Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Stover @ SF Signal, Staveley & Aaron @ SFFWorld, and Me Interviewed

Lots of stuff posted since my last Friday Round up, so I’ll just get into it…

Perhaps the thing I’m most pleased with is my Completist column at SF Signal on Matthew (Woodring) Stover’s Acts of Caine sequence:

Each novel in the sequence is proof that as a writer, artist and let me just say it: Creative Force, Matthew Stover is unwilling to retread previous paths, he challenges and reinvents himself (and challenges his readers) with each book. “The Acts of Caine,” particularly the first novel Heroes Die is a novel ahead of its time. Stover tackles grimdark themes seen in the work of Mark Lawrence, Kameron Hurley, and Joe Abercrombie – well over a decade before those books were published. His blurring to decimation of the line dividing Science Fiction from Fantasy, though not new at the time, is something few writers were doing in the very late 1990s when Heroes Die first published. This series is one of the great underappreciated sets of books in the genre, but the people who have read all four, by and large, rank them very highly.

A couple of weeks back, I posted my review of Brian Staveley’s second Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, The Providence of Fire:

The most welcome element of The Providence of Fire is the increased “screen time” of Adare, and more importantly, Adare as a character with agency who has an effect on events in the story. She goes through a rebirth as she leaves her city and trudges through muck and gathers a cadre of allies in her hope to take back what is hers by birthright and redeem her family’s name. Although the princess has lived a relatively sheltered life of royalty, she is willing to get dirty to see justice for her family and her people. Along the way she finds herself “taken in” by a harsh woman by the name of Nira, whom Adare comes to trust for the woman’s brutal honesty. There’s a threat of death and violence from Nira much of the time they are together, but as their relationship developed, I found some resonance with how Wesley depicts his life as a prisoner of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

The Providence of Fire marks a “leveling up” in character development/story, a spreading out of the world canvas, a deepening of the plot, and the book is longer by about a hundred pages.

Earlier this week, my review of Rachel Aaron’s Nice Dragons Finish Last, the first installment of her self-published urban fantasy series, Heartstrikers:

Julius Heartstriker is the protagonist here, one of the youngest dragons in a long line of dragons –  He is the least like his family, an introvert more concerned with continuing his online education and playing MMPORGs until his mother Bethesda kicks him out and tells him she will kill him unless he starts acting like a real dragon. Bethesda, as one might surmise by this small introduction is not a kind dragon (as is befitting her race), for she excommunicates Julius to DFZ, the Detroit Free Zone sealed in his human form…which is fine since Detroit is the one place where Dragons are not permitted by the Algonquin, Lady of Lake, the magical/supernatural ruler of the domain. 

I found the world-building here very interesting and fun; the explanation of how magic and supernatural creatures exist in a near future version of our world to have an interesting starting point. A meteor crashed into Canada in 2035, which triggered a powerful surge of forgotten magic into the world, including spirits that had lain dormant for nearly one thousand years. The action of the novel takes place 60 years after magic’s return, so there is a status quo and a generation of people who have known only a world with magic. So even though this novel reads primarily as an urban fantasy, there are also hints of post-apocalypse in that the world has been changed by a cataclysmic event.

Last but not least, blogger Stuart (SC) Flynn interviewed me for his blog, as a part of his series of interviews with reviewers, podcasters and bloggers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-02-21)

Only one the books to arrive this week was a physical book, the remaining were ebooks. Some neat looking titles, too.

Dark Intelligence (Transformation Book One) by Neal Asher (Nightshade books Trade Paperback 02/03/2015) – Latest chapter in Asher’s mega popularPolity series, though this one launches a new series that seems a good entry point for new readers. The only book I’ve read from Neal is The Skinnerwhen it was the SFFWorld SF Book Club selection back in August 2005. .

One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed...

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human…

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it’s clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity universe.

Vision in Silver (The Others #3) by Anne Bishop (Ace Hardcover 03/03/2015) – Bishop is a huge name in the genre, one of those big-selling well-received writers who churns out book after book. While she made a name for herself with fantasy of the more Epic variety, this urban fantasy series (this being the third book) seems to be growing her fanbase even more.

The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

Evensong by John Love (Nightshade books Trade Paperback 01/06/2015) – Love’s second novel brings things back to earth after his well-received debut, the space opera Faith. .

A near-future thriller where those who protect humanity are not always completely human.

