Thursday, October 30, 2008

SPOTLIGHT: Halowe'en Reading - The Graveyard Book

With Hallowe'en coming up tomorrow, what better way than to post a mini-review of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book?

Neil Gaiman spins another great coming of age tale, with his typical dry sense of humor and plausibly rendered supernatural in The Graveyard Book. Gaiman’s story center’s on Nobody “Bod” Owens, a boy orphaned as a small child and taken in by the ghosts at a nearby graveyard. Bod learns all the important things in life (and the afterlife): how to Shift (disappear), inspire fear, and commune with the dead. In short, he learns how to become a ghost. Bod’s ghostly family includes his adoptive ‘parents’ Mr. and Mrs. Owens, guardian Silas, witch friend Liza and his human friend Scarlett. As he grows into young adulthood, Bod yearns to learn more about the about the living world beyond the graveyard. He soon learns growing amongst the Dead isn’t all games after all; Jack the Man (the man who killed Bod’s family) is after Bod and wants to finish the job. Underneath everything, Gaiman skillfully hints at powers beyond even those Bod encounters.

Like Coraline, Gaiman’s last novel for younger readers, The Graveyard Book is timeless and endearing with a superb conclusion that will resonate with readers of all ages. One connection with Gaiman’s earlier work I couldn’t help guessing at during the course of the narrative was between Shadow from his multiple-award winning American Gods. In a strange way, The Graveyard Game can be viewed almost as Shadow: The Early Years, with Shadow’s past being so mysterious, at least in American Gods although Shadow’s true identity was disclosed in the short story Monarch of the Glen. (Which reminds me that I still need to read Fragile Things and re-read American Gods).

The novel is illustrated throughout by Gaiman’s longtime collaborator, Dave McKean, whose moody images magnificently capture the essence of Gaiman’s story. Gaiman’s many fans will delight at his new spin on some of his recurring themes such as death, dreaming, abnormal family, and what lies ‘beyond the fields we know.’ One can’t help be reminded of his long-running, groundbreaking Sandman saga as Bod wanders through the graveyard speaking with ghosts and evading the dark specter of death personified by Jack the Man. Bod also has some dreamy/dreamlike conversations and hints of Morpheus can be extrapolated. One can also draw comparisons between the emotionless Morpheus and Bod’s guardian of little words, Silas. Of course, as a fan of most of Gaiman’s work, I might be predisposed to seeing such connections

This unique ghost story is endlessly charming, wonderfully resonant, magically evocative, and compulsively readable. With the perfectly evoked balmy feel of the Graveyard, this is a book to return to at Hallowe’en every year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Living Dead

With Halowe’en being this week, I figured the appropriate review to post right now is the colossal zombie anthology, The Living Dead, edited by John Joseph Adams and published by the hepcats at Nightshade Books. I think calling this anthology anything less than definitive would be selling it short by a great distance. The mix of authors and the themes upon which the stories touch are terrific. This combined with Wastelands is really showing what a great selective editorial hand John Joseph Adams has.

Keeping with the spooky theme, Mark / Hobbit posted his review of Jasper Kent’s dark historical novel Twelve yesterday. This book sounds really cool and can do things for members of the undead during the Napoleonic era that Novik did for Dragons in that era. Here’s hoping a US publisher will pick up the book.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/25/2008)

Some interesting stuff this week, so here goes:

All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear (Tor Hardcover 10/28/2008)– Post apocalypse meets far future science fiction meets myth? Sounds cool to me and a good enough introduction to Bear’s novel-length fiction, of which I have (embarrassingly) read none. This is the first of a series I think, but either way it sounds pretty good. Reviewed here by Joe Sherry. Here's the synopsis: It all began with Ragnarok, with the Children of the Light and the Tarnished ones battling to the death in the ice and the dark. At the end of the long battle, one Valkyrie survived, wounded, and one valraven – the steeds of the valkyrie. Because they lived, Valdyrgard was not wholly destroyed. Because the valraven was transformed in the last miracle offered to a Child of the Light, Valdyrgard was changed to a world where magic and technology worked hand in hand. 2500 years later, Muire is in the last city on the dying planet, where the Technomancer rules what’s left of humanity. She's caught sight of someone she has not seen since the Last Battle: Mingan the Wolf is hunting in her city.

