Feb 22, 2014

Words of Radiance is Unreadable.

I'll say it again.

Words of Radiance is unreadable.

I've had an advance copy for about two weeks now and it's proven to be one of the most challenging books I've ever read. After Way of Kings, I was excited to start it but I've really found it to be dense, awkward, and, frankly, much more exhausting than reading a book for pleasure has any right to be.At times, just the thought of picking it up again fills me with dread.

I mean look at the thing.

It's big. Like unwieldy big. Just holding it for an extended period of time gets difficult.  Even trying to lay down in front of it feels a little off given the extra inch or two you need to crane your neck back to read it. Unless you've got yourself a sturdy table and a comfortable chair to seat yourself at, you aren't going to be breaking any marathon reading records with Sanderson's latest.

More and more, I've found myself to be a Kindle convert. Initially, I thought it would be impossible to divorce myself from the physical artifact that sits so nicely on your shelf but my eReader has proved to be more portable, adaptable, and readable than almost any book. When you take into account the doorstoppers that GRRM, Rothfuss, and Sanderson have produced (or not produced) over the last five years, I've found that the eReading experience is vastly superior.

And so much so that despite having the entirety of the book in my hands, I actually read all of the published previews on Tor.com via my phone or computer. (Stopping of course to read the mysterious chapter 7, which is excluded from the preview for good reason. Spoiler alert! Someone dies. Or not. Maybe I'm just screwing with you. But it is very shocking. Is it March 4th yet?). I've since finished the preview chapters and have been progressing through the book, but it's been much slower going than the first 150 or so pages.

And it isn't just that the book is heavy to hold or the fact that my book light isn't large enough to shine on the pages if I clip it to the back cover, it's that Words of Radiance simply isn't portable. Whereas my Kindle can fit in my pocket, the physical book is impossible to carry in my bag unless I leave my laptop or textbooks at home and even then the binding is so wide I'm scared I'll end up destroying it. On the rare occasions where I do take it with me, I've resorted to bringing a second bag along solely for securing WoR. I tried to get a team of Parshmen to carry it for me, but I have it on good authority that they are not to be trusted. I see myself buying an electronic version of Words of Radiance come March 4th, depending on how much progress I've made by then.
Now I bet you are tired of hearing me talk about the book and want me to divulge a little about the story inside it...

Let's just say that it is as hard to put down as it is to pick up.

Jun 27, 2013

Covering Covers - Ancilary Justice by Ann Leckie

Cover Artist: John Harris?

I think I spy a John Harris cover. If not, I still love it. Reminds me of the old vertical scrolling arcade games. As for the book itself, color me interested.

On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.

Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren--a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.

An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose--to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.

Some of you may know Ann Leckie as the secretary of the SFWA (for a few more days at least). As far as I am aware, this is her first novel so if you haven't read a book by a new author (or a female one) in a while, you might want to check it out. Ancillary Justice will be published by Orbit in October. Sign me up!

Jun 26, 2013

How Many Books Have You Read by Female Authors this Year?

Since it's about halfway through the year, it seems like a good a time as any to ask yourself "how many books have you read by female authors this year?".

I asked myself that question today and I found I wasn't particularly impressed with the response. While I haven't exactly read a ton this year (work and business school are keeping me plenty busy) I think I've only read two four works by women - The Shining Girls (Lauren Beukes) and The Poisoner's Handbook (Deborah Blum) and Catching Fire/Mocking Jay (Suzanne Collins).

I've got some women at the top of my queue - Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire, Elizabeth Bear, Helene Wecker, Rachel Swirsky - but after reflecting, I really need to should make an attempt to make sure I give those books the attention they deserve. The bias isn't intentional, but it is there.

You don't need to share your number but I hope you'll think about whether or not you're happy with it.

If you are happy with your number, what's the best book you've read that was written by a woman this year?

If you aren't happy with your number, hopefully you will find a list of books that are worth checking out from the first half of 2013.

I'll start with some books that I've heard a lot of good things about and hopefully we can build on this together.

