Sunday, January 31, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-01-30)

Some mail issues this week because of snow and the fact that I have an absolutely horrible mail carrier, perhaps the laziest, most vindictive, stupidest mail carrier I’ve ever had..

The Pagan Night (Book One of The Hallowed War) by Tim Akers (Titan Books Trade Paperback 01/19/2016) – After a handful of well-received Steampunk novels (published by Solaris and Pyr), Tim switches gears slightly to Historical/Epic Fantasy. This is a big fat novel, and a series he’s apparently been working on for quite some time. I’ll be posting a review of this one to

The Celestial Church has all but eliminated the old pagan ways, ruling the people with an iron hand. Demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the warriors of the Inquisition, yet it’s the battling factions within the Church and age-old hatreds between north and south that tear the land apart.

Malcolm Blakley, hero of the Reaver War, seeks to end the conflict between men, yet it will fall to his son, Ian, and the huntress Gwen Adair to stop the killing before it tears the land apart. The Pagan Night is an epic of mad gods, inquisitor priests, holy knights bound to hunt and kill, and noble houses fighting battles of politics, prejudice, and power.

Enter a world of mad gods, inquisitor-priests, holy knights bound to hunt and kill the broken spirits of the world and the noble Houses caught in their midst, fighting their own battles of politics, prejudice and power. Face the darkness of winter, know the hope of spring, and keep the faith of the Winter Sun.

Morning Star (Book Three of The Red Rising Trilogy) by Pierce Brown (Del Rey Hardcover 02/06/2016) – This one arrived just as I was finishing the first novel in the trilogy, Red Rising. All I’ll say is this: it is highly unlikely that I’ll be reading Morning Star.

Red Rising thrilled readers and announced the presence of a talented new author. Golden Son changed the game and took the story of Darrow to the next level. Now comes the exhilarating conclusion to the Red Rising Trilogy: Morning Star.

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

Dominion (Book Three of The Chronicles of the Invaders) by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard (Emily Beslter Books / Simon & Schuster Hardcover 04/05/2016) – A year later and here we have the third in the author duo’s series about an alien invasion publishes..

The third thrilling Chronicles of the Invaders adventure from New York Times bestselling author John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard mixes classic sci-fi with rich, character-driven plot, as Paul and Syl fight to save Earth from an enemy who is closer than ever.

Syl Hellais and Paul Kerr have traveled through Derith, the mysterious wormhole from which no traveler has ever returned. Yet Derith’s secrets are darker than they imagined, and trapped in a dimension beyond their own, they finally emerge to discover a universe that has moved on without them.

Years have passed, and Civil War rages among the Illyri. It is whispered that the Earth is lost, prey to the alien parasites known as the Others, and other worlds will soon follow. Most shocking of all, the sinister Archmage Syrene of the Nairene Sisterhood has disappeared into the bowels of the Sisterhood’s lair.

But before she cloistered herself, Archmage Syrene chose her replacement. The Sisterhood has a new leader, with her own plans for the future of her race. Now Syl and Paul, teenagers in a deadly adult world, must find a way to change the course of history and save the lives of billions. They have but one hope.

For Syl Hellais is changing…

Daughter of the Blood (Book Three of The Wall of Night) by Helen Lowe (Harper Voyager Mass Market Paperback 01/26/2016) – I’ve been seeing good things about this series from my friends Mark Yon and Paul Weimer, among others. I plan to go a series read through of these books.

A Gemmell Award-Winning Series

Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family's ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride's honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-01-23)

This week's haul, which arrived during the week before the 2 feet of snow on Saturday

Funeral Games (Far Star Trilogy #3) by Jay Allan (Harper Voyager 01/19/2016) – Allan winds down his trilogy in just three months. These monthly releases schedules seem to do well for the writer and the publisher.

The battle for the unification and rule of the Far Stars Confederation will be decided in this exhilarating third and final book in the swashbuckling space saga begun with Shadow of Empire and Enemy in the Dark.

The Far Stars stands on the edge of a precipice. The forces of Governor Vos have surged forth, conquering worlds and imposing the emperor’s brutal rule over millions. Only one thing stands in the way of total victory: Marshal Augustin Lucerne and his newly created Confederation. Vos has a simple plan: assassinate the marshal, and manipulate his generals to fight over his legacy, destroying each other in the process.

But another threat lurks: Arkarin Blackhawk. The smuggler and mercenary has been the marshal’s ally, working in the shadows and unraveling Vos’ plans. The governor can only hope the mysterious adventurer continues to resist a formal position in the Confederation.

Or he can have Blackhawk assassinated, too.

Because with Blackhawk succeeding Lucerne, the black and gold imperial flags will be stained red with blood. For his is a dark and dangerous past, and if he is put at the helm of the Confederation armies, the brutal imperial general he once had been may rise once again.

The Far Stars are facing the final battle. The Imperials seem unstoppable. But if Blackhawk somehow survives—and can come to grips with the horror deep within him—he just might be able to save the Far Stars from the iron hand of empire

Eclipse Phase: After the Fall edited by by Jaym Gates (Posthuman Studios 01/19/2016) – Jaym has done a lot of great things for the genre community, this is her latest anthology. Some impressive names in the line-up including Madeline Ashby, Ken Liu, and Fran Wilde.

It was the dawn of a new era, a technological and biological golden age for humanity. They had attained the stars, surmounted their weak physical shells, and found the cusp of a technological utopia. But those days slipped from their grasp, and now conflict runs rampant in the solar system. AIs and transhumanity struggle for survival, for balance, for a new golden age.

Their stories are many.

After the Fall is the first anthology from Posthuman Studios, set in the world of Eclipse Phase, their award-winning roleplaying game. The anthology will be a mix of old and new fiction, including stories by Eclipse Phase favorites—Nathaniel Dean, Jack Graham, Steve Mohan, and Rob Boyle and Davidson Cole. New fiction will feature science fiction rising stars Ken Liu, Madeline Ashby, Fran Wilde, Karin Lowachee, Wesley Schneider, and Andrew Penn Romine.

