Sunday, January 30, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-01-29)

Here’s the weekly post where I tell my millions…and millions (okay dozens…and dozens would even be pushing it) readers about the books which arrived in my mailbox/in front of my garage/on my porch this week for review.

Shadowfever (Fever Series Book 5) by Karen Marie Moning (Dellacorte Press Hardcover 01/18/2011) – The fifth book in Moning’s popular paranormal romance/mystery/thriller makes the jump to hardcover.

“Evil is a completely different creature, Mac. Evil is bad that believes it’s good.”

MacKayla Lane was just a child when she and her sister, Alina, were given up for adoption and banished from Ireland forever.

Twenty years later, Alina is dead and Mac has returned to the country that expelled them to hunt her sister’s murderer. But after discovering that she descends from a bloodline both gifted and cursed, Mac is plunged into a secret history: an ancient conflict between humans and immortals who have lived concealed among us for thousands of years.

What follows is a shocking chain of events with devastating consequences, and now Mac struggles to cope with grief while continuing her mission to acquire and control the Sinsar Dubh—a book of dark, forbidden magic scribed by the mythical Unseelie King, containing the power to create and destroy worlds.

In an epic battle between humans and Fae, the hunter becomes the hunted when the Sinsar Dubh turns on Mac and begins mowing a deadly path through those she loves.
Who can she turn to? Who can she trust? Who is the woman haunting her dreams? More important, who is Mac herself and what is the destiny she glimpses in the black and crimson designs of an ancient tarot card?

From the luxury of the Lord Master’s penthouse to the sordid depths of an Unseelie nightclub, from the erotic bed of her lover to the terrifying bed of the Unseelie King, Mac’s journey will force her to face the truth of her exile, and to make a choice that will either save the world . . . or destroy it.

The Unremembered (Vaults of Heaven #1) by Peter Orullian (Tor, Hardcover 04/15/2011) – From everything I’ve been seeing on the all-powerful intarwebs, this book is The Name of the Wind of 2011. Orullian is on something of a intarweb frenzy being interviewed in some places and interviewing some of his authorial peers on others. I’ll be reading this one for sure.

The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.

Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….

The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey.

Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world.

The Alchemist in the Shadows (The Cardinal’s Blades) by Pierre Pével (Pyr Trade Paperback 04/04/2011) – This is the second book in a series, translated from the French, about swashbuckling holy men fighting dragons. Perhaps you can think of these books as Dragons meet the Three Musketeers? Pével is the winner of the 2010 David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer.:

Welcome to Paris, in 1633, where dragons menace the realm. Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful and most feared man in France, is on his guard. He knows France is under threat, and that a secret society known as the Black Claw is conspiring against him from the heart of the greatest courts in Europe. They will strike from the shadows, and when they do the blow will be both terrible and deadly. To counter the threat, Richelieu has put his most trusted men into play: the Cardinal's Blades, led by Captain la Fargue. Six men and a woman, all of exceptional abilities and all ready to risk their lives on his command. They have saved France before, and the Cardinal is relying on them to do it again.

So when la Fargue hears from a beautiful, infamous, deadly Italian spy claiming to have valuable information, he has to listen ...and when La Donna demands Cardinal Richelieu's protection before she will talk, la Fargue is even prepared to consider it. Because La Donna can name their enemy. It's a man as elusive as he is manipulative, as subtle as Richelieu himself, an exceptionally dangerous adversary: the Alchemist in the shadows ...

Welcome to the Greenhouse edited by Gordon van Gelder (OR Books Trade Paperback 02/21/2011) – Van Gelder is one of the most important editors in the FSF field, as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Forty years ago, Walt Kelly’s comic strip character Pogo famously intoned: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Now, as the evidence for climate change becomes overwhelming, we learn the hard reality behind that witticism. The possible destruction, and certain transformation, of the ecosphere has been brought about by our own activities.

What will our new world look like? How will we—can we—adapt? The clash of a rapidly changing environment with earth’s self-styled ruling species, humans, provides ample creative fodder for this riveting anthology of original science fiction. In Welcome to the Greenhouse, award-winning editor Gordon Van Gelder has brought together sixteen speculative stories by some of the most imaginative writers of our time. Terrorists, godlike terraformers, and humans both manipulative and hapless populate these pages. The variety of stories reflects the possibilities of our future: grim, hopeful, fantastic and absurd.

Included is new work by Brian W. Aldiss, Jeff Carlson, Judith Moffett, Matthew Hughes, Gregory Benford, Michael Alexander, Bruce Sterling, Joseph Green, Pat MacEwen, Alan Dean Foster, David Prill, George Guthridge, Paul Di Filippo, Chris Lawson, Ray Vukcevich and M. J. Locke.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

One review this week (so far) at SFFWorld and it is something a bit different, at least from my perspective. What makes it different, you, my fine readers may ask? Well, the book which is the subject of this weeks review is an audio-book and the first audio book I have reviewed. It is also one of the first audio offerings from the fine folks at the Black Library, but they smartly went with one of their most popular authors, Dan Abnett, and one of their most popular series, The Horus Heresy. The book is Horus Rising, read brilliantly by Martyn Ellis:

Although the title is in reference to Warmaster Horus, Abnett focuses his story on a young Captain rising within the ranks of Horus’s Lunar Wolves. The Captain is Gavriel Loken and Horus Rising brings to light how Loken becomes part of the Mournival, Horus’s inner circle of advisors. In this respect, I like Abnett’s choice of POV character as it provides a view into the story from more of an outsider perspective than if the story was told through the eyes of Horus himself.


The mythology of the universe comes through quite well, a paranoid mood is projected, and an utter reverence for the Emperor as a living god are all prevalent. Comparatively, I’ve only read a few Warhammer 40,000 novels, but one of the aspects I enjoyed the most was the melding of a far future setting of space-ships, cloning, and galactic struggle and the mythic over-tones associated with the Emperor and the God-like reverence with which he is held. Again, Abnett pulls that off very well here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2010-01-22)

Four books this week from three publishers.