The future is a dangerous place. Keeping the world stable and peaceful when competing corporate interests and nation-states battle for power, wealth, and prestige has only gotten harder over the years. But that’s the United Nations’ job. So the UN has changed along with the rest of the world. When the UN’s “soft” diplomacy fails, it has harder options. Quiet, scalpel-like options: The Dead—biologically enhanced secret operatives created by the UN to solve the problems no one else can.
Anwar Abbas is one of The Dead. When the Controller-General of the UN asks him to perform a simple bodyguard mission, he’s insulted and resentful: mere bodyguard work is a waste of his unique abilities. But he takes the job, because to refuse it would be unthinkable.

Anwar is asked to protect Olivia del Sarto, the host of an important upcoming UN conference. Olivia is head of the world’s fastest-growing church, but in her rise to power she has made enemies: shadowy enemies with apparently limitless resources.

Anwar is one of the deadliest people on earth, but her enemies have something which kills people like him. And they’ve sent it for her. It’s out there, unstoppable and untraceable, getting closer as the conference approaches.

As he and Olivia ignite a torrid affair, Anwar must uncover the conspiracy that threatens to destroy her, the UN, and even The Dead.

King of the Cracksmen (The Others #3) by Dennis O’Flaherty (Night Shade Books eBook 01/27/2015) – O’Flaherty has a great deal of Hollywood experience and turns those skills to his debut, a steampunk adventure.

The year is 1877. Automatons and steam-powered dirigible gunships have transformed the United States in the aftermath of the Civil War. All of the country’s land west of the Mississippi was sold to Russia nearly fifty years earlier, and “Little Russia,” as it’s now called, is ruled by the son of Tsar Alexander II. Lincoln is still president, having never been assassinated, but he’s not been seen for six months, and rumors are flying about his disappearance. The country is being run as a police state by his former secretary of war Edwin Stanton, a power-hungry criminal who rules with an iron fist.

Liam McCool is an outlaw, known among other crooks as “King of the Cracksmen.” But his glory days as a safecracker and the head of a powerful New York gang end when he’s caught red-handed. Threatened with prison unless he informs on his own brethren fighting a guerilla war against Stanton’s tyranny, McCool’s been biding his time, trying to keeping the heat off him long enough to escape to San Francisco with his sweetheart Maggie. But when she turns up murdered, McCool discovers a trail of breadcrumbs that look to lead all the way up to the top of Stanton’s criminal organization. Joining forces with world-famed lady reporter Becky Fox, he plunges deep into the underground war, racing to find Maggie’s killer and stop Stanton once and for all.

King of the Cracksmen is an explosive, action-packed look at a Victorian empire that never was, partTo Catch a Thief, part Little Big Man, steampunk as you’ve never seen it before

Thursday, February 19, 2015

En Garde! Neil Gaiman & Daniel Handler

So, on Tuesday, my wife and I went on a little adventure. On Valentine's Day (Saturday), she gave me a ticket to adventure.  No clue about the destination, just that I was to present this ticket on Tuesday.  As the days go by, she's teasing me about Tuesday's adventure.  When we are preparing to go, she ponders aloud whether I should drive and she just gives me the directions as I need them or if she should blindfold me and drive herself.

We decide to go the blindfold route.  

I never realized how disconcerting it was to drive, sitting in the passenger seat of one's own car, without seeing anything but hearing the highway whoosh by and an even louder whoosh when we drive through a tunnel.  Then to hear the blaring of horns.  I knew we were in New York City, but then we cross a bridge. (I've crossed enough bridges in my life in a car to know the sound).

Panic sets in with my wife...because parking is nonexistent.  I eventually remove the blindfold (a makeshift blindfold of my bacon scarf) and I see the Barclay's Center so I realize we are in Brooklyn and my internal guesses are close to confirmed.  We finally find parking with barely any time to spare, which was fairly close to the where the event is being held, The Brooklyn Academy of Music at the Peter Jay Sharp Building. 

We walk in and my wife hands me the ticket for the event and my guess is correct.

(When she gave me the ticket to adventure, she asked if I  had any guesses and I did guess this thing (as well as a couple of other things), which I'd seen Neil tweet about a few times over the past few weeks).

As for the event itself, it had the feel of a concert with these two great storytellers taking the stage. My wife is a big fan of Handler's Lemony Snicket books and of course, I'm a Neil Gaiman fan.  The evening was spent with them telling stories of writing, stories about story, their mutual admiration for each other. At one point Neil Gaiman mentioned advice Gene Wolfe gave him to the effect that "You never learn how to write, you just learn how to write the book you are writing."

