Sunday 30 June 2013

Books Received in June, 2013

Summer's here and I'm hoping to do more personal (as opposed to review requested) reading, which means getting to some of the fantastic sounding books I've received in the mail that I haven't had the chance to read yet (as well as books I've bought recently, books in my husband's collection and books I've been salivating over for months - or years).

Having said that, I've got 2 new books to showcase today.

The first one, Requiem by Ken Scholes, is the fourth book in the Psalms of Issak series.  I read and really enjoyed the first two books and would like to read on to see what happens next.  

Here's the synopsis for the first book, so there are no spoilers and to get you interested if you haven't picked these up yet:

An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.
Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city - he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.
Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others'' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.
This remarkable first novel from an award-winning short fiction writer will take readers away to a new world - an Earth so far in the distant future that our time is not even a memory; a world where magick is commonplace and great areas of the planet are impassable wastes. But human nature hasn't changed through the ages: War and faith and love still move princes and nations.

The second book, Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe, is set in the same world as The Hum and the Shiver, but can be read as a standalone novel.

Touched by a very public tragedy, musician Rob Quillen comes to Cloud County, Tennessee, in search of a song that might ease his aching heart. All he knows of the mysterious and reclusive Tufa is what he has read on the internet: they are an enigmatic clan of swarthy, black-haired mountain people whose historical roots are lost in myth and controversy. Some people say that when the first white settlers came to the Appalachians centuries ago, they found the Tufa already there. Others hint that Tufa blood brings special gifts.
Rob finds both music and mystery in the mountains. Close-lipped locals guard their secrets, even as Rob gets caught up in a subtle power struggle he can't begin to comprehend. A vacationing wife goes missing, raising suspicions of foul play, and a strange feral girl runs wild in the woods, howling in the night like a lost spirit.
Change is coming to Cloud County, and only the night wind knows what part Rob will play when the last leaf falls from the Widow's Tree...and a timeless curse must be broken at last.

Friday 28 June 2013

New Author Spotlight: Sharon Lynn Fisher

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 Sharon Lynn Fisher!

Her debut novel is:

Here's the cover copy for Ghost Planet:

A world in peril. A bond deeper than love.
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world - a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet.
Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy - creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone - oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love - Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence.
But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man she loves.

Check out these other books if you enjoy a little romance with your alien encounter stories:

Thursday 27 June 2013

SF Style Clothing Becoming Reality

My husband pointed me to several articles this morning about how SF style clothing, particularly 3D printed clothes, are becoming a thing.

Buzzfeed has an article with 14 nifty new forms of clothing being experimented with, including glow-in-the-dark fabric, fibre-optic fabric, transforming dresses, and flexible photovoltaic film strips (done up as a bikini) that can charge electronic devices.

Makezine, meanwhile has an article on a fashion show in Malaysia that focused on 3D printed clothing with a bird theme.  The show was a collaboration between the Belgium 3D printing company Materialise and Malaysian fashion designer Melinda Looi.

Then there's this, "the first fully articulated garment made using 3-D printing".  Designed by costume and jewelry designer Michael Schmidt and architect Francis Bitonti for Dita Von Teese, it hit the runway in NYC in June.  The dress is made up of 17 sections and contains more than 12,000 Swarovski crystals.  There's a video at this link of how they made it.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Man At Arms, Blacksmithing Fantasy Weapons

Man At Arms, Tony Swatton is a blacksmith who makes fantasy weapons, and videotapes the process.  He's made a diamond minecraft sword, He Man's sword, Raphael's sais, Oddman's hat (from the James Bond film Goldfinger), and so many more.  He goes for accurate reproductions of the weapons rather than functionality and shows you how he makes them, step by step.  If you've not seen his work, you're in for a treat.

There's a real store, if you want custom armour or weapons made (he does work for movies and TV shows).  From his store's website:
Sword & Stone is located in Burbank, CA. Founded over 15 years ago by master blacksmith, Tony Swatton, Sword & Stone has established itself as the trusted source for handcrafted, historically accurate pieces, custom designed for the needs of creative directors. The shop specializes in custom made arms, armour & props for television, film & the serious collector. We are a full service blacksmith shop dedicated to forging your ideas in flame and metal.
The videos come out once a week and are on his website and the AWE me channel on youtube.

