Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ghosts and Monsters - Two SFFWorld Reviews

Your weekly dose of the Mark and Rob show is brought to you by books published by Baen and Jo Fletcher Books.

Mark, SFFWorld’s resident genre historian, dove into a massive tome of ghost stories from the late, great M.R. James Curious Warnings: The Great Ghost Stories of M.R. James:

I must admit that, for me, it is that uniqueness that makes M.R. one of my favourite ghost story writers. Nothing works quite as well for me at Halloween as I dip into my collections of his original published stories. Originally written as rough notes for his reading aloud to choristers at King’s College, Cambridge, they were evidently a highlight of the Christmas festivities.

There are many editions out there, including the recent Collected Ghost Stories by the Oxford University Press in October 2011. I have five of my own, all slightly different. So why look at another new collection?

More excitingly, this edition includes Living Night, a two page poem, and more than a dozen other rarer story fragments, including James’s only novel, The Five Jars (1920) a tale written possibly for, but felt to be too scary for, children in 1920. Some of the other extras here – Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb, Merfield House for example - are the only remaining fragments of the writing, a tantalising glimpse of some of James’ unfinished material. To be frank, the additions are interesting but not essential and Five Jars is a slim novel, but they are worth a read and do give the reader a better idea of James’ canon.

Sometimes an author or his/her books start making the rounds in the intarwebs and you dismiss it for whatever reason. Then people start saying things about it that you find intriguing and subsequently, the book(s) may go on sale for a price you can’t pass. Such is the case with Larry Correia and Monster Hunter International:

Owen learns that monsters are real and not only does the government have a secretive division dedicated to eradicating monsters and keeping their existence hidden from the public, but a paramilitary organization – Monster Hunter International (MHI) – wants to recruit Owen into its ranks. When he next meets his new employers, he is greeted by Earl and Julie Shackelford, one of the members of the family who founded Monster Hunters International. Of course Julie is stunningly gorgeous, loves guns as much as Owen does and is basically his dream woman come to life. Soon enough Correia* …rather Pitt joins MHI and goes through the typical training regiment the protagonist of military fiction needs to under go in order to become a Full Fledged Member.

In today’s genre landscape, werewolves, vampires, and demons are made out to be sexy creatures of seduction who can offer dark fantasies of lust. Not so in Correia’s world, these creatures are the monsters that scared us as kids, the creatures that gave us nightmares from B-movies and the bad guys we wanted to avoid having devour us. Here, the members of Monster Hunter International meet these creatures head on with shotguns, grenade launchers and all sort of (meticulously overly detailed) weaponry to protect the innocent.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book in the Mail (W/E 2012-06-22)

Only one book this week, but (a) I am NOT complaining because I’ve got plenty of books to read and (b) the book I did receive is one of two or three of my most anticipated SF novels publishing this year.

Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Trade Paperback 05/22/2012) – Leviathan Wakes was just about my favorite science fiction novel published in 2011. I’m really looking forward to reading this one, which Mark has already given a big thumbs up.

We are not alone.

On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggles to prevent interplanetary war from reigniting. And on Venus, an alien protomolecule has overrun the planet, wreaking massive, mysterious changes and threatening to spread out into the solar system.

In the vast wilderness of space, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have been keeping the peace for the Outer Planets Alliance. When they agree to help a scientist search war-torn Ganymede for a missing child, the future of humanity rests on whether a single ship can prevent an alien invasion that may have already begun . . .

Caliban's War is a breakneck science fiction adventure following the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bennett & Corey Reviewed at SFFWorld

Mark and I have got two Orbit titles in our weekly spot here at the ‘o Stuff.

Robert Jackson Bennett has been making waves with each of the three novels he’s published over the last three years. I finally picked up his third novel, The Troupe, and at this point in June, I think it is my favorite 2012 novel:

Circuses, carnivals and traveling entertainers have been popular elements of fantastic fiction going back to Charles Finney’s Circus of Dr. Lao to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Placing Bennett’s The Troupe alongside those iconic novels of dark fantasy is an easy thing to do for many reasons. Bennett’s style is both subtle and powerful, he doesn’t often beat the reader over the head with blatant imagery or themes. Rather, the hints and pieces he offers the reader work so effectively to build a collaborative engagement of conversation between writer and reader that it proves all the more powerful. We know there’s a big curtain and behind that curtain, lots of pieces and players are moving around while the performers in front of the curtain waive their hands for the audience. In that respect, Silenus’s Troupe is just the front for much larger events and performances, as well as intimate movements and emotions.

Throughout my experience with The Troupe I felt echoes or resonances with a lot of fiction I’ve read or watched over the years that rang very True. Not that Mr. Bennett was repeating the cadence as much as he was adding to the overall song. Some of these resonances include the aforementioned Ray Bradbury, as well as Stephen King (thematically The Dark Tower and specifically Low Men in Yellow Coats), Neil Gaiman, Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, the television show Lost, among other elements. What Bennett cued into is the veneer that much more is going on behind the curtain than what the reader sees on the page or the audience sees on the stage – a grand chess match between powers people can’t comprehend, let alone even realize exist.

