Sunday, August 30, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/29/2009)

Only two books this week. Or rather, one plus a left over from last week...

One book I neglected to mention in last week’s weekly round-up:

The Golden City (Book 3 of The Fourth Realm trilogy) by John Twelve Hawks (Knopf Hardcover 09/08/2009) – I was lucky enough to be one of (maybe even the) first person to conduct and interview (which is cited multiple times on the author’s Wikipedia page) with the reclusive and mysterious author. I also reviewed the first two books The Traveler and The Dark River, so I’ll definitely be reading this one.

John Twelve Hawks's previous novels about the mystical Travelers and the Brethren, their ruthless enemies, generated an extraordinary following around the world. The Washington Post wrote that The Traveler “portrays a Big Brother with powers far beyond anything Orwell could imagine . . .” and Publishers Weekly hailed the series as “a saga that's part A Wrinkle in Time, part The Matrix and part Kurosawa epic.” Internet chat rooms and blogs have overflowed with speculation about the final destiny of the richly imagined characters fighting an epic battle beneath the surface of our modern world.

In The Golden City, Twelve Hawks delivers the climax to his spellbinding epic. Struggling to protect the legacy of his Traveler father, Gabriel faces troubling new questions and relentless threats. His brother Michael, now firmly allied with the enemy, pursues his ambition to wrest power from Nathan Boone, the calculating leader of the Brethren. And Maya, the Harlequin warrior pledged to protect Gabriel at all costs, is forced to make a choice that will change her life forever.

A riveting blend of high-tech thriller and fast-paced adventure, The Golden City will delight Twelve Hawks's many fans and attract a new audience to the entire trilogy.

Dawntheif (Chronicles of the Raven #1) by James Barclay (Pyr Trade Paperback 09/22/2009) – Finally! A U.S. publisher picked up the great work of James Barclay. I read his Raven novels back in 2001 under the UK Gollancz imprint and reviewed them for SFFWorld and thoroughly enjoyed them at the time. What I couldn’t figure out was why a U.S. publisher never picked up the series. Well, little to my surprise Pyr comes along and decides to do the immediate shelf-presence thing by releasing the first three books in successive months.

The Raven have fought together for years, six men carving out a living as swords for hire in the war that has torn Balaia apart, loyal only to themselves and their code. But when they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a secret mission they are pulled into a world of politics and ancients secrets. For the first time The Raven cannot trust even their own strength and prowess, for the first time their code is in doubt. How is it that they are fighting for one of the most evil colleges of magic known? Searching for the secret location of Dawnthief; a spell that could end the world? Aiming not to destroy it but to cast it . . . DAWNTHIEF is a fast paced epic about a band of all-too-human heroes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SPOTLIGHT: Dawnthief by James Barclay out in the US!

A book I read almost ten years ago, a writer about whom I heard/saw great things on the intarwebs almost ten years ago reaches US bookshelves this week - James Barclay. The book is Dawnthief, the first of Barclay's Chronicles of the Raven. James was kind enough to send me the first three books after seeing me prattle on in the SFFWorld forums about how frustrating it was for such well received books not be be available in the US. He subsequently sent me additional Raven books and even name-checked me in one.

The review below the book cover is one of my earliest reviews posted at SFFWorld (back in 2001), but the folks at Pyr were kind enough to borrow parts of it for a blurb on the back cover.

Also, my interview (from 2005) with reclusive and best-selling writer John Twelve Hawks (The Traveler) is quoted and linked in Tuesday's (8/25/2009) LA Times:

Dawnthief begins with gripping action: the abduction of a mage and a siege of a castle. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, and indeed the series. The cast of characters is believable, the magic is handled with thought and you can barely turn the pages fast enough to keep up with the story.

The story tells the tale of the Raven, a mercenary group known for the perfection and 100% success rate on all of their jobs. They are so successful because they ultimately believe and trust in each other, the ultimate team. The Raven have been taking jobs for years and are on the brink of retirement, just finishing what was to be their last job. They have made loads of money and are looking forward to settling down and living a relaxed life before the harsh life of the mercenary catches up with them.

