Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Round-Up of SFFWorld reviews: de Pierres, Bach, and Abercrombie

Here's a collection of SFF linkery I (or my various internet genre colleagues) have posted this week.

Tuesday, Mark Chitty posted his review of a book I enjoyed earlier in the year (my review for, Marianne de Pierres's Peacemaker:

My first impression of Peacemaker was, quite simply, cool. The setting – a Wild West style landscape set in the future – cried out to me as somewhere that could tell some very interesting stories. While the sci-fi side of the coin is perhaps not quite as prevalent as I would have hoped, it really didn’t matter. There were touches here and there to remind you that this was the future, but it was the western elements that really enriched the story.
There are also mystic elements to Peacemaker, particularly in Virgin’s spirit pet, Aquila. When she turns up it sets many aspects of the story into motion, and Virgin’s understanding of why and how she is there is never firm. Something that is clear from the outset is that Sixkiller is a font of knowledge, but he rarely offers opinions, and Virgin doesn’t trust him to delve and ask questions

On Wednesday, my review of Heaven's Queen, the concluding (for now, I hope) volume of Rachel Bach's highly charged space-opera series Paradox:

Rachel Bach has crafted a stable foundation over two books in the Paradox series and has left readers like myself hoping for a payoff that both works with that foundation, but also surprises. When we last left Devi, she was an outlaw, having run off from her mercenary group with just her former lover Rupert Charkov by her side. Their relationship is not quite what it once was, Devi now knowing that Rupert wasn’t all that he said he was, she (understandably) finds it difficult to fully trust him at first.. More importantly, he was withholding some very important information from her. This adds more tension to their already strained relationship, but through everything that has affected the two lovers, their true feelings for each other is the core strength of their relationship. Devi, despite her anger and frustration, can’t bury her feelings for Rupert. On the other hand, Rupert continually admits his devotion to her, and almost puppy-dog like fashion.
Perhaps what I appreciated most was the candor of the dialogue between Brian Caldswell and Devi leading up to the climax of the novel. Their conversations came across as a fairly level-headed disagreement between two characters who both felt extremely passionate about their opposing viewpoints. Both characters even acknowledged the validity of the other’s argument.

Today, Mark Yon (aka Hobbit) posted a review of Half a King,  Joe Abercrombie's foray into "young adult" or books for younger readers, or whatever you call books that are less squelchy and cursey than his usual fare:

...a Viking-esque, young adult tale that is less gory, less sweary and yet all the more enjoyable for it. It has an Abercrombie tone, it must be said, although I’m still trying to work out what exactly I mean by that, but the writing is as tight and as dexterous as ever.
The forty chapters, generally no more than half a dozen pages each, give the novel an episodic format, but not too fragmented. The characters and their values are identifiable, and, for the most part, likeable.
Our hero, Prince Yarvi, is an outsider, initially put into a position unwanted and yet necessary by circumstances outside his control. Against opposition, he must prove his worth and show that he is capable of dealing with the many problems brought to him. ‘A king must lead’, it is pointed out early in the book.
The twist in the story is that he must do this all the while with a physical disability – he is ‘Half a King’ because he has only one fully formed and functional hand. Consequently seen by many, including his father, as a weakling, (and to my mind rather like Miles Vorkosigan before him), Yarvi has personal demons and practical issues to deal with as well as his unwanted new commitments.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-05-25)

Just three books this week, one of which is going to be read sooner rather than later...

Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Hardcover 06/17/2014) – The boys have done quite well with these book, to say the least. I loved the first three and listed this one as a book I couldn’t wait to read when I was on the SF Signal podcast back in February. This is the physical hardcover of the eArc I received last week. The series has ‘graduated’ from trade paperback to hardcover.


"An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave."

The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.

James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.

The Merchant Emperor (The Symphony of Ages #7) by Elizabeth Haydon (Tor Trade Paperback 06/03/2014) – I read the first three books in this series years ago when they first published (Rhapsody, Prophecy, and Destiny) and remember enjoying them at the time

The long awaited seventh book in Elizabeth Haydon’s critically-acclaimed epic fantasy series, the Symphony of Ages.

The war that they had feared is now upon them. Ashe and Rhapsody, leaders of the Cymrian Alliance, are gathering their allies to combat the machinations of Talquist, who will soon be crowned emperor of Sorbold. Gwydion Navarne remains by Ashe’s side. Anborn, Lord Marshal, has taken to the field. And Rhapsody has been forced into hiding to protect the life of her infant son.

The Merchant Emperor of Sorbold has unintentionally allied himself with a pair of demons and has begun targeting the dragons that remain on the Middle Continent. Talquist will stop at nothing until the Cymrians are wiped out and the entire continent and the rest of the Known World is under his rule. 

Assailed by danger from all sides, surrounded by lies and intrigue, Rhapsody is left with one undeniable truth: if their forces are to prevail, she must join the war herself, wielding the Daystar Clarion, an ancient weapon whose power is nearly unparalleled. As she struggles to reconcile her duties as a mother and ruler, a danger far more devastating than Talquist is stirring beneath the surface of the land itself.

In The Merchant Emperor, beloved characters are forced to make soul shattering sacrifices. Bestselling author Elizabeth Haydon has delivered a breathtaking seventh installment to the Symphony of Ages.

Nihal from the Land of the Wind (Chronicles of the World Emerged #1) by Licia Troisi (Open Road Integrated Media Trade Paperback 06/10/2014) – Open Road Media has been reissuing quite a few genre classics, but this is a bit of a change for them…a translation of a popular work from outside of the United States into English.

