Saturday, 30 May 2015

Books Received in May, 2015, Part 2

This is the second half of the books I received from publishers this month.  

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly - This is a YA novel from the author of the Ironskin series (I read the first two, Ironskin and Copperhead and loved them).

Camellia's adopted mother wants Cam to grow up to be just like her. Problem is, Mom's a seriously wicked witch.
Cam's used to stopping the witch's crazy schemes for world domination. But when the witch summons a demon, he gets loose--and into Devon, the cute new boy at school.

Suddenly Cam's got bigger problems than passing Algebra. Her friends are getting zombiefied. Their dragon is tired of hiding in the RV garage. For being a shy boy-band boy, Devon is sure kissing a bunch of girls. And a phoenix hidden in the school is going to explode on the night of the Halloween Dance.

To stop the demon before he destroys Devon's soul, Cam might have to try a spell of her own. But if she's willing to work spells like the witch...will that mean she's wicked too?

The Hanged Man by P. N. Elrod - The only book I've read by Elrod is I, Strahd: Memoirs of a Vampire (which, I believe was also the only Revenloft novel I read).  I vaguely remember enjoying it so I'm not sure why I didn't read anything else by her (I say 'vaguely' because I read it in my early teens and a lot of time has passed since then).  I find the plot of The Hanged Man so intriguing that it bumped its way up the pile to be my next read. 

On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies--the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James--Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.

The Machine Awakes by Adam Christopher - This is the follow-up to last year's The Burning Dark, one of the books I wanted to read last year but didn't get to. 

In the decades since the human race first made contact with the Spiders--a machine race capable of tearing planets apart--the two groups have fought over interstellar territory. But the war has not been going well for humankind, and with the failure of the Fleet Admiral's secret plan in the Shadow system, the commander is overthrown by a group of hardliners determined to get the war back on track.
When the deposed Fleet Admiral is assassinated, Special Agent Von Kodiak suspects the new guard is eliminating the old. But when the Admiral's replacement is likewise murdered, all bets are off as Kodiak discovers the prime suspect is one of the Fleet's own, a psi-marine and decorated hero--a hero killed in action, months ago, at the same time his twin sister vanished from the Fleet Academy, where she was training to join her brother on the front.
As Kodiak investigates, he uncovers a conspiracy that stretches from the slums of Salt City to the floating gas mines of Jupiter. There, deep in the roiling clouds of the planet, the Jovian Mining Corporation is hiding something, a secret that will tear the Fleet apart and that the Morning Star, a group of militarized pilgrims searching for their lost god, is determined to uncover.
But there is something else hiding in Jovian system. Something insidious and intelligent, machine-like and hungry.

The Spiders are near.

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal (finished copy - I reviewed the book from an advance reader copy I received) -  This book marks the ending of a wonderful series that asks 'what would Jane Austen's Regency period look like if there was a womanly magic art?'  The series begins with Shades of Milk and Honey.  

Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go. 
The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.
Jane and Vincent's sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance.

Where by Kit Reed - This sounds like an interesting mystery/speculative fiction book.

In a coastal town on the Outer Carolina Banks, David Ribault and Merrill Poulnot are trying to revive their stale relationship and commit to marriage, and a slick developer claiming to be related to a historic town hero, Rawson Steele, has come to town and is buying up property. Steele makes a romantic advance on Merrill and an unusual 5 a.m appointment outside of town with David. But Steele is a no-show, and at the time of the appointment everyone in the town disappears, removed entirely from our space and time to a featureless isolated village--including Merrill and her young son. David searches desperately but all seems lost for Steele is in the other village with Merrill.

The Architect of Aeons by John C. Wright - I generally try not to let politics interfere with my reading preferences, but there are a few exceptions and Wright is one of them.  He's too outspoken with his beliefs to ignore, and his beliefs are some I cannot support, even if the books themselves don't follow them (and I don't know if they do or not).  But if you're interested in space opera, this is the fourth book in the Count to the Eschaton Sequence, which began with Count to a Trillion.