The anthology will be released digitally in January 2016 with a print release following in the spring, and is edited by Jaym Gates in collaboration with the Posthuman creators.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-01-16)

Just two books this week, and books for which I'd already received copies.

Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8) by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey, Hardcover 01/26/2016) – I’ve enjoyed every installment of this series Hammered is blurbed don the front, but because I also really enjoyed Hounded, loved it and posted the Hexed, Tricked, and Hunted This is the hardcopy of the ARC I received in November.

Iron Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, hero of Kevin Hearne’s epic New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series, has a point to make—and then drive into a vampire’s heart.

When a Druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand.

As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it’s not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki’s mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.

As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won’t come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.

Praise for Kevin Hearne and The Iron Druid Chronicles

“[The Iron Druid books] are clever, fast paced and a good escape.”—Jason Weisberger, Boing Boing

“Celtic mythology and an ancient Druid with modern attitude mix it up in the Arizona desert in this witty new fantasy series.”—Kelly Meding, author of Chimera

“Outrageously fun.”—The Plain Dealer, on Hounded

“Superb . . . plenty of quips and zap-pow-bang fighting.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review), on Hounded

“Exciting . . . [Atticus] is one of the best main characters currently present in the urban fantasy genre.”—Fantasy Book Critic, on Tricked

“Funny, razor-sharp . . . plenty of action, humor, and mythology.”—Booklist (starred review), on Shattered

ALIVE (Generations Trilogy #1) by Scott Sigler (Del Rey Hardcover 02/02/2016) – I listened to Scott’s first podcast two novel Infected and Contagious and loved this when it published in hardcover last summer.

For fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising comes a gripping sci-fi adventure in which a group of teenagers wake up in a mysterious corridor with no knowledge of who they are or how they got trapped. Their only hope lies with an indomitable young woman who must lead them not only to answers but to survival.

“I open my eyes to darkness. Total darkness. I hear my own breathing, but nothing else. I lift my head . . . it thumps against something solid and unmoving. There is a board right in front of my face. No, not a board . . . a lid.”

A teenage girl awakens to find herself trapped in a coffin. She has no idea who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Fighting her way free brings little relief—she discovers only a room lined with caskets and a handful of equally mystified survivors. Beyond their room lies a corridor filled with bones and dust, but no people . . . and no answers.

She knows only one thing about herself—her name, M. Savage, which was engraved on the foot of her coffin—yet she finds herself in charge. She is not the biggest among them, or the boldest, but for some reason the others trust her. Now, if they’re to have any chance, she must get them to trust each other.

Whatever the truth is, she is determined to find it and confront it. If she has to lead, she will make sure they survive. Maybe there’s a way out, a rational explanation, and a fighting chance against the dangers to come. Or maybe a reality they cannot comprehend lies just beyond the next turn.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-01-09)

Just one review book arrived this week, via email...

Cahill’s Unfinished Business (by Patrick Hester (ebook 01/03/2016) – I read the first Cord Cahil Adventure and really enjoyed it (Cahill's Homecomingso I’m pleased to see Patrick release another installment/episode. Patrick sent this to me earlier in the wek.

A year after the events in CAHILL'S HOMECOMING, Cord Cahill is adrift and angry. The Republic has put a bounty on his head for killing the man who murdered his sister, and bounty hunters are on his trail. This drives him to take a simple, but unsanctioned, Sentinel mission on the frontier. But old enemies are waiting for him, and soon he is fighting for his life against a new and terrifying threat… 

Fans of space westerns and space operas will enjoy CAHILL'S UNFINISHED BUSINESS!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Friday Round-Up: Bowen, Corey & O'Keefe @SFFWorld and @SFSignal Mind Melds

Wow, I haven’t posted a round up since last year (hack joke), but seriously, it has been over a month and that’s a longer time between Round Ups than usual. Not sure what that bodes for the future, but there it is.

As my Millions….and MILLIONS readers are probably aware, I posted my annual (and tenth!) Reading Year in Review on Monday. It turned out to be a really good year, if you want to take a gander at the SFF books published in 2015 that I enjoyed the most head over there. But in this post you’ll find some of the recent things I’ve posted to SFFWorld and SF Signal.

As it turned out my Mind Meld from March SFF Series That Hooked us After the First book was the top (most viewed) Mind Meld post for 2015, and my Mind Meld on giving Authors a Second Chance (September) is also on the list.  Of course, the fact that "hooked" posted early in the year gave it more time to be viewed than all but 2 mind melds last year.

My Mind Meld for December was posted just before Christmas (and it turned out to be one of the top SF Signal posts for December!), wherein I asked A.M. Dellamonica, Bob Milne, Kristen Bell , Troy L. Wiggins, Mieneke van der Salm, Kallen Kentner, Stefan Raets, Kat Hooper, The G (from Nerds of a Feather), Martin Cahill, Ardi Alspach , and Sarah Chorn

I finished off December with two reviews at SFFWorld and began 2016 with one review. Here goes...

Just about a month ago, my review of Lila Bowen (AKA Delilah S. Dawson) Wake of Vultures, one of the most honest and raw (in an excellent way) fantasy novels I read:

At the start of the novel, Nettie is a slave in all but name to her foster parents, and she isn’t too happy with them or her situation. They treat her horribly and she has no recompense. When a strange creepy fellow arrives on their farm, and Nettie fights for her life until she manages to defeat the creature making it dissolve into black sand, Nettie has an awakening. She can see things that normal people are unable to see. She leaves her home to join the Double TK Ranch where she poses as a boy and her considerable skill at breaking horses gives her the acceptance, friendship, and value-recognition she needs and deserves. In parallel to that, a Skinwalker (shapechanger) named Coyote Dan befriends her and helps Nettie come to grips with her new supernatural life. She can see vampires, witches and all sort of supernatural and weird entities. Dan sets her up with the Texas Rangers who combat these baddies. When Nettie was first sucked into the weird world, she became entangled with Pia Mupitsi, a monstrous child thief and Coyote Dan acts as a mentor to her through much of the story as Nettie comes to grips with how she fits into this new world she sees.

