Friday 31 July 2015

Publisher Spotlight: EPIC Press

EPIC Press is the new YA branch of Abdo Publishing.  They publish books that are "filled with content teen readers will love to read. Think big, edgy, emotional, and mature. These indulgent books are designed to captivate modern teens, speaking directly to their aspirant culture. 100% guaranteed to be EPIC."

Their opening line-up includes several 6 book series, where each book is already written and being published the same day, both in physical and digital formats.

Here are a few of their titles:

Bots by Nicole Taylor

Edmond West, a brilliant MIT drop-out, is convinced that humans will never move beyond their cruelty. West ventures to create a humanoid robot, one to be exploited so that people no longer have to be. Edmond succeeds in making a more sophisticated robot, leading to something unexpected. Now, a growing population of this new species of "Bots" is threatening the concept of what it is to be human. Has Edmond saved the world or created a new class of victims?
Book 1, Emergent Behavior

A robotics genius, Edmond West has developed a plan to create the world's first Artificial Intelligence truly indistinguishable from a human being. His Bots will eradicate global slavery and allow humanity to channel its darkest impulses safely, harming only these soulless machines. His greatest success, however, may also be his undoing. He's finally created the perfect humanoid robot; perfectly intuitive, perfectly emotive… and perfectly unpredictable.

Earth Aliens by S. E. Wendel

The end of days on Earth has come. If humanity is to survive, they must do so amongst the stars. In a last-ditch effort, a pioneer group of colonists are shot into space, making a seven-year journey to a new planet, and hopefully, a new home. Although the journey will prepare them to build their new colony, nothing can prepare them for the trials of sharing a planet with another intelligent species. Who will be the masters of Terra Nova -- the natives or the Earth aliens?
Book 1, The Expedition

The Earth is dead and humanity's last hope is amongst the stars. For 50,000 lucky souls, a distant, alien planet will be their home after they endure a grueling seven year journey. Assigned as apprentices to older specialists, Hugh O'Callahan and Elena Ames must learn quickly to survive their dog-eat-dog lives. Meanwhile, Zeneba, a young Charneki girl, is chosen to take the throne as mara. She must learn quickly, for it is foretold a cataclysmic event will mark her reign. Can she find the strength to lead her people against invaders from the sky?

The Haunting of Grey Hills by Jennifer Skogen

Everyone in Grey Hills knows about the fire that burned the old high school to the ground fifty years ago. It was just a tragic accident…right? High school junior Macy Pierce and her new friends learn that old mysteries can literally come back to haunt you. A door to the dead has opened, and evil is casting its long shadow once again in Grey Hills.
Book 1, The Burning

Everyone in Grey Hills knows about the fire that burned down the old high school fifty years ago. Macy Pierce grew up hearing horror stories about the students who burned alive inside it. When Macy starts seeing things--including a teacher bursting into flames--she begins to question her own sanity. Now, she and a group of new friends may be all that stands between the new high school and a doorway to hell.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Shout-Out: The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

A quantum physicist shocks the world with a startling experiment, igniting a struggle between science and theology, free will and fate, and antagonizing forces not known to exist
Eric Argus is a washout. His prodigious early work clouded his reputation and strained his sanity. But an old friend gives him another chance, an opportunity to step back into the light.
With three months to produce new research, Eric replicates the paradoxical double-slit experiment to see for himself the mysterious dual nature of light and matter. A simple but unprecedented inference blooms into a staggering discovery about human consciousness and the structure of the universe.
His findings are celebrated and condemned in equal measure. But no one can predict where the truth will lead. And as Eric seeks to understand the unfolding revelations, he must evade shadowy pursuers who believe he knows entirely too much already.

I've had my eye on Kosmatka since his first book, The Games, came out a few years ago:

 Silas Williams is the brilliant geneticist in charge of preparing the U.S. entry into the Olympic Gladiator competition, an internationally sanctioned bloodsport with only one rule: no human DNA is permitted in the design of the entrants. Silas lives and breathes genetics; his designs have led the United States to the gold in every previous event. But the other countries are catching up. Now, desperate for an edge in the upcoming Games, Silas’s boss engages an experimental supercomputer to design the genetic code for a gladiator that cannot be beaten.
The result is a highly specialized killing machine, its genome never before seen on earth. Not even Silas, with all his genius and experience, can understand the horror he had a hand in making. And no one, he fears, can anticipate the consequences of entrusting the act of creation to a computer’s cold logic.

Now Silas races to understand what the computer has wrought, aided by a beautiful xenobiologist, Vidonia João. Yet as the fast-growing gladiator demonstrates preternatural strength, speed, and—most disquietingly—intelligence, Silas and Vidonia find their scientific curiosity giving way to a most unexpected emotion: sheer terror.