Mark’s book is a hotly anticipated releases and sequel to an award-nominated book, Caliban’s War, the second novel in The Expanse sequence by James S.A. Corey the open pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck:

Whereas last time the tale was mainly told from space pilot Holden and detective Miller’s points of view, this time we have just Holden’s but added to that are the characters of Bobbie, a Martian soldier who is the sole survivor of a massacre on Ganymede, Avasarala, a diplomat trying to bring the Earth-Mars-Outer planets dispute to an end, and Praxidike/Prax, a scientist on Ganymede whose daughter is mysteriously kidnapped just before a solar mirror crashed down on the planet-sized moon of Jupiter. It seems that the disaster may have been an attempt to cover the kidnapper’s tracks, and like on Eros in Leviathan Wakes, the actions of multi-corporations are again suspected.

Interestingly, the authors have improved some of the characters we have met before – most especially Holden, who, as less of a Dan Dare type hero this time around, I appreciated much more than I did in Leviathan Wakes. Having got to know the characters in the previous novel, Caliban’s War is where the books build on the friendship between Holden and the rest of his crew to keep things together. This works especially with Naomi, but also Alex and Amos. Their mutual affection reminded me here of Chris Wooding’s Ketty Jay series. Like that series, friendships are tested here, and the outcome is not always pleasant.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-06-16)

A varied batch of books this week from quite a few different publishers.  Let's have a look, shall we?

Hunter and Fox (A Shifted World Novel #1) by Phillipa Ballantine (Pyr Trade Paperback 06/26/2012) – Ballantine’s one of those authors who have been toiling away for a good chunk of time and now has a quite a few novels/books publishing around the same time. I think Lou Anders was pushing this one as a interesting take on Sword and Sorcery.

In a world that is in constant shifting, where mountains can change to plains and then to lakes, Talyn is the hunter for the Caisah, and a wreck of a once-proud person. She has lost her people, the Vaerli, and her soul working for the man who destroyed her people. All unknowing, she carries within her a Kindred, a chaos creature from the center of the earth that wants to help bring the Vaerli back to power. However, she has lost the ability to communicate with it.

She must also deal with the machinations of Kelanim, the mistress of Caisah, who out of fear will do anything to bring Talyn down.

Little does the Hunter know that salvation is looking for her, and it wears the face of gentleness and strength. Finn is a teller of tales who carries his own dreadful secret. He sets out to find answers to his path but ends up in the city of Perilous and Fair where he meets Talyn. He knows the danger and yet is drawn to her. Their fates are bound together.

Meanwhile, the Hunter's lost brother Byre is searching for his own solution to the terrible curse placed on the Vaerli. He sets forth on a treacherous journey of his own, which will intersect in the most unlikely place with that of Talyn and Finn.

The ramifications of this encounter will be felt by all the people in Conhaero, from the lost Vaerli to the Caisah on his throne.

Rift (A Nightshade Prequel) by Andrea Cremer (Philomel Hardcover 08/06/2012) – A popular Young Adult series gets a prequel.

Chronicling the rise of the Keepers, this is the stunning prequel to Andrea Cremer's internationally bestselling Nightshade trilogy!

Sixteen-year-old Ember Morrow is promised to a group called Conatus after one of their healers saves her mother's life. Once she arrives, Ember finds joy in wielding swords, learning magic, and fighting the encroaching darkness loose in the world. She also finds herself falling in love with her mentor, the dashing, brooding, and powerful Barrow Hess. When the knights realize Eira, one of their leaders, is dabbling in dark magic, Ember and Barrow must choose whether to follow Eira into the nether realm or to pledge their lives to destroying her and her kind.

With action, adventure, magic, and tantalizing sensuality, this book is as fast-paced and breathtaking as the Nightshade novels.

The Eye of the World (Graphic Novel, Volume 2) by Robert Jordan (story), Chuck Dixon (script) and Andie Tong (pencils) (Torc Hardcover 06/19/2012) – I’m in the (slow, protracted) process of re-reading The Wheel of Time and I was reading this in comic book format. Pretty good adaptation, I’d say and the art gets stronger as the issues/story progresses.

The second volume of the magnificent New York Times bestselling graphic novel adaptation of Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World

With the full cooperation of the Jordan estate, The Eye of the World has been turned into a stunning comic book series. Volume One of The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel was published by Tor in the Fall of 2011 and was a New York Times bestseller.

In The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel, Volume Two, scripted by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Andie Tong, Rand al’Thor, Egwene al’Vere, and their friends flee their home village in the company of Moiraine and her Warder, Lan Mandragoran. Pursued by their enemies, the group seeks sanctuary in Baerlon. Rand’s nightmares grow darker. Moiraine takes Egwene under her wing. Lan warns them to trust no one, but should that distrust extend to Lan and Moiraine as well?

The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel, Volume Two, collects six issues of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the World comic book published by Dynamite Entertainment. This book will feature bonus material that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a graphic novel.

Technomancer (Unspeakable Things: Book One) by B.V. Larson (47 North Trade Paperback / eBook 07/24/2012) – Larson’s one of the self-published sensations so 47North picked him as one of their first authors under the imprint. I like the premise, which reminds me a bit of Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels

A new kind of alien invasion…

When Quentin Draith wakes up in a private sanatorium, he has no memory of who he is or how he received the injuries riddling his body. All he knows is that he has to get out, away from the drugs being pumped into him and back to the real world to search for answers. His first question: How did his friend Tony’s internal organs fill with sand, killing him in a Las Vegas car crash?

