Thursday, December 30, 2010

Huso and Moorcock - Closing out SFFWorld's 2010 Reviews

Two last reviews to mention before the year closes at SFFWorld one from me and one from Art. Both novels happened to have been published by Tor.

I’ll lead of with my review of a debut novel that has generated a heaping of praise thus far: The Last Page by Anthony Huso:

The world inhabited by these characters is believable with all its sense of wonder. Stonehold, the land ruled by Caliph in many ways, fits the mold of a standard patriarchy – scheming nobles, courtly intrigue, and dark secrets – elements which unfold before Caliph’s eyes and through the people close to him. Where things admirably stray from the norm is the intermingling of steampunk elements like Zepplines, the morphing of science/mathematics and magic into singular disciplines to study and manipulate the world like holomorphy. Elements of Voodoo magic enter the equation, further differentiating Huso’s imaginative backdrop from his peers and predecessors.

Where I did have some minor problems was the plot itself. While I loved the milieu, thoroughly enjoyed the inventive language (and simultaneously felt pity for the poor copyeditor who had to keep track of the strangely spelled words) and found the characters engaging, the plotting of the novel didn’t move as smoothly as those other strong elements. This isn’t to say The Last Page is plotted badly, just that the narrative pull wasn’t as strong as I would have liked and felt the book dragged at times.

Art wrapped up his review of Michael Moorcock's classic Hawkmoon series with The Runestaff

Everything moves at an incredible pace in The Runestaff, with all of the plotlines converging in an action-packed finale. As with the rest of the series, Moorcock covers in two hundred pages what many of today's authors would spread out over a thousand. This is not to say that Moorcock's prose is sparse – or that the George R.R. Martins, Tad Williamses and Steven Eriksons of fantasy pad their stories – but rather that whereas some other writers spend a great deal of time adding details so that readers may savor their worlds at the risk of slowing the plot to a standstill, in a "mere" eight hundred pages Moorcock takes readers on an exhilarating thrill ride in a world no less fantastic.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 2010-12-25)

A couple of these are leftovers from the previous week which got lost in the mix.

Kings of the North (Book Two of Paladin’s Legacy ) by Elizabeth Moon (Del Rey Hardcover 03/12/2011) – Last year, when I read Oath of Fealty it was the first book I read by Mrs. Moon and I quickly became a fan. Mark and I also interviewed her for SFFWorld last year.

Elizabeth Moon returns to the fantasy world of the paladin Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter—Paks for short—in this second volume of a new series filled with all the bold imaginative flights, meticulous world-building, realistic military action, and deft characterization that readers have come to expect from this award-winning author. In Kings of the North, Moon is working at the very height of her storytelling powers.

Peace and order have been restored to the kingdoms of Tsaia and Lyonya, thanks to the crowning of two kings: Mikeli of Tsaia and, in Lyonya, Kieri Phelan, a mercenary captain whose royal blood and half-elven heritage are resented by elves and humans alike.

On the surface, all is hope and promise. But underneath, trouble is brewing. Mikeli cannot sit safely on his throne as long as remnants of the evil Verrakaien magelords are at large. Kieri is being hounded to marry and provide the kingdom with an heir—but that is the least of his concerns. A strange rift has developed between him and his grandmother and co-ruler, the immortal elven queen known as the Lady. More problematic is the ex-pirate Alured, who schemes to seize Kieri’s throne for himself—and Mikeli’s, too, while he’s at it. Meanwhile, to the north, the aggressive kingdom of Pargun seems poised to invade.

Now, as war threatens to erupt from without and within, the two kings are dangerously divided. Old alliances and the bonds of friendship are about to be tested as never before. And a shocking discovery will change everything.

Mike Resnick (Pyr, Trade Paperback 12/07/2010) – Resnick’s manages to write with both quick quantity and quality. This latest is a steampunk/sf/western hybrid. .

The year is 1881. The United States of America ends at the Mississippi River. Beyond lies the Indian nations, where the magic of powerful Medicine Men has halted the advance of the Americans east of the river.

An American government desperate to expand its territory sends Thomas Alva Edison out West to the town of Tombstone, Arizona, on a mission to discover a scientific means of counteracting magic. Hired to protect this great genius, Wyatt Earp and his brothers.

But there are plenty who would like to see the Earps and Edison dead. Riding to their aid are old friends Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson. Against them stand the Apache wizard Geronimo and the Clanton gang. Battle lines are drawn, and the Clanton gang, which has its own reasons for wanting Edison dead, sends for Johnny Ringo, the one man who might be Doc Holliday's equal in a gunfight. But what shows up instead is The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo, returned from the dead and come to Tombstone looking for a fight.

Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where "Bat Masterson" hails from the ranks of the undead, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same.

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (Night Shade Books, Trade Paperback 4/14/2011) – I read a couple of novels by Marth Wells a few years ago The Wizard Hunters and Death of the Necromancer and enjoyed both of them. Wells is one of those writers whose work I have every intention of returning to in the future, so perhaps this is the one. I think her Fall of Ile-Rein which began with The Wizard Hunters deserves a bit more attention these days, considering it’s strong steampunk feel and the popularity of steampunk.

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is - a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save and himself... and his newfound kin.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Four Reviewers Reviewing...Bujold, Cook, Dresden, and Vance

With Christmas ‘round the corner, the reviewers at SFFWorld (including yours truly) have, over the past few days, gifted you all with a nice fresh batch of reviews.

I’ll lead of with Mark’s review of Changes, the 12th installment in Jim Butcher's superb and popular Dresden Files:

... as you might expect from previous Dresden’s, Jim does do epic battles well. Here there is an epic battle at Chichen Itza, where Maggie is to be sacrificed, between Harry and his friends and the might of the Red Court. We discover that Arianna’s aim is to sacrifice Maggie in a blood ritual which would release a death curse which would travel up the family tree from the sacrificial victim to all her siblings, then to her parents, then to all their siblings (like Harry’s half brother, Thomas), to the grandparents, to the grandparent’s siblings, ad infinitum.

