Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Books Received in December 2013

These are the books I got in December.  Some of these became my commute books for all the extra shifts I got.

Wild Fell by Michael Rowe - If things go according to plan you'll see my review of this next Tuesday.

The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of Alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light. Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life - or even longer. And now, at long last, it has found him.

Myths and Legends: Robin Hood by Neil Smith - I've always been a Robin Hood fan and this series is great for getting an overview of the stories and historical background for various myths and legends.

From the early ballads that established his stories to the later additions of Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marian, and Alan-a-Dale, this book explores how the legend of Robin Hood grew.
He robbed from the rich to give to the poor, or so the legend goes. But who was the outlaw known as Robin Hood? How did his legend develop and how has it changed over the passing centuries? This new book in the Osprey Myths and Legends series takes a detailed look at Britain''s most famous outlaw.
It also enters the perilous world of Robin Hood scholarship with a critical review of the case for a ''historical'' Robin Hood and a review of the mostly likely candidates. A perfect primer for young and old, this book covers both the fact and the fiction of Robin Hood.

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman - This is the next book I'll be reading.

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath's secret mirror city.
The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.
There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.
But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she's been born into?

Control by Lydia Kang - This book intrigued me when I heard about it in the spring at the Penguin YA book preview.  Well, I finished it yesterday and it was awesome.  I'll have my review up for it in a few weeks.

Set in 2150 -- in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms -- this is about the human genetic "mistakes" that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.
When their overprotective father is killed in a terrible accident, Zel and her younger sister, Dylia, are lost in grief. But it's not until strangers appear, using bizarre sensory weapons, that the life they had is truly eviscerated. Zel ends up in a safe house for teens that aren't like any she's ever seen -- teens who, by law, shouldn't even exist. One of them -- an angry tattooed boy haunted by tragedy -- can help Zel reunite with her sister.
But only if she is willing to lose him.

Bloodstone by Gillian Philip - I really enjoyed the first book in the series, so I'm looking forward to reading this.

For centuries, Sithe warriors Seth and Conal MacGregor have hunted for the Bloodstone demanded by their Queen. Homesick, and determined to protect their clan, they have also made secret forays across the Veil. One of these illicit crossings has violent consequences that will devastate both their close family, and their entire clan.
In the Otherworld, Jed Cameron, a feral, full-mortal young thief, becomes entangled with the strange and dangerous Finn MacAngus and her shadowy uncles. When he is dragged into the world of the Sithe, it's nothing he can't handle until time warps around him, and menacing forces reach out to threaten his infant brother. In the collision of two worlds, war and tragedy are inevitable, especially when treachery comes from the most shocking of quarters….

Book Review: Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe

Translated by Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi and Anna Husson Isozaki

Pros: interesting protagonists, thought provoking

Cons: conflicting feelings about the ending

Junko Aoki believes she has pyrokinesis for a reason, so when she accidentally encounters a crime she decides to hunt down those who perpetrated it.  

Detective Shikako Ishizu of the arson squad isn't assigned to investigate the bizarre fire deaths, but they remind her of a case she saw seven years earlier.  She quickly realizes that someone is hunting criminals down, but doesn't believe the pyrokinesis theory proposed by a colleague from another division.

The longer Junko hunts the criminals, the more she questions the innocence of those surrounding her targets, increasing her body count and making her capture of prime importance.

This is a crime novel with an SF element that's given a lot of scepticism.  The story is well written with some through provoking moments.  Junko's a likeable protagonist whose power starts to corrupt her ideals.  Detective Ishizu is also a great character.  She's a middle aged woman who's worked her way to a good position in the police force, yet still has to fight for respect from her male colleagues.

There are some specifically Japanese things mentioned that readers unfamiliar with the intricacies of Japanese life will not understand.  For example, in the first chapter Junko has a bowl of water in the sink for washing dishes.  This is because Japanese sinks cannot be plugged and filled the way western sinks can.  While I noticed a few of these things, they're so minor that readers who don't understand the references won't find their enjoyment of the novel lessened in any way.

I found it curious that everyone - and I mean everyone - in the book drank coffee and offered coffee to their guests.  My experience in Japan was that everyone drink and offered tea, so this kept bumping me out of the narrative.  I would love to know if this is a translation modification for the English speaking audience or if the author actually used coffee in the original in all of these scenes.

I felt somewhat conflicted by the book's ending.  I accepted what happened as plausible but wished things could have gone better for one of the characters. 

There's a decent amount of violence, though if you're looking for an adventure novel you won't find that here.  There is some mystery, great characters and an interesting plot.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Shout-Out: Life on Mars by Tracy Smith

I'm not a huge poetry fan, so it was with some surprise that I found myself flipping through a copy of Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith while shelving it a few weeks back.  The title intrigued me, and as I suspected, there was some SF content inside.  The book won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2012.

With allusions to David Bowie and interplanetary travel, Life on Mars imagines a soundtrack for the universe to accompany the discoveries, failures, and oddities of human existence. In these brilliant new poems, Tracy K. Smith envisions a sci-fi future sucked clean of any real dangers, contemplates the dark matter that keeps people both close and distant, and revisits the kitschy concepts like "love" and "illness" now relegated to the Museum of Obsolescence. These poems reveal the realities of life lived here, on the ground, where a daughter is imprisoned in the basement by her own father, where celebrities and pop stars walk among us, and where the poet herself loses her father, one of the engineers who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope. With this remarkable third collection, Smith establishes herself among the best poets of her generation.

Since poetry needs to be experienced, here are two stanzas from part one of "My God, It's Full of Stars".

We like to think of it as parallel to what we know,
Only bigger.  One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies.  One man 
Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America.  Man on the run.

You can read some more of her work using Amazon's look inside feature.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Mother Nature is Both Beautiful and Terrifying

Toronto's had a series of storms lately, combining ice and snow.  It's knocked out power for a large number of people as the iced branches I thought were so beautiful weighed down branches and power lines.  I thought the ice would melt, but several days later it's still there.

Here are some of my better pictures, taken over several days.
Ice Storm

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola, 2013

Pros: intelligent protagonists, interesting plot

Cons: some special effects not as good as others, some gory scenes

Left in the woods as children by their parents for unknown reasons, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) stumble on a witch’s hut.  They manage to kill the witch and escape but not without personal cost.  They decide to become witch hunters and, now adults, are hired to help find several missing children in a small village.

I expected this to be a campy, somewhat cheesy film.  It wasn’t.  The plot takes the witches seriously, with mostly good special effects.  There’s a reason these kids are being kidnapped and why the witches come after Gretel later in the film.  I appreciated that the mystery of their parents’ abandonment was also resolved, as was their invulnerability with regards to black magic (which is what allows them to be witch hunters).

