Saturday, 30 April 2011

Online Chat With Guy Gavriel Kay, May 2

Pollstream is hosting an online chat with Guy Gavriel Kay for his newest book Under Heaven.  You can pre-register for the conversation here, as well as submit questions.  The talk will take place on May 2nd, at 2 pm (EDT) and will last one hour.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Events in Toronto, May 2011

These events are from the science fiction & fantasy calendar I've started.  If you have an event that's not listed, email me (jessica.strider@gmail.com) and I'll put it on the calendar.  While I try to get the details correct, always check the links to confirm event information. And I'll be updating this post as I learn of more events.

Sunday May 1


World's Biggest Bookstore Presents: Teen Reads
Meet YA authors Lesley Anne Cowan (Something Wicked), Alyxandra Harvey (Out For Blood) and Teresa Toten (Beyond Blonde). 
Proof of purchase required from any Indigo, Chapters or Coles location.
For more information, call the store at: 416-977-7009
Where: World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward Street)
When: 2 pm

Chester Brown The comic book artist launches Paying For It at a party with NOW sex columnist Sasha.  
Where: Goodhandy’s, 120 Church, Toronto, 416-760-6514 
When: 7:30-10 pm
Admission: Free

Writers and thinkers including Izzeldin Abuelaish, Jim Bryson, Karen Armstrong and Jane Urquhart come together for readings and discussions. 
Benefit for: Child Soldiers Initiative/Frontier College/Toronto Public Library
Cost: $15/talk, $100 Salon Passes for all talks


Tuesday May 3


Online chat with Guy Gavriel Kay on his newest book, Under Heaven, via Pollstream
Pre-register and submit questions here.
When: 2 - 3 PM (EDT)


Wednesday May 4

Star Wars Day Toronto - May the 4th be with you!
Toronto's official Star Wars Day celebration
Where: Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Avenue)
When: 7PM
Admission: $8 at the door

featuring:
- the web's best Star Wars remixes, mash-ups, and parodies on the big screen
- 35mm prints of the original trilogy's trailers
- Original Trilogy Trivia game show
- Costume Contest with celebrity judges
- prizes courtesy Silver Snail and Teletoon
 

Friday May 6 


Where: Toronto Reference Library, the Appel Salon (789 Yonge Street)
When: 6:30-8:30 PM
They've created some of the best and most acclaimed comic books and graphic novels in history. Join Chester Brown (Paying For It, Louis Riel), Seth (Palookaville, George Sprott),Adrian Tomine (Scenes from an Impending Marriage, Optic Nerve) and Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan: Happiest Boy on Earth) in a fantastic discussion of their lives and work, in the kick-off event for the 2011 Toronto Comic Arts Festival.


Enjoy an on-stage discussion by Brown, Seth, Tomine and Ware (moderator TBA), followed by an audience Q&A and an autograph session featuring all 4 creators.


Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a cash bar reception.


300 free tickets will be available through Event Brite (see link below). An additional 150 seats will be made available at a rush-line on the event date, so if you don't get a ticket just visit the venue.

Saturday May 7 

Silver Snail's 35th Anniversary and Free Comic Book Day Event
Where: Silver Snail Comics (367 Queen St. West)
When: 10 am - 7 pm
"Lots of giveaways, contests, sales, artists signings, costumed staff, and more!

We will debut our 35th Anniversary Poster designed by Marvel/DC cover artist Kalman Andrasofszky who will be in attendance!

Other artists who will be in attendance:
Marvin Law http://marvin000.deviantart.com/gallery/
Spent Pencil Studios http://www.spentpencils.com/
Kill Shakespeare http://www.killshakespeare.com/
Sean Ward http://www.seanward.net/
and more to be announced."