An international bestseller from an extraordinary storyteller-get ready for Nihal and her world

Nihal lives in one of the many towers of the Land of the Wind. There is nobody like her in the Overworld: big violet eyes, pointed ears, and blue hair. She is an expert in swordplay and the leader of a handful of friends that includes Sennar the wizard. She has no parents; brought up by an armorer and a sorceress, Nihal seems to be from nowhere.

Things suddenly change when the Tyrant takes charge. Nihal finds herself forced to take action when she is faced with the most difficult mission a girl her age could imagine.

Fierce, strong, and armed with her black crystal sword, Nihal sets out to become a real warrior. Readers will be riveted as she forges her powerful path of resistance.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday SFFWorld and SFSignal Round-up: Boyett, McClellan, Bywater, Hines plus more!

Here's my semi-regular round-up of reviews and assorted linkery from the past week or so.  Last week, my Completist column for SF Signal went live, this time featuring a two-book series that might be considered cult favorites, The Change books by Stephen R. Boyett:

In the Changed world of the novel, no creature is more magical than a unicorn and nothing holds as much magical power as the horn of a unicorn. It is for this reason that Pete and Ariel must constantly be on guard and aware of their surroundings even more than usual in this dangerous new world. When they come int the area of Atlanta, this danger confronts them head-on as an imposing man on a Griffin who, on behalf of a powerful Necromancer in New York, demands Ariel’s horn. Fortunately, Pete had recently befriended a warrior named Malachai Lee who helps to fend off the Griffin and its rider. Malachai is a sword master of the newly changed world and takes Pete under his wing. With the real threat of a bounty on Ariel, Malachai sets out for New York to confront the Necromancer, demanding Pete and Ariel not follow him.
Even though Elegy Beach and Ariel are told in the same type of narrative voice, Fred is a much different narrator than his father. That said, Boyett’s voice in Ariel was crisp and honest, and much the same can be found here. The framework of the two novels is similar; both are essentially quest fantasies wherein the heroes must travel to the enemy’s stronghold and bring him down to save the world.

This week, I posted a new review to SFFWorld for the first time in a few weeks. The book under review? The Crimson Campaign, the second installment of Brian McClellan's Powder Mage Trilogy, which is evolving into a premier Epic/Military Fantasy series.

War is still raging between the Adro and Kez, caught in the middle are Tamas, Admat, Taniel Two-Shot and one-time seamstress Nila, among others. The Crimson Campaign is the second installment of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage Trilogy and as excellent a debut as was A Promise in Blood, he elevated his game with this second novel.
Where A Promise of Blood gave a broad stroke of the military, The Crimson Campaign delves much more into the importance of stability in the military. McClellan also shows how short-sighted leadership can cost a great deal in the long run. Although the gods are a part of the story, these gods are backdrop and merely a part of the story rather than the complete focus. People in the story don’t universally believe the gods have returned, despite a few of them (Taniel, Tamas, Ka-Poel) conversing with the Gods. Rather, they are just one more complication in the larger global conflict; the gods are not the be-all end-all of the story. As such, one can consider The Crimson Campaign a slide from Epic Fantasy along lines of his mentor Brandon Sanderson and into a story more grounded as a Military Fantasy, with a stronger resonance to Glen Cook’s landmark Black Company novels as the story has progressed through two volumes and there’s still a vibe of Abercrombie in the feel of the story at times. These are all good things.

Also at SFFWorld is a review from Mark Yon of Stephen Bywater's debut novel The Devil's Ark:

Set mainly in the 1920’s, the story tells of Harry Ward, a photographer working in Iraq/Mesopotamia. Still affected by his fighting and his injuries there in The Great War, he takes on what should be a relatively simple job – to take photographs of an archaeological dig just outside Mosul.


Whilst the plot may not be particularly new, The Devil’s Ark is a great fun read. Sometimes you can be happy knowing what sort of thing to expect in a read and here in The Devil’s Ark the reader is not disappointed. Like a good Hammer Horror movie or a Weird Tales magazine story, the fun here is not in the actual events as they happen but in the telling.

This is a good debut. Stephen manages to set up the tale well, evoking images of an ancient Empire, lying redolent in desert heat, whilst an even older evil is awakened.

Some great podcasts have dropped this week, too:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Godzilla (2014) - A Fan's "Review"

In my last post, I provided a snapshot into my relationship with Godzilla (though I forgot to mention that one of the most vivid dreams I remember from when I was a young kid involved Godzilla, him destroying things and me yelling at him and slapping his nose as if he was a bad dog) leading up to the 2014 movie which just released this past weekend. Again, that was just a small snapshot.

Now I’ll talk about the movie itself so be warned this post has a wealth of spoilers.  Again, keep in mind that there may not be a lot of objectivity in this based on my fan historical from yesterday.

This movie is everything I hoped to see in an American Godzilla movie since learning about a potential American Godzilla movie in 1994 where he was set to fight something called the Gryphon. The credits roll over “footage” of atomic tests with the final bomb shot into the ocean were familiar looking jagged spikes are moving along the surface. Cut to 1999 where Ishiro Serizawa* (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) two scientists climb into a cave which turns out to be the bones and innards of a giant deceased creature when they learn something hatched and crossed the ocean from the Philippines to Japan. The other “spore” was sent to Nevada to be stored in the Nuclear Waste Repository. But before we truly get to the monsters, we learn about the people most profoundly affected by those monsters.