Despite the misleading title of the event as En Garde! the two writers did not engage in sword fighting. Although some of their rapier wit was indeed on display. 

They spoke about writing for a younger audience and how important Diana Wyne Jones was to Neil, including when he met her for the first time. Daniel spoke about his new book, We Are Pirates, and its long gestation period before publication. Of course, the conversation turned to Neil's new collection Trigger Warning.

My only real criticism of the otherwise stellar event was that only one booth was present for selling the author's signed books.  With the crowd of people there to see New York Times bestselling authors, two booths should ahve been there.

If the opportunity presents itself for you to sit and listen to Neil Gaiman talk about story for an hour and a half, take that opportunity. For that matter, the same goes for Daniel Handler.

Over all it was a great night (except for the utter lack of parking facilities).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-02-14)

Just a few books this week, a nice down turn from the previous week's big batch of arrivals.

Pirate’s Promise (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Chris Jackson (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 01/16/2015) – Jackson’s second book for the popular Pathfinder world sees him pick up the story of the pirate Torius Vin first introduced in Pirate’s Honor

Torius Vin is perfectly happy with his life as a pirate captain, sailing the Inner Sea in search of plunder with a bold crew of buccaneers and Celeste, his snake-bodied navigator and one true love. Yet all that changes when his sometimes-friend Vreva - a high-powered courtesan and abolitionist spy in the slaver stronghold of Okeno - draws him into her shadowy network of insurgents. Caught between the slavers he hates and a navy that sees him as a criminal, can Torius continue to choose the path of piracy? Or will he sign on as a privateer, bringing freedom to others - at the price of his own? From fan-favorite author Chris A. Jackson comes a tale of espionage and high-seas adventure, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

The Hollow Queen (The Symphony of Ages #8) by Elizabeth Haydon (Tor Hardcover 06/02/2015) – A little less than a year since the previous installment of the series, The Merchant Emperor Haydon and Tor publish volume 8 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

Acclaimed author Elizabeth Haydon returns with a heartbreaking tale of love and valor in The Hollow Queen, the eighth installment of her USA Today bestselling Symphony of Ages series that began with Rhapsody.

Beset on all sides by the forces of the merchant emperor Talquist, the Cymrian Alliance finds itself in desperate straits. Rhapsody herself has joined the battle, wielding the Daystar Clarion, leaving her True Name in hiding with her infant son. Ashe tries to enlist the aid of the Sea Mages. Within their Citadel of Scholarship lies the White Ivory tower, a spire that could hold the key to unraveling the full extent of Talquist’s machinations. Achmed journeys to the reportedly unassailable palace of Jierna Tal, to kill emperor Talquist—all the while knowing that even if he succeeds, it may not be enough to stop the momentum of the war.

As they struggle to untangle the web of Talquist’s treachery, the leaders of the Cymrian alliance are met with obstacles at every turn. Rhapsody soon realizes that the end of this war will come at an unimaginable price: the lives of those she holds dearest.

Nightblade (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Liane Merciel (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 11/04/2014) – I read Merciel’s first book, Nightglass for Pathfinder a couple of years ago, this one seems to follow-up on that story.

Where Demons Fear to Tread
Raised as a wizard-priest in the church of the dark god Zon-Kuthon, Isiem escaped his sadistic masters and became a rebel, leaving behind everything he knew in order to follow his conscience. Now, his unique heritage makes him perfect for a dangerous mission into an ancient dungeon said to hold a magical weapon capable of slaying demons and devils by the thousands and freeing the world of their fiendish taint. Accompanied by companions ranging from a righteous paladin to mercantile mercenaries, Isiem will lead the expedition back into shadowed lands that are all too familiar. And what the adventurers find at the dungeon’s heart will change them all forever.

From acclaimed author Liane Merciel comes a dark tale of survival, horror, and second chances, set in the award- winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Round Up! Bear, Bara, Moon @ SFFWorld and an Apocalyptic Mind Meld!

Been a while since I’ve done one of these Friday updates…oddly, I seem to begin these posts this way. I’ve had less time to do any blogging since my day job has been busier and the increased firewalls preventing me from doing any non-work related internetting.