Saturday May 7 to Sunday May 8


Toronto Comic Arts Festival 
Where: Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge St),
in the Atrium
When: 9 am - 5 pm
"Come out and meet comic book creators and artists from around the world.
Monday May 9

Manga Artist Usamaru Furuya, book signing
Where: World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward St)
When: 5pm
Call: 416-977-7009 for more details

Wednesday May 11


Where: Augusta House (152 Augusta Avenue)
When: 8 - 11 PM

CZP and the Chiaroscuro Reading Series would like to invite you to help us celebrate our own local talent and the talent of Toronto's vibrant spec-fic community by honouring three locally based magazines of speculative fiction who keep the Canadian literary scene vibrant and open to new voices: Chiaroscuro, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and Ideomancer.

We'll have a host of micro-readings from the magazines themselves, opportunities to meet the editors of these magazines, and the best part is that all donations from the event will go towards these wonderful magazines! 


Thursday May 12


Where: North York Central Library (5120 Yonge St)
Auditorium
When: 6:30 - 8:30
"Welcome to a relaxing participatory class. If you are enrolled you're interested in learning how to prepare your writing for publication, how to approach publishers and which ones are appropriate. You want practical tips, such as how to craft effective cover letters and how to avoid bad habits. Finally, this workshop is an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the writing life. People often want to know, for example, how to make a living off of writing in Canada, and what a professional writer's day looks like. You see yourself as a writer and want to see your work in print. To participate in this workshop, you don't need to have taken courses or workshops before, but it helps if you come with your most pressing questions. To get the most from this workshop you will need: a notebook/paper and pens. A willingness to ask questions. Writing will NOT be shared or evaluated. Toronto Public Library acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for this program."


Saturday May 14


Where: Lillian H. Smith (239 College St), Basement
When: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
The Friends of the Merril Collection present the 15th Annual Fantastic Pulp Show and Sale on Saturday, May 14, 2010. This show, featuring the exotic cover art of the science fiction and fantasy, crime, sports, and romance pulp magazines from the 1920s - 1950s, attracts attendees from all over the United States and Canada. Rare and collectible science fiction, original pulp art and other items of interest are also on display.
$3 admission fee.


Sunday May 15

Space-Time Continuum Reading and Discussion Group 
Topic: Abarat by Clive Barker
Where: Bakka Phoenix Books (84 Harbord Street)
When: 1 pm


Thursday May 26

China Mieville talks about his new novel, Embassytown
Where: World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward St.)
When: 7 pm
Call the store at 416-977-7009 for details

Friday May 27 - Sunday May 29


Where: Toronto Congress Center, 650 Dixon Road, and at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, 655 Dixon Rd. (directly across the street). Additional events will be held at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel 801 Dixon Road (formally the Renaissance), west of the Doubletree across the highway bridge).
When: Friday 6 pm - 2 am, Saturday 10 am - 2 am, Sunday 10 am - 6 pm
Tickets: $35/day, $55/weekend - Advisary posted about fake passes being sold, see site for more details

Friday, 29 April 2011

Star Trek's White and Nerdy

I found this video on Grasping For The Wind.  It's taken from GeneralGrin's youtube site.  Like Star Trek the Next Generation?  Like Weird Al's song: White & Nerdy?  They make a fabulous combination.


Geek Gifts: Multi-Tools

Geeks love tools, but don't try to pawn off single tools on them.  A screwdriver that just puts in screws?  What use is that?  Not only do those tools take up extra space, they're just so... ordinary.  What geeks want are tools that are functional and just look COOL.

Like these.  I did a quick google search and came up with more than I can display.  Here are some companies and sites where you can find awesome multi-tools.

First up is Gerber.  Don't think baby food, this Gerber makes some pretty hard core tools, knives and camping equipment.  Like this, the multi-plier 600 blunt nose with tool kit.  It contains: "Blunt nose pliers, wire cutter, wire crimper, fine edge knife, serrated knife, cross point screwdriver, small, medium and large flat blade screwdrivers, lanyard ring, can opener, bottle opener, file, and ruler. Tool kit with six bits and adapter."  