What works best here is that the book has jaw-dropping moment after jaw-dropping moment. We have the appearance of an ancient God, the emergence of the Red King, and Harry visits the domain of the ErlKing. Most importantly, here’s where a lot of those plot lines previously told comes together: Harry’s past, Harry’s responsibilities, the Vampire-Wizard War, Harry’s friendships.

My review, is of a Darkwar another in an impressive line of omnibus reissues of Glen Cook’s back-list from by Night Shade Books:

Glen Cook is a rare beast of a writer – he can vacillate between military fantasy, space opera, epic fantasy, mystery, and science fantasy with great ease. His writing is often marked by a purity; that he is depicting life in its most real sense, from the thoughts in a character’s mind to the wind rushing across his or her face. Despite the characters in this novel not being human, Cook still pulls off this purity, this realness with great effect

Darkwar is an interesting book and shows a contrast in themes. A traditional story dressed up in different clothing, one might say. In other ways, the setting hearkens to some early planetary romances. As the pages were turning and I was becoming more acquainted with Marika, I couldn’t help but compare her to another harsh protagonist – Hekat from Karen Miller’s Empress. While I was not a fan of that book, the similarities between the two protagonists who appear nearly 25 years apart was not something I could ignore – both ‘heroines’ are easy to anger, easy to dislike, and very strong willed. Only that last character trait could be considered attractive.

Art had a look at a monumental anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois in honor/homage to Jack Vance: Songs of the Dying earth by

As for the stories, this collection is a dream come true for anyone who wanted to know more about the Dying Earth that we only get glimpses of in Vance's original tales. Not only is the world's geography more fully explored, but we even get to enjoy more tales featuring Cugel the Clever, Rhialto the Marvelous, Chun the Unavoidable, Turjan, Guyal, and Lith, not to mention twk-men, leucomorphs, pelgranes, deodands and sundry demons. I'd say about half of the stories feature one or more of Vance's characters, while the other half of the stories have completely original characters but are still unmistakably in Vance's world. Of the latter, one story may not feature Rhialto or Ildefonse, but will have bickering wizards with their heads full of spells. Another may not star that rogue Cugel, but will feature characters with bloated egos and dubious reputations. Pervading all of these tales is the entropic beauty of a world nearing its end and the fatalism of its inhabitants who wonder whether the Sun will rise tomorrow. And though many of these authors admit that Jack Vance's writing style is inimitable, they make a praiseworthy effort at mixing Vance's epic tone with the humorous situations characteristic of the later Dying Earth stories.

Mark’s other review, much like the first one highlighted in this post, is the latest installment of a popular and acclaimed series. I’ve read the first couple featuring Miles, so I’ve clearly got some catching up to do. The series is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Space Opera/Military Science Fiction/SF Romance Vorkosigan Saga, Cryoburn:

But now we have this new novel, set six or seven years after Diplomatic Immunity. Miles is now nearly forty, still an Imperial Lord Auditor in the Barrayaran Empire, but when visiting the planet of Kibou-daini/New Hope, he has been kidnapped. In just five days Miles now finds himself trying to escape the clutches of people hoping to hold the Lord Auditor to ransom.

So here we have Miles ‘meddling’ again, in events off-world from his home on Barrayar. There’s lots of underhanded political machinations by the cryo-corporations with designs on setting up on Miles’ homeworld, the recovery of Jin’s mother, an activist frozen to keep her out of the way, and attempts to dispatch the off-worlders who interfere with the companies plans.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-12-18)

Only a few books this week, two of which are from Black Library.

Horus Rising (Audio) (Horus Heresy) by Dan Abnett and read by Martyn Eliis (Black Library, Abridged CD 1/4/2011) – Last week when I received the most recent Horus Heresy novel, I remarked that I haven’t read the first in the series. Well, here it is in CD-Audio format. 6 hours of what I hope is SF goodness. I’ll be listening to this one for sure, my first review of an audio book.

It is the 31st millennium. Under the benevolent leadership of the Immortal Emperor, the Imperium of Man hasstretched out across the galaxy. It is a golden age of discovery and conquest. But now, on the eve of victory, the Emperor leaves the front lines, entrusting the great crusade to his favourite son, Horus. Promoted to Warmaster, can the idealistic Horus carry out the Emperor’s grand plan, or will this promotion sow the seeds of heresy amongst his brothers? Horus Rising is the first chapter in the epic tale of the Horus Heresy, a galactic civil war that threatened to bring about the extinction of humanity.

God King (Book Three of The Sigmar Trilogy /Time of Legends) by Graham McNeill (The Black Library Mass Market Paperback January 2011) – I now have all three books in this trilogy which will bump it up the pile even more. McNeill won the David Gemmell Legend Award in 2010 for Empire, which further helps to bump it up the pile.

Sigmar, the first Emperor, is a god amongst men, a peerless leader and an unbreakable warrior. Having defeated the Chaos invasion of Middenheim, the Empire knows a measure of peace. But in the vast deserts of Nehekhara, another empire is rising. Nagash, the most feared of necromancers, is determined to claim dominance over the Old World, crushing all before him with an unstoppable and nightmarish army. Legions of unnatural creatures swarm the Empire. Sigmar must defend the lands of the living from the hordes of the dead and prevent Nagash's terrible vision of power coming true.

The Keep (Adversary Cycle #1) by F. Paul Wilson (Tor, Trade Paperback 12/07/2010) – F. Paul Wilson is a consistent, engaging writer who flies under the radar. Whether horror or dark/urban fantasy, his style is very smooth. This is the first novel in his Adversary Cycle and a modern classic of the horror genre.

“Something is murdering my men.”

Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims.

When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that's both powerful and terrifying. Panicked, the Nazis bring in a local expert on folklore--who just happens to be Jewish--to shed some light on the mysterious happenings. And unbeknownst to anyone, there is another visitor on his way--a man who awoke from a nightmare and immediately set out to meet his destiny.

The battle has begun: On one side, the ultimate evil created by man, and on the other...the unthinkable, unstoppable, unknowing terror that man has inevitably awakened

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Colllins

With the holidays I figured I’d post a review I’ve held for a while since I feel it would make a good Christmas gift for readers of all ages. It is the first of a trilogy and one can purchase this first book by it’s lonesome or the whole trilogy in a gift pack.