So, on with it with the last few reviews I’ve posted to SFFWorld…

The first book review I posted in 2015 was for Elizabeth Bear’s fun and enchanting Karen Memory, a terrific steampunk / weird western / murder mystery:

That’s a great voice readers encounter immediately and throughout the novel, Bear remains powerfully consistent with that voice, not skipping a beat. As such, the copyeditor for this one should get special mention for ensuring the voice remained consistent over the course of the novel. Karen is a “seamstress,” which is code for sex worker and as such, Hôtels such as Madame Damnable’s were required to pay a sewing machine tax. Some may find it surprising that this was a real thing of Seattle’s past.
The other standout element is the wonderful cast of characters who, for the most part, are unapologetic, empathetic, and genuine. I thought Bear’s depiction of the budding relationship between Priya and Karen against the dark and fantastic backdrop proved a great optimistic balance. As for the cast of characters as a whole, they are diverse in a way that feels natural for the story. Karen Memory is a relatively short novel by today’s standards (352 pages), but Bear packs so much passion, energy, and uniqueness in the novel.

Earlier this week, my February Mind Meld was posted to SF Signal, in which I ask Bob Reiss, David Annadale, E.E. Knight, James Knapp, Jason Hough, Jaym Gates, Kristin Centorcelli, and Paul Weimer

Apocalyptic and Dystopic scenarios are immensely popular, ranging from stories of the Zombie Apocalypse, Alien Invasion, Superflu, Environmental Disaster, or the quite popular “Unexplained.”

Last week, my review of Dave Bara’s debut novel a rollicking Space Opera / Military Science fiction novel, Impulse:

The story is set far enough into the future that “Old Earth” is not the focal planet for humanity in the story, rather, Quantar is at the center of events. Like many Military Science Fiction novels,Impulse is told in the first person, in the case from the viewpoint of Peter Cochrane, a Lieutenant in the Quantar Royal Navy, who is assigned to investigate a disaster in space which claimed the lives of fellow military personnel, including his girlfriend. The Impulse; however, a Unified Space Navy ship is under foreign command and ends up on a moon/planet about which little is currently known. Peter initially received this news from his father (Grand Admiral of the Quantar Navy, and part of the ruling family of Quantar), though the assignment comes from his superior, Supreme Commander of the Unified Space Navy.There’s a deep history to this universe, with a long-vanished civilization leaving relics behind for humanity to discover. These Relics each have a code of sorts associated with them that if we are advanced enough, we can decipher it. While this is a fairly tried and true trope of the genre, I was reminded of Mark Van Name’s Jon and Lobo novels. Other elements reminded me of David Weber/John Ringo’s Empire of Man novels. The bulk of the knowledge of these Relics is protected by the Historians, advanced humans from Earth who don’t often take too active a role in humanity’s development and exploration. These characters reminded me a great deal of the Observers from the TV show Fringe.

My most recent review is the final novel in Elizabeth Moon’s Paladin’s Legacy series, Crown of Renewal:

The main thread of the novel deals with Dorrin Verrakai and how, as Duke, she adjust to the political and military power she possesses coming into conflict and with the magical power growing within her and in the land. She is quite symbolic of the various changes occurring in the world of the novel. When she was appointed Duke, she was the first female to be appointed such a role. Her family line provided conflict and trust issues over those whom she presided. Change is thrust upon her again when she is given the task of transporting a magical crown that speaks to her as if she is queen. Dorrin must make some difficult choices about her status as Duke and Heir, two roles that she cannot hold. Unfortunately, the choice she makes affects more than just herself.Crown of Renewal (and the five books which comprise The Paladin’s Legacy) proved once again that Elizabeth Moon provides me with novels I enjoy and find satisfying from character and (mostly) plot perspective. In other words, throughout, I found this to be a dependable Fantasy series that delivered an immersive and enjoyable reading experience. While some of the plot points and character movements went to places I may not have expected, my high expectations for a novel I could dive into and trust to tell me a good story were well met.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-02-07)

After a few slow weeks, things blew up this week, with a bulk of these books arriving on Friday. Some of these I specifically asked the publisher to send me, so I’ll be reading those.

Empire (Book Two of The Chronicles of the Invaders) by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard (Emily Beslter Books / Simon & Schuster Hardcover 02/24/2014) – A year later and here we have the second in the author duo’s series about an alien invasion. .

Empire continues the journey of Syl and Paul as they fight to regain planet Earth from a ruthless alien species, in this next installment of a stunning new science fiction trilogy that “should not to be missed” (The Guardian).

She is the trophy of a civilization at war with itself.

He is its rebel captive.

Separated by millions of light years, they will fight to be united…

Earth has been conquered and occupied. The war is lost.

The Resistance still fights the invaders, but they are nothing more than an annoyance to the Illyri, an alien race of superior technology and military strength.

When caught, the young rebels are conscripted. Part soldiers, part hostages, they join the Brigades, sent to fight at the edges of the growing Illyri Empire.

