Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kay Excperted, Silverberg and Manieri Reviewed at SFFWorld

Two weeks in a row with one of these “new reviews at SFFWorld” posts from me? Say it ain’t so! In addition to the reviews, we’ve also posted an excerpt of Guy Gavriel Kay’s forthcoming novel River of Stars:

Mark returns to a classic fantasy milieu with a series of short stories in Robert Silverberg’s Tales of Majipoor:

… For those who don’t know the books, the Valentine’s Castle series is Silverberg’s take on a planetary romance, echoing a Jack Vance or a Gene Wolfe style, where the glory is in not so much the plot as the luxuriance of the nomenclature and the opulence of the varied environments. Whole dynasties are covered in a sentence, tales that could be the basis of a separate novel. As the book often reminds us, Majipoor is a big planet, which can lead to a variety of unusual things to be seen and places that are not visited very often.

Whether it is true or not that Tales of Majipoor can be said to be the work of an author treading water, it must be said that, at the very least, it is entertaining. Ultimately, this is a collection that serves its purpose: it introduces potential new readers to the world of Majipoor and, for the long-term fan, collects the remaining shorter Majipoor fiction together from disparate (and these days some quite hard to get) sources. They vary in length and importance, but there’s not a total dud amongst them, although there’s more than one that seems to finish without a proper conclusion.

Not every book works for every reader, such is the case with Evie Manieri’s Blood's Pride, which is also the first novel of The Shattered Kingdoms:

Manieri has created an interesting world that seems to have parts of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders novels (the Dead Ones/Norlanders ride the equivalent of dragons) and parts of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt (a forming rebellion amongst those under the heel of repressive overlords). The Norlanders also communicate with each other through telepathy, for the most part. While the world is constructed fairly well, the plot seemed a bit uneven throughout the novel. What I found the most confounding about the relationship between the Norlander overlords and their slave Shadari was a lack of fear. Outside of the initial devastating attack the Norlanders made on the Shadari, I didn’t get a sense that there were very high stakes should the Shadari just stand up for themselves.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brandon Sanderson Philadelpha Signing (2013-02-19)

I’ve attended one author signing, George R.R. Martin’s signing for A Dance with Dragons, worked Book Expo America a couple of times and had the privilege of having Neil Gaiman sign a book for me (The Graveyard Book right after it won the Newberry and had the shiny logo placed on it), and met and had Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole sign things for me at NY Comic-Con.

Rear: Me, Bob S, Brandon, Drew;
Front: Phil, SaraJane, Harriet, Paul, and Ash
The Brandon Sanderson signing in the Philadelphia Library on February 19, 2013; however, was a bit different. I was one of the helpers, designated as a Memory Keeper whereby seven people in total helped to keep the line of fans (approximately 300-400) entertained; take photos of fans with Brandon and Harriet; and to help with the shuffling of books between Brandon and Harriet when the books were signed.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The event began for me at about 5:15 when I met three of the other seven Memory Keepers (Paul, Phil, and SaraJane) at the Library and proceeded to a nice restaurant close to the Library where we chatted over dinner. Paul, Phil, and Sara-Jane were as enthused as I was. Phil brought several pieces of memorabilia (Wheel of Time playing cards most of which have really great art although the rendition of Rand makes him look like the lead singer of a 1980s hair-metal band, a poster of one of the cards) which we exchanged over dinner.

As is often the case when people like us get together, the discussion strayed a bit and of course it landed on A Song of Ice and Fire and the Game of Thrones show on HBO as well as other authors we enjoyed. As dinner was winding down, Drew, the fifth Memory Keeper arrived. Me being a NJ Devils fan, I of course made sure I wore my NJ Devils hoodie and Drew, a fan of the rival Philadelphia Flyers, had kind words for me (i.e. not kind), but he then joined in with our discussion of A Memory of Light and similar reading tastes (George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Joe Abercrombie and I kept mentioning Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole as authors they should be reading) and hashed out who are favorite WoT characters were. Discussion focused quite a bit on The Last Battle

Phil, Me, Paul & Sara Jane
Dinner concluded and we headed back to the library and donned our red Memory Keepers t-shirts, met up with the remaining Memory Keepers (Bob S. and Ash) and set about our tasks. Initially, we just sort of walked the line of people waiting to go into the auditorium in the library's basement. Phil took photos and helped to herd people into the auditorium, which was eventually filled with some folks standing in the rear. Prior to Brandon and Harriet arriving, I had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Bilmes and Jessie Cammack of JABberwocky Literary Agency, who represents Brandon as well as great authors like Peter V. Brett, Jack Campbell, Myke Cole, David Louis Edelman, Jim Hines, Elizabeth Moon, and T.C. McCarthy among many others. Memory Keeper Paul and I discussed with them some of their clients a. We also discussed the Composite Superman of an author Peter Brent Weeks and the event in general.

