Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hester, Kent, Esslemont and Wendig at the SFFWorld Blog!

Mark and I have posted Lots of new content on the SFFWorld blog over the past week, a few new reviews and what turned out to be the first interview for the SFFWorld blog since the soft launch/reboot.

Today, I posted my review of a novella from blogger and author Patrick Hester. He launched the Cord Cahill serials with the entertaining novella Cahill’s Homecoming:

When Cord attempts to ask people he knew, friends and former acquaintances, about his sister’s death, few are willing to answer. Cord searches out his sister’s estranged husband Charlie, who has become the town drunk as a result of first, their failed marriage and then, Kate’s death. The two men come to an uncomfortable understanding in their quest for justice.

The immediate thing that came to mind, that resonated with me while reading Cahill’s Homecoming was the television show Firefly, mainly because of the mix of far future and frontier settings. I wouldn’t say Cahill might resemble Malcolm Reynolds, but both men have a gruff exterior which belie a more sympathetic heart. This is best evidenced in Cord’s his words to Charlie, despite their differences and Cord’s displeasure with how Charlie treated Kate, “Today we’re family and family takes care of its own.”

On Sunday, Mark posted his review of the second installment of Steven L. Kent’s Clone Rebellion series, Rogue Clone. The series, initially published by Ace in the US is being issued in the UK by Titan Books. Mark likes how the series is shaping up.

Rogue Clone manages something very difficult from the off: to summarize the events of Book One without too much information dump and move the story on, all within the first thirty pages or so. Whilst war is brewing between the Unified Authority of the Orion Arm (that’s Earth to you and me) and the rebellious Outer Worlds, led by Crowley and the Morgan-Atkins (Mogat) separatists, Wayson Harris of the Unified Authority, now presumed dead, and his mercenary colleague Ray Freeman, are on the hunt for the leaders of the Mogat rebellion. Whilst reporting under cover back to his old mentor, Admiral Klyber, Wayson soon discovers where his nemesis, Amos Crowley of the Galactic Central Fleet, is hiding. We spend much of the beginning of this novel in space, with Harris undercover, guarding Admiral Klyber at a conference on board the Doctrinaire. Harris meets Admiral Huang again, a political enemy of Klyber’s and no friend of the Liberator clones, of which Harris is one of those remaining. Despite this, the conference appears to pass fairly successfully. However an incident after the conference leads to a plot which involves betrayal, political manoeuvring and a coup attempt, whilst in the background the influence of other partners in some rather fragile coalitions become increasingly important.

Yesterday, an interview Mark and I conducted with Ian C. Esslemont, co-creator of the Malazan world was posted on the SFFWorld blog to help celebrate the publication of his latest Malzan Tale Blood and Bone. Here's the direct link to the interview: http://sffworld.blogspot.com/2013/05/ian-c-esslemont-interview-for-blood-and.html.

A week ago, I posted my review to Chuck Wending’s The Blue Blazes, which publishes today. Although this was the first novel I read by the great bearded one of Pennsylvania, I’ve been following him on twitter pretty much since I joined and it will NOT be the last novel I read from him.

What could be a simple novel takes on an air of gravitas because of Wendig’s subtle yet powerful writing. Giving these totems, places, and people titles like The Underworld, The Boss, and The Organization, Wendig lends them a resonance that gives the story great, almost mythic power. This is further enhanced by the “journal clippings” prefacing each chapter, the journal of a lost, possibly insane and possibly fictitious, cartographer of The Great Below, John Atticus Oakes. Such chapter prefaces often work very well for my reading sensibilities and the fact that I found a resonance of sorts with what Chuck Wendig did here to what Mathew Stover (a favorite writer of mine) did in Blade of Tyshalle only heightened my enjoyment because Wendig did just as an effective job with these lost journal fragments.

It may be reductive to do the whole combine-and-compare thing, but think one part Hellboy, one part Mathew Stover, one part Big Trouble in Little China, and throw in a dash of The Sopranos, the film The Wrestler and pulp sensibilities, and you might have an idea of what a great stew of fun this novel really is. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Mookie is a killer on the same level of Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, there’s a similar dichotomy and divide between the family life and the “work life” of the two men. What’s even better is that Wendig seems to only given readers a peek into the world Mookie and his daughter Nora inhabit.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-05-25)

A whopping one book arrived this week. With the heights at which Mount Toberead  is reaching, I'm not complaining.