After a narrow escape, he tracks down the basic facts: he is an investigator and blogger specializing in the supernatural—which is a good thing, because Quentin’s life is getting stranger by the minute. It seems he is one of a special breed, a person with unusual powers. He’s also the prime suspect in a string of murders linked by a series of seemingly mundane objects. The deeper he digs and the harder he works to clear his name, the more Quentin realizes that some truths are better off staying buried…

False Covenant: (Book Two of Widdershins) by Ari Marmell (Pyr Hardcover 06/26/2012) – Coincidentally, I just posted my review of the first book Theif’s Covenant this past Tuesday. Basically, go out and get it folks, it is a fun book and really readable character.

It’s been over half a year, now, since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to the Galicien city of Davillon. During that time, the Church of the Hallowed Pact has assigned a new bishop to the city—but it has also made its displeasure at the death of its clergyman quite clear. Davillon’s economy has suffered beneath the weight of the Church’s displeasure. Much of the populace—angry at the clergy— has turned away from the Church hierarchy, choosing private worship or small, independent shrines. And the bishop, concerned for his new position and angry at the people of Davillon, plans to do something about it.

But a supernatural threat is stalking the nighttime streets—a creature of the other world has come to infiltrate the seedier streets of Davillon, to intertwine its tendrils through the lower echelons of society. Faced with both political upheaval and a supernatural threat to its citizenry, the local representatives of the Church are paralyzed and the Guardsmen are in over their heads.

And then there’s Widdershins. Who’s tried, and failed, to stay out of trouble since taking over Genevieve’s tavern. Who’s known to the Church and the Guard both, and trusted by neither. Who may, with some of her Thieves’ Guild contacts, have unwittingly played a part in the bishop’s plans. And who, along with her personal god Olgun, may be the only real threat to the supernatural evil infesting Davillon.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human by Grant Morrison (Spiegal & Grau, Trade Paperback 06/26/2012) – I read and reviewed the hardcover when it published last year: “To call this book must-read is an understatement. I’ve been a comic book reader for over 20 years and knew, through Internet trawling and simply reading comics and associated industry magazines, much of what Morrison covered in this brilliant tome. The exuberance with which Morrison shares this history provides addictive reading and some historical perspectives that were new to me.”

From one of the most acclaimed and profound writers in the world of comics comes a thrilling and provocative exploration of humankind’s great modern myth: the superhero

The first superhero comic ever published, Action Comics no. 1 in 1938, introduced the world to something both unprecedented and timeless: Superman, a caped god for the modern age. In a matter of years, the skies of the imaginary world were filled with strange mutants, aliens, and vigilantes: Batman, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. In less than a century, they’ve gone from not existing at all to being everywhere we look: on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and dreams. But what are they trying to tell us?

For Grant Morrison, arguably the greatest of contemporary chroniclers of the “superworld,” these heroes are powerful archetypes whose ongoing, decades-spanning story arcs reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves, our troubled history, and our starry aspirations. In this exhilarating work of a lifetime, Morrison draws on art, science, mythology, and his own astonishing journeys through this shadow universe to provide the first true history of the superhero—why they matter, why they will always be with us, and what they tell us about who we are . . . and what we may yet become.

Now with a new Afterword

No Peace for the Damned (The Damned Series Book One) by Megan Powell (47 North Trade Paperback / eBook 07/10/2012) – This is Powell’s first novel, it’s nice to see the new 47North imprint take a chance on some new voices.

Magnolia Kelch is no stranger to pain. Beautiful and powerful, she’s spent her entire life at the mercy of her sadistic father and the rest of the Kelch clan, who have tortured her and tested the limits of her powers. After one particularly heinous night that leaves Magnolia nearly dead, she finally sees her chance for escape…

But this first taste of freedom is short-lived when she collides with Thirteen, head of the Network—a secret organization dedicated to fighting supernatural criminals—who recruits her into the group. Even as she’s coming to grips with this new life and the horrific memories that still haunt her, she’s conflicted by her growing attraction to fellow team member Theo and the emergence of new, untested abilities. After months of grueling training, her loyalty to the team is tested when she learns her target is the Network’s most wanted: the Kelch family.

Revenge may course through her veins, but so does the blood of the Kelches. And opposing her family may cost her the thing she treasures most. After all, Magnolia is still a Kelch. And the Kelch are damned.

Year Zero: A Novel by Rob Reid (Del Rey, Hardcover 07/10/2012)– SF Humor, and a debut that seems like it could be fun..

An alien advance party was suddenly nosing around my planet.
Worse, they were lawyering up. . . .

In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Reid takes you on a headlong journey through the outer reaches of the universe—and the inner workings of our absurdly dysfunctional music industry.

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Steelheart, Launch of New Fantasy Series by Brandon Sanderson

Because he is an absolute writing machine, Brandon Sanderson has another series on the way.  From the press release sent to me by Dellacorte Press:


The First Novel in the Planned Trilogy, STEELHEART, to Publish in Fall 2013

New York, NY, June 13th, 2012—Delacorte Press has acquired the first YA series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn trilogy, Brandon Sanderson, it was announced today by Beverly Horowitz, VP & Publisher. Executive Editor Krista Marino acquired for Delacorte from Eddie Schneider of JABberwocky Literary Agency at auction, and will edit the planned trilogy.