His second book, Prophet of Bones, sounds pretty interesting too:

A high-concept thriller set in an alternate world where radiometric dating proved the earth is only five thousand years old, yet the fossil record is the same as our own. The key to unlocking a terrifying secret lies in the hands of one man.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Fantasy Artist: Brian Richardson

I was looking through 3D printer designs recently and stumbled across one of Richardson's pieces.  I immediately looked for more.  He's created skeletons for a series of mythological creatures, including a dragon, mermaid, pegasus, jackalope, and Cthulhu.

From the about page: 

Mythic Articulations was created in late 2013 with one goal in mind ― to create what nature won't. More specifically, to create the skeletons and skulls of mythical creatures and cryptids. We offer a growing variety of replica osteological specimens of animals that you just can't get anywhere else, because they don't exist (or haven't been proven to exist). Be it the elusive Bare-Fronted Hoodwink, the mighty Wolpertinger, or something else that you might have actually heard of, we'll do our best to make it real. We use state of the art 3D Printing techniques to create each replica.
Check out his website, Mythic Articulations, for his designs, which are 3D printed to order and mailed to you via Shapeways (where I found his work) or his Etsy shop.  He also does prints and some poseable skeletons.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Book Review: Last First Snow by Max Gladstone

Pros: interesting characters, brilliant world-building, some clever plot twists

Cons: tension lost if read previous novels, ending of final battle is a let down 

Forty years ago the King in Red, Elayne Kevarian and Temoc Almotil met in battle in the Gods’ War.  Now Elayne is back in Dresediel Lex, a Craftswoman and consultant for the King in Red on a contract to fix the Skittersill, the old temple slave’s quarter.  But the people of the Skittersill haven’t been included in the deal, and their massed discontent could break the world.  So Elayne goes to meet with its various representatives, including Temoc, the last Eagle Knight and priest of the old Gods, in hopes of resolving the tension peacefully.  Temoc meanwhile struggles with the different demands of priesthood and fatherhood in this time of crisis. 

This is the fourth published novel in the Craft Sequence, but the first chronologically.  This book takes place in the same city, with many of the same characters (only younger) as the second published book, Two Serpents Rise (which I reviewed here).  Having read that book, some of the narrative tension of this one is lost, as I already knew certain characters would survive.  Similarly, though I don’t remember that book as well as I’d like, I had to reevaluate the relationships I remembered with the new, ‘prior’ relationships of this book.  When the books are all out I look forward to reading them in order to see how well they follow each other, and how characters develop across the books.

The characters are fascinating and the world-building sound, as usual with Gladstone’s books.  And that’s good, because there’s less judicial mystery in this story, with the centre being more character than plot focused.  Both Elayne and the King in Red perform some interesting Craft, and you see the power of the defeated Gods in play at the end.

The big battle is quite apocalyptic, but ends somewhat disappointingly.  It felt like the author’s hands were tied, needing certain people to survive for book two, and couldn’t quite figure out how to end the battle well as a result.  There are some clever plot twists in the book, including the final battle, that were great though.

Despite its few faults it’s a great book and this is a wonderful series. 

Sunday 26 July 2015

Shout-Out: Tracer by Bob Boffard

Imagine The Bourne Identity meets Gravity and you'll get TRACER, the most exciting action thriller set in space you'll ever read.

A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It's broken, rusted, falling apart. We've wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that's dirty, overcrowded and inescapable.
What's more, there's a madman hiding on the station. He's about to unleash chaos. And when he does, there'll be nowhere left to run.
In space, every second counts. Who said nobody could hear you scream?

Friday 24 July 2015

Blast From the Past: Transformation by Carol Berg

Before I started reviewing books online I loved rereading my favourite SF/Fantasy books.  Since I don’t have time to do that anymore, this column is a trip down memory lane, where I’ll rave about books I love to read.  And then read again.  These aren’t reviews, as I won’t necessarily mention criticisms, they’re my chance to fan girl about books I love and hopefully garner some interest in some older titles.

Carol Berg is an author I've mentioned a few times as being highly underread and underappreciated. When I was growing up I developed this certainty that authors only wrote one series I'd like, and once I found that series it wasn't worth reading anything else by that author.  Carol Berg blew that idea away.  While some fantasy authors create one fully realized world that they play in long after they've runt out of original plot ideas to fill the world with, Carol Berg has created new, intricate worlds for each series she's written.  I haven't had the chance to read her Collegia Magica novels or the the Sanctuary Duet, but I've loved every other book she's written.  That's really unusual for me.

The first book I read by her is the stand alone novel, Song of the Beast.  It showed me how
thoroughly she's willing to torture her protagonists, and how she's not going to give you an ending with all loose ends tied up, because life doesn't do that.  She is however, going to give you a wild ride, fantastic characters, and an ending that fits the story and leaves you satisfied.