It turns out the close of this “last job” (which opens the book) sends them on their toughest, most important job ever—that of saving the world. The Raven never much thought of anything other than their money as an end to the job. Upon finishing this last job they run into a thief mage by the name of Denser, who steals an amulet from a Dragon, which sets the spiraling of this story. This amulet is a key component of the spell Dawnthief a super-spell which is the world of Balaia’s only salvation from the returning Wytch Lords, demi-god mages who have been imprisoned for years.

Barclay expertly draws his characters in this opening novel. As the story unfolds we learn about these characters, like the mage Illkar, the strong willed barbarian warrior Hirad and the strong mysterious Unknown Warrior. What marks these characters the most is that they are Raven, which they constantly tell themselves in order to get through each difficulty.

I like the way the magic was handled, broken up into four colleges. These colleges are centers of the land of Balaia and help to give life to the world Barclay has created.

Overall, this is not only an excellent opening series book, but an excellent book, period. What is most surprising is that it’s Barclay’s first book. Unfortunately, these books aren’t available in the United States yet. So if you want to read the book, contact publishers like TOR and DelRey and BantamSpectra!

By the time you finish reading the book, you’ll be following the words RAVEN WITH ME! In anticipation of the next volume.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

House of Suns review; District 9 thoughts

For just about a decade, Alastair Reynolds has been publishing some of the best Science Fiction in the genre. His stories are galactic in scope, but still manage to key down to the human level. His latest, House of Suns is no different. The story spans millions of years and is to put succinctly, awesome. My review went up last night and here’s the requisite snippet:

The ancestors of humanity, specifically the clones or ‘shatterlings’ (of both sex) of Abigal Gentian, known throughout the universe as both the Gential Line and the House of Flowers are set to meet in one of their 200,000-year reunions when the reunion is sent asunder by a hostile attack. Luckily, two of the clones (Campion and Purslane) who have fallen in love were delayed and are among the very slim number of shatterlings of the Gential line not destroyed. In their delay, they contact a somewhat disreputable broker named Ateshga, who they hope can sell them a ship upgrade in order to arrive at the reunion party with plenty of time to spare in the 1,000 day celebration. This of course does not go according to plan since Atheshga tries to sabatoge Campion and Purslane. However, the two shatterlings turn the tables and get their ship upgraded and secure the freedom of Hesperus, a robot and member of the ‘Machine People.’
The sheer scale of intelligent civilization in this universe is mind-boggling. Perhaps most fascinating are the Machine People and the Machines who preceded them thousands of years before the events in even Abigail Gentian’s time. On the other hand, that sense of time, that tens of thousands of years can pass so effortlessly in these characters lives really adds to the sense of wonder for which Reynolds is so well known. These themes are handled with an expert’s care in Reynolds’s assured storytelling ability.

Mrs. o’ Stuff and I caught District 9 on Friday and we both thought it was easily the best film we’d seen this summer. I might go into more detail in a post later this week, but suffice it to say, this film does everything Good Science Fiction should do – it was at turns frightening, plausible, and awe-inspiring. Very few movies exceed my expectations as much as this one did, and I went it expecting it to be good – it was GREAT.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/22/2009)

Three books this week, two publisher, one of which I just read....

By Blood We Live edited by John Joseph Adams (NightShade Books Hardcover 08/17/2009) – This is the final book of the ARC I received back in June and it is another ‘definitive’ anthology from JJA. Adams is developing into a smart anthologist, publishing definitive anthologies like The Living Dead and Wastelands. Here, he turns his eye towards Vampires