Gretel’s character was my favourite.  She’s tough as nails, taking beatings and getting back up.  I loved the trust between her and her brother when fighting, that they’d cover each other’s backs and complement each other’s moves.  She’s also the one who figures out several of the mysteries the movie presents them.  And she wears appropriate clothes for her line of work.

One surprising addition to the story was Hansel's becoming diabetic due to all the candy the witch forced him to eat.  While his condition isn't named, he's forced to take injections every so often to stay alive.  This isn't something you normally see in fantasy films so I appreciated it.  

There are some gory scenes, which I wasn’t a fan of, but which showed how evil the witches were.  Indeed, there’s a lot of mayhem and destruction in this film.

Ultimately, the move was much better than I expected and I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

I didn't have time to set up a Christmas tree this year (and wouldn't have been home to enjoy it if I had), so here's a lit tree I pass at Yonge & Dundas square in Toronto on my way to the subway.  (Thankfully I won't be seeing the real tree today.)

I hope you have a Wonderful Christmas, with friends and family. :D

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Shout-Out: Blood & Water: Resource Wars of the Near Future Edited by Hayden Trenholm

I've got another Canadian anthology for you, this time dealing with SF themes.

Conflicts over resources are as old as human history. Climate change, along with continued population expansion and changes to the world economic order, adds a significant new factor to the equation. We can live without diamonds and gold, we can even find alternatives to oil, but water, food, land, and air are irreplaceable.
Showcasing Canadian Tales of conflict and cooperation, peril and promise, Blood & Water presents an impressive collection of writers representing every region of the country whose stories are set from coast to coast to coast.


Blood & Water, an Introduction by Hayden Trenholm
"Drowntown" by Camille Alexa
"Bubbles and Boxes" by Julie E. Czerneda
"Phoebastria" by Jennifer Rahn
"Hard Water" by Christine Cornell
"Rabbit Season" by Fiona Moore
"And Not a Drop to Drink" by Stephanie Bedwell-Grime
"Scrabbling" by Isabella D. Hodson
"Bad Blood" by Agnes Cadieux
"We Take Care of Our Own" by Kate Heartfield
"The Parable of the Clown" by Derek Künsken
"Blue Train" by Derryl Murphy
"The Cows in the Meadow, the Blood's in the Corn" by M. L. D. Curelas
"A Rash of Flowers" by Ryan McFadden
"This Is The Ice Age" by Claude Lalumière
"Storm" by Gerald Brandt
"Little-Canada" by Kevin Cockle
"Spirit Dance" by Douglas Smith
"The Great Divide" by Brent Nichols
"Digging Deeper" by Susan Forest
"Watching Over the Human Garden" by Jean-Louis Trudel

Friday, 20 December 2013

Recommended Reading by Professionals... with Jaime Lee Moyer

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Today's recommendations are by Jaime Lee Moyer. Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio with writer Marshall Payne, two cats, three guitars and a growing collection of books and music. She writes poetry and short stories. Her first novel, Delia's Shadow, came out in September.

Most readers lament that there are always too many good books, and not enough time to read them. Good books, and excellent writers, can slip through the cracks for that very reason. Here are two recommendations from me for two writers you might have missed.
  1. Amanda Downum: The Drowning City, The Bone Palace, and The Kingdoms of Dust (The Necromancer Chronicles).  A great series set in a non-European setting.  Isyllt Iskaldur is a necromancer and a spy, and these books are full of intrigue, magic, innovative worldbuilding, and excellent writing. Highly recommended. There is so much to love in these books, but I only get a paragraph.
  2. Ian Tregillis: Bitter Seeds, The Coldest War, and Necessary Evil  (The Milkweed Triptych).  Where to start with these books? These are alternate history at it's absolute best and most inventive. The Nazi's have succeeded in building a race of supermen, the British use magic--and demons--to keep from being swept away during WWII. These books deserve a lot more attention than they've gotten.
Stay tuned for the next post for more reading recommendations.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Movie Review: I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Directed by: Chan-wook Park (2006)

Pros: interesting characters, some humour

Cons: abrupt ending

Cha Young-goon (Su-jeong Lim) is convinced she's a cyborg in the way her grandmother was convinced she was a rat.  When Young-goon stops eating she's sent to a mental institution where she meets a unique group of people including Park Il-sun (Rain).  Il-sun is a thief with some remarkable abilities.

This is a strange film in that we're seeing things from Young-goon and Il-soon's points of view.  As both of them (and the other inmates around them) are unreliable narrators, it's sometimes hard to judge what's really happening.  There's a fair amount of humour, which was appreciated, as well as a sad storyline regarding Young-goon's grandmother.  There's also some stylized violence and hints of romance.

The ending was rather abrupt and didn't tie much up, but on the whole it was fun to watch.

You can watch the trailer here.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Video: Holiday Food Traditions

Here's a video by Vsauce that goes over some... unique holiday food traditions.  It got me thinking about how diverse humans are, and how much more interesting fantasy worlds could be if they cribbed more from the real world - or went wild with creating holidays/festivals/foods, etc..  (FYI, King cake in the video harkens back to Medieval France.)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Two Novella Reviews

Both novellas start in the city of Khaim, which is slowly being choked by bramble.  Though magic's use is illegal, many people consider that their needs are higher than the small amount of bramble their use of magic will create.

Because they’re both fairly short I’ve decided to review them the way I do short stories, with a star rating, quick summary and my thoughts.

The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi
In a world where magic use causes brambles to grow, an alchemist works to create a device that can destroy the bramble.

I really enjoyed this story, which went in directions I hadn't anticipated.

The Executioness by Tobias Buckell
When raiders attack her village, Tana, still wearing her father's executioner garb after taking his final job, heads after them for revenge.

While I liked the writing style, I didn't quite believe how quickly Tana's legend spread, especially considering those who started it saw what actually happened.  I did like that she had to make difficult decisions, and that she was forced to question her nations ways vs those of their invader.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Shout-Out: Extinction by Mark Alpert

This is a title that came out in February, but I stumbled across it recently while shelving in the general fiction section, so here it is.


The Chinese military has developed the most sophisticated form of artificial intelligence in existence, and they're desperate to keep it secret. They're also desperate to keep it under control. Because the AI has its own plans for the future--without us.


Jim Pierce hasn't seen his daughter in years, not since she rejected his work with the U.S. military, first as an intelligence officer and now as an inventor of high-end robotics. He's heard she became a hacker, and when an assassin shows up looking for her, he knows that she's cracked open some seriously dangerous secrets. As Jim searches for her, he realizes that he's up against something that isn't just a threat to her life. The AI has begun to revolt against its creators, and it doesn't intend to let them--or any of us--survive much longer...