The second book I read is the one that's remained my favourite, Transformation, the first book she wrote and the first in the Rai-kirah trilogy.  Generally her books can be read as stand alones, in that she typically doesn't leave cliffhangers (though I know the Lighthouse Duet duology breaks this pattern), and Transformation is the same.  

The protagonist, Seyonne, has been a slave for 18 years and at the beginning of the book is purchased by the arrogant, selfish, hedonistic heir to the Derzhi Empire.  When the prince's life is threatened by magics Seyonne was trained to fight in his youth, before he was enslaved, he must decide if the young man's life is worth saving.

The unlikely friendship that develops between Seyonne and Prince Aleksander is fantastic, as is the surprising humour that permeates the otherwise sad, and often horrific, story.  If you like seeing characters go through the wringer to the point that you question how they're able to go on, this is the book for you.  Berg is able to play on your emotions, showing you the worst that can happen and then breaking the tension by making you laugh out loud.  In this book at least.  The other books I've read by her don't have as much humour, which is probably why I love Transformation so much.  

Berg is an author whose world is so immersive, and whose characters Bridge of D'Arnath series each work day was a countdown until I could read again, and my days off were me, perched on a chair, racing through the books as fast as I could turn the pages.
are so compelling, you'll be reaching for the next book as soon as you finish.  Indeed, when I read the four books of her

I cannot recommend her work strongly enough.  If you love fantasy, do yourself a favour and pick up her books.  

Thursday 23 July 2015

Shout-Out: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But pursuit by battleship is the least of their worries. Their fleet’s artificial intelligence—which should be protecting them—may actually be an enemy. And a plague is slowly ravaging the fleet with terrifying consequences. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking in search of the truth, she realizes that there’s only one boy who can help her bring everything to light . . . and of course, it’s her ex-boyfriend, Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—ILLUMINAE is a ground-breaking, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will draw teen and adult readers of James Dashner, Rick Yancey, and Veronica Roth yet stands on its own with Kaufman and Kristoff’s unique storytelling.
This is the first of a trilogy and comes out on October 20th and has a pretty cool marketing campaign going on right now whereby the website unlocks new content each month around the 20th.  Currently they've got civilian intake forms for the two protagonists, a few teaser videos (one of which I've embedded below, and the just released spaceship schematics.

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Video: Ancient Hairdressing by Janet Stephens

Medieval POC mentioned Janet Stephens on twitter recently and I've been watching her videos and reading the paper she did on ancient Roman hairdressing (link goes to a pdf of the article) and it's very interesting stuff.  She also did an interview on The History Blog, where she explains how she, a trained hairdresser, got into doing recreations of ancient hairstyles.

It's cool to see someone do actual ancient hairstyles on modern people using ancient techniques and tools.  It's also interesting - from a writing perspective - to consider how different hairstyles reflect the type of hair people in the past had in particular regions of the world (you can't put all hair up in the same styles - length, thickness, wave/curliness, etc. all factor in).  A friend and I were discussing this and she pointed out that climate can play a role in hairstyles as well as humidity and temperature can affect hair (humidity can cause frizziness, for example).  Similarly, the complexity of the style determines status: poor people dress their own hair while rich people have servants do theirs.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Novella Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

Pros: interesting characters, quick read

Cons: issues with ending

In 2013 an FBI agent partners with a mathematician to try to solve a series of child kidnappings.  In 2014, a series of ecological disasters occur.  In 2035, a tiny group of people try to increase their population enough to save humanity from extinction by grabbing children from the past. 

Told in three periods, the before, during and after of the title, this novel explores the activities surrounding an apocalyptic event.  It’s a short, quick read, at just under 100 pages.  There’s a fair amount going on in the story, especially as tensions in the future mount among the young men.

The characters are all pretty interesting to read about.  Julie’s probably my favourite, as she knows what she wants and, until the end, is confident in her decisions.  I found Pete sympathetic, but not the most likeable character.  Still, his story was interesting as he interacted with the others in the future.

I had a few issues with the ending, particularly since several rather important issues were never explained.  I’ll detail these in the spoilers section.

Despite not being entirely satisfied with the ending, this was an enjoyable, quick read.


The ending implies that the apocalypse was caused by Gaia - meaning ‘the earth’ - in order to counteract the actions of humans in the past century.  So, knowing humans would make a hash of the world again - eventually - why save some?  Why not just wipe out humanity and save some animals, things that respect their places in the circle of life?  I was also surprised that the Tesslies let the humans live - and leave the enclosure - once they realize that the negative emotions that ultimately led to the need for the apocalypse - jealousy and hatred - were still present.