Earth Afire (The First Formic War #2) by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston (Tor Hardcover 06/04/2013)– Second in the pre-Ender series from Card and Johnston.

One hundred years before Ender's Game, the aliens arrived on Earth with fire and death. This is the story of the First Formic War.

Victor Delgado beat the alien ship to Earth, but just barely. Not soon enough to convince skeptical governments that there was a threat. They didn’t believe that until space stations and ships and colonies went up in sudden flame.

And when that happened, only Mazer Rackham and the Mobile Operations Police could move fast enough to meet the threat.

Fans of Ender's Game will thrill to Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston's Earth Afire.

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow Book One) by Anthony Ryan (Orbit – Paperback 07/02/2013)– Ryan joins the list of Michael J. Sullivan and Hugh Howey of SFF writers who self-published to great success and were then snatched up by one of the Big Publishers. I’ve seen nothing but great things said about this novel so I should be getting to it in the future.

Vaelin Al Sorna’s life changes forever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime – where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order’s masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly.

Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order’s deadliest weapon and the Realm’s only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is turning out to be one of the biggest movies of all time (as of this writing it is #15 all time box office) so what's the point of a review/reaction almost three weeks after the film's release?  Well, it's a movie that I loved and really stood with me after leaving the theater and I've got this here blog for a reason, right?

The film continues the story of Tony Stark and his role in the world as Iron Man, picking up after the events of The Avengers as a new global threat, The Mandarin, makes great terrorist threats to United States of America. Tony Stark, outside of the suit, is dealing with business competition from Aldrich Killian, a man with science and business as his tools of power, the founder of the Extremis medical advancement and the company, Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.). Tony is obsessing with making better, more powerful, and versatile suits of armor, armor that is now neurally linked to him and can attach itself to him with voice and mental commands, not sleeping and spending many of his hours in his lab. How he deals with the Mandarin and the Aldrich Killian as both come knocking on his door sets the action for the film. Literally, Killian visits Stark Enterprises and the Mandarin attacks Tony's home after Stark calls him out on live TV - these things are revealed in the trailers so I'm not considering them spoilers.

 (I'm not even linking directly to it)

The Mandarin, a villain who is the closest thing to an arch enemy Iron Man has, is finally is revealed in this second sequel. Hinted at in the first film, Ben Kingsley takes center stage as The Mandarin, threatening the world through acts of violence and terror. Many (including my wife and I) despite not being long-time fans, couldn’t understand why a British man was being cast as what was known to be an Asian character (especially a character that in initial appearances played up to racial stereotypes). By film’s end, any qualms we had were erased.

Stark’s other antagonist Killian, was played with great gusto by Guy Pearce (a terrific actor who should be in more movies and more importantly better movies than movies about space prisons) as an initially hobbling, scientist who comes across as a Stark fanboy (he actually reminded me of Buddy Pine, aka Syndrome from The Incredibles) when they first met in 1999, years prior to the film series. Killian eventually develops a solution for healing wounded people like himself, Extremis. The ‘side effects’ allow these individuals to have powers beyond those of mortal men, as a side benefit.

Killian’s #2 is a subject of the Extremis Process, Eric Savin, played by James Badge Dale in another great casting choice. I knew Dale from HBO’s The Pacific but it took a few minutes for me to recognize him here. Shaved head, and slightly different posture really helped to change his appearance and allowed disappear into the role.

Another scientist, Maya Hansen, a one-time romantic fling of Tony’s plays a role similar to Pepper Potts, except Hansen’s boss is Killian. Hansen is a brilliant scientist who is almost on the same level as Stark and Killian and provides as something of a balance between the two.

Returning are Paltrow as Pepper, Paul Bettany as JARVIS, and Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, christened the Iron Patriot in the beginning of the film as a result of Stark’s more global involvement with the Avengers.

The superficial elements of the movie, to put it mildly, worked VERY well. I’ll state right now that Iron Man was never a superhero I followed in the comics to a great extent. I read The Avengers here and there, some of Busiek’s Iron Man work and some of Matt Fraction’s Iron Man work, but Iron Man was never a comic on my pull list in the same way that Captain America, The Flash and Batman have been. In short, I don’t have as an emotional attachment to the mythos and characters as long time readers of ol’ Shell head do.