Delacorte will publish the first novel, STEELHEART, in North America in Fall 2013 with simultaneous publication as an ebook.

“Sanderson has quickly risen to the top of the fantasy genre.” said Horowitz. “We are thrilled to be the home of this talented author’s first YA project, and know that his millions of dedicated fans will devour STEELHEART.”

Brandon Sanderson is a #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning fantasy author with books published in more than 25 languages, and millions of copies sold around the world. STEELHEART follows David—a teenager in the city that was once called Chicago—as he searches for the extraordinarily powerful Epic named Steelheart, who killed his father.

Steelheart possesses the strength of 10 men and can control the elements. It is said no bullet can harm him, no sword can split his skin, no explosion can burn him. Nobody fights back . . . nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, the Reckoners spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then taking them out. For the death of his father, David wants in. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying and planning, and has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. STEELHEART takes an action-heavy plot, layers in complexity, and delivers twists and a breathtaking conclusion, as David and the Reckoners try to undo the dystopia the Epics have created.

According to Sanderson’s agent Eddie Schneider, STEELHEART has entered preliminary negotiations for a major Hollywood deal.

Brandon Sanderson’s book publishing career began at Tor with the standalone fantasy Elantris, which was followed by his Mistborn trilogy, a modern classic of the fantasy genre with more than 1 million copies sold in the English language, and includes The Way of Kings, the first in a projected 10-volume series called The Stormlight Archive. In December 2007, Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after his untimely passing. The Gathering Storm in 2009 and Towers of Midnight in 2010 will be followed by the final volume in the Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light, in January 2013. In October 2007, he entered the world of children’s publishing with Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, a middle-grade novel. STEELHEART is his first young adult novel.

Brandon’s fiction has been nominated for more than a dozen awards in the last decade, and his Alcatraz series was a finalist for state awards in Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and North Carolina. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians was previously optioned for film by DreamWorks Animation, Mistborn was optioned by Paloppa Pictures, his forthcoming novella Legion is under option to Lionsgate, and a Mistborn video game will be released by Little Orbit in 2013 for all platforms.

Sanderson received his master’s degree in creative writing from Brigham Young University, where he continues to teach. He resides with his wife, Emily, in Utah.

Delacorte Press is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Random House, Inc., whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG, a leading international media company.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Martin, Marmell, and Howey Reviewed at SFFWorld

Another classic re-issue review from Mark and I’ve got a review of an author attempting something slightly new and Nila White joins for a review of a self-published sensation who recently had a novel optioned for the screen.

George R.R. Martin was a popular and acclaimed author before A Song of Ice and Fire and this is one of those older novels reissued no doubt to cash in on his current success and popularity. It is his novel of Rock and Roll and journalism, The Armageddon Rag which publishes today:

The Armageddon Rag is one of George’s own personal favourites, though at the time of its original release in 1983 it rather disappeared without notice. George was so upset by its failure that he wrote less fiction for a number of years and went off to write for television, for the newly revamped Twilight Zone and the Beauty and the Beast television series.

Coincidentally, and nearly thirty years later, this novel reappears in the UK. At first, it seems fairly straight forward as a rock and roll murder mystery. Sander (‘Sandy’) Blair is an underground rock journalist investigating the death of Jamie Lynch, a millionaire rock producer apparently murdered in some sort of a satanic ritual. His heart was cut out and the body left in his office with a copy of his most famous band’s last concert poster under him and their last album left playing on repeat.

If The Armageddon Rag tells us nothing else it is that George loves his music, and also the culture it created in the 1960’s – 80’s. That Rolling Stone Magazine vibe, a la Lester Bangs, is recreated here in all its bizarre and surreal glory. Drugs, sex and rock and roll, in all its aspects.

Ari Marmell is proving to be a versatile writer, who started in tie-in fiction, moved to heroic fantasy, then humorous military fantasy and now with Theif’s Covenant, he launches a new young adult series about a girl named Widdershins:

Presenting such character-driven story in a dual narrative can be a tricky task for an author who has to balance the right amount of dramatic tension in two storylines, keep event ‘spoilers’ from one timeline creeping into the other, and balance the action in two storylines, among all the other elements necessary for telling a good story. Marmell should be proud of what he’s done with the dual narrative in Thief’s Covenant because for me, it worked like a charm.

One of these storylines follows Adrienne’s past from the time she is orphaned through her time reentering high society, becoming part of a thief’s guild while the other narrative follows her after the worshippers of her god Olgun are destroyed. The portions of narrative/chapters dedicated to Adrienne jump a year or two from chapter to chapter so we get a pretty good snapshot of her evolution without being overburdened with too many details. In other words, it works well.

Nila takes a look at self-published sensation Hugh Howey’s First Shift

The sixth installment to continue Hugh Howey’s WOOL series is a great background, filler story.

I know, for those of you who have read the Wool stories and loved them, that may seem like a letdown – filler. Sounds like something you can skip, huh? But, though First Shift simply tells us about how the silo story begins, Mr. Howey manages to do so in a unique way.

