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