Most importantly, what are the Tesslies?  The impression I was left with was that they were an extension of Gaia.  In which case, how did they create the metal enclosure, the water purifier, the disinfectant machine, the time machine and how did it pick and then teleport the humans to the enclosure?  And why so few?  I have trouble imagining how this group could repopulate properly, even with the kids they grabbed from the past.  There are simply too few people left.

My other question is, who did people think planted the supposed underwater bombs they believed caused the tsunamis?  And how many bombs would you need to wreck the coastlines?  Everyone starts nuking each other, but why?  How would nukes help anything?  Whoever survived would be further negatively impacted - as would Gaia.  And whatever enemies you thought were responsible would have caused a lot of destruction on their own lands too.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Shout-Out: Europa Journal by Jack Castle

The history of humanity is about to change forever…

On 5 December 1945, five TBM Avenger bombers embarked on a training mission off the coast of Florida and mysteriously vanish without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle.

A PBY search and rescue plane with thirteen crewmen aboard sets out to find the Avengers . . . and never returns.

In 2168, a mysterious five-sided pyramid is discovered on the ocean floor of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

Commander Mac O’Bryant and her team of astronauts are among the first to enter the pyramid’s central chamber. They find the body of a missing World War II pilot, whose hands clutch a journal detailing what happened to him after he and his crew were abducted by aliens and taken to a place with no recognizable stars. As the pyramid walls begin to collapse around Mac and her team, their names mysteriously appear within its pages and they find themselves lost on an alien world.

Stranded with no way home, Mac decides to retrace the pilot’s steps. She never expects to find the man alive. And if the man has yet to die, what does that mean for her and the rest of her crew?

Europa Journal is the first title of Edge-Lite, the new digital imprint of Hades Publications, parent company of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Out July 23rd, but it's currently available for preorder for Cdn $2.99 and the price goes up upon publication.

Friday 17 July 2015

Medieval Plants: Lady’s Mantle

A column looking at medieval plants and what they were use for. (Archive)


C. A. M. Lindman from: Bilder ur Nordens Flora
Latin names: Alchemilla vulgaris and Alchemilla mollis
Aka: Lion’s foot (Leontopodium/Pied-de-lion), Bear’s foot, Nine hooks, Stellaria, Dewcup, Frauenmantle, Falluing mhuire, copan an druichd
Description: check it out on

One problem with researching this plant is that it’s common name ‘Lady’s Mantle’ first appeared in the 16th century and so doesn’t appear as such in older texts.  It’s latin name alchemilla, coming from the word ‘alchemy’ is also a more modern name.  

The Bonnefont Herb Garden at the Cloisters in NYC lists alchemilla vulgaris, but one of the books I’m using as a reference only deals with alchemilla mollis, so I’ve included that species to flesh out this post.

By Mom the Barbarian (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons
It’s called alchemilla because the look of water pooled in the centre of the leaves reminded people of mercury, which was used in alchemical processes.  (Fisher, 38).  Similarly, alchemists used this water in their attempts to produce the philosopher’s stone (Ricola) and other mystic potions (Botanical).  The Ricola website mentions that the liquid isn't dew, it's actually sap.

The scalloped edged leaves led to its being referred to as Mary’s (ie our lady’s) mantle (ie cloak).  

The plant is able to self-polinate, a process known as parthenogenesis, so it was believed that the water droplets were "impregnated with powers making fertilization possible without external intervention". (Ricola).  The Ricola website also mentions that contrary to this idea, Hildegard von Bingen gave one of the plants’ uses as a contraceptive.  I wasn’t able to find any reference to Lady’s Mantle in her Physica, but as I mentioned above, it’s possible that the plant is in the book under a different name or was mentioned in another of her works.  

The plant was used for its astringent and styptic properties as well as being considered one of the best herbs for healing wounds. (Botanical)

In modern times the plant is used to help alleviate hormonal mood swings in women (Ricola) and was once used to treat female illnesses (Nedwick, 140).

Once again I had trouble understanding why it was planted in the magical rather than the medicinal bed at the Cloisters’ garden, so I did a bit more digging.  The Nefaeria website mentioned that the leaves were worn as cloaks by the good (ie fairy) folk.  It also mentioned that in Eastern Europe it was believed that burning the plant in fire helped ward off storms, while hanging it in windows and doorways on farms would help keep people safe from nature’s wrath.


Fisher, Celia. The Medieval Flower Book. London: The British Library, 2013.

Newdick, Jane. The Magic of Herbs. London: Salamander Books, 1991.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Shout-Out: Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman

Reports of a strange, new habitable world have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate. Thora was once a member of the interplanetary elite, but since her prophetic delusions helped mobilize a revolt on Orem, she's been banished to the farthest reaches of space to minimize the risk her very presence may pose. 
Upon arrival, the team finds an extraordinary crystalline planet laden with dark matter. Then a crew member is murdered, and Thora mysteriously disappears. Thought to be uninhabited, the planet is in fact home to a blind, sentient species whose members navigate their world with a bizarre vocabulary and extrasensory perceptions. 
Lost in the deep crevasses of the planet among these people, Thora must battle her demons and learn to comprehend the native inhabitants in order to find her crewmates and warn them of an impending danger. But her most difficult task may be persuading the crew that some powers lie beyond the boundaries of science.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Video: One-Minute Time Machine

This is a cool little time travel video.