The book is Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, a book originally published in 2008. I know I'm a bit late in catching onto this book, but it is very good. Here's a snip of my review:

The plotting throughout the novel is brisk and Collins’s style has that page-turning quality that proves ever more addictive the deeper into the story one delves. Through Katniss, we learn bits and pieces of how the world crumbled – at least North America – and rose into the nation of Panem. What makes Collins method of informing the reader about the world is that we don’t know much more than our protagonist, and this puts the reader ever more into the story.

We also learn of the hybrid creatures that populate the world – mockingjays, which are a cross between a mockingbird and a genetically created jabberjay; Muttations and Wolf Mutts – creatures that can best be described as synthetically engineered werewolves; and trackerjays, wasps that make killer bees seem as painful and harmful as a baby moth. Moreso than the creatures, where Collins succeeds in posting this future world is in the everyday life of its characters and how it is a reflection of the world at large.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-12-11)

A varied mixed of authors, publishers and books have arrived on my doorstep/in my mailbox/in front of my garage. Since I can't read all of them, I can at least post here what those books are. Here goes...

Prospero Burns (Horus Heresy) by Dan Abnett (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 12/28/2010) – Abnett is the king of Warhammer fiction and his work in the Horus Heresy sub series s considered some of his best work. I haven’t read any of the HH books, but this could be the first.

The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero..

Passion Play (Mithermages #1) by Orson Scott Card (Tor, Hardcover 01/04/2011) Although I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of OSC’s work (early Ender books, Homecoming, Alvin Maker , Pastwatch, The Worthing Saga,it’s been a few years since I read anything by OSC, and it was an older title of his at that, maybe Wyrms or one of his later milkings of the Ender saga. Maybe this, what feels like OSC channeling Neil Gaiman, will be my return to his work

Danny North knew from early childhood that his family was different, and that he was different from them. While his cousins were learning how to create the things that commoners called fairies, ghosts, golems, trolls, werewolves, and other such miracles that were the heritage of the North family, Danny worried that he would never show a talent, never form an outself.

He grew up in the rambling old house, filled with dozens of cousins, and aunts and uncles, all ruled by his father. Their home was isolated in the mountains of western Virginia, far from town, far from schools, far from other people.

There are many secrets in the House, and many rules that Danny must follow. There is a secret library with only a few dozen books, and none of them in English — but Danny and his cousins are expected to become fluent in the language of the books. While Danny’s cousins are free to create magic whenever they like, they must never do it where outsiders might see.

Unfortunately, there are some secrets kept from Danny as well. And that will lead to disaster for the North family.

The Iron Palace (The Shadowed Path #3) by Morgan Howell (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 12/28/2009) – The following dilemma lies at the heart of The Shadowed Path: if evil is fueled by violence, how can violence overcome it? This trilogy is set in the same world as Queen of the Orcs, but the action takes place two centuries later when all humanity is threatened by a fanatical cult that “harvests souls” for a bloodthirsty god.

Seventeen years have passed since Yim, an ex-slave blessed by the benevolent goddess Karm, sacrificed her body—and perhaps her very soul—to Lord Bahl, avatar of the evil Devourer. In that selfless act, Yim stripped Lord Bahl of his power but became pregnant with his son. Now that son, Froan, is a young man. And though Yim has raised him in the remote Grey Fens and kept him ignorant of his past, the taint of the Devourer is in his blood.

Even now an eldritch call goes out—and the slumbering shadow stirs in Froan’s blood, calling to him in a voice that cannot be denied. Armed with a dark magic he barely understands, Froan sets out to claim his destiny. When Yim seeks to stop him, her sole hope is that Honus—the love she abandoned—will take up the sword again for Karm’s sake and hers. Only then can she hope to face the impregnable bastion of unspeakable evil: the Iron Palace.

Wild Cards I (Wild Cards #1) edited by George R.R. Martin (Tor, Trade Paperback 01/04/2011) – Before GRRM was dabbling in multi-volume fantasy sagas, he was overseeing this popular shared world, one of the earliest examples of superheroes (or as GRRM coined the term, metahumans) in prose. .

Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin’s Wild cards shared-world series

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

Never Knew Another (Dogland Trilogy #1) by J.M. McDermott (Nightshade Books, Trade Paperback 2/22/2011) – McDermott’s debut novel Last Dragon published through the short-lived Wizards of the Coast Discoveries program, was praised when published two years ago. This is his latest novel.

Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer to the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother Djoss, she hides out in their squalid apartment, living in fear that someday, someone will find out that she is the child of a demon. Corporal Jona Lord Joni is a demon's child too, but instead of living in fear, he keeps his secret and goes about his life as a cocky, self-assured man of the law. The first book in the Dogsland Trilogy, Never Knew Another is the story of how these two outcasts meet.

Elric: Swords and Roses (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: Volume ) by Michael Moorcock (Del Rey Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – This is the sixfth volume in Del Rey’s terrific looking repackaging of Moorcock’s iconic Anti-hero, Elric. Each volume has had a different artist, this one’s cover and interior is by John Picacio. There’s also an introduction by Tad Williams. I’ve read most of the Elric stories in various forms, either in the Science Fiction Book Club omnibuses or the White Wolf versions.

Feared by enemies and friends alike, Elric of Melniboné walks a lonely path among the worlds of the Multiverse. The destroyer of his cruel and ancient race, as well as its final ruler, Elric is the bearer of a destiny as dark and cursed as the vampiric sword he carries—the sentient black blade known as Stormbringer.

Del Rey is proud to present the sixth and concluding installment of its definitive omnibus editions featuring fantasy Grand Master Michael Moorcock’s most famous—or infamous—creation. Here is the full text of the novel The Revenge of the Rose, a screenplay for the novel Stormbringer, the novella Black Petals, the conclusion to Moorcock’s influential “Aspects of Fantasy” essay series and other nonfiction, and an indispensable reader’s guide by John Davey.

Sumptuously illustrated by John Picacio, with a Foreword by Tad Williams, Elric: Swords and Roses is a fitting tribute to the most unique fantasy hero of all time.

Dark Waters by Alex Prentiss (Bantam, Mass Market Paperback 12/28/2010) – The second in the series about a mysterious Lady of the Lake. What I find most odd is that this author doesn’t have a Web site, an anomaly in this day and age.


