Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Own your own Gundam... er Kuratas

Suidobashi Heavy Industry in Japan recently unveiled their newest robot, the pilot operated KR01 Kuratas Battle Mech.  Watch this video about how to pilot the machine that looks suspiciously like a small Gundam (or one of a dozen other anime mobile suits).

This article by Global Post has more info as well as a few other videos.  You can also check out this article by io9, or go straight to the source, the Suidobashi website which is, surprisingly, in English.  You can buy your Kuratas online, once the project is completed, and can even customize its weapons, parts and colours.

Height : about 4,000 mm / Width: about 3,000 mm / Length : about 4,000 mm / Weight : about 4,500 kg
Control system : AE V-sido
Cost: US$1,353,500 

Books Received in July

I'm purposely keeping my book requests down for the summer, so I have time to read classics and books coming out by people I know, and perhaps whittle down my ever growing TBR pile.  But I'm very grateful to the publishers who send me books to review, even when I don't have as much time to read them.  Synopses are from the Indigo website (as are the links at the bottom).

The Eye of the World: Graphic Novel Vol 2 - Robert Jordon, adapted by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Andie Tong

Rand al'Thor, Egwene al'Vere, and their friends flee their home village in the company of Moiraine and her Warder, Lan Mandragoran. Pursued by their enemies, the group seeks sanctuary in Baerlon. Rand's nightmares grow darker. Moiraine takes Egwene under her wing. Lan warns them to trust no one, but should that distrust extend to Lan and Moiraine as well? 

The Eye of the World: the Graphic Novel, Volume Two, collects six issues of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time: The Eye of the Worldcomic book published by Dynamite Entertainment. This book will feature bonus material that gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a graphic novel.

Kop Killer - Warren Hammond

This is book 3 of the series, so you might want to skip this synopsis if you haven't read the previous books.

Juno Mozambe once had a life. That was when he was a dirty cop, married to a woman who suffered such profound abuse that she murdered her vile, drug kingpin father. Juno loved his wife and did his best to help her survive her guilt, her drug habit, and her desire to end her life on the dead-end planet of Lagarto.

When she died, however, Juno's life went downhill. And then his first partner, the corrupt chief of the Koba Office of Police, was murdered. The man responsible, Emil Mota, is using the KOP for his personal gain. Juno has been laying low, but now he's ready to do whatever it takes to take down the bastard.

Rather than working from inside the system, he's decided that the only way to take down the KOP is to create an independent base of power. So he gets involved with a team of dirty cops and starts working as a rent-a-thug for a whorehouse that needs protection.

Juno's last partner knows that his risky plan has a purpose, but she's that rarest of creatures on the hothouse planet of Lagarto: an honest cop. She can't help him.

When Juno discovers a series of profoundly twisted murders, he faces a bleak possibility: in his desperate quest for vengeance against the man who targeted him for death, Juno may have placed himself beyond any hope of redemption....

Energized - Edward M. Lerner

No one expected the oil to last forever. How right they were….

A geopolitical miscalculation tainted the world's major oil fields with radioactivity and plunged the Middle East into chaos. Any oil that remains usable is more prized than ever. No one can build solar farms, wind farms, and electric cars quickly enough to cope. The few countries still able to export oil and natural gas-Russia chief among them-have a stranglehold on the world economy.

And then, from the darkness of space, came Phoebe. Rather than divert the onrushing asteroid, America captured it in Earth orbit.

Solar power satellites-cheaply mass-produced in orbit with resources mined from the new moon to beam vast amounts of power to the ground-offer America its last, best hope of avoiding servitude and economic ruin.

As though building miles-across structures in space isn't challenging enough, special interests, from technophobes to eco-extremists to radio astronomers, want to stop the project. And the remaining petro powers will do anything to protect their newfound dominance of world affairs.

NASA engineer Marcus Judson is determined to make the powersat demonstration project a success. And he will-even though nothing in his job description mentions combating an international cabal, or going into space to do it.

American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953-56 

This is the first of two volumes of American science fiction that will be coming out in a handsome hardcover this September.

This volume includes:
The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Violette Malan Signings and Giveaways

I met Violette for the first time just before her debut novel, Mirror Prince, came out.  I've since read - and liked - everything she's written.

Her newest book, Shadowlands, a direct sequel to Mirror Prince, is out August 7th, and she's doing several things to promote the book.  First, she's hosting a series of giveaways on her website.  Second, she's going to be in Toronto for some book releases.  Here are all the details for those, from her website:

Saturday, August 18th, 2012.  BAKKA-PHOENIX Books

1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
84 Harbord Street
Toronto, Ontario
The official Toronto launch of Shadowlands. Join me for snacks and conversation atNorth America’s oldest F&SF specialty bookstore. Chat with the staff, browse the shelves. You’ll love the place.

Saturday, August 18th, 2012. Hair of the Dog Pub and Restaurant

4:00 pm to 7:00 pm
425 Church Street
Toronto, Ontario
Join me for a signing in the pub that actually appears as a location in Shadowlands. Can you guess who the handsome older man and his black-dressed companion are? I’ll bet you can.