Another element I appreciated about Wake of Vultures, and this goes hand in hand with the “realness” of the protagonist, is the honest, unwavering nature of the entire narrative. Bowen doesn’t shy away from the bloody scenes, the difficult character scenes, the challenging themes and topics. In short, Wake of Vultures is a brave, bold novel of human truth set against a dark, magical backdrop. It is perfectly paced and engaging from start to finish.

My last review of 2015 turned out to be for a book that immediately leapt to the top of my favorites list, the latest Expanse installment from James S.A. Corey, Nemesis Games:

Here in Nemesis Games, James S.A. Corey changes the script again, by breaking up the crew of the Rocinate into its individual parts: Alex Kamal, Naomi Nagata, Amos, and James Holden. Not only that, a good portion of the narrative takes place on Earth, so in many ways, Nemesis Games is a risk. Worry not, though: the powerful storytelling and engaging characterization from previous volumes are shining through as The Expanse continues to reshuffle the deck with each installment.

If finding a new habitable planet on the other side of giant portal (let alone 1,000 planets) wasn’t game changer enough, what Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck do to Earth is well…earth shattering. A terrorist attack, unfortunately, is something resonates all too well in this day and age (Goddamn it, as I write this there was a terrorist attack on a Mosque in California) and there is some very introspective and pointed charged discussion between Naomi and her former lover Marcus surrounding the attack (Chapter 33). It is one of those central moments in a novel where so much of the ideological confrontations throughout the series seem to be nearly exemplified in one conversation.

My first review of 2016 is also a debut, and an impressive one at that. Steal the Sky the first installment of Megan E. O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent series:

Steampunk and magic on the raw, dusty frontier provide the backdrop for Megan E. O’Keefe’s debut novel, Steal the Sky. Our protagonist, Detan Honding, is stuck in a backwater mining town with his sidekick Tibs. Their airship is in a state of disrepair, but he’s given an opportunity to steal a ship from a ruthless figure in the community. Because the job, of course, doesn’t go smoothly, Detan soon finds himself under the scrutiny of the woman who employed him – Watch Captain Ripka, a local gang boss – Commodore Thratia Ganal (with the endearing nickname of Throatslitter), and a doppel. What’s a doppel you ask? A doppel is an illusionist/shape-changer who can assume the visage of anybody, which makes it difficult for Detan to always know with whom he’s speaking. But our roguish hero didn’t get far in life by being slow-witted

Of course the natural comparison for Detan is Malcom Reynolds, he of Serenity/Firefly. O’Keefe evokes a similar feel of the raw frontier as did Whedon’s space-western. Where O’Keefe raises the stakes is the judicious inclusion of magic and enhancing the western setting with steampunk elements.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Reading Year in Review - 2015

I’ve done this for a few years now (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006), so in order to maintain my flailing credibility as a genre blogger/book reviewer I have, I'm doing it again for 2015. I figured the first Monday of 2016 would be a good day to post this one, so here goes.

Before I get to the book stuff, I’ll mention again the big positive change this year. As some are aware, I was toiling away at an unrewarding, futureless job simply collecting a paycheck for a few years. The pay, admittedly, was not too bad, but the future at that job was somewhat dystopic. A few months before I left, a few people in my group were "Future Endeavored" and one high up VP promised more cuts to come multiple times on multiple conference calls. Then in August, I started a new job which four or so months in, I am really enjoying. I work at a great company and work with a great team of people and the future here is very bright and promising. I’m working a lot harder than I have in recent years, but it is rewarding and foundational for my future career with this company.

OK, back to the books. I’ll start with some stats as I do every year: I read (or at least attempted* to read) 80 books in 2015, depending on how you count omnibus editions. I say attempted because a few books I simply dropped because nothing about the book compelled me to keep reading. About half of what I read were new/2015 releases. In 2015, I posted 34 reviews to SFFWorld and 3 to I did more for SF Signal in 2015, too. My Completist column slowed down in 2015 (I kind of hit a little roadblock with the number of book series I actually finished reading). Keeping with the gender theme, 6 of the 15 Completist columns featured books by women. Still short of a fair and balanced 50%. I also continued wrangling the popular Mind Meld feature, having organized about one per month in 2015. Lastly, 4 of my book reviews appeared at SF Signal.

So all of that said, I think it was a fairly productive year, in terms of what I wrote/edited and posted – a total of 57 things I wrote were posted to those three Web sites. Plus whatever I rambled on about here on my blog. Whew…

Aside from the regular gamut of current year releases, some of my ‘catching up’ reads included a couple of installments of Butcher’s Dresden Files, finishing out Elizabeth Moon’s satisfying Paladin’s Legacy. My overall reading numbers increased a bit because I joined audible earlier in the year and this gave me more leeway in choosing my next read rather than pulling from the books publishers send me for review. I caught up with some titles from previous years, I think only one of the audio books I consumed was a current year release.

Here are some stats:
  • 43 2015/current year releases
  • 39 can be considered Fantasy
  • 28 books by authors new to me
  • 41 Books by women
  • 32 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 9 can be considered Horror
  • 14 total debut
  • 6 can be considered 2013 debuts
  • 12 audiobooks
Again, I made a concerted effort to read more books by women, and on a quantity basis, I’ve doubled and almost tripled the number for past years. This year, I read a slightly larger percentage (51.25%) of books written by women. What doesn't surprise me, but frustrates me still, is that if I read solely from books sent to me for review unsolicited, I likely wouldn't have even been at 30%. I've become more proactive when I'm given the opportunity to select books sent to me and when I purchase books. I'll again call out Renay's appearance on Rocket Talk as an eye-opener for me.   All in all, 2015 was a great reading year for me.