Sword in the Stars (Dark Sea Annals #1) by Wayne Batson (AMG Publishers, Trade Paperback 10/15/2010) – First in a new high fantasy series, Wayne’s first work in the adult market. I reviewed some of his previous Young Adult novels: The Door Within (#1), Rise of the Wyrm Lord (#2), The Final Storm (#3), and Isle of Swords,

Haunted by memories of a violent past, Alastair Coldhollow wagers his life on the hope that a sword will appear in the stars and the foretold Halfainin, the Pathwalker, would come. Meanwhile, tensions simmer between Anglinore and the murderous Gorrack Nation, threatening war on a cataclysmic scale. The fate of all could rest on an abandoned child and the decisions of those who desperately seek to identify him. Sword in the Stars is the first release in The Dark Sea Annals series.

About the The Dark Sea Annals series: A noble king discovers what happens when he leaves a door open for evil. The disastrous consequences impact generations, leaving the throne of Anglinore to a wicked despot, the kingdom in ruins, and Aravel’s son Loch in exile. To throw down the vile new authority, Loch will need to find the fabled Halfainin and raise a new army from a world of reluctant citizens. Together with his archer friend Ariana, Loch will face adventures that span the world of Myriad, creatures that defy imagination, and choices great and terrible—all these recorded in The Dark Sea Annals.

Farlander (Heart of the World Book 1) by Col Buchanan (Tor Hardcover 01/25/2011) – The trend of books appearing first in the UK then showing up a year later continues with Buchanan’s debut. Mark reviewed this one last year. Here’s the copy:

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfill the Roshun orders, their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports…into bloodshed and death.

March in Country (Vampire Earth #8) by E.E.Knight (Roc Hardcover 01/04/2011) – I’ve been following this series from the beginning and I caught up with it completely a couple of years ago, so I’m pleased to have another volume to read. I like the post-apocalyptic milieu quite a bit and Knight is a solid and entertaining writer. I reviewed The Way of the Wolf (#1), Choice of the Cat (#2), Tale of the Thunderbolt (#3), Valentine's Rising (#4), Winter Duty (#8), Valentine's Rising (#4)and interviewed Mr. Knight in the past for SFFWorld. Here’s the synopsis for this volume:

The national bestselling "master of deception and tension" (Black Gate) returns to the Vampire Earth...

The race is on to claim the area between the Ohio River and Tennessee. What's left of the resistance is hiding out in the tangle of central Kentucky hills- leaving the powerful, well-organized Kurian vampires the opportunity to fill the void.

Major David Valentine knows there's only one way for them to find help before the Kurians settle in: a desperate dash by hijacked rail, followed by a harrowing river journey.

Valentine unites friends old and new in the effort- but the Kurian Order won't easily yield the blood-soaked Kentucky soil.

Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor Hardcover 01/21/2011) – Walton is one of the more prolific and interesting contributors at, she’s won the World Fantasy Award and most of her novels have received a fair share of praise, including this latest.

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dark Knight Rises, Game of Thrones, New Template

Hey, I redid my template and changed the commenting from that awful JS-Kit (which was once haloscan) to blogger. Thoughts?

One of these people will be playing Bane and the other will be playing Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. I'm OK with one and not so much with the other? Guesses as to which is which?

Most people who read my blog are likely aware of this.

Also, most people who read my blog have likely seen this preview clip of Game of Thrones

But hey, what better way to drive traffic to the blog than to mention quite possibly the most anticipated television adaptation in HBO's history (not to mention the history of the fantasy genre) and the latest announcement about the most anticipated 2012 film?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trio of Reviews - Abercrombie, Rees, and Williams

The first batch of book reviews for 2011 are up at SFFWorld, which includes one from yours truly as well as two from The Hobbit.

What turns out to be y first review of 2011 is a late publishing 2010 novel, which is the conclusion of a great epic fantasy series. Tad Williams ’s Shadowheart, the fourth book of his Shadowmarch trilogy. Right, fourth book of a trilogy because the last book was split:

Clearly, Mr. Williams has a lot of elements coming together as this series concludes. Looking at those plot threads, it could easily seem as if too much is going on for one writer to handle. Tad Williams is more than capable of handling so many threads, and even more importantly, of expertly weaving them together tightly into an exciting narrative. This entire saga started out with great promise, albeit a bit slowly as is often the case with Tad Williams’s epics. What that does is provide for a solid foundation for which Tad can throw his story and play with the gods he creates, give the true Epic sense to his character’s journeys they richly deserve, and allow a true sense of world changing events to be felt within his narrative. Each character gets an emotional spotlight, through either the scenes in which they appear, or through the reflections of other characters. My only minor problem was the predictable nature of one (or two) character’s final resolutions.

Mark’s reviews one of the most anticipated 2011 fantasy releases by one of the most prominent young writers in the genre, Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes :

In actual fact, the tale involves bands of men and women, on both sides of a battle, at a time when the War of the North is still rampant. The tale is told from the different perspectives of those involved, both North and Union. On the Union side, led by Lord Admiral Kroy, are three divisions commanded by Generals Jalenhorm, Mitterick and Meed. Much of their actions are told through the character of disgraced Bremer dan Gorst, (who we have met before) and here plays a cynical observer whose efforts here may redeem him in the eyes of King. To bolster the Union ranks there is also a group of Northmen fighting with the Union, led by (old favourite) the Dogman, now sworn enemy of the leader of the Northmen. The opposing side of The North is led by Black Dow and his War Chiefs. With Curnden Craw, Scale and ‘Prince’Calder (both sons of Bethod, the now-dead King of the North), Caul Reachey, Glauma Golden, and Cairm Ironhead, the Northmen aim to break the Union and create a change of fortunes in the War of the North.

At the start of the year, Mark reviewed the debut novel from Rod Rees, : The Demi-Monde: Winter by

At first glance, the elements that make up this book shouldn’t work. Think TRON, or the holodeck of the USS Enterprise, or indeed Tad Williams’s Otherland or Philip K Dick’s We Can Build You. Combine with an assortment of quite unpleasant people, from a range of different historical eras, steampunk and a sly (if not always subtle) sense of humour, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole package is rather a mess.

However what Rod has done here is cleverly combined these elements into something that works. There are detailed maps and also a lengthy glossary at the back, in order to tell your Aryan from your ABBA. The exhaustive website ( also fills in details you may wish to check further. This is a book with a rich background tapestry. The world building is quite something and so clearly thought out that, despite those initial concerns, those disparate elements do work together here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-01-15)

Apparently, all the authors whose surnames begin with the letterA are releasing books in the next month.