Sunday, August 19th, 2012. World’s Biggest Bookstore

12:00 pm to 3:00 pm
20 Edward Street
Toronto, Ontario

Upcoming Book Correction - A Dance With Dragons

I posted in my most recent Upcoming Books segment that A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin will be coming out in paperback in August.  Alas, that is not the case.  Indigo had the information on their website in error.  The correct publication date is March 2013.  I am very sorry for the confusion as I know many people were looking forward to getting their hands on a smaller, cheaper copy of this bestselling novel.

Friday, 27 July 2012

New Author Spotlight: Jonathan Howard

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

 Today's spotlight shines on Jonathan Howard!

 His books are:

  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard (Anchor)
  • Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L. Howard (Anchor)
  • Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard (Headline)
Here's the cover copy for Johannes Cabal the Necromancer:
A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice.   
Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.
Check out these other books (and film) if you are a fan of demonic deals and circuses:

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (Avon)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday Canada)
  • Another Faust by Daniel Nayeri & Dina Nayeri (Candlewick)
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Sony Pictures Classics)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Cloud Atlas Movie Trailer

I reviewed the book by David Mitchell here some time ago.  The writing was fantastic.  I really hope they can do the book justice, and looking at this trailer, they're well on their way.

(Sorry about the ad, I grabbed the trailer from Wired.  You have to click through to watch it if you're using Google Reader.  If you want to watch the trailer without an ad, or clicking through, io9 is where I saw it first.)

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Book Review: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Pros: clear, concise writing, hard SF, relatable protagonists, interesting worldbuilding, exposition was limited and was worked into the story

Cons: We’ve already passed the book’s future.

Reviewer's Note: This review is of the author's preferred edition of Forever War, published in 1997.

Forever War follows the military career of draftee William Mandella after aliens attack an Earth space ship outside a collapsar jump.  Collapsar's allow long range space travel, and Earth refuses to give up the use of them.  The best minds, both male and female, are drafted to fight this exhorbantly expensive war the rest of Earth must pay for.  But as the years pass on Earth due to special relativity, and only months pass for the soldiers who survive combat, Mandella starts to wonder if he'll recognize home when his tour is over.

Forever War does for Vietnam in science fictional terms what Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich did for the Russian gulag: allow regular people to experience it.  Mandella's career is exceptional, as the author uses him to explore all aspects of the war, from training on earth and Charon, to witnessing combat, returning home and realizing he no longer belongs, reinlisting, getting medical treatment, becoming an officer, and more.  Through his eyes we experience fear, love, PTSD (in minor ways) and more.

The novel packs an emotional punch and covers an amazing amount of information, given it's size.  Haldeman's prose is clear and concise, a pleasure to read.

As the war progresses over the centuries, Haldeman occasionally explains how the Earth has changed to face the circumstances.  The most detailed of these passages comes when Mandella's first tour ends, 2 and 27 years after he enlisted.  Earth is a cross between Harry Harrison's Make Room, Make Room and the later part of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower.  In other words, Earth is overcrowded and violent.  His exploration into sexuality as it pertains to population control is interesting, espcially considering the current controversies over gay marriage.  For a book that's 38 years old, it's surprisingly relevant.

This is a hard SF story, meaning the planetery battles are short while the battles in space are long and drawn out with very little action.  Mandella's a physicist, so most of the info dumps are via conversations he has with others, where he either explains the scientific concept, or has new concepts discovered while he was on a mission explained to him.  Like the rest of the writing, these passages are short, to the point and integrated properly into the story.  This reviewer has limited physics knowledge and had no problem following the novel, even though most of the science went over her head.

The only 'complaint' with the book is that it's dated.  Meaning, the aliens attack in 1996, which obviously didn't happen.  This is very easy to overlook and shouldn't detract from anyone's enjoyment of the book.  There's some talk of hippies, but none of the sexism the word 'dated' tends to imply when it comes to older science fiction stories.  In fact, this is a remarkably feminist work, with women and men treated equally in the army (though more men then women end up in positions of command as far as Mandella's experience is concerned).

If you haven't read this yet, you should.  And if you're hesitant to read hard SF, this is a good introduction to the subgenre.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld Series Comes to an End

In 2001 Kelley Armstrong published Bitten, the first book of her Otherworld series.  Today, the final book in the series (book 13) is being released, appropriately titled Thirteen.

If you haven't read the series, now's the time to start.  Here's the synopsis for Bitten, to whet your appetite (taken from Armstrong's website):

Elena Michaels is the world’s only female werewolf. And she’s tired of it. Tired of a life spent hiding and protecting, a life where her most important job is hunting down rogue werewolves. Tired of a world that not only accepts the worst in her–her temper, her violence–but requires it. Worst of all, she realizes she’s growing content with that life, with being that person.

So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where she’s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him. Once this is over, she’ll be squared with the Pack and free to live life as a human. Which is what she wants. Really.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Writing book two is hard.

