Sunday, October 26, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-10-25)

Three books this week here at the o' Stuff household, two ARCS and one final copy.

Impulse (The Lightship Chronicles #1) by Dave Bara (DAW Hardcover 03/03/2015) – A brand new Space Opera from DAW, and in hardcover release which shows the publisher has faith in his work. I think Dave’s agent may have mentioned this book to me a while back and I know his editor/publisher mentioned it when he and I chatted at the imprint launch party. So yeah, fun space-opera with comparisons to Peter F. Hamilton, James S.A. Corey and Elizabeth Moon? I’m in, especially with that gorgeous Martiniere cover.

Lieutenant Peter Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy believes he has his future clearly mapped out. It begins with his new assignment as an officer on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound, a Lightship bound for deep space voyages of exploration.

But everything changes when Peter is summoned to the office of his father, Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane, and given devastating news: the death of a loved one. In a distant solar system, a mysterious and unprovoked attack upon Lightship Impulse resulted in the deaths of Peter’s former girlfriend and many of her shipmates.

Now Peter’s plans are torn asunder as he is transferred to a Unified Space Navy ship under foreign command, en route to an unexpected destination, and surrounded almost entirely by strangers. To top it off, his superiors have given him secret orders that might force him to become a mutineer.

The crisis at hand becomes a gateway to something much more when the ship’s Historian leads Peter and his shipmates into a galaxy of the unknown — of ancient technologies, age-old rivalries, new cultures, and unexpected romance. It’s an overwhelming responsibility for Peter, and one false step could plunge humanity into an apocalyptic interstellar war.

Under Different Stars (The Kricket Series #1) by Amy A. Bartol (47North Paperback 12/09/2014) – This seems to be another self-published novel 47North snatched up and is reissuing under their own imprint.

Winner of four 2014 utopYA Awards, including Best Book of the Year and Best Sci-Fi Book of the Year

Kricket Hollowell never wished upon stars. She was too busy hiding in plain sight, eluding Chicago’s foster care system. As her eighteenth birthday approaches, she now eagerly anticipates the day she’ll stop running and finally find her place in the world.

That day comes when she meets a young Etharian soldier named Trey Allairis, who has been charged with coming to Earth to find Kricket and transport her to her true home. As danger draws close, he must protect her until she can wield the powers she cannot use on Earth…and he soon realizes that counting a galaxy of stars would be easier than losing this extraordinary girl.

Kyon Ensin knows the powerful depths of Kricket’s gifts—gifts he’ll control when he takes her for his tribe and leads the forces that will claim Ethar and destroy his enemies, starting with Trey Allairis. Now, Kricket faces the most difficult choice of her life: whether to wage a battle for survival or a fight for love.

Revised edition: This edition of Under Different Stars includes editorial revisions.

Wild Cards: Lowball edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass (Tor Hardcover 11/11/2014) – A new installment of the popular super-hero saga, for more info on the series

Decades after an alien virus changed the course of history, the surviving population of Manhattan still struggles to understand the new world left in its wake. Natural humans share the rough city with those given extraordinary—and sometimes terrifying—traits. While most manage to coexist in an uneasy peace, not everyone is willing to adapt. Down in the seedy underbelly of Jokertown, residents are going missing. The authorities are unwilling to investigate, except for a fresh lieutenant looking to prove himself and a collection of unlikely jokers forced to take matters into their own hands—or tentacles. The deeper into the kidnapping case these misfits and miscreants get, the higher the stakes are raised.

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and acclaimed author Melinda M. Snodgrass, Lowball is the latest mosaic novel in the acclaimed Wild Cards universe, featuring original fiction by Carrie Vaughn, Ian Tregillis, David Anthony Durham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Mary Anne Mohanraj, David D. Levine, Michael Cassutt, and Walter John Williams.

Perfect for old fans and new readers alike, Lowball delves deeper into the world of aces, jokers, and the hard-boiled men and women of the Fort Freak police precinct in a pulpy, page-turning novel of superheroics and mystery.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hallowe'en Reading 2014 - 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King

I have a long association with Stephen King’s fiction, as I may have mentioned in the past. I would say I’ve read about 80% of his novels and many of short stories, but before last week, one of the major oversights of his bibliography for me was his classic vampire novel ’Salem’s Lot. Well, that oversight has been “corrected,” to borrow a term from another of King’s work. In short, I enjoyed the hell out of the novel.

Cover of original US Hardback.
My dad has a copy of this.

As has likely been recounted about this novel, ’Salem’s Lot is King’s mash-up of Peyton Place and Dracula. Both novels are referenced in the text of ’Salem’s Lot: one character (Matt Burke) is remarked to remind the others of Van Helsing and Peyton Place is even called out by another character. After a brief prologue featuring Ben Mears and a young boy after the events of the novel transpire, King introduces the populace of Jerusalem’s Lot in a leisurely fashion. ‘Salem’s Lot (or The Lot), as the inhabitants call it, seem to know each other and each other’s business; the quintessential New England small town. Their everyday life is shaken up when visitors arrive: writer Ben Mears arrives looking to exorcise some past demons through writing a book and Straker & Barlow, two antique salesmen who arrive looking to set up a new shop. Ben and Straker & Barlow are both interested in the old Marsten house which overlooks the Lot to the point that Ben was going to rent it out until he discovered Straker & Barlow have taken up residence in what many feel is a haunted mansion.