From Dracula to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; from Castlevania to Tru Blood, the romance between popular culture and vampires hearkens back to humanity's darkest, deepest fears, flowing through our very blood, fears of death, and life, and insatiable hunger. And yet, there is an attraction, undeniable, to the vampire archetype, whether the pale European count, impeccably dressed and coldly masculine, yet strangely ambiguous, ready to sink his sharp teeth deep into his victims' necks, draining or converting them, or the vamp, the count's feminine counterpart, villain and victim in one, using her wiles and icy sexuality to corrupt man and woman alike... Edited by John Joseph Adams (Wastelands, The Living Dead), By Blood We Live gathers together the best vampire literature of the last three decades from many of today's most renowned authors of fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Joe Hill, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Ken Macleod, Harry Turtledove, Carrie Vaughn, and Tad Williams.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade Books Hardcover 09/152009) – I read some of Bacigalup’s stories and liked them a lot, this is his debut novel and is an extension/set in the same world as The Calorie Man. This cover is absolutely stunning

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" ( Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield (Del Rey Paperback 10/27/2009) – Owen read/reviewed Kit’s first novel Bareback (aka Benighted in the US) and interviewed her back in 2007 and reviewed In Great Waters a few months ago. This book deals with mer-people:

During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this new breed–and then, jealous of their power, ban any further unions between the two peoples. Dalliance with a deepswoman becomes punishable by death. Any “bastard” child must be destroyed.

This is an Earth where the legends of the deep are true–where the people of the ocean are as real and as dangerous as the people of the land. This is the world of intrigue and betrayal that Kit Whitfield brings to life in an unforgettable alternate history: the tale of Anne, the youngest princess of a faltering England, struggling to survive in a troubled court, and Henry, a bastard abandoned on the shore to face his bewildering destiny, finding himself a pawn in a game he does not understand.

Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Age of Misrule and The Magicians

Always Forever brings Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy to a close, and this three week review-a-thon as well. Most novels that close out series are stuck with holding the full judgment of the series on its proverbial shoulders and in this case, it did a good job on its own and in closing the series. With the review posted last night, you all know the blurb follows:

How does the series as a whole rank in today’s current crop of fantasy literature? Very well, I think. Chadbourn’s writing is both evocative and clear, the imagery he conjures is resonant, while still being original. At times, the plot throughout the trilogy does have the video-game feel of it in that the characters must find an object to keep going. Early on, and Chadbourn seems to have grown out of this habit by trilogy’s end, chapters or mini-chapters broke with characters blacking out. In that sense, it was very nice to see Chadbourn’s writing and storytelling skills grow and mature as the story progressed.

Flavors of Horror, Dark Fantasy, Mythic Literature, and Epic Fantasy blend very well and that might be the strength of the trilogy. Chadbourn doesn’t sacrifice one for the other and balances the subtleties of each subgenre very well throughout the three books.

Last night I finished up a great fantasy novel that is being marketing to mainstream audiences: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The book was terrific and has some impressive blurbs by George R.R. Martin and Kelly Link. Additionally, Viking is really doing a viral marketing program with a handful of Web sites:

All that superfluous material and detail aside, the book was an engrossing read which became increasingly addictive as the plot moved along. I’ll have a full review at SFFWorld in the next couple of weeks, but this will probably be a top 10 read for me for this year.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/15/2009)

This week’s Sunday run down is brought to you by Ace/Roc, Black Library, DAW, and Pyr…In this weeks large batch of arrivals, there are a few I definitely won't read and a few that look really intriguing. Can you guess which is which? Post your guess in the comments.

Dark Road Rising (Vampire Files #12) by P. N. Elrod (Ace Paperback 09/04/2009) – Elrod is one of those authors whose books I always see on the shelves but never read. This series has grown to 12 books since 1990 and she’s got another half-to-full dozen stories and books under her belt.

Vampire P.I. Jack Fleming is playing babysitter to Gabriel “Whitey” Kroun, a dangerously unstable mobster—and newly-created vampire—with deadly secrets to hide.

As Jack tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Kroun’s undead state, he gets caught between his charge’s violent outbursts and some syndicate torpedoes looking to rub them both out, leaving him vulnerable to an even deadlier threat— the return of an old enemy desperate to unlock the secrets of Jack’s vampire immortality.