Next is Leatherman.  They've got a nice line of multi-tools and knives.  Take the Juice XE6.  It comes with: "420HC clip point knife, 420HC sheep's foot serrated knife, needlenose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, extra-small screwdriver, med/lg screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, scissors, wood/metal file, diamond-coated file, saw, bottle opener, can opener, awl, corkscrew with assist".
We got our Kelvin 23 from Canadian Tire, but this image is from Tech-Styling, which also sells it.  It contains: "a snap action screwdriver that locks at 90 degrees for extra torque, 16 screwdriver bits, 2 metre tape measure, a magnet to hold screws and rescue the ones you’ve dropped, steel hammer surface, spirit level, an LED torch to light up the work area".






Another good company to look at is Sheffield, which has several pages of multi-tools.  Like this Camper 12-in-1 multi-tool you can buy at Home Hardware.  It comes with: "Axe, Hammer, Hex key, wrench, 1/4" slotted screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, Drop point, blade, Saw, Bottle opener, Fish scaler, Hook remover, Ruler, File, Bonus Belt Pouch".


And don't think you have to be hardcore into tools or camping to find nifty multi-tools.  It's not all about knife blades and screwdrivers.  Evriholder has come up with a pair of scissors (EvriScissors) that have multiple uses - and are very sharp (I got a pair for Christmas, and they're sharper than the sewing scissors I bought). "Uses include: scissors, knife, screw driver, wrench, can opener, bottle opener, jar wrench, nut cracker, magnet, wire stripper, wire cutter, and fish scaler."


 

 We'll end with a few unique multi-tools.  I found these at Added Touch, a Canadian mail order store.  The first is a Magnetic Laser Level/Screwdriver Set.  This is the sort of tool that makes hanging pictures a breeze.  You've got everything you need nicely contained.  it also complements some of the other multi-tools by not doubling up on too much, and giving you a few things they don't.  "This set includes an accurate built-in bubble level, a laser pointer for line-of-sight marking, a 5-inch ruler and a screwdriver with two Phillips bits one flathead bit. Aluminum case with magnetic base."







Last on this list, but definitely not the last you can find, is this Personalized Tape Measure.  Sounds pretty standard until you realize that it contains a calculator, sticky note pad and pen in addition to the lighted spring-loaded tape.


Ultimately, you can find multi-tools in a myriad of places and can fit them to any budget (that laser level's only $15  and depending on the number of blades you want, the other companies have products below $20 as well).

If you're in Canada, a great place to shop for camping equipment and multi-tools is the Mountain Equipment Co-Op.  They've got a category for multi-tools which includes goods by Leatherman and Gerber.  Also check out army surplus stores and general camping and hardware stores.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Book Review: The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson

Pros: emotionally intense, intricate plot with several interconnected mysteries, good pacing

Cons:

Jack fixes things.  For a price.  He has two new jobs, but neither one is his usual work.

The first job is for an Indian diplomat, Kusum, who needs Jack to find a stolen necklace and repay the mugger who took it for hospitalizing his grandmother.

The second job is equally impossible in New York.  Find an old woman who disappeared from her home.  Despite having no real detective skills, he agrees to help because the missing woman is the aunt by marriage of his ex-girlfriend, Gia.  A girlfriend who didn't like learning what Jack really did for a living.  A girlfriend Jack would dearly love to get back together with.

The Tomb is a smoothly written multiple mystery.  The two plots converge in a myriad of ways, creating a tight story.  Mr. Wilson makes good use of flashbacks to flesh out characters and explain aspects of the plot.  The pacing is good, ramping up the tension on one hand and giving downtime and tender moments on the other.

I particularly loved the emotional intensity of the characters, specifically Jack.  When he remembers Gia's look of horror upon discovering his cache of weapons you can feel his despair at ever convincing her of his honour.  And when she asks him to say away from her daughter... his reaction is visceral and comes across keenly.  And when supernatural terrors enter the story, you can feel Jack's terror at having to face these monsters.

It's a fantastic book.