The reader is introduced to two protagonists: Donald, a new Congressional Representative taken in by the seniority and power of a U.S. Senator (Senator Thurman), and Troy, a befuddled IT department head that struggles to forget when all he wants to do is remember.

By the end of First Shift all the reader is left with is the burning desire to know what Senator Thurman really has in store for the people of the silos. One thing we can be sure of, it ain’t gonna be pretty.Senator Thurman is a hard man, but he’s out to save the world. And, as any good megalomaniac knows, to save it, you must destroy it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 2012-06-09)

As is usual during the first week of the month, the following month’s books to be published by Ace/Roc and DAW arrive at my doorstep or in front of my garage where the nice UPS guy named Mike leaves them.

Iron Gray Sea (Destroyermen Book 7) by Taylor Anderson (Roc Hardcover 07/03/2012) – I’ve read and enjoyed the first trilogy (Into the Storm, Crusade, and Maelstrom) in the series and read the fourth one, Distant Thunders last year. I haven’t kept up with the series since then, but Mr. Anderson seems to be doing quite well with the series .

War has engulfed the other earth. With every hard-won victory and painful defeat, Matt Reddy and the Allies encounter more friends — and more diabolical enemies. Even in the arms of the woman he loves, there is little peace for Reddy. The vast sea and scope of the conflict has trapped him too far away to help on either front, but that doesn’t mean he and USS Walker can rest — and man and four-stacker must risk everything against a bigger ship.

Elsewhere, the long-awaited invasion of Grik “Indiaa” has begun, and the Human-Lemurian Alliance is pushing back against the twisted might of the Dominion. The diplomatic waters seethe with treachery and a final, terrible plot explodes in the Empire of New Britain Isles.

Existence by David Brin (Torc Hardcover 06/19/2012) – Brin is probably the biggest name author I’ve never read and this one looks quite interesting indeed. It should be one of THE SF novels of the year..

Bestselling, award-winning futurist David Brin returns to globe-spanning, high concept SF with Existence.

Gerald Livingston is an orbital garbage collector. For a hundred years, people have been abandoning things in space, and someone has to clean it up. But there’s something spinning a little bit higher than he expects, something that isn’t on the decades’ old orbital maps. An hour after he grabs it and brings it in, rumors fill Earth’s infomesh about an “alien artifact.”

Thrown into the maelstrom of worldwide shared experience, the Artifact is a game-changer. A message in a bottle; an alien capsule that wants to communicate. The world reacts as humans always do: with fear and hope and selfishness and love and violence. And insatiable curiosity.

Heaven’s War by David S. Goyer and Michael Casutt (Ace Hardcover 07/03/2012) – Exactly a year after the first in this series, Heaven’s Shadowpublishes, the second in the series hits bookshelves.

When it first appeared, the astronomers named the asteroid Keanu.

A Near Earth Object, from a distant constellation, it was headed directly toward our sun.

But when we went to meet it, it turned out to be far more than a huge rock hurtling through space...

The two teams of astronauts sent to explore Keanu discovered it is, in fact, a spacecraft, a giant ship with an alien crew. A ship that had headed to Earth with a mission and a message: Help Us. A brave new frontier beckons. But we are about to learn that it comes with a price...

Without warning, the aliens transport small groups of humans from the competing scientific communities of Houston, Texas and Bangalore, India to the vast interior habitats of Keanu. Their first challenge is to survive. Their second; to discover why The Architects—the unknown, unseen aliens controlling the asteroid—brought them there. And soon a third emerges: they must find a way to take control of Keanu.

Because the NEO is moving again—away from Earth. The Architects are headed home.

Citadels of the Lost (The Annals of Drakis #2) by Tracy Hickman (DAW, Mass Market Paperback 07/03/2012) –Second in Hickman’s solo series which seems to hit all the check-boxes for 1980s throwback Epic Fantasy.

The Rhonas Empire of elves is built upon a thirst for conquest, disdain for other races, and an appetite for hedonistic self-gratification. They have complete control of the Aether — the mystical substance that fuels their magic. One use of this Aether is to compel total obedience of the slaves drawn from the races they have defeated.

But there are legends that tell of a time when humans and other slave races were free and dragons flew the skies. And they speak of a hero who will return to lead an uprising against their masters: a human named Drakis.

When Aer magic, the magic of nature itself, is wielded by Jugar, a captive dwarf, it signals the start of a rebellion straight from legend. In the ensuing chaos, the former warrior-slave Drakis Sha-Timuran, with a small group of slaves, flees for his life and freedom — lured by a melody that conjures visions of dark wings, scales, and fire. Following the melody he alone can hear, Drakis stumbles on the truth behind the legends: the dragons are real!

Can they survive the dangers of this treacherous realm and bring the truth behind the legends to the army of rebellion?

Sky Dragons by Anne McCaffrey and Todd J. McCaffrey (Del Rey Hardcover 06/26/2012) – Right on schedule a new Dragonriders of Pern novel arrives (one day short of EXACTLY a year since the last installment) and this is the last installment that will feature the late Anne McCaffrey.