Brandon and Harriet arrived after their dinner with the library staff. Brandon apologized for his voice because he’d be sucking on cough drops because, well, he’s been touring and his throat was sore from all the talking at this late stage of the tour. He recounted the story of his introduction to The Wheel of Time and fantasy in general. Brandon told the story (which I’m sure he’s recounted at many of these signings and many interviews) of how Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly (a terrific novel recently re-released by Open Road Media in eBook) was gently forced upon him by his teacher named Mrs. Reader and Brandon was hooked on fantasy. Realizing he liked big books, he found The Eye of the World at his local comic/book/Magic store and was happy to finally have a series that was ‘his’ to share with his friends who were always sharing ‘their’ series with him. When Brandon mentioned submitting his novels for publication, the one novel he submitted directly to Tor rather than through his agent was his first published novel Elantris. Brandon recounted how he didn’t let Joshua (his agent) do his job and negotiate because he wanted to be published by Tor, specifically because they published The Wheel of Time. In 2005 Elantris was published.

Harriet joined in the storytelling when it came to the point where Brandon was offered the gig to finish writing the series

Two natural storytellers keeping the crowd entertained

Harriet also told of how she realized Brandon would be "The Guy" (or as I've sometimes thought, the proverbial Rand Al'Thor tapped on the shoulder by the creator to take up the tale). She also relayed her conversation with Tom Doherty, after being handed a printout of Brandon’s eulogy for Robert Jordan. Doherty was concerned that maybe Harriet didn’t connect with Brandon’s writing because Harriet fell asleep after reading a small portion of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Harriet said because she didn’t want to (a) correct everything in the book due to her Editor’s mindset or (b) throw the book across the room in frustration, she felt comfortable with the story he was telling. She also told Doherty, “Besides, I’m not hiring him to write a Mistborn novel, I’m hiring him to write a Wheel of Time novel.”

Harriet mentioned that when she called information for Provo, Utah, she was given Brandon Sanderson’s phone number, but the person with whom she spoke on the phone had no idea about what she was talking. As it turned out, another Brandon Sanderson lives in Provo, UT but he’s a professional wrestler. When she called Brandon, she told him he was on the short list and held up one finger for the audience. Brandon, after thinking about it, said yes. Again, he didn’t let Joshua do any negotiating, Brandon simply said yes.

Another humorous anecdote involved the many, many, many files Robert Jordan kept regarding The Wheel of Time. Brandon was determined to get a word count of all the notes so he assembled all the word documents into one file. If I recall correctly, Brandon mentioned the page count was at 32,000 pages in his final document when he clicked the word count button. Word stopped at (IIRC) 5 million words and it wasn’t done counting. Word and his PC summarily crashed.

The Q&A session then began, much of which involved questions about The Wheel of Time and Brandon’s experience working in it. He also noted that the second Stormlight Archive book is tentatively set for the fall/November 2013, and he hopes he can make that date. 

When a fan asked about the Outrigger novels and Prequels, Harriet answered “No.” After a moment of silence, she recounted that while Jim very much wanted the mainline Wheel of Time series to be finished, he didn’t want anybody making up things in his sandbox. Jordan’s extensive notes, dictated and written, were the framework for the final three novels while three sentences at most constitute the Outrigger and prequel novels.

The video Bob S. took of the event: 

When asked why Brandon didn’t write the second Stormlight novel between Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light he indicated writing The Way of Kings simultaneously with The Wheel of Time nearly drove him crazy. (Personal note, it is amazing that he produced two quality novels under that type of pressure.)

Brandon also indicated that he felt selfish about asking if he could create a new character or work with a character which was mostly his own creation for the books. Harriet immediately shushed him for hinting that he was selfish for thinking such a thing, then Brandon continued to tell of the creation of Androl, which allowed him to play with the magic in ways he’d hoped (fannishly) to explore (i.e. Portals). Harriet also provided Brandon with a folder about how leathermaking works in Randland which was perfectly timed to provide Androl with more depth as a character.

The Encyclopedia came up in the discussion as potentially publishing next year. Harriet indicated that this “wouldn’t be just another version of the Big White Book.” It would be an encyclopedia in the truest sense of the word and would likely include some of Jordan’s vast stores of notes. Once the manuscript is finished, it will go off to Tor and illustrating will begin. Unlike the rushed (to be kind) illustrations in the Big White Book, more time will be allowed for the illustrations. No illustrator name was given, so it wasn’t clear if they had one under contract already, if they would have only one illustrator for the entire volume, or if multiple illustrators would be commissioned. Personally, I can see both sides, having one artist’s vision for things in Randland would provide a unified vision versus the chance to see a lot of artists take on things in Randland.