By day, Rachel Matre runs a hip diner in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. By night, she slips naked into the waters of a lake whose spirits speak to her, caress her, and take her to a place of indescribable pleasure.

But now the machinations of a greedy developer have summoned another force from the depths—a strange, beautiful man with a dark agenda. Soon there is a murder by the lake. During the hunt for the killer, Rachel is pulled into a torturous limbo where all she can feel is her raging erotic lust—and never a release. A crime, an ancient curse, and a confluence of thoroughly modern relationships have plunged Rachel into the ultimate mystery: one whose solution will emerge only out of pain, desire, and a passion for the most forbidden truth of all.

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra Trade Paperback 12/29/2010) – When I received the hardcover exactly a year ago, I said, “ Although I couldn’t get through Red Mars, I’m definitely giving this one a try and maybe, just maybe I’ll revisit his Mars books one more time.” Well, I gave it a try and couldn’t finish the book. KSR’s style just doesn’t match up with my reading tastes.

The winner of every major science fiction award, Kim Stanley Robinson is a novelist who looks ahead with optimism even while acknowledging the steep challenges facing our planet and species: a clear-eyed realist who has not forgotten how to dream. His new novel offers his most audacious dream yet. At the heart of a brilliant narrative that stretches from Renaissance Italy to the moons of Jupiter is one man, the father of modern science: Galileo Galilei.

To the inhabitants of the Jovian moons, Galileo is a revered figure whose actions will influence the subsequent history of the human race. From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. And if that means Galileo must be burned at the stake, so be it.

Yet between his brief and jarring visitations to this future, Galileo must struggle against the ignorance and superstition of his own time. And it is here that Robinson is at his most brilliant, showing Galileo in all his contradictions and complexity. Robinson's Galileo is a tour de force of imaginative and historical empathy: the shining center around which the novel revolves.

From Galileo's heresy trial to the politics of far-future Jupiter, from the canals of Venice to frozen, mysterious Europa, Robinson illuminates the parallels between a distant past and an even more remote future—in the process celebrating the human spirit and calling into question the convenient truths of our own moment in time.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-12-04)

Probably the last big haul of the year, a bunch from the three headed monster of the Penguin imprints – Ace/Roc/DAW and a some from TOR.

Passion Play (College of Magica #1) by Beth Bernobich (Tor, Hardcover 10/12/2010) – Debut novel from a respected short story writer. This seems part of the growing trend of “Fantasy of Manners” I’ve been seeing lately.

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

Sure to appeal to fans of Jacqueline Carey’s
Kushiel’s Legacy series.

Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 12/28/2010) – SF Thriller from the author of a couple of zombie novels.

Unconscious for fourteen months after a debilitating accident, Maddy Grant awakens at the Braintree Institute, where scientists have successfully implanted her with a radical technology designed to correct her brain injury. But Maddy is more than cured. Her intellect has been enhanced to process information faster than a computer-an ability that's sending her emotions into overdrive.

To monitor her condition, the institute sends Maddy to the nearby village of Harmony, where she will be free to interact with the community. But Braintree's scientists are not only monitoring her behavior, they're modifying it, reprogramming her personality to become someone else.

A killer..

Songs of the Dying Earth edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, Hardcover 12/7/2010) – This is a massive tribute (and trade version of the Subterranean Press version published last year) anthology with an immensely impressive list of contributors I’ve ever seen: Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, Kage Baker, Terry Dowling, Phyllis Eisenstein, Glen Cook, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Hand, Matt Hughes, Tanith Lee, George R. R. Martin, Elizabeth Moon, Mike Resnick, Lucius Shepard, Jeff Vandermeer, Paula Volsky, Howard Waldrop, Liz Williams, Walter Jon Williams, Tad Williams, and John C. Wright.

To honor the magnificent career of Jack Vance, one unparalleled in achievement and impact, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, with the full cooperation of Vance, his family, and his agents, have created a Jack Vance tribute anthology:Songs of the Dying Earth. The best of today's fantasy writers to return to the unique and evocative milieu of The Dying Earth, from which they and so many others have drawn so much inspiration, to create their own brand-new adventures in the world of Jack Vance’s greatest novel.

Half a century ago, Jack Vance created the world of the Dying Earth, and fantasy has never been the same. Now, for the first time ever, Jack has agreed to open this bizarre and darkly beautiful world to other fantasists, to play in as their very own. To say that other fantasy writers are excited by this prospect is a gross understatement; one has told us that he'd crawl through broken glass for the chance to write for the anthology, another that he'd gladly give up his right arm for the privilege. That's the kind of regard in which Jack Vance and The Dying Earth are held by generations of his peers.

This book contains original stories from George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, Elizabeth Moon, Tanith Lee, Tad Williams, Kage Baker, and Robert Silverberg, along with fifteen others--as well as an introduction by Dean Koontz.

A Hard Day’s Knight (The Eleventh Novel of the Nightside) by Simon R. Green (Ace, Hardcover 01/05/2011) – Green is automatic – you can count on at least one book by him a year, and this is the first one of his books to publish in 2010.

John Taylor is a P.I. with a special talent for finding lost things in the dark and secret center of London known as the Nightside. He's also the reluctant owner of a very special-and dangerous-weapon. Excalibur, the legendary sword. To find out why he was chosen to wield it, John must consult the Last Defenders of Camelot, a group of knights who dwell in a place that some find more frightening than the Nightside.

London Proper. It's been years since John's been back-and there are good reasons for that.

The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny (The Tenth Novel of the Nightside) by Simon R. Green (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 01/04/2011) – Green is automatic – you can count on at least one book by him a year, and this is the first one of his books to publish in 2010 and this is the paperback version of the hardcover I received exactly one year ago.

Things were going so well for P.I. John Taylor, that it was only a matter of time before everything hit the fan. Walker, the powerful, ever-present, never­to-be-trusted agent who runs the Nightside on behalf of The Authorities, is dying. And he wants John to be his successor-a job that comes with more baggage, and more enemies, than anyone can possibly imagine.