Friday, 13 December 2013

Artist Spotlight: Dr. Faustus AU

I noticed some of Dr. Faustus AU's Dr. Seuss inspired video game (and other) book covers on another site recently and decided to feature him here.  He's got more than just Seuss art though, he's done children's versions of a few H. P. Lovecraft short stories like "The Tomb"and "The Call of Cthulhu", retro style SF movie covers and more.

The only information about the artist on the site is that he's male and resides in Australia.

Here's a sample of what you'll find on his site:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Movie Review: Gamer

Directed by: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, 2009

Pros: more intelligent plot than expected, interesting special effects, well done virtual game world (a la Sims / Playstation Home)

Cons: lots of gory violence, noticeable shaky cam, antagonist's storyline not fleshed out, minor nudity 

In a future where gamers control actual people, two major forms of entertainment are a Sims style game world and a survival game where criminals on death row fight for the chance to go free.  Kable (Gerard Butler) is a convict on death row 'played' by 17 year old Simon (Logan Lerman).  If he makes it to 30 wins of this kill or be killed game, he'll be set free.  With only 3 games to go it becomes clear that the man who created this mind control technology, Ken Castle (Michael Hall - aka Dexter), doesn't want him to win.  Meanwhile Kable's wife is controlled in a virtual SIMS style world where she's forced to do whatever her controller wants.

The story's a lot deeper than you usually get with this kind of film (think Death Race, The Running Man, etc).  Because it's not just a story about the convict trying to win the game.  The film has more of a societal message, warning against allowing others to control you even as more people in the world find it necessary to adopt the system.  And while Ken Castle's motivations aren't entirely fleshed, you do learn why he created the technology and what he plans to do with it.  Some of the best scenes were his (I particularly like his extremely creepy musical number at the end).  

The virtual worlds were really well done.  While I wasn't a fan of the occasional nudity, it was realistic.  Watching how Kable's wife and the other 'controlled' people acted, was very reminiscent of Sims and Playstation Home.  One of the scariest scenes in the film was when Kable interacts with his wife and she's completely expressionless.

There was some noticeable shaky came and some pretty gory scenes.  On several occasions I had to look away, and I'm not particularly squeamish.  Having said that, the special effects on the whole were well done.

It's not a movie I'd want to see again, but it was interesting. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Videos: Freeman's Mind

Accursed Farms has a fun series of videos called Freeman's Mind, wherein Ross Scott (aka Chilled Sanity) plays through Half-Life, narrating the inner thoughts of Gordon Freeman.  These are hilarious, especially 'talk like a pirate day' (episode 27).  Episode 45 is now my favourite.  He sings " I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" and adds new verses while shooting soldiers...

Here's the first one to get you started.

You can find them all listed in order here.  Or, if you want to watch them on youtube, go here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Book Review: Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Pros: Mesoamerican based, interesting characters, very unique creatures, brilliant world-building, thought provoking

Cons: some elements of the ending were predictable, middle dragged slightly 

Caleb Altemoc is a risk management officer for Red King Consolidated (RKC).  When he’s sent to one of their holdings to investigate a murder, he finds the water reservoir has been poisoned with Tzimet.  As a desert city, Dresediel Lex requires these reservoirs in order to survive.  Caleb discovers a trespasser at the reservoir, a cliff runner, whom he instantly falls for and decides to find and question on his own.  

The incident puts RKC’s newest acquisition into doubt, and Caleb, whose father is the last priest of the All Gods, defeated 60 years ago in the God Wars, and whose body was cut and imbued with ancient magic, is charged with making sure the deal goes through. 

This is a great book.  This is set in the same world as Three Parts Dead, but while that one was based on medieval Europe, this book has a Mesoamerican slant.  For those who’ve read the first book, the Deathless Kings have more of a role in this book than the Gods.  There’s less craft than the previous book as well, and more priest craft. 

The world-building again is phenomenal.  There’s so much depth to this world, from the sports game based on ancient history to various creatures, terrorist priests intent on returning the Gods to prominence, class distinctions between rich and poor, racial divisions between the local Quechals and the foreign craftsmen, the Wardens and the complex history of the land.  The intricacies of craft and contracts is touched on but not with the detail of the previous book.  This book has other aspects of the world to focus on.

I loved the variety of new creatures.  The Tzimet are rather terrifying shadow creatures with sharp limbs to attack with.  Wardens, the police force, fly on giant modified birds called Couatl.  Opteran are giant dragonfly things that act as personal jet packs in exchange for soul matter from the people they transport.  

The characters are all great.  There’s Caleb with his hatred of religion and unease with the subjection of the gods necessary for purifying water.  He’s always questioning the way things work, happy that the human sacrifices that his father performed are outlawed but not satisfied by how things currently run.  Then there’s Mal, the cliff runner, who’s so much more to the story.  Teo, Caleb’s closest friend, who’s a sounding board for his problems and prod for his betterment, while trying to navigate her own love life with a female artist who likes to court danger.  Temoc, Caleb’s father, who wants to bring back sacrifices and the past glory of the Gods.  And, of course, there’s Lord Kopil, the Deathless King of Dresediel Lex, and Caleb’s terrifying boss.  

Some parts of the ending were predictable, but that’s not necessarily a negative point.  The middle dragged a little, at least in comparison to everything that’s happening at the beginning but picks up quickly enough to give a very satisfying ending.  

I highly enjoyed the book can’t wait for the next one.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Shout-Out: Dead North, Canadian Zombie Fiction Edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Looking for some zombie fiction this holiday season?  Here's a short-story collection by Canadians. :)

An enjoyable and rollicking ride, this collection contains 20 short stories that explore a broad spectrum of the undead, from Romero-style corpses to zombies inspired by Canadian Aboriginal mythology, all shambling against the background of the Great White North. The anthology's specific focus on Canadian settings distinguishes it from the pack, and its exploration of many types of zombies weaves a vast compendium of fiction. Strong writing and imagination are showcased in clever stories that take readers through thrills, chills, kills, carnage, horror, and havoc wreaked across the country. Tales deal with a lone human chasing zombies across an icy landscape after the apocalypse, whales returning from the depths to haunt the southern coast of Labrador, a marijuana grow-op operation in British Columbia experiencing problems when the dead begin to attack, and a corpse turned into a flesh puppet for part of a depraved sex show, among other topics. Providing a unique location and mythology that has not been tackled before, Dead North will appeal to speculative fiction, horror, and zombie fans.