*a descendant of the Dr. Serizawa from the original 1954 film

Bryan Cranston and Juliet Binoche play husband and wife Joa and Sandra Brody scientists stationed in Japan, working a nuclear power plant. The two head to work as their son Ford heads to school. Little did Ford know that day, which also happened to be Dad’s birthday, would be the last day he saw mom. Mom was sent to investigate the leak, and was trapped during the catastrophe.

The thing which hatched caused an earthquake as it burrowed under the power plant consuming the energy, which eventually collapsed the power plant. Fast-forward fifteen years later, Ford Brody is a Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) who has just returned from duty to his wife Elle and son Sam when the phone rings. His father, Joe was arrested in Japan and is thought to be something of a whack-job. Joe leaves that night to get Dad, who is still obsessed with the mystery surrounding the collapse of the Nuclear Power plant, because he knows it wasn’t an earthquake and has not gotten over the death of his wife. However, the seismic activity he registered prior to the collapse is happening again, so he and son head to their old home which is a quarantined zone due to the nuclear fallout from the collapse of the power plant. When they arrive, the air is clean as Joe takes off his helmet.

The Brodies are arrested and brought to the power plant where Joe once worked. Serizawa and Graham have set up shop and are observing a giant pulsating thing in the middle of the power plant. The thing eventually erupts and a creature emerges sucking in more energy before sprouting wings and flying away. This creature resembles the monster from Cloverfield, primarily because of its long, thin legs.

The M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) is an ancient creature, as we learn from Serizawa, which feeds off of radiation, but as radiation levels cooled across the globe ages ago, the creature went into a state of super-hibernation. However, the operation is taken over by the Navy and Dr. Serizawa says this creature is the prey of something much larger, an Apex Predator which was awoken in 1954, and subsequently, the nuclear tests publicized were actually attempts to kill the Apex Predator. Ford reveals his father was tracking echolocation anomalies and it is deduced that M.U.T.O. was communicating with something, which also drew the Apex Predator’s attention.

M.U.T.O. and the Naval forces arrive in Hawai’i where Godzilla also makes landfall. The two monsters have a brief scuffle, which is more or less in the background as people, including Ford who is on a monorail when M.U.T.O. arrives, struggle to survive. M.U.T.O. flies away, heading to the mainland US, where its signal is being sent. We eventually learn that a larger M.U.T.O., wingless, erupts in Nevada and it is deduced the two M.U.T.O.s will be mating as the female is the larger of the two in Nevada.

A military plan to draw the M.U.T.O. mating pair off the coast of California with the nuclear warhead is enacted because they can sense the power which feeds them. This will draw all three monsters together and kill three with one proverbial stone. Conversely, Serizawa thinks Godzilla is the only thing that can stop the M.U.T.O. as he is the super-predator.

The three monsters converge on San Francisco, where M.U.T.O.s engage in a kind of mating ritual, where we can see just how much larger the female is compared to the male. Godzilla can easily take one of these creatures, but is overwhelmed when they fight him in unison, which is what happens after the female lays her eggs and joins the fight. In the midst of the fight, Brody’s group of soldiers head to the nest to stop the nuclear bomb, when they realize the controls are broken so they must extract the bomb can be detonated off-shore. Ford lags behind, cracks open a gas tanker and lights up the nest destroying the eggs.

This draws the female away from Godzilla and the male M.U.T.O. and brings the female to where Ford is crawling away from the scene of the egg’s destruction Godzilla saves Ford by using his atomic breath for the first time, which is a great scene. Godzilla blows her away and to finally takes care of the male with his tail. This a move shows Godzilla as a smart fighter, learning quickly from his experience battling these monsters. Unfortunately, the move Godzilla used to take care of the male M.U.T.O. also collapses a building on Godzilla, knocking him out.

Ford finally gets to the boat with the nuclear bomb with his team, the female M.U.T.O. tracks them down leaving Ford as the only survivor who launches the boat with the bomb out to sea. As the female M.U.T.O. crouches down over Ford and the bomb, she stops. Godzilla has come back to claim his prey and the final battle between the two is spectacular. Unfortunately, Godzilla has been worn out by his battles with the two kaiju and collapses on the shore.

The next morning, San Francisco is in ruins, Ford finally reunites with his wife Elle and son Sam. Serizawa and Graham are at the site where Godzilla has collapsed, Serizawa sad because his great find is seemingly dead. Then, a giant eye opens, Godzilla “The King of the Monsters” lives and swims out to sea.

OK, so that’s what happened in the movie, here are some thoughts and reactions.