Minimalist number crunching out of the way, on to the categories for the 2015 Stuffies (I’ve been informally calling them that for a few years now). My annual disclaimer: This isn’t a typical top 10 or 12 or anything, but whatever you want to call them, here’s a breakdown of the 2015 books  I read and enjoyed most this past year. (Plus a few non-2015 books).

Rob’s Favorite 2015 Fantasy Novel(s)

Nailing down my very favorite fantasy novel published in 2015 is a very difficult task. These are essentially the same books I mentioned in the SFFWorld Best of 2015 post, but I’ll rejigger the order here to be alphabetical by book title since I enjoyed them all nearly equally. This means means The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher gets the nominal first spot. This may have been the most fun I had reading any book this year.
I loved this book. Steampunk isn’t my go-to subgenre, when it misses, it really misses. But when it hits like this one (or Beth Cato’s debut The Clockwork Dagger link), I really love it. I think because there’s more of a mix between the Steampunk aesthetic and epic rather than what is more typical of Steampunk in world that echoes Victorian times. I remarked on twitter that the best storytellers can transfer the joy they had in telling the story to the reader, in that conversation that a book/story is between reader and storyteller. It was very clear that Jim had a great deal of fun writing this one because it was an incredibly fun and engaging story.

Have I mentioned that I like Bridget? . Gwen was a great character, too. Very headstrong and I really empathized reading the scenes written with her as the POV. I don’t think she was as frustrating to the extent that her co-characters did, I got a sense that some thought she was a bit of a nuisance but again I didn’t see her that way at all. She was just a very headstrong, youthful character who acts before thinking. Folly is a lot of fun, too, even if she was more of a secondary character. I see big things down the road for her in terms of moving up to be more of a primary player. (Or maybe if the series is popular enough, a story from her POV would be fun).

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott is up next and the one book that probably gave me the most complete and satisfying reading experience of the year...
Elliott begins her tale at the height of King Anjihosh’s reign, he has united the Hundred, has two wives (as is custom), loving children, and a devoted people over whom he reigns. His son is curious and being groomed for the throne and Anjihosh’s daughter wishes to become a reve, a scout bonded to the enormous eagles who soar above the empire carrying messages of import. Anjihosh takes a bold young man named Kellas under his employ when Kellas dares to climb the Tower of Law in defiance of the King’s edicts. Kellas becomes an integral part of Anjihosh’s power base as the highest ranking Black Wolf (the King’s elite force of spies and warriors). He learns a secret about the king and is presented with a fateful decision.

Through these characters, Elliott smoothly navigates sexual and gendered lines of power, the power of politics, the power of fables and belief, the power of secrets, and how ruler’s thoughts of “what’s best for the people” is often what is best for themselves and potentially short-sighted. The sexual power here in Black Wolves is remarkable for many reasons, the women who hold stature are not demeaned for their sexual relations, it is facet of their characters and past; it is empowering just as any other positive trait should be. One of the more brutal scenes in the novel is when a man is punished via sexual violence by other men. Admittedly, the blatant nature of the brutality arises perhaps because it is less common to see such “punishment” directed towards men, whereas women are more often the targets of such punishing violence.

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb continues to cement her status as the wielder of the finest prose in the genre...
From Fool’s Assassin to Fool’s Quest, Fitz has been dragged through an emotional crucible, as was the Fool to an extent (both emotional and physical) in prior novels. In the Fool’s case we just get to learn more about it here in Fool’s Quest. My point is that these two characters have spent a great deal of time apart dealing with emotional and physical hardships. They both had to have their souls nearly destroyed so they could become the ideal versions of themselves through a rebirth and healing to confront their adversaries.

What also became clear to me as the novel was drawing to a conclusion, especially as the Fool wore his many guises, and revelations that came to light, is that Hobb is playing towards what I hope to be a world-capper of a novel. Without being too spoilerific, much of Hobb’s output has existed in the same world even if divided by characters, the Fitz/Farseer novels and the Liveship/Rain Wilds novels. There have been some hints from one series to the other, some crossover between characters, but each of the series have been fairly concerned with events in their parts of the world. Here, it seems, and more so than even in the finale of The Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Fate), the Rain Wilds and Farseer “sections” of the world are coming together in what could be a spectacular finale.

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole is his fourth novel, but a perfect novel for new readers to pick up and read and hands down his best yet.
I have been following Myke Cole’s writing career since reading his debut Control Point, the first salvo in a brilliant Military Fantasy series and milieu. Over that time, I’ve corresponded with Myke and chatted with him at various NY geek gatherings (NY Comic Con, meet-ups) so I am readily admitting there might be some bias coming into this review…. In it, Myke introduces readers to Jim Schweitzer, a Navy SEAL, husband, and father. Like many soldiers/operators, he is torn between his military life and his family life. His wife Sarah is an artist and her career is beginning to flourish. As the novel starts, Sarah is having a major exhibition of her work and unfortunately, Jim is called away in the middle of the exhibition by the Navy for an emergency mission.

Jim wakes up or rather he is brought back from the dead by a sorcerer and learns he is not alone in his own head and body. His unlife in his undead body share space with an ancient jinn named Ninip. Jim is informed that death has not severed his service to the Navy and he is “transferred” into Gemini Cell with Gemini referring, of course, to the twin souls of Jim and Ninip inhabiting Jim’s zombie body. As Jim soon learns, sharing a body with an angry jinn is a challenging task on top of adjusting to being undead and having been told his wife and son were murdered when he was killed. Jim’s spirit and Ninip’s spirit constantly struggle for control of Jim’s body, when in stasis, training or one of the missions he is sent to accomplish. Ninip is angry, seeks blood death and vengeance while Jim tries to calm the spirit.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Brad Beaulieu blew me away. I loved everything about it and I want more, more, MORE.
We begin in the fighting pits, witnessing 19-year old Çeda (pronounced Chayda) Ahyanesh’ala – known to many as the White Wolf – defeat a champion pit fighter, an opponent much larger and more experienced than her. An opponent of her own choosing. This opening was perfect, we get a sense of Çeda as a strong, deceptively imposing physical presence, a flavor of Sharakhai itself, and as the fight ends, a hint of her character and motivations. I dare say that if you aren’t drawn in by Bealieu’s powerful and magnetic opening, you should check yourself.