From the New York Times bestselling mother-and-son team of Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey comes the final installment in the riveting Pern saga that began with Todd’s solo novel, Dragonsblood. Now, with all of Pern imperiled by the aftereffects of a plague that killed scores of dragons and left the planet helpless against the fall of deadly Thread, the only hope for the future lies in the past.

There, on an unexplored island, a group of dragonriders led by Xhinna, a brave young woman who rides the blue dragon Tazith, must battle lethal Merows and voracious tunnel-snakes to build a safe home for themselves and the dragons, whose offspring will one day—if they survive—replenish Pern’s decimated dragon population. But as the first female rider of a blue dragon, and the first female Weyrleader in the history of Pern, Xhinna faces an uphill battle in winning the respect and loyalty of her peers . . . especially after an unforeseen tragedy leaves the struggling colony reeling from a shattering loss.

Amid the grieving, one girl, Jirana, blessed—or cursed—with the ability to foresee potential futures, will help Xhinna find a way forward. The answer lies in time . . . or, rather, in timing it: the awesome ability of the dragons to travel through time itself. But that power comes with risks, and by venturing further into the past, Xhinna may be jeopardizing the very future she has sworn to save.

Broken Blade (The Fallen Blade #2) by Kelly McCullough (AceMass Market Paperback 07/03/2012) –Second in a series which began last year and, oddly, like the Devon Monk title in this post, I never received the first book of each series so chances of me jumping into book two on either is very slim. That said, the first installment Broken Blade did receive some nice reviews.

From the "inventive, irreverent" (Green Man Review) author of Broken Blade comes a new Fallen Blade novel featuring Aral Kingslayer. Former temple assassin Aral Kingslayer has a price on his head and a mark on his soul. After his goddess was murdered, Aral found refuge in the shadow jack business, fixing problems for those on the fringes of Tien’s underworld. It’s a long step down from working for the Goddess of Justice, but it gives Aral and Triss—the living shadow who is his secret partner—a reason to get up in the morning.

When two women hit a rough spot in the tavern Aral uses for an office, he and Triss decide to lend a helping hand--only to find themselves in the middle of a three-way battle to find an artifact that just might be the key to preventing a war. And with so many factions on their trail, Aral and Triss are attracting a lot more attention than anyone featured on ten thousand wanted posters can afford…

Nightglass (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Liane Merciel (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 07/03/2012) – I’ve seen good things about Merciel, PeterW in particular liked her writing and Ms. Merciel participated in one of SFFWorld’s Author Roundtables.

In the grim nation of Nidal, carefully chosen children are trained to practice dark magic, summoning forth creatures of horror and shadow for the greater glory of the Midnight Lord. Isiem is one such student, a promising young shadowcaster whose budding powers are the envy of his peers. Upon coming of age, he's dispatched on a diplomatic mission to the mountains of the Devil's Perch, where he's meant to assist the armies of devil-worshiping Cheliax in clearing out a tribe of monstrous winged humanoids. Yet as the body count rises and Isiem comes face to face with the people he's exterminating, lines begin to blur, and the shadowcaster must ask himself who the real monsters are...

From Liane Merciel, critically acclaimed author of The River King's Road and Heaven's Needle, comes a fantastical tale of darkness and redemption set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Tin Swift (The Age of Steam #2) by Devon Monk (Ace Hardcover 07/03/2012) –I read her debut Magic to the Bone in 2009 about a year after it published, and since then, Monk’s become a writing machine, churning out these two The Age of Steam novels as well as an additional 8 novels in the Allie Beckstrom.

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man fights to hold on to his humanity—and his honor. . .

Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear…

Doctor Who Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts (Ace Hardcover 07/03/2012) –I like Doctor Who and I like Douglas Adams, though I’m not sure I’ll be getting to this one..

From the unique mind of Douglas Adams, legendary author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, comes Shada, a Doctor Who story scripted for the television series Doctor Who, but never produced—and now, transformed into an original novel...

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing Imagine how dangerous a LOT of knowledge is...

The Doctor's old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs—harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

The hands of the sinister Time Lord Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac, bent on universal domination. Having misguessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor...

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (White Trash Zombie #2by Diana Rowland (DAW Mass Market 7/05/2011)– Mystery + humor + horror + zombies = A new book (and potential series) from Diana Rowland.

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right—the zombie mafia.

Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower—and maybe a brain smoothie as well—in order to get through it without falling apart.

The Apocalypse Codex (A Laundry Files novel) by Charles Stross (Ace Hardcover 07/03/2012) – This is the third full Laundry novel, I read The Jennifer Morgue and Mark read/reviewed The Fuller Memorandum."

Bob Howard may be humanity’s last hope.
Start praying…

For outstanding heroism in the field (despite himself), computational demonologist Bob Howard is on the fast-track for promotion to management within The Laundry, the super-secret British government agency tasked with defending the realm from occult threats. Assigned to “External Assets,” Bob discovers the company—unofficially—employs freelance agents to deal with sensitive situations that may embarrass Queen and Country.

So when Ray Schiller—an American televangelist with the uncanny ability to miraculously heal the ill—becomes uncomfortably close to the Prime Minister, External Assets dispatches the brilliant, beautiful, and entirely unpredictable Persephone Hazard to infiltrate the Golden Promise Ministry and discover why the preacher is so interested in British politics. And it’s Bob’s job to make sure Persephone doesn’t cause an international incident.