Cover of the MMPB I read. I've
had the copy for at least a decade.
While some of the characters can be considered to lean towards cardboard cut-out territory, King gives a lived in, familiar, and quaint feel to the Lot. This is one of the novel’s strengths, its sense of place and initial comfort. The other strength is the subtlety and slow reveal of the terror hiding in the shadows, aside from the dog’s head on the pike early in the novel, of course. The subtlety is when the human characters interact with the vampire; there are more hints than description, allowing the reader to finish the scene with their own imagination. Though King can imagine terrifying things, it is this cooperative horror that proves to be so effective in ’Salem’s Lot.

Where the novel stumbles is two-fold and both of these I’ll generously attribute to the time the novel was published and the fact that it was King’s second published novel. The relative lack of female characters stood out to me. We have one primary female character – Susan Norton – and while it is through her eyes we initially see the novel she’s little more than a romantic entanglement used to drive Ben Mears through the plot and provide him tension and action. The only other truly (and fully) positive female character in the novel is Eva Miller, owner of the boarding house where Ben takes up residence during his time in the Lot. Most of the other women are portrayed in varying degrees from middling to quite negative.

The other stumble is some of the flowery early interaction, between Susan, her family, and Ben. I’ll chalk this up to being a novel of its time in how the characters talk. Susan and Ben fall for each other quite quickly and the language King uses to show them falling for each other reads as a bit put upon by today’s standards.

Some other points to note about ’Salem’s Lot:
  • It is the first (of many) Stephen King novels to feature a writer as the protagonist
  • King would return to similar themes, specifically small town with a dark cloud of monster(s) hovering: It, Needful Things, The Tommyknockers and to a lesser extent The Dark Half
  • Tangentially, like Needful Things, ’Salem’s Lot features a small town disrupted by the arrival of a strange visitor
  • Like IT, ’Salem’s Lot features a small town with some historically recurring darkness
  • As the King constant reader knows, Father Callahan later shows up in the fifth Dark Tower novel, Wolves of the Calla
  • I think part of the reason Needful Things has a lesser reputation in King’s bibliography might be because of how it echoes ’Salem’s Lot (I personally liked Needful Things but it has a special spot for me relating a great deal to when I read it, as I point out in that link at the top of this post).

My colleague (though we’ve never met, and I mean colleague in the sense that some of our writing appears at the same place) Grady Hendrix over at wrote about ’Salem’s Lot as part of his Great Stephen King Reread. While he does make some points I can grok even if I don’t agree with them, one interpretive point I can’t agree with is his assessment of the Marsten House. He suggests there’s no real reason for Barlow and Straker to set up residence at the Marsten House. The answer, for me, is right there in the novel. Throughout the novel, characters remark that The Marsten House is a magnet for evil, ever since old Hubie Marsten lived there and committed horrific acts, supposedly demonic sacrifices, killing children, and killing his wife.

The other point on which Grady is also flat out wrong is the character of Mark Petrie; Grady makes Mark out to be something like Harold Emery Lauter when in fact, Mark is fairly well-adjusted and manages to take out the school bully early in the novel. This sort of informs us that Mark, coupled with his love and knowledge of horror/monster movies, is as well-equipped as any character in the novel to take out Barlow. Mark’s calculative methods prove very useful to the plot and if he were nerdy and off-putting, the two other kids we see in the novel (the Glick Brothers) would have been more hesitant to visit him. (Admittedly, Grady recants some of his thoughts on Mark).

I’ll split the hairs regarding Grady’s take on the one-dimensional hillbilly characterization of the ‘Lot’s inhabitants. Most of them don’t really stretch beyond their cliches, like that of a cheating spouse or an abusive mother, but those folks don’t need much more attention than their archetypes in this particular story for me. Again, I see Grady’s point here and can agree with it to an extent.

As for the adaptations of the novel, I watched the old TV miniseries once years and years ago. I hadn’t been aware of who James Mason was at the time, but now I want to rewatch it just for James Mason. I did not see the 2004 remake with the stellar cast of Rob Lowe, James Cromwell and Rutger Hauer but that interests me now, too.

’Salem’s Lot was an incredibly addictive read and I can understand why this helped to set King on the path of superstardom. I’m not sure exactly where it ranks against the other King novels I’ve read only because the later books I read were after he became a more polished writer and storyteller. All told, I really enjoyed the novel despite some of its flaws.

A post-script: Any and all King fans and Constant Readers should check out Grady’s reread project, there’s some good insight to the books in his articles and I’ve reexamined my own thoughts on some of King’s work.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-10-18)

Two books this week, both of which arrived on Friday and ARCs of books which don't publish until January 2015.

Marked (Servants of Fate #1) by Sarah Fine (47North Paperback 01/01/2015) – This seems to be Fine’s first novel for adults after publishing quite a few young adult novels.

In a broken landscape carved by environmental collapse, Boston paramedic Cacia Ferry risks life and limb on the front lines of a fragile and dangerous city. What most don’t know—including her sexy new partner, Eli Margolis—is that while Cacy works to save lives, she has another job ferrying the dead to the Afterlife. Once humans are “Marked” by Fate, the powerful Ferrys are called to escort the vulnerable souls to either eternal bliss or unending fire and pain.