The epic and mind-blowing finale to this visionary space opera series surpasses all expectation: Menelaus Montrose, having forged an uneasy alliance with his immortal adversary, Ximen del Azarchel, maps a future on a scale beyond anything previously imagined. No longer concerned with the course of history across mere millennia, Montrose and del Azarchel have become the architects of aeons, bringing forth minds the size of planets as they steer the bizarre intellectual descendants of an extinct humanity.

Ever driving their labors and their enmity is the hope of reunion with their shared lost love, the posthuman Rania, whose eventual return is by no means assured, but who may unravel everything these eternal rivals have sought to achieve.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Books Received in May, 2015, Part 1

This is the first batch of books I got from publishers (and one author) this month.  My thanks, as always, to them for sending me books.  I can't read everything, but sometimes I'd really, really like to.

Alice in No-Man's Land by James Knapp - I've already read and reviewed this futuristic/post-apocalyptic novel.  I really enjoyed it, much as I've enjoyed the other books Knapp has written (both under his own name and his pseudonym, James Decker).  His Revivors books, starting with State of Decay (my review), are brilliant.  I also did an interview with him several years ago.

Alice Walshe has led a very charmed life, until now.

Twenty years after a pandemic crippled the country things are finally back on track and her father, a major player at real estate giant Cerulean Holdings, has made billions renewing the pockets of urban decay that were left behind. As his protégé she has accompanied him to one such area named Ypsilanti Bloc, a particularly valuable site due to its proximity to a major thriving city. When their airship is attacked by Ypsilanti's biggest militia, however, Alice and her brother Cody only barely escape and end up as the sole survivors of the crash.

Alice emerges from the drop ship to find herself trapped in the very Bloc that her father was meant to re-purpose - a ruined city that militias, gangs, and even cannibals now call home. She is discovered by a pair of teens who have tracked the wreck hoping to scavenge anything useful, and with few options open to her she employs their help to find her brother and get home. Things grow more complicated, however, when she realizes that the attack may not have been random, and that Cerulean’s renewal project may not be as benign as she had been brought up to believe.

The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson - This is high on my TBR list, as it deals with social media and how things can be taken too far when people try to segregate themselves with others who only share their views and interests.

In our rapidly-changing world of "social media", everyday people are more and more able to sort themselves into social groups based on finer and finer criteria. In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities, this process is supercharged by new analytic technologies--genetic, brain-mapping, behavioral. To join one of the twenty-two Affinities is to change one's life. It's like family, and more than family. Your fellow members aren't just like you, and they aren't just people who are likely to like you. They're also the people with whom you can best cooperate in all areas of life--creative, interpersonal, even financial.

At loose ends both professional and personal, young Adam Fisk takes the suite of tests to see if he qualifies for any of the Affinities, and finds that he's a match for one of the largest, the one called Tau. It's utopian--at first. Problems in all areas of his life begin to simply sort themselves out, as he becomes part of a global network of people dedicated to helping one another--to helping him.

But as the differing Affinities put their new powers to the test, they begin to rapidly chip away at the power of governments, of global corporations, of all the institutions of the old world. Then, with dreadful inevitability, the different Affinities begin to go to war--with one another.

What happens next will change Adam, and his world, forever.

Picturing the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Millennia by Natasha and Anthony O'Hear - Revelations was my favourite book in the Bible back when I attended church. Depictions of the end of days has been one of my fascinations ever since.  I'm very curious to see what new insights these authors bring to the table.  The book is out July 25th.

  • A reader-friendly explanation of Revelation and its key themes
  • Includes 120 illustrations, from all different periods and genres, giving insight into the many different ways this text has stimulated and provoked artistic responses over the ages
  • Unique format whereby Revelation has been divided into ten well-known themes
  • Each themed-chapter is built around copious relevant and illuminating illustrations of the theme in question ranging from the twelfth to the twenty-first century
  • Two 16 page colour plate sections
  • Shows the different meanings and significance the themes of the Book of Revelation have had for believers - and non-believers - through the ages
  • Glossary of theological and art historical terms
The book of Revelation has been a source of continual fascination for nearly two thousand years. Concepts such as the Lamb of God, the Four Horsemen, the Seventh Seal, the Beasts and Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, the Millennium, the Last Judgement, the New Jerusalem, and the ubiquitous angels of the Apocalypse have captured the popular imagination. One can hardly open a newspaper or click on a news site without reading about impending financial or climate-change Armageddon, while the concept of the Four Horsemen pervades popular music, gaming, and satire. Yet few people know much about either the basic meaning or original context of these concepts or the multiplicity of different ways in which they have been interpreted by visual artists in particular. The visual history of this most widely illustrated of all the biblical books deserves greater attention.