  • I thought the connection / retcon to the original film was smart. It worked very well in the same way J.J. Abrams launched the new Trek franchise. (That was perhaps the smartest thing Abrams did with those movies, actually). Making this a ‘sequel’ also works just like the Millennium era films are each sequels to the original film.
  • I like the M.U.T.O.s, which to me, are very much an updated, leveled-up and bad-ass version of Mothra. Insect like, a pair of them, fighting Godzilla together, but no twin fairies (thankfully) However, I’ve never found it plausible* that two giant grubs and a giant moth could beat Godzilla. Sure the design evokes the Cloverfield monster, but it still works for Godzilla's latest enemies.
    *plausible is a tricksy word when discussing a movie whose main thrust is two giant monsters fighting each other
  • The original Godzilla / Gojira was very much a parable showing the dangers of nuclear power. While that is still a theme here, there’s also the theme of man v. nature. These creatures are ancient forces of nature and humanity has no chance in the face of that as Serizawa points out at one point in the film.
  • I like that Godzilla was once again the ‘hero’ since he was a villain or threat in the the Heisei series /era  I think his surfacing in the US points to this:
    • When Godzilla emerges in San Francisco Bay at the Golden Gate Bridge, there are a lot of kids and civilians on the bridge. The military was being all willy-nilly firing all over the place trying to stop Godzilla. At least one time (and probably more) Godzilla happened to be in a spot to block the munitions from connecting with the bridge where a bus full of kids was stationary, including Elle and Ford’s son Sam.
    • Another instance it seemed like Godzilla may have been holding up the bridge which allowed the bus full of children to cross safely.
    • Whether Godzilla had intent to save kids and people at this point could be up for conjecture, but the fact of the film remains, he saved some kids in a more personal manner than simply fighting the other monsters and in doing so saved, people wholesale.
  • Often in these types of films (disaster films, science fictional apocalyptic films, etc.), the military is depicted as strong-headed and for lack of a better term, a bunch of unwavering jerks. Not so here. While David Strathairn’s character did indeed have a presence of power and strong will, he was cooperative and willing to listen to Serizawa.
  • I really like the design of Godzilla in this film. Over the years, Godzilla has had many different designs, even if the differences were slight (larger eyes, more spikes, taller, etc). For me, there was always something vaguely dog-like in the design of his head. Godzilla here is heftier and his head is more blocky, but it works very well, especially when he roars.
  • That roar is not quite the classic roar for Godzilla, but it is close enough and powerful enough that the difference from the classic is no problem for me. I particularly like how his roar ends in a bit of a growl. Again, the similarity to dogs comes to mind for me because the snarly-growl at the end isn’t too far off from the noises my own dog makes.*
    *I think part of the appeal and reason why we like Godzilla is this aspect – that slight resemblance to a dog, something familiar with which people bond.
  • I loved how Godzilla's Atomic Breath was shown, used, and highlighted in the film. It felt like a last ditch effort when Godzilla was fighting and boy was it powerful.  From the hints of Godzilla's tail glowing to the eruption of that first Breath it was great.
  • I’ve seen some complaints that there isn’t enough Godzilla in this movie. While I can understand that line of thinking, I can’t agree with it. The first 40 minutes to hour of the movie establish the world and the characters so we can care about them. (Granted Aaron Taylor-Johnston’s performance was a bit stiff). We saw the M.U.T.O. creatures before Godzilla, which to my logic makes sense. For the most part, we know what Godzilla looks like. We know what he can do (1998 notwithstanding) so getting to know the scope of the other monsters worked for me.
  • The theater where I took my mom to see it wasn’t fully packed, it was an afternoon showing on a beautiful Saturday, but there were a good chunk of people in the theater. One of the largest group was a group of about a dozen 10 and 11 year-olds.. They were cheering at the right spots and seemed to be enjoying it. I pumped my fist and cheered when Godzilla used his atomic breath, so I was a 12 year old boy, too.
  • My mom loved it, which is as much a seal of Godzilla approval for me as anything else

In the end, this is pretty much what I want to see in a Godzilla movie, and that in a nutshell sums it all up.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla 2014 … A Preamble

I am and have been a big fan of Godzilla in specific, and Kaiju in general, for as long as I can remember. I recall when I was young boy that the NY stations WWOR (Channel 9) and/or WPIX (Channel 11) would run Godzilla marathons (usually three Godzilla movies in a row) on the Friday after Thanksgiving and I looked forward to that more than Turkey Day itself. Occasionally, one of the NY stations would have themed movie weeks and I was always excited when Godzilla and Gamera movies would be featured, or the Saturday movie marathons would feature these giant beasts fighting each other.

This passion and love for Godzilla was kindled by my mother who introduced me to Godzilla when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and a lifelong fascination with Gojira was in full effect. One Christmas (or birthday), I was given perhaps the coolest toy I ever received* - th Shogun Warrior Godzilla toy, which “breathed fire” and shot its fist, with a punch of a button in the toy’s elbow. I think that was a feature of the toy line because Godzilla never did that in any of the movies.

*Maybe the Pit, the G.I. JOE base might come close

Fast forward to college in the nascent days of the Internet (early-mid 1990s) and hanging out in the University Libraries browsing the web on the old Netscape Navigator I searched for what else, Godzilla. This is when I learned that more Godzllla movies beyond Godzilla 1985 (as it was known here in the States) were made and released. One of the better informed and most detailed Web sites at that time was Barry’s Temple of Godzilla. It was around this time I learned of a potential American Godzilla film featuring a creature called The Gryphon. I could swear I saw the teaser trailer in theaters, too. Sadly (perhaps fortunately in hindsight), this film never happened. What we got in 1998 was much, much, much worse. In many ways, Godzilla was my introduction to Science Fiction, in a perhaps a smaller way, Godzilla was my introduction to fandom.

Meanwhile, there were two Flea Markets in NJ (Route 18 flea market in East Brunswick and the US 1 Flea Market in New Brunswick which was featured in the film Mallrats) where I remembered seeing some Godzilla toys when I was younger. Visiting these markets again around the time I learned of the continuing Godzilla franchise, I found a store where imports of these movies were sold. The quality was not the greatest and all of the movies was subtitled, but these were still new Godzilla movies: Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, the films that came to be part The Heisei series/era, which ended with Godzilla vs. Destroyah. These movies are separate from the films that were produced in the 1960s and 1970s, but do form a continuity with each other.  

