Dec 30, 2010

Recommended Reads for 2010

Disclaimer - This is not a "best of" list. My reading in 2010 was mainly directed toward short fiction and titles that weren't released in the past year. Taking that into account, I don't feel justified in calling anything the "best" of 2010. I can judge whether a book is worth reading or not (that doesn't really change) but ranking these titles against other 2010 releases I haven't read doesn't seem fair.

That being said, here are several books that I read in 2010 that I strongly recommend and would most likely have made a "best of" list if I felt I had read enough to make an informed decision.


The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

High fantasy at it's finest, Sanderson definitely delivers with arguably the most hyped new series of the year. Despite a kilo-class page count, Sanderson barely scratches the surface of his new world. While it's not terribly unique, there is seemingly no flaw in Sanderson's execution. He hits the fast paced action and adventure hard with scenes that stuck in my mind even after dozens of books. At the same time, Sanderson weaves a delicate tangle of foreshadowing, prophecy and intrigue that begs for dissection and additional rereads. The Stormlight Archives looks to hit many of the same notes (mysterious events, prophecy, the rediscovery of forgotten powers) as The Wheel of Time and I wouldn't be surprised to see the fanbase migrate once A Memory of Light concludes Jordan's classic series. (My Review)

Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis

Many authors will not attempt a project as ambitious as Ian Tregillis. Even fewer would try it in their first novel. And almost no one would hit it out of the park like Tregillis does. Bitter Seeds reimagines a version of World War Two where The Nazis have super powered soldiers and the British have to conspire with demons to combat them. Despite the pulpy premise, Tregillis transcends mere escapism with a complex work painted entirely in shades of grey. I won't give any spoilers but there is a reason why it's a triptych instead of a trilogy and I can't wait to see what happens in The Coldest War and Necessary Evil. (Review Forthcoming)

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes

I don't know how Beukes does it. She takes a blender and fills it with ideas - music, video games, technology, spammers, African history, corporations, and just a dash or two of magic. She crams it all in there, hits liquefy, and while the result should be brown sludge and borderline toxic, the output is absolutely delicious. I was blown away by her debut, Moxyland, back in 2009 and her sophomore effort is a repeat performance. Zoo City sees a ex-journalist/sometimes-spammer/finder-of-lost-things with a monkey on her back tries to track down a missing music tartlet. And it's not a literal monkey on her back. It's a sloth. Trying to accurately relate Beukes's fiction in a few words is almost impossible. But you should check her out, particularly if you are a fan of Stross or Doctorow's near future work. (Review Forthcoming)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin

The other contender for debut of the year, N.K. Jemisin kicks off a trilogy that at first glance looks to be another Twilight knock-off featuring a young girl attracted to a dangerous lover. Luckily, that's only one aspect of the book and where the Twilight similarities end. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a book of opposites - gods and mortals, night and day, life and death, love and logic - but at the same time one that demonstrates that the world is not limited to absolutes. With unreliable narration, a unique power structure, and a fast pace, Jemisin's debut has established her as a name to watch. I haven't be able to get to The Broken Kingdoms quite yet but it's at the top of my list to read. (Review Forthcoming)

Short Fiction Collections

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories - Mary Robinette Kowal

I liken Kowal's first collection to a featherweight champion. It's quick and light but packs one hell of a punch. It shouldn't take longer than a few hours to read but the stories will stick with you for much longer, particularly "Death Comes But Twice", "Locked In", and the titular "Scenting the Dark." Kowal is another burgeoning writer who appears destined for greatness. She took home the 2009 Campbell Award and based on Scenting the Dark it's hard to argue with their decision. (My Review)

Occultation - Laird Barron

As the dark and dense as the forests that serve as his settings, the stories in Occultation are some of Laird Barron's finest. Barron continues the Lovecraftian tradition of incomprehensible horror with rich fiction that reward multiple re-readings. Of course, you'll have to wait until after you've finished the story the first time as Barron's suspenseful buildup carries you through the story at a relentless pace before plunging you into the abyss. It's intelligent "literary" horror that is a challenging as it is disturbing. Standout stories here are the linked trio of "The Forest", "Mysterium Tremendum", and "The Broadsword" as well as the seriously disturbing "Strappado." (Full Review)

Lesser Demons - Norman Partridge

The ying to Barron's yang, Norman Partridge's horror is less literary and more raw. If Barron is the football player who studies the finest QBs and demonstrates text book mechanics, Partridge is the pure gamer, the kind that learned the game in the vacant lot, the kid that beats the odds time after time. His fiction is pulpy and raw, full of overambitious simile and metaphor that shouldn't work but always does. He writes about sheriffs and soldiers, the kind of hard nosed men who do what needs to be done because, hell, someone has to do it. Lesser Demons is his latest collection from Subterranean Press and it features more strong work particularly "Lesser Demons", "Durston", and "The Iron Dead". In the afterword, Partridge promises us more of Chaney in the future and I for one can't wait. (Full Review)

Young Adult Books

Behemoth - Scott Westerfeld

The sequel to last year's Leviathan, Behemoth is more of the same - alternate history World War I wrapped in a steampunk shell. Add in a liberal helping of Keith Thompson's absolutely gorgeous artwork and I just can't get enough of this series. Alek and Deryn arrives in Turkey only to find that the political situation has changed and they might be in the wrong place at exactly the right time. Westerfeld may be a YA writer but his work transcends age groups with pure unadulterated adventure. (Review Forthcoming)

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

Bacigalupi is one of the genre's newest darlings. He has picked up a great deal of shiny hardware over the past twelve months, mostly for his stellar The Wind-Up Girl. Bacigalupi follows up that masterwork with Ship Breaker, a YA novel that continues his penchant for environmental themes albeit somewhat toned down. The bad stuff is only implied rather than shown. Mostly. Ship Breaker chronicles the fortunes (or misfortunes) of Nailer, a teenager working salvage on beached Gulf Coast freighters in a future America devastated by an energy crisis and corporate greed. Nailer discovers a treasure that may free him from his desperate life, if he can only keep his abusive father from stealing it first. It might be a little bit more adult than most YA but Ship Breaker is going to make you (or your teenager) think a lot more than whatever vampire suckfest is most popular at the moment. (Full Review)

