish itself from its predecessors is the authorial voice. This time around, John chose to tell Lukien’s tale through Lukien’s own voice utilizing the first person narrative technique. There’s a more intimate feeling to the story, although not quite a coziness, because Lukien is far from being the proverbial happy camper. He’s held his true love as she died, turned his best friend into an enemy, helped the Inhumans secure a place of safety (Grimhold), overthrown a madman, and gained another spiritual familiar in the form of Malator, the Akari. All of this happened in the novels The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor, and The Sword of Angels. This past baggage is not necessary for readers unfamiliar with those books to know since John sprinkled enough of Lukien’s past throughout the narrative to give him the weight of a burdened, tired-of-meandering, and on the cusp of breaking character for new readers to jump into the narrative.

I’ve been a fan of John Marco’s since I read his debut novel The Jackal of Nar well over a decade ago. With each book I’ve read by John, I’ve discovered something new in his writing, a different shade of what his abilities as a storyteller are. In The Forever Knight, John’s written his shortest novel to date, but by no means does that indicate is any less powerful a novel. The first person narrative works very well within this smaller, more tightly focused tale. Reacquainting myself with Lukien’s story, through Lukien’s own voice was a most welcome return.

Mark gets an early look at one of the more hotly anticipated novels of the year. The third novel from Joe Hill, NOS4R2:

The story is mainly told through and around the experiences of Vic McQueen, who begins the story as a young tomboy and rider of bicycles. In a Twilight Zone style twist, Vic finds early on in the novel that she can cycle from her place of residence (the small town world of Englewood, Colorado) to anywhere she chooses, from ‘Found’ to ‘Lost’ and back again, via her accessing what she calls ‘the Shorter Way Bridge’, a rickety bridge that in reality no longer exists. With practice, she finds that she can travel to places to fetch and find things, but not without cost, as there seems to be a physical effect on her every time she transports hers.

There are (deliberately, I’m sure) echoes of SK throughout this book, with spooky possessed cars, creepy houses, broken people, a large dog, a combination of Twilight Zone elements juxtaposed with homely elements of Americana, albeit often from the hidden underbelly. There’s bikes, cars and girls (or in Vic’s case, boys.) A character named Tabitha (Joe’s mother’s name). And, like IT’s Mike Hanlon, a librarian (with a stutter like Richie Tozier) is there to save the day. Here we channel the vampires of ‘Salem’s Lot and combine them with the creepy car experiences of Christine, as well as adding a smidgen of IT and a touch of The Body (although some may prefer the film title Stand by Me.)

Lastly, Mark reviews something of a novelty book a purported historical artifact from the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Book of Sith - Secrets from the Dark Side by Daniel Wallace:

There are five chapters here, with an encapsulating sixth element from Sidious himself. They show the long history of the rise and fall of the Sith over many thousands of years. Sorzus Syn"s chronicle of the original rise of the Sith Empire, thousands of years ago, begins the collection. It is the tale of a female Jedi, exiled from the Jedi Order, who set herself up as one of the first Sith Lords and created the Sith Code at the time of the Second Great Schism. Darth Malgus"s war journal was written during the Great Galactic War, when the Sith was defeated and the Republic ruled the Empire, as shown in the Old Republic computer games. Darth Bane (from Drew Karpyshyn"s novels) tells of a time when the Sith Order was in decline, having to do their work in the shadows, and shows how the Sith learned from their mistakes. Here Bane summarises his ideas and creates The Rule of Two (namely that one Sith must contain all the power of the dark side and that one Master must decide how that power shall be used) in order to rise again. Mother Talzin"s Wild Power text adds an element of the tale from the Clone Wars, that of the history, beliefs and work of the Nightsisters, a Sith splinter group who became dark side mercenaries. The fifth section is by Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious" Master, showing his scientific thoughts on the true nature of the nature of the Sith.