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 02/01/2011) – First in a new Paranormal Police procedural by a writer with experience on the Doctor Who franchise. This book goes by the title Rivers of London in the UK.

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Thunder and Steel by Dan Abnett (Black Library Trade Paperback 01/25/2011) – It seems every other week I get a different book Dan Abnett has authored. This here is an omnibus of three of his Warhammer Fantasy novels and a graphic novel.

Across the Old World, the powers of Chaos seek to bring corruption and death, poisoning the minds of men and filling them with hatred and fury. Only the bravest dare stand against them – two Empire soldiers, marching into the cold wastes of Kislev to face the barbaric Northern hordes, where one will lose his soul to the Ruinous Powers. The high elf Gilead Lothain, who seeks to strike at the servants of the Dark Gods in a quest for vengeance that can never end. The ranks of the noble White Wolves, who stand to defend the majestic city of Middenheim until the last man, never backing down in the face of their enemies.

Thunder and Steel is an epic collection of Dan Abnett’s Warhammer fantasy, including the novels Riders of the Dead, Gilead’s Blood and Hammers of Ulric, plus short stories and the full graphic novel of The Warhammer.

Rising Tides (Destroyermen Book 5) by Taylor Anderson (Roc Hardcover 06/01/2010) – I’ve read and enjoyed the first trilogy (Into the Storm, Crusade, and Maelstrom) in the series plus I’ve still go the fourth book sitting unread. These are fun books, perhaps I’ll do a back-to-back reading of #4 and #5.

In Taylor Anderson's acclaimed Destroyermen series, a parallel universe adds a extraordinary layer to the drama of World War II. Now, as Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy and the crew of the U.S.S. Walker continue their battle for both freedom and survival, the stakes become much more personal...and much more perilous.

Zombiesque edited by Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Basset, and Martin Greenberg (DAW , Mass Market Paperback 2/1/2011) – The February 2011 Monthly themed anthology from DAW: ZOMBIES!

From a tropical resort where visitors can become temporary zombies, to a newly-made zombie determined to protect those he loves, to a cheerleader who won't let death kick her off the team, to a zombie seeking revenge for the ancestors who died on an African slave ship-- Zombiesque invites readers to take a walk on the undead side in these tales from a zombie's point of view.

Hidden Cities (Moishu, the Books of Stone and Water #3) by Daniel Fox (Trade Paperback 03/25/2011 Del Rey) – Final book in a trilogy about mythic China.

The mythic beasts and glorious legends of feudal China illuminate a world at war in this, the conclusion to Daniel Fox’s critically acclaimed series.

Whatever they thought, this was always where they were going: to the belly of the dragon, or the belly of the sea.

More by chance than good judgment, the young emperor has won his first battle. The rebels have retreated from the coastal city of Santung—but they’ll be back. Distracted by his pregnant concubine, the emperor sends a distrusted aide, Ping Wen, to govern Santung in his place. There, the treacherous general will discover the healer Tien, who is obsessed with a library of sacred mage texts and the secrets concealed within—secrets upon which, Ping Wen quickly realizes, the fate of the whole war may turn.

As all sides of this seething conflict prepare for more butchery, a miner of magical jade, himself invulnerable, desperately tries to save his beautiful and yet brutally scarred clan cousin; a priestess loses her children, who are taken as pawns in a contest beyond her comprehension; and a fierce and powerful woman commits an act of violence that will entwine her, body and soul, with the spirit of jade itself. Amid a horde of soldiers, torturers, and runaways, these people will test both their human and mystical powers against a violent world. But one force trumps all: the huge, hungry, wrathful dragon.

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Decieved by Paul S. Kemp (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 03/25/2011) – I enjoyed Kemp’s Erevis Cale novels, he seems to be doing very well with Star Wars now.

The Sacking of Coruscant. It was the crowning achievement of the Sith Empire’s ambitious military strategy and the moment that changed the history of the Old Republic forever. You may have read about it before, but our first cinematic trailer captures this event with breathtaking action and beautiful detail.

Republic leaders have traveled to Alderaan to engage in promised peace talks with the Sith Empire. The most powerful Jedi have accompanied them to safeguard against an Imperial deception. The Empire’s real motive, however, was simply to lure the Republic’s strongest defenders away from Coruscant and set the stage for an audacious attack. Under the command of Lord Angral, the Sith fleet approaches the Republic’s capital planet for the first time in centuries. In advance of the fleet, the strongest Sith Warriors have flown a stolen Republic ship into Coruscant’s orbit. Their mission is critical – to destroy the planet’s defense grid mainframe hidden in the heart of the Jedi Temple.

License to Ensorcell (Nola O’Grady Book 1) by KatherineKerr (DAW Mass Market Hardcover 02/01/2011) – Kerr’s Deverry saga is enormous and enormously popular and she’s just closed out the series. So what does she do? She starts an urban fantasy/psychic detective series with this book.

Psychic Agent Nola O'Grady isn't sure returning to San Francisco, and living near her unusual family, is a good idea. Her job, with a psychic agency so obscure even the CIA doesn't know it exists, can be perilous, and she's afraid of the relatives getting involved.

Then the Agency saddles her with Israeli secret agent Ari Nathan, and she has a bigger problem on her hands, because tact and compromise are not Ari's strong points. Their mission is to track down a serial killer obsessed with werewolves. He sees them everywhere and shoots whenever he thinks he has one in his sights. Ari assumes the man's psychotic, but in truth he's murdering actual werewolves. Nola should know. Her younger brother Pat, a lycanthrope, was the first victim.

Can Nola's psychic talents and Ari's skill with guns keep them alive long enough to unravel the greater mystery behind the killings? Can they save the werewolves and the world while stopping Nola's family from running headlong into danger?

Cowboy Angels by Paul J. McAuley (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 01/11/2011) – Mark/Hobbit really liked this one when it originally published in the UK over 3 years ago.

The first Turing gate, a mere hundred nanometers across, is forced open in 1963, at the high-energy physics laboratory in Brookhaven; three years later, the first man to travel to an alternate history takes his momentous step, and an empire is born.