There’s also a nice interplay of fantasy flavors here, the more intimate and personal elements closely associated with Sword and Sorcery against the larger scale (worldly) elements associated with Epic Fantasy. Through Çeda’s introduction in a fighting/gladiatorial pit, the feel is initially Sword and Sorcery, something that could very easily be compared to a Robert E. Howard Conan story. I would even say you could extract that opening/intro as a complete stand-alone Sword and Sorcery story, it is a powerful, adrenalizing tale. As the story develops, we learn that Çeda’s plight and quest for revenge has more global stakes.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik rounds out my favorite fantasy only because it is last alphabetically.
One thing that struck me throughout the novel is a pervading sense of anger; it fueled much of the character interaction and pulled much of the plot along. Anger seems to be the only emotion, or a version of it such as disdain, the Dragon exhibits for much of the narrative. The prince, Marek, who visits the Dragon and later implores Agnieszka and the Dragon for their help, shows disdain and anger towards the Dragon. The other wizards introduced later in the novel seem to feel anger towards each other, while the Dragon condescends to interact with them with a great deal of spite. When Agnieszka interacts with people from her village in the middle-to-latter portion of the novel, they emanate an air of anger bordering on hatred to her. And yet, despite that anger driving many of these characters and the plot, Novik manages to overlay that anger with a sense of beauty and hopefulness; hope through the fierce determination of her character Agnieskza. Of course there are other emotions at play here, too. There’s a deep abiding love-of-friendship between Agnieszka and Kasia that provides an emotional backbone to the novel. There’s also sorrow and compassion and those come through in some of the minor characters.

Perhaps because I recently wrote about the books for SF Signal, I found many emotional and linguistic resonances with Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy. There’s a sense that the world in Uprooted echoes the folk tales of Europe, that it has a rich tradition sewn into the DNA of the world the characters inhabit, but we as readers meet these character at a time of Great Change, after all why else would we meet these characters?

Other 2015 fantasy books I enjoyed a great deal in 2015….
  • The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett - "…pride may be one of the characteristics or traits that does in many of the characters and can be seen as the greatest flaw a person can have in this world. Rojer, Jardir, Jayan (among others) all exhibit a great deal of hubris and pride. Some of them overcome that and don’t let the hubris consume them, but when that hubris so strongly defines an individual character here, it tends to be a fatalistic flaw. Leesha was quite prideful in her journey through to The Skull Throne, but in this third volume, her pride seems to have been quelled and as a result, she is a stronger character. I have been enjoying The Demon Cycle through the first three books and even more after The Skull Throne; I love the world building and enjoy the characters, but is also rewarding to see a writer’s skill and prowess grow from one novel to the next."
  • Chapelwood by Cherie Priest - "Thirty years after Maplecroft, the second (and at this time final) novel begins. Lisbeth is alone, her sister Emma has passed, her lover Nance has disappeared, and Dr. Seabury finally lost his battles with sanity and also passed. Lisbeth is drawn to the strange occurrences in Birmigham, AL. Though I haven’t read every Cthulhu mythos tale, for my money,Maplecroft and Chapelwood are the epitome of modern entries of that subset of horror and dark fantasy. Although there are only two novels chronicling the Borden family’s conflict with creatures out of the Cthulhu mythos, I would not mind the title of this column being invalidated."
  • The Price of Valor by Django Wexler - "…on the whole, Django Wexler manages to reveal more layers of the plot of the antagonists and more about his characters. Some closure here, but dammit, the unresolved elements and giant hints of things to come have the next installment in The Shadow Campaigns quite high on my I NEED TO READ WHEN IT PUBLISHES list. With The Price of Valor, Django Wexler continues to prove that he’s got a great story to excellent installment in a thoroughly entertaining Military/Flintlock Fantasy saga.”
  • The Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – Court of Fives is one of those deceptively simple novels in which there’s a lot to be gleaned from the page if you know to look for it, and even more happening beyond the immediate action, as little details come together to build a very sound structure of a novel. …Jessamy is an extremely well-rounded character who, for all of her love for her family and inner strength, is flawed, occasionally allowing her pride to get the best of her.

Rob Favorite 2015 Science Fiction Novel(s)

The divide between Fantasy and Science Fiction was much more even this year, but much of the SF I read was backlist like CJ Cherryh. I think the SF book I enjoyed the most was The RED: First Light by Linda Nagata. Yeah, I know it is technically an older title, but a new edition was published this year through Saga Press:

Lieutenant James Shelley is in charge of a Linked Combat Squad (LCS), who has dubbed him King David because of his premonitions which have often saved some, or all of them, from defeat or death. In this near future (probably about Twenty Minutes into the Future) members of the military wear skull caps on their heads which connect them to a cloud network. The military answers more to defense contractors than the government. The skull caps worn by the squad members also, via the cloud and their network administrator (for lack of a better term), control their emotions to ensure a more cool and calculated demeanor in the field. Ironically enough, Shelly was a war protestor and in lieu of serving out a jail sentence, he agreed to join the military. He excelled and eventually Shelly’s premonitions become more powerful, but he sustains a very damaging combat injury in the first third of the novel. What provides Shelly with these premonitions is something he dubs “The Red;” but is it malevolent, benign, or benevolent or more likely, an unknowable wild card?
A big part of what I, and many people, enjoy about SFF is seeing familiar elements spun in a new way so I guess what I’m saying is that Nagata manages to bring a many familiar elements together (and few SF frameworks are as familiar or popular as Military SF) into something that manages to echo great stories that preceded it while still engaging in a powerfully refreshing fashion. In The Red, Nagata manages one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and enthralling meldings in SF of that familiar and “new spin.” I am excited to read the further exploits of James Shelley, The Red and wherever this story goes.

Since James S.A. Corey (AKA Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) published another installment of The Expanse guess what makes my list again? Yup, the fifth installment; Nemesis Games (The TV show just launched!)