Jun 24, 2013

The Biggest SFF Books of the Fall (According to Publisher's Weekly)

Twitter is abuzz (achirp?) with a few announcements from authors regarding the recent release of Publisher's Weekly Best Books for Fall 2013.

Here is the full list of SFF titles, including some must reads like Rachel Swirsky's first Subterranean Press collection and Mira Grant's Parasite. (Speaking of Mira Grant, she has to rival Daniel Abraham or Brandon Sanderson in terms of output. How do they do it?) 


Children of Fire - Drew Karpyshyn 

The Incrementalists - Steven Brust and Skyler White

Dead Set: A Novel - Richard Kadrey


Under a Graveyard Sky - John Ringo


Parasite - Mira Grant


Doctor Sleep: A Novel - Stephen King

Let the Old Dreams Die - John Ajvide Linqvist

Kabu Kabu - Nnedi Okorafor

I've had a look at a few of the titles on the list but I can't say there are a few surprises in there that I'm going to need to check out.

What do you think? Is anything missing?

Jun 19, 2013

Never Grow Up

"Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences."
                                                                             -Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Never grow up. I don't plan to.

Jun 16, 2013

Is This The First Big Fantasy Title of 2014?

Beating out the recently finished (and supposedly 864 page) Words of Radiance by just a week, the first big fantasy title of 2014 appears to be Brian Staveley's The Emperor's Blades.

Cover Artist: Richard Anderson

I really like this cover, especially for a character-centric design. It looks like a Chris McGrath / Stephan Martiniere mash-up and it's hard to go wrong from there.

But lets not let a pretty cover get in the way of a good story. One of the more recent hyped-up fantasies, John R. Fultz's Seven Princes, also had an Richard Anderson cover - arguably an even better one. Unfortunately, the content between the covers didn't make as much of a splash as Orbit was anticipating.

What about the book itself?

Per Tor.com "The Emperor’s Blades follows siblings Valyn, Kaden, and Adare, who are in different parts of the world when they learn about the assassination of their father, the Emperor. All of them are in danger of being the next targets, and all of them are caught in the maelstrom of conspiracy, intrigue, treachery, and magic that sweeps through Staveley’s auspicious debut novel."

And the expanded summary:
"When the emperor of Annur is murdered, his children must fight to uncover the conspiracy—and the ancient enemy—that effected his death.

Kaden, the heir apparent, was for eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, where he learned the inscrutable discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power which Kaden must master before it’s too late. When an imperial delegation arrives to usher him back to the capital for his coronation, he has learned just enough to realize that they are not what they seem—and enough, perhaps, to successfully fight back.

Meanwhile, in the capital, his sister Adare, master politician and Minister of Finance, struggles against the religious conspiracy that seems to be responsible for the emperor’s murder. Amid murky politics, she’s determined to have justice—but she may be condemning the wrong man.

Their brother Valyn is struggling to stay alive. He knew his training to join the Kettral— deadly warriors who fly massive birds into battle—would be arduous. But after a number of strange apparent accidents, and the last desperate warning of a dying guard, he’s convinced his father’s murderers are trying to kill him, and then his brother. He must escape north to warn Kaden—if he can first survive the brutal final test of the Kettral."
It will be interesting to find out if The Emperor's Blades will be able to live up to the quality of the cover it bears. See for yourself on Jan 14, 2014.

Jun 9, 2013

Covering Covers: Echoes of Empire by Mark T. Barnes

I may not be the most impartial observer these days but there is no denying that Stephan Martinière knows how to make a purdy cover.


The Garden of Stones was released earlier this month with The Obsidian Heart to follow in October. The third, final, and hopefully Martiniere-covered volume, The Pillars of Sand is due out in May of 2014.

If you're interested in more info, The Qwillery has a short interview with Mark.

Apr 21, 2013

20 Best Young SF Novelists: An Infographic

Here is an infographic I put together (rather badly, I might add) of Damien Walter's list of 20 best young (apparently defined as 40 or younger) SFF novelists. The list appears to be a little UK-centric and has some curious omissions (a debut novelist over Sanderson, Rothfuss, or Tregillis, really?) but it's hard to argue with many of these names.