Here he is making Cloud's Buster sword from Final Fantasy VI

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Manga Review: Akira Volume 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo

Pros: interesting story, influential manga turned anime

Cons: not my favourite art style but it grew on me, lots of violence some of which is fairly graphic (especially at the end), characters are hard to sympathize with 

While biking at night in a restricted zone near the blast that forced the building of Neo-Tokyo, Kaneda's band of 15 year old hoodlums runs into a strange figure, a boy with the face of an old man.  One of the bikers, Tetsuo, is injured and taken to a mysterious hospital where he develops psychokinetic abilities.  Meanwhile, Kaneda becomes involved with an organization trying to stop the military from gaining too much power and trying to free a mysterious entity called Akira.

Akira is a classic, both in anime and manga format.  While I watched the movie several years ago, I'm just now getting to the manga.  The first issue was interesting, though I'm not a huge fan of the art style.  I did find that the longer I read, the more it grew on me.  I'm also not a fan of graphically violent images in my manga, and this has quite a few, especially towards the end.

The story itself was interesting.  It's basically the plot of the film, with some changes (it's a longer arc, with more escapes from the military than in the film).

The characters aren't very sympathetic.  Kaneda's something of a jerk, and really clueless about women, pushing himself at Kai and not understanding why the school nurse (helper? she's pretty young, looking his age) is angry at him when he's using her to get drugs and ignores the fact that she's pregnant (with, the reader is led to assume, his child).  Tetsuo meanwhile goes insane with power.  Kai's interesting, but somewhat one dimensional as a terrorist/love interest. 

While I found this issue interesting, I'm not sure I liked it enough to read more.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Would you like to see posts by authors recommending their favourite female authors?

This is something I've been thinking about for a while, but before I go ahead with the project - as it will take me time to set up and requires me asking others for time and effort - I want to know if you, my readers, are interested in this idea.

I'm thinking of asking authors to recommend 2 or 3 of their favourite female authors.

It keeps coming up that people in SF/F/H read more men than women and I'd like to help change that.  A few months ago SF Signal did a Mind Meld post for Women in Genre Month entitled: Who are your favorite women in genre?  While it brought out some great responses, I was somewhat disturbed to realize that only female panelists were included, as if only women read (and thereby can recommend) female authors.  I'd like to have a mix of male and female authors give recommendations.

I'm thinking of making it a once a week feature, with each author having their own post to recommend others.

Is this something you'd like to see?  Please leave a comment or vote on my poll (if you're reading this on an RSS feed, please click through and vote).  I'm also interested in if you'd just like suggestions by male authors (for those men who want other men's opinions) or the opinions of other bloggers and/or industry professionals.

*** After talking to my husband and mentioning that I felt a bit uncomfortable only asking for recommendations of books by women (because it does feel a bit like reverse sexism, even if I'm honestly interested in the answer) he suggested asking for recommendations of authors or books that haven't received the recognition they deserve.  I like this idea better, as it opens the field to more inclusive recommendations.  Why shouldn't J. A. Pitts, who has an urban fantasy series with a lesbian protagonist, not be mentioned simply because he's a white dude?

So, let me ask you again (and I'll add it to the survey - you can now vote for more than one category, if you'd like me to query other bloggers and industry professionals as well), if I go ahead with this, would you like to see only recommendations of books by women / female authors or should I rephrase it to include anyone authors feel have written awesome books that need a signal boost?

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Video: Link's Shadow

Corridor Digital has created several cool SFF videos, like their First Person vs Third Person (Splinter Cell: Blacklist), Assassin's Creed 3: Rebel Blades, and Potion Overdose but this video about Link fighting his shadow is awesome.  They take such care with costumes and have remarkably good special effects.


