Sunday, December 29, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-28) Christmas Edition!

This is a slightly different Sunday post. Since no new review books arrived due to the week between Christmas and New Year's Day being virtually dead in publishing, I figured I’d post the books Santa Claus brought me for Christmas this year. I’m also assigning blame to some people for encouraging me to get these books.

The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit) – His two most recent (as of 2013) novels The Troupe and American Elsewhere are two of my favorite books of the last few years, this here is his second novel which received the Edgar Award and received a nice review from SFFWorld pal Mark.

A trolley car pulls into the station with eleven dead bodies inside. Four minutes before, the inhabitants were seen boarding at the previous station. All are dead. And all of them are union.

The year is 1919. The McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry. They built airships that cross the seas. Guns that won the Great War. And above all, the city of Evesden. But something is rotten at the heart of Evesden.

Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must find the truth behind the city before it kills him.

Iorich (Vlad Taltos #12) by Steven Brust (Tor) – I really enjoy Brust’s Taltos novels, as I’ve mentioned recently and I hope to catch up with them, or at least get closer to being caught up, in the coming year.

House Jhereg, Dragaera's organized crime syndicate, is still hunting Vlad Taltos. There's a big price on his head on Draegara City. Then he hears disturbing news. Aliera—longtime friend, sometime ally—has been arrested by the Empire on a charge of practicing elder sorcery, a capital crime.

It doesn't make sense. Everybody knows Aliera's been dabbling in elder sorcery for ages. Why is the Empire down on her now? Why aren't her powerful friends—Morrolan, Sethra, the Empress Zerika—coming to her rescue? And most to the point, why has she utterly refused to do anything about her own defense?

It would be idiotic of Vlad to jump into this situation. He's a former Jhereg who betrayed the House. He's an Easterner—small, weak, short-lived. He's being searched for by the most remorseless killers in the world. Naturally, that's exactly why he's going to get completely involved...

In Iorich, Steven Brust has crafted a complex and intriguing Vlad Taltos adventure.

The Midnight Mayor (Matthew Swift #2) by Kate Griffin (Orbit Hardcover 04/2009) – I really enjoyed the launch book for this series - A Madness of Angels - when it published in 2009. Like the Brust book I received, I’ve been wanting to catch up with this series for a few years.

It’s said that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, then the Tower will crumble and the kingdom will fall. As it happens, that’s not so far from the truth…


One by one, the magical wards that guard the city are failing: the London Wall defiled with cryptic graffiti, the ravens found dead at the Tower, the London Stone destroyed. This is not good news. This array of supernatural defences – a mix of international tourist attractions and forgotten urban legends – formed a formidable magical shield. Protection for the City of London against… well, that’s the question, isn’t it? What could be so dangerous as to threaten an entire city?


 Against his better judgement, resurrected sorcerer Matthew Swift is about to find out. And if he’s lucky, he might just live long enough to do something about it…

The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan (DAW) – I blame this one on twitter (Violette and follow each other) and more specifically Paul Weimer. He and I follow each other, have plenty of twitter conversations, and seem to have about 75% similar reading tastes/sensibilities. He’s always had good things to say about Violette’s work so here goes.

Max Ravenhill thinks he's human . . . but he's wrong. He's been given false memories over and over again by his Wardens, who don't want him to realize that he's been alive for over 1000 years.

Max and his Wardens are Riders -- what humans call Faerie, and back in their Lands Max was the Prince Guardian, Keeper of the Talismans. As the Prince Guardian, Max lost a civil war, and was banished to the Shadowlands, the human country. To prevent his escape, his memory was bound, along with his dra'aj, the magical energy that is manifested in all Faerie. His Wardens made sure that the powerless Exile was not accidentally killed by humans.

The Banishment is nearing its end when Warden Cassandra Kennaby, gets a most unexpected warning that Max is in immanent danger from his old enemy, the Rider who has become known as the Basilisk Prince. Cassandra has personal reasons for avoiding her charge, but when the warning is confirmed by the appearance of the Hunt, she has no choice but to remember her Oath and go to the rescue. As the Hunt closes in, the only way Cassandra can save Max is to risk returning him home before the end of the Banishment. Max finds himself in the bewildering Lands of the People, where nothing, not the Riders or the Naturals or the Solitaries -- not even the Landscape itself, does what he expects. Cassandra and Max they find that the dra'aj of the Lands itself has been waning during the Banishment, and the Basilisk Prince has been growing in power since the time of the Great War. Max's old supporters desperately need Max to prevent the Basilisk from declaring himself High Prince and destroying the natural Cycles of the Lands. But it isn't really Max they need -- it's his true self, the Guardian Prince. Max must decide to give up the only life he knows, in order to become someone else, in order to fight an ancient enemy he doesn't even remember. 