After returning from the planet Ilus at the far end of the Galaxy through the gate the protomolecule opened, Holden and crew go on shore leave in search for a bit of respite. Each has some affairs to settle or loose ends requiring tying up from prior to the series events. Naomi wants to reconnect with her son, Alex initially wants to make amends with his ex-wife, and Amos wants to settle up with a woman from his days as “Timmy” on the streets of Baltimore. Meanwhile, Holden is tasked by Fred Johnson, leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, with tracking down missing space vessels.

Each member is sort of going along on their own business when a major terrorist attack shatters the Earth. As such, we see the story through each of their personal lenses with all POV chapters from a member of the Rocinante. Each member of the crew is affected dramatically by their circumstances away from Rocinante, with Naomi a “guest” of her former lover, and Amos near one of the ground zeroes of the impact of the attack. Alex and Holden, have their own life-threatening issues to deal with after the attack, too. We’ve seen glimpses of the other characters in Holden’s presence, but never separated like this. At five books into the series, splitting the characters is a genius move to make the crew of theRocinante still seem fresh with plenty of room to breathe and develop. We knew them, sure, but we didn’t know them completely and only had glimpses or hints of their past. (At least in the novels.)

Next up is a book by an author who I first read last year, the fabulous Delilah Dawson. This is the first audio book on the list, Hit by Delilah Dawson:
It isn’t too much of a leap to think that banks own us, our debt, and everything we possess because of our debt to banks and credit cards. Take that idea one step (or leap) further – A single bank buys out all of America’s debt and America is the United States of America in name only. In Delilah S. Dawson’s dystopic tale Hit, Valor National (Bank) has done just that and owns all the debt. If you are overdue, they’ll come collecting just as they did on seventeen year-old Patricia (Patsy) Klein’s single mother (Patsy’s father left them years ago, and is only a faint memory for Patsy) with three options: pay all your debt now, die, or become an indentured servant for Valor National. In other words, become a bounty hunter for the bank and approach other people who owe Valor and offer them the same options. The indentured servitude lasts 5 days or until the 10 people on the list are killed, brought into service, or least likely, pay their debt.

The natural dystopic comparison is to The Hunger Games, if only because both novels feature a very head-strong, likable, engaging, young female protagonist. If anything, the America and world revealed in Hit could be seen almost as a precursor to the fractured and realigned national boundaries of Panem. There’s a certain South Park episode that served as partial inspiration to the novel/series/world, but the story takes off from the notion set forth in that episode with Dawson’s wonderful pacing and character development.

Planetfall by Emma Newman is a powerful and Important novel:
Let’s get this out of the way first: Planetfall is not an easy book to discuss without giving away too much about its plot and characters. So I won’t give away too many of the finer details of the plot—what can be said is that approximately 1,000 colonists left Earth, including the protagonist, Renata “Ren” Ghali, who followed Lee Suh-Mi, her lover and leader of this group, to the new planet in what can best be described as a pilgrimage of faith. Earth was not in the best of shape, but there isn’t much more elaboration than that in the plot or background details. When the colonists arrived on the new planet, Lee entered a pre-existing structure the colonists discovered and came to name God’s City. When Newman begins the novel 20 odd years later, Lee had yet to return from God’s City and she is revered as something close to a saint as the people await her return and still follow the spirit of her beliefs.

Planetfall is at once a fascinating character study through Ren’s first person narrative and a novel that examines how secrets, no matter how deeply buried they are, can be extremely damaging things…especially in a small colony in a seeming utopia. Ren spends much of her day as the colony’s printer, responsible for overseeing an advanced 3-D printer which is used to repair damaged items or create new items when necessary. Any items. Ren’s obsession with repairing things is a mask for trying to repair the damages left in the wake of Lee’s disappearance, and an attempt to bury her own guilt in the tragic events which transpired nearly two decades ago.

Other 2015 Science Fiction Novels I enjoyed a great deal in 2015….
  • Alive by Scott Sigler - "… With Alive, I feel like Scott upped his game. It isn’t always easy (at least for this relative and at the time very neophyte audiobook consumer) to get an idea of an author’s prose, listening to the book makes it a bit challenging to linger over the page and consume the prose with as much in-depth consideration. Even with that disclaimer, I think Scott’s prose here in Alive was a strength, and his use of the first person narrative was very engaging and helped me to finish reading the book in just a couple of days."
  • Zero World by Jason M. Hough - "I thought Zero World was a blast. One of my favorite Science Fictional tropes* is the Parallel Universe. Stories that feature protagonists/worlds and their mirror images which differ in only slight details, novels like The Talisman, the classic novel from Stephen King/Peter Straub, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle, or the many parallel worlds in comics, especially those of DC Comics’ Elseworlds. So you’ve got that element with Zero World and a protagonist that is like Leonard Shelby (from the film Memento) possessing the physical abilities of The Bionic Man and the tactical/combat/superspy knowledge of Jason Bourne or James Bond.."

Rob's Favorite 2015 Debut(s)