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

Pros: realistic world, fascinating protagonist, good pacing

Cons: protagonist is remarkably lucky 

Isabella, Lady Trent, looks back on her life in this memoir.  It begins with her as a child obsessed with dragons and some of the crazier things she did in order to learn more about them.  Her hijinks don't end as she becomes a young lady looking for a suitable match with a library he'll let her read.  The book concludes with the first of what would be many excursions researching dragons.

Peppered with illustrations by Todd Lockwood, this is a gorgeous book.  The print is a faded brown, rather than black, making it feel old and venerable.

Brennan obviously cribbed from history for this, as Scirland feels much like Victorian England in its social conventions and expansionist ideals.  Similarly, Vystrana made me think of Eastern European villages, perhaps along the Russian border (as they're ruled by a Tsar).  Regardless of what she cribbed from however, the world feels REAL.  There are numerous languages, religions, customs, economic concerns, social concerns (different for men and women), class concerns, etc.  In many ways, reading this memoir felt like reading an actual memoir, with just enough details about the daily life and times of the protagonist (which she mentions were different from the life and times of the present from which she's writing).

The pacing is great, with new challenges appearing for Isabella just as the previous ones are dealt with.  

The only problem I could see with the book was that Isabella is amazingly lucky.  She manages to get herself in and out of some difficult situations with fewer negative consequences than one would expect.  

The ending is properly shocking, with the acknowledgement that there's more to the story.  Given what she goes through in this volume I look forward to reading about her further adventures.

Friday 14 June 2013

If I Had All the Time in the World - Books from Publisher Previews

There are so many books I'd love to read, both old and new.  Since I won't actually get to read them all, I figure I could showcase some.  Maybe other people will read them and tell me what I'm missing. :)

This list comes from publisher previews I went to last year.  It's a mix of teen and kid (9-12) titles.  In a few cases I have the book in question on my bookshelf, patiently waiting for me to have time to pick it up and read it.

The Assault by Brian Falkner

It''s 2030, and humanity is losing the war against alien invaders. A Band of Brothers meets Ender's Game in this sci-fi military thriller.

A team of six has been chosen . . .

. . . to infiltrate the enemy's headquarters in the heart of the Australian Outback. The six teens have been modified to look like aliens. They have spent years mastering alien culture so that they can talk, act-even think-like their enemies. But from the start, the recon mission goes terribly wrong. It's only when they are close to discovering the shocking truth of the aliens' plans that the team is forced to ask:

Who among them is a traitor?

Behind the Bookcase by Mark Steensland

A girl stumbles into a fantastic world in this tale perfect for fans of Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, and The Twilight Zone.

Spending the summer at her grandmother's house is the last thing Sarah wants to do-especially now that Grandma Winnie has died-but she has no choice. Her parents have to fix the place up before they can sell it, and Sarah and her brother, Billy, have to help. But the tedious work turns into a thrilling mystery when Sarah discovers an unfinished letter her grandmother wrote: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase. . . .  

Sarah's mother dismisses the letter as one of Grandma Winnie's crazy stories, but Sarah does some investigating and makes a remarkable discovery: behind the bookcase is a doorway into Scotopia, the land where shadows come from. With a talking cat named Balthazat as her guide, Sarah begins an unforgettable adventure into a world filled with countless dangers. Who can she trust? And can she face her fears, not only in Scotopia, but also back at Grandma Winnie's house, where more secrets and strange goings-on await her?

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

A city in flames. A trust betrayed. A perfect love destroyed.

Has Aria lost Hunter, her one true love?

Ever since rebellion broke out in Mystic City, pitting the ruling elite against the magic-wielding mystics, Aria has barely seen her boyfriend. Not surprising, since Hunter is the leader of the mystic uprising, and he''ll do whatever it takes to win freedom for his people-even if that means using Aria.

But Aria is no one's pawn. She believes she can bring the two warring sides together, save the city, and win back the Hunter she fell in love with.

Before she can play peacemaker, though, Aria will need to find the missing heart of a dead mystic. The heart gives untold powers to whoever possesses it, but finding it means seeking out a fierce enemy whose deepest desire is for Aria to be gone-forever.