A.I.M. is a long-time supervillain outfit has been pestering many heroes in the Marvel Universe including Iron Man on many occasions. The Extremis storyline (including the characters of Maya Hansen and Killian) comes from one of the most popular and well-received Iron Man storylines of all time by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov.* As stated, The Mandarin is one Iron Man’s most visible and long-standing enemies. Working with these familiar elements and characters from the Iron Man mythos naturally, entails a great deal of baggage and expectations. By playing with the familiar elements and maneuvering them from 50+ years of comic book history into a two hour film, Shane Black and Drew Pearce wove a very strong story that keyed in on those important elements in the hero’s mythology.

For me, the element of the story that came across as perhaps the strength of the movie was the manner in which Shane Black’s script dealt with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD. Tony Stark, after being in a war with gods and aliens and shoving something into a black-hole and nearly dying in The Avengers, not surprisingly has a lot on his mind … and it wasn’t like he was smoothly sailing before the events of The Avengers, having fought off a corporate takeover, a larger version of himself (Iron Monger), a mad Russian with his own technological weapon hell bent on familial revenge.

PTSD is a real thing and something with which many military veterans must cope, or anybody who has suffered through severely anguishing circumstances. Sure Batman’s whole MO is that he is reacting to witnessing his parent’s murder at a very young age, but PTSD is not something discussed in the Batman films (and very much to a lesser extent in the comics). Even *if* some other comic books/superhero tales have dealt with PTSD (and I don’t doubt that it has been done), the fact that it is an integral element in one of the biggest films (i.e. a metric fuck-ton of people have and/or will see the film), is a great thing and smartly plays on the idea of stress and coping. It touches on some of the same things as does the Demon in Bottle storyline but puts a slightly different face on it.

Couple the smart script (maybe one of the smarter superhero scripts, IMHO) with some great action pieces (any time the armor flies around and attaches itself the characters, the final action sequence involving many of the Iron Man suits of armor Tony developed which was hinted in the trailers, Stark doing his best James Bond/Bluto Blutarsky mash up trying to get to the Mandarin) and calling Iron Man 3 anything but a success would be false. Sure the film takes a step back, in terms of scope from at the least The Avengers and maybe even the second Iron Man film, but this film was more intimate and I think more successful because of that. This one also had some solid banter/dialogue between Stark and Rhodes, but the two films prior to this one did too as did Black’s most famous script Lethal Weapon, so that shouldn't be a surprise.  Dashes of humor balanced the action really well, too.  The script also managed to insert a plucky young 'sidekick/apprentice/helper' for Stark in the middle of the film that wait for it...the kid was not annoying and came across pretty well.

I'll finish the review with this, for me, Iron Man 3 is in the top 5 super hero/comic book movies I've ever seen.

* Quite frankly, Ellis’s fingerprints are all over all three of the Iron Man films so I would like to think the fine folks at Marvel are rewarding him handsomely.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-05-18)

A small batch this week, all three of them from the fine folks at Tor

Blood and Bone (A Novel of the Malazan Empire) by Ian Cameron Esslemont (Tor Hardcover 05/21/2013) – I’ve only read Night of Knives in this second Malazan sequence, so I’ve got some catching up to do with ICE’s brand of Malazan stories. Mark and I will have an interview with him up at the SFFWorld blog in the near future:

In the western sky the bright emerald banner of the Visitor descends like a portent of annihilation. On the continent of Jacuruku, the Thaumaturgs have mounted another expedition in a bid to tame the neighbouring wild jungle. Yet this is no normal wilderness. It is called Himatan, and it is said to be half of the spirit-realm and half of the earth. And it is said to be ruled by a powerful entity who some name the Queen of Witches and some a goddess: the ancient Ardata.

Saeng grew up knowing only the rule of the magus Thaumaturgs but it was the voices from that land’s forgotten past that she listened to. And when her rulers launch their invasion of this jungle, those voices send her and her brother on a desperate mission.

To the south, the desert tribes are united by the arrival of a foreign warleader, a veteran commander in battered ashen mail men call the Grey Ghost. This warrior leads these tribes on a raid unlike any other, deep into the heart of Thaumaturg lands.

While word comes to K’azz, and mercenary company the Crimson Guard, of a contract in Jacuruku. And their employer? Could it be the goddess herself...

Tarnished by Rhiannon Held (Tor, Hardcover 05/21/2013) – Second in Held’s werewolf series which began with Slivers and she is ‘promoted’ to hardcover with this release.

Andrew Dare has found his mate in Silver, but they haven’t found the pack they can call home. Some of his old friends think he should return and challenge Roanoke for leadership of all the werewolf packs on the East Coast. But Andrew has baggage—his violent history with the packs of Spain and the rumors of his lack of control. And then there’s Silver—the werewolf who has lost her wild self to a monster’s assault, and who can no longer shift forms. But perhaps together they can overcome all the doubters.