Kid Vs. Squid - Greg Van Eekhout

More middle-grade than YA, Kid vs. Squid is a quintessential summer novel. Van Eekhout manages to be infuse his work with humor and adventure without being cliche or immature. Kid vs. Squid depicts a smartmouth on summer vacation who happens to get involved in an ancient grudge between a Sea Witch and some cursed Atlanteans. Eekhout uses a fairly aggressive vocabulary for a middle-grade novel and his protagonists are good role models. This is a book I would have no qualms giving to my kids (if I had any) and one I would expect them to enjoy greatly. It's adventurous, original, and intelligent. (Review Forthcoming)

Graphic Novels

Fables - Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Mark Buckingham, Matthew Sturges among others

If you thought you were too old or too good for Cinderella, Snow White, and the Big Bad Wolf, think again. In Fables, Bill Willingham reinvents the Fairy Tale with a cast of complex characters whose former exploits accross a number of linked worlds inspired the children's tales we've come to know and love. Now a mysterious Adversary has conquered all but a few of these far off lands and the Fables have come to reside in Fabletown, a magical neighborhood in New York City that hides many secrets behind its bricks. It may sound strange, but believe me, there is a reason why it's earned so many Eisner Awards (13 and counting). Fables (and the related Jack of Fables and Cinderella books) stands at over 20 graphic novels and counting and if anything it's only getting better. The first two books (Legends in Exile and Animal Farm) are solid but things don't really start to pick up until Storybook Love once the characters are fully established. Each TPB presents a mostly contained story but unlike most comics the overall plot continues to move forward and evolve at a rapid pace. It's an amazing blend of world building, complex characters, action, humor, and romance that always seems to surprise. Not to mention the gorgeous cover art. Each issue is worth collecting for the cover alone. If you think comics are nothing more than superheroes and movie tie-ins, give Fables a chance. You won't regret it.

Locke and Key - Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

After I caught up on the Fables graphic novels (about 120 issues in a month and a half), I thought that it couldn't be beat. Joe Hill proved me wrong. Locke and Key is the story of a family tragedy which returns a mom and her three kids back to her husband's childhood home of Keyhouse in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. Keyhouse is a mysterious mansion filled with locked doors and hidden keys. But some doors are locked for a reason, and as the keys are slowly discovered, life for the Locke family only continues to get weirder. I'm a sucker for magical artifact stories (The Lost Room anyone?) and the way the locks and keys work with each other is well thought out and compelling. Hill is a seriously talented writer, and anyone who has enjoyed Horns or Heart Shaped Box is doing themselves a serious disservice by skipping Locke and Key because it's "just a comic book." I read all three of the TPBs in the course of a day and I can't wait for the fourth volume, Keys to the Kingdom to come out this spring. The art is also impressive, and there are more than a few instances of visual foreshadowing that I can't wait to see pay off. Can I have more now?

Atomic Robo - Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener

Less of a serious comic than the first two, Atomic Robo features a sarcastic automaton and the Action Scientists of Tesladyne as they battle the strangest foes science fiction can offer from Nazi robots to dimension hopping vampries to a time-independent Lovecraftian beastie. Part Hellboy and Part MST3K, Atomic Robo is absolutely hilarious as he questions the sheer logical voids in the world he inhabits. Throw in evil Thomas Edison on a quest for immortality and a sentient dinosaur whose backstory evolves more than those pesky mammals and you won't stop laughing. This may be the most severely underread and under-appreciated comic out there right now.

And that's it. I'm not going to rank anything (it's too close to a best of list as it is) but I would expect you will enjoy anything I've recommended here. Sadly (or fortunately) I still have some catching up to do, namely The Dervish House, The Half-Made World, Who Fears Death, Kraken, Under Heaven, among many many more. Here's to some good reading in 2011!

Dec 14, 2010

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,

How are you? I hope you are staying warm at the North Pole and that Mrs. Claus hasn't read Twilight yet. If so, I'm sorry. I just wanted to write you this letter to let you know that I have been a very good blogger this year. I have read lots of books and written many good posts. I have not advertised or sold out for free books or attention at all. Except for that one time, but I really wanted a copy of The Heroes, so I hope you will forgive me.

I am also sorry for being mad at Paolo Bacigalupi. He just wouldn't share the awards with the other writers and I thought that was mean. I also promise not to make fun of The Speculative Scotsman. He does not actually use kittens as bookmarks. Anymore.

Since I have been so good, I would like the following for Christmas:

1. A job in the publishing industry. All the other bloggers are getting them.

2. ARCs of any (or all) of the following.
  • The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Dragon's Path - Daniel Abraham
  • The Coldest War - Ian Tregillis
  • Raising Stony Mayhall - Daryl Gregory
  • The Croning - Laird Barron
3. For Neil Gaiman and/or Michael Chabon to write (and publish) new novels this year. Also, do you know if they are the same person?

4. For China Mieville's Embassytown to come out in January instead of in May.

5. For Daniel Abraham to get the credit he deserves.

6. For a new Kindle that doesn't break if it is accidentally dropped. Not that I did that.

7. For the Blogger Platform to stay stable for an entire post. Or for some free help upgrading to Wordpress.

8. For the editors at DAW/Orbit/Tor/Del Rey/Night Shade Books to see this post, particularly Wish #2.

9. For a Star Wars author to write me into A Galaxy Far, Far Away. I would like to be a recurring character but if I have to die, I would prefer to fall at the hands of a lightsaber wielding Sith Wampa.

10. For World Peace and the completed manuscript of A Dance With Dragons. If I can only have one, then I would like A Dance With Dragons.

Thanks Santa!

P.S. Anyone on the naughty list should get a copy of The Omen Machine instead of coal. Coal can be used to bring warmth and light so some people may be glad to get it.

Covering Covers: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

Cover Artist: Lauren Panepinto and Orbit Art Department

This morning Orbit shared the final cover and blurb for Daniel Abraham's much anticipated The Dragon's Path. I like the cover though I'm reserving final judgement until I see the physical book. Based solely on this image, the title and author don't seem to fully mesh with the rest of the cover. This happens a lot with flat JPEGs and I'm guessing the final product will look a lot cleaner, perhaps with raised letters. But I do like the way the blue hue interplays with the red detail of the stream of blood. It's an average to above average cover right now but I really need to see the book up close. I really think Orbit should send me a copy so I can make a final decision. ASAP.