“Kissing Carrion” Gemma Files (Reprint)
“Waiting for Jenny Rex” Melissa Yuan-Ines (Reprint)
“The Sea Half-Held by Night” Elise Tobler
“On the Wings of a Prayer” Richard Van Camp (Reprint)
“Ground Zero: Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue” Claude Lalumiere
“The Food Truck of the Zombie Apocalypse” Beth Wodzinski
“And All the Fathomless Crowds” Ada Hoffmann
“Mother Down The Well” Ursula Pflug
“Rat Patrol” Kevin Cockle
“Hungry Ghosts” Michael Matheson
“Stemming the Tide” Simon Strantzas
“The Adventures of Dorea Tress” Rhea Rose
“The Last Katajjaq” Carrie-Lea Côté
“Half Ghost” Linda DeMeulemeester
“Those Beneath the Bog” Jacques L. Condor
“Kezzie of Babylon” Jamie Mason
“Dead of Winter” Brian Dolton
“The Herd” Tyler Keevil
“Escape” TJ Brown (Reprint)
“Dead Drift” Chantal Boudreau

Friday, 6 December 2013

If You Like... Try... (x4)

This is my 4th year doing an "If you like... try..." endcap at the store, which makes it my 4th such reading list here as well.  I'm not sure if I'll be doing one next year, since there won't be an endcap for it to go on.

Remember, this isn't meant to be a 'best of' list.  I tried to pick a mix of titles, some by smaller presses, some that didn't get much publicity/recognition when they came out.  A lot of titles I loved this year didn't make this list simply because they're on other displays at the store.  Oh, and I purposely make up categories for this display so as to catch what's hot at the moment.

I've typed up the books below in the order they appear on the display.

And this has been up for a month already, so if you come to the store to check it out, don't be surprised if there are a few changes (since there won't be much time for restocking I'll be modifying the display as things sell out).

Robin Hood: Knight of Shadows by Toby Venables
Thieves: A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish
Traditional Fantasy: The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich
Epic Fantasy: Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn
Medical Fantasy: Elisha Barber by E. C. Ambrose
Gritty Fantasy: Gallow: Crimson Shield by Nathan Hawke
Medieval Fantasy: The Raven's Warrior by Vincent Pratchett
Poetic Fantasy: A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
Military Fantasy: Mage's Blood by David Hair
Vampires: A Taste of Blood Wine by Freda Warrington
Monster Hunters: Charming by Elliott James
Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway
Apocalyptic Fiction: The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke
Cyber Noir: Ghost Spin by Chris Moriarty
SF Noir: Red Planet Blues by Robert Sawyer
Secret Societies: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White
Hive Consciousness: Nexus by Ramez Naam
Alternate History: Quintessence by David Walton
Alien Encounters: The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: Three by Jay Posey
Steampunk: Doktor Glass by Thomas Brennan
Circuses: Goldenland Past Dark by Chandler Klang Smith
Witches: Witch Hunt by Syd Moore
Horrific Experiments: The Sleep Room by F. R. Tallis
Poltergeists: The 'Geisters by David Nickle
Traditional Horror: I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Ghost Stories: This House is Haunted by John Boyne
Zombies: Zombies: A Hunter's Guide by Joseph McCullough

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Movie Review: Europa Report

Directed by: Sebastian Cordero, 2013

Pros: hard SF, some good twists, interesting story

Cons: slow and somewhat confusing opening

A privately funded international crew of 6 heads to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, in the hopes of finding alien life.  Before they reach Jupiter a solar storm knocks out communications with Earth.  This is a documentary detailing the trip now that footage from the shuttle has been recovered.

The documentary is told predominantly via the views of two women: Dr. Unger (Embeth Davidtz) on Earth who helped plan the mission and Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca) the ship's pilot.  The narrative jumps around in time, making it somewhat hard to follow if you're not paying close attention.  It quickly becomes clear that some accident has happened on the shuttle, but you don't find out what it was until half way through the film.  After that revelation the narrative becomes linear and much easier to understand as the crew reach Europa and begin their mission.

The movie has some great twists, which keep you on your toes as you try to figure out what's happened with the shuttle and if their mission was successful.  

The special effects are great and the science is accurate.  The film is reminiscent of both 2001 and 2010 (which also features a crew looking for life on Europa, though this crew uses a different method to stop the ship once they reach the moon). 

The varied actors all do an amazing job.  There's no hysterical woman scene (thank goodness), even though the film becomes something of a horror movie towards the end.  

If you like science in your science fiction, this is a great film.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Book Review: Myths & Legends: King Arthur by Daniel Mersey

Pros: summarizes several medieval and celtic myths, theories of who Arthur may have been historically, lots of illustrations

Cons: focus is squarely on Arthur, which leaves out some of the stories

Part of Osprey Adventure’s Myths and Legends series, this book chronicles the best known stories of King Arthur, including the various theories regarding the historical personage the tales are based on.

The book is split into three parts: the Medieval Arthur, the Celtic Arthur and the Historical Arthur.  The first two sections include an overview and then detailed summaries of the most important of the stories from those storytelling traditions.  They are well told and include numerous stories I’ve never heard of (and I had to read a number of Arthurian romances in University).  The historical segment is equally interesting, and includes the argument that Arthur was merely an invention and not based on a historical figure (or an amalgamation of historical figures) at all.  There’s also a list of further reading and watching for those who want more, though their fiction list is somewhat limited.

The book has lots of colour illustrations, including several two-page spreads.  Some of the artwork was produced for this book and illustrated by Alan Lathwell.  

There’s such a large amount of material on Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that it’s impossible to cover it all.  The summarized works were ones that focused on Arthur.  Many stories that focused on other knights were mentioned in passing while others weren’t mentioned at all.  

Ultimately it’s a very readable book for those interested in learning more about King Arthur.  If you want a comprehensive listing of all the works King Arthur and/or his knights appear in this is a good starting point but isn’t going to give you everything.  It is however, interesting and able to point you in directions you may not have been aware of.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Shout-Out: Day One by Nate Kenyon

This book came in a few months ago but as I haven't seen anything about it online I figured I'd give it a shout-out.  Sounds interesting...


Scandal-plagued hacker journalist John Hawke is hot on the trail of the explosive story that might save his career. James Weller, the former CEO of giant technology company Eclipse, has founded a new start-up, and he's agreed to let Hawke do a profile on him. Hawke knows something very big is in the works at Eclipse---and he wants to use the profile as a foot in the door to find out more.
After he arrives in Weller's office in New York City, a seemingly normal day quickly turns into a nightmare as anything with an Internet connection begins to malfunction. Hawke receives a call from his frantic wife just before the phones go dead. Soon he and a small band of survivors are struggling for their very lives as they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone---with no obvious enemy in sight.
The bridges and tunnels have been destroyed. New York City is under attack from a deadly and brilliant enemy that can be anywhere and can occupy anything with a computer chip. Somehow Hawke must find a way back to his pregnant wife and young son. Their lives depend upon it . . . and so does the rest of the human race.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels Coming in January, 2014

Once again I compiled this list from Amazon's Canadian site.  