Unaware of Cacy’s other life, Eli finds himself as mesmerized by his fierce and beautiful partner as he is mistrustful of the influential Ferry clan led by the Charon—who happens to be Cacy’s father. Cacy, in turn, can no longer deny her intense attraction to the mysterious ex-Ranger with a haunted past. But just as their relationship heats up, an apparent hit takes the Charon before his time. Shaken to the core, Cacy pursues the rogue element who has seized the reins of fate, only to discover that Eli has a devastating secret of his own. Not knowing whom to trust, what will Cacy have to sacrifice to protect Eli—and to make sure humanity’s future is secure?

The City Stained Red  by Sam Sykes (Orbit Books Trade Paperback 01/27/2015) – This is Sam’s first book with Orbit after finishing off his Aeon’s Gate Trilogy recently with Pyr. Seems to be quite a bit of anticipation for this one.

A long-exiled living god arises.
A city begins to break apart at the seams.

Lenk and his battle-scarred companions have come to Cier'Djaal in search of Miron Evanhands, a wealthy priest who contracted them to eradicate demons --- and then vanished before paying for the job.

But hunting Miron down might be tougher than even these weary adventurers can handle as two unstoppable religious armies move towards all-out war, tensions rise within the capital's cultural melting pot, and demons begin to pour from the shadows...

And Khoth Kapira, the long-banished living god, has seen his chance to return and regain dominion over the world.

Now all that prevents the city from tearing itself apart in carnage are Lenk, Kataria, a savage human-hating warrior, Denaos, a dangerous rogue, Asper, a healer priestess, Dreadaeleon, a young wizard, and Gariath, one of the last of the dragonmen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014 - Day Three - Sunday

My last day of NYCC 2014 was spent roaming the convention mostly by myself. I’d wandered with my brother-in-law on Friday and Leslie on Saturday so I had a pretty good lay of the land. The big thing; however, was Leslie was there, helping to staff the booth of our friends’ comic book shoppe. The only minor monkey wrench this threw in our plans is the timing of everything. We couldn’t both leave at 7:00 A.M. and stay until the convention closed because of Sully. We felt bad enough leaving her for a “workday’s” amount of time on Saturday, so we certainly didn’t want to leave her alone for (potentially) upwards of 12 hours on Sunday. So, she left early and drove in with a few guys from the comic shoppe and I drove in later, arriving around 11:30 AM.

The first thing I did was head down to the Dark Circle Comics panel. Novel concept, attending a comic book panel at New York Comic Con, right? What drew me to this panel was the fact that Chuck Wendig is writing one of the books - The Shield - as part of the rebranding of the superhero line of comics from Archie Comics, or as some long-time comic book fans and readers know them the MLJ superheroes. I recall various attempts to bring these characters into the spotlight over the past few decades I’ve been reading comics. There was the Impact Comics line in the mid-90s which was spear-headed by DC Comics and Archie recently reinvigorated the characters through the Red Circle branding. Launching (or in this case re-launching) a new superhero, let alone an entire superhero universe, is a bold move in today’s market. Going back twenty-plus years again, the Malibu line was fairly successful launch until the implosion of the 90s (thanks Death of Superman). Hell, there was even an animated series based on the Ultraverse. But let’s skip ahead to now, shall we?

I think the Archie folks, with Alex Segura spear-heading this thing, are taking an interesting approach. They are using some familiar characters with a level of recognition by long-time readers while also reimagining the characters with modern sensibilities so readers unfamiliar with the past of those characters can pick up and read the comics right at launch. To a much lesser extent, I’d say this approach is almost…almost like DC re-launching their superheroes in the Silver Age with the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash. The Dark Circle brand is starting with three characters: The Fox, The Black Hood, and The Shield. These three comics are being pitched as a mix of superheroes and, respectively, adventure, crime, and superhero adventure. The creators on the panel, Duane Swierczynksi, Chuck Wendig, and Dean Haspiel, exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm for their plans for these books. When time for questions came, I asked about the characters meeting each other then immediately doing the typical superhero thing of “punching each other in the face before realizing they are alliees” which brought some laughter. Alex said the characters will definitely be aware of each other. I later asked about how Alex and the others responsible for the launch came up with the books/characters; who would be re-launched and if specific creators were on their list and who would be part of the second wave. I wasn’t able to get an idea of who the next wave would include, though Alex did indicate one of the next characters would be a surprise. I also realized Mike Underwood was sitting in a couple of rows in front of me because he asked a question about female characters and female creators. Alex said they were very cognizant of such things and want the right story and character, not to just push out a female character or creator without forethought.

Based attending that panel, I’ll be adding all three titles to my pull-list once at my local comic shoppe.