A few more specific questions were asked about things like Asha’man, one person noted that he’d been with his wife for “five books,” another mentioned that she hadn’t read The Wheel of Time and was more of a Brandon Sanderson fan but started The Eye of the World once A Memory of Light published and was really enjoying it.

Questions were asked about the difference between editing Jordan and editing Brandon. Harriet responded that it worked well and Brandon’s insightful answer was that it was not as problematic as one might think. Specifically, Harriet knows more about the characters and world of The Wheel of Time than anybody in the world, so Brandon felt that freed him up a bit in order to flow through the story more easily. After the Q&A/Discussion concluded, everybody headed upstairs to the main foyer of the library for the signing.

Whoo boy. 

A small portion of the line.
The line wended its way down a hall, around bookcases and finally outside of the library and around the side of the building. I believe approximately 400 people were on line at one point, with many of them holding onto their minimum 3 items. Brandon would sign only the final three Wheel of Time novels (and none of the ones he didn’t co-author), any of his own novels, and whatever assorted Wheel of Time miscellany (such as the poster one of the Memory Keepers brought). Harriet would sign and Wheel of Time novel or memorabilia and Ender’s Game which she edited. I did not know she edited that novel.

My role at this point was to take pictures of people with Brandon and/or Harriet on fan’s own cameras/devices. Point of information, the camera on the iPhone is FAR superior to the camera on Android devices. Phil was handling overall photo events, and Bob was handling the video. SaraJane sat between Brandon and Harriet preparing the books for Harriet after Brandon’s signature. Drew, Paul, and Ash helped to entertain the crowd/line with Wheel of Time trivia which resulted in people walking away with messenger bags and/or iPhone cases emblazoned with the WOT logo, author’s names and A Memory of Light. Towards the end as the line became more bunched up at the signing table, Paul stepped up and helped to take some photos.

Although I was taking some pictures during the signing, I was able to point my ears into some of the conversations between Brandon and the fans. 

First and foremost, Brandon is an awesome person. 
  • He first thanked people for coming, then asked if they had any questions for him. Never once did he rush anybody or shush them. For fans who mentioned they were writers themselves, he offered words of encouragement.
  • One great bit of information I overheard was the next Mistborn novel would be published in 2014. Brandon also mentioned (and I tried to filter this through all the other discussions circulating) that Hoid would be the main character (I think) of the trilogy or that Hoid would feature as the main character in another trilogy.
  • I also overheard Brandon say his least favorite Wheel of Time character was Cadsuane, I don’t think he is alone in that. Actually, for I fact I know he isn’t alone because she was probably my least favorite character as well.
  • One Russian fan brought a Russian edition of Mistborn: The Final Empire to be signed.
  • Another Bulgarian fan said the Bulgarian translations, which are recent, were done very well.

I spoke to Harriet about the covers in the series, remarking how she indicated when she saw Whelan’s cover for A Memory of Light she said “that is the Rand I have waited to see for twenty years.” Harriet then said how Whelan’s art, though his own style, she felt, was able to mesh with the sensibilities Sweet had always brought to his covers, in particular the landscapes. I asked her what her favorites of the covers were she immediately said The Eye of the World she thought another moment and said she liked The Shadow Rising.

After all the other folks had their books signed it was down to the library staff, Brandon, Harriet, Brandon’s agent Joshua and the seven Memory Keepers. Brandon graciously signed what we brought including my paperback copy of The Way of Kings which quotes my SFFWorld review and calls out my name (!!!). 

Still chuffed to see my name in print like that! First time I'm called out by name.

I also had my hardcover copies of Mistborn: The Hero of Ages, A Memory of Light, and Towers of Midnight signed as well as The Alloy of Law signed for one of my wife’s colleagues and paperbacks of Mistborn: The Well of Ascension and Mistborn: The Hero of Ages signed for a friend who was unable to attend.

My SFFWorld review of The Well of Ascencion is on the back flap 

So, a long night, but one of the best nights I’ve had as a fan and a reader. It was a blast meeting and chatting with Harriet and Brandon, as well as his agent Joshua and great to get to know some other Wheel of Time fans in real life. A big thanks to the folks at Tor books, Brandon, Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal and the folks at Dragonmount for making this night possible

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-02-23)

Just two review books arrived this week, but both authors’ last names begin with the letter B. Go figure.

The Straits of Galahesh (The Lays of Anuskaya Book Two) by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Night Shade Books e-book/Trade Paperback 04/17/2012) – Beaulieu is doing something quite interesting with this series, he’s taken the rights back and is self-publishing e-versions of the first two as well as the final installment The Flames of Shadam Khoreh which publishes this summer. I’ve been wanting to read these books for a while now and I’ve got more reason to read them with book three publishing in a few months. (Also, Brad is one of the two guys who runs the excellent Speculate SF! Podcast.)