The Stormcaller (Book One of the Twilight Reign) by Tom Lloyd (Pyr Trade Paperback 10/21/2008) – The first in a new fantasy series, previously published in the UK, one of the few straight up fantasies to come out of Pyr.

Here’s the brief description: In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control.

Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, m
ore charismatic, and more powerful than normal men. But with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage he cannot always hide. Brought up as a wagon-brat, feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life. But when the call comes, it isn’t to be a soldier, for the gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager: Isak has been chosen as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan. The Stormcaller is the first book in a powerful new series that combines inspired world-building, epoch-shattering battles, and high emotion to dazzling effect.

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi - It's Scalzi and I've yet to be disappointed yet. This is his first book, which is set to be republished by Tor in November. The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.

Lamentation by Ken Scholes (Tor Hardcover February 2009)– Ken Scholes has been writing short fiction for a few years now and this is his first novel. I read the short story, Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise, which is the root of this story. There’s already a bit of positive buzz surrounding this title at SFFWorld forums. Here’s the synopsis:

An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.

Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city – he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant. Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.

This remarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will take readers away to a new world – an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn’t changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations.

Drood by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company Hardcover 2/09/2009) – This is the next big book from Dan Simmons, and I mean big. I could probably kill small cats with the ARC that was airlifted to my house yesterday. I’m still kicking myself for not reading The Terror, because I haven’t really been disappointed by anything I’ve ever read by him.

Here’s the synopsis: On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research … or something more terrifying?

Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Brandon Sanderson hit the New York Times list for the first time with Hero of Ages

I got this message from Dot Lin, Brandon Sanderson's publicist at Tor:

Brandon Sanderson hit the New York Times list for the first time with Hero of Ages.

We have watched him go from college student unknown (submitting unagented manuscripts- true story!) to seasoned bestselling author, so join in with me in congratulating him. Congrats, Brandon!

p.s. And if Brandon thinks he can start relaxing now that he’s just hit the list once- he’s got another thing coming! He kicks off his two-week (3 weeks? 4 weeks?) tour for Hero of Ages with fellow author David Farland this week:

Plus, I wanted to post this because my review of The Well of Ascension is on the jacket flap. I'm going to try to make it to his book signing in NY in three weeks, too.

Also, more delays with Patrick Rothuss's The Wise Man's Fear, as Pat from the Hotlist has posted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Double Your Dresden, Double Your Fun

As the title implies, the two reviews I posted last night are both for books set in Jim Butcher entertaining and enormously popular Dresden Files. However, they are books off the main line of the novels.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle is the bound/graphic novel which is comprised of the 4-issue miniseries that graced comic shop shelves over the summer. I picked up both the single issues and received the bound version from the publisher. As my review indicates, I really enjoyed it and think it is a solid introduction to Harry Dresden’s world. I thought the art was pretty good and the story was engaging. The Dabels are going to be publishing comics adaptations of all the Dresden Files novels, starting with Storm Front.

The other Dresden Files offshoot I reviewed was Backup, a novelette coming out this month from the fine folks at Subterranean Press. I thought the story was good, even though Harry was a supporting character, and this length seems a great fit for smaller stories in Dresden Files.

Yesterday, Neil Gaiman’s latest, The Graveyard Book sat waiting for me on my desk, which just bum-rushed its way into my current reading time. I may wind up finishing it today, and it is a lot of fun so far.