Lauren Panepinto also shared the final blurb:

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.
I'll admit that the 3 character blurb is a bit fantasy cliche but I have it on good authority that The Dagger and The Coin is anything but. Look for The Dragon's Path April 7th of next year.

Dec 12, 2010

Covering Covers: The American Revolution

I started Stomping on Yeti, back in 2009. At the time, I considered myself pretty "tuned in" to the genre scene. A year and a half later, its funny how oblivious I was. Sure I knew the big name authors. I kept up on the best-selling books. Entire subgenres were left untouched. But I knew almost nothing about the short fiction markets. The UK scene might have well have been in Spanish. My "up-and-coming" authors were names everyone else had been reading for years. If you would have suggested Mieville, I would have said Moby Dick isn't Sci-Fi. So I discovered new authors, new voices, and more new books than I could possibly keep up with. And as I waded into the endless sea of genre fiction, I started to notice patterns among the tumult - particularly when it came to the differences between the US and UK markets. Not only did the UK get the first crack at a number of high profile authors, they always seemed to be outclassing my fellow Americans when it came to shiny covers. Lest not a book be judged...

Noq, it's possible that I am simply greenergrassing things. Maybe the differences aren't as severe as I remember. But after doing a little research and looking back on some of the 2009 releases, my hypothesis appears to be well founded. Take a look at these cover comparisons:

  US                                    UK
Just to be clear, Best Served Cold is an excellent fantasy novel not a psuedonecrophiliac how-to guide. The corpsette gives entirely the wrong impression.

  US                                    UK
Look Jupiter! And a telescope! and Galileo's eyes. Wait... Isn't that what Galileo saw through his telescope? I so get it now. That being said, the UK cover is still magnitudes better. I accidentally bought two copies. One to read, and one to have so I could still see the cover while reading the other.

  US                                    UK
I don't think I can describe how much I wanted the UK cover after seeing this. I considered buying it again but ended up just printing it out and Scalzing it to my US edition like bacon to a cat. [Note: I haven't actually done this {yet}]

   US                                    UK
Not only did they change titles, they destroyed the beautiful Patrick O' Brian homage in exchange for a spear and watermarked compass. That's like letting Robert Stanek take over for Neil Gaiman.

You may disagree with me (cover art is a matter of taste), but the fact remains that a year or so ago, I was convinced that the UK cover art couldn't miss. If the American art was good, the British are was better. If the US art was bad, the UK would fix it. Even series known for iconically sub par cover art (think The Wheel of Time or Pre-Mcgrath The Dresden Files) were somehow made palatable with strong minimalist versions. I would have taken the collective UK cover pool in a second.

But paying more attention to cover art in an attempt to find that elusive exclusive over the past year, I've noticed something. The US covers are getting better. Significantly better, to the point that they are matching or exceeding almost every UK attempt. The collective art departments (Tor, Pyr, and Del Rey among others) have me looking to Bobby Flay for a good recipe for crow. Take a look at these 2010 books:

  US                                    UK
Aside from the questionable font choice, the US cover is far more attractive and much less of a departure from the cover to Retribution Falls.

  US                                    UK
While the Gollancz's Spiderman cover isn't necessarily bad, the Tor cover is fantastic. Final Fantastic.

  US                                    UK
And that's the revised version. Due to obscenity laws I can't show you the original UK cover.

Right now you might be saying, "the US versions might be better but those are pretty comparable." To which I reply:

  US                                    UK
The UK cover is so dead, it's channeling its inner Poltergeist. Pyr wins this one, Tyson style.

  US                                    UK
Really? 1995 would like their video game back.

Hard to challenge those last two. Granted, it's not a strict competition since they serve different markets. But at the same time, I've got to give credit to the art directors responsible for coordinating such great work particularly Lou Anders, Irene Gallo, and Lauren Panepinto. They not only manage to commission great work but to showcase the creative process on their respective blogs. So many people don't give credit where it's due.

Lauren Panepinto - Orbit
Irene Gallo - Tor
Lou Anders - Pyr

Counterexamples anyone?

Dec 9, 2010

Dreamblood Duology - N.K. Jemisin signs new two book deal with Orbit

The latest Orbit book deal has me a little perplexed. Why is it that authors who write high quality, original fiction always seem to be signing new contracts? It like their work is worth reading or something. It's just bizarre...

Today, Orbit announced the acquisition of a new two book series from fantasy author N.K. Jemisin. Jemisin lept onto the scene this year with the first two novels of The Inheritance Trilogy - February's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and November's The Broken Kingdoms. If you haven't heard of her, don't feel bad, she'll make plenty of Best of the Year lists later this month and I wouldn't be surprised if a blogger or two mentioned 100K for the Best Debut of 2010. In it, Jemisin raises the stakes on the traditional coming-of-age fantasy to divine proportions. With a cast of gods and mere mortals, she demonstrates an effortless style that should belong to a seasoned storyteller rather than the new kid on the block.

But at the rate Orbit is publishing her work, she won't be considered the new kid much longer. After 2011's The Kingdom of Gods concludes The Inheritance Trilogy, Jemisin will turn her attention toward the Dreamblood Duology. Comprised of individual novels, REAPER and CONQUEROR, the Dreamblood Duology will be published back to back in July and August 2012.  Even though it means a longer wait for her next book, I'm more than happy with a rapid fire publishing schedule like that. Here's what Jemisin and Orbit had to offer regarding the first book:
In the city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Along its ancient stone streets, where time is marked by the river’s floods, there is no crime or violence. Within the city’s colored shadows, priests of the dream-goddess harvest the wild power of the sleeping mind as magic, using it to heal, soothe… and kill.