Starbound by Joe Haldeman (Ace, Hardcover 12/28/2010) – This is the mass market paperback version of the book I received a year ago. Haldeman is a living legend and will be named Grand Master by the SFWA next year. I read and enjoyed both The Forever War and Forever Peace this is his latest novel and the synopsis sounds pretty interesting..

A New from the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award-winning author of Marsbound.

Carmen Dula and her husband have spent six years travelling to a distant solar system that is home to the enigmatic, powerful race known as "The Others," in the hopes of finding enough common purpose between their species to forge a delicate truce.

By the time Carmen and her party return, fifty years have been consumed by relativity-and the Earthlings have not been idle, building a massive flotilla of warships to defend Earth against The Others. But The Others have more power than any could imagine-and they will brook no insolence from the upstart human race.

Boondocks Fantasy> by Jean Rabe and Martin Greenberg (DAW, Mass Market Paperback 01/05/2011) – Here comes the monthly themed anthology from DAW. I get a “You might be a redneck” feel, but what really makes it stand out are contributors Gene Wolfe, Steve Savile, and Jay Lake..

Here’s the snippet:

From vampires in the Appalachians and leprechauns in the Smokies to mermaids in the Mississippi and bloodthirsty trolls in an Alabama trailer park the South makes a unique setting for the 20 stories in this anthology of redneck vampires, werewolves, wizards, elves, and other creatures.

Featuring original stories by Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, Chris Pierson, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Steven Savile, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Jay Lake, Anton Strout, and many more.

Secrets of the Demon (Kara Gillian, Book 3) by Diana Rowland (DAW Mass Market 1/4/2011)– Third in series about vampire hunter on the police force

Homicide detective Kara Gillian has a special talent: she can sense the "arcane" in our world, and there's quite a bit of it, even in Beaulac, Louisiana. She's also a summoner of demons, and works on a task force that deals with supernatural crimes. Her partners are attractive and smart FBI agents, but they're not summoners, and they're not telling Kara why they are on this special force with her.

TO make things worse, Kara has pledged herself to one of the most powerful of demons-a Demon Lord-who helped save her partner's life, but now expects things in return. Meanwhile, she's trying to solve a string of murders that are somehow tied together by money, sex, rock music and...mud. But how can she concentrate on the case when she's not even sure who-or what-her partners are?

The Dark Griffin (Fallen Moon Series #1) by K.J. Taylor (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 12/28/2010) – Taylor was a bestseller in Australia and now her books are hitting US shores. Ace is employing the book-per-month release schedule that has become proven success.

Being chosen as a griffin's companion has allowed Arren Cardockson to gain a place of status within the land of Cymria. But Arren can never escape the prejudice that comes with his Northerner slave origins. For chained within the Arena where rogue griffins battle to entertain the crowds, there lies another soul crying out to be freed-a kindred spirit that will allow Arren to fulfill his destiny and release the darkness in his heart.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Bear, Hamilton, Willis - 3 SF reviews at SFFWorld

Things are trucking along at SFFWorld , with one of my reviews posted and two from Mark.

I’ll lead of with Mark’s review of the latest novel from Connie Willis - All Clear, which finishes off what she started in Blackout,:

After the cliff-hanger ending of the first part, we get straight back into the tale. There’s a little bit of reminding of what went before (note: do read the first book first!) but pretty soon we’re back into the WW2 dilemma of Polly, Mary, and Mike. This can be a little confusing if it’s been a while since you read Black Out: you really do need to read this as one continuous novel.

The complexities of the time travel element become a little more involved here as the apparent changes in Black Out have their effect. We now find that there is a great deal of slippage: over four years, when the longest previously was about six months. Mr Dunworthy finds himself entering the fray from 2060, Mary finds herself involved with an RAF officer, whilst Mike, in his search for Gerald Phipps, finds himself at Bletchley Park and intermixing with the mathematicians involved in the ultra-secret Enigma code-breaking project. There’s also the welcome return of a character from the beginning of Black Out who has a pivotal part to play in this tale.

My review, also finishes off a larger story, The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton:

Throughout the three volumes of the trilogy, Hamilton has juxtaposed two societies – the inhabitants of the Void who are of a medieval level society against those who live outside the void in the universe at large. The people outside the Void are divided and many of them find inspiration from one man’s dreams of the world inside the Void, specifically a young, powerful psychic by the name of Edeard, whom people have anointed the Waterwalker. A religious movement, The Living Dream, has arisen and is looking to make a pilgrimage to the inside of the Void. Problem being is the Void is expanding exponentially and threatening the integrity of the universe. In order to prevent the Living Dream from completing its pilgrimage and further endangering the universe, humanity has tried to prevent this religious cult, for lack of a better term, from completing their pilgrimage.

Hamilton continues to jump around the galaxy in his narratives, from Paula Myo’s investigative track, to Araminta’s storyline of continued discovery, to Edeards’ heroic journey of ascension in Makkathran, to the conflict between humans who have and have not chosen a post-physical existence. Through all of it, the most defined narrative for me was Edeard’s story. While Hamilton invested a great deal of time into many of characters, like Myo who has been bouncing around his books for thousands of years and pages, it is Edeard who comes across as the most clearly defined and genuine.

The last review of the day is also Mark’s s review is of a reissued recent classic by Greg Bear, The Forge of God

What these are in actual fact are two spaceships. In the case of the spacecraft crashing in the Californian Mojave desert, there is a dying alien, in its own words, ‘a flea’, hitchhiking a ride with superior beings. In English, it tells its discoverers that it is very sorry to bring bad news but that the Earth is doomed.


The truth is sadly more sinister. What is happening is that the aliens, attracted by radio signals emitted from Earth, have brought with them two ‘bullets’ of neutronium and anti-neutronium that are eating through the interior of the Earth. Their meeting will be the end of the Earth as we know it. Moreover there is the scary realisation that this is deliberate: it is this that creates the matter used to birth more alien spaceships, a force created by a mechanical alien species who look at humans as if they are a lower lifeform. (Saberhagen’s Beserkers are mentioned as a sf-nal reference point.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-27)

This is the post where I tell my loyal readers what arrived the previous week

Brave New Worlds by John Joseph Adams (Trade Paperback 1/11/2011 Night Shade Books) – Mr. Adams is one of the preeminent anthology editors in the genre, he has a real knack for pulling together great stories on a specific theme.