For those of you who like simple lists, copying and pasting, or hate pictures - here is the list in a more digestible format.

Lauren Beukes
WtS: Moxyland (or Zoo City)
WN?: The Shining Girls

James Smythe
WtS: The Explorer
WN?: The Machine

Hannu Rajaniemi
WtS: The Quantum Thief
WN?: The Causal Angel

Madeline Ashby
WtS: vN: The First Machine Dynasty
WN?: iD: The Second Machine Dynasty

Aliette De Boddard
WtS: Obsidian and Blood
WN?: On A Red Station, Drifting

Hugh Howey
WtS: Wool (Independently Published)
WN?: Wool (Simon & Schuster Edition)

Joe Abercrombie
WtS: The Blade Itself
WN?: Red Country (with a new First Law trilogy forthcoming)

NK Jemsin
WtS: The Killing Moon (or The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms)
WN?: Untilted Magic Seismology Project (USMP)

Saladin Ahmed
WtS: Throne of the Crescent Moon
WN?: Book II of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms

China Mieville
WtS: Perdido Street Station (or The City & the City)

Joe Hill
WtS: Horns

Chuck Wendig
WtS: Blackbirds
WN?: The Blue Blazes

Seanan McGuire
WtS: Feed [as Mira Grant] (or Rosemary and Rue [October Daye #1] )
WN?: Chimes at Midnight [October Daye #7]

Robert Jackson Bennet
WtS: Mr. Shivers
WN?: American Elsewhere / City of Stairs

Carlton Mellick
WtS: Satan Burger
WN?: Village of the Mermaids

Catherynne Valente
WtS: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
WN?: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Tom Pollock
WtS: The City's Son
WN?: The Glass Republic

Elizabeth May
WtS: The Falconer (Debut)
WN?: The Falconer

Francis Hardinge
WtS: Fly By Night
WN?: A Face Like Glass

Nnedi Okorafor
WtS: Who Fears Death?
WN?: Lagoon

Feb 21, 2013

Nebula Awards. Simply Put.

I don't think it can be said any simpler than this

Anyone who objects to this year's Nebula Award shortlist obviously hasn't read the books on it.

Feb 16, 2013

Ten Most Anticipated Books for 2013

Are you still reading this? If so, huzzah for RSS feeds!

Here's my list of (approximately) ten books I'm really looking forward to this year. I don't know if they're all going to turn out to be as good as I hope they will but I'll definitely be there to find out.

10. Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill

A brilliantly crafted modern tale from acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill—part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Toro, part William S. Burroughs—that charts the lives of two boys from their star-crossed childhood in the realm of magic and mystery to their anguished adulthoods 
There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.
Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate. 
Dreams and Shadows is a stunning and evocative debut about the magic and monsters in our world and in our self.
The year's first big speculative fiction debut, in my not so humble opinion. Contemporary fantasy in the vein of Gaiman, Mieville, or Grossman? Sign me up. 

9. You - Austin Grossman

When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, the strangest and most gifted friend he ever lost, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit. 
Then Black Arts' revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a mysterious software glitch, and Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The bug is the first clue in a mystery leading back twenty years, through real and virtual worlds, corporate boardrooms and high school computer camp, to a secret that changed a friendship and the history of gaming. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears--and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line. 
Austin Grossman's debut novel Soon I Will Invincible announced the arrival of a singular, genre-defying talent "sure to please fans of Lethem and Chabon" (Playboy). With YOU, Grossman offers his most daring and most personal novel yet-a thrilling, hilarious, authentic portrait of the world of professional game makers; and the story of how learning to play can save your life.

Has it really been 6 years since Soon I will Be Invincible? Is this 2013's answer to Ready Player One?

8. The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination - John Joseph Adams

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.

There are only one or two original anthologies each year that really catch my eye and the concept and line-up that Adams has assembled really has made Mad Science the anthology of the year for me.