For fifteen years, the version of America that calls itself the Real has used its Turing gate technology to infiltrate a wide variety of alternate Americas, rebuilding those wrecked by nuclear war, fomenting revolutions and waging war to free others from communist or fascist rule, and establishing a Pan-American Alliance. Then a nation exhausted by endless strife elects Jimmy Carter on a reconstruction and reconciliation ticket, the CIA's covert operations are wound down, and the Real begins to wage peace rather than war.

But some people believe that it is the Real's manifest destiny to impose its idea of truth, justice, and the American way in every known alternate history, and they're prepared to do anything to reverse Carter's peacenik doctrine. When Adam Stone, a former CIA field officer, one of the Cowboy Angels who worked covertly in other histories, volunteers for reactivation after an old friend begins a killing spree across alternate histories, his mission uncovers a startling secret about the operation of the Turing gates and leads him into the heart of an audicious conspiracy to change the history of every America in the multiverse—including our own.

Cowboy Angels is a vivid, helter-skelter thriller in which one version of America discovers the true cost of empire building, and one man discovers that an individual really can make a difference.

Enigmatic Pilot: A Tall Tale Too True by Kris Saknussemm (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 3/28/2011) – This is the author’s second novel, after the controversial Zanesville:

Enigmatic Pilot is Kris Saknussemm’s outrageously brilliant yet profoundly moving exploration and excavation of the American dream—and nightmare.

In 1844, in a still-young America, the first intimations of civil war are stirring throughout the land. In Zanesville, Ohio, the Sitturd family—Hephaestus, a clubfooted inventor; his wife, Rapture, a Creole from the Sea Islands; and their prodigiously gifted six-year-old son, Lloyd, whose libido is as precocious as his intellect—are forced to flee the only home they have ever known for an uncertain future in Texas, whence Hephaestus’s half-brother, Micah, has sent them a mysterious invitation, promising riches and wonders too amazing to be entrusted to paper.

Thus begins one of the most incredible American journeys since Huck Finn and Jim first pushed their raft into the Mississippi. Along the way, Lloyd will learn the intricacies of poker and murder, solve the problem of manned flight, find—and lose—true love, and become swept up in an ancient struggle between two secret societies whose arcane dispute has shaped the world’s past and threatens to reshape its future. Each side wants to use Lloyd against the other, but Lloyd has his own ideas—and access to an occult technology as powerful as his imagination.

Messiah (Apotheosis Book Three) by S. Andrew Swann (DAW Mass Market Paperback 02/01/2011) – I enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, Prophets, when I read it a couple of years ago. Now that the trilogy is complete, I’ll finish it out myself.

The last stand against the self-proclaimed God, Adam, has retreated to the anarchic planet Bakunin-a world besieged by civil war. Humanity's last hope lies with Nickolai Rajasthan, a Moreau who believes that the human race that created his kind is already damned beyond redemption.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

SFFWorld 2010 Year in Review Science Fiction

A few days ago, Mark put up the SF version of our Year in Review.

This year we did it a little differently since we posted it as a discussion topic in the forum, but nonetheless here it is if you haven't stopped by yet:

Don’t forget the Fantasy review and my own year in reading review

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SFFWorld 2010 Year in Review Fantasy

About a week ago, Mark put up the annual overview of the previous year he and I put together. It's basically a conversational piece where we highlight the books of the year that stood out to us as well as a top five reads from both of us.

Ths year we did it a little differently since we posted it as a discussion topic in the forum, but nonetheless here it is if you haven't stopped by yet:

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2010-01-08)

Might as well drop in the semi-regular disclaimer about these Books in the Mail posts:

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

The King of the Crags (Memory of Flames Series #2) by Stephen Deas (Roc, Hardcover 02/01/2011) – Second in a series about which Mark/Hobbit of SFFWorld has said: this is something though that Stephen has done here. The book is an entertaining mix of Pern and Westeros, with the knowing characterisation of Abercrombie and the endearment of Novik. To be recognised alongside such authors is a real achievement. The book is a very nicely put together package that will satisfy many a Fantasy and dragon fan.

In his "utterly fascinating" (Book Smuggler) debut, The Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas "restored [dragons] to all their scaly fire- breathing glory" (Daily Telegraph). Now, as the Realms teeter on the brink of war, the fate of humanity rests in the survival of one majestic white dragon.

Prince Jehal has had his way-now his lover Zafir sits atop the Realms with hundreds of dragons and their riders at her beck and call. But Jehal's plots are far from over, for he isn't content to sit back and watch Zafir command the earth and sky. He wants that glory for himself- no matter who he must sacrifice to get it. The one thing Jehal fears is that the white dragon still lives-and if that is so, then blood will flow, on all sides...

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures by Robert E. Howard (Del Rey Trade Paperback 01/25/2011) – Del Rey is making every effort to ensure ALL of Howard’s fiction is in print, this is their latest offering. This is the “final” copy of the ARC I received in early November.

The immortal legacy of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Cimmerian, continues with this latest compendium of Howard’s fiction and poetry. These adventures, set in medieval-era Europe and the Near East, are among the most gripping Howard ever wrote, full of pageantry, romance, and battle scenes worthy of Tolstoy himself. Most of all, they feature some of Howard’s most unusual and memorable characters, including Cormac FitzGeoffrey, a half-Irish, half-Norman man of war who follows Richard the Lion-hearted to twelfth-century Palestine—or, as it was known to the Crusaders, Outremer; Diego de Guzman, a Spaniard who visits Cairo in the guise of a Muslim on a mission of revenge; and the legendary sword woman Dark Agnès, who, faced with an arranged marriage to a brutal husband in sixteenth-century France, cuts the ceremony short with a dagger thrust and flees to forge a new identity on the battlefield.

Lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Watkiss and featuring miscellanea, informative essays, and a fascinating introduction by acclaimed historical author Scott Oden, Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures is a must-have for every fan of Robert E. Howard, who, in a career spanning just twelve years, won a place in the pantheon of great American writers.