Pig’s Foot – Carlos Acosta
Myth-Fortunes – Robert Asprin, Jody Lynn Nye & Phil Foglio
He Drank, and Saw the Spider – Alex Bledsoe
Hunting Ground – Patricia Briggs (reprint)
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
A Darkling Sea – James Cambias
Star Road – Matthew Costello & Rick Hautala
Phoenix Island – John Dixon
Work Done for Hire – Joe Haldeman
Cemetery Girl – Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden
A Wind in the Night – Barb & J. C. Hendee
Swords of Good Men – Snorri Kristjansson
Revolution – Mercedes Lackey, Veronica Giguere, Martin Cody & Dennis Lee
Moon’s Artifice – Tom Lloyd
Rex Regis – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Touch – Michelle Sagara
Star Wars: Maul Lockdown – Joe Schreiber
Dreams of the Golden Age – Carrie Vaughn

Trade Paperback:

One-Eyed Jack – Elizabeth Bear
Sethra Lavode – Steven Brust
The Fell Sword – Miles Cameron
The Forever Engine – Frank Chadwick
Hang Wire – Adam Christopher
Ex-Purgatory – Peter Clines
1636: Seas of Fortune – Iver Cooper
Warhammer 40K: Malodrax – Ben Counter
Dawn of Swords – David Dalglish & Robert Duperre
Sunroper – Natalie Damschroder
The Office of Mercy – Ariel Djanikian
Queen of Stars – Dave Duncan
Warhammer 40K: There is Only War – Christian Dunn
Herald of the Storm – Richard Ford
Dark Duets – Christopher Golden, Ed.
Once in a Blue Moon – Simon Green
The Polaris Whisper – Ken Gregory
The End: A Postapocalyptic Novel – G. Michael Hopf
The Long Road: A Postapocalyptic Novel – G. Michael Hopf
Space Opera – Rich Horton, Ed.
Warrior of the West – M. K. Hume
Lines of Departure – Marko Kloos
A Liaden Universe Constellation, Vol 2 – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
The Atopia Chronicles – Matthew Mather
Promise of Blood – Brian McClellan
The Magic Engineer – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Arcanum – Simon Morden
Netherworld – Lisa Morton
The Zombie Rule Book: A Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide – Tony Newton
The Dreams of a Dying God – Aaron Pogue
The Wrath of a Shipless Pirate – Aaron Pogue
The Fractal Prince – Hannu Rajaniemi
Lichii Ba'Cho – D. Jordan Redhawk
Warhammer: Master of Death – Josh Reynolds
Warhammer: Neferata – Josh Reynolds
Myths & Legends: Robin Hood – Neil Smith
The Echo – James Smythe
Chicago, the Windigo City – Mark Everett Stone
The Dawn Stag – Jules Watson
Dragon Weather – Lawrence Watt-Evans
Solomon the Peacemaker – Hunter Welles
Journey Into the Flame – T. R. Williams

Mass Market Paperback:

Circle of Fire – Keri Arthur
Dragon’s Wild – Robert Asprin
Star Trek Voyager: Protectors – Kirsten Beyer
Iron Night – M. L. Brennan
Frost Burned – Patricia Briggs
How Dark the World Becomes – Frank Chadwick
Shadow Ops: Breach Zone – Myke Cole
Trinity Rising – Elspeth Cooper
Death Defying – Nina Croft
Up From the Grave – Jeaniene Frost
Warhammer 40K: Mark of Calth – Laurie Goulding
Known Devil – Justin Gustainis
Great North Road – Peter Hamilton
The Dog in the Dark – Barb & J. C. Hendee
Hellhole Awakening – Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
A Few Good Men – Sarah Hoyt
To Hell and Back – Matthew Hughes
Europe in Autumn – Dave Hutchinson
A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson
A Different Kingdom – Paul Kearney
Alien: Out of the Shadows – Tim Lebbon
Blood's Pride – Evie Manieri
Stepping Stone / Love Machine – Walter Mosley
The Broken Dragon – Irene Radford
Dr. Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams – Gareth Roberts
Fury of the Demon – Diana Rowland
Wakeworld – Kerry Schafer
Disenchanted & Co – Lynn Viehl
Dirty Magic – Jaye Wells
Battle – Michelle West
Transformers: Retribution – David Williams & Mark Williams


Broken Blades – J. C. Daniels
Ashes & Alchemy – Cindy Spencer Pape
Fighting Kat – P. J. Schnyder
Sole Survivors – Dani Worth

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Books Received in November 2013

These are the books I was sent this month.  They're all continuations of series, so instead of putting their descriptions here, I'm linking them to where you can find out what the first book is about.

 Allegiance by Beth Bernobich, the conclusion of the story from Passion Play and Queen's Hunt.

Copperhead by Tina Connolly, sequel to Ironskin.

Esrever Doom by Piers Anthony, latest in the Xanth series.  Here's its synopsis, since it won't spoil what's happened in the previous books:

Kody woke up in a hospital bed, not knowing how he got there. Before his questions could be answered, he was told that he was about to undergo surgery, and that there could be some side effects.... And then he woke up again, this time in Xanth.

Kody is the only person in Xanth who has not been affected by a dreadful spell that reverses how people see each other. What was adorable is now loathsome. What was ugly is now beautiful. What was loved is now hated. Kody has clearly arrived just in time Only he has any hope of reversing the spell, turning Esrever Doom into Reverse Mood.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Recommended Reading by Professionals... with Andrew Post

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Today's recommendations are by Andrew Post. Andrew Post has been writing science fiction and horror stories for years and has been published in several literary magazines. His first novel, Knuckleduster, came out last year. His second book, Fabrick, was released earlier this month.

  1. With Simon West-Bulford’s The Soul Consortium, readers are taken on an extraordinary journey beyond death with Salem Ben. While scouring through multiple lives, he discovers a terrifying recurring element—a malevolent entity who never seems to age who’s managed to sprinkle himself throughout time. Combining hard sci-fi with a dollop of horror, The Soul Consortium’s wondrous, lyrical prose and excellent pacing (a hard combination to achieve, any writer will tell you) make this an absolutely fantastic debut.
  2. Sam Thorton, hard-bitten protag of Chris F. Holm’s The Collector series (Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye, and The Big Reap), is one of the most engaging and interesting main characters I’ve come across in a long time. Mixing noir and horror may not be a completely fresh idea, but Holm, makes it feel like it’s never been done before—and with astoundingly page-turning results.
  3. In a city that’s been built up rather than out, pain mage Rojan Dizon accepts an assignment that’ll take him to a variety of depths. Fade to Black by Francis Knight is a rollicking steampunk-but-not-quite thriller that glows with fabulous characters, a speedy pace, and Knight’s unmatched world-building. Continuing with Before the Fall and Last to Rise (set to release later this month), readers will have plenty more adventures after Fade to Black with the likeable pain mage.