This book fills these gaps in a striking and original way by means of ten concise thematic chapters which explain the origins of these concepts from the book of Revelation in an accessible way. These explanations are augmented and developed via a carefully selected sample of the ways in which the concepts have been treated by artists through the centuries. The 120 visual examples are drawn from a wide range of time periods and media including the ninth-century Trier Apocalypse, thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman Apocalypse Manuscripts such as the Lambeth and Trinity Apocalypses, the fourteenth-century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry, fifteenth-century Apocalypse altarpieces by Van Eyck and Memling, Dürer and Cranach's sixteenth-century Apocalypse woodcuts, and more recently a range of works by William Blake, J.M.W. Turner, Max Beckmann, as well as film posters and film stills, cartoons, and children's book illustrations. The final chapter demonstrates the continuing resonance of all the themes in contemporary religious, political, and popular thinking, while throughout the book a contrast will be drawn between those readers of Revelation who have seen it in terms of earthly revolutions in the here and now, and those who have adopted a more spiritual, other-worldly approach.

Window Wall by Melanie Rawn - Rawn is another established author whose books I've always wanted to read but have never found the time for.  This is the fourth book in her Glass Thorns series, which started with Touchstone.

For nearly two years, Cade has been rejecting his Fae gift, his prescient Elsewhens--simply refusing to see or experience them. But the strain is driving a wedge between him and his theater troupe, Touchstone, and making him erratic on stage and off. It takes his best friend Mieka to bully Cade into accepting the visions again. But when Cade finally looks into the possible futures, he sees a royal castle blowing up, though his vision does not tell him who is responsible. But he knows that if it is in his visions, he can take action to stop it from happening. And when he finally discovers the truth, he takes the knowledge to the only man in the Kingdom who would believe him: his deadly enemy the Archduke.

The Unremembered: Author's Definitive Edition by Peter Orullian - This is another author I interviewed, and now he's rereleasing The Unremembered with what I understand are significant changes that reflect where book two in the series, Trial of Intentions, went. 

Peter Orullian's epic fantasy debut The Unremembered has been critically acclaimed, earning starred reviews and glowing praise. But now it gets even better. In anticipation of the second volume in Orullian's epic series, and for one of the few times in our publishing history, we at Tor are choosing to relaunch a title with an author's definitive edition.
In addition to stunning updates to the original text, we're also including an exclusive short story set in the world of Vault of Heaven as well as a sneak preview of the sequel, Trial of Intentions, and a glossary to the universe.
The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy however, they sealed the rogue god-and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortal kind-in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that protected humankind for millennia has become weak and creatures of nightmare have now come through. Those who stand against evil know that only drastic measures will prevent a devastating invasion.
Tahn Junell is a hunter who's unaware of the dark forces that imperil his world, in much the same way his youth is lost to memory. But an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far have shared with Tahn the danger. They've asked him, his sister, and his friends to embark with them on a journey that will change their lives . . . and the world . . . forever. And in the process, he'll remember . . .

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Shout-Out: Devil in the Wires by Tim Lees

"It's a perfect circle, Chris. The god receives his audience, the grid receives the power—and we light up Chicago."

After the perilous retrieval of a long-dormant god from Iraq, Chris Copeland—professional god hunter and company troubleshooter—is about ready to quit his job. But his employers at the Registry have other plans…plans to build a power facility on the shores of Lake Michigan. Adam Shailer, a rising star at the Registry, thinks he can cage the god, drain its energy, and power the city.