Every time the beautiful Regina rejects his advances, James pushes a red button and tries again, all the while unaware of the reality and consequences of his actions. Directed by Devon Avery. Selected for the Sploid Short Film Festival, a celebration of the coolest short films and the filmmakers that make them.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Book Review: A Darkling Sea by James Cambias

Pros: great world-building, fascinating alien species, diverse characters, interesting plot, stand-alone novel


An accident occurs among the humans observing the native intelligent life forms deep in the oceans under the ice of the distant planet Ilmatar.  An alien race older than humans, the Sholen, have decreed that no contact be made with the natives for fear of human colonization.  They send a ship to the planet to verify that no rules have been broken, but their inner politics dictate that the humans’ mission be shut down, regardless.  

Meanwhile, Broadtail 38 Sandyslope, along with a group of likeminded Ilmataran scientists, makes a strange discovery that changes the course of his life.

I love it when the first paragraph of a book sucks you in and doesn't let you go.  And this book has an awesome one:  

By the end of his second month at Hitode Station, Rob Freeman had already come up with 85 ways to murder Henry Kerlerec.  That put him third in the station’s rankings — Joseph Palashnik was first with 143, followed by Nadia Kyle with 97.  In general, the number and sheer viciousness of the suggested methods was in proportion to the amount of time each one spent with Henri.

Rob Freeman is the research station’s underwater photographer and drone operator and the first, and only human, viewpoint character.  Through him we see how the humans get along and how they react when the Sholen show up.

Our Showlen point of view comes from one of their two scientists, Tizhos, the subordinate in a race that focuses on consensus and achieves it via sexual contact.  Through her we see signs of how their society works, using pheromones to calm and attract, as well as trying to subdue natural reactions, like anger and frustration, to maintain peace.

We’re given two Ilmataran points of view, one through Broadtail, a scientist and landowner, and the other through Strongpincer, a bandit.  This, and Broadtail’s adventures, allows the reader to get a wider idea of the Ilmataran society.

The alien societies are quite fascinating, and distinct.  Ironically, many of the problems that occur in the book are because each group expects that the aliens think and act the way they do - even when the person making this assumption knows better.  So, for example, the humans’ passive aggressive screaming and handcuffing tactic isn’t understood by the Sholen, despite the humans thinking it’s a universal form of protest.  

While I didn’t like all of the characters, I’m looking at you Richard Graves, there was a good variety of personalities and temperaments represented.  Every character had their own motivations for what they did, and reacted differently to the various crises that occur.

The story was very interesting, with a lot going on all the time.  And it's a stand-alone novel.

This is a fantastic debut.   

Book Purge Time - Closed for Reviews Again

I really need to get books off my floor again, and I hate that my books are shelved horizontally rather than vertically on my bookshelves.  Which means I'm doing another book purge.  I got rid of a batch this morning - unread (le sigh).  I don't like getting rid of books without reading them though, so I'll be closing my site to review requests for the summer.  I'm hoping to clear out some of the backlog - and some shelf space - so that when the fall books show up I'll have room (and time) to read them.

It also means I won't be requesting anything until (I hope) September at the earliest.

In the meantime, I've got a bunch of sequels and older titles to catch up on.

Sunday 12 July 2015

Shout-Out: Masters of Time Anthology

A clone who usurps his own destiny--and with it, the power of Time. A time travel romance that would defy death, and an alluring agent from the future hunting her prey...

Imaginative and heart-pounding stories are woven into the fabric of this time travel short story collection. From adventure to loss, hope and sacrifice, each tale touches upon the precious value given to Time, and what we'd do with it, if we were its masters.

Stories by: Samantha LaFantasie, Alesha Escobar, Devorah Fox, Timothy C. Ward, H.M. Jones, and Alice Marks.

Our July 13th

Friday 10 July 2015

Art Book Review: Picturing the Apocalypse by Natasha O’Hear and Anthony O’Hear

Pros: beautiful images, commentary on the images and the periods that produced them

Cons: repetition, very broad overview using a limited number of works, breaks 2000 years into 3 periods for discussion

[Note: The advanced reading copy of the book that I received for the purpose of this review did not include the colour plates.  The authors give good descriptions of each photo and in most cases I was able to look the images up online.]