Then 1998 happened and a collective wail of anger could be heard in the hearts and souls of all Godzilla fans.

Moving on.

However, a couple of years later, Toho re-launched the franchise with what was known in the US as Godzilla 2000. This was a fun movie I saw in the theaters and most importantly unlike that more recent mis-step, Godzilla fought a new monster. The movies in that series, which came to be known as The Millennium era/series, took still a different approach with most of the movies being unrelated with the exception of being sequels / continuations of the original 1954 Godzilla. What I’ve seen of these movies randomly on cable have been god.

This leads us to Legendary Films announcing, in 2010, acquisition of the rights to Godzilla. Fans were still understandably nervous having the 1998 G.I.N.O. film on their minds (and replayed on cable far too often because just once would be too often). 

 When Gareth Edwards, director of the independent film Monsters was announced cautious optimism soon replaced nervousness. Anybody who has seen this film knows Edwards has good fiilmmaking skills. If you haven't seen it, I highly, highly recommend it. Then casting began, with Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe as major stars who would appear in the movie, Heisenberg v. Godzilla soon became a rallying cry. For if one of the most talented American actors today would be in this Godzilla film, surely we can hope.

The latest American Godzilla film was set to release on May 16, which happens to be my mother’s birthday. What better gift than to take my mom to see Godzilla (because frankly, both my father and my wife don’t quite share the same enthusiasm for Godzilla which goes to show nobody is perfect).

Since this post is getting quite lengthy and I've barely discussed the latest American Godzilla movie, I'll hold off on that for another post, soon to follow. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-05-17)

Fiefdom (A Kingdom Novel) by Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent (Abaddon Books Paperback 07/08/2014) – This one takes a story begun in comic book format and spins into a prose novel. Genetic engineering, post apocalypse and military SF come together in this tale.

New York Times best selling author Dan Abnett is to write an original novel set in the world of his hit comics series Kingdom for legendary British comic book 2000 AD. Co-written with Nik Vincent, Fiefdom is set one hundred years after the events of Kingdom, in which a genetically engineered dog-soldiers fought giant marauding insects in a post-apocalyptic future.

The last of humanity has taken refuge in hibernation at the poles, hiding from the giant invading insects that have conquered the Earth. Defending these outposts against bug attacks are genetically engineered dog soldiers, loyal and unquestioning to the Masters' voices in their heads. At least they were, but things have changed on the Earth. The Masters voices have gone and a new peace has arrived in the northern hemisphere. The legend of a masterless rogue soldier from the distant South has spread, and in the new Fiefdoms of old Germany something very dangerous is about to happen.

In a not-too-distant future, amongst ruins in the the ancient city of Berlin the Aux's live in clans, fighting amongst themselves. Their ancient enemey, Them - giant marauding insects, are a folk memory. Young Evelyn War however will be the first to realise that this quiet is not what it seems, that the Auxs themselves, having been bred for hand-hand combat in a war long-thought to be over, and now idling violently in peace in the subways and collapsing buildings Europe, must set aside their petty hostilities if they are to face the battle to come. Evelyn is the only one to see the oncoming storm, but the clan leaders and her elders do not believe her warnings, and time is running short.

Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Hardcover 06/17/2014) – The 'upgrade' to hardcover indicates the boys known as Jimmy Corey have done quite well with these book, to say the least. I loved the first three and listed this one as a book I couldn’t wait to read when I was on the SF Signal podcast back in February.


"An empty apartment, a missing family, that's creepy. But this is like finding a military base with no one on it. Fighters and tanks idling on the runway with no drivers. This is bad juju. Something wrong happened here. What you should do is tell everyone to leave."

The gates have opened the way to a thousand new worlds and the rush to colonize has begun. Settlers looking for a new life stream out from humanity's home planets. Ilus, the first human colony on this vast new frontier, is being born in blood and fire.

Independent settlers stand against the overwhelming power of a corporate colony ship with only their determination, courage, and the skills learned in the long wars of home. Innocent scientists are slaughtered as they try to survey a new and alien world. The struggle on Ilus threatens to spread all the way back to Earth.

James Holden and the crew of his one small ship are sent to make peace in the midst of war and sense in the midst of chaos. But the more he looks at it, the more Holden thinks the mission was meant to fail.

And the whispers of a dead man remind him that the great galactic civilization that once stood on this land is gone. And that something killed it.

Two Serpents Rise (Craft Sequence #2) by Max Gladstone (Tor Trade Paperback 05/06/2014) – Second installment in Gladstone’s fantasy/legal thriller hybrid sequence and I see nothing but good things about these books. I now have all three and thanks to Max for sending me this one signed!.

In Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, Crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him. 

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father—the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists—has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire...and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga #1) by Kameron Hurley (Angry Robots, Trade Paperback 09/02/2014) – When this book was announced in January, the books’s ranking in my want-to-read list steadily rose. I read and enjoyed God’s War and have been following the author on twitter for some time. She’s one of the best young voices in the genre today. Also, just look at that stunning cover.

From the award-winning author of God’s War comes a stunning new series…

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

File Under: Science Fiction

Cyador’s Heirs (The Saga of Recluce #17) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor Hardcover 05/20/2014) – I read and enjoyed (a lot more than I expected, the 20th Anniversary of the first in the series last year so I’ve got just a wee bit of catching up to do.

Cyador's Heirs -- the new novel in L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s New York Times bestselling Saga of Recluce.