Note: The version of The Tomb that I read is the Author's Definitive Edition.  I'm not sure how much has been changed or added, beyond the technological upgrade.  It's the second book of the Adversary Cycle, but was rewritten when he made Repairman Jack into its own series, of which this is the first book.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Cracked.com's If Classic Fables Actually Told the Truth

I snagged this comic from Cracked.com, which has a lot of off colour stuff, but also a lot of funny and thought provoking stuff as well.  I generally just read their movie articles (eg: 8 Movie Special Effects You Won't Believe Aren't CGI), but I was browsing the article home page and came across this comic by Winston Rowntree.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

James Knapp Giveaway Follow-up

I've had word from the author that two of the giveaway books have been sent (the third has an elaborate personalization request and will take a bit longer - the winner is compiling a 'Viking Amoeba Army' of author signatures/pictures, which I think is pretty cool).  Alas, Joe did not respond, so I emailed the runner-up, Patty N., who will be getting one of the books instead.

And if you're interested in chatting with the author, he's doing a Q&A on Goodreads here.

Once I finish my current book, I'll finally have time to read Element Zero.  Can't wait!

Music Video: Bad Apple by Touhou

I love the black and white silhouettes used in this video.  The song is upbeat and catchy.  I pulled the original video from IbukiSuika1's youtube site.


You can watch the same video, with a fan version of the song in English by ValliereVee and Pat McCarthy here (for her version with a set background) or below (with the original video)(taken from megabobi1's youtube page). The singer's great though my Japanese isn't good enough for me to comment on the translation.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Book Review: Green by Jay Lake

Pros: vividly real world, mostly sympathetic protagonist

Cons: entirely character driven, unevenly paced

Green was bought from her father at a very young age and raised in another country to be a nobleman's wife. Trained to numerous arts: cooking, sewing, music and more, it's her dance lessons and the illicit classes of stealth, falling and climbing, and the mistress who teaches them, that offer her a taste of the freedom and choice she longs for. When the time comes for her to leave her training courtyard, she makes a choice that shows her that while you can choose your actions it is their consequences that decide your future.

The world building is fantastic, with the people of different continents having different skin tones, languages, cultures, food preferences, sexual preferences, etc.. The history was loosely done though I got the impression that this was because Green didn't know much of it and therefore it would have been out of place to add more, rather than because the author hadn't considered this aspect of his novel.

This is a book that will appeal to readers who enjoy character driven action like that of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and Piers Anthony's A Quest for Chameleon. And like the latter, the almost aimless wanderings and life of the protagonist have purpose, when seen from the end (though to a lesser extent than Quest).

The problem I have with character driven stories is that, as with real life, not everything that happens to a person is interesting. Plot driven stories typically skip over these periods quickly, but character driven stories can't, leading to pacing issues where some periods are fascinating (like Green's two periods of schooling), action packed (her time as an aspirant and the ending), and times that are boring (her return home). Indeed, Green has an almost anti-climax half way through the book, after which the protagonist wanders for some time.

While she's a mostly sympathetic character, as a child taken from her father, her inability to grow up and realize that, despite the circumstances of her youth, she was better off in her new home than her old one, annoyed me. Despite constant observations to the contrary she held to her mistaken belief that everyone else in the world got to choose their futures while only she had to face misfortune and a loss of freedom. She held to these beliefs even after she left her court prison and found that her own choices had trapped her. That being able to make decisions for her life wasn't the same as being free. She was someone who held to an ideal that didn't exist and refused to move on. She made uninformed decisions and wondered afterward why those decisions were wrong.

Ultimately, Green is an interesting protagonist but not interesting enough to hold attention for an entire novel.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Author Interview: Ian Whates

Novels:
City of Dreams & Nightmare
City of Hope & Despair


The Noise Within
The Noise Revealed


The Gift of Joy (short story collection)

Mr. Whates has also edited numerous anthologies and written several short stories and essays.  A full listing of his works can be found here.

Website:  www.ianwhates.com
The Independent Publishing House he started: newconpress.co.uk


> What can readers expect from your City of a Hundred Rows series?