West of the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya lies the Empire of Yrstanla, the Motherland. The Empire has lived at peace with Anuskaya for generations, but with political turmoil brewing and the wasting disease still rampant, opportunists from the mainland have begun to set their sights on the Grand Duchy, seeking to expand their empire.

Five years have passed since Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, was tasked with finding Nasim, the child prodigy behind a deadly summoning that led to a grand clash between the armies of man and elder elemental spirits. Today, that boy has grown into a young man driven to understand his past – and the darkness from which Nikandr awakened him. Nikandr’s lover, Atiana, has become a Matra, casting her spirit forth to explore, influence, and protect the Grand Duchy. But when the Al-Aqim, long thought lost to the past, return to the islands and threaten to bring about indaraqiram – a change that means certain destruction for both the Landed and the Landless – bitter enemies must become allies and stand against their horrific plans.

Can the Grand Duchy be saved? The answer lies hidden within the Straits of Galahesh…

Bloodfire Quest (The Dark Legacy of Shannara #2) by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Hardcover 03/12/2013) – It’s been quite some time since I read and enjoyed a Terry Brooks novel, but Aidan’s review of the first installment in this latest series, as well as this one specifically, has me seriously considering giving Mr. Brooks another try.

From New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks comes the second thrilling novel in a brand-new trilogy—The Dark Legacy of Shannara!

The quest for the missing Elfstones has gone badly awry. The Druid Order has been decimated, and its surviving leader and her followers are trapped inside the Forbidding—the hellish dimension that imprisons the most dangerous creatures banished from the Four Lands. But now the powerful magic barrier that surrounds the Forbidding is crumbling, and an evil horde is poised to break free . . . unless one young Druid is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bennett & Scull reviewed at SFFWorld

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted about the reviews of mine that have gone live at SFFWorld. This week's review roundup includes one from me and one from Mark, as is typical. Mark has been chugging along with new reviews on a nearly basis, while I’ve been going about every other week.

Last year the best novel I read was The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett so I was very excited about reading his lastest/2013 release American Elsewhere, which is a stunning novel in its own right:

After some getting to know Mona before she makes her journey to Wink, and a very creepy prologue, Bennett’s narrative takes hold and allows readers a peek into the window of a nearly perfect Small Town, USA. Mona arrives in Wink as a funeral is being held, which is not the most welcoming event to a new visitor but which also sets the tone for the novel. Of course Wink is not really normal in any fashion other than the most superficial. Posited in a canyon which is overlooked by Coburn National Laboratory and Observatory, much of Wink’s population was a support town for the lab. 

Bennett raises a lot of questions in the novel and the answers the characters provide are discovered through a narrative that is, for the most part, taut and flavored with unsettling and creepy scenes. Two primary mysteries plague Mona (and the reader) throughout the narrative – who was Laura and what was the nature of Coburn’s research? Mona’s discovery of those two things and how they relate to each other is filled with dread and some otherworldly elements that would fit right at home in an H.P. Lovecraft story, a Stephen King novel, or something in one of Neil Gaiman’s various invented worlds.

Mark seems to be on a quest through the debut fantasies of late 2012 / early 2013. The latest novel to be on the path of this quest is The Grim Company, Luke Scull’s debut novel and the launch of his Age of Ruin series:

…this is not family-friendly Fantasy, nor does it try to be. Here Luke is clearly going for an Abercrombie vibe rather than, let’s say, a David Eddings. Some readers will welcome this and be unperturbed about the plethora of sexual and genitalia references, volatile swearing and bodily function references throughout. I can handle that as much as the next man (or woman), but for me, it was so often used that it began to feel unnecessarily obtrusive. The copious references to arses and what could be/would be/ should be done to them, for example, would make a proctologist proud, but ‘in the end’ became irritating (see what I did there?) Whilst it could be said that such matters are rather typical in today’s gritty novels, here at times it detracted from the rather important point of showing and telling me what important is going on.

It is perhaps the range of characters and what they have to do that propel this multi-threaded epic tale. There is a lot going on. It is a world where magic is in decline. Wild Magic can be mined in this world because it exists as crystalline residue left by dying Gods at the time of the Godswar. It is used by the Magelords as a resource that is used to create Augmentors, their elite bodyguards, whose numbers are in decline. The magic is also wanted by a group of Dorminian rebels, known as the Shard, who hope that their procurement will enable them to strike back at Dorminia’s oppressive Magelord, Salazar. The task is taken on by a motley crew.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Books in the Mail (2013-02-16)

Just a small batch of books this week at the o' Stuff, one of which I previously received as an ARC

Homeland by Cory Doctorow (Tor Hardcover 02/19/2013) – This is the sequel to Dorctorow’s Little Brother which I enjoyed a great deal when I read it.