But it’s a supernatural incident that Bob needs to worry about—a global threat even The Laundry may be unable to clean up

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Newly Discovered Authors - First Half of 2012

This little post concerns itself with the authors I’ve discovered this year, read for the first time, and plan on reading more of in the future. I suppose there’s no quicker way to say it fully so there you go. Anyway, some of these writers are new to all of us, meaning their debut novels published this year, other authors have been published with books on the shelves (physical or virtual) for more than a year. I’ll do this thing alphabetically:

Rachel Aaron – I enjoyed the heck out of her The Legend of Eli Monpress omnibus, have the fourth in the series - The Spirt War - waiting to be read, and the fifth/final - Spirt’s End - set to publish later in 2012.

Saladin Ahmed – This entry is another debut author, at least in terms of novels, but I was so impressed with Throne of the Crescent Moon I’m quite eager to see where Saladin next takes Doctor Adoulla Makhslood and his companions.

Robert Jackson Bennett – I’m only part-way through The Troupe, his third novel and the first I’ve read, but it is connecting with my reading sensibilities VERY strongly. I get a bit of a King/Bradbury feel so far and I’ve seen nothing but good things about his other two novels The Company Man and Mr. Shivers.

Myke ColeShadow OPS: Control Point is his first novel and also the first in the Shadow OPS series and an extremely accomplished novel. Might be my favorite of the year at this point or very close to it. Two more books in this series are set to publish for Mr. Cole and I’ll be lining up to get them.

Larry Correia – I ordered the Monster Hunters omnibus from Baen for all of $6.00 and the first novel in it, Monster Hunter International is lots of fun. He’s trucking along with this series, releasing the fourth, Monster Hunter Legion in September plus he’s got to volumes of The Grimnoir Chronicles which is a Noir-ish alternate history urban fantasy.

Jeff Salyards – Another debut author whose Scourge of the Betrayer was a tight and impressive military fantasy novel. Not sure when the second is publishing, but looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Redshirts and Destiny Quest Reviewed at SFFWorld

I’ve got a review or two to mention today, as usual, one review is written by yours truly whilst Mark is the author of the other review.


John Scalzi’ is one of the most popular SF writers today, thanks in no small part to his great blog and of course his entertaining novels. Possibly his most anticipated is Redshirts which publishes today:

In Redshirts, Scalzi plays on one of the older tropes in science fiction, at least that of the expendable characters. The old trope that was codified by Star Trek (the original series) wherein Spock, Kirk, McCoy and a guy wearing a Federation issued Red shirt would land on the planet only for three of the four members of the away party to make it back to the U.S.S. Enterprise. This is par for the course since the Red shirted member of the away team is played by an unknown actor. Except when those characters are real people (or as real as fiction characters from a novel who are fictional characters on a TV Show can be) become ‘aware’ and realize the lesser crew members assigned to away parties are always dying. When Dahl and his companions encounter a man or ‘yeti’ as they call him, named Jenkins (think the mysterious Laszlo from the 1980s comedy gem Real Genius), they learn of the power of Narrative, and specifically the Narrative of a show called The Chronicles of the Intrepid. So yes, Scalzi is going for the whole meta-fiction thing here and for the most part, I felt it worked. No doubt Scalzi’s work on Stargate Universe aka SG:U (criminally cancelled far too early by the network once known as the SciFi Channel), informed a good deal of the inner workings of how a space-based science fiction television show works. The comparisons between SG:U and The Chronicles of the Intrepid end there because – even as Dahl and his fellow Redshirts note - The Chronicles of the Intrepid is written terribly and SG:U was terrific.

Mark takes a look at an interesting mix between game and novel, the first Destiny Quest installment by Michael J. Ward, The Legion of Shadow:

Here’s an unexpected surprise: a game book that’s both retro and forward looking.

From the start though, you pretty much know what you’re going to get: the cover shows a hooded, cloaked man, eyes aglow, stares at you with a horde of equally evil-looking warriors behind him. Around his left hand, a purple orb of glowing electricity, and in his right hand, an enormous staff, seething with arcane power.

For someone used to the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy game books from the 1980’s, or Dungeon and Dragons role-playing, you’ve pretty much got the idea of what goes on here. You start as an outcast with no memory of your background or history. This allows you to develop new characteristics as you develop, becoming one of the archetypes mentioned earlier such as a rogue, a mage and a warrior, and realising your destiny. There are quests and sub-quests, demons and monsters, good guys and bad. Ultimately your aim is to defeat the bad guy and his various allies, determined to do you and the world harm. Along the way, the choices you make (or are determined by the throw of a die) affect where you go and what you do.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Books in the Mail (W/E 06/02/2012)

Another week of releases here at the ‘o Stuff, much of which is brought to you be the fine folks at Tor

Destroyer of Worlds (Kingdom of the Serpent #3) by Mark Chadbourn (Pyr Trade Paperback 05/22/2012) – Not only is this the concluding volume of the Kingdom of the Serpent trilogy, but it closes out the trilogy of trilogies started way back with World’s End, which was the first in the Age of Misrule trilogy.