Patrick Rothfuss, Seth Fishman, Cindy Williams Chima, Gail Z. Martin,
Garth Nix, Robin Hob and moderator David Peterson

In that very same room immediately following the Dark Circle Panel was the “How Game of Thrones Changed Fantasy…or Did it?” panel, with authors Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Cindy Williams Chima, Garth Nix, Gail Z. Martin, and Seth Fishman, and moderated by David Peterson whom Mark interviewed for SFFWorld a little over a year ago. So, while I was in the back for the Dark Circle Panel and was even standing at one point, I moved up to the second row for the GOT panel and sat next to a very pretty Daenerys Targaryen with one of the dragons on her shoulder. Mike Underwood and Garrett came forward to chat with Chuck and I before the panel began. When moderator David asked the panel who they thought would be sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series, the young girl stood to a rousing applause and laughter.

Each of the authors brought an interesting perspective to the panel; Robin Hobb’s Farseer books, the first of which Assassin’s Apprentice published shortly before A Game of Thrones published and Garth Nix was publishing before A Game of Thrones published, too. Cindy Williams (I think) noted she was reading George before A Song of Ice and Fire citing Tuf Voyaging. I cheered for that (and I think I was the only one). Cindy later specifically said she began writing because of reading A Game of Thrones. Patrick; however, was the most vocal of the panelists and damn can he get an audience in the palm of his very large hand. One very good point he made was the distinction between the books of A Song of Ice and Fire and the television show A Game of Thrones. To highlight this point, a fair number of people in the room (including the Daenerys sitting next to me) didn’t read the books, nor were they aware of who the authors on the panel were.

Patrick pointed out how Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire now triangulated Fantasy allowing for greater reference points for the genre. Whereas prior to GOT/ASOIAF, there was mainly the two point line of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to use as short hand for describing / recommending Fantasy, GOT became a third point off the line forming a triangle, widening the scope of what people are willing to embrace in fantasy. To the point of “Yeah I write/want to read a story that’s a little bit GOT and Harry Potter. Fantasy can be more than just HP or LOTR.” (And it can also be much more than GOT, for that matter.)

Another point made was that more time elapsed between book 3 and 4 in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen books. It was downplayed a bit because Garth had written so much in the intervening years. On the other hand, Gail Z. Martin had a much more regular schedule, or you can say another way, she’s a writing machine. She mentioned 3 current series she’s writing with a book in each publishing over the next year.

Shecky, me, and Garrett
After the panel was the signing for these authors, the line was the longest line on which I stood. There again I crossed paths with Shecky and Garrett, so this time we finally snapped some photos of each other. A significant portion of the people on line were waiting solely for Garth Nix, so the line was broken apart to help those folks. Once I got in the cordoned off line, I was bumped ahead of others to get my Robin Hobb books signed since the folks in front of me weren’t waiting for Robin Hobb. I was a little tongue tied because Robin’s books, especially her books about Fitzchivalry Farseer, are so high on my bookshelf of favorites. I asked of all the deaths she’s written if the death of Nighteyes was the toughest and she said it was. She referenced the scene in Romancing the Stone where Kathleen Turner’s character (a writer) was weeping as she was typing a scene.

Me and Pat Rothfuss
I also had a couple of more books to be signed by Patrick Rothfuss. One of which was for my wife’s colleague who is big fan of Patrick’s work. I had a nice little moment when I thunked down my Advance Reader Copy of Wise Man’s Fear for Patrick to sign. He softly and clorfully asked, How I got one of those? He then said I could sell this for a couple of grand, if I so chose. I mean, I realized there weren’t many of them because the ARC was number 227 out of 227, but it was very cool to surprise the author of the book being signed in such a fashion. Similarly, two years ago presenting Peter Brett with an ARC of Brayan’s Gold elicited a similar, if more tame response. Suffice it to say, I may have gloated just a bit about Patrick’s reaction.

I later discovered, when I traipsed through the Penguin booth, that one of the many great Penguin staffers was corralling the line and doing a fantastic job of keeping the signing line moving and people ready for their books to be signed. All in all, I’d say Penguin, the Ace / DAW / Roc imprints, had the best book publisher booth at the convention. There were ticketed signings throughout the weekend (most publishers had signings, but none quite as many as Penguin’s three-headed SF imprint), Penguin seemed to have the most give-aways (I told my brother-in-law to snag the mmpb of Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song), I grabbed Daniel José Older’s Half Resurrection Blues which was a Comic-Con exclusive in addition to the Sniegowski and Strout books I mentioned snagging and having signed on Friday.

Me and Chuck Wendig
After having my Hobb and Rotfhusses* signed, I just wandered the convention for a while and thumbed through comics at various vendors searching for some back issues I’d had on my mind for a while. Some old Flash or Batman issues, perhaps. Also, as I indicated at the top of this post, this is an actual Comic Book convention, I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t snag some comics. The aimless wandering came a brief halt at 4PM when the folks from the Dark Circle comics panel were signing things at the Archie Comics booth, including the free poster with the three characters being re-launched. I also had Chuck sign my ARC of Under the Empyrian Sky (since I have electronic copies of most of his work). Chuck also was kind enough to take a photo with me.

*Doesn't Hobb and Rothfuss sound like a Victorian, British law firm?

More wandering after that as I wound up at the booth Leslie was helping to staff. I rifled through some back issues and found what I was hoping to find: the five issue series from 1973 based on Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories: Sword of Sorcery. I also finally snagged a copy of a book at another booth for 50% off X-MEN: Days of Future Past which I’d never read. I know, I know, that’s one of my geek admissions. My excuse is that I was a DC Comics guy for the majority of my comic book reading life. I also forgot to mention on Friday, I picked up the first trade of a series at least half of the comic book readers my twitter stream have been raving about Rat Queens.