Salamander (Book One of the Tome of Fire Trilogy) by Nick Kyme (The Black Library Mass Market Paperback September 2009) – I’ve been interested in the Warhammer universe for a while now, the books they published look pretty good, from a cover perspective, a lot folks seem to like them and think they are a notch above most media tie-in/shared world books. Here’s a sample extract

Salamanders are warriors of the earth. Forge-smiths, metal-shapers, superhuman protectors of humanity, these noble heroes are one of the Space Marine Chapters, the venerable First Founding.

Born from fire, so too do the Salamanders live amongst fire, hailing from the volcanic death world of Nocturne. Here, they act as guardians for its peoples; they are their leaders and inspiration. Their creed is the Cult of Prometheus, an ancient tradition dating back to Nocturne’s original colonisation, that values self-sacrifice and inner-strength.

In Salamander, the warriors of Third Company are grieving. Their former captain has been slain by Chaos traitors and a schism has come about that threatens the very future of the company. Led by an ancient prophecy, hunting for revenge, the Salamanders Chapter are drawn to the ash deserts of Scoria, a world that has many secrets.

Ostensibly an outpost of the Iron Warriors Traitor Legion, all is not what it seems as a far more dangerous enemy lies in wait and comes from beyond the stars…

Intelligent Design edited by Denise Little (DAW Mass Market 09/04/2009) – September’s themed-anthology from DAW explores “one of the most controversial topics – evolution vs. creationism.”

These ten original stories explore one of the most heatedly debated topics today. From a tale that examines whether life on Earth is an out-of-control science project, to one which reveals which species will inherit the planet, to a portrait of a scientist determined to discover the truth about God, the stories in this anthology tackle the big questions in ways that range from startling to satirical—and are always entertaining..

The Storm Witchby Violette Malan (DAW Paperback 09/04/2009) – This is the third book in a series about a couple of rogues…

With a charge of outlawry still hanging over their heads, Dhulyn and Parno are in Lesonika. Before they can do anything to clear their names, they must go to the rescue of friends being held hostage by the crew of a Long Ocean Nomad ship. The Nomads want the Mercenary Brothers to cross the Long Ocean with them, and help them in their conflict with the Mortaxa, who are threatening the Nomads' lives and livelihoods with the power of a Storm Witch. Dhulyn, however, has a very good reason for refusing to go, even if it means letting their friends die. Her Sight has told her that Parno will die in a storm at sea -- something he long ago made her swear she would never tell him. Does she break that vow now? Dhulyn suspects that even if she does, Parno will refuse to save his life at the cost of their friend's lives. They've circumvented her Visions is the past, can Dhulyn somehow manage that now, and without Parno's help?

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip (Ace Mass Market Paperback 08/04/2009) – The only thing I’ve read by McKillip is the wonderful Riddlemaster trilogy, so maybe I can rectify that with this book.

Sealey Head is a small town on the edge of the ocean, a sleepy place where everyone hears the ringing of a bell no one can see. On the outskirts of town is an impressive estate, Aislinn House, where the aged Lady Eglantyne lies dying, and where the doors sometimes open not to its own dusty rooms, but to the wild majesty of a castle full of knights and princesses.... ...

Rosemary and Rue (An October Daye Novel) by Seanan McGuire (DAW Mass Market 09/04/2009) – Urban Fantasy/Mystery hybrid which “should appeal to fans of Jim Butcher.” This is the author’s first novel and aside from a somewhat alliterative title, the book sounds interesting enough:

October "Toby" Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas...

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening's killer.

Empire (Book Two of The Sigmar Trilogy /Time of Legends) by Graham McNeill (The Black Library Mass Market Paperback September 2009) – As I said at the end of June when I received the first book in this series, I haven’t read any Warhammer books. That being said, now that I have two books in a trilogy by one of Black Library’s top authors, I really may have to rectify that situation.