In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother, young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco—an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state. 

A few years later, California's economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his former nemesis Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff—and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured Marcus years earlier.

Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him—but he can’t admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He’s surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He’s not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he’s gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’re used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want. 

Fast-moving, passionate, and as current as next week, Homeland is every bit the equal of Little Brother—a paean to activism, to courage, to the drive to make the world a better place.

Firebrand (Rebel Angels Book One) by Gillian Philip (Tor Hardcover 03/05/2013) – First US publication of Philip’s novel, which launches a series and was nominated for the David Gemmell Legend award.

At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired.

Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.

But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…

Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow) by Liesel Schwarz (Del Rey Hardcover 03/05/2013) – Schwarz’s debut novel is also the launch of a Steampunk series with what seems to be vampires added for good measure. This one seems like it would appeal a great deal to fans of Gail Carriger.

LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Daylight Red - New Reviews at & SFFWorld

I’ve got a new review up at, a novel for me that had an extremely high anticipation factor and Mark continues his read-through of the Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s work.

My review is The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett, the third in is five-book Demon Cycle. I was very pleased with the novel as you may see if you click through to the review.

While the demons are still very present in The Daylight War, humanity’s remnants need to get their collective heads together before the demon threat can effectively be vanquished. In many post-apocalyptic stories—and a case can be made for The Demon Cycle as a post-apocalyptic story—the trigger event marginalizing human society becomes window dressing as the story progresses and the human character’s conflict takes center stage.


The mythology/worldbuilding behind the demons hinted in the previous volume is revealed slightly more here in The Daylight War, as Brett peppers in chapter passages from the POV of the demons, providing readers with a glimpse of their society and race as a whole. Whether he will continue to expose more of the demons’ nature and origins remains to be seen, but I enjoyed the slow reveal unfolding here and I am very curious to see how much of the demons’ history Brett will allow readers to see.

Mark Heinlein read-through catches him up with Red Planet

What surprises me most on re-reading is how complex this book really is behind the obvious plot narrative. We have ancient Martian races, social revolution and rather manipulative humans on a Bonestellian style planet. Our hero is, as was rather traditional for these books, a teenage human male, whose growing up (see: rite-of-passage) was rather frontier-like. On the cutting edge of space colonisation, Jim Marlowe is a pioneer. It’s not by accident the original edition was subtitled on the cover, ‘A colonial boy on Mars’.

Rather surprisingly, Willis still reads as an engagingly depicted character that would gladden the heart of any young reader, although he/she/it is basically a canine substitute (and is something that Heinlein will use again in later books such as Star Beast and The Rolling Stones/Space Family Stone, for example.) It’s not by coincidence that Tor Books once referred to the novel as ‘One Boy and his Martian.’ Supremely loyal and endearingly enthusiastic, these days I can see the similarities between Willis and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Woola more clearly.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-02-09)

A wide assortment of books this week at the 'o Stuff, but the majority of it arrived virtually on my Kindle from the fine folks at 47North

OZ Reimagined edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen (47North Trade Paperback and eBook 02/19/2013) – Adam’s output continues to impress with another anthology this year. He recruits Doug Cohen, former editor at Realms of Fantasy magazine for an assist.

When L. Frank Baum introduced Dorothy and friends to the American public in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became an instant, bestselling hit. Today the whimsical tale remains a cultural phenomenon that continues to spawn wildly popular books, movies, and musicals. Now, editors John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen have brought together leading fantasy writers such as Orson Scott Card and Seanan McGuire to create the ultimate anthology for Oz fans—and, really, any reader with an appetite for richly imagined worlds. 

Oz Reimagined contains the following:

  • Foreword: Oz and Ourselves—Gregory Maguire
  • Introduction: There’s No Place Like Oz—John Joseph Adams & Douglas Cohen
  • The Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz—Rae Carson & C.C. Finlay
  • Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust—Seanan McGuire
  • Lost Girls of Oz—Theodora Goss
  • The Boy Detective of Oz: An Otherland Story—Tad Williams
  • Dorothy Dreams—Simon R. Green
  • Dead Blue—David Farland
  • One Flew Over the Rainbow—Robin Wasserman
  • The Veiled Shanghai—Ken Liu
  • Beyond the Naked Eye—Rachel Swirsky
  • A Tornado of Dorothys—Kat Howard
  • Blown Away—Jane Yolen
  • City So Bright—Dale Bailey
  • Off to See the Emperor—Orson Scott Card
  • A Meeting in Oz—Jeffrey Ford
  • The Cobbler of Oz—Jonathan Maberry
Plus, each story in the anthology has been illustrated by artist Galen Dara, who also provided the cover for the book.