As the show closed, all the booths were shouting last minute deals. Boy is the Javits Center very … adamant about closing the show on time to the point that convention employees were not permitting people to walk past certain points, dimming the lights and shouting over a bullhorn that the convention was closed. So, the show closed and I helped box up some of the unsold items at the JC Comics booth before Leslie and I were on our way home after a marvelous weekend at New York Comic Con 2014.

All that said, the most surprising thing is just how damned crowded the convention was on Sunday. I realize it was “Kids’ Day” but it was crazier than Saturday was this year, something I would not have predicted. This also makes me happy that I took the opportunity on Saturday to be more leisurely with our approach to walking the floor in addition to sitting in on two panels on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014 - Day Two - Saturday

Day two of New York Comic Con in 2014 for me was Saturday and I admit to being slightly apprehensive about Saturday at the Javits Center. Last year, I attended only on Friday but the year before (2012) Leslie and I went on Saturday and the convention was mobbed and over-crowded. I suspect, at least partially, it felt that way because I knew I was attending only one day and felt it imperative to get to EVERYTHING in that condensed window. This year; however, I followed my wife’s advice as we took a leisurely stroll up and down the aisles of the entire convention floor. When we first arrived, we attended the panel for FX’s The League on the main Stage on the bottom floor. Neither of us watches the show; but two of the stars – Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas – run a podcast we both like called How Did this Get Made? in which the panelists picks apart crappy or craptacular films. After a forthcoming episode was screened at the panel 1) we realized the show probably isn’t for us and 2) the panel was worth sitting through to hear Mantzoukas riff on the audience.

From there we went up and looked through the DC Entertainment booth which was highlighting Batman’s 75th Anniversary. There was also some gameplay footage of a new game - Infinite Crisis which looks like it could be fun. After the bat-visit, we proceeded to take our time walking up and down the aisles of the main floor. The first booth we hit was Obscura, the booth representing the store/show from the Science Channel show Oddities (a show my wife enjoys and one of the few reality programs I can tolerate). We chatted with proprietor Evan for a bit and Leslie purchased the book, The Morbid Anatomy Anthology they were selling which featured an essay from Evan. Leslie and I chatted with a few of the independent authors along our journey, purchased a couple of books and generally just absorbed everything.

I drifted through Publisher’s row again and made small talk with Ardi from Tor (and snagged a copy of Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead) as well as the folks at the Penguin, Hachette/Orbit and Random House booths. My wife was purchasing the puzzle of a novel S (the novel conceived by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst) and tugged on my shoulder at the Hachette booth. As it turns out, while she was making her purchase (and getting a couple of free ARCs with the purchase), a gentleman was looking at Leviathan Wakes and was likely asking about it. She said to him, that he should talk to me about out and I basically made him buy it. I guess my description of how great the book is worked on him.

Then we arrived at the BOOM! booth, saw a small gathering and realized Brian and Wendy Froud were signing things, particularly some commemorative editions of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Storyteller. The Frouds, as in the creative forces behind some of the most iconic fantasy imagery of the past 30 or so years, including a film very near and dear to both our hearts: The Dark Crystal. Even better, while Leslie was getting her book signed by the Frouds, a woman next to us began chatting, in a very familiar manner, with the Frouds. We came to realize she was Cheryl Henson, one of Jim Henson’s daughters. I loved The Muppets growing up and most of the Henson productions, but my wife’s love for the Henson creative empire is far more expansive than mine. She couldn’t stop thanking Cheryl Henson for all the wonderful things her family’s company has created and done for people. Leslie may have even offered to work for any Henson company in any capacity, even if it mean just retrieving cloth from the warehouse to make Muppets. That might have been one of my favorite moments of NYCC, having Leslie meet somebody who meant so much to her as a child

Up and down the aisles we traversed, spotting art and assorted geekery ephemera. When we arrived at Neal Adams’s booth, I was tempted to purchase either a book for him to sign or a Batman print for him to sign, but I’ve still got some other geekish art pieces yet unhung in my house. Up and down, up and down…hit the Baen Books booth and snagged a copy of Larry Correia’s Hard Magic. I really enjoy his Monster Hunter books and wanted to give this other series a shot. Larry was going to be there later on, so I stopped by to have him sign Hard Magic and he was kind enough to give me a hardcover of Monster Hunter Nemesis before signing it. I know Larry’s got a rather…vocal online presence, but the few minutes he and I chatted he could not have been nicer. I was also hoping to get a copy of Charles Gannon’s Fire with Fire signed, but I missed his signing time. Jim Minz, who was running the booth, was kind enough to hand me a copy of the second book in that series, Trial by Fire.

The two Correias and Mike Underwood's book are signed by the authors

Immediately thereafter was the signing for Mike Underwood’s Shield and Crocus at the 47North booth, which was just around the corner from Baen. I was online and having a conversation with a couple of people about Mike’s books when I realized, well rather, we both realized, we knew each other via twitter. I was chatting with none other than Sally of the excellent Qwillery blog. After hearing her schedule and what she was planning for her NYCC trip for the blog, I am even more impressed with her blog. We had Mike sign our books and then Sally and I started chatting with my wife when we spotted the mighty Shecky on line for Mike’s signature. I’d known Shecky for a while and met him in person at a recent event (where I also chatted with Mike Underwood), but this was the first time I met Sally. The four of us then spoke for a bit until we realized the hour and how much at that point in the day, we all just wanted to go home.