The second book in this wonderful urban fantasy series plunges readers into the world of the shape-shifter packs who live hidden among us. 

The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos (Tor, Hardcover 05/21/2013) – This is Kostos’s first novel in a new sf series and second overall. This looks like it could be a lot of fun. That is a great eye-popping cover.

The Planet Thieves is the first thrilling installment of a new middle-grade series by Dan Krokos.

Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter.

But routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.

With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.

Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-05-11)

Here's the weekly round up of what I've received for review...

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Trade Paperback 06/04/2013) – With two books already published in this series that I’ve enjoyed immensely, (Leviathan Wakes was just about <Caliban’s War), it is safe to say this was one of my more anticipated (maybe most) SF release of 2013. (Physical copy of the e-ARC I received last week)

For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

A Discourse in Steel (The Tales of Egil and Nix #1) by Paul S. Kemp (Angry Robot Mass Market Paperback 06/25/2013) – The first installment in this series, The Hammer and the Blade was a highlight of my reading year in 2012, so I’m really looking forward to this one. That cover looks like it would make an awesome tattoo.

Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!

But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.

And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…
File Under: Fantasy [ Incriminating | Mind Matters | One Last Time | The Steal Remains ]

A hugely-enjoyable adventure in classic sword and sorcery mode, from the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Deceived and The Hammer and the Blade.

The Red Plague Affair (The First of the Bannon and Clare Affairs) by Lilith Saintcrow (Orbit Books Trade Paperback / eBook 05/21/2013) – The second installment in Lilith Saintcrow’s steampunk mystery series comes almost exactly a year after the first.

The service of Britannia is not for the faint of heart—or conscience...

Emma Bannon, Sorceress Prime in service to Queen Victrix, has a mission: to find the doctor who has created a powerful new weapon. Her friend, the mentath Archibald Clare, is only too happy to help. It will distract him from pursuing his nemesis, and besides, Clare is not as young as he used to be. A spot of Miss Bannon's excellent hospitality and her diverting company may be just what he needs.

Unfortunately, their quarry is a fanatic, and his poisonous discovery is just as dangerous to Britannia as to Her enemies. Now a single man has set Londinium ablaze, and Clare finds himself in the middle of distressing excitement, racing against time and theory to find a cure. Miss Bannon, of course, has troubles of her own, for the Queen's Consort Alberich is ill, and Her Majesty unhappy with Bannon's loyal service. And there is still no reliable way to find a hansom when one needs it most...

The game is afoot. And the Red Plague rises.

The fantastic follow-up to The Iron Wyrm Affair, set in an alternate Victorian world where magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

New Reviews at the SFFWorld Blog - Abraham, Miéville, and Knight

New reviews over on the SFFWorld blog this week:

Mark's review of The Tyrant's Law by Daniel Abraham. I read this one, too and loved it. My review should be popping up on Tor.com next week.  Here's a bit from Mark's review:

What we get more of here is a sense of the Epic, in that the eleven races of human, previously mentioned but not given too much detail, are fleshed out more. We see more of their nature and actions, as the consequences of what has happened before ripple out wider and begin to both affect them and draw them into the conflict.


All these narratives are in separate chapters as before, but as the plot thickens they connect and divide throughout. Much of the fun of the book is seeing how these characters separate and follow their own narrative paths, developing as they do before affecting each other again. As before in the series, not everything goes the way we as readers might suspect. Loyalties are rekindled, new characters divide up the fellowship, and further division. And throughout there is still the insidious influence of deities and revelations of dragons.

Mark pulls his review of Looking for Jake by China Miéville from the SFFWorld Archives

There are thirteen stories and one novella in this collection; three of these are new, one story dates from 1998. The novella, The Tain, was originally published by PS Publications in 2002, and is the last of the fourteen stories in the book.

I have enjoyed what I have read of China’s work, even when it is not an easy nor comfortable read. One of the key characteristics of New Weird, as I see it, is its ability to unsettle – to jolt the reader from the cosy environment of their reading environment. This collection clearly does this.