Unforsaken by Sophie Littlefield

Hailey Tarbell is no typical girl. As one of the Banished who arrived from Ireland generations ago, Hailey has the power to heal-and, as she recently learned, to create zombies if she heals someone too late. But now, Hailey is finally getting a chance at a normal life. After realizing the good and bad sides of her power, Hailey has survived the unimaginable to settle with her aunt, Prairie, and her little brother, Chub, in the suburbs of Milwaukee. Finally Hailey has a loving family, nice clothes, and real friends. But her safe little world is blown apart when she tries to contact her secret boyfriend, Kaz-and alerts the incredibly dangerous man who's looking for her to her true whereabouts.

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings-Peculiars-and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley-Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he's noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . .and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz

The Cloak Society: An elite organization of supervillains graced with extraordinary powers.
Ten years ago they were defeated by the Rangers of Justice and vanished without a trace. But the villains of Cloak have been biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to resurface. And twelve-year-old Alex Knight wants to be one of them.

Alex is already a junior member, and his entire universe is Cloak's underground headquarters, hidden beneath an abandoned drive-in theater in Sterling City, Texas. While other kids his age are studying math and history, Alex is mastering his telekinetic powers and learning how to break into bank vaults. His only dream is to follow in his parents' footsteps as one of the most feared supervillains in the world. Cloak is everything he believes in.

But on the day of his debut mission, Alex does the unthinkable: he saves the life of a young Ranger named Kirbie. Even worse . . . she becomes his friend. And the more time he spends with her, the more Alex wonders about the world outside of Cloak-and what, exactly, he's been fighting for.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Inhale. Exhale.
Breathe . . .
The world is dead.
The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.

has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful.

should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.

wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl.

And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Music Video: Jon Marco's Rhianna

Saw this great music video that pays homage to the films of the 80s.  I got most of the references, though there were 2 or 3 scenes I couldn't recognize.  It's pretty fun.  Directed by Jim Meegan.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Book Review: Gameboard of the Gods by Rachel Mead

Pros: fascinating characters, interesting world, exciting climax

Cons: pacing, gods don't make much of an appearance

RUNA - the Republic of United North America - was founded after the Decline, a period in which thousands died, and which people believe was caused by three things: disease, religion and cultural separation.  Servitors are tasked with making sure their remaining religions are not a danger to society.  When servitor Justin March is brought back from his exile in Panama to take on a murder investigation with unexplainable evidence, he knows it has something to do with his own inexplicable experiences in the past.  One of which left him with two ravens in his head, and an unknown god asking for his devotion.  He's got less than a month to solve the case before another person is murdered and he and his ward are deported.

For a bodyguard he's given Mae Koskinen, a member of the praetorian guard, elite soldiers with implants that provide faster reflexes and greater strength.  A member of the upper class, which was allowed to avoid the gene mixing forced on others after the Decline, Mae has surprisingly perfect genes.  While finding each other attractive, a misunderstanding upon meeting creates tension between them, even as Mae attracts gods looking for perfect followers.

The novel jumps between three viewpoints, those of Justin, Mae and Teresa, Justin's ward from Panama, whom he's hoping to give a better life.  Teresa, as a fish out of water, is the reader's introduction to the politics and history of this new world.  The author builds things slowly, making you piece together what's happened.  Only through Teresa do you get any concentrated information.  There are no info dumps.  You have to pay close attention to what's being said as conversations are completely natural, since the characters know the context for what's happening, even if you, as the reader, don't.  As such, it takes a while to feel comfortable in this world.

This is the first book of a new series and is basically set up for what's to come.  The aspects of the book that interested me, the murder mystery and the idea of gods playing with the lives of humans, were not as central to the plot of this book as I'd expected.  The investigation into the murder stalls a bit and only picks up around the half way point in the book.  As a result, I found the pacing to be very uneven.  The opening is fascinating with a lot of information being imparted to the reader.  Then there's the move to the RUNA, where stuff happens, including learning most of the information about the country's background, but little plot development.  The plot picks up again and things stay interesting until the climactic ending.  The second quarter stalls though, and as a reader I couldn't understand why so little was being done with regards to the murder investigation.  I was hoping for something akin to Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, but what I got was a strange not quite romance, with the protagonists obviously wanting each other but kept apart for various reasons.