I've been seeing a lot of posts lately about how hard it is to write book two of a series, especially if book one was well received.  All that pressure to make the next book just as good, and under a deadline this time.  (Here's one by Kameron Hurley, Patrick Rothfuss, Stina Leicht and Teresa Frohock.)  I can only imagine how tough it is to write something new when you've been doing a series for so long (like the questions surrounding J. K. Rowling's new novel, and whether it will be able to compare with Harry Potter or even stand on its own merits).  That makes this TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), rather timely.  She argues that putting so much creative pressure on authors/artists is harmful to the individual and suggests a way to relieve that pressure.

(Thanks to Janet Reid for posting this.)  The video doesn't show up on google reader, so you'll either have to click through to watch or go to the source if you're using that.

When I watched the video I was struck by the idea of having your best work behind you, and what that  knowledge would do to a creative individual.  But all I could think about was the later medieval practice of creating your master work.  This was the piece you made as a journeyman that showed your craftsman skills and allowed you to leave your master, the person who had trained you, and become a master in your own right.  Those works had to be of high skill or you'd shame your teacher and not earn the right to open your own shop.

Think of your first published work as your master work, the work that proved you've done your apprenticeship.  Now that you're taking your own commissions (ie contracts) you're under deadline and expected to perform at that skill level from now on.  That's hard and, I'm sure, requires quite a shift in thought (I never made it this far with my own writing).  But creating one masterpiece doesn't preclude you from creating others.  And if you can take the pressure off, in the way Gilbert suggests or some other way, you'll probably be better able to create your next masterpiece.

Chatelaine has a great article this month about the Olympic competitors.  Each one gives one piece of advice.  These are athletes who train for hours and hours everyday to maintain their excellence.  Their advice?

"Never give up." - Priscilla Lopes-Schliep
"Always have fun." - Christine Sinclair
"Don't underestimate yourself." - Clara Hughes
"Make small goals." - Catharine Pendrel
"Live with no regrets." - Heather Moyse
"Give 100 percent."- Jennifer Abel
"Ignore everything you can't control." - Emilie Heymans
"Wake up motivated." - Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon
"Live your dream." - Michelle Stilwell
"Seek out mentors." - Robbi Weldon
"Roll with the punches." - Mary Spencer

And more (Article by Alanna Glassman*).  Sounds like good advice, and definitely applicable to novels, second or otherwise.
* And if you want to read the whole article, it's in the August 2012 issue of Chatelaine entitled "Success Secrets from Canada's Wonder Women".

What do you think of Elizabeth Gilbert's idea?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Author Interview: T. C. Tombs

The Pack
The Oracle (forthcoming)
The Beast (forthcoming)

Website: tctombs.com

> What is The Pack, the first book in your Run With The Wolves trilogy, about?

It is the fifteenth century, and three kingdoms are caught up in the dire conflicts of their time. As the possibility of a peaceful resolution provides hope that a decade-long war will finally end, no one realizes that dark forces are waiting to invoke chaos as a full moon rises.

On a farm nestled beneath the Euralene Mountains along the western border of Medinia, young Willie works for the Smythes as a serf. One moonlit evening when the Smythes are gone to a neighbouring village, Willie hears the terrified cries of animals in the pastures. When he goes to investigate, he discovers that this wolf pack attack is like no other. Badly injured during the raid, he survives - but now is afflicted by the full moon madness that will soon transform him into one of the wolf creatures he dreads. With his life seemingly warped forever, Willie must face the prospect of a lifelong descent into horror.

In a time of witchcraft, superstitious folk lore, and fearsome creatures roaming the night, Willie struggles with an uncertain destiny and must seek help from the one man he holds most responsible for the dark fate that awaits him during the next full moon cycle.

> What interested you about werewolves?

I originally started this project with the writing of the lyrics to 3 songs. The first was about a wolfman. The second was about a Vampire type character. The third was about a group of social outcasts called the 'Oddities'. It occurred to me that the lyrics to the three songs all dealt with a related central theme. All the characters suffered from, and had to deal with, 'afflictions' which were not of their choosing and beyond their control. It was how they chose to deal with them that tested their humanity. That was when I decided to write a fantasy tale that incorporated these people and their trials and tribulations.

> Why did you choose to set your book in the 15th century?

I've always been a history and folk lore buff. I wanted to write a fantasy that would bring in some actual historical detail as well. The story is set in 1461. The 15th century brought a Renaissance period of learning, invention, and discovery, but also a wave of intolerance, persecution and strife. It was the time of the inquisition, and of Vlad the Impaler – the likely inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. It was an era of witchcraft; and of superstitious folk lore in which fearsome creatures of the night sucked blood from helpless victims, and werewolves ranged the countryside when the moon was full.This was the century that saw the new world discovered; the advent of firearms; the decline of the knights; and it seemed to me it was the perfect setting for this type of tale.

> What made you want to be a writer?