The Warlord's Legacy (Corvis Rebaine Book 2) by Ari Marmell (Bantam Spectra Mass Market Hardcover 01/25/2011) – The first novel in this series, The Conqueror’s Shadow, caught me by surprise early last year. I enjoyed the novel a lot more than I expected I would so the sequel is quite welcome. This is the “final” copy of the ARC I received in early November.

Corvis Rebaine, the Terror of the East, a man as quick with a quip as he is with a blade, returns in this highly anticipated sequel to Ari Marmell’s acclaimed The Conqueror’s Shadow, a debut hailed for its refreshing take on dark fantasy and surprising flashes of sharp, sarcastic wit. Now Marmell raises the stakes in a story that has all the humor and excitement of its predecessor, plus a terrifying new villain so evil that he may well be a match for Rebaine himself.

For let’s not forget how Corvis Rebaine came by the charming nickname “Terror of the East.” Certainly no one else has forgotten. Corvis Rebaine is no hero. In his trademark suit of black armor and skull-like helm, armed with a demon-forged axe, in command of a demonic slave, and with allies that include a bloodthirsty ogre, Rebaine has twice brought death and destruction to Imphallion in pursuit of a better, more equitable and just society. If he had to kill countless innocents in order to achieve that dream, so be it.

At least that was the old Rebaine. Before he slew the mad warlord Audriss. Before he banished the demon Khanda. Before he lost his wife and children, who could not forgive or forget his violent crimes. Now, years later, Rebaine lives in a distant city, under a false name, a member of one of the Guilds he despises, trying to achieve change nonviolently, from within the power structure.

Not even when the neighboring nation of Cephira invades Imphallion and the bickering Guilds prove unable to respond does Rebaine return to his old habits of slaughter. But someone else does. Someone wearing Rebaine’s black armor and bearing what appears to be his axe. Someone who is, if anything, even less careful of human life than Rebaine was.

Now Baron Jassion, Rebaine’s old nemesis, is hunting him once more, aided by a mysterious sorcerer named Kaleb, whose powers and secrets make him a more dangerous enemy than Rebaine has ever known. Even worse, accompanying them is a young woman who hates Corvis Rebaine perhaps more than anyone else: his own daughter, Mellorin. Suddenly Rebaine seems to have no choice. To clear his name, to protect his country, and to reconcile with his family, must he once again become the Terror of the East?

Uprising (Vampire Federation) by Sean McCabe (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 2/1/2011) – Vampire mystery mash-up.

A gruesome ritual murder has stained the Oxfordshire countryside. It's just the first incident in a chain of events awakening Detective Inspector Joel Solomon to his worst nightmare-and a dreadful omen of things to come. Because Joel has a secret: he believes in vampires.

Alex Bishop is an agent of the Vampire Intelligence Agency. She's tasked with enforcing the laws of the global Vampire Federation, and hunting rogue members of her race. A tough job made tougher when the Federation comes under attack by traditionalist vampires. They have a stake in old-school terror-and in an uprising as violent as it is widespread.

Now it's plunging Alex and Joel into a deadly war between the living and the unloving-and against a horrifying tradition given new life by the blood of the innocent.

Star Wars: Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 12/7/2010) – Miller’s been writing Star Wars comics for quite some time, here he takes his comic book series to prose fiction.

An original adventure featuring Jedi Kerra Holt—star of the hot new Dark Horse Knight Errant comic series

A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane, in a galaxy far, far away . . .

The Republic is in crisis. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality—with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.

Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies—including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?

The Betrayal (Blood of the Kindred 2) by Pati Nagle Mass Market Paperback 01/25/2010 Del Rey) – Vampires and Elves duking it out in a pseudo-medieval land, reminds me superficially of the Hendees’s Noble Dead series.

The Bitter Wars left a world divided. Now the ælven governors convene a Council at Glenhallow, while the savage kobalen gather in numbers not seen in five centuries. Vastly outnumbered, the ælven clans will send barely trained guardians to confront the kobalen, and a young female warrior, Eliani, will be entrusted with the most crucial mission of all: to reach distant Fireshore and learn why their governor has not responded to the call to war. Bound to her lover Turisan by the power of mindspeech, Eliani will feed vital information to the Ælven Council across vast distances. But Eliani cannot see the dark force watching from the Ebon Mountains. There, Shalár, the ruler of exiled Clan Darkshore, has given the mindless kobalen both power and a plan to cut off the ælven from their brave and gifted mindspeaker—and to reclaim for Shalár’s nearly extinct vampiric clan their ancestral land: Fireshore. But Shalár guards her secrets carefully, and even Eliani cannot know what terrible purpose lurks in the heart of the exiled.

Bloodshot (Cheshire Red Reports Series #1) by Cherie Priest (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 01/25/2011) – I’ve not read Priest in long-form yet, but I may have read a short story here or there. This one sounds crazy enough that I might just give it a try.


Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist—even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files—documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.

The Griffin’s Flight (The Fallen Moon #2) by K.J. Taylor (Ace Mass Market Paperback) – Second in a trilogy of books originally published in the author’s native Australia.

Although he was once chosen as a griffin's companion, Arren Cardockson was reviled, betrayed, and ultimately killed. Brought back to life by a power beyond his understanding, Arren flees for the frozen sanctuary of the North. With the man-eating griffin Skandar by his side, and an entire country hunting him, Arren has little hope of reaching the place of his ancestry and of lifting his curse. But then he comes across a wild woman who may hold the key to making his lifeless heart beat once more.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2010 Reading Year in Review ... and a Dog

Here's the obligatory, I've-got-a-blog-and-talk-about-books-on-it-so-here's-my-best-of/year-end-summary-post.

I read a lot of books in 2010, but considerably less than 2009. 68 in 2010 compared to 82 the previous year. Getting that puppy in July really cut into the reading time, but I wouldn’t change it at all. I said last year I’d “be cutting back on the number of reviews I post” for various reasons and on that count, I suppose I was accurate.

The first picture I have of the dog, when she was 10 pounds (above)

In 2010, I posted 32 reviews to SFFWorld and 6 to the Sacramento Book Review /San Francisco Book Review, plus a couple here at the blog.