A lot of excitement, character development, betrayal, surprises and adventure, I hope, all set in a unique fantastical-urban environment.  I'm very conscious that the city of Thaiburley is a significant character in its own right, so in the second book we learn more about the city and its inhabitants, as the Prime Master attempts to combat bone flu - a deadly malady that threatens the city's Heights - and Kat forms an uneasy alliance with her sister and leads the Tattooed Men through the dark streets of the City Below to hunt down the Soul Thief, the monster that killed their mother and consigned them to the gladiatorial hellhole known as the Pits.  However, I also want to show that there's a world outside the city's walls, so we follow the street-nick Tom and the assassin Dewar as they embark on a perilous journey to find the source of the river Thair.  In the third book everything comes to a head.  We learn the secrets of Thaiburley's origins and the fate of the various characters, and discover whether the city is destined to survive or fall. 

> You're currently writing a fantasy series and a science fiction series.  How do you keep them straight and how do you find time to write two series at once?

To date this has worked really smoothly.  I've written the novels alternately, so have been able to swap from one universe to the other, keeping both fresh.  The 'constant' throughout this has been provided by my own independent publisher, NewCon Press, which I established five years ago.  With this year's releases I'll have published 21 titles, mostly anthologies, all edited by myself, featuring original stories from many of the UK's top genre names (and a few from beyond), including Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross, Tanith Lee, Gwyneth Jones, Stephen Baxter, Neal Asher etc.  I've also given debuts to a fabulous array of new writers, which I'm proud of, featuring their work alongside that of the 'big names'.   

> Which genre do you this is harder to write, fantasy or science fiction? 

To be honest, neither.  As a reader I've always considered myself primarily a science fiction fan who also likes fantasy, but when it comes to writing I'm happy to tackle both with equal relish.  I think the City books actually straddle the genres, and would describe them as 'urban fantasy with steampunk overtones and SF underpinning'. 

> What made you want to be a writer?

The thrill of reading; simple as that.  Ever since my early teens I've soaked up as much SF and fantasy as I could, by far too many authors to attempt listing, and always wanted to have a go at producing my own stories and novels.  I loved the imagination, invention and sheer excitement which, for me, only genre fiction can provide. 

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

I wrote a short novel some two decades ago that never saw the light.  I honestly can't recall how long that took me.  The first 'real' novel I wrote was City of Dreams and Nightmare, which took about 8 months. 

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

That's an interesting question.  No particular scene stands out as being any more difficult than another.  If I come to a point where the words don't automatically flow, I tend to jump ahead and write an imminent scene, letting my subconscious work on the earlier one before coming back to it.  I think battle scenes require a bit of extra care, as it's always a challenge knowing how much detail to include and how much to leave to the readers' imagination. 

> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?

I don't have one, so no, it hasn't helped a bit.  I always had a penchant for writing at school, winning the Lord Mayor's Prize for English (open to all the schools in London) when I was 13 or 14 and being presented with the prize by the mayor himself at Mansion House, so I think the education I received at school certainly helped, but from school I went straight out to work. 

> When and where do you write?

At home in the dining room, which has become my office.  I know some writers who retreat to cafés and pubs to escape distraction, and I'm tempted to try that, but to date this has worked okay.  As for when, all the time, interspersed with editing (in addition to two anthologies for my own NewCon Press, I'm currently working on one for Solaris plus a new Mammoth title for Constable and Robinson/Running Press), and dealing with matters relating to the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), which I've chaired for the past three years.  I tend to start work early - anywhere between 6.00 and 7.30 am - and finish at around 6.30 in the evening.  Weekends I'm soft on myself and generally only put in four or five hours each day.

> What's the best/worst thing about writing?

The best is seeing the ideas that have formed in your head take shape on the page, and then to receive an email from a reader or to come across a review/blog that enthusiastically endorses your work.  To know that you've managed to articulate those ideas and characters with sufficient skill to entertain others and bring them a little pleasure, however ephemeral, is a real buzz.  The worst…?  I'm not sure.  No one likes bad reviews but they're inevitable - nothing you write is ever going to appeal to everyone… Writing can be hard work, but it's work that I love… I suppose the biggest downer is the lack of a regular income.   That can be an issue, but hardly an unexpected one.  