7. Promise of Blood - Brian McClellan

The Age of Kings is dead . . . and I have killed it. 
It's a bloody business overthrowing a king...Field Marshal Tamas' coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas's supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces. 
It's up to a few...Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. 
But when gods are involved...Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should...

The second of two debuts on the list. I met McClellan back at ConFusion last year and I'm excited to finally see what all the fuss is about.

6. The Tyrant's Law / Abaddon's Gate / Graveyard Child - Daniel Abraham

The Tyrant's Law 

The great war cannot be stopped. 
The tyrant Geder Palliako had led his nation to war, but every victory has called forth another conflict. Now the greater war spreads out before him, and he is bent on bringing peace. No matter how many people he has to kill to do it. 
Cithrin bel Sarcour, rogue banker of the Medean Bank, has returned to the fold. Her apprenticeship has placed her in the path of war, but the greater dangers are the ones in her past and in her soul. 
Widowed and disgraced at the heart of the Empire, Clara Kalliam has become a loyal traitor, defending her nation against itself. And in the shadows of the world, Captain Marcus Wester tracks an ancient secret that will change the war in ways not even he can forsee.

Abaddon's Gate 

For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark. 
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Graveyard Child 

It’s a homecoming, of sorts, for Jayné Heller—and she wants some long-awaited answers to her past, in this fifth book in the acclaimed Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series. 
After years on her own, Jayné Heller is going home to find some answers. How did the powerful spirit calling itself the Black Sun get into her body? Who was her uncle Eric, and what was the grand plan to which he devoted his life? Who did her mother have an affair with, and why? And the tattoo—seriously—what was that about? 
Jayné arrives during the preparations for her older brother’s shotgun wedding, but she’s not the only unexpected guest. The Invisible College has also come to town, intent on stopping the ceremony. They claim an ancient evil is threatening the child that would be Jayné’s niece, and that the Heller family has been rotten at the core for generations. The deeper Jayné looks, the more she thinks they might not be wrong. And behind them all, in the shadows of Jayné’s childhood home, a greater threat waits that calls itself the Graveyard Child...

With the help of his Expanse partner Ty Franck, Jamsiel S.A.M.L.O.N. Abrahanoverey somehow manages to put out three books a year and make them all awesome. Suck it Sanderson! 

Abraham's also working on a Star Wars novel set in the Original Trilogy era. If I could pre-order it now, I would.

5. NOS4A2 - Joe Hill

NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. 
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country. 
Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” 
Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

After the genius of Hill's Horns and Locke and Key, I'd buy a collection of his third grade spelling homework. Hill might be scientific proof that writing talent is genetic.

4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

It began for our narrator forty years ago, when the family lodger sole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. 
His only defense are three women on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

The only thing better than the prospect of a new Gaiman book is the prospect of a Gaiman narrating a new Gaiman book. (Seriously, he opens his mouth and liquid myth comes out)

3. The Water Knife - Paolo Bacigalupi

In a future hammered by climate change and drought, mountain snows have turned to rain, and rain evaporates before it hits the ground. In a fragmenting United States, the cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas skirmish for a dwindling share of the Colorado River. But it is the Las Vegas water knives - assassins, terrorists and spies - who are legendary for protecting Las Vegas' water supplies, and for ensuring Phoenix's ruin. 
When rumours of a game-changing water source surface, Las Vegas dispatches elite water knife Angel Velasquez to Phoenix to investigate. There, he discovers hardened journalist Lucy Monroe, who holds the secret to the water source Angel seeks. But Angel isn't the only one hunting for water, Lucy is no pushover, and the death of a despised water knife is a small price to pay in return for the life-giving flow of a river.

It's not clear if we will see Bacigalupi's next adult novel this year or not but I'm sure I'm not the only one hoping to see another one of his disasterpieces. 

2. The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes

The Time Traveler's Wife meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in this story of a time-traveling serial killer who is impossible to trace--until one of his victims survives.
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him back.
Working with an ex-homicide reporter who is falling for her, Kirby has to unravel an impossible mystery. 
THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the classic serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing girl in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

I got an early peak at a few chapters of this one, can't wait to read the complete and shiny edition.