I've been an avid reader since childhood. I've always loved books that take you on an adventure and where the characters seem so real that you can empathise with the trials and hardships that they are faced with and the inner demons that they must overcome. Whether it was reading Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe as a child; or Lord of the Rings and The Da Vinci Code as an adult; I seem to seek out stories that take you on a roller-coaster adventure. That was what I've tried to achieve in the three volumes of Run with the Wolves.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

 I think I prefer life in this century. If I had to pick a character from my trilogy, I guess it would be Woodrow. He's a long-lived man of honour, compassion, and learning, but he has also suffered greatly.

> What were your literary influences for The Pack?

I think the same answer to Question 4 applies here. However there are so many more authors who have influenced me. Edward Rutherford, James Michener, Wilbur Smith, Steve Berry, David Baldacci, Dan Brown, James Lee Burke, Michael Chrichton, James Clavell - all come to mind - these authors weave such captivating stories with action and settings that drag the reader right into them.

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

The Run with the Wolves trilogy is my first and only published venture. The three volumes are called The Pack; The Oracle; and The Beast. It took me about 10 years (part time - in addition to working for a living and raising a family) to write the whole series which includes the lyrics to about 48 songs. I have a vision here which includes books, movies, and music.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

There are a number of scenes in which some key characters get killed off. It's always difficult to say goodbye to someone that you dreamt up and who was an intricate part of your story.

> When and where do you write?

Usually in the evening secluded away in the office/den. Although I have been known to pull off to the side of the highway and jot down notes for the story or for a song when inspiration struck me.

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

The best is letting your imagination take you places that inspire you to write about. The worst - I suppose is that it's a lonely undertaking that has absolutely no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day or that anyone else will care for it. (There's also about a decade there where I couldn't tell you what my favourite TV show was because I didn't watch much - is that a bad or good thing???).

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Write only about what you have a passion for - and don't give a f--- about what anyone else thinks.

> Any tips against writers block?

(Being a bit block-headed helps.) I suppose I overcame those times by first creating an overall blueprint of the story from beginning to end - and when I was stuck, I moved around it by writing a number of scenes out of order, and came back later. For example, I wrote the ending before I wrote anything else. It just took me another ten years to get there.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Now that's a good question.

a) By promising to reward yourself later with some form of treat.

b) Through self-ridicule - you started this project - are you going to leave it unfinished?

c) It helped that the Leafs were such a bad hockey team that writing was easier than watching them play.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Movie Review: Woman in Black

Director: James Watkins, 2012

Pros: several good scares, creepy, atmospheric, good score, good acting

Cons: ending style seen before, volume fluctuated between very quiet and very loud

Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, is sent to the mysterious Crythin Gifford to go through the house of a deceased client.  The locals are suspicious and superstitious, trying to force him out of town.  His desire to stay increases when he spots a woman wearing black around the grounds of the secluded house and tries to find out who she is. 

This is a great horror movie.  It's got some fantastic acting (with Daniel Radcliffe as the laywer), creepy sets and a wonderfully gothic atmosphere.  The music helps set the scenes and paves the way for some good scares.

I saw this film on an airplane, so the extreme fluctuations in sound between whispers and shouts was distracting.  This wouldn't be a problem when watching the film at home.  I also found the twist ending familiar (having seen similar things done in a number of horror films).

If you liked The Ring or The Others, you'll like this.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Japanese Music Video: Glay, Way of Difference

This is one of the first Japanese music videos I saw, back when I was living in that country.  I love the song and the soft toned photography.  The group is Glay, the song is Way of Difference.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Book Review: Enclave by Kit Reed

[This is a review I wrote last year and have been holding aside for a time I needed a quick review.  Well that time has arrived.  I don't intend to leave reviews so long between writing them and posting them.]

Pros: interesting characters

Cons: disastrous events all happen the same night, first person narrative sometimes switched to third for effect

Lt Col Sargent Whitemore, USMC (retired), has a plan to save 100 children of the rich and famous from the imminent end times.  He's built an inaccessible fortress out of an old monastery on a mountainous island.

He will be their only contact with the outside world.  All their drugs, make-up, sex and video games are gone.

The kids are not happy being sent here.  And the adults on staff are damaged people, running away from their pasts.

Sarge's plan is working great, until one night when everything suddenly goes very, very wrong.

I read this book expecting a modern dystopian fiction and instead got a Jurassic Park style 'everything bad that could happen all happens at the same time and society collapses' novel with a Lord of the Flies ending.  While I could have accepted that things in a closed community would go wrong one by one, it seemed far fetched for several disparate events to happen the same night, creating a meltdown.  And while I could understand the mentality behind the post crisis actions, given that he knew things were falling apart, I was surprised by how little Sarge did to try to stop the meltdown.

While the book had an interesting cast, impossible events and a cop out ending made this a disappointing book.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

New Author Spotlight: Hillary Jordan

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 Hillary Jordan! Her books are:
  • Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Harpercollins Canada)
  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (Harper Collins Canada)
Here's the cover copy for When She Woke:

In the mid –21st century, a young woman in Texas awakens to a nightmare: her skin has been genetically altered, turned bright red as punishment for the crime of having an abortion.