      The debut with the most hype and the one that came close to living up to it was Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, the first installment in his Epic Dandelion Dynasty:
      Set in the Dara archipelago (an imagined world with a Asian resonances), the Emperor Mapidéré has united the many islands under one banner. Immediately, in my mind, a flag arose. This could be seen as an endgame, for an epic fantasy novel/saga – the uniting of kingdoms by an ambitious ruler. But this is where Liu launches his story, at the apex of one ruler’s conquering goals as viewed by a trickster with lofty aspirations and an orphan seeking revenge. This trickster is a young boy who often gets into trouble, would rather frolic than read, but whose mother continually holds out hope that he’ll eventually “get it” and stop his tomfoolery. This is Kuni Garu, one of the primary protagonists of the novel. We see much of the action of the narrative through his point of view, we see him grow into manhood, become a husband, father, and unlikely leader of men. Kuni joins a street gang, has many adventures until he finally appoints himself Duke Garu and grows a legion of followers who pledge themselves to him. As Kuni climbs the social strata and makes a name for himself, he falls for a woman named Jia, the woman who becomes his first wife. … The Grace of Kings is one of those books that is a major part of the ongoing “conversation” of genre, as Coode Street podcasters Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe often refer. (I –highly– recommend checking out the episode of their podcast featuring Ken Liu and Saga Press editor Joe Montias well as Ken and Joe on Rocket Talk with Justin Landon). One of those topics of the “ongoing conversation” is the treatment of women characters and gender in the genre. There’s been a fair amount of criticism about the lack of female characters in this novel, itself just the first part of a trilogy. (This raises the question, I suppose, of how to review one novel in a series, which is a large chapter in a much larger story. That topic could be an essay or podcast itself.) While I can understand that frustration – to a point – it seems to me in order to showcase an element that might be underrepresented, one must first illustrate that deficiency.
      C.A. Higgins’s, Lightless, impressed the hell out of me when I read it and I’m looking forward to my from this author
      The System is the governing body of the solar system, they have total control of the populace. One of their experimental military space vessels – the Ananke – is boarded by two hostile men. These men, Mattie and Ivanov, are known to be thieves (Space Pirates!) and are suspected to be allies of the galaxy’s most infamous terrorist. Ivanov is caught, Mattie escapes. But before he escapes, Mattie does something to the Ananke. At the center of Lightless, C.A. Higgins debut novel space is computer scientist Althea. … Higgins is an astrophysicist, having recently graduated from Cornell University. Impressively, she also wrote this novel whilst studying for her degree. While at the heart of the novel is a science fictional trope that has been part of the genre for many years, Higgins extrapolates the science of today well enough in the details to make it a plausible question to consider. Equally impressive is that, like a blanket over the hard science fictional core of the novel, is some deft characterization, plotting, and story pacing. Another element of the story that Higgins evoked very powerfully was claustrophobia – both in terms of the confined atmosphere of the space vessel and the urgency of the timing of everything. Althea is under a very imposing deadline to repair the computers of two space vessels and Ida is feeling a great deal of internal pressure from her own superiors to prove that Ivanov and Mattie are connected to the terrorist Mallt-y-Nos. Even if there isn’t a xemomorph hunting the crew of Ananke the way one hunted the crew of the Nostromo, Higgins captures that same claustrophobic, confined feeling just as well.

    Favorite Backlist / Book Not Published in 2015 Read in 2015

    As I said earlier, I started an audible subscription this year.  One of those audio standouts was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, the first audio book I snagged with my audible subscription and the bar was set very high.
    George R.R. Martin proclaimed when he stated that Station Eleven was his favorite book from 2014, it is a book that shouldn’t work. The structure is not linear, it veers all over the place and doesn’t make itself immediately clear how everything is connected. That perceived barrier is what makes this such a strong and powerful novel because Mandel so skillfully weaves these narratives and left me at each seeming halting of a specific narrative wanting so much more. So I continued with the “new” narrative in the hopes of coming to a connection point between the seemingly separate narratives only to be fully engrossed in that “new” narrative. Or, in other words, I was wrapped up in what was happening to Kirsten only for Mandel to switch over to a narrative featuring Leander’s first wife Miranda and found myself equally enwrapped in her story. … Station Eleven is also a story about the power of art and how humanity will continue to express and be mystified by art. This couldn’t be more evident with an actor dying on stage or another protagonist as a player in the Traveling Symphony. ….or where the novel gets its title, from a comic book / graphic novel titled Station Eleven depicting humanity in space as a result of a ravaged earth. We see both the creative process and energy that went into the creation of the comic book as well as its long-ranging effects as Kirsten carries a copy around as both a comfort read and remembrance of the World Before. Like the Traveling Symphony itself performing King Lear as Arthur died performing the same play, the graphic novel Station Eleven is a great mirror with which to compare the novel itself.
    I also loved the The Dresden Files installment from last year, Skin GameThe Martian by Andy Weir, and the second installment of Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War sequence, Marque and Reprisal. She's publishing a new installment in that milieu this year so I'd like to read through the last three in the five book series. I didn’t do a formal review of these books but that is no indication of my lack of enjoyment. Both were great. Another audio book I thoroughly enjoyed was from an author I’ve been following and friendly with on twitter for a while, Miserere by Teresa Frohock.

    Lucian Negru, a Katharoi, is a disgraced (or fallen) exorcist in Woerld; one of four parallel worlds and specifically, Heaven’s primary “defensive line” between Earth and Hell. He is living on the proverbial leash of his twin sister Catarina, a dark sorceress looking to help the demon Mastema take over the known worlds. When she was at the gates of Hell years prior to the events of the novel, Lucian forsook his oaths as a man of god and to Rachel, the women he loved, in the hope that he could save his sister’s life and bring salvation to her soul. That didn’t quite work out completely, because although Catarina’s life was saved, her soul was tainted. For sixteen years, Catarina has continued to ask Lucian to open the Hellgates, despite his continued refusal. She begs him to constantly heal her wounds, which he does, but she mentally abuses him, and with some help, physically abuses him over those years leaving him a cripple with an unhealed leg. … Miserere is a novel of devotion, faith, god, demons, angels, and love. The novel utilizes Christian imagery and myth, but throughout the novel, it does not proselytize. Christian myth and biblical imagery provide the backdrop/world-building and it is handled beautifully through the characters, their actions, and the affect of the world(s) on the characters. One other thing I appreciated was the gender flip Frohock employed in the novel. When there is an abusive relationship between man and woman, the default dichotomy is for the man to be the abuser, the woman the victim. With Lucian and Catarina, Catarina is most definitely the abuser and Lucian the broken one who struggles to both remain in the relationship (for 16 years) and finally, with great difficulty and little outside assistance leaves the relationship. As the remainder of the narrative demonstrates, Lucian has a great deal of internal strength; he is saved as much by Rachel and Lindsay as he saves them both.
    MVP Author of 2015

    The criteria here is based solely on books published..since there a handful of authors who had high profile media adaptations release this year (ahem Andy Weir, James S.A. Corey). So, for me, here's what made this author my MVP author of 2015...