I also read more non-review books, too. Books I’d wanted to catch up with for some time, like Jim Butcher’s Dredsen Files and begin a re-read of Glen Cook’s Black Company, which I did. I also embarked upon something I’ve been wanting to do for a couple o years – a re-read of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. At this point, I’m more than one third, but not quite half-way through the series and have enjoyed the revisit quite a bit. As I mentioned in my overview last year, David Weber was my top "new to me" author of the year, so I plowed through books 2 and three of his Safehold, series which has a Battlestar Galactica vibe to it for me, and I'm currently reading his late 2010 release Out of the Dark.

Here are some stats:
  • 25 can be considered Fantasy
  • 22 2010/current year releases
  • 20 books by authors new to me
  • 16 can be considered Science Fiction
  • 18 Graphic Novels
  • 8 debut novels (this includes books not released in 2010 like Ariel)
  • 6 Books by women (plus stories in the anthologies by women)
  • 5 Omnibus volumes (which if broken out into single novels, can bring my annual total up to 75 books)
  • 2 Anthologies
  • 3 can be considered Horror
  • 1 Non-fiction

All that said, on to the categories for the 2010 … Robloggies? ManBearPiggies? Stuffies? Sullys? I don’t know! This isn’t a typical top 10 or 12 or anything, but whatever you want to call them, here are some categories for what I read in 2010 and what I put at the top of those categories.

Rob Favorite Science Fiction Novel(s) Read in 2010

I loudly proclaimed David Louis Edelman’s debut novel Infoquake “…a stunning debut novel by a lucid, precise, and talented new voice in the genre…. This may be THE science fiction book of the year.” Well, with Geosynchron the concluding volume in the trilogy having published this year, it should come as no surprise it gets my top spot in SF for 2010.
Geosynchron is a book that was very high on my 2010 anticipated reads list, I found Infoquake to be one of the most impressive SF debuts I’ve ever read and the sequel, MultiReal continued the trend and impressed me just as much. So, it was with this anticipation that I opened the first pages of the book and was immediately swept into Edelman’s intricately constructed future. Although Edelman provides a summary of the first two novels in the trilogy as an appendix, his fluid style and ability to draw the reader into the story helped to stir the memories of the two earlier books very well.

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about Edelman’s writing throughout the trilogy is how he straddles the line between plausible futuristic technology and a sense of history bordering on myth. Between the lost time preceding the era of the novel, and the legendary family of the Surinas, Edleman has informed his world with an authentic and seamless sense of history. When characters talk of the Surinas, it is with reverence. When Natch begins to see visions of the deceased Margaret Surina, the feeling Edleman elicits is revelatory, almost like an epiphany. It comes across both mysterious and profound, and ultimately effective,

The next book I’ll mention in the SF section of our program can be categorized in many ways: horror, post-apocalyptic, vampire, and science fiction. Since the premise is science fictional in nature and the post-apocalyptic setting is also SFnal, I’m mentioning Justin Cronin’s The Passage here:
It begins in the year 2017 with a young girl who is born of an affair between a waitress and a traveling salesman. The novel then turns to a scientific research mission, then to a chase-thriller and finally to a post-apocalyptic novel with civilization clinging to life as humanity protects itself against the virals of the night. In many ways, Justin Cronin’s epic doorstopper, with its continual shifts in narrative voice, shouldn’t work. But these various methods of laying out the story give The Passage its backbone and authenticity as a chronicle of what might happen if Vampires were genetically engineered and run roughshod over humanity.

While the early portions (about ¼) of the novel set the foundation for the new world, the remainder focuses on a stronghold in California where the people have been able to survive for the intervening 92 years since the original breakout. Here Cronin focuses his story on a group of people born after the outbreak - our heroes Peter, Michael, and Alicia. In this compound, Cronin steps back from the shifting narrative of the first third of the book and slows down the pace, and while it may seem a stretch that such an abrupt shift would work, the opposite is indeed true. By illustrating the daily life people of the barren United States have to endure, Cronin establishes a good slice of life and exactly what the stakes are for the world and more importantly, the people.

Rob’s Favorite Fantasy Novel(s) Read in 2010

As is often the case, my reading patterns fall into the fantasy end of things. 2010 was a year with no shortage of quality fantasy novels (despite books from Martin, Rothfuss, Bakker, and Lynch still not appearing). A number of strong novels rated closely, but the one I enjoyed the most was The Desert Spear, the second book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle which began with last year’s The Warded/Painted Man. Here’s a snippet of what I had to say about Brett’s 2010 release:

Mr. Brett set the bar pretty high for himself, and perhaps unsure of whether or not The Desert Spear could live up to the promise of The Warded Man, I did not read The Desert Spear immediately upon the book’s publication. I shouldn’t have hesitated because Brett follows his superb debut with a novel that is at least the equal of its predecessor in The Desert Spear and in other cases, improves upon the foundation he initially laid.

I found The Desert Spear to be a gripping read, a novel that built upon its predecessor in many good ways, as well as adding new elements to the growing story. In short, The Desert Spear is just about everything one could ask for in the second volume of a fantasy series. Because of Brett’s narrative style and how he chose to tell the story in this book, it might work without having read the previous volume. Regardless, I recommend the novel without reservation and hope that Brett continues to produce the remainder of the series with both the timeliness and great storytelling ability he has with The Desert Spear.

Probably the strongest opening volume to a fantasy series I read this year is Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, which is the first novel in his 10-volume Stormlight Archives:

Set on Roshar, a world with a harsh climate, Sanderson’s novel is a tale of war on a grand scale and the effects of that war on a personal level. For a novel that tops out over 1,000 pages, Sanderson’s tale does not falter in its narrative pull nor does his ability to evoke tension waiver. His narrative switches effortlessly between these three characters. Kaladin’s portion of the story is told with a particular flair for the epic, Sanderson switches between his current timeline as he goes from slave to leader of Bridge Four – a crew of bridgemen; and how Kaladin, whose skill and natural leadership abilities at war emerge over the course of the novel, went from being a doctor’s son set to follow in his father’s footsteps to a slave at the beginning of the novel. Though reminiscent of both the legendary Spartacus and Maximus from Gladiator, Sanderson’s skill at making familiar and resonant elements his own shines through greatly over the course of Kaladin’s journey as a character.