Keeping with the spooky theme, Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff, my brother-in-law, his friend, and I went up to the Forest of Fear in Tuxedo NY over the weekend. It was basically a town carnival with a cool haunted slaughterhouse at its center. Of course since I’m the biggest person of our group, I got spooked the most when costumed people jumped from around corners and what not.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/18/2008)

The theme this week is middle books in series in which I haven’t read previous volumes. Here goes…

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card (Tor Hardcvover 11/11/2008)– Who hasn’t read Card’s landmark Ender novels? I went through a phase over a couple of years where I was devouring most of Card’s back catalogue zipping through the Enderverse. I made it through a few of the Bean sequels before stopping. I liked Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead very much and they still stand pretty high in my mind. Of course many people will say Card is milking the Ender franchise for everything he can. Either way, this will be interesting to read to see how I’ve changed as a reader since reading those books.

The Black Ship (A Novel of Crosspointe) by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Roc Paperback 11/04/2008) – This is the second book in a series, that on the surface, reminds me a bit of Robin Hobb’s wonderful Liveship Traders trilogy. It doesn’t seem too terribly offputting for those of us who haven’t read the first in the series.

Here’s the brief description: Thorn is a member of the Pilot’s Guild—those who possess the magical ability to navigate Crosspointe’s deadly seas. When a malevolent master within the Guild bans him from the sea, it seems his life is over. Then he is kidnapped and forced to serve aboard the rogue ship Eidolon—pitch black from bow to stern—and Thorn finds himself battling a mad captain, a mutinous crew, and the terrifying magic of the sea.

But there is a saboteur on board, trying to make sure the Eidolon never arrives safely in port. Thorn begins to realize his kidnapping may have been no mere chance— and that the cargo the black ship carries may seal his doom…

The Clone Elite A Clone Army novel by Stephen L. Kent (Ace Paperback 1 1/04/2008) - Another book in an ongoing series that looks accessible to new readers, although Kent warns on his blog to avoid reading descriptions if you haven’t read other books in the series. Specifically, that he cannot tease The Clone Elite without giving away the farm in the all of the prior books. Regardless, I may just jump in mid-series on this one. Here’s the synopsis:

2514 A.D.: An unstoppable alien force is advancing on Earth, wiping out the Unified Authority’s colonies one by one. It’s up to Wayson Harris, an outlawed model of a clone, and his men to make a last stand on the planet of New Copenhagen, where they must win the battle and the war—or lose all.

Watchers Out of Time by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth (Del Rey Paperback 10/30/2008)– This is another volume in Del Rey’s terrific series of Lovecraft reprints. I read The Horror in the Museum. Like that volume, Watchers Out of Time doesn’t quite have contain Lovecraft penned stories, as most of these are “collaborations” with August Derleth.

Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marilier (Roc Paperback 11/04/2008)– I read her debut novel, and the first of the Sevenwaters saga waaaay back in October 2004 when it was the SFFWorld Fantasy Book Club of the Month and liked it very much. Unfortunately, this series was one of quite a few I really liked at the start, but never finished out. Heir to Sevenwaters seems like it could work well enough for new readers.

The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, sharing a wary trust. Until the spring when Lady Aisling of Sevenwaters finds herself expecting another child—a new heir to Sevenwaters.

Then the family's joy turns to despair when the baby is taken from his room and something...unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her newborn brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there.

Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk (Ace Paperback 11/04/2008) - The easy quip here would be to say “…yet another urban fantasy with a sexy-tough heroine…” but this looks pretty interesting with the novel set in the Pacific Northwest, Portland to be specific. This is Monk’s debut novel, although she’s written quite a few short stories. Here’s the blurb

Using magic means it uses you back, and every spell exacts a price from its user. But some people get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent. Then it’s Allison Beckstrom’s job to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune—and the strings that come with it. But when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into his world of black magic. And the forces she calls on in her quest for the truth will make her capable of things that some will do anything to control...