Seven Kinds of Hell (Fangborn #1) by Dana Cameron (47North Trade Paperback and eBook 03/12/2013) – Cameron’s published quite a few short stories and mysteries, this novel marks the launch of a new urban fantasy series..

Archaeologist Zoe Miller has been running from a haunting secret her whole life. But when her cousin is abducted by a vicious Russian kidnapper, Zoe is left with only one option: to reveal herself.

Unknown to even her closest friends, Zoe is not entirely human. She’s a werewolf and a daughter of the “Fangborn,” a secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles embroiled in an ancient war against evil.

To rescue her cousin, Zoe will be forced to renew family ties and pit her own supernatural abilities against the dark and nefarious foe. The hunt brings Zoe to the edge of her limits, and with the fate of humanity and the Fangborn in the balance, life will be decided by an artifact of world-ending power.

Garrett For Hire (The Third Garrett P.I. Omnibus) by Glen Cook (Roc Trade Paperback 03/05/2013) – This is the third 3-in-1 omnibus feature Cook’s Urban Fantasy/Mystery series, which predates much of what is considered Urban Fantasy on today’s shelves. Smart move by ROC, though I hadn’t realized they were omnibifying these books until now, so the first and second omnibii are out now too, I suppose.

Meet Garrett, P.I. He’s a hardboiled human detective who stands out in a crowd of elves, trolls, and other otherworldly denizens in the magical city of TunFaire. Garrett For Hire is “fantasy noir at its best" (Library Journal), collecting three novels from Glen Cook’s classic urban fantasy series. 

Deadly Quicksilver Lies
A rich woman hires Garrett to find her missing daughter…or to act as her hitman. In TunFaire, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, leaving him no choice but to sift through the sex, intrigue, and murder to uncover the truth behind this case…

Petty Pewter Gods
With TunFaire real estate at a premium and prayer palaces at a minimum, the big gods on the block hold a contest: find the “key” to the one temple still available for worship. And when two rival pantheons try to hire Garrett to find it on their behalf, he finds himself facing the wrath of gods…

Faded Steel Heat
Riots between humans and non-humans have turned TunFaire into a war zone. And when a powerful gang of “human rightists” drag Garrett into the fray, he defends himself with a circle of friends no one would wish on their worst enemy…

Search for the Buried Bomber by Xu Lei and translated by Gabriel Ascher (AmazonCrossing Trade Paperback and eBook 02/19/2013) – With over a million subscribers to his microblog and five million books sold, Xu Lei is one of China's most popular and highest grossing novelists, I think this is his first work translated into English.

The X-Files meets Indiana Jones in Search for the Buried Bomber, the first in Xu Lei’s Dark Prospects series of thrillers steeped in archeological myths and government secrets. 

During China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, the People’s Liberation Army dispatches an elite group of prospectors famous for their work uncovering rare minerals to the mountains of rural Inner Mongolia. Their assignment: to bring honor to their country by descending into a maze of dank caves to find and retrieve the remnants of a buried World War II bomber left by their Japanese enemies. How the aircraft ended up beneath thousands of feet of rock baffles the team, but they’ll soon encounter far more treacherous and equally inexplicable forces lurking in the shadows. Each step taken—and each life lost—brings them closer to a mind-bending truth that should never see the light of day. Pride sent them into the caves, but terror will drive them out.

Through the eyes of one of the prospectors, bestselling Chinese author Xu Lei leads readers on a gripping and suspenseful journey.

The Summer Man by S.D. Perry (47North Trade Paperback and eBook 05/17/2013) – Perry’s written quite a few video game, movie tie-ins and franchise books. This (I think) is her first original fiction in novel-length form

Amanda Young grew up in Port Isley, a remote seaside community perched on the outermost shores of Washington. She’s watched as, each summer, the tight-knit small village braces for the invasion of vacationers seeking refuge from city life. But this year, a new kind of visitor arrives in Port Isley, bringing something most unexpected.

Soon after the season begins, a teenage girl’s mutilated body is found in a local park. The police declare it a random act of violence, but Amanda’s not so sure…because how can she explain that she had a premonition of the crime just hours before it happened? Or that the neighbors she’s known forever inexplicably are beginning to change…into lustful, violent shadows of themselves? Amanda knows something’s not right. And she knows it has something to do with the sinister stranger who’s come to town. But can she uncover his dark secret in time to stop him—and in time to save the souls of Port Isley?