As intimated earlier in this review, the world itself is much of a character. The depth of the world’s history is a thing to behold, not in the way Sanderson simply lays out the facts, but in the way the characters reveal the history of the world. Or rather, how they reveal what they think they know of the world. Rent by powerful storms on one portion of the world, the rich are comforted in a scholarly setting in another, but both environs evoke a past obfuscated by the rage of years, storms, war, and lost historical records. Hints of demonic monsters in ash and red prophesized to destroy the world, chasmfiends – large insectoid monsters hunted for the shards and jewels in their bodies, men encased in what amounts to power armor, are just a few of the things that give this world a depth of character. I hesitate to go into more depth mainly because the joy of this novel is discovering and connecting with Sanderson’s powerful novel as it is laid out on the pages. There’s a mystery underlying much of what Sanderson reveals in The Way of Kings that only hints at what he has in store in the future 9 volumes of this projected 10-volume saga.

Rob's Favorite Debut(s) of 2010

Last year it was Orbit Books who impressed me with their debut novels, this year it is Tor, who published: Anthony Huso’s The Last Page which I thought “In the end though, Huso’s pure writing strength and ability to convey his imagination won out over any minor quibbles I had with the novel. The Last Page is another strong debut novel for the year, powerful in its breadth of imaginative setting, engaging in its characters, and impressive across the sum of its parts.”

Tor also published Spellwright, which I thought that was a notch above standard fantasy fare with a nicely developed magic system … but Charlton’s inventive magic and likeable characters help to raise the quality of the novel. One way I would describe might be “Perfectly Acceptable Entertaining Epic Fantasy.”

My favorite debut of the year, also published by Tor; was easily Ian Tregillis’s Bitter Seeds, the first The Milkweed Tryptich. This book just took a hold of me and was a terrifically fun mash up of Lovecraft, alternate history, superheroes, WWII, horror, magic, and science fiction.
World War II is one of the most widely used historical periods in any genre, including Science Fiction. Ian Tregillis, a veteran short story writer, uses this setting to depict a familiar war fought with arcane weaponry and soldiers. The Nazis have bred, for all intents and purposes, supervillains similar to the Fantastic Four, the X-Men or even the Justice League. These superpowered beings are fully under the control of the Nazis and specifically Herr Doktor von Westarp, the man who used his twisted science to genetically engineer these super soldiers. The English have, through knowledge and lore passed down over several generations, access t o the Eidolons, beings outside of time and space which essentially grant the allies the power of dark magic.

All told, Tregillis takes some familiar things – World War II, Metahumans (a.k.a super heroes/super villains), spy fiction, dark magic, secret societies, horror, Science Fiction – and weaves a damned entertaining novel. If Bitter Seeds is any indication of what’s to come, then Tregillis will have a fertile writing career. The novel receives my highest recommendations and will likely be very close to the top of my best of 2010 list.

Favorite Author Whose Work I Revisited in 2010

This one is also very easy. I’ve kind of strayed from his work over the past couple of years, but did a major catch up of his current series, which just concluded in December. I’m, of course, writing about Tad Williams. In big fashion, he concluded Shadowmarch what was once a trilogy and is now a quartet. For my part, I read books 2 ( Shadowplay, Shadowrise, and Shadowheart [review forthcoming]) through 4 this year and thoroughly enjoyed all books. Let’s put it this way, I came to realize again why I’ve placed Tad Williams so high in my echelon of favorite writers. I was also lucky enough, with the help of the great Hobbit of SFFWorld (aka Mark Yon) to interview Mr. Williams for SFFWorld this year.

A bit from my Shadowplay review:
One of Tad Williams best qualities as a writer and storyteller is his ability to create worlds that feel real and with the Shadowmarch saga, that ability is on full display. Each faction of civilization or race inhabits a unique part of the greater world. From the castle of Southmarch, to the dark caverns of the Funderling town, to the ethereal and hazy world of the Twilight Lands, each portion of the world is a character unto itself. Subsequently, the society we see the most of in their homeland in Shadowplay is probably the Funderlings, and by doing this Williams only further enriches that world and those people. The Funderlings are modeled, in many ways it seems, on Hobbits with a flavor of down-home goodness. In other words, there’s both an air of familiar to them, with a decent amount of freshness.

Forum members here at SFFWorld know I’m a very big fan of Tad Williams’s writing and on that basis, Shadowplay worked very well for me. I did; however, crack open the book with some trepidation. I’d seen a few less than overwhelmingly positive reviews around the Internet and it had been quite a long time since I read the first volume – five and half years when Shadowmarch first published. Maybe that time away did help me enjoy the novel more than I might have if I had read it immediately. Despite the lack of “what came before,” something the majority of Tad Williams’s multivolume novels include, I was able to ease back into the magical, chaos ravaged world of Southmarch and the world beyond the Shadowline – the Twilight Lands.

A bit from my Shadowrise review:
Where to start with a review of the third book in a four-book sequence? A third book that was thought to be the concluding volume of a trilogy, but was then split so the author could comfortably tell his story in four volumes? With questions like that, I suppose. Fortunately for readers of Tad Williams’s sequence begun with Shadowmarch, the questions are less ambiguous and are answered, if not definitively, then with an eye towards an answer.

Though in concept, one of the conceits revealed in this novel can be considered a bit cliché, it is the process through which this conceit comes to light in the characters eyes that makes the novel so great and enjoyable. In a sense, this is one of Williams’s strongest traits as an Epic storyteller, familiar story beats told in a refreshing and entertaining manner. For all the mythic action and world building, Williams never skimps on his characters. The whole cast is relatable, engendered a sense of empathy, and general concern-for-what-happens-to-them in me. With each chapter that brought a close to that particular episode in the characters story arc, I was frustrated it ended, but conversely comforted by the movement of the story to another character about whom I cared.

MVP Author of 2010

Quite a few authors managed to have multiple books on the shelves in 2009, but few had the impact and reach of who I’ve dubbed the MVP author of 2009 and it should come as no surprise since he was named as such in my year-ender last year:

Brandon Sanderson

Continuing to pick up the reigns of revive The Wheel of Time, the defining Fantasy Saga of this generation and dropping a rat-killer sized book on shelves The Way of Kings, both of which reached the New York Times best seller list (hitting #1 with Towers of Midnight) will help to do that.