> What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

The honest answer is that I've yet to discover it.  I suppose having around forty short stories published in various venues prior to my first novel, and having run my own publishing business for four years before my first two came out in early 2010, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into.  Not to say something won't rear up and surprise me tomorrow. 

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Loads… some of which might even be worthwhile.  Read lots.  Join a writers group (either local or online - I did both).  Not only is comment on your own work by those without a vested interest (ie not family and friends) invaluable, but you learn an awful lot by critiquing your peers.  It's amazing how often you'll spot a repeated failing in someone else's work and realise, 'hey, I do that!'  Go to conventions.  Meet the authors, editors and agents.  Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn't have to be, not entirely. 

> Any tips against writers block?

Sorry, not really, I've never suffered from it.  I think if I did, I'd simply move on to something else and come back to the problematic piece later. 

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Probably not as well as I should.  If this ever becomes a serious issue, I might resort to going to a pub or coffee shop to write as mentioned above.  As things stand, I write in bursts throughout the day, interspersed with editing, sorting out covers and layout for books, dealing with emails, going on forums etc.  I have a very loose word count target for a given day, but don't beat myself up if I fail to get there. 

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

I spent a year and a half writing short stories before I turned to novels, and was constantly submitting them - as soon as a rejection arrived that piece would be sent out to another market.  Initially, I was getting one sale every ten or eleven submissions, which had narrowed to one in three or four by the time I turned my attention to novel writing.  In the process, I made enough 'professional' sales to qualify for SFWA membership and saw two of my stories shortlisted for BSFA Awards. 

With novels it was a little different.  I showed the first six chapters of City of Dreams and Nightmare to Solaris when that was all I had to show.  They eventually turned the book down, saying that it didn't fit their 'core product needs', but added that they loved my writing and invited me to pitch them a space opera (the first time, apparently, they'd ever done this).  I duly wrote a synopsis and opening chapter, which I submitted, and this led to them commissioning me to write the Noise books.  In the meantime, City of Dreams and Nightmare secured me an agent and a publishing contract with Angry Robot.  

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cradle of the Scar Webseries

A while back I blogged about Peter Orullian's webseries that tied in with his debut novel: The Unremembered.  Well, the 6 part series is complete and well worth watching.  Each episode centers around various characters view of the same event, a foundling child being left for the exile in the Scarred Lands to find homes for or raise himself.

From the author's site: 

Here's the thing that just tickles me: If you watch this and then read the book, you'll have a deeper context for a few of the events and moments in the novel. You don't need to see these for the book to work, of course. It's additive story. It's like finding an Easter egg. But I've been enjoying some instances of the movement that's meant to describe this entire approach: transmedia. It's a highfalutin term, but indeed even Hollywood is now hiring producers and directors who can do this kind of thing—working across multiple media to tell related stories in or of the same universe.

The videos can all be found on the media page of the author's website.   Next month I'll be posting an interview with Mr. Orullian, so stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Book Review: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

Pros: political intrigue, unique races, good worldbuilding, interesting story

Cons: while I liked the characters, I didn't quite feel for them

War is coming to the free city of Vanai.  But the people aren't worried.  Every few years the Kings of Antea throw their weight around before leaving the city to its own devices again.  Still, the branch of the Medean bank doesn't want the whole of its holdings to potentially fall to the invading army, so the bank's ward, Cithrin, is disguised as a boy and set to carting the gems, silks and other precious items to the branch in Carse.

The caravan's guards are 'drafted' into the army, so their captain must find a new team, or he, too, will find himself fighting.  He convinces a group of actors that their fortunes are better off outside the city.

Meanwhile, marching towards Vanai is Geder Palliako, butt of his fellow nobles' jokes and admirer of essays about the fall of the Dragon Empire.  He's unaware that he's about to become the pawn of powerful men.

And back home in Antea's capital, Dawson tries to keep the farmers from gaining a council and weed out his political rivals, whose actions are becoming more and more treasonous.  If only the king would listen to him and grow a backbone.