Both times (Friday and Saturday) I strolled over to the Topatco booth Cecil Baldwin, the voice of Night Vale Radio was finishing up a signing. This just got me to thinking, it would have made sense for their booth to be very near the Obscura booth.

Anyway, that was Day 2 of New York Comic Con 2014 for me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014 - Day One - Friday

New York Comic-Con 2014 is marks the third time I’ve attended the convention, and the second year in a row I’ve attended with press pass. This year, 2014, is also the first year wherein I’ve attended three days. The owners of the comic shoppe where I get my stash have been friends with my wife’s family for quite a while; Leslie’s mother worked with the owner’s father. So Leslie helped staff their double booth on Sunday and as such, she was given an exhibitor pass so she went with me on Saturday, worked the booth on Sunday, and she let her brother use the exhibitor pass so he could go with me on Friday.

So wow, this event seems to grow each year but I was surprised Friday, in terms of the crowds and the fact that there was cool air blowing through. So, he (Mike) and I walked the hall a little bit in the morning when we arrived before the Geek Geek Revolution panel I wanted to attend. Mike is much more into video games than I am, so he checked out their booths and some other things while I headed down to the back of the Javits Center for the GGR panel. Waiting on line for it, I saw Jennie Ivins and the man known on twitter as SheckyX, so we chatted as we entered the panel and they both introduced me to Garrett from Ranting Dragon. Big thanks to Jennie for securing a few seats for us in one of the first couple of rows.

The Geek Geek Revolution panel was essentially a geek trivia challenge and featured John Scalzi, Peter V. Brett, Amber Benson, Maureen Johnson, Lou Anders, and M.D. Payne. The panel was moderated by Patrick Rothfuss. Amber and Maureen set Scalzi in their sights, but when Amber didn’t raise her hand before Scalzi on the Buffy questions, the winner was pretty much set from there. Should Rothfuss ever decided to foolishly give up his writing career, he'd be a great game show host. Damn can that man project his voice.

Afterwards, I got a few books signed, including The Daylight War by Peter and my ARC of Name of the Wind by Patrick.

After that, I headed up to the publisher’s area and chatted with some of the fine folks who help to make the books I read and love. I stopped by HarperCollins’s booth and was chatting with their new editor, David Pomerico about a few books coming out from them in the nearish future (Dave was particularly excited about his first signing for HC and it does sound quite good). We got to talking about cover art, how Richard Anderson does great work and seems to be in very high demand when Kameron Hurley’s agent dropped in the booth. Kameron’s agent also handles Brian Staveley; both Brian and Kameron’s books have cover art by Anderson and I had to tell Kameron’s agent how fucking awesome The Mirror Empire was.

After that, I headed to the Penguin booth where I was able to snag a copy of Daniel José Older’s Half Resurrection Blues. I chatted with the great Colleen Lindsay for a bit and told her she needs to write a book about Mugsy. Iwas also able to snag a copy of Anton Strout’s Alchemystic and Tom Sniegowski’s A Kiss Before Apocalyps to have them signed by the authors. (I've been wanting to read Alchemystic for a while since I've become a big fan of the Disney cartoon Gargoyles.) The Tor and Hachette booths were near them too, so I caught up with Ardi (Tor’s awesome publicist) and Ellen (Orbit’s sorceress publicist).

All in all, a lot of walking during Friday, but a day well spent.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-10-11)

Four books this week; two arrived on Monday, two arrived on Friday.

Generation V by M.L. Brennan (Roc Mass Market Paperback 05/07/2013) – Brennan’s debut and launch book for the series of the same name. Brennan has gained some very solid reviews for this vampire/urban fantasy since it published late last year so I’ve been intrigued by the book and was happy to get a copy when Nita, Ace/Roc/Daw publicist extraordinaire asked if I’d like to receive a copy. A review with ML will likely go up to SFFWorld in the next couple/few weeks.

Fortitude Scott’s life is a mess. A degree in film theory has left him with zero marketable skills, his job revolves around pouring coffee, his roommate hasn’t paid rent in four months, and he’s also a vampire. Well, sort of. He’s still mostly human.

But when a new vampire comes into his family’s territory and young girls start going missing, Fort can’t ignore his heritage anymore. His mother and his older, stronger siblings think he’s crazy for wanting to get involved. So it’s up to Fort to take action, with the assistance of Suzume Hollis, a dangerous and sexy shape-shifter. Fort is determined to find a way to outsmart the deadly vamp, even if he isn’t quite sure how.

But without having matured into full vampirehood and with Suzume ready to split if things get too risky, Fort’s rescue mission might just kill him.

Hawk (Vlad Taltos #14) by Steven Brust (Tor, Hardcover 10/07/2014) – 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 more-near-than-far future.