But when corruption blooms at the heart of Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru most famous of the city’s Gatherers — cannot defeat it alone. With the aid of his cold-eyed apprentice and a beautiful foreign spy, he must thwart a conspiracy whose roots lie in his own past. And to prevent the unleashing of deadly forbidden magic, he must somehow defeat a Gatherer’s most terrifying nemesis: the Reaper.
Over on her website, Jemisin provides a bit more commentary, citing various influences including ancient Egypt, Freudian dream theory, and Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious. Sounds like some serious stuff. But based on success of first two books of The Inheritance Trilogy, Jemisin's on the short list of authors I would trust to deliver.

It's a long way off, but keep a watch for Dreamblood in 2012.

Dec 5, 2010

Covering Covers: The Scarab Path by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Cover Artist: Unknown

US fans of Adrian Tchikovsky will be happy to know that Pyr will continue their import business with the 5th book in his Shadows of the Apt series. The Scarab Path will hit shelves on April 26, 2011 so you may want to keep your eyes open for the technicolor monstrosity above.

Historically, Pyr has covered Tchaikovsky's books with strong work from Jon Sullivan. The combination of bold font treatment and eye-catching color palates work together to create some really striking art. Or at least they have in the past.

I don't know if Sullivan (who was also responsible for the UK covers) returned for the latest volume or not but the cover of The Scarab Path appears to feature a six year old boy who recently ingested a stick of Willy Wonka's Three Course Dinner Gum. It's disobeying Marmaduke's Law - just because you can CGI it, doesn't mean you should. To the juicing room!

But on a more serious note, The Scarab Path continues Tchaikovsky's unique insect inspired world. Here's the blurb:

The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a bitter stalemate, and Collegium has nothing to show for it but wounded veterans. Cheerwell Maker finds herself crippled in ways no doctor can mend, haunted by ghosts of the past that she cannot appease, seeking for meaning in a city that no longer seems like home. The Empress Seda is regaining control over those imperial cities who refused to bow the knee to her, but she draws her power from something more sinister than mere armies and war machines. Only her consort, the former spymaster Thalric, knows the truth, and now the assassins are coming and he finds his life and his loyalties under threat yet again. Out past the desert of the Nem the ancient city of Khanaphes awaits them both, with a terrible secret entombed beneath its stones...
The Scarab Path is due out on April 26th from Pyr.

Dec 3, 2010

Lest You Forget...

Today's lesson will discuss the fundamental difference between books and Ebooks.

I present to you two copies of Lauren Beukes's excellent Zoo City, when dropped from identical height.

Class dismissed.

Dec 2, 2010

Table of Contents: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 5

Over on his blog, Jonathan Strahan has the scoop on Night Shade Books' fifth volume of "The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year" including the cover (above) and the full table of contents (below). As the anthology editor, he's probably a reliable source. Without sugarcoating it:
  • Introduction, Jonathan Strahan
  • “Elegy for a Young Elk" -  Hannu Rajaniemi
  • “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains” -  Neil Gaiman
  • “Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots” -  Sandra McDonald
  • “The Spy Who Never Grew Up” -  Sarah Rees Brennan
  • “The Aarne-Thompson Classification Revue” -  Holly Black
  • “Under the Moons of Venus” -  Damien Broderick
  • “The Fool Jobs” -  Joe Abercrombie
  • “Alone” -  Robert Reed
  • “Names for Water” -  Kij Johnson
  • “Fair Ladies” -  Theodora Goss
  • “Plus or Minus” -  James P. Kelly
  • “The Man With the Knives” -  Ellen Kushner
  • “The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening” -  Cory Doctorow
  • “The Maiden Flight of McAuley’s Bellerophon” -  Elizabeth Hand
  • “The Miracle Aquilina” -  Margo Lanagan
  • “The Taste of Night” -  Pat Cadigan
  • “The Exterminator’s Want-Ad” -  Bruce Sterling
  • “Map of Seventeen” -  Christopher Barzak
  • “The Naturalist” -  Maureen McHugh
  • “Sins of the Father” -  Sara Genge
  • “The Sultan of the Clouds” -  Geoffrey A. Landis
  • “Iteration” -  John Kessel
  • “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” -  Diana Peterfreund
  • “The Night Train” -  Lavie Tidhar
  • “Still Life (A Sexagesimal Fairy Tale)” -  Ian Tregillis
  • “Amor Vincit Omnia” -  K.J. Parker
  • “The Things” -  Peter Watts
  • “The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball” -  Genevieve Valentine
  • “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window” -  Rachel Swirsky
Checking in at 29 stories, the anthology boasts a stellar (and diverse...don't ask) assortment of authors, most of whom I've sampled. I think I've read something by everyone but seven or so. I also see that several of the writers are ones I identified as Authors Worth Watching [Rachel Swirsky, Ian Tregillis, Lavie Tidhar, Christopher Barzak, Theodora Goss, Hannu Rajaniemi]. My congratulations to them and all the others in the collection.

I would argue that Strahan's "Best of the Year" anthology series is quickly establishing itself as the premiere SFF collection. I'm sure a lot of people feel that Dozois's anthology is still king because of the seniority factor (26 volumes and counting) but Strahan selects fewer stories from a larger pool (including both SF and Fantasy). I'd rather read 25 great stories than 20 great stories, 20 good stories, and 10 okay ones. I've got plenty to read, keep it to the must-reads as much as possible.

Not to mention I love the Strahan anthology covers. What can I say? I'm a sucker for generic spacescapes.

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume 5 will hit bookshelves March 15th, 2011.

And as a parting topic for discussion, what's your favorite title? I'm leaning toward Peterfreund's “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” although Doctorow's“The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening” has a certain charm. Unfortunately, sexagesimal isn't as dirty as it sounds.

Dec 1, 2010

Brandon Sanderson Is Ridiculous (And Publishing Two More Novels)

So we all know that Brandon Sanderson is ridiculous. Not only is he finishing doorstopper-class fantasy series The Wheel of Time, he's also penning another 10-book series with The Stormlight Archives. For reference, Book #1, Way of Kings (my review), checked in at 1004 pages. Combine those two series with his YA work (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) and he's pushing a million words of published work a year. Sound like a lot right?