A quest of epic reach spans the globe under the mythologies of five great cultures

It is the beginning of the end... the end of the axe-age, the sword-age, leading to the passing of gods and men from the universe. As all the ancient prophecies fall into place, the final battle rages, on Earth, across Faerie, and into the Land of the Dead. Jack Churchill, Champion of Existence, must lead the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons in a last, desperate assault on the Fortress of the Enemy to confront the ultimate incarnation of destruction: the Burning Man. It is humanity's only chance to avert the coming extinction. At his back is an army of gods culled from the world's great mythologies—Greek, Norse, Chinese, Aztec, and more. But will even that be enough? Driven to the brink by betrayal, sacrifice, and death, his allies fear Jack may instead bring about the very devastation he is trying to prevent.


"This is the final book in a trilogy of trilogies from an author whose work has redefined the boundaries of dark fantasy. The colossal story has never been less than fascinating and at times easily rivaled the most riveting, original work of the genre." —SF Site

An immense work of scope and majesty. What appeals about the book is the author's ability to deal in myth and to apply it to a modern story.... The story is gripping, the characters involving, and the main villain is a nasty piece of work. An excellent effort from a very exciting author. One thing is certain: the future of fantasy is safe in the hands of Mark Chadbourn." —The Specusphere

The Devil Delivered and Other Tales by Steven Erikson (Tor Hardcover 06/19/2012) – Three non-Malazan stories from Erikson. I read Fishing with Grandma Matchie and really enjoyed it.

This collection includes:

“The Devil Delivered”: In the breakaway Lakota Nation, in the heart of a land blistered beneath an ozone hole the size of the Great Plains of North America, a lone anthropologist wanders the deadlands, recording observations that threaten to bring the world’s powers to their knees.

“Revolvo”: In the fictitious country of Canada, the arts scene is ruled by technocrats who thrive in a secret, nepotistic society of granting agencies, bursaries, and peer review boards, all designed to permit self-proclaimed artists to survive without an audience.

“Fishing with Grandma Matchie”: A children’s story of a boy tasked with a writing assignment becomes a stunning fantastical journey with his tale-spinning grandmother.

Kop Killer by Warren Hammond (Tor Hardcover 06/05/2012) – The third installment in Hammond’s future Dickian sf mystery hybrid.

KOP Killer, a darkly dystopian science fiction thriller from Warren Hammond

Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto.

When she died, however, Juno’s life went downhill. And then his first partner, the corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police, was murdered. The man responsible, Emil Mota, is using the KOP for his personal gain. Juno has been laying low, but now he’s ready to do whatever it takes to take down the bastard.

Rather than working from inside the system, he’s decided that the only way to take down the KOP is to create an independent base of power. So he gets involved with a team of dirty cops and starts working as a rent-a-thug for a whorehouse that needs protection.

Juno’s last partner knows that his risky plan has a purpose, but she’s that rarest of creatures on the hothouse planet of Lagarto: an honest cop. She can’t help him.

When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption....

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso (Tor Hardcover 08/21/2012) – This is the sequel to (and second half of the duology began with) The Last Page

Tabloids sold in the Duchy of Stonehold claim that the High King, Caliph Howl, has been raised from the dead. His consort, Sena Iilool, both blamed and celebrated for this act, finds that a macabre cult has sprung up around her.

As this news spreads, Stonehold—long considered unimportant—comes to the attention of the emperors in the southern countries. They have learned that the seed of Sena’s immense power lies in an occult book, and they are eager to claim it for their own.

Desparate to protect his people from the southern threat, Caliph is drawn into a summit of the world’s leaders despite the knowledge that it is a trap. As Sena’s bizarre actions threaten to unravel the summit, Caliph watches her slip through his fingers into madness.

But is it really madness? Sena is playing a dangerous game of strategy and deceit as she attempts to outwit a force that has spent millennia preparing for this day. Caliph is the only connection left to her former life, but it’s his blood that Sena needs to see her plans through to their explosive finish.

Dark and rich, epic in scope, Anthony Huso has crafted a fantasy like no other, teeming with unthinkable horrors and stylish wonders.

Song of the Serpent (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Tim Pratt (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 04/25/2012) – I now have three Pathfinder novels and I do intend to read at least one of them to sample the world. Pratt’s a writer whose work, specifically his Marla Mason novels, I’ve enjoyed.

Once a student of alchemy with the dark scholars of the Technic League, Alaeron fled their arcane order when his conscience got the better of him, taking with him a few strange devices of unknown function. Now in hiding in a distant city, he's happy to use his skills creating minor potions and wonders - at least until the back-alley rescue of an adventurer named Jaya lands him in trouble with a powerful crime lord. In order to keep their heads, Alaeron and Jaya must travel across wide seas and steaming jungles in search of a wrecked flying city and the magical artifacts that can buy their freedom. Yet the Technic League hasn't forgotten Alaeron's betrayal, and an assassin armed with alien weaponry is hot on their trail... From Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt comes a new fantastical adventure set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Redshirts by John Scalzi (Tor Hardcover 06/05/2011) – Scalzi is having fun again, this time playing with the time-honored “Redshirt trope” which originated on Star Trek. This sounds like fun stuff indeed. I finished this book up last week and enjoyed, my review goes up on Tuesday which is publication day.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.