Time of Legends is Black Library's premiere fantasy series, which brings the history and legends of the Warhammer world alive. Empire follows up Heldenhammer, by Graham McNeill, with the story of the creation of the Empire in the Old World.

Having driven back the orc invaders, Sigmar unites the tribes of men and founds the Empire. The fledgling empire grows, but its prosperity is not assured. The lands are still wild and untamed, and many enemies lurk in the forests and the mountains. When a Chaos invasion sweeps down from Norsca, the ensuing conflict tests the abilities of Sigmar and his chieftains to the utmost.

Heroes at Risk (The Hero Series #4) by Moira J. Moore (Ace Mass Market Paperback 09/04/2009) – Fourth in a romantic fantasy series? A series of books exploring the adventures and relationships of bonded Pairs (magic-endowed individuals termed "Source" and "Shield") who work together to make the land habitable and keep the citizenry safe.

Shield Lee Mallorough and her Source Shintaro Karish have returned to High Scape. It's bad enough the townspeople are robbing tombs for ashes to use in ritualistic magic. It gets worse when they start to murder the living for their remains.

Diving into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Pyr Trade Paperback November 2009) – Rusch is a very prolific writer who bounces between genres, with a lot of SF on her shelves. This is a stand alone novel that sounds pretty interesting and reminds me a bit, from the description only, of Jack McDevitt.

Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Sometimes she salvages for money, but mostly she's an active historian. She wants to know about the past—to experience it firsthand. Once she's dived the ship, she'll either leave it for others to find or file a claim so that she can bring tourists to dive it as well. It's a good life for a tough loner, with more interest in artifacts than people.

Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It's impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. It shouldn't be here. It can't be here. And yet, it is. Boss's curiosity is up, and she's determined to investigate. She hires a group of divers to explore the wreck with her, the best team she can assemble. But some secrets are best kept hidden, and the past won't give up its treasures without exacting a price in blood.

What Boss finds could rewrite history, cost lives, and start an intergalactic war.

The Sword of the Lady (The Sunrise Lands (Emberverse II) #2) by S. M. Stirling (Roc Hardcover 09/04/2009) – The post-apocalyptic (or post-‘Change’) setting of this novel seems right up my alley in a lot of ways. I’ve never read any Stirling and this is the sixth book in the series which is something of a barrier for me. I’ve seen good things about Stirling, so this book may be a “I’ll catch up with it eventually”

Rudi Mackenzie has journeyed far across the land that was once the United States of America, hoping to find the source of the world-altering event that has come to be known as The Change. His final destination is Nantucket, an island overrun with forest, inhabited by a mere two hundred people who claim to have been transported there from out of time.

Only one odd stone house remains standing. Within it, Rudi finds a beautifully made sword waiting for him—and once he takes it up, nothing will ever be the same...

Flight of the Renshai (Renshai #7) by Mickey Zucker Reichert (DAW Hardcover 09/04/2009) – I read one of Reichert’s Renshai books years ago and thought it OK, and this is the first of a new trilogy set in that world. Thus far, two trilogies of the Renshai have been published. Some folks at SFFWorld have been eagerly awaiting this book.

Return to a world of 'magical battles galore' (VOYA) with Mickey Zucker Reichert's newest Renshai novel.

Prejudice against the Renshai is growing rapidly, fueled by their old enemies in the Northlands, who have convinced a faction in Erythane that the Renshai lands were stolen from them, forcing the King to banish the Renshai from the Westlands.

Shunned by Westerners and hunted by Northmen, the Renshai will face many trials before rallying together against a common enemy determined to destroy them once and for all.

Retribution (Anna Strong, Vampire #5) by Jeanne C. Stein (Ace Mass Market Paperback 09/04/2009) – Fifth in an urban fantasy* about vampire bounty hunter…rather about a bounty hunter who is attacked (way back in the first book) and is transformed into a vampire.

*current marketing definition

With her partner out of town, her family abroad, and her mentor estranged, newly-turned vampire Anna Strong is keeping a low profile.