The general theme of the collection is a common one in most of China’s work - one which looks at horrors, both physical and mental, real and imagined. What this collection does, unlike Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council, is use real places and real events, which emphasises the unreality – when what we know and understand becomes something twisted and surreal

I go through the Way-Back machine to highlight E.E. Knight's debut novel and the novel that launched his very entertaining Vampire Earth saga, Way of the Wolf:

E.E. Knight postulates a grim future in his debut novel, The Way of the Wolf. The reader is introduced to a world over-run by creatures out of our most ancient nightmares and darkest legends, with humanity fighting for survival, not only against these monsters, but some of his or her fellow men and women. How did Earth become so desolate and nightmarish? Learning this is part of the fun in reading any opening novel in a multi-volume saga, and most importantly, part of the fun of this book.


The novel works very cinematically, or rather episodically, as if the this book will hit screens one day, as each chapter begins with a paragraph or two of background introduction. This gives an epic feel to the novel and allows the reader to more than simply read the novel, it allows the reader to experience the novel and this dark future Earth. Each chapter is paced very well, with the proper amount of action and characterization to keep the story moving, and more importantly, to keep the pages turning. Perhaps the only fault is a recurring sense of predictability.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-05-04)

Another week, another haul of books. Two of them are VERY high on my list of anticipated reads for the year while everything else looks quite interesting.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill (Ace Trade Paperback 06/04/2013) – Averill’s debut novel, this was the winner of the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Takahiro O’Leary has a very special job…

…working for the Axon Corporation as an explorer of parallel timelines—as many and as varied as anyone could imagine. A great gig—until information he brought back gave Axon the means to maximize profits by changing the past, present, and future of this world.

If Axon succeeds, Tak will lose Samira Moheb, the woman he has loved since high school—because her future will cease to exist. A veteran of the Iraq War suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Samira can barely function in her everyday life, much less deal with Tak’s ravings of multiple realities. The only way to save her is for Tak to use the time travel device he “borrowed” to transport them both to an alternate timeline.

But what neither Tak nor Axon knows is that the actual inventor of the device is searching for a timeline called the Beautiful Land—and he intends to destroy every other possible present and future to find it.

The switch is thrown, and reality begins to warp—horribly. And Tak realizes that to save Sam, he must save the entire world…

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3) by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Trade Paperback 06/04/2013) – With two books already published in this series that I’ve enjoyed immensely, (Leviathan Wakes was just about <Caliban’s War), it is safe to say this was one of my more anticipated (maybe most) SF release of 2013.

For generations, the solar system — Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt — was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Mending the Moon by Jamil Nasir (Tor Hardcover 05/07/2013) – This is Nasir’s fifth novel and touches on a lot of SF tropes – multiverse, hindsight, and time travel.

Heath Ransom, former police psychic turned machine-enhanced “endovoyant” private investigator, is hired to find the consciousness of the rich and comatose Margaret Biel and return it to her body. Tracking her through the etheric world, he comes upon a strange and terrifying object that appears to be a tear in the very fabric of reality. He falls into it—and into an astonishing metaphysical shadow-play.

For Margaret is a pawn in a war between secret, ruthless government agencies and a nonhuman entity known only as “Amphibian.” Their battlefield is a multi-level reality unlike anything humankind has ever imagined. When Heath learns to move back and forth between two different versions of his life, and begins to realize that everyone around him may be a super-realistic android, that is only the beginning of a wholesale deconstruction of reality that threatens more than his sanity....

Mending the Moon by Susan Palwick (Tor Hardcover 05/14/2013) – Palwick’s fourth novel seems to be more mainstream with hints of the fantastic and genre life.

Melinda Soto, aged sixty-four, vacationing in Mexico, is murdered by a fellow American tourist.

Back in her hometown of Reno, Nevada, she leaves behind her adopted son, Jeremy, whom she rescued from war-torn Guatamala when he was a toddler—just one of her many causes over the years. And she leaves behind a circle of friends: Veronique, the academic stuck in a teaching job from which she can't retire; Rosemary, who's losing her husband to Alzheimer's and who's trying to lose herself in volunteer work; Henrietta, the priest at Rosemary's and Melinda's church.

Jeremy already had a fraught relationship with his charismatic mother and the people in her orbit. Now her death is tearing him apart, and he can barely stand the rituals of remembrance that ensue among his mother’s friends. Then the police reveal who killed Melinda: a Seattle teenager who flew home to his parents and drowned himself just days later.

It's too much. Jeremy's not the only one who can't deal. Friendships fray. But the unexpected happens: an invitation to them all, from the murderer's mother, to come to Seattle for his memorial. It's ridiculous. And yet, somehow, each of them begins to see in it a chance to heal. Aided, in peculiar ways, by Jeremy's years-long obsession with the comic-book hero Comrade Cosmos, and the immense cult of online commentary it's spawned.