While I loved Mae and Teresa, there were times Justin drove me nuts.  He's such a smug SOB.  Still, watching the characters interact was amusing, even when either Justin or Mae manufactured another reason they couldn't have sex again.

I was disappointed by how little the gods showed up.  The ending makes me hopeful that this aspect will have a larger role in the next book.  Indeed, this more than anything made the novel feel like a set up.  It was as though this entire book was for readers to understand the world and characters so the next book could start dealing with the gods and their intrigues.  Not to say that this book ignored the intrigue, the gods do make appearances, but both Mae and Justin try to ignore what's happening until they're no longer given that option.

Speaking of Justin and his god, I was surprised that it took him so long to figure out who He was.  The rune, I thought, gave it away pretty quickly.

I'm not sure who to recommend this book to.  There's a little bit of everything - fighting, romance, mystery, dystopia - but not enough of any one thing to say: "This is for you if you like..."  I suspect the next book will have more focus, given how this one ended.  The writing is good and the series shows promise, yet I feel this book leaves the reader wanting more.   

Friday 7 June 2013

Author Interview: Jenn Bennett

Kindling the Moon
Summoning the Night
Leashing the Tempest (ebook original novella)
Binding the Shadows


> What is your Arcadia Bell series about?

Arcadia "Cady" Bell is a mage who runs a Tiki bar in Central California. She's been living under an alias because her family is wanted by the FBI for allegedly murdering the leaders of several occult organizations. She also has the rare ability to identify Earthbound demons—humans on the outside, demons on the inside—which leads her to partner with an Earthbound demon named Lon Butler.

> You were born in Germany and have lived and travelled to a number of places and now live in the U.S.  What's the coolest place you've been and why?

Probably Hong Kong. It's dense and energetic, easy for English speakers to navigate, and surrounded by lush beauty.

> Have your travels influenced your writing at all?

Absolutely. Traveling not only opens you up to a variety of locales, but a variety of people and experiences, as well. You can't get falling-down drunk in a Taipei karaoke bar surrounded by drag queens and "working girls" with rooms in the back without some of that leeching into your well of inspiration.

> What made you want to be a writer?

My college background is in art and painting, but I ended up doing the 9-to-5 corporate office thing (marketing and product development), which made me ridiculously unhappy. One day, my then-boss asked me what I'd do if I wasn't working there. I immediately blurted out, "I'd write a novel." I'd never really thought seriously about writing before that moment. A few months later, I gave into temptation and wrote my first book.

> Why did you choose to make your protagonist a renegade magician bartender?

Urban fantasy already had its fair share of detectives, bounty hunters, and generic monster slayers. I suppose I wanted to do something a little outside the box. I've always had a fascination with the occult, and I’m rather fond of the retro kitsch vibe of the Tiki scene. But the heart of my series is the characters and their relationships—not the setting or the world building.

> What were your literary influences for the Arcadia Bell series?

Neil Gaiman, the Brothers Grimm, Diana Gabaldon, Anaïs Nin, Philip Pullman, Laura Kinsale, Loretta Chase, Mary Shelley.

> What are you working on now?

I have a new paranormal romance series set in 1920s San Francisco coming from Berkley/Penguin in January 2014: bootlegging, fog, ghosts, Chinatown, magical hexes, bawdy humor, and steamy romance. Huzzah!

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

The first novel I wrote centered on portals into a fantasy realm. It was awful. I had zero idea what I was doing—I just flailed around in the dark and hammered it out in a month. KINDLING THE MOON was the third book I wrote. It snagged me a literary agent, who sold it to one of the Big 6 New York publishing houses in five weeks. From the time I wrote my first word until I sold my first book: 1 1/2 years. That was two years ago. I’ve since sold six books and one novella.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The final two scenes in BINDING THE SHADOWS. I shed a few tears putting those words together. I knew that they were scenes that had to be written, because that was the story that needed to be told, but it was physically painful to do it.