Favorite ‘New To Me’ Author(s) of 2010

This year, I’ll mention one SF and one Fantasy

For the SF, it was Mark L Van Name. I’d seen good things about his writing, particularly from Liviu at FantasyBookCritic, so when Baen put together an omnibus, entitled Jump Gate Twist of the first to novels (One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack), I pounced on the opportunity to review it for the Sacramento Book Review /San Francisco Book Review

Jon is the human protagonist and first person narrator while Lobo is the living, space-faring warship who provides dry responses to Jon’s rhetorical questions. The dialogue between Jon and Lobo is entertaining and provides a strong narrative current. I was reminded a bit of Steven Brust’s assassin Vlad Taltos and his familiar Loiosh in that both duos communicate on a silent, mental wavelength.

While the setting of the books is a vast galaxy, Van Name does a great job of making these stories personal and intimate deftly balancing character and action. One of the cooler SF-nal elements allowing for such widespread travel are the Gates, which allow quick travel across galaxies and are thought by some to be relics of an ancient civilization or even gods. All told, I highly recommended this book both as an introduction to Van Name’s work and a great value for containing two flat-out entertaining science fiction novels.

For Fantasy, it was Elizabeth Moon. I know she’s a veteran and award-winning author, but with the release of Oath of Fealty I really became a fan of her work. Like Tad Williams, Mark and I interviewed her for SFFWorld, thought quite honestly Mark did more of the legwork on this one. I’ve got two of her omnibus volumes on the ‘to read’ pile staring at me, The Deed of Paksenarrion and Heris Serrano, that keep making me feel guilty for not reading them. In 2011, I will read at least one of them!

Elizabeth Moon is one of the brand names writing Science Fiction and Fantasy today who has shown the ability to easily jump between the sibling sub-genres. She’s received awards, sold a lot of books, and has an impressive fan base. While her recent novels have firmly been of the Science Fiction variety, the trilogy that launched her career is the popular and acclaimed Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy. This latest novel, Oath of Fealty is set shortly after the events that closed out the trilogy, published over twenty years ago.

Oath of Fealty is enough of a fresh start in the world Moon created over twenty years ago to keep new readers (like myself) engaged throughout without having to rely on the history told in those books. I expected more action and sword-fighting (although action and physical altercations are present and engaging), but the story deals more with political and courtly maneuvering and is an engrossing read nonetheless. I will even say it is a case of expectations not being met, but in an entirely satisfying manner and I don’t think I’d want to book to have worked any other way. I was very pleased to meet characters who were well rounded, strong, admirable, believable and engaging. In this respect, Mrs. Moon met (and at points exceeded) the expectations I had based on the reputation for strong characters that preceded her.

I'm noticing a pattern between the two "new to me" authors of this year and one from last year, the authors are currently publishing with Baen, or have published significantly with Baen in the past. Hmm...

Most Disappointing Reads of 2010

I don’t mark these books as disappointing with any pleasure, since in one way or another, I was very much looking forward to reading them.

At the top of these The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton. I really enjoyed the first two in the series and was very much anticipating this book. However, the narrative wasn’t strong enough to keep my attention throughout the duration of the novel as well as the previous two books. This isn’t to say I dislike the book, just that my high hopes were not met.

Following on that theme of “I-didn’t-dislike-the-book-,-just-that-my-high-hopes-were-not-met” would be Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold. I really wanted to enjoy the book, and parts of it I did, but I think a lot of the positive attention the book garnered when it initially published in the UK may have raised my expectations a bit higher than was fair. That said, I’ll be continuing the series at some point:
While I did have some issues with the novel and didn’t quite remain consistently connected to the narrative throughout, it is clear to me that Tchaikovsky has something interesting going on with this series. This novel could be considered a prelude to something greater, a larger movement to come. What’s more, for all the richness of the world building on display in Empire in Black and Gold, I don’t get a sense that Tchaikovsky has revealed all the cards in his hand. This could be a series to watch here in the States as folks who’ve read the UK editions have been watching with anticipation for a couple of years.

Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson was another major reading disappointment of 2010. I figured after a couple of aborted attempts at his landmark Mars trilogy, this would be a good fresh start for me. Unfortunately, I think I just don’t connect with KSR’s fiction

Odds and Ends of 2010

The Walking Dead, which came to TV Screens this year in the US prompted me to burn through the first four hardcover releases of the series, essentially the first four years worth of comics. Great, terrific comic book series.

Inception was hands down the best movie I saw in 2010

Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff gave me a PS3 for our 10th Wedding Anniversary and I became addicted to God of War III and am now addicted to Batman: Arkham Asylum. I’ve also got Dragon Age and Bioshock on the docket as well.

Batman or rather, Bruce Wayne, came back from the dead in grand fashion this year at the hands of Grant Morrison. I’ve been enjoying what Grant’s been doing with the Bat family and particularly like Dick Grayson as Batman.

Regrets of 2010

These are the books released in 2010 I didn’t get a chance to that I wanted to read. This just goes to show how many good books are released each year. I’m not including books that are more than a book or two away from the most recent book in the series I read, i.e. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

  • Songs of the Dying Earth edited by George R.R Martin and Gardner Dozois
  • The Wolf Age by James Enge
  • Firedrake by Nick Kyme
  • Surface Detail by Ian M. Banks
  • Echo by Jack McDevitt
  • The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valentine
  • Twelve by Jasper Kent
  • Out of the Dark by David Weber (I’ll be reading it very soon, though)
  • The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
  • Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn
  • Kraken by China Miéville
  • Shadow’s Son by John Sprunk
  • Speculative Horizons edited by Pat St-Denis
  • Distant Thunders by Taylor Anderson
  • Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Prince of Storms by Kay Kenyon
  • The Starfishers Trilogy (reissue) by Glen Cook
  • Heretics by S. Andrew Swann
  • State of Decay by James Knapp
  • Empire by Graham McNeill (and it’s predecessor Heldenhammer from the previous year for that matter)

Oh yeah, as I may have stated, Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I got a dog in the summer. Sully’s (that's the dog's name) been a handful, but a furry fun, handful at that. Here are a couple of pictures of the puppy, now 8 months old and over 70 pounds.