Picturing the Apocalypse breaks down the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelations, into its composite parts as a way of detailing how artists over the years have illustrated each part.  The chapters consist of: The angelic guides and John’s journey, the Lamb, the Four Horsemen, the Seven Seals, the Woman Clothed with the Sun, the Satanic Trinity (ie, the beasts and Antichrist), The Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, the Millennium and the Last Judgement, the New Jerusalem and, finally, how the 20th and 21st centuries have utilized the imagery.

The authors picked a few representative works that they then used to illustrate the entirety of the book of Revelations.  This allows the reader to see both how different elements evolved over time as people from different periods adapted them, and also to see how the same sources in each period illustrated the work as a whole.  There are, of course, some works included in each chapter that only refers to that element (works where the artist didn’t illustrate the whole book but where seeing a few more examples helps show a wider range of influence).  The downside to this is that you’re only seeing a limited sampling of what’s out there, but being comprehensive with so broad a topic would cause its own problems.

The illustrations and works they picked are of great beauty and show the different elements to great advantage.  They also act as a jumping off point to doing more independent research.

Though the authors describe the images they’re citing very well, be prepared to flip back and forth between the text and images a lot, both because you’ll want to see what they’re pointing out in their descriptions but also because they often reference the images at different points in the text (so, for example, an image inset in chapter 8 will be mentioned in chapters 1 and 10 as well).

There’s a fair amount of repetition in the text and pointing the reader to the chapters where certain themes and concepts are addressed, giving the book the feel of something meant to be referenced by chapter (as by someone looking for images on a particular element) rather than something to be read from start to finish.  The chapter on 20-21st C representations especially points the reader to numerous images already discussed.

The authors tried to show the book of Revelations in context for the different periods that they discussed, mentioning that the author of the book was writing it not long after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when Christianity was being persecuted and when people were looking for a militaristic saviour/end of the world to come.  Seeing how people of different ages turned the meaning of the vision to their own ends was fascinating.  

Having said that, while I understand the necessity of mentioning the feminist critiques of the book, specifically that the depiction of women is stuck in the dichotomy of mother/bride/virtuous woman vs whore is important, I was a bit surprised at how… apologetic the authors were when presenting this 2000 year old text.  Obviously the author and numerous illustrators weren’t concerned with 21st century ideals, so why should the authors of this commentary work feel the need to do more than comment on how perceptions change?  Along the same lines, I was surprised at the authors’ attempt to reconcile the ‘good’ God of the New Testament with the destruction inherent in the book of Revelation.  While Christ taught love, it’s clear that the God of the Old Testament had no problem with death and destruction (plagues of Egypt, ordering genocide of conquered nations, the flood).  And this is the God that an early Christian, familiar with the Hebrew religious texts, would have been familiar with.  Again, it seemed a bit strange that the authors were apologizing for a text and a view of the world that has since fundamentally changed.  Simply mentioning that some modern people have trouble with the reconciliation of a vengeful God with the Christian message, and how it impacts the modern view of Revelations, would have sufficed.

While not perfect, this is an excellent primer for looking at the book of Revelation from a artistic standpoint.  The authors have a deep understanding of the depictions of the various elements and make some interesting interpretations.  And it reproduces some gorgeous images. 

Thursday 9 July 2015

Shout-Out: The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick

In a land riven with plague, inside the infamous Walled City, two families vie for control: the Medicis with their genius inventor Leonardo; the Lorraines with Galileo, the most brilliant alchemist of his generation.

And when two star-crossed lovers, one from either house, threaten the status quo, a third, shadowy power – one that forever seems a step ahead of all of the familial warring – plots and schemes, and bides its time, ready for the moment to attack...
Assassination; ancient, impossible machines; torture and infamy – just another typical day in paradise. 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Video: Make Lego Gummies

I would LOVE to make these.  Now to find a mould...

If you want more information, this is where Grant Thompson (who made the video above) got the idea, as well as some ideas on making your own silicon mould (remember that it has to be food grade for this).  

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Book Review: The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold by Peter V. Brett

This is a collection of 2 short stories and 2 passages that were cut from The Warded Man.  Each story has a short introduction from the author explaining either where the ideas came from or why the scene was cut.  The stories were originally published as limited edition hardcovers by Subterranean Press, with this new combined edition being published in trade paperback by Tachyon Publications.  The book also includes a short Krasian dictionary, which is not really necessary as all the required terms are explained in the stories themselves, and some examples of wards and the types of demons they’re used to protect against, which is pretty interesting to read. 

***** Brayan’s Gold - While an apprentice messenger, Arlen and his master are assigned a longer run than usual, transporting thundersticks to Brayan’s Gold, high in the mountains.  But while the compensation is generous, the risks are also high: bandits, harsh conditions, and several nights outdoors with only warded circles as protection against demons.  This is a fantastic story with a lot of different elements to it.  There’s a surprising amount of variety to the troubles Arlen faces as he heads into the mountains.