> When and where do you write?

Surrounded by clutter in my home office. I write best when there are no distractions: either in the middle of the night when everyone's asleep, or really early in the morning when everyone's asleep. Basically, as long as everyone else is sleeping (including my pugs), I'm good to go!

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

Best? Creating characters than readers love. Worst? The famously s-l-o-w machine that is the traditional publishing house. By the time a book comes out, I’ve already written three more.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Learn how to do things the right way (grammar, plotting, page count, genre expectations), then have the guts to break a few rules and forge your own path.

> Any tips against writers block?

Walk around outside. Take a drive in a place you don't visit often. Play a video game. Read a book in a new-to-you genre. Do something that flexes your mental muscles in a way that isn't explicitly related to writing—one that requires you to look at things differently.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Short Film: Seed, Directed by Tyson Wade Johnston

Pretty cool SF video.  The graphics look fantastic.  It's a short film with an interesting twist.

"Set in the year 2071, where technology has brought mankind to the brink of colonization on a planet named Gaia, one astronaut takes on an isolated mission and discovers unearthly horrors that could bring an end to human life on this planet."

SEED (2012) Short Film from Tyson Wade Johnston on Vimeo.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Two Upcoming Books That Sound Interesting

I saw this book mentioned in Romantic Times Magazine.  The author is from Israel and the book was published in 2004, winning the 2005 Geffen Award for the best fantasy/science fiction novel of the year and the 2006 Kugel Award for Hebrew literature.  It's out in Canada and the U.S. on June 25th.  Here's the synopsis:

As an epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn appreciates an unexpected ending. But when that denouement is the untimely demise of his beloved wife, Ben is incapable of coping. Marian was more than his life partner; she was the fiber that held together all that he is. And Ben is willing to do anything, even enter the unknown beyond, if it means a chance to be with her again.

One bullet to the brain later, Ben is in the Other World, where he discovers a vast and curiously secular existence utterly unlike anything he could have imagined: a realm of sprawling cities where the deceased of every age live an eternal second life, and where forests of family trees are tended by mysterious humans who never lived in the previous world. But Ben cannot find Marian.

Desperate for a reunion, he enlists an unconventional afterlife investigator to track her down, little knowing that his search is entangled in events that continue to unfold in the world of the living. It is a search that confronts Ben with one heart-rending shock after another; with the best and worst of human nature; with the resilience and fragility of love; and with truths that will haunt him through eternity.

This next book is coming out in December, but I saw the cover here, and thought it looked interesting.

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he's a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego... and Alana can't keep her eyes off her. But there's little time for romance: Nova's in danger and someone will do anything - even destroying planets - to get their hands on her!

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Book Review: The Long Walk by Stephen King (Writing as Richard Bachman)

Pros: creepy premise, really get to know the characters, thought provoking

Cons: don't learn much about the world or why the walk is put on, crass discourse

Every year 100 teen boys join the Long Walk.  They walk at 4 miles per hour, day and night, until they can't go any further and are given their ticket.  The prize for the winner is great.  But it's a long, long road.

This is a character driven dystopian novel that focuses on a small group of walkers in the current year's Long Walk.  The characters become very real, three dimentional people.  Which makes reading the book difficult, as you're slowly watching them die.

As the walk progresses and the characters discuss why they've joined it and who will survive, you're left questioning many things as the reader - are you the same as the crowd that lines the road, hoping to see blood?  Or are you one of the boys, learning that you don't want to die because death is suddenly so close?  Unlike the crowd you see the characters as human.  You feel their pain.  As someone who walked the last 100+ km of the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimmage in 5 days, I really did feel their pain.  But even as you feel their pain and sympathise with their situation, you're still a spectator, safe in the knowledge that you can stop walking, sit down, enjoy today with the knowledge that tomorrow is coming.

The book also makes you think about peer pressure, and how much easier it is to go with the status quo than to fight it, even when you life is on the line.