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 05/14/2013) – I’m a big fan of Brandon’s writing, so I’ll be reading this at some point and maybe have him sign it when I participate in the Philadelpha, PA signing for A Memory of Light as a Memory Keeper.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson: his debut novel for the young-adult audience.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in worldbuilding, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen) by Jeff Wheeler (47North Trade Paperback and eBook 02/05/2013) – I recall coming across Wheeler’s fiction years ago in Deep Magic, one of the first e-Zines I recall seeing.

Tyrus of Kenatos has made it his life’s work to banish the plagues that ravage the kingdoms. He believes the answer to ending the devastation lies in the Scourgelands. Yet, Tyrus’s first expedition into the cursed woods failed after being defeated by mysterious minions who stalked and killed most of his band.

Now a prisoner in his own tower, Tyrus has summoned his nephew Annon—a Druidecht possessing innate magic called the fireblood—on the guise of finding a hidden treasure with which to purchase his twin sister Hettie’s freedom. But in reality, Tyrus is using his niece and nephew, and their magic, as an opportunity to escape and resume his desperate mission. And to aid them, he has enlisted the warrior-monk Paedrin—who is almost as green as the siblings when it comes to traveling these troubled lands. The trio is determined, and along the way they grow to trust each other—and new additions to the group—in order to accomplish their missions…whether or not those missions are one and the same.

But the Arch-Rike—ruthless ruler of Kenatos—has learned of these plans, and has sent the fearsome Kishion to destroy all those that oppose him. Now Tyrus and his unwitting allies must face down not only the plague, but this new enemy—and fulfill their quest before a fresh horror is unleashed on the world…

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-02-02)

A big haul this week, with the monthly DAW mass market paperbacks arriving as well as several other goodies.

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams (Tor Trade Paperback 02/19/2013) – Adams is probably the pre-eminent editor of themed-anthologies today. I’ve read a handful of his anthologies and they’ve all been top-notch, which I expect will be the same for this anthology.

From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit Trade Paperback 02/12/2013) – With The Troupe, Robert Jackson Bennett wrote my favorite novel of 2012 and one of the best novels I read in the past five or ten years so yeah, you could say this is high on the anticipation list for 2013.

Ex-cop Mona Bright has been living a hard couple of years on the road, but when her estranged father dies, she finds she's had a home all along: a little house her deceased mother once owned in Wink, New Mexico.

And though every map denies Wink exists, Mona finds they're wrong: not only is Wink real, it is the perfect American small town, somehow retaining all the Atomic Age optimism the rest of world has abandoned.

But the closer Mona gets to her mother's past, the more she understands that the people in Wink are very, very different - and what's more, Mona begins to recognize her own bond to this strange place, which feels more like home every day.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (Tor Hardcover 02/05/2013) – Brennan’s been writing about the courts of fae in The Onyx Court series for a few years now, and Mark / Hobbit of SFFWorld has enjoyed those books. This is something of a departure from those books and has been described as “Downton Abbey, But With Dragons!”

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

Intruder (Foreigner #13) by C. J. Cherryh (DAW Hardcover 03/05/2013) – Mass Market reissue of last year’s hardcover version of the 13th installment of the long-running series. My (now) colleague at Jo Walton did a nice re-read of the series.

Civil war on the world of the atevi seems to be over, but diplomatic disputes and political infighting continue unabated. Bren Cameron, brilliant human diplomat allied with the dominant Western Association, has just returned to the capital from his country home on the coast. But his sojourn was anything but restful. Attacked by rebel forces hoping to kill not only him, but also Ilisidi, the grandmother, and Cajieri, the young son, of Tabini-aiji, the powerful head of the Western Association, Bren and his resourceful associates have had a small war of their own to contend with. And this small war has ended with a daring proposition: that their longtime enemy Machigi, having been double-crossed by his allies and approached by Ilisidi with an offer of alliance, will sign a trade agreement with her Eastern district-a situation which has upset both the rebels and the loyal north.

But Bren’s accustomed role as negotiator for Tabini, Ilisidi, and their associates has suddenly changed radically—for Machigi, to Bren’s utter shock, has evoked an ancient law. Bren wears the white ribbon that for the last few centuries has identified the single official human-atevi negotiator. But before humans landed, this white ribbon represented a specialized negotiator between atevi adversaries—a mediator who agreed to represent both sides with equal loyalty. These ancient mediators frequently ended up dead.

Now back in the capital, Bren finds that things are even more complicated than they previously were. He has now been put in the precaroius position of representing both Ilisidi and Machigi to the congress, and is becoming embroiled with both conservative and liberal factions. Meanwhile, Tabini-aiji is enraged to have lost the personal negotiator who has been his associate for decades, and is also jealous of any other party who stands to influence his young son.