But now young vampires are turning up dead, completely drained of their life force. And though Anna wants to say no when Williams, her former teacher and now leader of a supernatural enforcement squad, asks for her help, she can't. But soon, she'll wish she did.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Darkest Hour & Dead Beat

Continuing with my weekly reviews of Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy is my review of Darkest Hour, which continues the story of the returning gods and creatures of Celtic Myth:
With the characters and impetus of the series established in World’s End, Chadbourn can focus on the details here. However, he doesn’t do that at the expense of moving things forward and just settling things into a typical middle book. We get to know the characters better and see them interact. The world change isn’t as much of a surprise at this point in the storyline and the characters bloom into distinct individuals. Furthermore, they each come into their own as modern avatars of their mystical ancestors – Vietch as the dangerous warrior, Church the reluctant leader, Shavi the mystic, Ruth the Triple Goddess, and Laura…Laura’s role is somewhat ambiguous through most of this novel.
Although Chadbourn does delve deeper into the characters in this novel, he doesn’t do so at the expense of the mythic travelogue he’s been undertaking in this series. Each landmark along these character’s journeys is steeped in real world history and Chadbourn mines much of that for great mythic effect in the novel and trilogy’s storyline as a whole.

I also just finished up Dead Beat, the seventh novel in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I really, really enjoy these novels and this might be the best one I’ve read yet. Butcher threw in zombies, polka, Oktoberfest, the Wild Hunt, fallen angels, the Erlking, as well as the usual vampires and wizards. The ending was probably one of the most adrenaline inducing of any of the books in the series and I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion over the course of the novel. The character of Waldo Butters, I can guess, is probably named partially after Leopold “Butters” Stoch from South Park. With each book, Jim Butcher climbs up my ladder of favorite writers and The Dresden Files climbs up my favorite series list.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/08/2009)

This week’s Sunday run down is brought to you by Ace, Tor

Hunting Ground (Alpha and Omega Book Two) by Patricia Briggs (Ace Mass Market Paperback 08/25/2009) – This series is an offshoot of Brigg’s best selling and popular Mercedes Thompson series. Like those books, these books deal with shape changers, though I think these are more specifically werewolves.

Mated to werewolf Charles Cornick, the son—and enforcer—of the leader of the North American werewolves, Anna Latham now knows how dangerous being a werewolf is, especially when a werewolf who opposes Charles and his father is struck down. Charles's reputation makes him the prime suspect, and the penalty for the crime is execution. Now Anna and Charles must combine their talents to hunt down the real killer—or Charles will take the fall.

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett (Ace Mass Market Paperback 08/25/2009) – The premise here sounds interesting – post-apocalyptic fantasy punk. The book was initially published more than 20 years ago in 1983 and this “definitive” edition of the book is being released a few months before Boyett’s follow-up/sequel Elegy Beach Boyett has some sample chapters on his Web site for perusal.

At four-thirty one Saturday afternoon the laws of physics as we know them underwent a change. Electronic devices, cars, industries stopped. The lights went out. Any technology more complicated than a lever or pulley simply wouldn't work. A new set of rules took its place—laws that could only be called magic. Ninety-nine percent of humanity has simply vanished. Cities lie abandoned. Supernatural creatures wander the silenced achievements of a halted civilization.

Pete Garey has survived the Change and its ensuing chaos. He wanders the southeastern United States, scavenging, lying low. Learning. One day he makes an unexpected friend: a smartassed unicorn with serious attitude. Pete names her Ariel and teaches her how to talk, how to read, and how to survive in a world in which a unicorn horn has become a highly prized commodity.

When they learn that there is a price quite literally on Ariel's head, the two unlikely companions set out from Atlanta to Manhattan to confront the sorcerer who wants her horn. And so begins a haunting, epic, and surprisingly funny journey through the remnants of a halted civilization in a desolated world.