I was disappointed that you don't learn much about the society that allows - nay encourages - the Long Walk year after year.  Clues in the text indicate that America has become in some ways a police state, but the extent of it is hidden from the reader.  Similarly, the early text leads you to believe that the boys volunteer for the walk, which isn't quite the case.

I wasn't a fan of some of the boys' discussion, but I accept it as realistic.  There's some crass humour as well as discussions of bodily functions, etc.

If you liked The Hunger Games or Battle Royale and want a less violent, more introspective version of the same ideas, then check this out.

Saturday 1 June 2013

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in July, 2013

These Amazon Canada based lists are quite long (and, I'm hoping, more inclusive) than my previous ones.  I wasn't feeling that great when I put it together and caught myself several times adding trade paperbacks to the mass market list.  I apologize in advance if my list is wrong with regards to the format.  I try to be accurate but mistakes do happen and while I think I caught all the mistakes, I may not have.  Added to the ebook list, as usual, are the Carina ebooks.


Elisha Barber – E. C. Ambrose
Storm Surge – Taylor Anderson
Bloodfire Quest – Terry Brooks
Witch Wraith – Terry Brooks
Star Wars: Crucible – Troy Denning
The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirtieth Annual Collection – Gardner Dozois, Ed.
On the Razor's Edge – Michael Flynn
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
Carpathian – David Golemon
Thieves' Quarry – D. B. Jackson
Fifth Grave Past the Light – Darynda Jones
Kill City Blues – Richard Kadrey
Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh – Jay Lake
The Executioner's Heart – George Mann
Evening's Empires – Paul McAuley
Sir Hereward and Mister Mitz: Three Adventures – Garth Nix
The Long War – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
Blood Song – Anthony Ryan
The Age of Ice – J. M. Sidorova
World of Warcraft: Vol'jin: Shadows of the Horde – Michael Stackpole
Fiend – Peter Stenson
Neptune's Brood – Charles Stross
Theatre of the Gods – M. Suddain
Anarchy – James Treadwell
Two Fronts – Harry Turtledove
Beginnings – David Weber
The Night of the Hunter – Davis Grubb, Patrick Loehr, Paul Wedlake & Joe R. Lansdale
Storm Riders – Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes
Chimera – David Wellington
The Best of Connie Willis – Connie Willis

Trade Paperback:

Wastelands II: More Stories of the Apocalypse – John Joseph Adams
The Mammoth Book of Black Magic - Mike Ashley, Ed.
The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF – Mike Ashley, Ed.
Nightfall – Robyn Bachar
Turbulence – Samit Basu
This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – Matthew Bennardo, David Malki & Ryan North
Bad Seeds: Evil Progeny – Steve Berman, Ed.
Carniepunk: Parlor Tricks – Rachel Caine, Jennifer Estep +
Interrupt – Jeff Carlson
Ex-Communication – Peter Clines
Doctor Who: Dark Horizons – J. T. Colgan
The Great White Space – Basil Cooper
Trinity Rising – Elspeth Cooper
Warhammer 40K: The Emperor's Gift – Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Crazy in the Blood – Lucienne Diver
William Shakespeare's Star Wars – Ian Doescher
Warhammer: The Best of Hammer & Bolter Vol 2 – Christian Dunn
The Eternal Flame – Greg Egan
Herald of the Storm – Richard Ford
The Twin Princes – Ja'Nell Fowler
Warhammer 40K: Ahriman: Exile – John French
Against Gravity – Gary Gibson
Angel Stations – Gary Gibson
Three Parts Dead – Max Gladstone
The Glass God – Kate Griffin
The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons – Paula Guran, Ed.
Warhammer: Skarsnik – Guy Haley
Death's Excellent Vacation – Charlaine Harris & Toni Kelner, Ed.
Into the Woods – Kim Harrison
The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi – Mark Hodder
The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2013 – Rich Horton, Ed.
Noah's Boy – Sarah Hoyt
Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing – Sandra Katsuri, & Samantha Bieko, Ed.
A Once Crowded Sky – Tom King
Mist – Susan Krinard
Lord of Slaughter – M. D. Lachlan
Wolf in Shadow – John Lambshead
A Liaden Universe Collection, Vol I – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Fire Logic – Laurie Marks
The Delphi Room – Melia McClure
The White Forest – Adam McOmber
Myths & Legends: King Arthur – Daniel Mersey & Alan Lathwell 
Beloved Stranger – Janet Miller
Cold Copper – Devon Monk
Blood and Feathers: Rebellion – Lou Morgan
On Her Majesty's Behalf – Joseph Nassise
The Constantine Afflictio – T. Aaron Payton
Forged in Fire – J. A. Pitts
Snuff – Terry Pratchett
Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders – Richard Ellis Preston, Jr.
The Other Place – J. B. Priestley
Lady of the Glen – Jennifer Roberson (reprint)
The Initiate Brother Duology – Sean Russell
Was – Geoff Ryman
Degrees of Wrong – Anna Scarlett
Split at the Seams – Yolanda Sfetsos
Dragonwitch – Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Big Iron – C. A. Suleiman
The Coldest War – Ian Tregillis
Coup d'Etat – Harry Turtledove
The Melancholy of Mechagirl – Catherynne Valente
The Sorcerer's Widow – Lawrence Watt-Evans
The Black Prism – Brent Weeks
Long Fall From Heaven – George Weir & Milton Burton
Warhammer: Blighted Empire – Clint Lee Werner
Warhammer: Dead Winter – Clint Lee Werner
The Thousand Names – Django Wexler
Countdown City – Ben Winters
The End of the Dream – Philip Wylie
The Legend of Snow Wolf: Redemption – F. Lit Yu