    I tried to narrow this down to one author, but found that a difficult task. So, I'm going to mention two and whether you want to call them co-MVPs or MVP and first runner up, that's up to you. MVP and runner-up seems OK. Then again, in 1979 the National League MVP was awarded to two baseball players. Either way, both authors deserve special mention. The first is based on how much I thoroughly enjoyed what I read from her, so let's do this.

    One author published five books this year, two of which I read. The two novels I read each launched a new series, she published a retrospective of her short fiction and a few short novels/novellas set in her existing worlds. This author was also a guest on many podcasts I listened to over the course of the year and was a wonderful voice, both from a fictional storytelling perspective and also from an Important Voice for the Genre standpoint.

    As I said above, Black Wolves was one of my favorite novels of the year, a novel that has me very eager to dive into her backlist. Elliott’s young adult debut, Court of Fives was a stunning novel, too. I recommended it to a cousin on facebook after she was looking for something new to read and she was blown away by it. I'd mentioned before (early last year and as far back as 2013) that I wanted to revisit Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series and finally began the first volume, King's Dragon, in the waning days of 2015 and I'm loving it. I'm likely not going to post a "Anticipated Reading" post for 2016, but chances are I'm going to be reading quite a bit of Kate Elliott in 2016 and perhaps dive into either Jaran or Crossroads trilogy (Crossroads is set in the same world as Black Wolves). 

    A very strong runner-up/co-MVP is Chuck Wendig as he was nearly as impossible to ignore for all the right reasons. Chuck published a dark, near future cyber-thriller, Zer0es, a new installment in his Miriam Black series, finished out The Harvest, his young adult series, with The Heartland, self published the second Mookie Pearl novel, The Hellsblood Bride, after some build-up helped to launch a flagship comic book title (The Shield from Dark Circle Comics), and oh yeah, published Aftermath the flagship title in the lead up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I only read two of the books and the comic and enjoyed them a great deal. Chuck bore a majority of the brunt of the Sad Banthas © John Kovalic (Star Wars “fans” who are extremely vocal about their anger over everything they judge as “incorrect” in Star Wars since the Disney buy-out) and came out better for it.

    So that's my wrap-up of what I read in 2015.

    Sunday, January 03, 2016

    Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-01-02)

    The first post of 2016 brings five books in the mail from the prior week, three of which arrived yesterday (Saturday). One I will be reading next and the others, I'm not so sure, if and/or when.

    All the Birds in the Sky (by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor , Hardcover 01/26/2016) – As editor of io9, Anders is one of the most prominent voices in the genre, this is her debut novel. I read her short storie ”Six Months, Three Days and loved it.

    From the editor-in-chief of, a stunning novel about the end of the world--and the beginning of our future

    Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

    But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's every-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

    A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

    City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett (Crown Trade Paperback 01/26/2016) – The first installment in this now trilogy was my favorite novel of 2014 and was recently shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Were it not for some puppy sadness, City of Stairs would have made the shortlist for the Hugo Award. So yeah, I’m reading this one.

    A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

    A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions. 

    Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

    So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten. 

    At least, it makes the perfect cover story. 

    The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world--or destroy it. 

    The trouble is that this old soldier isn't sure she's still got what it takes to be the hero.

    The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome by Serge Brussolo (Melville House Hardcover 01/19/2016) – This author of this French novel, translated for the first time into English, gets comparison to Stephen King & Philip K. Dick. Not bad company

    In The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome, lucid dreamers called mediums dive into their dreams to retrieve ectoplasms—sticky blobs with curiously soothing properties that are the only form of art in the world. The more elaborate the dream, the better the ectoplasm.

    David Sarella is a medium whose dream identity is a professional thief. With his beautiful accomplice Nadia, he breaks into jewelry stores and museums, lifts precious diamonds, and when he wakes, the loot turns into ectoplasms to be sold and displayed.

    Only the dives require an extraordinary amount of physical effort, and as David ages, they become more difficult. His dream world—or is it the real world?—grows unstable. Any dive could be his last, forever tearing him away from Nadia and their high-octane, Bond-like adventures.

    David decides to go down one final time, in the deepest, most extravagant dive ever attempted. But midway through, he begins to lose control, and the figures in the massive painting he’s trying to steal suddenly come to life . . . and start shooting.

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (Star Wars Books / Del Rey, Hardcover 01/05/2016) – This book arrived yesterday (Saturday) and was waiting for me after I saw the film for the second time. In a nice nod, Foster was chosen to write this and Foster ghost wrote the novelization of A New Hope.

    The official novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the highly anticipated blockbuster film directed by J. J. Abrams, featuring an 8-page color photo insert of thrilling images from the hit movie.

    More than thirty years ago, Star Wars burst onto the big screen and became a cultural phenomenon. Now the next adventures in this blockbuster saga are poised to captivate old and new fans alike—beginning with the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And alongside the cinematic debut comes the thrilling novel adaptation by New York Times bestselling science fiction master Alan Dean Foster.

    Set years after Return of the Jedi, this stunning new action-packed adventure rockets us back into the world of Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2,and Luke Skywalker, while introducing a host of exciting new characters. Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent. Yet the simple belief in good can still empower ordinary individuals to rise and meet the greatest challenges.

    So return to that galaxy far, far away, and prepare yourself for what happens when the Force awakens. . . .

    The Bands of Mourning (A Mistborn Novel) by Brandon Sanderson (Tor, Hardcover 01/26/2016) – Third “Wax and Wayne” novel, I haven’t had the opportunity to read the second one yet.

    The #1 New York Times bestselling author returns to the world of Mistborn with the follow-up to Shadows of Self

    With The Alloy of Law and Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson surprised readers with a New York Times bestselling spinoff of his Mistborn books, set after the action of the trilogy, in a period corresponding to late 19th-century America.

    Now, with The Bands of Mourning, Sanderson continues the story. The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.