So I was not exactly expecting the press release announcing that Brandon "Writes While He Sleeps" Sanderson has just sold another two novels to Tor. Here are the respective blurbs:

Mistborn: The Alloy of Law [4th Mistborn Book]
Sanderson’s first new project will be an original, standalone short novel set in the universe of his Mistborn trilogy (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages). Sanderson previously announced plans for a sequel trilogy set in the far future of that world, and the new novel, entitled Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, is set during a frontier era where “allomancy” meets gunplay. The Alloy of Law will be published in late 2011.
The Rithmatist [Standalone]

Sanderson’s second project, titled The Rithmatist, was first drafted in 2007 and perfected this year. Set in an alternate-history America where magic users (called “Rithmatists”) battle wild chalk creatures, The Rithmatist introduces Joel, a student at the Rithmatist academy with great interest in but no ability to use the magic. But when students start vanishing, it’s up to him to expose the sinister figure behind the disappearances. The Rithmatist will be published in 2012 after the publication of A Memory of Light.
So between 2011 and 2012, Sanderson will publish
  • Mistborn: The Alloy of Law [Mistborn #4]
  • A Memory of Light [Wheel of Time #14]
  • The Rithmatist
  • High Prince of War [The Stormlight Archives #2]
and that's not including the potential for more Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians books or other stuff. Keep in mind that all of Sanderson's work falls within the shared universe (referred to as the Hoidverse) where all magic is tied back to a currently undisclosed source/event. Talk about worldbuilding...

So if anyone is wondering why they have no writing talent or drive, it's because Sanderson took it. Look for and forward to plenty of Sanderson books in the years to come.

Nov 30, 2010

YetiStomper Picks for December

For one reason or another, December is not a great month for new releases. Christmas shopping is done, publishing budgets are spent, authors don't want to leave their families for book tours and no one is paying attention anyways. A lot of the Year's Best Lists are already constructed and a book released in December isn't going to break any sales records. Ignoring the Tuesday after Christmas, there are very few books coming out and even fewer that I feel are worth talking about.

The Buntline Special - Mike Resnick

Weird West Tale, Book 1 - Resnick latest offering re-envisions the epic gunfight at the O.K. Corral through brass binoculars. Classic western characters Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday get a steampunk makeover and Resnick combines more than a few subgenre's in a tale that is quite aptly described as "weird." The Buntline Special is a must read for fans of Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century books and looks to be the start of a exciting new series. Plus, if you don't read it, cyborg Thomas Edison will get you. Seriously. Edison. Death by incandescence. (December 7 from Pyr)

Star Wars: Red Harvest - Joe Schreiber

Star Wars Horror - Schreiber returns to the Star Wars universe with another zombie mashup. His first attempt at Star Wars Horror was fun if flawed.  Red Harvest is an improvement on that formula, handing Schreiber the reins to a new cast of characters without the baggage that comes with the seemingly invincible movie characters. Part of a successful horror novel is being scared for protagonist and let's face it, Han Solo isn't getting taken down by zombies. Period. It took an entire moon to kill Chewie and he didn't even have a speaking role. Red Harvest is set over three millennia before Luke ever ignited a lightsaber so no one - Jedi or Sith - should be safe. Red Harvest focuses on a Jedi drop out who possesses a very coveted item. But will Sith Alchemy unleash a terror not even a Dark Lord can control?  (December 28 from Del Rey)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: I feel like picking one does a disservice to the other but out of the two I'm most interested in Red Harvest. Schreiber's prose reads hard and fast which is surprising considering the amount of blood loss chronicled within his words. What happened to no heavy lifting? Schreiber appears to have fixed the problems (character immortality) present in Death Troopers resulting in pure Sith Zombie goodness. Look for a review later this month.

YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: No rookies this month. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: Ignoring the fact that the juxtaposition of the covers makes it look like Darth Dentalcare is checking out the ample cleavage on the cover of Buntline, choosing between these two is as hard as picking the better book. I feel both successfully reach their target audience. Red Harvest produces a feeling of primal rage (which probably leads to hate, fear, and/or suffering). The Buntline Special is a little bit more complex but it works to draw you in for a closer look (at the technology of course). I I'm going to call this one a tie although I'm not sold on the font treatment of Resnick's latest. Which one do you like most/least?

Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. I'm more interested in telling you why I recommended them rather than simply what the books are about. Let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments. I'm guessing there is something I'm forgetting with only two books on the radar.

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.

Nov 29, 2010

Beyond the Speculative Horizon

In case you weren't aware (and let's face it you are), Speculative Horizons is closing up shop. As such, I wanted to bid James a fond farewell and just say thanks for a lot of quality content over the past few years. Speculative Horizons really sets the bar when it came to emphasizing quality over quantity and based on the overflowing comment thread, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Speculative Horizons was one of the few blogs whose entries that I could read from start to finish and unfortunately one that won't easily be replaced. James is an excellent writer and his commentary is honest and concise where so many of us (myself included) write a lot without saying much. James hits the high notes without being overzealous and manages to provide criticism without it reading like an attack. Anyone who has struggled through writing a few dozen reviews will know how difficult that is.

Luckily, James isn't walking away because he lost his love for the game. Quite the opposite in fact. James is giving up his amateur status and taking an assistant editorial position at Orbit Books. I don't think I'm the only blogger who is more than a little jealous. Orbit has picked up a talented individual and one that can both cut to the core of a book and professionally communicate his opinions on it. They are also inheriting about as much genre cred as you can get in a blogger. I know I would trust anything he might pull from the slush pile. While Speculative Horizons is ending it's run, I don't think this will be the last we will hear from Mr. Long. At least I hope it's not.

Anyway, congrats to James on the new job and thanks again for putting in the hard work over the past few years. Best of luck and may the words come easily!

Nov 24, 2010

Hard Release Date set for Robert V.S. Redick's The River of Shadows

Publishing dates are subject to change. It's a fundamental tenet of the book industry and one painful obvious to any Rothfussian, GRRMiac, or Lynchette. While most delays are self-inflicted for one reason or the other, sometimes a finished book sometimes gets juggled. Such was the case for Robert V.S. Redick's The River of Shadows. A brief review of Redick's website and a few amazon sites suggest dates ranging from December 2010 to February 2011 and later. But Mr. Redick was nice enough to clear things up.