Paul Kerr is one such soldier—torn from his home and his beloved Syl Hellais. She is the first alien child born on Earth, a creature of two worlds—and a being possessed of powers beyond imagining. Now both must endure the terrible exile that Syl’s race has deemed just punishment for their love.

But the conquest of Earth is not all it seems.

There is another species involved, known only as the Others, and the Illyri will kill to keep their existence secret.

Light years from Earth and millions of miles apart, Paul and Syl must find a way to reveal the horrifying truth behind the Empire, and save all that they hold dear from the hunger of the Others.

Even at the cost of their own lives…

The Well’s End by Seth Fishman (Speak (Penguin) Trade Paperback 01/08/2015) – Fishman’s debut sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I met Seth at a couple of events. He’s also a literary agent so I suspect he has a pretty good idea of what makes a fine story

Panic grips sixteen-year-old Mia Kish’s boarding school, Westbrook Academy, when a mysterious quarantine is suddenly enforced by a small army of soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later. The quarantine makes no sense—but then students and faculty inexplicably begin to break down. Their illness is an aggressive virus that ages its victims years in only a matter of hours. The end result? Death.

No one can explain what’s going or has any idea what to do. Except Mia.

Because she knows something that no one else does. And she knows the only place to escape to get answers...But what she finds may be even more horrific than anything that came before.

The Dark Water (A Well’s End novel) by Seth Fishman (Speak (Penguin) Trade Paperback 01/08/2015) – Sequel to the book just above this one, it appears the design the publisher used on this one ret-conned the design of the previous book when it published as trade paperback.

To escape Blake Sutton’s army at the end of the enthralling The Well’s End, Mia and her friends jump into the newly gurgling fountain of youth and swim to its very bottom. When they resurface, an astounding world awaits them—an entire underground civilization of humans, the Keepers of the Well.

But instead of finding a safe haven, Mia and her gang are quickly embroiled in a dangerous, high-stakes battle royale. If Mia wants to save everyone she loves and make it back home alive, she’s got to get to the water’s Source before Sutton and his troops, who are still hot on her trail.

With new characters and new threats, Seth Fishman has upped the ante fantastically and delivers another tense, fast-paced adventure in a richly imagined world just below our feet.

The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu (Saga Press Hardcover 04/07/2015) – This is quite possibly the most anticipated debut of 2015, Liu has written quite a few award winning stories and this opens a big fat epic fantasy saga.

Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

Fortune’s Blight (Shattered Kingdoms #2) by Evie Manieri (Tor, Hardcover/eBook 02/17/2015) – Two years after her debut and launch of this series, Manieri’s second book hits bookshelves.

Victory for the Shadari rebels has come at a terrible price. Hardship, superstition, and petty feuds poison King Daryan’s young reign, and entire families are vanishing without a trace. Help is nowhere to be found, for their Nomas allies have troubles of their own and the Mongrel, plagued by the sins of her violent past, has disappeared.

While Daryan struggles to maintain the peace, Eofar and Rho are racing to their northern homeland to plead—or fight—for the Shadar’s independence. But Norland has changed, and they soon find themselves embroiled in the court politics of an empire about to implode.

Meanwhile, the Mongrel’s path carries her deep into Norland’s frozen wastes to redeem a promise—one that forces her into the heart of the growing conflict.

As the foundations of the two far-flung countries begin to crack, an enigmatic figure watches from a tower room in Ravindal Castle. She is old, and a prisoner, but her reach is long, and her patience is about to be rewarded....

Madness in Solidar (Imager Portfolio #9) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor Hardcover 03/03/2015) A little over a year since Modesitt’s last novel, he gives us another Imager novel, set a few centuries after the most recent one Rex Regis

Four centuries after its founding, Solidar’s Collegium of Imagers is in decline, the exploits of its founder, the legendary Quaeryt, largely forgotten. The Collegium is so lacking in leadership that the dying Maitre must summon Alastar, an obscure but talented senior imager from Westisle far to the south who has little knowledge of politics in the capital, as his successor.

When Alastar arrives in L’Excelsis and becomes the new Maitre, he finds disarray and lack of discipline within the Collegium, and the ruler of Solidar so hated by the High Holders that they openly refer to him as being mad. To make matters worse, neither Rex Ryen, ridiculed as Rex Dafou, nor the High Holders have any respect for the Collegium, and Alastar finds himself in the middle of a power struggle, with Ryen demanding that the Collegium remove the strongest High Holders and the military leadership in turn plotting to topple Ryen and destroy the Collegium.