It's Chris's job to make sure nothing goes wrong. And at first, everything seems fine. Great, even. But when ecstatic devotees start leaving human sacrifices on the beach near the god-house, it quickly becomes clear that the god is not as contained as the Registry would have everyone believe. The devil's in the wires, and there's no turning back now.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Video: A Criminal Mind

This is a music video for a song written, composed, and performed by Lawrence Gowan for his 1982 album, Strange Animal.  Using a mixture of live action and animated scenes, it won the 1985 Juno Award for Best Video.

It's got an interesting narrative in that it deals with a man who has 'a criminal mind' and is caught trying to steal a painting.  It's uncanny how similar he looks to the modern Marvel movies' Loki. Maybe it's just the shoulder pads.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Book Review: Alice in No-Man's-Land by James Knapp

Pros: lots of action, variety of action, interesting world-building some tense & gritty scenes

Cons: black book information sometimes comes at convenient times, soldiers at the end of the book make some questionable decisions

Yuric Walshe is on an airship to visit the footprint his branch of Cerulean Holdings has in Ypsilanti Bloc as prelude to an urban renewal project.  Decades ago a food borne plague wiped out large areas of the US.  Most of the country recovered, but some areas slow to recover were walled off instead, and allowed to fester in a post-apocalyptic state.  Mr. Walshe is looking at an illegal black book with data from one of his competitors and talking to his kids when the ship is attacked.  Alice, his 20 year old daughter and protege, and Cody, his 11 year old son, make it to drop ships before its too late.  When Alice comes to, she’s alone in an extremely hostile environment.  Through the black book she learns that the rival branch is not only responsible for the crash, they’re using the event as an excuse to speed up the renewal, a process she’s discovering is more violent and destructive than she believed.

The book focuses on Alice’s journey through Ypsilanti Bloc with the two people who find her drop ship as she tries to leave, contact the outside world and/or find her brother.  You really get a feel for her as a character, both her resilience and her surprising naivete.  Despite the evidence in front of her and the constant testimony of those around her, Alice holds on to her beliefs about Ypsilanti Bloc and what the urban renewal project will do for the people in it.  Only towards the end of the book does she accept that things aren’t what she’s always believed.

Basilio and Maya, the people who help Alice out, are very interesting characters.  I didn’t like Maya at first, as she fit the jealous angry woman stereotype, but the more you get to know her the more fleshed out her character becomes and the more understandable her actions - and reactions - are.  I’m surprised at the lengths they end up going to to help Alice, but their relationship does develop as time goes by, making their actions realistic.

I was impressed at the variety of dangers Alice faced as she moved through the Bloc.  It’s an interesting post-apocalyptic setting within a modernized world.  The Bloc itself has all the traditional dangers: cannibals, gangs, etc. and some of the scenes get pretty tense.  There’s a good balance between action and down town, keeping the novel fast paced and entertaining.  

The world-building was well done, with a good set-up and chapter openings containing quotes from the outside world.  This allows you to understand how the people from Alice’s community feel about the Bloc, even as you see the Bloc itself first hand. 

The black book was occasionally the source of much needed intelligence at the right time, which felt a bit contrived.

The ending was satisfying, though I felt that the soldiers were a little more inept than they should have been.  More on this in the spoiler section.

If you like post-apocalyptic fiction and a fast read, it’s a great book.

*** Spoilers ***

I couldn’t understand why the soldiers rescuing Alice would take off their camouflage while still in the middle of a dangerous situation.  Even less so removing the camouflage from their ship, allowing the Sons of Freedom soldiers to shoot at it.  And why didn’t they have bullet proof armour on?  Sure, the guys shot in the face were goners, but the guy shot in the back should have been protected.  

As for the Sons of Freedom, I can understand why there wasn’t a guard in the hall outside Alice’s room (the building was in the middle of their own compound) but why weren’t Alice and Cody’s rooms locked?  Even if the soldiers didn’t think they could escape the compound, they probably wanted them to stay put and not roam around the compound itself.  And how did they miss Basilio breaking in when they were already on a higher alert from Alice’s break-in?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Shout-Out: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

In the near future, children are tested for the defective gene. Those who possess it are taken from their homes, torn from their families and sent to the Death House.