Going Under (Quantum Gravity Book Three) by Pyr (Trade Paperback 9/29/2008) – I read the first one (Keeping it Real), and Hobbit/Mark read first and second (Selling Out) for SFFWorld. I think he likes them better than I do. The idea was interesting, but I just didn’t connect with the narrative.

Lila Black is off with the faeries . . .

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: tortured and magic-scarred by elves, rebuilt by humans into a half-robot, part-AI, nuclear-fueled walking arsenal, and carrying the essence of a dead elfin necromancer in her chest, sometimes she has trouble figuring out who she is.

The Golden Tower: (Book 2 of the Warriors of Estavia) by Fiona Patton (Daw Hardcover 11/04/2008) - This is the second book in a series where I haven’t read the first:

In Anavatan, the city of the Silver Lake, the Gods manifest themselves on an all-too-regular basis, and it’s hard to survive if you’re not pledged to one of the deities. Now, Brax, Spar, and Graize have discovered their destinies. Grown into their powers, they are about to face off in a confrontation that will spark a war and see the rise of a new player among the Gods themselves

The Flame and the Shadow (Book 1 in the Four-Sided Pentacle series) by Denise Rossetti (Ace Paperback 11/04/2008) - Erotic Fantasy isn't quite like my cup of tea. Four sided pentacle? Sounds weird, but here’s the description:

Some are drawn to the light. Some are drawn to the dark. Some desire both...

Grayson of Concordia, known on countless worlds as the Duke of Ombra, is a mercenary, a sorcerer of shadows—a man whose soul is consumed by darkness. For Gray, the bleak savagery in his heart is manifest in an entity he calls Shad. He has long resisted Shad's enticements, but when he is hired to kidnap a fire witch, he seizes the chance to restore his soul—no matter the cost.

Cenda's heart is ash. Since the death of her precious baby daughter, life has lost all meaning for the fire witch. Slowly, she has worked to master her powers and go on living. But when she encounters Gray, her will is no match for her desire. But her love may not survive the terrible discovery of Gray's betrayal...

Kris Longknife: Intrepid by Mike Shepherd (Ace Mass Market Paperback 11/04/2008) This is the sixth novel in an ongoing military science fiction series that superficially resembles David Weber’s Honor Harrington Novels. Not having read any, I can’t say for sure, so here’s the very brief synopsis:

Kris Longknife has been assigned to The Wasp, the best warship beyond the Rim of Human Space. But while hunting for pirates, Kris stumbles upon something. It’s a plan to kill one of the members of the aristocratic Peterwald family—and the would-be killers are setting her up as the assassin.

Fortune and Fate (A Twelve Houses novel) by Sharon Shinn (Ace Mass Market Paperback 11/04/2008) A new (Standalone?) novel in Shinn’s long-running Twelve Houses saga. Many years ago I read her novel, Archangel and really enjoyed it. Whether I get to this one is a different story. Here’s the synopsis:

A troubled Warrior Rider named Wen faces her greatest challenge in the last place she ever expected: behind the walls of a great family estate known as Fortune, where Wen has been hired to guard the young heiress. Once there, she will find that fate has other plans for her.

Fast Ships, Black Sails by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (Nightshade Books Trade Paperback October 2008)– I actually submitted a short story to Jeff Vandermeer for this volume, but didn’t make the cut. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading this one considering the great writers included:

Boojum- Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette
Araminta, or, The Wreck of the Amphidrake - Naomi Novik
Avast, Abaft! - Howard Waldrop
I Begyn as I Mean to Go On - Kage Baker
Castor on Troubled Waters - Rhys Hughes
Elegy for Gabrielle, Patron Saint of Healers, Whores and Righteous Thieves - Kelly Barnhill
Skillet and Saber - Justin Howe
The Nymph's Child - Carrie Vaughn
68˚06'N, 31˚40'W - Conrad Williams
Pirate Solutions - Katherine Sparrow
We Sleep on a Thousand Waves - Brendan Connell
Pirates of the Suara Sea - David Freer & Eric Flint
Voyage of the Iguana - Steve Aylett
Iron Face - Michael Moorcock
A Cold Day in Hell - Paul Batteiger
Captain Blackheart Wentworth - Rachel Swirsky
The Whale Below - Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Beyond the Sea Gate of the Scholar-Pirates of Sarskoe - Garth Nix