In his smash-hit anthologies Wastelands and The Living Dead, acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams showed you what happens when society is utterly wiped away. Now he brings you a glimpse into an equally terrifying future — what happens when civilization invades and dictates every aspect of your life? From 1984 to The Handmaid’s Tale, from Children of Men to Bioshock, the dystopian imagination has been a vital and gripping cautionary force. Brave New Worlds collects the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today’s most visionary writers, including Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers (Trade Paperback 11/19/2010 Pyr) – This is Akers; second novel and a book that looks like a lot of steampunky fun.

Eva Forge is the last paladin of a dead God. Morgan, God of battle and champion of the Fraterdom, was assassinated by his jealous brother, Amon. Over time, the Cult of Morgan has been surpassed by other gods, his blessings ignored in favor of brighter technologies and more mechanical miracles. Eva was the last child dedicated to the Cult of Morgan, forsaken by her parents and forgotten by her family. Now she watches as her new family, her Cult, crumbles all around her.

When a series of kidnappings and murders makes it clear that someone is trying to hasten the death of the Cult of Morgan, Eva must seek out unexpected allies and unwelcome answers in the city of Ash. But will she be able to save the city from a growing conspiracy, one that reaches back to her childhood, even back to the murder of her god?

Elfsorrow (Legends of the Raven #1) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 11/15/2010) – First novel in The Legends of the Raven the second trilogy of James Barclay’s mercenary heroes. As Pyr did with James’s first trilogy, the publisher is releasing this series in successive months

Another action-packed adventure from the new master of fantasy. The Raven travel to a new continent in search of mages to help the ruined college of Julatsa rebuild and find themselves in the midst of an ancient curse—a curse that has unleashed a plague that threatens to wipe out the elven race. Barclay excels with another tale that pitches The Raven against the clock and unseen foes. Full of desperate fights and secret betrayals, the story also fills in more of Balaia's history and delves deeper into the ancient emnities between the colleges. Barclay has created a wonderfully appealing group of heroes, and with every book their history grows and the land they live in becomes wider and richer. This is landmark fantasy in the making.

Shadowheart (Legends of the Raven #2) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 12/15/2010) – What I said above, except this is the second in the second series. Like the previous, you can see the great cover by Raymond Swanland.

James Barclay has rapidly established himself as one of the leading lights of the genre with his two linked trilogies starring fantasy's most popular new heroes in many years: The Raven. The first trilogy was the Chronicles of The Raven and introduced the heroes and the world of Balaia. The second trilogy, The Legends of The Raven, began with Elfsorrow which served as an introduction for new readers. Now, with his fifth book, he tests The Raven to the point of destruction and unleashes a savage war across his world as the magical colleges of Balaia tear the land apart in their struggle for supremacy. Barclay has never been scared of killing off favourite characters, and this has given his books their unique edge. Now he threatens to destroy everything they have known. Can The Raven even survive, let alone triumph?

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback 03/17/2011) – Debut novel and first of a trilogy.

Fallen angels and the fey clash against the backdrop of Irish/English conflicts of the 1970s in this stunning debut novel by Stina Leicht.

Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that he was the bastard of a protestant--His mother never spoke of him, and Liam assumed he was dead.

But when the war between the fallen, and the fey began to heat up, Liam and his family are pulled into a conflict that they didn't know existed. A centuries old conflict between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970s era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts.

Only the direct intervention of Liam's real father, and a secret catholic order dedicated to fighting "The Fallen" can save Liam... from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within hi

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-20)

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

This is the post where I tell my loyal readers what arrived the previous week

Yarn by Jon Armstrong (Trade Paperback 12/1/2010 Night Shade Books) – I haven’t read Armstrong’s first book, the predecessor to this one, but it was fairly well received and this looks to continue that treand.

From the neo-feudalistic slubs, the corn-filled world of Tane's youth, to his apprenticeship among the deadly saleswarriors of Seattlehama--the sex-and-shopping capital of the world--to the horrors of a polluted Antarctica, Yarn tells a stylish tale of love, deceit, and memory.

Tane Cedar is the master tailor, the supreme outfitter of the wealthy, the beautiful, and the powerful. When an ex-lover, on the run from the authorities, asks him to create a garment from the dangerous and illegal Xi yarn--a psychedelic opiate--to ease her final hours, Tane's world is torn apart.

Armed with just his yarn pulls, scissors, Mini-Air-Juki handheld sewing machine, and his wits, Tane journeys through the shadowy underworld where he must untangle the deadly
mysteries and machinations of decades of deceit.

Following up on his highly acclaimed and Philip K. Dick Award-nominated "fashionpunk" novel Grey, Jon Armstrong explodes back on the scene with Yarn.

Demonstorm (Legends of the Raven #3) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 1/15/2011) – Third installment of The Legends of the Raven the second trilogy of James Barclay’s mercenary heroes. Like the previous two volumes, this one will have awesome cover art by Raymond Swanland.

THIS IS THE END.... The dragons have gone home, the elves are safe. The Raven have kept their promises. But fate has not finished with them. As the war between the colleges rages on, an old enemy senses that his chance to revenge a bitter defeat has come. Tessaya, Lord of the Paleon Tribes, has waited patiently for his moment and now, with Balaia in flames, he makes his move and unleashes the Wesmen hordes. In Xetesk, his forces scattered, Dystran, Lord of the Mount, faces certain defeat by the Wesmen unless he unleashes the horrfying power of dimensional magics. And Dystran has not come this far to be beaten at the last by a rabble of ignorant tribesmen. And so the veil between dimensions is torn.... And beyond, a predatory evil stirs. Demons catch the scent of countless souls in Balaia. Can even The Raven prevail when the world is coming to an end? A fantasy milestone is reached. James Barclay brings his sensational saga of The Raven to a heart-stopping conclusion.

Darkwar by Glen Cook (Trade Paperback 12/1/2010 Night Shade Books) – Night Shade is continuing to do a superb job of reissuing Glen Cook’s backlist and giving them all the same brand feel with terrific Raymong Swanland art. I’ve now got the Starfishers trilogy and this omnibus to read.