Standing alone on a remote island, it looks like a 1940s boarding school. But a school prepares children for life, and these children are destined to die. Idling their time away in pointless lessons, supervised by cold matrons, their days have no purpose, because neither do their futures.

When the sickness hits, death comes quickly. Children are taken from their dormitories in the night and never seen again. Forced to confront his own mortality, 16-year-old Toby tries to block out his past, and the terrifying unknown that is his future. Until a van arrives with a group of new kids, and Toby meets 15-year-old Clara.

When they fall in love, Toby and Clara discover that death may be certain, but their fate is in their hands.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Prix Aurora Award Nominees

Congratulations to the 2015 Prix Aurora Award Nominees.  The Aurora is Canada's SF/F award and will be given out at SFContario 6 in November.  I've cut and pasted the information below from their website but added links to the novel titles so you can read the synopses.
Best Novel – English
Echopraxia by Peter Watts, Tor Books
The Future Falls
 by Tanya Huff, DAW Books
My Real Children by Jo Walton, Tor Books
A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
The Peripheral by William Gibson, Penguin Books
Best Young Adult Novel – English
Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Tor Books
Rain by Amanda Sun, Harlequin TEEN
Out of This World by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada
The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger, Tightrope Books
Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf by Sherry Peters, Dwarvenamazon
Twist of the Blade by Edward Willett, Coteau Books
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
 Best Short Fiction – English
Crimson Sky” by Eric Choi, Analog, July/August
Jelly and the D-Machine” by Suzanne ChurchElements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE
Mecha-Jesus” by Derwin Mak, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #155, September 4, 2014
Soul-Hungry” by Suzanne ChurchElements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE
 Best Poem/Song – English
A Hex, With Bees” by Tony Pi, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
Aversions” by Helen Marshall, Goblin Fruit, October
The Machine” by David Clink, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
The New Ways” by Amal el-Mohtar, Uncanny Magazine, November
The Perfect Library” by David Clink, If the World were to Stop Spinning (Chapbook)
 Best Graphic Novel – English
Trillium by Jeff Lemire, DC Comics-Vertigo
It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic
Cassie & Tonk by Justin Currie and GMB Chomichuk, Chasing Artwork
Treadwell by Dominic Bercier, Mirror Comics
Raygun Gothic Vol. 2 by GMB Chomichuk, Alchemical Press
 Best Related Work – English
Best Artist
James Beveridge, cover for Tantamount and Out DwellerErik Mohr, cover for The Door in the Mountain and ChiZine Publications
Derek Newman-Stille, cover for Elephants and OmnibusesDan O’Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press and On Specmagazine
Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk Steve Fahnestalk, “Walking on the Moon”, cover for On Spec, No. 95 (Vol. 25 No. 4)
Best Fan Publication
Broken Toys edited by Taral Wayne
Ecdysis edited by Jonathan Crowe
Pubnites & Other Events edited by Yvonne Penney
Space Cadet edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille
Best Fan Music
Brooke Abbey, Weirdness from 2014, Bandcamp
Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), OVFF Concert (Ohio Valley Filk Fest)
Copy Red Leader, Crossing the Streams CD, The Pond Studio
Kari Maaren, YouTube Channel
Stone Dragons, Dream of Flying CD, Stone Dragon Studios
Best Fan Organizational
Sandra Kasturi, Chair, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Toronto
Derek Künsken, Farrell McGovern, Caycee Price and Elizabeth Buchan-KimmerlyExecutive, Can*Con 2014, Ottawa
Randy McCharles, Chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, Marie Bilodeau and Nicole Lavigne, Co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Ottawa
Alana Otis-Wood and Paul Roberts, Co-chairs, Ad Astra
Convention, Toronto
Best Fan Related Work
Steve Fahnestalk, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Richard Graeme Cameron, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Kevin B. Madison, Thunder Road Trip
Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating, Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM
Lloyd Penney, fan writing for fanzines and e-zines