Inspired by The Scarlet Letter, When She Woke depicts an American dystopia where terrorist attacks, natural disasters and a pandemic causing infertility have swung the country to the far right, and convicted criminals are “chromed” according to the nature of their crime and then released. A stigmatized woman in a hostile and frightening world, Hannah Payne must seek a path northward to safety. Her perilous journey becomes one of self-discovery and transfiguration as she realizes that faith, love and sexuality are not just political. They'’re personal.
Check out her books if you enjoyed any of the following:
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Simon & Brown)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Bantam Books of Canada Ltd)
  • Veracity by Laura Bynum (Gallery Books)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Video Game High School

VGHS is a webseries funded by a kickstarter campaign that's just finished season 1.  If you haven't seen it, now's a good time.  Their website has a nice listing of all the episodes on one page, you can also watch them on youtube.

So, what's it about?  In the near future playing video games has the status of sports, and VGHS is the best school around.  Varsity team captain "The Law" gets owned on public television by a nobody, Brian D., while bragging about his skills.  This act gets Brian into the school but makes him the enemy of the best player around and a popular target for the rest of the school.

Despite being a webseries, the show had amazing production values.  They used several sets, great special effects (if you've seen any FreddieW videos you have an idea what the effects look like).  While there are some cringe worthy moments (due to the awkwardness of some of the situations in the show, not acting or dialogue), on the whole it's a great show about being bullied and fighting for what you want.

Here's the series trailer.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Artist Spotlight: Jeremy Mayer

My husband pointed this Technabob article out to me a few months ago.  Artist Jeremy Mayer, based in Oakland, California, uses recycled typewriters to make statues.  He puts them together without welding, soldering or glue!  Check out his website to see more of his creations.  And to whet your appetite, a typewriter cat.
Jeremy Mayer - Cat X 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Book Review: God's War by Kameron Hurley

Pros: unique, diverse cast, interesting world and politics

Cons: limited description, slow beginning

Nyx used to be a Bel Dame, a government sponsored assassin sent after deserters from the war with Chenja.  But after a bad job she's stripped of her membership and left doing dirty mercenery work.  Her team consists of misfits escaping one thing or another: a Ras Tiegan communications man, a Mhorian shape shifter, a gun loving local (poached from a former boss) and a Chenjan draft dodger, whose magical abilities of controlling bugs are limited.  When they're offered a well paying - but dangerous job, Nyx takes it, not realizing it would pit her against the toughest, most dangerous women in Nasheen.

Described by the author as being a book about "Bugs.  Blood.  Brutal women." and "bugpunk at it's best" this was a... unique read.  Heavily influenced by middle eastern culture, the book takes place on a planet colonized by several groups of people, all followers of the book.  Each group interprets the book differently though, which has led to a centuries long war among the Nasheenians and the Chenjans.  The politics, both between the nations and within Nasheen (where most of the book takes place) are fascinating.  

The characters themselves are interesting, each having their own reasons why they've left their homelands to live in Nasheen, and why they're working for Nyx.  There's a good balance between action and development, so you get the chance to really know what motivates each of her team members.

I would have appreciated more description and deeper world building.  I had to look up what a burnous was (a long cloak with a hood that everyone in the book wears) as there was no proper description of it (I got that it was worn over clothing and had a hood and pockets, but didn't know it was a cloak rather than a jacket).  Neither bug magic nor bug tech are explained at all, nor how this planet develped them.  The same goes for shape shifters, who you learn were created, but not why or how (though this didn't play into the novel as much as the bug magic and tech so I can understand why the author wouldn't want to focus on it).

I also found the opening a bit slow.  Not in terms of action (there's a LOT of action), but in terms of plot.  The opening scenes set up things for later, but you don't realize that until you're several chapters into the book.

There's a lot of violence, and a fair amount of gore (several people are tortured and replacing body parts is one of a magician's talents, which gets used a lot in this book).

If you're looking for something very different from what's out there and like kick-ass women, you've found it.  If you've got a weak stomach, look elsewhere.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Sailor Moon Reboot

This news is a few days old, but it doesn't look like it's hit the greater SF/Fantasy blogosphere much yet, so I'll post it here.  Sailor Moon is getting a reboot!  Manga Critic (and other sources) say it will be a brand new TV show, aimed at an older, more mature audience.  It's set for next summer.  This announcement makes me wonder if this is why the Sailor Moon manga has been rereleased in North America with a new (and more accurate) English translation.  I keep meaning to read and review those (I've been buying them as they come out).  I'm very excited about this.  Sailor Moon is one of the anime that got me into the genre.

The Miss Dream team fan dubbed the 20th Anniversary Talk show here.

And here's the song people on Moonkitty.net's twitter feed think will be the new opening theme.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Author Interview: Rhiannon Held

Novel: Silver

Website: rhiannonheld.com

> What is Silver about?

Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.

The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.

Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.

> What drew you to writing about werewolves?

Several things! They suited my perspective as a professional archaeologist, because once I made them a species (my werewolves are only born, not turned), they offered lots of cool opportunities for showing social dynamics and pack behavior as people with human tendencies might interpret them.