Shadows Edge (Night Angel Trilogy #2) by Brent Weeks (Orbit Paperback 11/30/2008) – I finished the first in the trilogy, The Way of Shadows the day before posting this. I really enjoyed it so, are I’ll jump into this one. Early comparisons were to Scott Lynch, but I’m reminded more so of Robin Hobb, at least in the tone. The first book, The Way of Shadows is already generating some pointed discussion at SFFWorld and the blogosphere (Jeff at Fantasy Book News and Review and Pat's Fantasy Hotlist).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where's Mario?

Fun with camera phone, part I:

As I was preparing to cut the lawn and clean up the leaves, I came across a gigantic mushroom. The shoe in the picture is mine just to give an idea of the size of this thing.

Keep in mind I'm not a small gentleman - I wear a size 12 sneaker.

Makes me wonder what Jeff VanderMeer would think of this fungus. Though this thing certainly isn't a Gray Cap, it still scares me

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Meme and a Stover-Link

From: Andrew Wheeler

The rules: When you see this, post in your own journal with your favorite quote from The Princess Bride. Preferably not "As you wish" or the Inigo Montoya speech.

My contribution: "To Blave…and as we all know, to blave means to bluff, heh? " or “You are the Brute Squad!”

I suspect many of the people who read my blog already know this, but Matthew Stover is featured on John Scalzi’s Big Idea this week, just in time for the release of Caine Black Knife.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Hero of Ages & Body of Lies

I posted my review of Brandon Sanderson’s final Mitborn novel, The Hero of Ages, last night. I really enjoyed the whole series and think it is one of the better completed series I've read. Like Greg Keyes, Sanderson had a plan for a set amount of books, stayed to that set amount and managed to pull off an incredibly well-told tale. Here’s more from my review:
Brandon Sanderson brings his Mistborn saga to a close (for now) in The Hero of Ages, wherein mists are now seemingly destroying the world and two ancient forces are about to clash. The only hope Vin, Elend and their allies has are clues the now-dead self-fashioned god the Lord Ruler left in various caves where metals were stored.

Doubt and perspective could be the themes that characterize Sazed’s character, as well. Although on the surface he plays the role of Royal Scholar, Sanderson plays with that character type with nuance. Sazed’s faith is continually in question throughout The Hero of Ages because of SPOILER, something with which he has difficulty coming to grips. As a cataloguer of world religions, Sazed is searching for the “true” religion. The only thing in which Sazed continually shows his faith is in the prophesized Hero of Ages. Though he can’t quite grasp the intimate specifics, his faith in the vague prophecy is what keeps him grounded. Here again, the cliché of the prophecy is toyed with by Sanderson (reminiscent of Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy) to great effect.

Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I were probably the only people who went to see Body of Lies of the weekend, rather than that stupid fucking talking Chihuahua movie. Anyway, Body of Lies was a pretty damned good movie, with good performances by Crowe, DiCaprio and Mark Strong. I didn’t completely agree with the plot device used to advance one part of the plot, but other than that, a solid political thriller that really echoes well against some of the issues in today’s geo-political spectrum.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/11/2008)

Orphan’s Alliance by Robert Buettner (Orbit Books Paperback 10/28/2008) – I’ve read and enjoyed all three books (Orphanage, Orphan’s Destiny, Orphan’s Journey) in the Jason Wander Series, which I’ve mentioned here at the o’ Stuff in the past. I’m really looking forward to this one. Buettner writes solid military science fiction and he took the series in a cool direction with the third book, Orphan’s Journey. All told, Buettner has a very entertaining Military Science fiction series going with these books.