From Redick himself:

"I’ve just received a later-than-planned, but firm, publication date from both sides of the Atlantic. Del Rey will publish the book on April 19, and Gollancz will follow two days later."
So April 19th (US) / 21st (UK). While I'm not happy about the delay, I'm glad they closed the gap between the UK and US releases. Redick also provided a few more tidbits about the final two volumes of The Chathrand Voyages.

On The River of Shadows:

"Book III [The River of Shadows] is the wildest ride yet, and I can’t wait to get it out there."
On The Night of the Swarm [fourth and final book]:
"I can tell you that it will totally, calamitously finish the story. That is for the record and absolute. It will also bring the characters and the voyage full circle, in more ways than one."
Full circle, eh? What else could that mean? I'm glad to see that Redick is planning a hard stop to his series. While a delay in the series is not exactly awesomesauce, if it's not tied to an unfinished book it can often mean a smaller gap between books. I think the tentative release date for THotS is late 2011/early 2012.

The other benefit is that anyone not familiar with Redick's excellent nautical fantasy series has time to catch up. Book 1 is The Red Wolf Conspiracy is available in both HC and PB and Book 2 The Ruling Sea [titled The Rats and the Ruling Sea in the UK] is out now in HC with the PB due on Dec 28th. Both have gotten strong reviews from a number of sources so go check them out.

Nov 22, 2010

Call for Comments - Quotable Quotes

This past weekend I spent a few hours at New York's Museum of Modern Art and left with the creative part of my brain both inspired and intimidated. Now, I'm not looking to place anything there but I may be able to put together a cool piece or two for the rather bare library.

So I'm looking for a few shortish quotes from seminal SFF works. I threw together the list below earlier today. I don't know what I will end up using but any and all suggests are welcome. Even I end up using a quote you suggest, there may even be a free book in there for you.

"I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one." - Ender's Game

"The enemy's gate is down" - Ender's Game

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed' - The Gunslinger

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." - The Hobbit

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." - Neuromancer

"Reality is the part that refuses to go away when I stop believing in it" -Philip K. Dick

"One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" - The Fellowship of the Ring

"Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die" - The Fellowship of the Ring

"What is history but a fable agreed upon?" - Napoleon

Bonus Points [and by bonus points I mean I will send you a free book] if you have a copy of The Yiddish Policeman's Union and can pull a specific quote. Something about the minute hand snapping off moments of eternity. I can't really do it justice, so any help would be appreciated. I also may need to pull some Norman Partridge off the shelf. Solid stuff there.

Any thoughts?

Nov 21, 2010

Books Received: Late October / Early November

I just got back from 4 days in NYC including a visit to Strands. They boast 18 miles of books. I fear my personal library isn't far behind. Click through for the full haul.

Nov 17, 2010

Covering Covers: The King of the Crags - Stephen Deas

Cover Artist: Stephen Youll

Few images are more synonymous with mainstream fantasy than dragons. So it's no surprise that when it comes to cover art, they're as overused as cloaks or swords.

But just because something is overused doesn't mean it can't be used right. The King of the Crags, like it's predecessor [The Adamantine Palace], has an absolutely outstanding cover. Love the blue tone. Love the text box title. It's sharp, clean and eye-catching. Not to mention the fact that the dragon looks like the The King of the Crags.

For a cover to be really successful in my opinion, it has to be eye-catching, artistic, and most importantly marketable. I like to talk about unique covers but at the same time, if the publisher doesn't put the author in position to move books, they aren't doing anyone any favors. King of the Crags delivers that trademark fantasy cover but in an extremely well executed fashion. Art directors, take note.
In his "utterly fascinating" (Book Smuggler) debut, The Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas "restored [dragons] to all their scaly, fire-breathing glory" (Daily Telegraph). Now, as the Realms teeter on the brink of war, the fate of humanity rests in the survival of one majestic white dragon.

Prince Jehal has had his way-now his lover Zafir sits atop the Realms with hundreds of dragons and their riders at her beck and call. But Jehal's plots are far from over, for he isn't content to sit back and watch Zafir command the earth and sky. He wants that glory for himself- no matter who he must sacrifice to get it. The one thing Jehal fears is that the white dragon still lives-and if that is so, then blood will flow, on all sides...

The King of the Crags is due out from Roc on Feb 1, 2011.

Nov 16, 2010

Covering Covers: Rule 34 - Charles Stross

Cover Artist: Unknown

The ungoogleable book has a cover. No. Seriously. Don't google it. You won't be able to unsee what you find. Don't say I didn't warn you. Your childhood will thank me.


Looking at this Rule 34 [please don't], I have mixed feelings. I really like the color scheme; the bright red really pops against the lighter greys. The font choice is also distinct and I believe one that Stross has used before. Initially, I thought there was more of a link to Halting State than there actually is but there are some shared elements between the two book covers, namely the "sketchy", almost unfinished style. I'm curious to know if it's the same artist.

But while I like this cover and what I think it implies (some kind of glitching at one level of reality or another) I don't know if it will speak to the right audience. This book is for people who really liked Halting State or William Gibson's Hollis Henry books. While the cover is "tech-y" it seems to have an almost Urban Fantasy  approach to it. An Urban Science Fiction look, if you will. That being the case, I don't think this cover will necessarily speak to the audience Stross wants to find. Don't ask me what would. Maybe Rule 34? Stop. Stay here. It may be that Stross has finally reached the point where his name on the cover is the most important element. Certainly, Stross's core audience is more likely to find this book online than stumble upon it in the bookstore.

Rule 34 [the book] is Charles Stross's next SF thriller, continuing in the near future universe originally established in 2007's Halting State. It is not the Internet porn meme. It is also not a direct continuation of Halting State although Detective Liz Kavanaugh, the main character in Rule 34, did play a minor role in HS. Stross's latest has underwent a strange sort of evolution over the years. Anyone who follows Stross on his blog will know that he had to keep rewriting because while he was writing the it, the near future kept becoming the present. Even the Bernie Madoff scandal ruined part of his projected plot. That guy just ruins everything. But despite the rework, Rule 34 has finally been completed and due out in July 2011 from Ace [US] and Orbit [UK]. Here is the brief summary:

Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh is head ofthe Rule 34 Squad, monitoring the Internet to determine whether people are engaging in harmless fantasies or illegal activities. Three ex-con spammers have been murdered, and Liz must uncover the link between them before these homicides go viral.
Damn it. You googled it didn't you? I'll go get the bleach. Here is a direct link to the SFW Rule 34.