1. Necessary Evil / Something More Than Night - Ian Tregillis

Necessary Evil 

12 May 1940. Westminster, London, England:  the early days of World War II.  
Raybould Marsh, one of “our” Britain’s best spies, has travelled to another Earth in a desperate attempt to save at least one timeline from the Cthulhu-like monsters who have been observing our species from space and have already destroyed Marsh’s timeline. In order to accomplish this, he must remove all traces of the supermen that were created by the Nazi war machine and caused the specters from outer space to notice our planet in the first place.  
His biggest challenge is the mad seer Greta, one of the most powerful of the Nazi creations, who has sent a version of herself to this timeline to thwart Marsh.  Why would she stand in his way?  Because she has seen that in all the timelines she dies and she is determined to stop that from happening, even if it means destroying most of humanity in the process. And Marsh is the only man who can stop her.
Necessary Evil is the stunning conclusion to Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed series.

Something More Than Night 

The title of my next novel, SOMETHING MORE THAN NIGHT, comes from a quote by Raymond Chandler.  In an essay where he looked back to describe some of his earlier short fiction, written before he hit his stride with the Philip Marlowe novels, he said, in part, "The law was something to be manipulated for profit and power.  The streets were dark with something more than night." 
The book is a Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler-inspired murder mystery set in Heaven.  Imagine central casting for a 1930s detective novel juxtaposed with all the strange and terrifying members of the heavenly choir: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues, Seraphim, Cherubim… Swell dames and femmes fatales, dirty priests and the Voice of God.

The first two books of The Milkweed Triptych set up the third volume so well, I'd choose a crack at the Necessary Evil over anything else due out this year, short of an exclusive copy of The Winds of Winter. And the best part? You'll only have to wait a few short months for more Tregillis.  

So whats on your list?

Sep 2, 2012

Shut Up and Take My Money - Redesigned Game of Thrones House Sigils

Over on io9.com, Lauren Davis posted a link to graphic designer Darrin Crescenzi's passion project - a corporate rebranding of the House Sigils from Game of Thrones. Crescenzi, who has previously worked with Nike, Livestrong, and Project (RED) on various projects, gives each house sigil a modern day makeover with clean lines and bold colors.

The designs themselves are pretty sweet (you can buy a print (update: sold out) from Crescenzi for $35) but I think that they could go a step further. You know what I'm talking about: Game of Thrones house polo shirts.

Instead of the Ralph Lauren polo player, the Lacoste alligator, or the Banana Republic elephant, I'd love to shirts sporting the Stark direwolf, the Lannister lion, the Targaryen dragon, the Tyrell rose, or the Greyjoy kraken. Crescenzi's simple designs would translate perfectly to the embroidered logo featured on most brand polos. It would be a great way to let your geek flag fly without .

Provided, of course, that we can wear our house colors without resorting to the old rivalries. We wouldn't want another Red Wedding, would we?

Aug 14, 2012

YBSF - Achievement Unlocked?

Last year I unlocked one of my most sought after bibliophilic objectives - collecting all 80-odd volumes of Gollancz's SF Masterworks series. They are still coming out but I can keep up with them via airmail, no problem.

My current project is a lot more troublesome - collecting all 29 editions of Gardner Dozois's doorstopping Year's Best Science Fiction anthology series from St. Martin's Press. I've got 18 so far (5,7,9,11,12,14,16,17,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29) but the majority of them were acquired via point-and-click ordering off Amazon. Anything pre-20 was acquired through used book store browsing or as a gift. While I'm sure I could go crazy on Powell's or Alibris and complete my collection, I'm loathe to do so. It just seems like throwing money at it would eliminate the thrill of the chase (something only collector's would understand).

But now comes the news that all of Dozois' anthologies will be e-available this October through the usual vendors. Rumor has the price tag set somewhere between $7.99 and $9.99. Suddenly, unlocking the entire achievement seems possible for less than $300.

Should I give in? Or hold out hope that the e-copies will make the print books somewhat more acquirable?

Regardless, look for a few million words of quality SF hitting e-stores this fall.