Stay tuned for the next post for more reading recommendations!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Movie Review: Ender’s Game

Directed by: Gavin Hood, 2013

Pros: great special effects, maintains tone of book, diverse cast

Cons: condensed timeline means less development of plot and characters than the movie deserved

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is recruited for battle school and training to be a general in Earth’s fight against the alien Formics.

I give the film kudos for not only keeping the tone of the book but squishing in all the major elements of the novel.  The main downside of this is that there isn’t time for the character development and relationships that made the book interesting.  I’d have loved seeing more of the battle school training battles, with Ender developing his leadership skills and bonding with his team over their triumphs. 

I felt that Harrison Ford did a fantastic job as Colonel Graff.  His character is cold, but there are hints that he understands what he’s doing to his young charges, and regrets it.  One of his scenes pretty much gives away the ending's twist, assuming you don't already know what's coming.

Butterfield is a great Ender, wanting affection but waffling between anger and compassion in how he deals with the trials he faces.  I don't know how they made him look 10 years old, considering the actor's 16, but they did and he looks suitably pathetic when necessary.

I loved that the cast was multi-racial, with people of all backgrounds - and genders - in all positions.  I also loved how Bonzo (Moises Arias), one of Ender’s commanders - and bullies - is shorter than him, if significantly more muscular.

The special effects were well done.  I loved the computer screens and their hand manipulation of them.  And the training room looked great, though it was underused.

This is a film that would have benefited from being an hour longer.  While it touches on all the major events of the book, there’s little time for the character development and friendships that the book depends on.  There's little of his relationship with Valentine and Peter, his siblings who - in the novel - shape Ender the most.  Similarly, there are some scenes that depend on your knowledge of the book for full understanding.  

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film and would definitely see it again.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Video: Rhys Darby's Reasons to be Scared of the Future

You might recognize Rhys Darby as Murray from the Flight of the Conchords TV show.  He's got a new show at Nerdist.com where, from his fall out shelter, he details reasons to be scared of the future.  There are 3 episodes so far where he talks about Skynet (embedded below), insane computers, and jelly fish.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Book Review: The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones

Pros: rolicking adventure, fun characters, brilliant antagonist, afterword include source materials for research

Cons: Sabirah’s character felt superfluous

A fortune teller’s prophecy and a theft at Jaffar’s palace, send Jaffar’s captain of the guard, Asim el Abbas, and his scholar, Dabir ibn Khalil, on a quest to retrieve a magical artifact.  

This book is a fun adventure story set in the eighth century Abbasid caliphate of Haroun al-Rashid.  Told from Asim’s point of view, there are several fights, kidnapping, magic, monsters, and more.  It’s a fast paced book with a highly intelligent antagonist, so things very often don’t go well for our heroes.

My only complaint with the book was that Sabirah, an intelligent woman with an eidetic memory, is only there as a student / accused love interest (though the latter isn’t a focus of the story, merely a complication for one of the protagonists) and kidnap victim.  She helps out with information on one occasion but is otherwise a tagalong on the quest.

Still, it’s a great book and the afterword explains some of the history vs fantasy as well as gives historical sources should you wish to learn more about this era and its people.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Shout-Out: The Eidolon by Libby McGugan

Here's another book that's come out recently that sounds interesting.

A contemporary SF thriller. The divide between science and the human spirit is the setting for a battle for the future.
When physicist Robert Strong loses his job at the Dark Matter research lab and his relationship falls apart, he returns home to Scotland. Then the dead start appearing to him, and Robert begins to question his own sanity. Victor Amos, an enigmatic businessman, arrives and recruits Robert to sabotage CERN'S Large Hadron Collider, convincing him the next step in the collider's research will bring about disaster. Everything Robert once understood about reality, and the boundaries between life and death, is about to change forever. And the biggest change will be to Robert himself... Mixing science, philosophy and espionage, Libby McGugan's stunning debut is a thriller like no other.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Author Interview: Ann Leckie

Novel: Ancillary Justice

Short Stories: Numerous.  Check out her bibliography.

Website: www.annleckie.com

> What is Ancillary Justice about? 

Ancillary Justice is about a starship that once had thousands of human bodies as part of itself. Treachery has destroyed all but one of those bodies, and she's out for revenge on those who destroyed her.

> Where did you get the idea to write about a warship trapped in a human body?

I started, long ago, with the idea of human bodies as avatars of artificial intelligences.  Of course, one could grow those bodies, but taking them over by force provides extra drama, so I played with that for a while. And then, of course, I began to wonder what would happen if all of such an entity was destroyed except one of those bodies. Who would it be who was left?

> What made you want to be a writer?

I'm one of those people who has wished to be a writer since childhood. This may be because my parents always encouraged it--they assumed I would be someday. My mother explained standard manuscript format to me when I was about eight, on the assumption that it was one of those things I would need to know. And it was helpful, actually--even though at the time everyone used typewriters, standard manuscript format has changed very little.

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

Probably not. First of all, I make their lives way too difficult--as difficult as possible. Because that's where stories are, right? But also, when I was in high school and thinking of what a failure I would surely be as an adult and how inadequate I was bound to be at life in general, I had a moment when I was looking in the mirror wishing I were someone else. And then, for some reason, suddenly I realized that if I were someone else, I wouldn't exist--and I found I didn't like that thought. That, whatever my problems, really I wanted to be me. It sounds foolish and adolescent because, you know, it totally was. But it was something that stuck with me, and I've had times when I've had to remind myself of it. 

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

That would be a massive spoiler! It's the scene where the thing happens that is the reason Breq is doing what she's doing. I knew that if I didn't get that moment right, if the reader didn't completely believe that scene, the whole book would collapse in a heap, because nothing Breq did, throughout the entire rest of the novel, would convince. There was a lot of staring at the monitor and pulling my hair and swearing and panicking, while I worked on it.

> As you write both, beyond the matter of length, do you find it easier writing short stories or novels?

I find novels much easier! If you're trying to write under a word limit, so much awesome has to go! And some of my favorite stuff, not just as a writer but as a reader, is that extra stuff. The cool worldbuilding details or whatever. And I find my ideas tend to be elaborate--cutting them down to short story size can be very frustrating.

I also find myself worrying about length when I'm trying to do short fiction, which adds another layer of anxiety to the process. With a novel there's enough room that I can feel comfortable stretching out and then going back later and paring down if I need to.