Armageddon Bound (Demon Squad #1) by Tim Marquitz (Self-published) – I blame this one on twitter (Tim and follow each other), the Bastard of SFFWorld and the SFFWorld forums. Folks who have read Marquitz’s books have great things to say about them and this is his first. Tim also contributed a story to the Triumph over Tragedy anthology I helped to edit

Half-devil and miles from anything resembling heroic, perpetual underdog Frank "Triggaltheron" Trigg is the last man standing against Armageddon. As the favorite nephew of the Devil, Frank has led a troubled life, but he'd always had his uncle's influence to fall back on. Now, with God and Lucifer coming to terms and leaving existence to fend for itself, his once exalted status of Anti-Christ-to-be does little to endear him to the hordes of angels and demons running amok in the Godless world. With help from the members of DRAC, an organization of wizards, psychics, telepaths, and low-end supernatural beings, Frank must thwart the pro-Armageddon forces and rescue an angel in whose life rests the fate of humanity. Better luck next time, humanity.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (Dellacorte) – Brandon Sanderson writing superheroes (which one can argue he did in a fantasy setting with Mistborn). I don’t think anything else needs to be said. I shared the press release about a year and a half ago for this one.

There are no heroes.

Every single person who manifested powers—we call them Epics—turned out to be evil.

Here, in the city once known as Chicago, an extraordinarily powerful Epic declared himself Emperor. Steelheart has the strength of ten men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. He is invincible.

It has been ten years. We live our lives as best we can. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans who spend their lives studying powerful Epics, finding their weaknesses, then assassinating them.

My name is David Charleston. I’m not one of the Reckoners, but I intend to join them. I have something they need. Something precious, something incredible. Not an object, but an experience. I know his secret.

I’ve seen Steelheart bleed. 

D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. (Images of America ) by Robert A. Musson MD with a forward by Dick Yuengling (Arcadia Publishing) – I like beer and Yuengling is my go-to brand of beer. This is a neat book with a lot of historical images of the brewery, various labels and promotional material used over the years. I've already read through this and liked it.

Known as Americas Oldest Brewery, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., of Pottsville has been in continuous operation since 1829. Since its start, Yuengling has been prudently managed by the Yuengling family. Overcoming the 14 dry years of Prohibition, Yuengling persevered due in part to the ingenuity and creativity of its owners and loyalty of its consumers. Unlike many of the regional brewers who were forced to close their doors over time, Yuengling found a niche for itself beginning in the late 1980s. With the introduction of Yuengling Lager and Black & Tan, the brand became a sensation in and around Philadelphia. Popularity of the beverages led to Yuengling being distributed in 14 states, making it the largest American-owned brewery. Through more than 220 historic images, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., tells the story of this legendary American company.

Empire of the Blood by Gav Thorpe (Angry Robot) – I blame this one on twitter at least partially and pornokitsch specifically. I think I recall seeing a post or a tweet from Jared about these books, plus I’ve been very pleased with most of what I’ve read from the folks at Angry Robot and I’m always happy to read a new completed Epic Fantasy series, especially an omnibus. Damn is this is one thick brick of book, you could kill a rabbit with it.

The Empire of the Blood Trilogy Includes:

The Crown of the Blood
The Crown of the Conqueror
The Crown of the Usurper

He had brought his master's Empire to the furthest reaches of the world. All had fallen before him. Now he longs for home.
But home isn't what it was. Could it be that everything he's fought for all those years has been a lie?
A sweeping fantasy of immense battles, demonic magic and dark politics.

Ullsaard has won the crown
But when he is confronted with a truth too shocking to contemplate, he has to make the impossible choice between power and honour.
And now the real battle has begun in this stunning sequel to The Crown of the Blood, packed with gargantuan battles, demonic magic and treacherous politics.

The stunning conclusion to the epic Crown of the Blood series.

Children No More (Jon and Lobo #4) by Mark L. Van Name (Baen Books) – I’ve enjoyed each of the books in this series I’ve read, going back to the Jump Gate Twist ominibus I read a few years ago, but I can initially blame wanting to read these highly enjoyable SF adventures on liviu from Fantasy Book Critic. Van Name is donating all proceeds from this novel to a charity very important to him.