But there are even more dangerous things afoot, for Bren’s bodyguard has warned him there is a crisis inside the immensely dangerous Assassins’ Guild, and that the recent dustup with the Shadow Guild, a rebellious faction within the Assassins, may be only the beginning.

The Plain Man (The Max August Magikal Thrillers #3) by Steve Englehart (Tor Hardcover 02/19/2013) – Englehart has written some of the most popular characters in comics, and their most acclaimed stories. This book is the third in his urban fantasy/mystery/thriller.

Legendary comics writer Steve Englehart returns to the adventures of Max August in The Arena Man, the fourth novel in his fantasy thriller series.

Max August was once a regular guy, before he learned the ways of magick and immortality and became a staunch crusader against the supernatural forces of evil. Though immune to the effects of time, Max is not indestructible, and now he must face the vast, worldwide conspiracy known as the Necklace.

Max has only a few allies in this fight among them: Pam, an apprentice in the alchemical arts, and Vee, a chanteuse with an uncanny knack for all things magick. But the Necklace is plotting a massive catastrophe fueled by the magical power of a demonic entity; using Black Ops helicopters to massacre tens of thousands of spectators in a domed stadium, re-awakening terrorist fears and destabilizing the U.S. government. Max will need all his magick, and all the help he can get, for him to have any chance to thwart the attack and survive to fight another day.

The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs by Pierre Grimbert (AmazonCrossing Trade Paperback 02/19/2013) – This is a translation from a popular, acclaimed French fantasy novel from Amazon’s imprint focusing on non-English/non-US authors.

The Known World is a sprawling region ruled by mortals, protected by gods, and plied by magicians and warriors, merchants and beggars, royals and scoundrels. Here, those with the gift of the Erjak share a psychic bond with animals; a far-reaching fraternity unites criminals of every persuasion in a vast army of villainy; and upon the mighty river Alt, the dead will one day sail seeking vengeance on the enemies of their descendants.

But for all the Known World’s wonders, splendors, and terrors, what has endured most powerfully is the strange legacy of Ji. Emissaries from every nation—the grand Goranese Empire; desolate, frozen Arkary; cosmopolitan Lorelia; and beyond—followed an enigmatic summons into the unknown. Some never returned; others were never the same. Each successive generation has guarded the profound truth and held sacred the legendary event. But now, the very last of them—and the wisdom they possess—are threatened. The time has come to fight for ultimate enlightenment…or fall to infinite darkness.

The Forever Knight by John Marco (DAW Hardcover 04/02/2013) – I’ve been enjoying John Marco’s books ever since I read his debut novel The Jackal of Nar. This one picks up the story John last told in The Sword of Angels

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?

Midnight Blue Light Special (An InCryptid Novel #2) by Seanan McGuire (DAW Mass Market 03/05/2013) – McGuirre’s output is impressive, in terms of quantity and the praise I see heaped upon her work. This is the second in her latest series.

Cryptid, noun:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: "monster."

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ—assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done. It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.

The Books of Barakhai by Mickey Zucker Reichert (DAW Mass Market Paperback 03/05/2013) – This is an omnibus/two-in-one of the two Barakhai novels Reichert wrote. Crossover / Portal fantasy wherein a man from our world magically finds himself in world filled with shapeshifters and magic.

Benton Collins was a graduate student working in the bio lab to earn his way to his degree. When a white lab rat somehow managed to escape its cage, Ben found himself chasing the rat into a storeroom that would ultimately lead him through a secret gateway into the realm called Barakhai. And in Barakhai, Ben’s life would be forever changed, for this was a place peopled by inadvertent shapeshifters, humans forced to spend half their day—or night—in animal form.

Not everyone was happy with the life in Barakhai, a life where the general population was ruled by those few humans of royal blood who remained in their human form and were virtual dictators. Ben, by virtue of being born on Earth, was not a shapeshifter either. And a rebel named Zylas hoped that Ben could become the instrument to turn Barakhai around. So Zylas and his comrade rescued Ben from certain death. But if Ben agreed to join their cause, would he only be postponing the moment of his execution, and would he ever be allowed to return to his own world again?

Elsewhens (Glass Thorns #2) by Melanie Rawn (Tor Hardcover 02/19/2012) – A year passes and the second in Rawn’s Glass Thorns series publishes, following Touchstone.

Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his “elsewhens,” the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible futures. He fears that his Fae gift will forever taint his friendships; his friends fear that his increasing distance will destroy him.

But worldly success follows them—an apparent loss in the Trials leads to Touchstone being selected to travel to the Continent with a Royal Embassy to collect Prince Ashgar’s new bride. They are the first theater artists to appear outside Albeyn for at least seventy years—for magic is suspect and forbidden elsewhere, and the Kingdom’s easy race mixing and magic use horrifies the people they are to travel among.