Readers also already mostly know what werewolves are. That means I can spend a little time on establishing a few unique details of mine and then move on to what I think is the fun part: their culture and religion and social etiquette and all kinds of stuff. How do they interact with each other? How do they interact with humans, since they’re hiding their real culture?  If I’d made up a new creature, I’d have to spend much more time on establishing everything about that creature, and much less on their culture and interactions.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

If I changed places with anyone, it would probably be one of my secondary characters. Their lives have much less upheaval! On the one hand, I think life in a pack-based society would be something I’d enjoy, since it’s so supportive. On the other hand, keeping your identity as a werewolf secret would be really stressful, so I think I’m better off as I am.

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

This question has two answers, so I’ll give you both. The first almost-novel-length writing exercise I did was for National Novel Writing Month. It took me about six or seven months to write 60,000 words. The reason I don’t count it as a full novel is that it was so short, and I never even tried to revise it. Silver was the first real novel I wrote. For comparison, it ended up being 85,000 words. The first draft took 3 months, but I did multiple revisions after that. Including six months where I set it aside to recharge my creativity for that project, about 18 months passed from the time when I wrote the first word to when I submitted it.

> When and where do you write?

The simplest answer is “when I’m alert” and “on my laptop”. However, given that I work full time, I mostly end up writing in the evenings on weekdays and a variety of times on weekends. In my apartment, I usually take the laptop to the couch, but that’s not a necessary part of the experience. I’ll write in coffee shops with other writers, but not by myself. When it’s raining, I’ve been known to write in the back seat of my car at the park, because I want to be outside, but my laptop would not be amused if it I took it out in that kind of weather.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Meet people in the writing community. Now, when you’re first learning or honing your craft. Don’t wait until you have a finished novel and then aim yourself at editors at parties for a hard sell. Meet people now just to meet people. People who are your peers, people who are earlier in their learning process than you, people who are established writers. Go to writing community events: conventions, workshops, retreats, critique groups, gatherings at the local coffee shop. Make friends with as many people as happens naturally, and remain friendly with all the others. When it comes time to sell your novel, you probably will have networked with someone who can help you, certainly, but the real benefit is that you’ll have connections with a great group of people will support you and you can support along the way.

> Any tips against writers block?

I’ll be so bold as to say I’ve never gotten writer’s block. I do stall every so often, unable to get a plot element to work. Then I stop writing for the day and pick up the next day. By then, I’ll either have solved the problem or I’ll work on another project for a while. How do I solve thorny plot problems? The same way I solve other mental puzzles. I think hard about it consciously for significant period while I do something that makes my mental flow smoother, like driving or walking. When I’ve brainstormed and turned the problem this way and that consciously, I set it aside and do something completely different. That’s when my unconscious gets to work. More often than not, in under 24 hours a solution will pop into my conscious mind. You might recognize this sensation from other areas of your life, whether it’s Sudoku, crossword puzzles, anagrams, or even a computer game like Myst. You can’t be lazy and stop trying immediately when a problem gets hard, figuring you unconscious will help you. You have to put in the work, and then you’ll be rewarded later.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

An easy answer to this would be that I just do, but that’s not very helpful. I think my discipline comes partially from knowing my rhythms of alertness and attention and working with them rather than trying to change them. For instance, if you want to lose weight and can’t resist cookies, you can either make yourself miserable thinking about the ones in the cupboard and wallow in guilt when you give in…or you can make sure not to buy any. I know I get very distracted after about two hours of writing. So rather than beating myself up and staring at a blank screen in the third hour, I plan to do something else after two. Maybe I get fewer words written that morning because I didn’t keep going for that extra hour. But maybe that afternoon after lunch and a walk, I feel energized and write many, many more, rather than being in a pit of guilt and getting nothing more done.

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

I sent my first story out with a group of three or four that all ended up rejected several times. In fact, back when I was writing only short stories, I came up with a game. When I reached 100 total rejections for all of the different stories I’d sent out, I’d buy myself a flat panel TV. Around 55 or so, I sold my first story. Around 70 I sold my novel. I still haven’t quite made 100, but I’m getting close now. I know I have a lot fewer total rejections than many writers, but I sent stories out pretty slowly during busy periods in my life, like when I was writing my thesis. And now I’ve got my novel series to work on!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Harry Potter And The Ten Years Later

Furious Molecules is putting together a 7 part parody webseries taking up 10 years after the last Harry Potter movie.  The trailer states that it's not for kids, so expect some adult humour.

The show starts Friday, July 20th with a new episode each week.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Book Review: Suited by Jo Anderton

Pros: learn more of the greater story (puppet men's origins, etc.), lots of action

Cons: Tanyana's character starts to grate, climaxes twice

Following directly after the events of Debris, Suited begins with Lad and Tanyana following the voice of the Keeper into ever more dangerous situations.  When they fail to reach their debris quota twice because of their other activities the collecting team is split.  With Kichlan on one team and Tanyana and Lad on the other, Tan vows to keep Lad safe.  Debris is hard to come by, and the new teams are scared of further repercussions from the Veche.