Jon Moore knew that better than most, having learned to fight to survive before he’d hit puberty. So when a former comrade, Alissa Lim, asks for his help in rescuing a group of children pressed into service by rebels on a planet no one cares to save, he agrees. Only later does he realize he’s signed up to do far more than he’d ever imagined.

Jon’s commitment hurtles him and Lobo, the hyper-intelligent assault vehicle who is his only real friend, into confrontations with the horrors the children have experienced and with a dark chapter from his own past. The complications mount as Jon and Lobo rush straight into the darkness at the heart of humanity to save a group of child soldiers—and then face an even tougher challenge:

When we’ve trained our children to kill, what do we do with them when the fighting is over?

Titan (The Gaea Trilogy #1) by John Varley (Ace) – I’m not really sure where to assign blame on this one as Varley’s work, especially this trilogy which is his most famous work, has come up on podcasts, internet listings of books, and twitter for years but I did enjoy his novel The Golden Globe when I read it on the plane going to Hawai’i for my honeymoon.

Titan is first in Varley’s epic Gaean Trilogy. It was finalist for both Hugo and Nebula awards.

Gaea is a world within a world – impossible, bizarre, an endless landscape inhabited by creatures out of legend. Gaea is a goddess, sometimes whimsical, sometimes malign and always terrifying. But she is also three million years old and her powers are increasingly capricious and uncertain.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tad Williams @ SFFWorld and Brent Weeks @ SF Signal

Last Friday, my latest Completist column was posted to SF Signal, featuring Brent Weeks's Night Angel Trilogy. I read the first two on publication and the 3rd a couple of months after it published. While I've seen some flack on these books, I enjoyed them a great deal. 

Yesterday, over at SFFWorld, I reviewed the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Tad Williams.  Happy Hour in Hell is the second novel featuring the angel Doloriel, also known as Bobby Dollar as he tries to free the creature he loves (a demoness) from Hell.  Lots of fun in this book.
Superficially, Happy Hour in Hell is very much a travelogue through Tad Williams’ version of Hell, itself informed by Dante and Milton to a large degree. Whereas the first installment in this series was more of a mystery, Happy Hour is more of a quest tale, with Bobby traversing Hell in the guise of a demon. While Dirty Streets of Heaven set up, initially, a dichotomy between Heaven and Hell only to reveal a Third Way by novel’s end, in Happy Hour Tad Williams shakes up the rule book on Bobby (and the reader) suggesting the rules of Heaven and Hell aren’t quite what they are classically thought to be.

The tour through Hell is truly fascinating; Williams evokes some very gruesome imagery in both the inhabitants of Hell as well as the vast landscapes Bobby traverses. One group of demons he encounters reminded me a bit of the folks in Michael Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time sequence which itself is set in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion mythos. A combination of decadence and high societal cruelty marked this particularly strange and ultimately uncomfortable episode in Bobby’s odyssey through Hell. On the whole for Bobby’s journey, I was also reminded of Tad’s own Otherland novels for the layers of worlds explored by the characters. The literary winks nods are all over the place, but don’t weigh down the narrative in the least.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-21)

Two books this week, both making an appearance in the US two years after having appeared in the UK.
Irenicon (The Wave Trilogy #1) by Aidan Harte (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 04/01/2014) –This was originally published in the UK in 2012, it will be hitting US Shelves in April 2014.

The river Irenicon was blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347 and now it is a permanent reminder to the feuding factions that nothing can stand in the way of the Concordian Empire. The artificial river, created overnight by Concordian engineers using the Wave, runs uphill. But the Wave is both weapon and mystery; not even the Concordians know how the river became conscious – and hostile.

But times are changing. Concordian engineer Captain Giovanni is ordered to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sundered city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for the engineers have their sights set firmly on world domination and Rasenna is in their way.

Sofia Scaglieri will soon be seventeen, when she will become Contessa of Rasenna, but her inheritance is tainted: she can see no way of stopping the ancient culture of vendetta which divides her city. What she can’t understand is why Giovanni is trying so hard to stop the feuding, or why he is prepared to risk his life, not just with her people, but also with the lethal water spirits – the buio – that infest the Irenicon.

Times are changing. And only the young Contessa and the enemy engineer Giovanni understand they have to change too, if they are to survive the coming devastation – for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again…

Dominion by C.J. Sansom (Mullholland Books Hardcover 01/28/2014) –This was originally published in the UK in 2012, received the Sidewise award for best Alternate History novel that year. In 2014, it hits US shelves..