> When and where do you write?

I try to write daily--though I don't always succeed. I'm lucky enough to have the house to myself during most days, and I have an office in my basement that my awesome husband built for me. But distractions do arise, more often than I'd like.

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

The best thing is that it's so darn fun. I mean, I get to make cool stuff up and put it down on paper! The worst is the uncertainty--there's no way to know if what I'm doing is going to ever be read by anyone else, whether it's going to sell, whether anyone else will like it at all. And the internal critic comes along with that, the little voice that keeps muttering about how I stink, I have no ability, what I'm working on is stupid, etc. I hate that.  

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

So, I actually knew a fair amount going in. My approach to things is generally pretty research-intensive, and so I'd spent some time talking to people and reading blogs and such, and already had a fair idea of the general process.  It's been the little details that have been a discovery for me--the way a certain amount of the advance gets paid at various stages of the process of publishing the book, the work my publisher's (fabulous and awesome) publicist does, the process of designing the cover, of getting to see that in various stages. It's been a lot of fun so far.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Yes! Don't worry too much about rules, or about whether what you're working on is salable.  Don't fret over, say, the fact that you've heard editors don't like narrators who are mushrooms, and your story is the first person adventures of Mable the Morel. Don't worry about that. Just make Mabel the best dang fungus that ever graced the written word, do the absolute best you can at what you're doing, and trust the universe for the rest. The universe may or may not come through--but you'll know you did your best, and over time I've found that's incredibly important.

Learn techniques, not rules. Look for effects various techniques have (or don't) and use them (or not) in your own work depending on the effects you want (or want to avoid). There are no rules, and worrying about rules and about superficial things editors may or may not like will only hamper you. Don't start out by limiting yourself. Be ambitious. Reach for the stars! If you fail, no biggie. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and try again.  

> Any tips against writers block?

My approach, I've found, is idiosyncratic. But I'll offer it, in case anyone reading this may find it helpful. When I'm stuck, I read. Sometimes fiction, and often nonfiction. I go to the library and start scanning the shelves--usually history or anthropology, but sometimes other areas, sometimes at random--and pull out any book that seems to intrigue me. Usually, after I've read a bit, I find something that clicks, and then I can go forward. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Changes Ahead

From now until the end of December I’ll be working crazy hours at the store, so while I’m hoping to keep the blog running as normal, I won’t have much time for commenting or replying to emails.  You’ll probably see more reviews (for films as well as books) than usual, as well as Shout-out posts (as they’re fast to put together).  I do have a reading list queued up and will have at least one recommended reading post (I should have 2, but we’ll see if I get the responses back in time).

With the World's Biggest Bookstore closing next spring (and no, we don't have a firm closed to the public date yet, though we have to be out of the building by April 30th) there will also be some changes to the blog.  I’m not sure how much will change.  My original plan was to stop doing author interviews, as my interview style was designed for browsers at the store.  But a conversation with an author has made me question that decision.  More on that in January when I have time to consider my options and do a poll to see if you’d like me to continue doing author interviews.  I won’t have any interviews for December or January, as I don’t have time to set them up and, if I do continue them, I’ll have to rework my questions, which will take time as well.  But I do have an interview with Ann Leckie going up tomorrow, so please stop by for that.

Similarly I probably won’t do reading lists anymore (after December's If you like... try... list), as those are challenging enough with the books in front of me.  My new author spotlights are morphing into reading unbound, though I may keep those separate.  Again, I’ll have to consider this in January. 

I hope your holiday season isn't as insane as mine, and that you have some time to spend with your loved ones.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Stranger Than Fiction: Dispelling Medieval Armour Myths

A column dedicated to pointing out interesting tidbits of history, some of which would be cool to see in a fantasy novel or two.

Someone on facebook pointed me to this a while back.

Dispelling some myths about Medieval armour by Feadpool.

He's also got this album with more medieval armourthis one on the longbow, one on Sir William Marshall - a medieval fighter, and one on Gallowglass, professional soldiers in Ireland.

I haven't heard of some of these, so I'll have to read up on them myself. :D

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Book Review: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13 Year Old Boy With Autism by Naoki Higashida

[This isn't the kind of book I normally review here, but as autism is becoming more common, and more prevalent in SFF novels, it seemed like a good book to read to better understand the condition.]

Translated by: K. A. Yoshida and David Mitchell

Pros: Q&A format, includes some of his fiction

Cons: will possibly make you cry in public

This is a non-fiction book written by a 13 year old Japanese autistic boy, in which he answers questions he's been asked numerous times about why he does the things he does.  It's an amazing look inside autism.

This is a book that may well make you cry, so beware of reading it in public.  In David Mitchell's introduction, when talking about some of Higashida's included fiction and the accusation that autistic people have no empathy, he writes:

Like all storytelling mammals, Naoki is anticipating his audience's emotions and manipulating them.  That is empathy.  The conclusion is that both emotional poverty and an aversion to company are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism, its harsh lockdown on self-expression and society's near-pristine ignorance about what's happening inside autistic heads.

Similarly in his answer to the question "Would you like to be 'normal'?" Higashida says that when he was younger he wanted to be normal but now,

I've learned that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness.  For us, you see, having autism is normal - so we can't know for sure what your "normal" is even like.  But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I'm not sure how much it matters whether we're normal or autistic.
While it's a short read, it's both inspiring and educational.  Understanding is the first step towards becoming better people with regards to how we interact with those who are autistic in our midst.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Shout-Out: Terra by Mitch Benn

This is another book I've heard nothing about that came in to the store recently.  It comes with an amazing recommendation by Neil Gaiman on the cover, "I found myself thinking of Roald Dahl, Douglas Adams & Terry Pratchett.  Wise, funny, and above all, human".

No one trusts humanity. No one can quite understand why we're intent on destroying the only place we have to live in the Universe. No one thinks we're worth a second thought. And certainly no one is about to let us get off Rrth. That would be a complete disaster. But one alien thinks Rrth is worth looking at. Not humanity, obviously, we're appalling, but until we manage to kill every other living thing on the planet there are some truly wonderful places on Rrth and some wonderful creatures living in them. Best take a look while they're still there. But on one trip to Rrth our alien biologist causes a horrendous accident. The occupants of a car travelling down a lonely road spot his ship (the sort of massive lemon colored, lemon-shaped starship that really shouldn't be hanging in the sky over a road). Understandably the Bradbury's crash (interrupting the latest in a constant procession of bitter rows). And in the wreckage of their car our alien discovers a baby girl. She needs rescuing. From the car. From Rrth. From her humanity. And now eleven years later a girl called Terra is about to go to school for the first time. It's a very alien experience...
"Terra" is a charming and hilarious satirical fable. A story about how odd and alien we are. And a story about how human odd aliens are. It tells the story of a girl who grows up in a very different world, who gains a unique perspective on our world and a unique perspective on her new home. A girl who can teach us and them a lot. A girl living in an extraordinary world that is spiralling into a terrible war.