Nov 14, 2010

The Genre Landscape - Epic Fantasy

Imagine if you will a world of different kingdoms and nations. Fine. Yes, ours is a world of kingdoms and nations. Then imagine a different set of kingdoms and nations, one ruled not by politicians, kings, and tyrants but rather by (hopefully not so tyrannical) authors. Authors who rule over continents of genre - fantasy, science fiction, horror. Within each continent are kingdoms and nations that mark the various subcategories of each collective style. Their borders are poorly defined, particularly in the mountains and valleys where the continents meet. Borderlands are often claimed by more than one nation and some others wouldn't have it any other way. New nations form every year, others fade away. Some declare independence but are largely ignored. Others have many citizens but no ruler. This world has produced storied kings - Tolkien, Asimov, Lovecraft, Clarke, Wells, Dick, Lewis, and many more - authors whose stories have sadly been concluded and deemed worthy of becoming legend. Some kings and queens still remain - Le Guin, King, Pohl, Hamilton, Pratchett, Martin. But even as the old lords fade a way, the nations remain strong as enterprising new nobles rise up to protect and expand the empires they grew up in. Some author traverse the genre landscape, refusing to settle in one place, while others carve out specific kingdoms they spend their entire careers building. Other authors ascend to the noble heavens of literature. Sadly an even greater number dabble in the dark graphic arts trading their words for mere pictures in the colorful world below. This great world is limited only by imagination and what the human mind can put into words. Let's explore, shall we?

Today we focus in on the continent of Fantasy. Fantasy was originally little more than a series of small coastal towns filled with talking animals and imaginary gods. There were few inhabitants and even less respect. Then came the first king of Fantasy. The simple scholar Tolkien wielded Christian allegory like Excalibur and defined a kingdom of Epic proportions. King Tolkien unified countless elements under his rule and created new lands where none had previously existed.

Even as Tolkien carved his empire from the limitless realms of imagination, it became clear that there was simple too much territory to be explored by a single man or to be ruled by a single king. As such, the legendary crown of Tolkien was passed on to a series of lesser nobles. The greatest of these, men like High Lords Eddings and Brooks were faithful stewards of Tolkien's most developed lands but failed to explore or expand the greater kingdom significantly. 

As more and more people came to explore the wilderness that Tolkien had called into being, a nobility was established. Some lords were happy to move into existing lands, others built their own. Most were temporary, though a few of them managed to establish hallowed ground despite their brief time in power. The lucky few gained notoriety for one reason or another, establishing a loyal following and defining their own legacy within the history of Fantasy. Eventually, a hierarchy of sorts emerged. There are the high lords, the world builders who define the overall direction of the realm. These are the men and women who are seen by outsiders as rulers over a united front, erroneous as that may be. There are also the lower lords who reign but only over a devoted few or a small niche kingdom. These lower lords are more frequently replaced, sometimes fading away without warning or being replaced by challengers with a sharper wit or larger fan base. Then there are the masses of unruly peons, so desperate for substantive story that they will frequently challenge lords low and high for a chance at creative power. In the realm of Fantasy, the peasant king is a common occurrence but one significantly outnumbered by the number of aspiring revolutionaries. And even that number pales in comparison to the number of uprisings who have already failed.

Occasionally though, the High Lords of Fantasy do fall. The vain High Lord Goodkind feared revolt [though he claims to have abdicated willingly] and exiled himself to a remote valley which he claims belongs to the universe of Literature. High Lord Martin, whom many regard as the reigning king, fails to leave his keep and feed his subjects causing many of the starving to seek more fertile ground. Sadly, the kindly High Lord Jordan, who reigned as the highest of the high lords for decades succumbed to illness, though not before anointing Lord Sanderson as the general to close out his campaign of creativity. Some citizens of Fantasy bristled under his rule, tiring of long wars with few spoils. They abandoned the towering castle (some say it will span fourteen stories upon completion) while declaring loyalty to lesser lords or leaving Fantasy entirely for other less whimsical lands. Despite what these poor souls may claim, Jordan is still one of the greatest of Tolkien's ilk and his legacy is set in stone. High Lord Pratchett sits back and mocks his friends, reflecting the most absurd of their creations in his twisted realm where laughter replaces logic. But even Pratchett cannot rule forever. Regardless of how or why they left, Fantasy is in need of a few new nobles to be the outward face of the genre. But who will claim the vacant thrones? 

There is the nomad Gaiman, born in the colorful fires of the graphic universe, who crossed into the realm of genre on a bridge of sand. Many people believe Gaiman could be the next great king of fantasy but he appears largely uninterested in the many titles bestowed upon him or ruling one land over the other. Bombadiltastic as he may be, Gaiman is content journeying between realms and universes, often returning to the underground images of the comic world and even climbing the peaks of genre where the heavens of literature can be glimpsed. Does Gaiman travel ever onward for fear of the lone warrior, Mieville, who seems destined to eventually surpass him?

Ignoring the nomadic savants, the next ruler most likely comes from the houses of the lesser lords. The candidates are many and are more. The Lord Erikson is as close to a High Lord as is possible, but he completes his creation in the near future. Is it too late to earn a title? Lord Sanderson currently tends to Jordan's flock but can he lead them to his own pasture? He appears to be the favorite of the youngest generation. Lord Abercrombie is a worthy candidate although many are put off by the rivers of bloods that run from his kingdom. The upstart Lord Rothfuss has debuted to trumpets, but will the fanfare last? Then there is Lord Abraham, a brilliant tactician who seems mocked by fate. The Lady Jemisin proves to be the equal of any but can she govern a larger story? Lord Lynch is another lesser lord who has perhaps may be overwhelmed by the prophecies proclaimed upon his arrival. Or will the foreigner Space Lord Morgan, son of science fiction, have a say? Will Lord Newton ever return from King Lovecraft's great old home in the peaks of Madness, where the lure of literature can be heard like a Siren's song? What of the many Princes -  Scholes, Brett, Weeks, and Charlton? Is the crazed Sykes madman or messiah? Or is there another challenger still waiting to pull King Tolkien's pen from the storied stone?
2011 is a year that promises a lot of change within the genre landscape. But when the words end and the dust settles, who will be the next High Lord of Fantasy?