1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The press, radio, and television are tightly controlled. British Jews face ever greater constraints.

But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. And in a Birmingham mental hospital, fragile scientist Frank Muncaster holds a secret that could alter the balance of the global struggle forever.

Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, a spy for the Resistance, is given the mission to rescue Frank and get him out of the country. Hard on his heels is Gestapo agent Gunther Hoth, a brilliant, implacable hunter of men, who soon has Frank and David’s innocent wife, Sarah, directly in his sights.

C.J. Sansom’s literary thriller Winter in Madrid earned Sansom comparisons to Graham Greene, Sebastian Faulks, and Ernest Hemingway. Now, in the first alternative history epic from Sansom in the tradition of Harris’s Fatherland and Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Sansom doesn’t just recreate the past—he reinvents it. In a spellbinding tale of suspense, oppression and poignant love, Dominion dares to explore how, in moments of crisis, history can turn on the decisions of a few brave men and women—the secrets they keep and the bonds they share.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-14)

With the year winding down, the review book arrivals at the o' Stuff household have slowed even more.  The lone title to arrive is an eArc which landed on my kindle on Friday night.

Honor’s Knight (Volume 2 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 11/05/2013) – This is second book in the thrilling Space Opera / Military Science Ficiton / Urban Fantasy hybrid that I’m enjoying. Well, at least the first installment Fortune’s Pawn.

The rollicking sequel to Fortune's Pawn -- an action packed science fiction novel.

Devi Morris has a lot of problems, and not the fun, easy-to-shoot kind either. After a mysterious attack left her short several memories and one partner, she'd determined to keep her head down, do her job, and get on with her life. But even though Devi's not actually looking for it this time, trouble keeps finding her. She sees ghostly creatures no one else can, the inexplicable black stain on her hands keeps getting bigger, and she can't seem to stop getting into compromising situations with a man she's supposed to hate. But when a deadly crisis exposes far more of the truth than she bargained for, Devi discovers there's worse fates than being shot, and sometimes the only people you can trust are the ones who want you dead.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First and Last: What's Next? Butcher, Scholes or Redick?

I receive a lot of books for review, I get books as gifts, and I buy books on my own. In short, I’m a bibliophile. Most of you who are reading my blog are aware of this, many of you likely have the same habit. As I've mentioned many times, my reading leans towards Epic Fantasy.

One of the odd occurrences or results of receiving so many review books is that I will often receive series books out of sequence. That is, I will be sent the third book of a four book series without having received the first two books, or on other occasions, just the last book in the series. Scenarios like this have led to this blog post, as three series fit into this category. I've seen good things from quite a few internet colleagues and friends about these three series, which makes plucking the first book of one of these series a bit more challenging.

For Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera I purchased the first installment Furies of Calderon years ago and when the final installment First Lord’s Fury published, it arrived for review. I'm two books away from being caught up with his wonderful Dresden Files, so I'm not sure if I want to get caught up with Dresden before diving into the Codex.

I recently received the fourth book in Ken Scholes’s The Psalms of Isaak, Requiem. I have the first installment (Lamentation) on my kindle and have had this series on the back burner to read for a while since reading the short story, “Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise,” which is a precursor to this series, way back in Realms of Fantasy in 2006. One quirk on this series is the drastic change in cover art and design after the second book.  I like Chris McGrath's art but the sweeping landscape Greg Manchess did for the first two installments gave the books a more epic feel, at least on a superficial level. It just seems odd to change the look and art of a series mid-stream.

The third author / series to complete today’s Triforce is Robert V.S. Redick and his Chathrand Voyage four book series. This one is odd because I had an ARC of the first book and third book that sort of left my house in one of a few purges (either donations to troops or when I let my gaming group pull books from the unread stacks). As it stands, I currently have the first book, The Red Wolf Conspiracy and the final (which switched form initial hardcover release to trade paperback release) The Night of the Swarm. (Oddly, Redick’s debut was in a poll I ran when I first received it since I wasn’t entirely sure which debut fantasy novel to read).

All that said, anybody have thoughts on which way I should lean for the next series of these three should be pulled from Mount ToBeread? (I am and have been leaning strongly towards one of these for a while).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rouaud's The Path of Anger, Scwab's Vicious, and Wallace's The Wolves of Paris

We've got a few new reviews at SFFWorld this week. Heck, ever since Dag revamped the Web site it  has been something of a hotbed for genre content like reviews and interviews.  One of the ongoing "series" at the site is "Authors review Authors." At the title implies, small press/self published authors pair up and review each other's work.