Humans have been discovered on the Outworlds. And the Army decides to send emissaries. Emissaries like Jason Wander. As intraplanetary conflicts rage around him, and the personal stakes get ever higher, Jason finds that playing planet-hopping politician can be harder than commanding armies. When united mankind squares off to battle the Slugs for a precious interstellar crossroad, Jason will discover that the most dangerous enemy may be the one he least expects.

Quofum (A Novel of the Humanx Commonwealth) by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey 10/28/2008) – I’m know the title is very relevant to the story and anything that starts with the letter Q is cool, it still has a silly sounding title. I know I’m prejudging here, but who doesn’t on ocassion. This is a book in a series with 25+ books, which is a bit daunting though I suspect this is enough of a stand-alone for new readers. I’ve never read anything by 2008 Grand Master award from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. I’m sure the book will do well with Foster’s many fans.

The mission to planet Quofum is supposed to be a quickie for Captain Boylan and his crew. Boylan is tasked with delivering four scientists–two men, one woman, and one thranx–to the unknown world, setting up camp while the experts investigate flora and fauna, then ferrying them safely home. The first surprise is that Quofum, which regularly slips in and out of existence on Commonwealth monitors, is actually there when Boylan and company arrive. The second surprise is more about what Quofum is not: The planet is not logical, ordered, or rational.

The team encounters three intelligent, warring species–some carbon-based, others silicate-based, all bizarre–along with thousands of unique, often unclassifiable life-forms. Quofum’s wild biodiversity doesn’t appear to be natural. But if it is by design, then by whose, and for what purpose?

Star Wars: Millennium Falcon by James Luceno (Del Rey Hardcover 10/21/2008) – From the moment the Falcon broke loose from a Corellian assembly line like an untamed creature with a will of its own, it seemed destined to seek out trouble. It wasn’t long before the feisty YT-1300 freighter went from shuttling cargo to smuggling contraband. But it‘s a fateful rendezvous on Coruscant, at the explosive height of the Republic/Separatist uprising, that launches a galaxywide cat-and-mouse game whose newest players are Han, Leia, Allana, and C-3PO. And they’re not alone: Crime lords, galactic pirates, rogue politicians, and fortune hunters alike loom at every turn of the quest–each with his or her own desperate stake in the Millennium Falcon’s most momentous mission. Through the years and across the stars, from the Rim worlds to unknown points beyond, the race will lead them all to a final standoff for a prize some will risk everything to find–and pay any cost to possess.

The Devil's Eye: An Alex Benedict Novel by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Hardcover 11/04/2008) – I read quite a few of McDevitt’s novels a few years back (Moonfall, The Engines of God, Ancient Shores, Infinity Beach and liked them all, for the most part with Moonfall being a favorite. The Devil’s Eye is the latest in his Space Opera/Mystery hybrid and it sounds pretty interesting.

Interstellar antiquities dealer Alex Benedict receives a cryptic message asking for help from celebrated writer Vicki Greene—who has been mind-wiped. She has no memory of her past life, or of her plea for assistance. But she has transferred an enormous sum of money to Alex, also without explanation. The answers to this mystery lie on the most remote of human worlds, where Alex will uncover a secret connected to a decades-old political upheaval—a secret that somebody desperately wants hidden, though the price of that silence is unimaginable…

This looks like a good time to catch up with his writing.

The Hero of Ages: Mistborn 3 by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Hardcover 10/14/2008) - The first two installments (The Final Empire, Well of Ascension) were terrific so I was really looking forward to reading this one. I’ll be posting up my review in a couple of days, but to put it succinctly, this is one of the more solid, enjoyable and well crafted fantasy trilogies in recent memory.