Decades after the fall of Cyador, its survivors have reestablished themselves in Cigoerne, a fertile country coveted by hostile neighbors in less hospitable lands. Young Lerial, the second son of Duke Kiedron, lives in the shadow of his older brother Lephi, the heir to their father's realm. Lerial’s future seems preordained: He will one day command his brother’s forces in defense of Cigoerne, serving at his older sibling’s pleasure, and no more.

But when Lerial is sent abroad to be fostered by Major Altyrn to learn the skills and wisdom he will need to fulfill his future duties, he begins a journey into a much larger world that brings out his true potential. Lerial has talents that few, as yet, suspect: He is one of those rare beings who can harness both Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape the world and define the magic that exists within it. And as war finally engulfs the fringes of Cigoerne, Lerial’s growing mastery of Order and Chaos is tested to its limits, and his own.

Exoprachia by Peter Watts (Tor Hardcover 08/24/2014) – Sequel to Watt’s highly popular Blindsight, which Mark reviewed back in 2006.

Prepare for a different kind of singularity in Peter Watts' Echopraxia, the follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight 

It's the eve of the twenty-second century: a world where the dearly departed send postcards back from Heaven and evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline humans and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off self-awareness during combat. And it’s all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself.

Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat's-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he’s turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out. 

Now he’s trapped on a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son. To his right is a pilot who hasn’t yet found the man she's sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call “The Angels of the Asteroids.”

Their pilgrimage brings Dan Bruks, the fossil man, face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review Round-up: Tad from Me, Powell and Brown from Mark C

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted one of these, partially because I haven't posted a new review to SFFWorld in a few weeks and partially because work has been quite busy.  I'm not limiting this round-up to just my reviews, but I will lead with one of my reviews. This review went up last week and is the first proper review I did for SF Signal. I don't normally gravitate to collections and anthologies, but when a retrospective collection of one my favorite authors is published, chances are I'll read it. Such is the case with The Very Best of Tad Williams from Tachyon Publications:

The second story, “The Storm Door” was very moody and gives a hint of what one might expect in the author’s Bobby Dollar books. The story is something of a mash-up of a private eye story and zombie story, melded together in a nearly perfect horrific execution. The story offers up a slightly different take on the zombie mythos that has a bit in common with alien take-over stories. The dread snuck up on me and left me feeling the same way the best episodes of The Twilight Zone do.
The end world ends not quite as expected in “Not with a Whimper, Either.” The story is told as a text/internet conversation between some younger folk when bad things happen. Those things being the network hiccupping, lights flickering on and off, and an emergency address from the president to assure the world all is OK. Well, when something enters the internet discussion with the kids announcing itself as Moderator, things aren’t OK. It took a bit for me to fully slide into the structure of this one, but that structure helped to make this a top-notch story and helped to make it feel more plausible and immediate.

Our newest reviewer at SFFWorld, Mark Chitty is no stranger to reviews and he posted two solid reviews over the last week.  Mark was intrigued by the British Fantasy Award Winning Ack-Ack Macaque so decided to dive into it (and frankly I want to read it now, too):

I’ll be honest and say that when this was announced as Powell’s next novel I wasn’t overly thrilled. The synopsis suggested an alternate history/future novel that mashes itself with various other genres to deliver the story, and I really didn’t think it would be my cup of tea. Following the BSFA announcement I picked up the novel to browse, interested to find out a little more about it, but ended up a quarter of the way through before I realised – and the story had so much more to offer than I initially expected.
While it seems that there is a lot going on in Ack-Ack Macaque, it’s surprising how it all fits together so smoothly, and works so well. Powell has created a world that is believable, with the world-building taking place as part of the narrative so not give any needless info-dumps. There are the odd sections presented as news reports to give some backstory or other pieces of information, but it isn’t out of place. In fact, the whole structure of the novel works in its favour, not dragging anything out, yet also not dwelling needlessly on small and irrelevant details for extended periods.

Like me, (and to an even greater degree), Mark is a fan of Eric Brown and had a look at Brown's new novella Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV (Telemass Quartet #1), which is set in a future milieu he's visited often in the past.

Matt Hendrick is a former detective from Earth, now chasing his daughter who has been taken by his ex-wife and her lover. This quest leads him to Avoeli, a planet in the Fomalhaut system. Originally settled by Madagascan natives, the settlers now share the planet with its native alien species. When Tiana Tandra makes his acquaintance and mentions her lover has gone missing, Matt looks further into the situation and realises that there are strange events occurring on Avoeli
Famadihana on Fomalhaut IV is a typical Eric Brown story. For those that have read his work in the past this needs no explanation, but for those that haven’t… well, where to start? Brown tells a compelling tale in a rich and vivid setting, focusing on character and motivations more than worldbuilding. This isn’t to say that he skimps on that aspect, but with a limited page count he balances it all nicely

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-05-10)

Only a few books arrived this week. Considering the large stack which arrived last week, that isn't such a bad thing.

The Remaining (Volume 1 of The Remaining) by DJ Molles (Orbit, Paperback 05/27/2014) – Another in line of Orbit’s self-published acquisitions. This one looks at the Zombie Apocalypse v from through the lens of Military Science Fiction. The copy which arrived is the finished as-it-will-appear-on shelves version of the eArc I received a couple of months back.

In a steel-and-lead-encased bunker 20 feet below the basement level of his house, a Special Forces soldier waits for his final orders. On the surface, a plague ravages the planet, infecting over 90% of the populace.