Meanwhile, Tan and Kichlan are asked to join an underground movement to stop the Veche and help the Keeper.  By releasing debris.

The opening is a rehash of the previous book, as discussed by two puppet men.  It reads oddly, as it's clear the characters both know what's happened and are talking about it for no purpose except for the reader to get caught up with the story.

There are several new subplots in this book, as well as revelations about a few character's backgrounds.  It was nice to learn more about some of the supporting cast, and realize that they have their own motivations for keeping outside the Veche's radar.

The relationship between Tan and Kichlan heats up.  This was something I was hoping to see after the first book, though I wasn't happy with how it played out.  While Kichlan was open and trusting, Tanyana went out of her way to hide quite a number of things from him.  Relationships can't work without trust and respect, and she gave him neither while expecting both.  As such, his attitude towards her at the end of the book didn't surprise me.

The book seemed to climax at the three quarter mark, with an important event.  I thought it was going for a long denoument (which I tend to find wearying), but then ramped up for another climax, with even more devestating consequences.  It is during this period of the novel that we finally learn more about the puppet men, what they are and what they're trying to achieve.

I wasn't very happy with the ending, especially Tanyana's lack of concern for anyone but herself and Kichlan.  However, the revelations at the end intrigued me enough that I'll likely pick up the next book to see how things turn out.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Genre News

Got some more emails about things you may be interested in.

Phoenix Picks' free ebook for July is Joan Slonczewski's first Elysium Cycle novel, Daughter of Elysium.  According to my husband, she's a great hard SF author (one of the Elysium Cycle novels, Brain Plague, is sitting on a shelf near me waiting to be read).

The coupon code is 9991545 and will be good from July 2 through July 31. Links for downloading the book (as usual) from our online catalogue, http://www.PPickings.com
"The Pristine City of Elysium floats on the water world of Shora, inhabited by 'immortals' who have succeeded in unlocking the secrets of life.
Outsider Blackbear Windclan wants to share the secret of immortality with his own people, but can he, and the City of Elysium survive the corruption and decadence that immortality has bred into the ageless society?
And what of the consciousness of the self-aware nano-sentient servitors and their quest for vengeance?"

Sounds good, doesn't it?

July is Monster Movie Month at MonsterLibrarian.

July 1 will mark the beginning of Monster Movie Month at MonsterLibrarian.com. Monster Movie Month will celebrate the connections between books and movies in the horror genre. The site will offer lists of movies horror fiction lovers might enjoy, reviews, and suggestions for readers advisory and marketing horror in the library.  Our blog, Musings of the Monster Librarian, will cover related topics and offer guest posts, including a contribution from Becky Siegel Spratford, author of The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Horror Fiction.  Come visit to find out what the horror genre has to offer readers and libraries this July at MonsterLibrarian.com!

Visit the Monster Movie Month page at:
and the Musings of the Monster Librarian blog:

If you're in the UK, this announcement by Angry Robot Books will be of interest to you:

As part of Independent Booksellers’ Week, award-winning SF & fantasy publisher Angry Robot have announced they are going to start giving away the digital version of each of their novels free with the physical paperback, in selected indie bookstores.

The Angry Robot Clonefiles, as they are whimsically calling them, will first be trialled with Mostly Books of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, starting Wednesday July 4th. Angry Robot will then be rolling out the scheme through other independent bookshops. Customers purchasing an Angry Robot novel will be emailed the digital version of the book in the format of their choice.

The Clonefiles programme was set up by Angry Robot’s UK Sales Manager Roland Briscoe and Mark Thornton of Mostly Books.
Independent bookshops wanting to join the Clonefiles promotion can contact Roland Briscoe at indie@angryrobotbooks.com.
Amazing Stories is doing a relaunch prelaunch issue, with several articles and a story becoming available as the month progresses.

You can find Volume 0, Number 1 here, and their facebook page here.  They'll be announcing the relaunch at  Comic Con in San Diego.

Speaking of which, if you're a US Citizen attending Comic Con and write fan fiction in one of the following settings: Star Wars®, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, then Random House Audio has a contest you might be interested in.

At this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, CA, Random House Audio will be recreating an audiobook studio right on the convention floor--inviting authors of fan fiction to record a sample of their work for a chance to have their story recorded and released as a digital audiobook.
Aspiring authors (who must be legal residents of the U.S. and 18 years or older) can sign up for a time slot to record their five-minute sample during the convention, July 12-15 at the San Diego Convention Center. Random House Audio producers will listen to the entries (no mashups, please) and select one to be professionally recorded and mixed by Random House Audio for streaming at www.randomhouseaudio.com. The grand prize winner and five runner-ups will have clips from their stories featured on the Random House Audio weekly podcast.

Sessions will be available Thursday through Saturday, July 12-14, from 10am-12pm and 1pm to 4pm at the Random House Audio booth #1515. Registration for morning slots is open now through July 10 at www.randomhouseaudio.com, and afternoon slots will be available for same-day sign ups beginning at 9am the first day of the con on a first-come, first-served basis.