Here’s a brief preview of the review I’ll be posting:

Throughout the course of the trilogy, Sanderson’s hand has been subtle in the clues he laid out in terms of the ultimate threat, but he has also managed to echo some of his literary predecessors. One of the literary devices I’ve enjoyed the most over the course of the novels is the diary quotes Sanderson uses as an opening for each chapter. These quotes hint at what just happened in a previous chapter involving a certain character, or what will happen in the chapter it leads and gives the story more resonance and authenticity. I liked how it allows Sanderson to tackle some of the themes of the novel without weighing down the narrative of the characters’ plight throughout. At times, some of these themes, particularly Ruin and Preservation as opposing forces, put me very much in the mind of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant novels and the dichotomy between Lord Foul and The Creator. All told, some really good stuff here by Sanderson that is effective and enjoyable on many levels.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Halowe'en Poll

I may be dressing up for Hallowe'en this year, but I'm not sure what to be. Maybe my millions (and millions) of visitors can help me decide:

Green Lantern
Harry Dresden

The ultimate decision may factor in the ease and cost of making the costume.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Caine Black Knife, Dresden, & iPod

Continuing the weekly postings relating to Matthew Stover, I posted my review of his latest offering, Caine Black Knife, last night. Simply put, it was the best book I read this year, and I’ve already said how much I enjoyed MultiReal and Little Brother. Here’s the intro to my review of Caine Black Knife:
There is nothing in my life I care about more than story. There is nothing I know more about than the difference between a good one and a bad one. You’re betting my life and your future on what happens in the next day or two. Let’s go balls-out to make it the Greatest Fucking Show on Overworld. (From the Trade Paperback edition of Caine Black Knife)
After seven years, Matthew Stover brings readers back to Overworld and back to Caine. For readers who enjoyed the previous two novels in what is now dubbed the Acts of Caine sequence but wanted to get more of Caine, Caine Black Knife will be a welcome novel. This novel is all Caine and is a bit of a stylistic and tonal departure from the previous Caine novels. Whereas Stover played with narrative voice and point-of-view in Heroes Die and to a greater extent in Blade of Tyshalle, here the great majority of the novel is told in Caine’s voice in the first person narrative. A very minor portion takes place in the second person narrative, so Stover doesn’t abandon the shifting perspective entirely.
So, go read the rest of the review then buy the book.

I also finished, Blood Rites, the sixth installment the Dresden Files over the weekend; the series is turning into one of my favorites. My only gripe is that sometimes Harry is being a dick just to be a dick, but perhaps the revelations in Blood Rites will soften him up a little bit. I’ll be reading Backup shortly and hopefully pick up the remaining books in the series.

John Marco posted the awesome cover (below) art to his forthcoming novel, Starfinder, which sounds like a cool mix of high fantasy and steampunk. The world has steam trains, electricity, ornithopters and godlike races. How cool does that sound?

My iPod stopped working today for no reason. Since I got it from the spectacular Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff back in June, the thing has been my own little security blanket and I’m suffering withdrawal right now. I hope the folks at the Apple store in the mall can help out.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 10/04/2008)

Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear Subterranean Press, (Hardcover early 2009) – I’ve only read Bear’s short fiction in various anthologies, but I’ve really enjoyed it. This sounds interesting and hopefully, I’ll be able to get to it.

The sequel to New Amsterdam! - The wampyr has walked the dark streets of the world's great cities for a thousand years. In that time, he has worn out many names--and even more compatriots.

Now, so that one of those companions may die where she once lived, he has come again to the City of London. In 1938, where the ghosts of centuries of war haunt rain-grey streets and the Prussian Chancellor's army of occupation rules with an iron hand.

Here he will meet his own ghosts, the remembrances of loves mortal--and immortal. And here he will face the Chancellor's secret weapon: a human child.