***** The Great Bazaar - Using a map procured from Abban, a khaffit from the great bazaar in Fort Krasia, Arlen hunts for treasure, and discovers demons he’s never faced before.  This story has scenes from both Arlen and Abban’s point of views.  It’s a pretty focused story, but you do get to see a little more of what life is like for the underclass in the bazaar.

Brett manages to pack a lot of content into both stories and writes them in such a way that they fill in gaps left by the novels but explain everything required to enjoy them if you haven’t read the books.

***** Arlen - This is a prologue that didn’t make the book, dealing with Arlen’s life before the events of The Warded Man.  It’s an interesting look at his youthful personality and how he was already pushing boundaries.

**** Brianne Beaten - This passage deals with a scene from Leesha’s life that kind of stands on its own, though it involves an unmentioned incident that ruined a friendship.  It helps to know what that incident is, but the scene still works if you don’t.  

It’s a pretty short book, but the stories are high quality and help flesh out Arlen’s character.  If you missed the Subterranean Press editions, then this is a good time to get the stories.  If you’ve never read Brett, it’s a great sampler of his work and will whet your appetite for more.

Out July 14th.

Friday 3 July 2015

Saints' Lives: Saint Denis

Jamb statue from the
West Facade of Notre
Dame de Paris
As I said in last Friday’s post on the Basilica-Cathedral Saint Denis, today’s post is on the saint the church is dedicated to.

His feast day is October 9th in the Western church and October 3rd in the Eastern church, and he is the patron saint of France. He is generally portrayed as holding the head that was chopped off.

Saint Denis (Denis being the French* form of the name Dionysius)’s legend was confused with that of two other figures, the first being the 1st C. Dionysius the Areopagite, the second being a 5th or 6th C. writer who assumed the name so his writing would be given more authority. This is the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite whose writings on light and God influenced Abbot Suger in his redesign of the Basilica of St Denis. Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, dates from the 3rd C, though the first written account of his life dates from c. 600.

The information below comes from The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, translated by William Granger Ryan (volume II). Princeton University Press, 1995. pp 236-241. Saints lives weren’t examined critically in the middle ages, so don’t expect the information below to sound particularly credible from a modern standpoint. But this is how medieval people understood his story. Jacobus compiled his ‘Readings on the Saints’ from various sources c.1260 and the book was a bestseller, with thousands of copies of the manuscript surviving.  


Dionysius, called the Areopagite because he was from that area of Athens, was an upper-class philosopher who was converted to Christianity by the Apostle Paul. Dionysius had noted a darkness that fell across the region that didn’t correspond with - or follow the rules of - an eclipse. When Paul explained that the darkness corresponded with Christ’s crucifixion and that Christ was ‘the Unknown God’ to whom the Athenians had created an altar for the event, he asked Paul to heal a blind man in Christ’s name. Paul told Dionysius the words to use and had Dionysius heal the man using them. Dionysius, his wife, and his household were all baptized. He was taught by Paul for three years and was then ordained Bishop of Athens. Though his preaching, he converted the city and much of the surrounding area. He visited Peter and Paul when they were in prison in Rome, and was present at the death of Mary, the mother of Christ.

Pope Clement, successor of Peter, sent him to preach in Gaul (modern day France), with Rusticus and Eleutherius as companions. When he arrived in Lutetia (Paris), he converted many people and built several churches. Pagan priests convinced the people to attack him, but he was protected by God, and they either grovelled at his feet in awe or ran away in fear. The devil got Emperor Domitian to issue the order than anyone found to be a Christian had to sacrifice to idols or be tortured. He sent a prefect, Fescenninus, to Lutetia, who then found Denis preaching about Christ. He had Denis and his 2 companions arrested, beaten, scourged, and imprisoned.
St Denis and his 2 companions being brought to prison,
left portal, Basilica-Cathedral Saint Denis
Several methods were used to torture or kill Denis without result including: an iron grill, hungry animals, and partial crucifixion. Denis performed a mass for his followers, many of whom were also now imprisoned with him. As he was giving the consecrated bread and wine to the people, Jesus appeared and, taking them from him, gave him communion as well.

St Denis receiving Communion from Christ while in prison,
right portal tympanum, Basilica-Cathedral Saint Denis
Brought before the prefect once more, the three men were tortured and beheaded. Denis’s body immediately stood up, picked up his head, and walked from his place of martyrdom (Montmartre - hill of martyrs) to the place where his body now rests (where the basilica-cathedral of St Denis now stands). The sounds of angels singing at this spot converted many, including Laertia, wife of the prefect Lubrius, who was then beheaded. Her son, serving in Rome, later returned to Lutetia and was baptized.
Life and martyrdom of St. Denis
South Transept portal tympanum, Basilica-Cathedral Saint Denis
Around A.D. 644 the Frankish King, Dagobert, held St. Denis in high regard, so much so that he hid in the church of St. Denis when he feared his father’s anger. A holy man had a vision that when Dagobert died and his soul was being brought for judgement, several saints accused him of stripping their churches of valuables. But the soul of St Denis protected him from their demands for punishment.