Don’t see your fandom included on the list above? Sunday, July 15 is Open Mic Day! Fans of other series will get their chance to record their stories as well from 11am to 3pm and enter to win a collection of audiobooks.

Even if you’re not a writer, be sure to stop by the Random House Audio booth (#1515) for exclusive Comic-Con giveaways, including buttons, posters, headphones and mini microphone recorders. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in August, 2012

As per usual, I try to be complete with this list but something ends up missing.  The list is compiled using the Indigo database and as such reflects Canadian release dates.  If you know a book that should be here, mention it in the comments and I'll add it here.  So far I only mention Carina ebooks as they have an 'upcoming' books section on their website (most ebook publishers don't).


Star Wars: X-Wing: Mercy Kill – Aaron Allston
Wards of Faerie – Terry Brooks
The Traitor Queen – Trudi Canavan
World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War – Christie Golden
Libriomancer – Jim Hines
Black Bottle – Anthony Huso
Devil Said Bang – Richard Kadrey
The Unincorporated Future – Dani Kollin
King of Thorns – Mark Lawrence
Ghost Key – Trish MacGregor
Fate of Worlds – Larry Niven & Edward Lerner
The Constantine Affair – T. Aaron Payton
The City's Son – Tom Pollock
Seawitch – Kat Richardson
Queen of Wands – John Ringo 
Forgotten Realms: Charon's Claw – R. A. Salvatore
The Stuff of Legends – Brian Smith
When Diplomacy Fails – Michael Williamson

Trade Paperback:

The First Last Unicorn and Other Beginnings – Peter S. Beagle
The Immortality Factor – Ben Bova
Containment – Christian Cantrell
Solar Lottery – Philip K. Dick
The World Jones Made – Philip K. Dick
We Can Build You – Philip K. Dick
Fable: Edge of the World – Christie Golden
In War Times – Kathleen Ann Goonan
Extreme Zombies – Paula Guran, Ed.
Breakdown – Katherine Amt Hanna
The Fate of the Dwarves – Markus Heitz
Warhammer: Orion: The Vaults of Winter – Darius Hinks
The Genocidal Organ – Project Itoh
At the Mouth of the Rive of Bees – Kij Johnson
Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology – James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, Ed.
Midnight Court – Jane Kindred
Endurance – Jay Lake
Star Trek: Harbinger – David Mack
Shadowlands – Violette Malan
Bullettime – Nick Mamatas
A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin
Star Trek: Taking Wing – Michael Martin
Future Lovecraft – Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Paula Stiles, Ed.
The Book of Transformations – Mark Newton
The Broken Isles – Mark Newton
Ice and Shadow – Andre Norton (reprint omnibus)
Low Town – Daniel Polansky
The Iron Wyrm Affair – Lilith Saintcrow
Penguin Classics: The Purprle Cloud – M. P. Shiel
Downward to Earth – Robert Silverberg
In the House of the Wicked – Thomas Sniegoski
Hidden Things – Doyce Testerman
Swallowing a Donkey's Eye – Paul Tremblay

Mass Market Paperback:

Endgame – Ann Aguirre
Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Conviction – Aaron Allston
Well-Tempered Clavicle – Piers Anthony
Wrayth – Philippa Ballantine
The Corpse-Rat King – Lee Battersby
Star Trek Voyager: The Eternal Tide – Kristen Beyer
Undercurrents – Robert Buettner
Ghost Story – Jim Butcher
Two Weeks' Notice – Rachel Caine
Black Swan Rising – Lee Carroll
Spellbound – Blake Charlton
Seven Wonders – Adam Christopher
Sanctuary – Rowena Cory Daniells
Star Corpsman – Ian Douglas
Cold Fire – Kate Elliott
Widow's Web – Jennifer Estep
Ring of Fire III – Eric Flint, Ed.
Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne – David Gaider
The Shattered Vine – Laura Anne Gilman
The Omen Machine – Terry Goodkind
Ghost of a Dream – Simon Green
Taken – Benedict Jacka
Love on the Run – Katharine Kerr
Soul Trade – Caitlin Kittredge
A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin *
Diviner – Melanie Rawn
The Highest Frontier – Joan Slonczewski
When the People Fall – Cordwainer Smith
Grass King's Concubine – Kari Sperring
Haunted – Jeanne Stein
A Wolf at the Door – K. A. Stewart
Mockingbird – Chuck Wendig

ebooks (Carina Press)

Cyber Sparks – Robert Appleton
The Guardian of Bastet – Jacqueline Battisti
The Druid Stone – Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane
The Bloodgate Warrior – Joely Sue Burkhart
The Superheroes Union: Dynama – Ruth Diaz
Rise of Hope – Kaily Hart 
Shattered Magic – Rebecca York

*  This was an error on the Indigo site, which has since been corrected.  A Dance With Dragons will come out in paperback in March 2013.  Sorry for the confusion.