Fast Forward 2 edited by Lou Anders (Pyr, (Trade Paperback 10/3/2008) – I read Fast Forward 1 Last year and thought it was a very strong collection, which illustrates Anders’ ability as an Editor both of the short form and of the long form. This volume includes stories from the following:
Paul Cornell; Kay Kenyon; Chris Nakashima-Brown; Nancy Kress; Jack Skillingstead; Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum; Jack McDevitt; Paul McAuley; Mike Resnick and Pat Cadigan; Ian McDonald; Kristine Kathryn Rusch; Karl Schroeder and Tobias S. Buckell; Jeff Carlson; and Paolo Bacigalupi.

A Fantasy Medley edited by Yanni Kuznia (Subterranean Press , Hardcover 3/01/2009) With two writers whose work I really enjoy and another writer I’ve been wanting to sample for a while, this looks like a terrific collection.

A Fantasy Medley features the superlative storytelling abilities of four diverse authors:
In Zen and the Art of Vampirism Zoe Takano, the only vampire in Toronto, a city filled with supernatural creatures of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld, finds her place in the hierarchy threatened by two interlopers.

Riding the Shore of the River of Death returns us to the world of Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars. Kareka, daughter of the begh of the Kirshat, hunts to take a man’s head. It is her last opportunity to prove herself as a man or else she will find herself restricted to the role of woman and wife in the clan forever.

Robin Hobb revisits her Farseer world in Words Like Coins. Mirrifen, a failed hedge-witch’s apprentice who has married to find security finds that threatened by a severe drought and the appearance of a pregnant female pecksie.

C.E. Murphy takes us to frozen Moscow in From Russia, with Love. Baba Yaga’s daughter is a barmaid at a dive when Janx and Eliseo Daisani walk in. They discover, as they compete for the girl’s affections, that Baba Yaga has plans for Janx and that her beautiful daughter had merely been the bait.

Friday, October 03, 2008

SFFWorld Forums Revamp Complete!

After much deliberation and feedback from our membership, we finally rearranged our forums. Gone are the author specific forums (i.e. JRR Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, etc). Those subforums, along with the Horror Forum were integrated and are now the Fantasy / Horror Forum.

The other major "combination" is the Other Media Forum, which consists of TV/Film, Comics, & Games.

A lot of visitors, members, and even some chatter on other forums suggested our set up was too fragmented. A lot of us behind-the-scenes folks agreed so hopefully people visiting the SFFWorld forums are pleased with what we've done.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lord Tophet & TV Wrap

This week’s review is of Gregory Frost’s Lord Tophet, the concluding volume in his Shadowbridge duology. On the whole, I think the two volumes form a strong single story and think they would have benefited from being published as such in one volume. While there’s a clear break between the two novels, it really is one story. I felt Shadowbridge was a stronger novel. Here's a cut from the review:
Much like its predecessor, Lord Tophet the novel concerns itself very much with the power, charm, and value of stories. Perhaps more so in this second volume in the sequence, the value of stories is emphasized. In order to get out of the dream-like higher reality, Leodora must tell more stories and mores stories, just one more story. The nebulous aura of the higher world has an affect on Loedora, making her and Diverus think they have only been there for a day.
On the genre TV end of things, Heroes was just sort of there for me this week. Again Sylar is the most interesting thing on the show, the Petrellis are still somewhat annoying, Hiro is just sort of floating around (though I like his “nemesis”) and Claire’s two mommies could be interesting. The show hasn’t annoyed me enough to completely abandon it. On the other hand, True Blood was solid once again. Now that Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother are back, I’ll probably be skipping Sarah Connor for the foreseeable future. The Office returned in a bit way, showing more ways in which Michael Scott can be clueless. Ryan, the new/old temp, reminds me very much of an old friend so that little bit of poetic justice was spot on. Family Guy is still funny – specifically how they addressed the “who-can-understand-Stewie” debate. Much as I love the show, I don’t know how much more there is to it. Then again, the South Park guys still manage to really hit out of the park – I can’t wait to see what they do in terms of the whole election this year.