Nov 10, 2010

The type of book you hate to love...

Forgive the introspection but I've want to explore an unexpected phenomenon, one that I haven't encountered in my relatively short blogging career. Yesterday I posted my review of Out of the Dark, one that took way too long to write. Quite possibly as long as it took me to read it. And it's not that the review is perfect, far from it. The problem was trying to rectify my logical analysis of the book with the gut emotion it produced.

There was a lot that should have ruined Out of the Dark for me. Significant plot holes, cardboard characterization, pacing problem, and a bizarre conclusion out of sync with the rest of the book. Plenty of fodder for a someone who has a hard time maintaining suspension of disbelief in light of even the slightest inconsistency.

But despite it's flaws, I can't deny enjoying the book. When Weber gets around to writing the inevitable sequel, I'll be sure to pick it up. The rational part of me tries to explain it away as a subconscious predilection for escapism but that's more of a good guess than anything concrete. Based on my history, I shouldn't have enjoyed the book. I did.

And if that wasn't perplexing enough, how do you write an essay when the thesis doesn't match the topic sentences?

Yeti Review: Out of the Dark - David Weber

In A Few Words: Though it feels more like a popcorn movie than a fully developed novel, Weber's tale of alien insurgency provides a few hours of escapist fun.

1) Weber writes action well, using military detail to underscore the human propensity for destruction;
2) The aliens vs humans setup is refreshingly pulpy in an "shades of grey" media culture.
3) Prose is smooth and fast-paced, well suited for the tone of the story

1) Out of the Dark fails to live up to the potential of it's first act with some plot and pacing issues
2) The Shongari and humans are built from similar character stock, leading to character confusion;
3) The "twist" ending is telegraphed and poorly executed.

The Review: Out of the Dark is a strange title for David Weber's newest novel. While certain elements do emerge from unexpected places, their existence fails to be a revelation to anyone who has read the back cover (although I won't ruin them here). As a result, the kinetic account of humanity's resistance against an alien invasion rarely manages to surprise or innovate. However, like the your favorite popcorn movie, Out of the Dark suggests that sometimes you don't need to do anything extraordinary to still have a good time.

The curtain rises as an alien scouting expedition assesses the population of Earth circa 1066 AD. The verdict is not good for humanity - not only is Earth a planet ripe for colonization, it's exceptionally aggressive inhabitants are a danger to themselves and a potential danger to the other sentient races of the universe. But when the Shongari return with their invasion force almost a millennium later, they find that in addition to being brutally violent, humanity is also incredibly inventive. Compared to the other galactic civilizations, the denizens of Earth are progressing technologically at an unprecedented rate. But should the Shongari invade a civilization now capable of fighting back or do they let one of the most dangerous civilizations in the universe to continue to evolve unchecked? It's an interesting premise and one that is smartly setup, culminating in an attack that leaves a vast portion of humanity dead and the remainder wishing they were.

From there, the middle portion of Out of the Dark settles into a rhythm that may be best described as Independence Day as written by Tom Clancy. This is slightly disappointing as Weber's tight focus on disparate characters around the globe could have been to alien invasions what World War Z was to zombie hordes. But rather than presenting a comparably diverse set of characters, Weber uses the global reach of the American military complex to place soldiers (or equally militarized white males) into unimaginative situations. I was left wondering how the street gangs of Detroit were reacting to an invasion of their turf? Or what about a suburban soccer mom would do if her children were threatened by the wolf-like invaders? What of the men and woman of the Israeli Army? Or the citizens of Afghanistan who have known nothing but rebellion? What of the highly decentralized third world countries of Africa? The vast populations of India or China? There is so much unrealized storytelling potential. To be fair though, the tendency toward homogeneous male character stock is not a problem limited only to Weber - it is just particularly frustrating to see such a strong opportunity wasted.

While Weber's characters are mostly limited to militarized males, there is no debating that he is writing what he knows best. Weber goes into exquisite detail when describing weaponry, most likely with the intention of selling our military technology as a legitimate threat to the Shongari raiders. With an almost encyclopedic knowledge of armaments, Weber accomplishes this easily and the destructive ingenuity of the human race is a theme infused into in scene after explosive scene.

Though violent, the action conveys a pulpy innocence, creating a tone largely missing from an overly serious genre landscape. The heroes are actual heroes, the bad guys are undeniably alien, and while life on Earth definitely sucks, other homo sapiens are finally not to blame. Out of the Dark could have been a lot more but Weber isn’t trying to construct a bleak portrait of decades to come, he’s just to provide a little escapism in a world that is all to often repainted in shades of gray. Even if seems like a mismatch on the scale of Return of the Jedi sometimes it's fun to sit back and watch the Ewoks kill the Stormtroopers.

Like any good cinematic adventure, it’s important to sit back and enjoy it rather than dissecting it too much. A large portion of the book is spent developing the premise that humanity is a profoundly unpredictable culture and one capable of adaptation at an alarming rate. This is certainly true - the problem is that Weber fails to put a similar level of thought into the culture of the Shongari. They come across as cardboard creations and it's far too easy to forget who is who in the strangely Earth-like Shongari chain of command. As they fail to adapt to the humans' guerrilla methods time and time again, they quickly lose the threatening nature seized in the initial attack. This trend continues until the Shongari are all but caricatures of their original depiction. How does a species capable of travelling among the stars fall for the same tricks again and again?

It's these and other obvious questions that may ruin Weber's latest for many logic minded readers. Others may be turned off by the perverse (and thinly veiled) reflection of recent invasion/insurgencies. But despite my qualms, I couldn't help but enjoy the fast-paced novel. I will definitely be picking up the sequel, if only to see where the series goes after the frenetic conclusion. Not every book needs to be perfect to be worth reading, but a book's strengths should always outweigh its failings. Luckily for Weber, the pulpy "good vs. bad" atmosphere and high octane action contained in Out of the Dark manage to more than balance its inadequacies resulting in a popcorn novel that refuses to play in the shadows.
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