The bacterium burrows through the brain, destroying all signs of humanity and leaving behind little more than base, prehistoric instincts. The infected turn into hyper-aggressive predators, with an insatiable desire to kill and feed.

Soon the soldier will have to open the hatch to his bunker, and step out into this new wasteland, to complete his duty: SURVIVE, RESCUE, REBUILD.

This gritty tale of survival and perseverance will enthrall fans of World War Z and The Walking Dead.

Tower Lord (Raven’s Shadow Book Two) by Anthony Ryan (Ace Hardcover 07/02/2013) – Second novel in Anthony’s series, the first of which was his debut Blood Song which blew me away last year..

“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”

Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more.

Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm. But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do.

The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

My Real Children by Jo Walton (Tor Hardcover 05/14/2014) – A new Jo Walton is a good thing. I loved Among Others
, and there’s already talk of this one being short-listed for awards.

It’s 2015, and Patricia Cowan is very old. “Confused today,” read the notes clipped to the end of her bed. She forgets things she should know—what year it is, major events in the lives of her children. But she remembers things that don't seem possible. She remembers marrying Mark and having four children. And she remembers not marrying Mark and raising three children with Bee instead. She remembers the bomb that killed President Kennedy in 1963, and she remembers Kennedy in 1964, declining to run again after the nuclear exchange that took out Miami and Kiev.

Her childhood, her years at Oxford during the Second World War—those were solid things. But after that, did she marry Mark or not? Did her friends all call her Trish, or Pat? Had she been a housewife who escaped a terrible marriage after her children were grown, or a successful travel writer with homes in Britain and Italy? And the moon outside her window: does it host a benign research station, or a command post bristling with nuclear missiles?

Two lives, two worlds, two versions of modern history; each with their loves and losses, their sorrows and triumphs. Jo Walton's My Real Children is the tale of both of Patricia Cowan’s lives...and of how every life means the entire world.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-05-03)

This week's books could be categorized by the "Twitter stream batch" considering I follow and have interacted with a bunch of these authors on Twitter. 10 of these books arrived on Thursday (05/01/2014) which I **think** might the most I've received on one day.  The problem with all of these books, I really, REALLY want to read (just about) all of them RIGHT NOW.

Heaven's Queen (Volume 3 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 04/22/2014) – I recently finished the second book (Honor’s Knight) in the thrilling Space Opera / Military Science Ficiton / Urban Fantasy hybrid and this series is turning into an absolute blast. My review of Fortune’s Pawn. This here’s the physical version of the eArch I received in February.

From the moment she took a job on Captain Caldswell's doomed ship, Devi Morris' life has been one disaster after another: government conspiracies, two alien races out for her blood, an incurable virus that's eating her alive.

Now, with the captain missing and everyone -- even her own government -- determined to hunt her down, things are going from bad to impossible. The sensible plan would be to hide and wait for things to blow over, but Devi's never been one to shy from a fight, and she's getting mighty sick of running.

It's time to put this crisis on her terms and do what she knows is right. But with all human life hanging on her actions, the price of taking a stand might be more than she can pay.

Dust and Light (A Sanctuary Novel #1) by Carol Berg (Roc, Trade Paperback 08/05/2014) – Berg has been on my radar for a couple of years, even more so over the past year as a few SFFWorld forum members whose opinion I trust (Erfael, NickeeCoco, and suciul specifically) have recently been raving about her work. This book looks like it is friendly to readers who haven’t read her previous books, which is just what I need.

National bestselling author Carol Berg returns to the world of her award-winning Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone with an all-new tale of magic, mystery, and corruption....

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her....After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe.

The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous....

Thief’s Magic (Book 1 of The Millennium’s Rule Trilogy) by Trudi Canavan (Orbit, Hardcover 05/13/2014) – Canavan has sold more than 2 million of copies of her books. This latest seems an interesting magic-punk series, with magic powering machines. This might be an interesting book to give her a try. This is the final/finished copy of the ARC I received in March.

In a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces

Elsewhere, in a land ruled by the priests, Rielle the dyer’s daughter has been taught that to use magic is to steal from the Angels. Yet she knows she has a talent for it, and that there is a corrupter in the city willing to teach her how to use it – should she dare to risk the Angels’ wrath

But not everything is as Tyen and Rielle have been raised to believe. Not the nature of magic, nor the laws of their lands

Not even the people they trust

Among Thieves (Book One of Tales of the Kin) by Douglas Hulick (Roc Mass Market Paperback 04/01/2011) – This author’s work has piqued my interest based on the opinions of folks I trust (Mark at SFFWorld; Loerwyn/Katherine and Justin) so I’ll be getting to this sooner rather than later, I think. Here’s an excerpt

Death around the corner …

Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighborhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss’s organization—while smuggling relics on the side.

But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization’s people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There’s a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for—a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld.

A book now inconveniently in Drothe’s hands…

Sworn in Steel (Book Two of Tales of the Kin) by Douglas Hulick (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/06/2014) – Sequel to the above, which according to Justin is even better than Doug’s debut. Here’s an excerpt

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and found himself unexpectedly elevated into the ranks of the criminal elite. As the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s not only gained friends, but also rivals — and some of them aren’t bothered by his newfound title. A prince’s blood, as the saying goes, is just as red as a beggar’s.

So when another Gray Prince is murdered and all signs point to Drothe as the hand behind the knife, he knows it’s his blood that’s in danger. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides — mostly against him — Drothe is approached by a man who says he can make everything right again. All he wants in exchange is a favor.