The world grows colder with each passing year, the longer winters and ever-deepening snows awaking ancient fears within the Dengan Packstead, fears of invasion by armed and desperate nomads, attacks by the witchlike and mysterious Silth, able to kill with their minds alone, and of the Grauken, that desperate time when intellect gives way to buried cannibalistic instinct, when meth feeds upon meth. For Marika, a young pup of the Packstead, loyal to pack and family, times are dark indeed, for against these foes, the Packstead cannot prevail. But awakening within Marika is a power unmatched in all the world, a legendary power that may not just save her world, but allow her to grasp the stars themselves...From Glen Cook, author of the "Black Company" and "Dread Empire" novels, comes "Darkwar", collecting for the first time, the stunning science fantasy epic that originally appeared as "Doomstalker, Warlock, and Ceremony".

Surrender to the Will of the Night (Instrumentalities of the Night #3) by Glen Cook (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – This is at least the 6th Glen Cook book I’ve received for review this year. I’m not complaining, because I like what I’ve read by him, but more half of those books are not re-issues.

Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knows how to kill gods. What’s not a secret is that he knows how to win wars

Piper Hecht’s secrets make him dangerous, but his skill and his reputation put him in danger—from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his military gifts for their own purposes. His sister Heris and his living ancestor Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade against his old coreligionists the Praman.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain ranges are going under the ice, and fast. The Wells of Power, everywhere, keep getting weaker. And the old evils, the Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time, have begun to ooze back into the world. As ever, the genius of Glen Cook’s storytelling lies in his common touch: in soldiers who are like real soldiers, in men and women who love and laugh and sweat, with real hopes and real fears, united only in their determination to face the oncoming night.

God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Trade Paperback 02/1/2011 Night Shade Books) – Debut novel from Ms. Hurley, who has published a fair amount of short fiction, and it may be the first of a series, the synopsis sounds pretty interesting.

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages. Fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers, the origins of the war are shady and complex, but there's one thing everybody agrees on...

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad. Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war -- but at what price?

The world is about to find out.

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time Book 13) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – I’ve not hidden my feelings about the Wheel of Time and will be getting to this book, but not until I finish my re-read/catch-up of the series.

The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One’s prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight.

The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.

Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel’aran’rhiod and find a way--at long last--to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever.

Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways--the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn--have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men’s lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.

This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series--the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007--brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.

Dovie’andi se tovya sagain. It’s time to toss the dice.

Catalyst (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Del Rey , Hardcover 12/7/2010) – This is the third version of this book I’ve received (ARC and Hardcover), so I’ll just repeat what I said last time, which can be applied the next book on this list: I’ll be right up front with this: books about cats are one of my reading cooties* so I will not be reading this one myself. That said, Scarborough and McCaffrey have impressive bibliographies on their own and together, so this book probably has a decent built-in audience. .

*Reading Cooties term thanks to Elizabeth Moon

Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist—ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.

Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value.

Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped—er, catnapped—from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited.

But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared.

With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra—an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda—to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.

Catacombs (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Del Rey , Hardcover 01/7/2010) –

In Catalyst, award-winning authors Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough introduced readers to the beguiling Barque Cats: spacefaring felines who serve aboard starships as full-fledged members of the crew. Highly evolved, the cats share an almost telepathic bond with their minders, or Cat Persons - until, suddenly, there is no 'almost' about it, and a particular Barque Cat, Chester, learns to exchange thoughts with his human friend, Jubal. Other cats soon gain the same ability.

Behind the seeming miracle is a mysterious cat named Pshaw-Ra, who possesses knowledge and technology far beyond anything the Barque Cats - or their humans - have ever seen. When fear of a virulent plague leads the government first to quarantine and then to kill all animals suspected of infection, Pshaw-Ra - with the help of Chester, Jubal, and the crew of the starship Ranzo - activates a 'mousehole' in space that carries the refugees to a place of safety: Pshaw-Ra's home planet of Mau, where godlike cats are worshiped by human slaves.

But Pshaw-Ra's actions are less noble than they appear. The scheming cat plans to mate the Barque Cats with his own feline stock, creating a hybrid race of superior cats - a race destined to conquer the universe. Yet right from the start, his plans go awry.

For one thing, there's a new queen on Mau: Pshaw-Ra's daughter Nefure, a spoiled brat - er, cat - with a temper as short as her attention span. Pshaw-Ra's other daughter, the rightful queen Renpet, is exiled, running for her life in the only direction available to her - down into the vast catacombs beneath the Mauan desert. Far from receiving the hero's welcome he expected, Pshaw-Ra must use every bit of his considerable cleverness just to survive.

Meanwhile, as usual, Chester and Jubal stumble right into the middle of things, in the process uncovering the lost secrets of the Mauan civilization. But that's not all they uncover. In the forgotten catacombs deep below the Mauan capital, something has awakened. Something as old as the universe. Something that hungers to devour all light and life - and that bears an undying hatred for cats.

Midsummer Night (An Aetherial Tale) by Freda Warrington (Tor Hardcover 11/23/2010) – Warrington is an award-winner whose received a fair amount of praise. I’ll let the jacket copy speak for itself

Asensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption

Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials—the fair folk—is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man?

The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

The Raven Queen by John Saul (Spectra Trade Paperback 02/22/2011) – This is a sequel to a book I haven’t read or received

In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.

With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Greyfriar and Blog-o-versary

Just one review this time ‘round at SFFWorld and it happens to be mine.

But first ... About a week ago, this blog turned 6 years old. Hoooo-leeee crap. I wasn't sure what it would evolve into but I didn't imagine as a result of this and my work at SFFWorld that I would be getting so many books. When I first started, I was reading quite a few comic book blogs and only one or two of those folks are still blogging regularly. Or at least regularly with content that I continue to read.

I guess in blog years, 6 years makes me one of the crotchety old dudes. So stop speeding down my street and keep off my lawn! I moved to a new house, switched jobs about three times and got a dog in the time since I began this blog. A lot of newer blogs have cropped up and far surpassed the consistency and quality of content I post here. Folks like Adam, Aidan, Amanda, Andrew, Graeme, James, Jeff, Kristen, Liviu/Robert/Mihir/Cindy, The Mad Hatter, Mark, and Pat just to name a few.