This book has so many good things going for it.  The writing is solid - enough background and description to give a sense of place and time but not enough to become boring.  Fantastic worldbuilding - with geographical diversity, history and a unique set of races sure to please readers of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt fans.  I especially liked how people from one place knew next to nothing about other areas of their world, and relied on hearsay and stories for what they did know.  And unlike Col Buchanan's Farlander, where the conflict is strictly along regional and national lines, here there's also (unfortunately) realistic racism among the 13 varieties of humans.

The protagonists are all interesting and make decisions that are often surprising though entirely in character.  Unfortunately I never went that last step towards feeling what the characters feel.  I didn't rage with Dawson or despair with Cithrin.

The political intrigue isn't as brutal as that in The Adamantine Palace (by Stephen Deas), but the players are much more likable here and what intrigue there is, is well played.

I expect to see this book up for awards and on many 'best of' lists for 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

James Knapp Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to all who signed up for my giveaway.  I included the people who commented on my blog - despite not getting their contact information - because it would have been unfair otherwise.

The winners are:

Desmond W. (Silent Army)
Joe (State of Decay)
Shaun D. (State of Decay)

Congratulations, you'll be receiving emails shortly.

Joe, I hope you're checking out my blog to find out if you've won as I don't have your email address.  Send me an email reconfirming your book choice and including your mailing address to: jstrider@confuseacat.org.  If I don't hear back in 2 days, your prize will be given to one of my runners up.

Next time I do a giveaway I'll know to start by asking for emails rather than comments on the blog post.  :)

Monday, 18 April 2011

Reminder: James Knapp Giveaway Ends Apirl 19th

Remember, I'll be drawing 3 winners for a copy each of one of James Knapps' books (State of Decay, Silent Army or Element Zero) tomorrow (April 19th) at 11 am EDT.  For your chance to win, email me at jstrider@confuseacat.org.  If you've left a comment without emailing, you'll still be entered in the contest, but be sure to check back and see if you've won as I won't be able to contact you.  The contest is open to everyone, everywhere.

Full contest details can be found here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Should Book Reviews Mention Content Issues?

As an adult I've often been forced to examine my beliefs and preconceptions.  You know, those things you assume are true because they were taught to you as a child and which you've never questioned, even though you should have.

Someone pointed out one of my blind spots yesterday.  I've written a review and posted another in which I mentioned the lesbian content of the books.  This person pointed out - respectfully - that these portions of my reviews could be misconstrued as stating that lesbian content is negative or 'different' and therefore needs to be pointed out to readers (for those who want to avoid such content as much as for those who actively look for it or don't care if it's there or not).

I'd not considered that my comments could be taken this way, but once seen I can't deny that they have those meanings - unintentional or not.

With Trouble and Her Friends my thought when reviewing the book was that it was fantastic and it would be a shame if people, learning it was a Lambda Award winner, might pass on it because it has lesbian content.  I wanted to show that the content is unobjectionable and doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the book.

Reading my own thoughts on why I added that to the review, I can't help but wonder why I felt people might pass on reading the book due to content issues.  Are we not adults?  Are we not mature enough to deal with sexuality of all kinds when reading?  Do I need to point out that something in this book is different, and why oh why do I even consider it different at all?

It's hard to see our own biases sometimes and I apologize if I've offended anyone with my review remarks in the past.  Now that I understand myself - and this problem - better, I'll be able to deal with it.

And it's not just sexual content.  I've got two book reviews in the wings wherein the books both mention the 'n' word.  I've got a post planned on the impact of words for when I post those reviews, but again, is pointing this out something you want in a review?  I mentioned it in my reviews because I know the word is disturbing to a lot of people and forewarned is forearmed.  But that supposes readers want to be forewarned about content issues, which may not be the case. 

I find there is value in pointing out content issues with children/teen books when it comes to language, sexual content and violence.  I will be keeping my 'for parents' segment in those reviews and perhaps making them more comprehensive.