Now Drothe finds himself traveling to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, looking for the friend he betrayed — and the only person who can get him out of this mess. And the grains of sand are running out fast….

Prince of Fools (Book One of The Red Queen’s War) by Mark Lawrence (Hardcover 06/03/2014 Ace) – I’m a big fan of Mark’s Broken Empire trilogy and so are the members of the SFFWorld forum. They voted the final novel in the trilogy, Emperor of Thorns as their favorite 2013 novel!

Hailed as “epic fantasy on a George R. R. Martin scale, but on speed” (Fixed on Fantasy), the Broken Empire trilogy introduced a bold new world of dark fantasy with the story of Jorg Ancrath’s devastating rise to power. Now, Mark Lawrence returns to the Broken Empire with the tale of a less ambitious prince.

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

Reigh of Ash (Book Two of The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga) by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit Books Trade Paperback 04/01/2014) – Second novel in GZ Martin’s current series.

Survival is only the beginning.

Blaine McFadden endured six long years in the brutal Velant prison colony, exiled for murder. War devastated his homeland of Donderath, and destroyed the magic on which the Ascendant Kingdoms relied. Now, Blaine and a small group of fellow exiles have returned to a lawless wasteland, where unrestrained magic storms wreak havoc and monsters roam free.

Yet, amidst the chaos, rumors persist of a new magic that could restore the kingdoms. But the key lies within a dangerous, ancient ritual and a group of vanished survivors. Now, McFadden’s only hope is a small, desperate, quickly rallied army. Together they must make one last stand knowing that if they fail, the civilization of the Ascendant Kingdoms dies with them.

The Crimson Campaign (Book Two of The Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan (Orbit Hardcover / eBook 05/06/2014) – Second book in the series, the first of which I thought was the best fantasy debut novel I read last year.

When invasion looms, but the threats are closer to home…Who will lead the charge?

Tamas’ invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might lead to more questions.

Tamas’ generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

The Thousand Names (Book One of The Shadow Campaigns) by Django Wexler (Roc Hardcover 07/02/2013) – Wexler’s debut continues the trend of Flintlock Fantasy being seen in epic fantasy of late. I've seen great things about this book over the course of the last year and now I'll finally get to reading it.

Enter an epic fantasy world that echoes with the thunder of muskets and the clang of steel — but where the real battle is against a subtle and sinister magic…

Captain Marcus d’Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire’s colonial garrisons, was resigned to serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost. But that was before a rebellion upended his life. And once the powder-smoke settled, he was left in charge of a demoralized force clinging tenuously to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees her promoted to command, she must win the hearts of her men, and lead them into battle against impossible odds.

But the fates of both of these soldiers, and all the men they lead, depend on the newly arrived Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, who has been sent by the ailing king to restore order. His military genius seems to know no bounds, and under his command, Marcus and Winter can feel the tide turning.

But their allegiance will be tested as they begin to suspect that the enigmatic Janus’s ambitions extend beyond the battlefield and into the realm of the supernatural — a realm with the power to ignite a meteoric rise, reshape the known world, and change the lives of everyone in its path.

The Shadow Throne (Book Two of The Shadow Campaigns) by Django Wexler (Roc Hardcover 07/01/2014) – Nearly exactly a year after Wexler’s debut published to much acclaim, he’s published two other things (the YA The Forbidden Library and the novella John Golden Freelance Debugger) and now the second book in his Flintlock Fantasy series.

Anyone can plot a coup or fire an assassin’s bullet. But in a world of muskets and magic, it takes considerably more to seize the throne.

The ailing King of the Vordan lies on his deathbed. When he dies, his daughter, Raesinia Orboan, will become the first Queen Regnant in centuries—and a ripe target for the ambitious men who seek to control her. The most dangerous of these is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information and master of the secret police. Having meticulously silenced his adversaries through intimidation, imprisonment, and execution, Orlanko is the most feared man in the kingdom.

And he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.

Exposure would mean ruin, but Raesinia is determined to find a way to break herself—and her country—out of Orlanko’s iron grip. She finds unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, fresh from a brilliant campaign in the colony of Khandar, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass.
As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could free Vordan from Orlanko’s influence—at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise.

Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood (47North Paperback/eBook 06/10/2014) – I would think many people who are jacked into the genre websphere know who Mike is, in addition to having written a nice handful of novels & stories, he’s also one of the overlords of Angry Robot. This looks like fun, classic sword and sorcery and boasts an incredible cover. Here’s an excerpt at I think this is the first of a series

In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it.

The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life.

Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.

It’s one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another thing to actually triumph.

In this stunning, original tale of magic and revolution, Michael R. Underwood creates a cityscape that rivals Ambergris and New Crobuzon in its depth and populates it with heroes and villains that will stay with you forever.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Interviews A-Plenty at SFFWorld: McClellan, Posey, and Robertson

This past week at SFFWorld, we managed to post a fairly high number of author interviews. Well, relatively speaking of course with three interviews (as well as a guest post from one of those authors).

On Wednesday, my interview with Brian McClellan was posted.  Brian's second Powder Mage Trilogy novel, The Crimson Campaign publishes on May 6. 

On Monday, Dag's interview with Freya Robertson was posted, Heartstone the second installment in her Elemental Wars series published just over a month ago. 

The author with the double-whammy is Jay Posey.  Not only did Dag post an interview Jay Posey on Tuesday (4/29), Jay also provided a guest post. (I am reminded I still want to catch up with his debut novel Three).