Shot through with feeling and inventiveness, this is a novel of the odd paths that lead to home.

Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders (The Chronicles of the Pneumatic Zeppelin, Book One) by Richard Ellis Preston Jr (47North Trade Paperback/Ebook 07/02/2013) – This looks a very fun Steampunk adventure. According to the author’s Web site Jeff VanderMeer was a developmental editor on the book and has good things to say about the novel.

In a post-apocalyptic world of endless snow, Captain Romulus Buckle and the stalwart crew of the Pneumatic Zeppelin must embark on a perilous mission to rescue their kidnapped leader, Balthazar Crankshaft, from the impenetrable City of the Founders. Steaming over a territory once known as Southern California – before it was devastated in the alien war – Buckle navigates his massive airship through skies infested with enemy war zeppelins and ravenous alien beasties in this swashbuckling and high-octane steampunk adventure. Life is desperate in the Snow World – and death is quick – Buckle and his ship’s company must brave poisoned wastelands of noxious mustard and do battle with forgewalkers, steampipers and armored locomotives as they plunge from the skies into the underground prison warrens of the fortress-city.

Captain Romulus Buckle must lead the Pneumatic Zeppelin and its crew of never-do-wells on a desperate mission where he must risk everything to save Balthazar and attempt to prevent a catastrophic war which could wipe out all that is left of civilization and the entire human race.

The Human Division (An Old Man’s War novel) by John Scalzi (Tor Hardcover 05/14/2013) – Scalzi did something with this book that only maybe a writer like him could do successfully. He released each chapter as an episode on Tor.com prior to the novel’s release not unlike Stephen King did with The Green Mile. Hopefully this will be a step above Redshirts.

Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn't obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

Being published online from January to April 2013 as a three-month digital serial, The Human Division will appear as a full-length novel of the Old Man’s War universe, plus—for the first time in print—the first tale of Lieutenant Harry Wilson, and a coda that wasn’t part of the digital serialization.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Turtledove and Galaxy's Edge reviewed at the SFFWorld Blog

Mark and I put up two new reviews over at the SFFWorld Blog this week.

Mark has been reviewing a lot more short fiction than I have, specifically, the first issue of the new zine Galaxy's Edge, take a look at his review

So it’s a brave move to try and publish a new magazine in such a climate and yet here we have one from Phoenix Pick. Whilst it is free to read online, and available in electronic format for computers, tablets and the like, my copy was a good-old-fashioned ‘tree-copy’. There are, however, links to the various sections online throughout this review.

And I enjoyed it a lot. Its size is a little unusual, being bigger than digest size, but 4-5 cm less tall than A4. The print is black and white throughout, apart from the matt finish cover. Pages are printed in two columns per page.


I also enjoyed the magazine’s serialisation of the first part of a rather forgotten classic, Daniel F. Galouye’s first novel, Dark Universe, from 1961. It was a Hugo nominee in 1962 (losing out to Robert A Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land), and is a post-apocalyptic tale of human survival below ground with no light. It has some interesting ideas which it examines through the story. ‘Darkness’ and ‘light’ have become mythic or even quasi-religious in stature, and the survivor’s senses have changed, with hearing more acute to accommodate for the absence of light. Taking up 24 pages of the magazine, the first five chapters are here, with the rest in Issue Two.

Meanwhile, the fine folks at Del Rey have reissued the first four books of Harry Turtledove's classic "crossover" fantasy series The Videssos Cycle in two omnibus volumes. I put up my review of the first novel* The Misplaced Legion:

This is a politically flavored novel for all of its focus on war and soldiers. Marcus must navigate the politics of the newly found world which are fraught with religious overtones as well racial/national biases the many characters have for and against each other.

Turtledove is inarguably, the most recognizable writer of Alternate History. He wouldn’t have been known as such if he weren’t a student of history and it shows very much in this crossover fantasy world. There is an authentic feel to the world and the Roman soldiers despite the novel taking place in an invented world with magic. I also thought Turtledove’s characterization of and the story-arc for Marcus in the novel were strong elements in the novel; Marcus was believable with his men, as well with the new people of Videssos who grew to respect him. I also though some of the religio-political discussion in which Marcus engaged with his newfound allies to be interesting and thought provoking.

*hint, I only reviewed the first of the four novels in these two books because it will be the only one of the four novels I will be reading.