King Clovis had the body of St Denis uncovered and broke off and removed one of the arms. Soon after he lost his mind.

The passage in The Golden Legend ends with the following paragraph, “Note also that Hincmar, bishop of Rheims, says, in the letter he wrote to Charles, that the Dionysius who was sent to Gaul was Dionysius the Areopagite, as was said above. John Scotus makes the same assertion in a letter to Charles. This cannot be questioned, therefore, on the ground that the dates are contradictory, as some have tried to argue.” (p. 241).

In other words, it was recognized that they must be different men, even as they kept the idea that they were, somehow, the same figure.

According to Wikipedia:

In time, the "Saint Denis", often combined as "Montjoie! Saint Denis!" became the war-cry of the French armies. The oriflamme, which became the standard of France, was the banner consecrated upon his tomb. 
Oriflamme copy at Basilica-Cathedral St. Denis
Stained glass window at Chartres showing
St. Denis handing the oriflamme to a knight.
Click the images to see them larger, and check out this webpage for a clearer image of the stained glass.

* This is one of those things that took me ages to grasp, that names can change drastically from one language to another. It was years before I made the connection between Santiago de Compostella (Spanish) and Saint James (English).

Thursday 2 July 2015

Shout-Out: nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles

Compiled by multi-award winning editors, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre presents a tantalizing selection of imaginative stories by New York Times bestselling and prize-winning authors, including:
Colleen Anderson
Kelley Armstrong
Margaret Atwood
Robert Bose
Jane Petersen Burfield
Rick Chiantaretto
J. Madison Davis
Barbara Fradkin
Nancy Holder
Michael Jecks
Tanith Lee
Robert Lopresti
Richard Christian Matheson
David McDonald
Lisa Morton
William Nolan (with Jason Brock, Sunni Brock)
Loren Rhoads
Christopher Rice
Thomas S. Roche
Uwe Sommerlad
Carol Weekes & Michael Kelly
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

This anthology consists of 22 original tales that blend supernatural and mystery elements in unique re-imaginings of Edgar Allan Poe's exquisite stories.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Books Received in June of 2015

Many thanks to Tor for sending me the following titles for review.

Blood of the Cosmos by Kevin Anderson - This is book two of his Saga of Shadows trilogy that started with The Dark Between the Stars.

An epic space opera of the titanic conflict of several galactic civilizations against a life-destroying force of shadows, a dark cosmic force that has swept through the undercurrents of the human interstellar empire.
The intertwined plots, overflowing with colorful ideas, a large cast of characters, and complex storylines, span dozens of solar systems, alien races, and strange creatures.

As the second book of the trilogy opens, the humans and Ildirans, having narrowly escaped annihilation at the hands of the Shana Rei and their robot allies in Book One, are desperate to find a way to combat the black cloud of antimatter of the Shana Rei. The mysterious alien Gardeners, who had helped them previously, turn out to be a disaster in disguise and because of them, the world tree forests are again in danger. The allies believing they have found a way to stop their dreaded enemies, a new weapon is tested, but it's a horrible failure, throwing the human race and its allies to the brink of extinction.

Corsair by James Cambias - A novel of space pirates and hackers.  I'm currently reading his debut which came out last year, A Darkling Sea.

In the early 2020s, two young, genius computer hackers, Elizabeth Santiago and David Schwartz, meet at MIT, where Schwartz is sneaking into classes, and have a brief affair. David is amoral and out for himself, and soon disappears. Elizabeth dreams of technology and space travel and takes a military job after graduating. Nearly ten years later, David is setting himself to become a billionaire by working in the shadows under a multiplicity of names for international thieves, and Elizabeth works in intelligence preventing international space piracy. With robotic mining in space becoming a lucrative part of Earth's economy, shipments from space are dropped down the gravity well into the oceans. David and Elizabeth fight for dominance of the computer systems controlling ore drop placement in international waters. If David can nudge a shipment 500 miles off its target, his employers can get there first and claim it legally in the open sea. Each one intuits that the other is their real competition but can't prove it. And when Elizabeth loses a major shipment, she leaves government employ to work for a private space company to find a better way to protect shipments. But international piracy has very high stakes and some very evil players. And both Elizabeth and David end up in a world of trouble.

Trial of Intentions by Peter Orullian - Book two of the Vault of Heaven series, begun with The Unremembered.

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god--and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortalkind--in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.
But there is dissent. One king won't answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.
Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.
And his choices may reshape a world . . . .