Prospero Lost (Book One of Children of Prospero) by L. Jagi Lamplighter (Tor Hardcover 08/04/2009) – This novel, the opening of a trilogy, sounds pretty interesting. Picking the threads of a great piece of literature can be fun and I think this is Lamplighter’s first novel, though not her first published work of fiction

More than four hundred years after the events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the sorcerer Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his other children have attained everlasting life. Miranda is the head of her family’s business, Prospero Inc., which secretly has used its magic for good around the world. One day, Miranda receives a warning from her father: "Beware of the Three Shadowed Ones." When Miranda goes to her father for an explanation, he is nowhere to be found.

Miranda sets out to find her father and reunite with her estranged siblings, each of which holds a staff of power and secrets about Miranda’s sometimes-foggy past. Her journey through the past, present and future will take her to Venice, Chicago, the Caribbean, Washington, D.C., and the North Pole. To aid her, Miranda brings along Mab, an aerie being who acts like a hard-boiled detective, and Mephistopheles, her mentally-unbalanced brother. Together, they must ward off the Shadowed Ones and other ancient demons who want Prospero’s power for their own….

The Stars Blue Yonder by Sandra McDonald (Tor Hardcover July 2009) – I reviewed the first novel in this sequence, The Outback Stars a couple of years back and thought it pretty good, but haven’t kept up with the series.

Chief Terry Myell died and became a god. Now he’s back to life, careening around space and time at the behest of a voice that told him to save all of mankind. Helping and hindering this quest are his elderly wife, his young wife, grandchildren who haven’t been born yet, romantic rivals he hasn’t even met, a descendant from two thousand years in the future, and an alien nemesis who calls itself the Flying Doctor. Life in the military has never been so complicated.

Commander Jodenny Scott would agree. She’s seven months pregnant and trying to come to peace with her husband’s death. When Myell reappears with tales of time travel, she’s not sure what to believe.

But with an invading army bearing down on Earth’s last fleet of spaceships, there’s not much time for debate. When the dust clears Jodenny is stranded in an Australia she never imagined, and Myell’s more desperate than ever to rescue her—from aliens, from treachery, and from history itself.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

World's End by Chadbourn review at SFFWorld

Some writers take longer to get to the US than others, even when their books are critically acclaimed and sell well. The latest author who fits this mold is Mark Chadbourn, whose Age of Misrule trilogy was unleashed to US readers over a three month period by the fine folks at Pyr. With a beautifully designed thematic cover scheme for all three books, they can now sit on your shelves like they are sitting in my house.

Which leads me to the review I just posted of World’s End:
Mark Chadbourn brings back the gods and myths of Celtic lore in World’s End, the first novel in his Age of Misrule trilogy. The novel takes place primarily in England as strangers are drawn together against the dark returning gods. Jack “Church” Churchill is a tormented man, unable to let go of the grief he holds over his girlfriend’s suicide two years prior to the beginning of the novel. When he’s on a late night walk, he witnesses a strange encounter – one man is being attacked by something that can only be described as a monster. Jack isn’t the only witness; disillusioned lawyer Ruth Gallagher also witnesses the attack, but due to its grisly and shocking nature both pass out.

Chadbourn is doing a lot of things well in this opening volume – he keeps a nice amount of tension and manages to tow a good line in terms of revealing things in slow doses. With Church and Ruth as our protagonists, Chadbourn allows the reader to discover and awe at the great transformation in which the world is undergoing. In one sense, Chadbourn is playing with archetypical characters – Church as the hero, Ruth as the witchy-woman, Veitch as rouge, Tom as the advisor who ‘reveals-the-world-of-magic-slowly’.

Over the next two weeks, I'll be posting reviews of the second (Darkest Hour) and third book (Always Forever) in the series.