Years ago, Vlad Taltos came to make his way as a human amidst the impossibly tall, fantastically long-lived natives of the Dragaeran Empire. He joined the Jhereg, the Dragaeran House (of which there are seventeen) that handles the Empire’s vices: gambling, rackets, organized crime. He became a professional assassin. He was good at it.

But that was then, before Vlad and the Jhereg became mortal enemies.

For years, Vlad has run from one end of the Empire to the other, avoiding the Jhereg assassins who pursue him. Now, finally, he’s back in the imperial capital where his family and friends are. He means to stay there this time. Whatever happens. And whatever it takes.

Advanced Class Guide (A Pathfinder Campaign Supplement) edited by James L. Sutter (Paizo Hardcover 09/02/2014) – The fine folks at Paize keep churning out these great RPG books.

A New Breed of Hero

Adventure like never before with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide! Explore new heights of heroism with 10 new base classes, each with 20 levels of amazing abilities. Incredible powers also await existing characters, with more than a hundred new archetypes and class options. Prepare characters for their most legendary adventure ever with massive selections of never-before-seen spells, magic items, and more!

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide is a must-have companion volume to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. This imaginative tabletop game builds upon more than 15 years of system development and an open playtest featuring more than 50,000 gamers to create a cutting-edge RPG experience that brings the all-time best-selling set of fantasy rules into the new millennium.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide includes:
  • Ten new base classes—the magic-twisting arcanist, the ferocious bloodrager, the cunning investigator, the daring swashbuckler, the formidable warpriest, and others.
  • Variant class abilities and thematic archetypes for all 29 base classes, such as the counterfeit mage and the mutagenic mauler.
  • Nearly a hundred new feats for characters of all classes, including style feats, teamwork feats like Coordinated Shot, and more.
  • Hundreds of new spells and magic items, such as feast on fear and skullcrusher gauntlets.
  • An entire armory of amazing equipment, from vital new adventuring gear to deadly alchemical weapons.


Sleeping Late on Judgment Day (Bobby Dollar #3) by Tad Williams (DAW Hardcover 09/02/2014) – I am a big Tad Williams fan (as anybody who has read my blog knows) and I really like this series. This is the last Bobby Dollar novel for now, I hope Tad returns to this angel.

Where does an angel go when he's been to Hell and back?

Renegade angel Bobby Dollar does not have an easy afterlife. After surviving the myriad gruesome dangers Hell oh-so-kindly offered him, Bobby has returned empty-handed – his demon girlfriend Casmira, the Countess of Cold Hands, is still in the clutches of Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. Some hell of a rescue.

Forced to admit his failure, Bobby ends up back at his job as an angel advocate. That is, until Walter, an old angel friend whom Bobby never thought he’d see again, shows up at the local bar. The last time he saw Walter was in Hell, when Walter had tried to warn him about one of Bobby’s angel superiors. But now Walter can’t remember anything, and Bobby doesn’t know whom to trust.

Turns out that there's corruption hidden within the higher ranks of Heaven and Hell, but the only proof Bobby has is a single feather. Before he knows it, he’s in the High Hall of Heavenly Judgement – no longer a bastion for the moral high ground, if it ever was, but instead just another rigged system – on trial for his immortal soul...

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is the third installment of Tad Williams' urban fantasy Bobby Dollar series!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-10-04)

Just one book this week and as far as I know, Jacey and I are not related.

Empire of Dust (A A Psi-tech Novel) by Jacey Bedford (DAW Books, Mass Market Paperback 11/04/2014) – This is Bedford’s (at least US) debut and seems like it could be a very fun novel. It also launches her Psi-tech series, the second of which publishes next year.

Mega corporations, more powerful than any one planetary government, use their agents to race each other for resources across the galaxy. The agents, or psi-techs, are implanted with telepath technology. The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps — that is, if they want to retain their sanity.

Cara Carlinni is an impossible thing - a runaway psi-tech. She knows Alphacorp can find its implant-augmented telepaths, anywhere, anytime, mind-to-mind. So even though it’s driving her half-crazy, she's powered down and has been surviving on tranqs and willpower. So far, so good. It’s been almost a year, and her mind is still her own.

She’s on the run from Ari van Blaiden, a powerful executive, after discovering massive corruption in Alphacorp.

Cara barely escapes his forces, yet again, on a backwater planet, and gets out just in time due to the help of straight-laced Ben Benjamin, a psi-tech Navigator for Alphacorp’s biggest company rival.

Cara and Ben struggle to survive a star-spanning manhunt, black-ops raids, and fleets of resource-hungry raiders. Betrayal follows betrayal, and friends become enemies. Suddenly the most important skill is knowing whom to trust.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Friday Round-up: Dawson at SFFWorld & Gibson at

Two reviews this week from yours truly, so let's get right into them, shall we?