Jun 29, 2012

Red (,White, and Blue) Country

A bit of fortunate news for American fans of Joe Abercrombie (and his little known writing partner Jim Fitch). Orbit's new US manager Dan "Sandy" Glokta has improved the performane of the publishing team so much that the US release of Abercrombie's latest, RED COUNTRY, has been moved up to October 23rd from its originally scheduled November 20th date.

That means that US fans will only need to avoid online spoilers for less than a week (5 days to be exact) after their British counterparts race through what is sure to be one of the year's best fantasy titles.

On the mumbly side of the big lake (that's what they call it right?), there is still no sign of the UK artwork which means I don't know which copy to order now. They would both be on my doorstop at about the same time so I guess I need to go with whichever one is prettier. As the swamp attack always says "We will see."

May 22, 2012

Yeti Review: Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis

In A Few Words: The best debut of 2010, Bitter Seeds delivers on it's promise of Nazi Supermen vs. British Wizards; representing the start of a dark but brillant new trilogy that is as aggressive in scope as it is captivating in delivery. (2 stars)

  • Well-written characters that carry the novel through grim subject matter;
  • Thought-provoking speculation that raises Bitter Seeds above the standard WWII reimagining;
  • The strong integration between alternate history of the war and the events of the book makes the notion of warlocks and psychics feel real; 
  • The implied structure of Milkweed Triptych promises continued originality and innovation

  • The conclusion feels a somewhat anticlimatic as the second book is set up;
  • As more of a warning than a con, the tone of the story gets almost too dark at times;
  • Not enough Gretel.

The Review: The saying goes, "War is hell." In few novels is this more true than in Ian Tregillis's debut novel. An alternate history tale set during the darkest days of World War II; Bitter Seeds pits Nazi supermen against British demons in a sprawling battle that leaves everyone involved with deep scars: some physical, some emotional, and most both. Through a quartet of characters intimately involved in this secret war inside a war, Tregillis focuses on these scars and the wounds that cause them in a strikingly dark but equally impressive debut that has earned two stars in my new rating system.

Rather than trying to cover an alternate war in its entirety, Tregillis makes a wise decision and chooses to examine four lives within the war rather than the war itself. From Bitter Seeds’ first pages, it's clear that these four souls are not destined to lead normal lives. On the German side, the orphaned siblings Klaus and Gretel are purchased by Herr Doktor von Westarp for his abhorrent experiments. They and other war orphans are destined to become the Gotterelektrongruppe, a special Nazi outfit of supermen capable of flight, telekinesis, invisibility, and even precognition among other abilities. Klaus himself learns the ability to “ghost”; to pass through walls, bodies, and bullets like they don’t exist. His sister, Gretel, possesses powers of prediction that render her cryptic and, more often than not, incomprehensible. Gretel is the least written about character of the four but still manages to steal scene after scene with her bizarrely captivating antics and disrespect for causality.

Across the channel in the British Isles, a young Raybould Marsh is taken in by a British Intelligence Officer. Little does Marsh know that a career in intelligence will lead him to become involved with forces beyond his imagination. Elsewhere in England, the uncorrupted mind of Will Beauclerk is exposed to eidolons for the first time by his sorcerer grandfather. These entities reside outside the realm of human existence but are willing to interfere, at least for a price. Fast forward fifteen years or so and the world is on the verge of war. Raybould learns of the Nazi supermen during a routine espionage mission to Spain and he is soon tasked with stopping them. As such he reaches out to his college friend, Will, who possess a peculiar set of skills that just may level the playing field. From this brief description, it should be easy to see why the book is advertised as “Mad English warlocks battling twisted Nazi psychics.”

Bitter Seeds delivers on this promise in droves with several outstanding action sequences that just beg for big screen treatment. But underneath the exciting attempts to catch a man that can walk through walls and the orchestrated chaos of an ambush ruined by precognition, Tregillis conceals a wealth of character that helps the story transcend what could have been pure pulp. Now the premise and the execution are strong enough that Bitter Seeds would have been highly enjoyable pulp, but this unexpected depth takes Bitter Seeds from good to great.