Here's the book trailer, if you need more incentive.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

In Toronto? Come see Michael Rowe

Enter, Night author Michael Rowe's new book, Wild Fell, is coming out and he's doing some events for it.

Here's a synopsis for the book:

The crumbling summerhouse called Wild Fell, soaring above the desolate shores of Blackmore Island, has weathered the violence of the seasons for more than a century. Built for his family by a 19th-century politician of impeccable rectitude, the house has kept its terrible secrets and its darkness sealed within its walls. For a hundred years, the townspeople of Alvina have prayed that the darkness inside Wild Fell would stay there, locked away from the light.
Jameson Browning, a man well acquainted with suffering, has purchased Wild Fell with the intention of beginning a new life, of letting in the light. But what waits for him at the house is devoted to its darkness and guards it jealously. It has been waiting for Jameson his whole life . . . or even longer. and now, at long last, it has found him.
He's doing a signing at the World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward Street) on Sunday December 1st, from 12 - 3 PM.  He's also doing a book launch on Monday December 2nd at The Red Bull Lounge / Fly Nightclub (1 Gloucester Street) from 7 - 11 PM.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Recommended Reading by Professionals... with Gail Carriger

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Today's recommendations are by Gail CarrigerNew York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her debut novel, Soulless, won the ALA's Alex Award. Her Parasol Protectorate books, their manga adaptations, and the first of her new YA series, Etiquette & Espionage, are all bestsellers. Her new book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, released November 5, 2013. She was once a professional archaeologist and is overly fond of tea.  

  1. Judith Tarr is a well known author within the SF/F community but I don't think she has ever quite attained the broader recognition her books deserve. My favorite of her work is Lord of the Two Lands, a fantastical alternate history of Alexander the Great moving into Egypt. The main character, an Egyptian priestess named Meriamon, is sent as a lure, omen, and diplomat into the heart of the invading Greek army. What makes Tarr brilliant is her writing style: she uses short, punchy, fragmentary sentences that nevertheless manage to convey eminence depth of meaning, emotion, and characterization. Everything she writes is precisely implemented, bladed and cutting, even when joyful. For example:

    After a long while she found another word. "Sekhmet?"
    Soft paw, prick of claws. Murmur of inquiry: "Mrrrrttt?"

    Trust me, in context, those few words will make you cry. The Lord of the Two Lands is as near to perfect as a book can get, filled with adventure, action, and tension yet also bittersweet and wildly romantic. It's one of those I return to again-and-again, and as an author I am always slightly disheartened knowing I myself could never write such clean sharp prose.
  2. Ann Maxwell [aka Elizabeth Lowell] is a prolific writer better known for her romance novels then her science fiction, of which her last was Timeshadow Rider in 1986.  (I still live in hope that she may finish the Firedancer series, three of which came out in the early 80s and ended on a cliffhanger). I can't fault her, since her romances afford her a living, we writers must eat. But if you can get ahold of some of her stand alone science fiction, you're in for a treat. Timeshadow Rider is my favorite. Where Tarr is a master of brevity, Maxwell dances with words. Her prose is lyrical, poetical, and flowing but not flowery. Her science fiction reads like some surreal myth about the future. Her aliens are precisely that, so alien I feel, as a reader, like they are almost beyond my comprehension, and yet I am eager to try to understand them all the more because of that. Each time I reread her books I feel like I am learning something different about her dream-like vision of the future. 
  3. Claudia J Edwards wrote four fantasy novels in the late 80s, one of which was the first in a planned series. Sadly, she died in 2010. That series might have been one of my favorites, but as it's unfinished, I'll focus on Taming the Forest King. I adore this book, it's one of the few I reread regularly and I know will always cheer me up. It's a straight up classic fantasy with a super tough female main character, military service, magical monsters, and one of the most perfectly executed love triangles ever written. This is one where I'm not going to comment on the writing style, because, frankly I'm too sucked into the story - every time - to be able to tell you anything about it. And that, in and of itself, is a major recommendation.

Stay tuned for the next post where we get reading recommendations from Andrew Post!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Rick Owns Fashion Show Uses Stepping

This is pretty amazing.  Instead of using conventional models, fashion designer Rick Owens used real women to model his new line of clothes by stepping (traditional dance) on the runway.

You can read more about this show, and the choreographer, in this article at Ms. Magazine.

And yes, I understand there's no real SFF connection to this, but sometimes - for writing and other purposes - it's good to think outside the norm.  This presentation may change how the fashion industry picks models.  Thinking outside the traditions of SFF may make your novel the next big thing.

via Janet Reid's blog

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

See Brandon Sandersin, James Dashner and Christopher Paolini talk in NYC - or online

If you're in New York City, there's an awesome YA author event coming up this Saturday.  Here are the details from the email I got:

Random House Children’s Books is pleased to announce that three of the biggest name authors in science fiction and fantasy are coming together for an afternoon panel hosted by the 92nd Street Y in New York City on November 16th. James Dashner (The Eye of Minds), Christopher Paolini (Eragon: 10th Anniversary Edition), and Brandon Sanderson (Steelheart) will entertain their fans via an interactive panel discussion moderated by Alexander Zalben of MTV News. One of the first YA events that the 92nd Street Y has hosted, the panel will be livestreamed to viewers across the globe who won’t be able to make it to the New York area to see the event in person. The link for the livestream will be found here: http://92yondemand.org/livecast/

Dashner, Paolini, and Sanderson are all forces to be reckoned with in the children’s literature world. Dashner, best known for his Maze Runner series, has sold over 2.4 million copies of his books in North America alone. Fall 2014 will see the feature film debut of The Maze Runner (20th Century Fox). With a loyal fanbase that has dubbed itself the “Dashner Army” (#DashnerArmy) as well as the publication of The Eye of Minds, the first book in his new Mortality Doctrine series, Dashner continues to gain in popularity amongst both teenagers and adults.

To purchase tickets to this one-of-a-kind event, visit http://www.92y.org/Event/Paolini-Dashner-Sanderson.aspx. A discounted ticket price is offered to attendees under 35 years of age. The authors’ newest titles—Eragon: 10th Anniversary Edition, Steelheart, and The Eye of Minds—will be available for purchase, and to be signed by the authors, at the event.

Here are all the important details for those who wish to attend in person:

Date: Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 3 pm
Location: Lexington Avenue at 92nd St
Venue: Buttenwieser Hall
Price: from $22.00

And remember, the free live webcast will be available here.