Mass Market Paperback:

The D'neeran Factor – Terry Adams
Iron Gray Sea – Taylor Anderson
Magic Rises – Ilona Andrews
Dancing with the Devil – Keri Arthur
Harbinger – Philippa Ballantine
This Case is Gonna Kill Me – Phillipa Bornikova
Satan's Reach – Eric Brown
The Traitor Queen – Trudi Canavan
Wicked Bronze Ambition – Glen Cook
Pile of Bones – Bailey Cunningham
Fringe: The Burning Man – Christa Faust
Pathfinder Tales: The Wizard's Mask – Ed Greenwood
Viral Nation – Shaunta Grimes
Forsaken by the Others – Jess Haines
Assignment in Eternity – Robert Heinlein (reprint)
The Big Reap – Chris Holm
The Darwin Elevator – Jason Hough
Pacific Rim – Alex Irvine
Thieftaker – D. B. Jackson
Phoenicia's Worlds – Ben Jeapes
Rise of the Gryphon – Sherrilyn Kenyon & Dianna Love
King of Thrones – Mark Lawrence
Helen & Troy's Epic Road Quest – Lee Martinez
Warhammer 40K: Angel Exterminatus – Graham McNeill
Fate of Worlds – Larry Niven & Edward Lerner
Ice and Shadow – Andre Norton (reprint)
Last Blood – Kristen Painter
Seawitch – Kat Richardson
Queen of Wands – John Ringo
A Cursed Embrace – Cecy Robson
Vicious Moon – Lee Roland
White Trash Zombie Apocalypse – Diana Rowland
Forgotten Realms: Stone of Tymora – R. A. Salvatore & Geno Salvatore
A Conspiracy of Alchemists – Liesel Schwarz
Kitty in the Underworld – Carrie Vaughn
Star Trek: From History's Shadow – Dayton Ward
Hungry Like a Wolf – Christine Warren
Midst Toil and Tribulation – David Weber
I Don't Want to Kill You – Dan Wells
The Renegade – Jack Whyte
The Dirty Streets of Heaven – Tad Williams


The Guardian's Witch – Ruth Casie
Never Deal with Dragons – Lorenda Christensen
Scythe Does Matter – Gina X. Grant
The Quiet Earth – Craig Harrison (reprint)
Battle Station – B. V. Larson
The Monsters in Your Neighbourhood – Jesse Petersen
Sky Hunter – Fae Sutherland
Celebromancy – Michael Underwood
Time Rep – Peter Ward

Desperate Magic – Rebecca York