I've been following Delilah S. Dawson on twitter for a few months now and she churns out great writing advice.  She ran a twitter contest for her new book Servants of the Storm and I was lucky enough to get a copy through that contest. Delilah marked up the book with some great Pop-up Video type behind the scenes notes, too. I thought the book was a lot of fun, from my review:

Savanah, Georgia is devastated by Hurricane Josephine, which drowns much of the city, killing people, and affecting many others in adverse ways. While Hurricane Josephine as depicted in Delilah Dawson’s Servants of the Storm is a fictional storm (and more than just a storm), the devastation such a catastrophe can inflict is too well known, just look to the recent past at the horror stories from Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. Dawson takes that devastation and weaves a dark, horrific, supernatural thread into this novel through the eyes of first person narrator Dovey.
The city of Savannah comes alive very much as a character in its own right, both the seedy elements and dark supernatural entities pulling the strings of the plot. I also thought the monsters, demons, and spirits who haunted Dovey and her city came across as genuine and with a level of authenticity to be if not believable, but plausible. I visited Savannah almost 15 years ago so my memories of the city are confined to a tourist ghost walk, business meetings, and a brew pub (, so I didn’t see the underbelly of the city or anything outside of the touristy spots. That having been said, after being so absorbed in Servants of the Storm, I feel like I visited Savannah and its dark environs in reality with how well Dovey conveys her travels through the city. also posted my review of the inventive Post-Apocalyptic novel from Gary Gibson, Extinction Game. This was as gripping read, too.

Told from the point of view of Jerry Beche, Extinction Game, is Gary Gibson’s foray into this subgenre after a string of successful Space Opera novels.

Through Jerry’s first person voice, we get an intimate portrait of a man losing his sanity despite surviving the initial apocalypse. He speaks with his dead wife, he wants to make sure the people responsible for her death, Red Harvest, get their just desserts. When Jerry finally ventures out of his ramshackle hovel, he finds other people. Unfortunately for Jerry, these people capture and interrogate him, and we soon learn they are from a parallel Earth—Jerry is one of many people extracted from an apocalyptic world to be trained as Pathfinders, specialists who plunder other Earths for hints of salvation.

My SFFWorld colleague Mark Chitty favorably reviewed Extinction Game for SFFWorld, too. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Reviewer Rant - Electronic Advance Reading Copies (eARC)

This post may come off as a pedantic rant with an air of entitlement.

As an SFF book reviewer/blogger, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should write about this issue. However, I’ve communicated with a few of my peers in the SFF reviewing community about the issue and I know I’m not the only person to be frustrated by this position/situation.

Badly formatted electronic advance reader copies (eARCs).

We book reviewers are accustomed to ARCs being formatted differently than the final book, but this usually comes down to a generic cover and lower paper quality used in the manufacture of the ARC. For the most part (in my experience), nearly every physical Advance Reader Copy I’ve received passes snuff as a better than decent readable copy. In other words, aside from the often boilerplate cover, the book could very easily rest on a bookstore’s bookshelf. To the strongest extreme, the ARC I was sent for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings looked better from a finished standpoint than some published books I own.

Electronic Advance Reader Copies, well, that’s a different kettle of fish. To put it mildly, formatting on the files for some of these books is not up to the same level as many physical ARCs I’ve read and received. This should be a simple thing, to just to layout the text in a readable file, right? Not so. I realize I spent a decent portion of my career proofreading, formatting, and line editing text so my eye for such things may be more sensitive than most. Or to use one word, you might say I can be pedantic. However, for a decent number of eARCs I’ve received, the text formatting looks like a seven year old got a hold of the file and formatted the text like a serial killer’s ransom note. eARCs like this have paragraphs broken at irregular intervals, letters in the middle of words are capitalized, while other instances proper names or the first word of a sentence are not capitalized. I’ve got more than one electronic ARC wherein the formatting looks something like the text below, which I’ve pulled from my Derek Jeter post on Monday:

I have been a fan of the New York Yankees my entire 

life, I may 
have been three yEars old when my paRents took me to my first 
game and
I recall going to 
during a 
very rainy day as one of my first bASeball memories 
and memories overall. if I was tHrEe years old, then that puts 
my first Yankees game in 1978, when they were in the midst of their second Championship season in a row. 
it was a loNg time before they would return to the 
and win it in 1996, the intervening years were not that great, to put it mildly. there were some highlights, for sure. dave righetti’s no-hitter against the Boston reD sOx

If publishers want reviewers to read their eARCS, then the publishers need to make the product they are offering to us not give rise to migraine headaches due to the formatting. What is surprising is that a recent eARC I read (or tried to read) was from the publisher whose parent company makes the leading eBook device. I think this specific book may have been a one-time blip because other eARCs I have from this publisher are just fine. But other publishers, a couple of them with a significant place in the SFF market, have the formatting problem I’ve highlighted on multiple books.

When publishers make this awful, painful formatting their feature rather than a blip on the radar, my decision on which book to read becomes all the easier. I won’t request eARCs or read books from the publisher in electronic format any longer when multiple files I’ve had are that painful for me to read.

I won’t go into too much of a side rant about reading PDFs on my kindle except to say that I have to zoom into every single page in order to read the file. So no more PDF eARCs for me.

I realize I might be doing a disservice to the author by using the file formatting as one of my criteria to eliminate their book from my reading queue. In the end, though isn’t it incumbent on the publisher to make that connection between author and reader as few barriers as possible?

With that negativity pointed out, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Angry Robot Books as a publisher whose eARCs are usually the best formatted and most readable files I get as a reviewer.

Any other reviewer/bloggers experience this “ransom note format” issue and if so, have you contacted the publisher or gone the passive aggressive route I’ve so glibly outlined above?