Aside from those regular updates, Mark, Nila, and I have new reviews.

Over the weekend, Mark posted his review of The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud, the first installment of The Book and the Sword:
I must admit my first impression was that this debut Fantasy novel was a book catering to the ‘I know-what-I-like’ reader. Admittedly the cover is very cool, but as we’re looking at a world of knights, Emperors and assassins, I was rather concerned that I’d think I’d read it all before.

How wrong I was.

The world is deliberately medieval-esque. It’s rather like the French Revolution of the 1790’s transposed to a more traditional medieval fantasy world. There is magic here, known as the animus, which people can tap into, although at a physical cost.

The world of Masalia is a world in transition: a place where we look at the formation of a Republic and the collapse of an Empire. It raises interesting questions, in the same way that the Star Wars trilogy does: when the Empire’s ended, the bad guys have been beaten: what happens next? The reader, and the people within this world, may not like all that they see.

Yesterday, I posted a book that will be on my list of best 2013 books. Vicious by V.E. Schwab is her fist novel for the adult market and is one of the best super-hero/super-villain deconstructions stories I've encountered: Through a non-linear narrative, we learn in the “present” of the novel, Victor has just broken out of prison after serving for 10 years. Initially, his reason for incarceration is not given, but hints leading up to the revelation paint a good picture. The two friends were successful in their attempts to gain super powers, but as a result their friendship is forever fractured.

The first half of the narrative was told mostly from Victor’s point of view, and Eli’s point of view entered into the second half of the narrative, even if it was still mostly from Victor’s POV, with some chapters throughout from the POV of Sarah and Sydney, sisters, one of whom winds up as Victor’s ‘sidekick’ and the other a romantic interest for Eli. Schwab jumped around in time, focusing on the days surrounding the time Eli and Victor conducted their experiments in the hopes of becoming EOs and the days and weeks leading up to their final confrontation. The shortened chapters with intertwined timelines did a fantastic job of building suspense on multiple levels. It seemed a natural way for the story to be told, and I suspect it was one of those tricks that took a great deal of effort to get correct, but felt effortless due to Schwab’s incredible storytelling powers.

Today, Nila reviews Michael Wallace's The Wolves of Paris:
The Wolves of Paris is a short, fun read of murder, mayhem, and werewolves in 15th century Paris. Told primarily through three main characters; two brothers at odds with each other, and the woman they both love; The Wolves of Paris starts out funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but pretty darn close.

Two gate guards, an older, half-blind fellow and his younger compatriot, are freezing as night descends over Paris. The two collect tolls but their minds are decidedly in the gutter, awaiting the appearance of Lade d’Lisle’s bottom as she extends it over the Seine to relieve herself.
Michael Wallace writes a dashing tale of suspense, religion, intrigue, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. He colors his world with quick and accurate descriptions that keep the story moving briskly while filling out the histories and customs of the land. His characters are well-drawn and likeable, and the situations they find themselves in are touched with equal amounts of horror and humor.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-12-07)

Work Done for Hire by Joe Haldeman (Ace, Hardcover 01/07/2014) – As the author of, among other books, the seminal military SF novel Forever War Haldeman is a living legend in the Science Fiction. This novel looks to be a slight departure and more of a modern thriller.

Joe Haldeman’s “adept plotting, strong pacing, and sense of grim stoicism have won him wide acclaim” (The Washington Post) and numerous honors for such works as The Forever War, The Accidental Time Machine, and the Marsbound trilogy. Now, the multiple Hugo and Nebula award–winning author pits a lone war veteran against a mysterious enemy who is watching his every move—and threatens him with more than death unless he kills for them.

Wounded in combat and honorably discharged nine years ago, Jack Daley still suffers nightmares from when he served his country as a sniper, racking up sixteen confirmed kills. Now a struggling author, Jack accepts an offer to write a near-future novel about a serial killer, based on a Hollywood script outline. It’s an opportunity to build his writing career, and a future with his girlfriend, Kit Majors.

But Jack’s other talent is also in demand. A package arrives on his doorstep containing a sniper rifle, complete with silencer and ammunition—and the first installment of a $100,000 payment to kill a “bad man.” The twisted offer is genuine. The people behind it are dangerous. They prove that they have Jack under surveillance. He can’t run. He can’t hide. And if he doesn’t take the job, Kit will be in the crosshairs instead.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier (Strange Chemistry, Hardcover 02/04/2014) – Neumeier may be best known for The Griffin Mage Trilogy published with Orbit a couple of years ago, or for a few other young adult novels.