Rather than depicting the white vs. black, good vs. evil reimagining of World War II that is all too common where Nazis are involved; Tregillis paints his cast in shades of gray. By focusing on the morality of the characters on both sides of the war and the motivations that can drive normal humans to commit atrocities, the book becomes incredibly gripping, albeit it in an almost perverse way. Another quote applicable to the first volume of the Milkweed Triptych has to be "all is fair in love and war."As the war escalates and the British become more and more desperate to halt the inevitable German invasion, the demonic eidolons demand more and more blood in exchange for their unnatural assistance.

The best science fiction is that which takes relatable ideas and uses speculation to stretch them to idealistic proportions. The idea that is explored here is that of the “Necessary Evil” (also the title of the third book of the Milkweed Triptych); one that frequently occurs in war when considering sacrificing a few for the needs of the many. But under what circumstances does the price become too high to pay? A death? A dozen? What if it's children? It is this grim question that plays heavily on both sides of the trenches and Tregillis sets the seeming unstoppable power of the German supermen against the crimson demands of the eidolons in order to raise the stakes until there is no right answer. Depressing? Yes. Thought-provoking? Without a doubt.

After a less than light hearted first third, this exploration forces the book to become darker and darker the book quickly gets even darker, almost to an excessive level. When a psychic Nazi appears to be the most well adjusted member of the cast, it’s difficult to generate empathy. But even at its darkest, Bitter Seeds never ceases to be compelling. There is a method to the sadness and Tregillis staggers the point at which characters hit rock bottom in a way so not to fully extinguish hope. If the first act sets up the characters as more than human, the second devolves Marsh, Beauclerk, and Klaus into something less than, and the third sees their attempt to pick up the pieces.

At first the conclusion feels somewhat underwhelming, in part due to the staggered nature of each of the character arcs. But as each of the characters concludes their final scene, we get a glimpse of the brilliant structure of the Milkweed Triptych, something that seems blatantly obvious in hindsight. In the last few pages, Tregillis teases the content of June's The Coldest War enough to make it instantly one of my most anticipated books of the year: a suitable accomplishment in its own right. In Bitter Seeds, Tregillis takes a played out setting and made it fresh again, crafting a darkly gripping tale that examines the morality of war through the lens of four superhuman characters who become anything but.

May 6, 2012

Remind me to be on twitter...

...during the last moments of and immediately following the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones.
In other news, Wave 2 of my work project is finally live and I hope to have a little bit more time around here. That is, after I finish reading Sword of Storms.

Apr 5, 2012

Book Trailers Still Suck

Fresh off this morning's cover debut from Orbit, Gollancz fires back with A RED COUNTRY book trailer.

When are publishers going to stop wasting their time on these?

Not only does it not convey Abercrombie's tone at all (unless A RED COUNTRY represents a significant departure from his style), it just looks awful. There is a static "texture" filter placed over some CGI nonsense cut from a 1997 PC game. And that scream?


Covering Covers: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

After yesterday's coversplosion, Orbit followed it up by debuting the cover of Joe Abercrombie's Red Country, which happens to be my most anticipated fantasy title of the year - a fact that would still be true even if The Winds of Winter, A Memory of Light, and The Doors of Stone were all due out this year.

Cover Art by Michael Frost, Gene Mollica, and Lauren Panepinto.

Ta Da! Fits nicely with the other US covers of Abercrombie's stand alone novels, although it appears Joe Abercrombie is quickly becoming a "big name" author. Also, love the texture and gritiness of the blood and dirt. It's a character centric cover done well.

And how many fingers does that guy have? 6...7...8...?

I like it even more when it's with it's friends.

If you are looking for more information about everything we know about Red Country so far, jump over A Dribble of Ink's recap post, which includes some spoilerific info previously reported by yours truly (be forewarned, thar be spoilers over yonder).

For those of you with spoiler intolerance, here's the safe summary from Orbit.

Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier. Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust…
Red Country comes out November 20th in the US and October 18th for those who still suffer under the tyrannous rule of Queen Elizabeth II.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...