Cover artist and designer John Picacio created some of his best artwork for these books, (check out this awesome collaborative overview on by Picacio, Lou Anders of Pyr and Mark Chadbourn) I just love the image of Cernunnos on the cover of book one.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/W 08/01/2009)

It’s Sunday, so you all know what happens. I tell you what books arrived this week. Only one of which is from a pair writers I've never read. Here goes:

The Winds of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (Tor (Hardcover 08/04/2009) – This is the Dune novel that supposedly picks up immediately after one of Frank Herbert’s original Dune novels, Dune Messiah:

Paul has walked off into the sand, blind, and is presumed dead. Jessica and Gurney are on Caladan; Alia is trying to hold the Imperial government together with Duncan; Mohiam dead at the hands of Stilgar; Irulan imprisoned. Paul’s former friend, Bronso of Ix, now seems to be leading opposition to the House of Atreides. Herbert and Anderson’s newest book in this landmark series will concentrate on these characters as well the growing battle between Jessica, and her daughter, Alia..

Stalking the Dragon (A John Justin Mallory Mystery) by Mike Resnick (Pyr Trade Paperback August 2009) – I read and enjoyed the first Mallory novel, Stalking the Unicorn but the second one (Stalking the Vampire) not quite as much. Here’s hoping I’ll enjoy the third one as much as the first:

It’s Valentine's Day and private detective John Justin Mallory is planning on closing up the office early and taking his partner, Col. Winnifred Carruthers, out to dinner, since he's sure no one else will do so. But before he can turn off the lights and lock the door, a panic-stricken Buffalo Bill Brody visits them. It seems that the Eastminster pet show is being held the next day, and his dragon, Fluffy, the heavy favorite, has been kidnapped.

Mallory's nocturnal hunt for the miniature dragon takes him to some of the stranger sections of this Manhattan—Greenwitch Village (which is right around the corner from Greenwich Village and is populated by witches and covens); a wax museum where figures of Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre come alive; Gracie Mansion (which is haunted by the ghosts of former mayors); and the Bureau of Missing Creatures, a movie set where they're filming a PBS documentary on zombies and various other denizens of the Manhattan night. As Mallory follows the leads and hunts for clues, he comes up against one dead end after another.

Along the way he meets a few old friends and enemies, and a host of strange new inhabitants of this otherworldly Manhattan. Aided by a strange goblin named Jeeves, Mallory has only one night to find a tiny dragon that's hidden somewhere in a city of seven million.

Chasing the Dragon (Quantum Gravity Book Four) by Justina Robson (Pyr Trade Paperback August 2009) – As I’ve said before I read the first one (Keeping it Real), while Hobbit/Mark read first and second (Selling Out) and he seems to enjoy them more than I do.

Ever since the Quantum Bomb of 2015 things have been different; the dimensions have fused and suddenly our world is accessible to elves, demons, ghosts, and elementals—and their worlds are open to us. Things have been different for Special Agent Lila Black too: she’s been tortured and magic-scarred by elves; rebuilt by humans into a half-robot, part-AI, nuclear-fueled walking arsenal; married to a demon; and is in love with a recently-deceased elf. It was confusing enough before she was catapulted fifty years into her own future.

Returning to the life of a secret agent, Lila finds herself left all of her former boss’s old offices and whatever mysteries they contain, as the elf has disappeared some fifty years previously. Appointed head of the new android division, she can see all too clearly what’s in store for her if the growth of the alien technologies in her cyborg body continue unchecked.

But there are more immediate concerns. Like resurrecting her lover, Zal. And her husband, the demon Teazle, is embroiled in a fatal plot in Demonia, and her magic sword is making itself happy as a pen whose writing has the power to affect other worlds. The world is off its rocker and most everyone is terrified of faeries.

And all the while, she hears the voices of the machine—material projections of an immaterial form, The Signal. The Signal talks constantly—if only she knew what it meant.

Sasha (A Trial of Blood and Steel #1) by Joel Shepherd (Subterranean Press Trade Paperback 10/27/2009) – I read and enjoyed Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov trilogy (Crossover, Breakaway, and Killswitch) so his take on fantasy could be intriguing:

Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit—the Synnich—who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully.

When the Udalyn people—the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage—are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?.