So here's a question for you.  Should I a) leave out content issues in adult book reviews entirely, b) mention them if they're gratuitous, or c) mention everything (for example, with sexuality mention: heterosexual encounters, homosexual encounters, threesomes, rape, S&M activities etc.).  In other words, as readers of my reviews, do you appreciate my mentioning content issues or do you consider that not a reviewers job?  I also understand that if I start to mention all content issues, I've got to be comprehensive, mentioning ALL content issues, not just ones that bother me or ones that I assume (right or wrongly) will bother other people.  Everyone has different tolerances when it comes to violence and sexuality (for example I'm not a fan of the idea of threesomes while others find that idea titillating).

So I'm putting up a survey on the side of my site to see what you, as my review readers, want.  If you're reading this on a feed, please click through and vote so I can better tailor my reviews to your needs.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, 15 April 2011

New Author Spotlight: Stephen Deas

New Author Spotlight is a series designed to introduce authors with 3 books or less in the different SF/F subgenres.


Today's spotlight shines on Stephen Deas.
Stephen Deas' books include:

Here's the cover copy for The Adamantine Palace:
The power of the Realms depends on its dragons. With their terrifying natures, they are ridden by the aristocracy and bred for hunting and war. But as dangerous political maneuverings threaten the complacency of the empire, a single dragon has gone missing. And even that one dragon-returned to its full intelligence and fury-could spell disaster for the Realms...

If you like these titles, you might also like:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Doubleday Hosts ROBOPOCALYPSE Book Trailer Contest

Like book trailers?  Want the chance to make one yourself?  Well, Doubleday is hosting a contest to create a trailer for Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson.  The deadline is May 13th and the prizes are cash: $750 Grand, $500 First and $250 Second.

Your video must be either 30 seconds or 60 seconds in duration and in one of these accepted formats: “MOV,” “MP4,” “WMV,” “FLV,” or “AVI”. Your video must feature the book shot of ROBOPOCALYPSE somewhere within.
You can find everything that you need, including an excerpt of the book, images, directions on how to upload your video, complete rules and other resources at the Facebook page.
The book copy reads:
They are in your house. They are in your car. They are in the skies…Now they’re coming for you.

In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites -- at a moment known later as Zero Hour -- humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.

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And don't forget to sign up for the James Knapp Book Giveaway on my site.  Simply email jstrider@confuseacat.org for your chance to win one of 3 signed copies of his books (your choice of: State of Decay, Silent Army or Element Zero).  Drawing is April 19th.  Click here for full contest details.

Book Review: The Rendering by Joel Naftali

Pros: excellent pacing and tension, nifty creatures

Cons: technology gets farcical, fun but stereotypical protagonists

For Parents: some violence

I've mentioned before when writing children's book reviews that some appeal to all ages and others just to kids.  I'd put this book in the kids category.  It was a fun romp that made good use of the blog post format to help with pacing and tension building, but by the end of the story the unbelievable technology and crazy creatures were a bit much for me.

Doug's guardian, Antie M, works for a secret weapon's laboratory.  One night, while she's working late and he's playing videogames in the staff room, evil Dr. Roach and a group of mercenaries break in and steal equipment.  Their goal: to digitize all the people in the world and create a utopic society using the protocal program and hotlink created by the lab.

As the first book in a series, this book introduces you to thirteen year old Doug - a boy who's not so good in school but rocks at videogames, and Jamie - a computer genious who wants to be a scientist when she grows up, and their Cyberskunk protectors.

The intended audience (10 and up) will love reading Doug's blog posts about how he's not responsible for the bombing of the medical facility near his town (actually the high tech weapon's laboratory).  They'll love learning about the creation of the Cyberskunks and hearing about how Doug faces Dr. Roach and mercenary commander Hund.  They'll sympathize with him when his digitized aunt comes online to tell him he has to finish his homework before doing another post.

Adults... well, it is a fun read, with some violence but otherwise no objectionable content.  The short blog posts format helps create and maintain the tension in the story that's pretty intense anyway.