At the same time, Ryen is demanding the High Holders pay a massive increase in taxes while he initiates a grandiose building project. And all that, Alastar discovers, is only a fraction of the problems he and the Collegium face.

The Red by Linda Nagata (Saga Press Paperback June 2015), Paperback 12/09/2014) – This one has been on my radar since initially being nominated for a Nebula and the great things my pal <Paul Weimer has said about the book.

Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.

Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality TV show.

When an airstrike almost destroys their outpost, a plot begins to unravel that’s worthy of Crichton and Clancy’s best. The conflict soon involves rogue defense contractors, corrupt US politicians, and homegrown terrorists who possess nuclear bombs. Soon Shelley must accept that the helpful warnings in his head could be AI. But what is the cost of serving its agenda?

Trial of Intentions (Vaults of Heaven #2) by Peter Orullian (Tor Trade Paperback 05/12/2015) – This is a long-time gestating and damn is the ARC a thick brick of a book I will likely circle back to the reissue/author’s definitive edition of the first book .

The Unremembered before diving into this one.

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.

But there is dissent. One king won’t answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.

Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war. 

And his choices may reshape a world . . . .

The second title in the Vault of Heaven series, Peter Orullian's Trial of Intentions is a mesmerizing fantasy epic that turns the conventions of the genre on its head

Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout (Tor Hardcover 01/27/2015) – Sequel to California Bones published in June 2014….six months between books one and two, not bad.

He’s Sam. He’s just this guy.

Okay, yeah, he’s a golem created by the late Hierarch of Southern California from the substance of his own magic. With a lot of work, Sam might be able to wield magic himself. He kind of doubts it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.

Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and Sam is still alive. He’s also the reason Sam has lived his entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect him. To teach him.

But it gets old. Sam has got nobody but Daniel. He’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.

Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction. Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. Sam managed to get them to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing Daniel, but he isn’t going anyplace soon

Does Sam even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? He’s good at escaping from things. Now he’s escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and he’s on his way to LA.

This may be the worst idea he’s ever had.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-01-31)

Four books this week, two of which I called out at the end of 2014 as books high on my anticipated 2015 books list.

The Skull Throne by Peter Brett (Del Rey 03/31/2015) – I have really enjoyed the three books Peat has published in the Demon Cycle series for its mix of old school high fantasy with some more modern sensibility (The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War).

Following up on the internationally bestselling The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett continues his critically acclaimed epic fantasy Demon Cycle series that will appeal to fans of Terry Brooks, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, and Robert Jordan.

Peter V. Brett has quickly established himself as one of the most successful new fantasy writers working today. Readers have embraced his world and his characters with a fervor, and his third and most recent novel hit the New York Times bestseller list in hardcover. Now he continues his epic series in grand style, offering the continuing stories of all the POV characters we have come to know and love, as well as adding several new ones into the mix.

Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson (Tor 02/10/2015) – A quirky urban fantasy debut from Henderson, Winner of the 2014 Golden Pen grand prize for Writers of the Future, “a writer to watch.”

Writers of the Future grand prize winner Randy Henderson presents a dark and quirky debut in Finn Fancy Necromancy.

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years. But now that he’s free, someone—probably the same someone—is trying to get him sent back. Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers. They are going to be very hard to convince, since he’s already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.

But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he’s a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic. And he’s got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn’t really believe in Finn’s innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.

Old Venus by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Del Rey 03/03/2015) – A thematic sequel-of-sorts to this duo’s Old Mars anthology, which I reviewed back in 2013 for

Sixteen all-new stories by science fiction’s top talents, collected by bestselling author George R. R. Martin and multiple-award-winning editor Gardner Dozois

From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

But don’t despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction’s best writers—edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois—turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination.

Join our cast of award-winning contributors—including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more—as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.


Eleanor Arnason • Elizabeth Bear • David Brin • Tobias S. Buckell • Michael Cassutt • Joe Haldeman • Matthew Hughes • Gwyneth Jones • Joe R. Lansdale • Stephen Leigh • Paul McAuley • Ian McDonald • Garth Nix • Mike Resnick • Allen M. Steele • Lavie Tidhar

And an Introduction by Gardner Dozois

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey 06/30/2015) – I thoroughly enjoyed the first few books (His Majesty’s Dragon) of Novik’s Temeraire series by admittedly, my interest waned as the series continued. This is a fresh new world and looks to be a modern twist on a Fairy Tale.

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.