Back to regularly scheduled programming, my latest review which is Clay and Susan Griffith’s first book in their Vampire Empire series, The Greyfriar:

The Vampire Empire is set in the year 2020, 150 years after Vampires have come out of hiding to wage war on humanity. The vampires have taken over a good portion of Europe and driven humans to the equatorial regions since vampires don’t deal well with warm weather. The novel begins when Princess Adele’s airship is taken down by vampires on the way to meeting her betrothed Senator Grant, a larger than life American who killed quite a few vampires over the course of the war. Although Adele is reluctant to marry this man, she realizes the marriage will unite the two human nations under one banner which would give humans a better chance at fighting the war against the Vampires. Fortunately for Adele and the hopes of humanity, the mysterious Greyfriar comes to save the day and rescues her from the vampires.

The authors smartly show both sides of the vampire-human war. While this doesn’t necessarily paint the vampires in any better a light, it doesn’t make them an unknowable evil. Through character conversations, the Griffiths reveal a backstory for the vampires that doesn’t differ entirely too much from the commonly accepted as the vampire myth with a few exceptions. For example, the aforementioned aversion to warm weather is a logical enhancement to the myth. However, what was interesting was the mention of vampire children, and vampire women birthing vampire babies. Clearly, there is something more to be told here of the origins of the vampires.

In the end, I enjohed the novel, but I couldn’t help but compare it to E.E. Knights Vampire Earth saga, which works for me more so than the Griffith’s efforts. At least one book into the series.

Also, that image above does NO justice to the physical book as foil stamping and 'real life' coloring compared to a jpeg, in this case, is worlds apart.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Books in the Mail (2010-11-13)

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels

Vortex: (Fate of the Jedi Book Nine) by Troy Denning (Hardcover 11/11/2010 Del Rey) – This is the sixth book in the latest series featuring that troublesome Skywalker clan. I’m waaay behind on my reading of Skywalker history, with the last book I read in the SW universe being the final New Jedi Order novel.

In a stunning turn of events, Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben, joined forces with members of the Sith armada sent to kill them—and turned their combined might against the monstrous being Abeloth, whose power was causing young Jedi Knights to go seemingly insane. But with Abeloth gone and the Knights sane again, the Sith reverted to form, making a treacherous attempt on Luke's life.

Luke and Ben have no time for retaliation. A new and even more insidious threat is rising, one that endangers not only the Jedi but the entire Galactic Alliance. Unless the Skywalkers survive to sound the alarm—and to pass along the secrets they have learned about Abeloth and the Sith—the galaxy will suffer as it has never suffered before. But the reinforcements they need remain grounded on Coruscant, where the political battle of wills between the Jedi Council and Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala has reached a boiling point.

Now Luke and Ben must go on the run, taking along the inscrutable—and dangerous—Sith apprentice Vestara Khai. With a host of Sith warriors in hot pursuit, the Skywalkers soon find themselves trapped on the moon Pydyr, caught between their former allies and a mob of angry Fallanassi. A new truce may be their only hope. But can a Sith ever be trusted?

With the Jedi's most famous father-and-son team outnumbered and outgunned, the countdown to galactic disaster has begun—and time is running out!

Dead Men Walking (WH40K/Imperial Guard) by Steve Lyons (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 12/15/2010) –Zombies in Space!

When the necrons rise, a mining planet descends into a cauldron of war and the remorseless foes decimate the human defenders. Salvation comes in an unlikely form – the Death Korps of Kreig, a force as unfeeling as the Necrons themselves. When the two powers go to war, casualties are high and the magnitude of the destruction is unimaginable.

Helfort's War Book 4: The Battle for Commitment Planet by Graham Sharp Paul (Del Rey, Mass Market 11/23/2010) – This is the fourth book in a Military SF series and I haven’t read the first hree books.

It was insane, it was suicidal, it was wrong -
and by God he was going to do it.

The Hammer Worlds have Helfort exactly where they want him. The ultimatum is brutal and precise. Unless the Federated hero surrenders, the Hammer World's prisoner Anna Cheung - the only woman Helfort has ever loved - will be handed over to a bunch of depraved troopers to be violated, then executed by firing squad.

Helfort can obey, or he can do what the crew proposes: sail his three frontline dreadnoughts into the Hammers' stronghold Commitment Planet, liberate Anna and the rest of the POWs held captive there, and continue the fight in the jaws of the enemy. Helfort's decision? Bring it on!

House of Reckoning by John Saul (Ballantine Mass Market Paperback 11/23/2010) – Saul is a brand name suspense/horror writer – a guaranteed New York Times bestseller. This is his latest mass market paperback release

For more than three decades John Saul has haunted the New York Times bestseller list–and readers’ imaginations–with his chilling tales of psychological suspense and supernatural horror. His instinct for striking the deepest chords of fear in our hearts and minds is unerring, and his gift for steering a tale from the light of day into the darkest depths of nightmare is at its harrowing best in House of Reckoning.

After the untimely death of her mother, fourteen-year-old Sarah Crane is forced to grow up quickly in order to help tend her family’s Vermont farm and look after her grieving father, who’s drowning his sorrow in alcohol. But their quiet life together is shattered when her father is jailed for killing another man in a barroom brawl and injuring Sarah in a drunken car crash. Left in the cold care of a loveless foster family and alienated at school, Sarah finds a kindred spirit in classmate Nick Dunnigan, a former mental patient still plagued by voices and visions. And in eccentric art instructor Bettina Phillips, Sarah finds a mentor eager to nurture her talent for painting.

But within the walls of Bettina’s ancestral home, the mansion called Shutters, Sarah finds something altogether different and disturbing. Monstrous images from the house’s dark history seem to flow unbidden from Sarah’s paintbrush–images echoed by Nick’s chilling hallucinations. Trapped for ages in the shadowy rooms of Shutters, the violence and fury of long-dead generations have finally found a gateway from the grave into the world of the living. And Sarah and Nick have found a power they never had: to take control, and take revenge.