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

Friday, December 06, 2013

SFFWorld/SF Signal Weekly-ish Wrap Up: David Anthony Durham and Elizabeth Moon

Earlier this week, Tuesday to be specific, I posted my first review to SFFWorld in a few weeks, David Anthony Durham's The Other Lands. This is the second installment of his superb Acacia Trilogy and after finishing the third and final book recently, stands quite high in my echelon of Fantasy series. A prologue illustrates the horrors of the Quota – the pogrom in which children are stolen and used either as slaves and/or their life force is sapped to power the boats, machines, and indeed the lives of the Lothan Aklun, one of the nations in the world. This prologue shows a glimpse of the despair and horrors of slave life and how in an instant, a brother and sister can be torn apart.


In each of the first two novels in this series, the incoming leader has goals of ridding the world of the Quota, of slaves, before ascending the throne. A throne, mind you, that both times was gained through violence and the death of the previous throne’s sitter. Hanish Mein wanted to abolish the Quota, but realized how powerful a tool it was to making the world turn. Removing such a foundation proves more difficult than idealistic minds anticipate. Haunting the novel is the specter of Aliver, Corinn’s older brother who was the rightful king of Acacia. His proclamation to rid the Known World of slavery and the mist (an addictive drug used by the ruling class to keep the great unwashed populace in check) is seen by his now ruling sister as a childish dream. While the mist’s hold over the populace was broken thanks to the sorcerous events of the first novel, the Quota is still an unchangeable thing. Corinn seems to embrace the Quota and goes to great lengths to create a new tool to control the populace in the same fashion the mist was used in the past. Rather than an addictive mist, she charges her alchemists to create a wine – the Vintage – which will bring all the people who consume it fully under her sway.

Over at SF Signal, my latest completest column is up and features the seminal Military Fantasy trilogy by Elizabeth Moon - The Deed of Paksenarrion. One of the strongest elements of this trilogy was how that Moon chose to tell the story of Paks, not as the Hidden Heir Chosen to Rule, but rather she who finds the Hidden Heir Chosen to Rule. I liked nearly everything about the three books contained in the big grey/blue book published by Baen. What’s more impressive is that these three books are the first three published by Elizabeth Moon. I think she developed the character of Paks very well throughout the novels and the world came across as quite real, especially because of the solid and believable groundwork she laid down in the first novel Sheepfarmer’s Daughter. If you want readers to believe in the fantastic elements (elves, magic, etc.) the real elements must be authentic and true, it seems Elizabeth Moon takes that statement to heart. I’ve also seen the criticism leveled ad Paks that she’s too perfect, but a lot of her gains and successes are through hard-earned work and some suffering, she gives up part of herself in service to her goals and what she hopes to achieve, especially by trilogy’s end so it isn’t as if she just picks up a magical sword and becomes the greatest sword-wielder the world has ever seen.

Also at SFFWorld, Mark reviewed the latest massive tome edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, The Time Traveler's Almanac.
It is difficult to summarize such a tome, and it would perhaps be wrong of me to try. However, like the previous Vandermeer collection, I found old personal favourites (Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, Asimov, Kuttner and Moore, Connie Willis) as well as ones totally new to me (Vandana Singh, Dean Francis Alfar, Rosaleen Love, Karen Haber, Rjurik Davidson). I found stories from authors I liked, but hadn’t read (George RR Martin, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kim Newman, Eric Frank Russell) and stories I know others will like but left me cold (Ursula K leGuin, Adam Roberts). There are some old ones (Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock that went Backward, 1881, regarded here as one of the earliest time-travel tales, Max Beerbohn’s Enoch Soames, 1916, EF Benson’s In the Tube 1923), and some relatively new ones (John Chu’s Thirty Seconds from Now, 2011, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Mouse Ran Down, 2012). There were some that I forgot nearly as soon as I had finished reading them, even some I disliked. But that is the nature of such an eclectic assemblage: if you don’t like one, there’ll be another along in a minute that you probably will.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-11-30)

Since last week was Thanksgiving week, it was a rather slow week here at the home of the 'O Stuff. Just one review book arrived this week on my kindle.

Shadow OPS: Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 01/28/2014) – Myke’s two Shadow OPS novels Control Point and Fortress Frontier are some of my favorite books published in the last couple of years. This one brings the connected trilogy to a close.

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil.