Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Books Week

It is banned books week so go out and buy and/or read a banned book. If you want to make a meme of this, for both the authors and books, Bold and Italicize the ones you've read.

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell - Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2) The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier - Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3) Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes - Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman - Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Reasons: Racism
6) The Color Purple by Alice Walker - Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7) TTYL by Lauren Myracle - Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9) It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris - Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10) The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Off the list this year, are two books by author Toni Morrison. "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved," both challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

The most frequently challenged authors of 2007

1) Robert Cormier
2) Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
3) Mark Twain
4) Toni Morrison
5) Philip Pullman
6) Kevin Henkes
7) Lois Lowry
8) Chris Crutcher
9) Lauren Myracle
10) Joann Sfar

Ironic that this is Banned Books week - the same week Sarah Palin, who supposedly wanted books removed from the library for objectionable content, will be participating in her first Vice Presidential debate

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Books in the Mail W/E 09/28/2008

Caine Black Knife (The Third Act of Caine) by Matthew Stover (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 10/14/2008) – What can I say that I haven’t yet said? I got the ARC of this over the summer and read then, too. I posted my review this past week and as it stands now Caine Black Knife is my top book of the year.

In Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle, Matthew Stover created a new kind of fantasy novel, and a new kind of hero to go with it: Caine, a street thug turned superstar, battling in a future where reality shows take place in another dimension, on a world where magic exists and gods are up close and personal. In that beautiful, savage land, Caine is an assassin without peer, a living legend born from one of the highest-rated reality shows ever made. That season, Caine almost single-handedly defeated–and all but exterminated–the fiercest of all tribes: the Black Knives. But the shocking truth of what really took place during that blood-drenched adventure has never been revealed . . . until now.

Thirty years later, Caine returns to the scene of his greatest triumph–some would say greatest crime–at the request of his adopted brother Orbek, the last of the true Black Knives. But where Caine goes, danger follows, and he soon finds himself back in familiar territory: fighting for his life against impossible odds, with the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.

Just the way Caine likes it.

The House of the Stag by Kage Baker (Tor, Hardcover 9/30/2008) – I read The Anvil of the World and really enjoyed it, which takes place in the same world as this one. Synopsis

Before the Riders came to their remote valley the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, only a few escaped to the forests. Rebellion wasn't the Yendri way; they hid, or passively resisted, taking consolation in the prophecies of their spiritual leader.

Only one possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, who began a one-man guerrilla war against the Riders. His struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved, and condemnation from his own people.

Exiled, he was taken as a slave by powerful mages ruling an underground kingdom. Bitterer and wiser, he found more subtle ways to earn his freedom. This is the story of his rise to power, his vengeance, his unlikely redemption and his maturation into a loving father--as well as a lord and commander of demon armies.

Metamorphosis by James P. Blaylock (Subterranean Press , Hardcover 3/01/2009) – Metamorphosis: three stories, each one involving a man who discovers that he has come to dwell, for an hour or for a lifetime, in a house and in a mind not quite his own. Each one opens doors onto rooms of illusion, radiance, regret, and dark enchantment. Welcome to the stories of three young writers, stories written in collaboration with James P. Blaylock. Welcome to the borderland of illusion and reality.

Three tales, written in collaboration by James P. Blaylock with students in a class by Tim Powers, with an introduction and illustrations by Tim, an afterword by Blaylock, and some necessary meddling by William Ashbless.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle edited by Jim Butcher (w) and Ardian Syaf (a) (Del Rey/Dabel Brothers 10/14/2008) – Jim Butcher’s mega-successful Dresden Files comes to the comic/graphic novel medium in this terrific collection. I read the series in single issues what I received from Del Rey/Dabel is the hardcover collecting those four issues plus some nice bonus material. I really enjoyed the mini-series and will be posting a review shortly. In short, I think the Dabel's have another winner on their hands.

The Other in the Mirror by Philip Jose Farmer and Dustjacket by Bob Eggleton (Subterranean Press, Hardcover 3/01/2009) – I read Farmer’s Riverword novels and really enjoyed the first few quite a bit so this omnibus could be pretty cool. Subterranean has been publishing nice author retrospective/introductory volumes/omnibuses and this looks like it will carry on that tradition.

The Other in the Mirror brings together three classic novels by Philip José Farmer: Fire and the Night, Jesus on Mars, and Night of Light. All three are united by one of SF’s central tropes, that of The Other.

Fire and the Night is a mainstream novel so rare that even many of Farmer’s most dedicated fans have never read it. First published in 1962, it is also one of the author’s most daring works, exploring the issue of racial Otherness in a mesmerizing tale of temptation and entrapment in a small industrial Midwestern town.

In Jesus on Mars, Richard Orme and the crew of the Barsoom embark on the first manned mission to the Red Planet, intent on investigating what seemed to be evidence of life beamed back to Earth by a robotic survey satellite. But Orme discovers in the hollowed-out Martian caverns what he and the scientists back home least expect: a group of aliens, as well as humans transplanted from first century A.D. Earth, led by a being who claims to be Jesus of Nazareth Himself. Soon Orme and his crew are shocked to find that The Other they face is made all that more alien because of its similarity to humanity’s past.

Night of Light is not only one of Farmer’s most psychologically gripping SF tales, it is also the novel which inspired Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic rock classic “Purple Haze.” John Carmody is a fugitive from Earth, condemned to exile for brutally murdering his wife. Hired by the galactic Church on a mission to squelch a burgeoning rival religion, Carmody must take the Chance on the planet Dante’s Joy and risk his worst nightmares becoming reality. But that’s not the worst of it: the Fathers of Algul and the Fathers of Yess have their own plans for the conscienceless Carmody—for to the inhabitants of Dante’s Joy, Carmody himself is The Other...and they need his alien flesh to give birth to God.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (Viking Children's Books Hardcover 12/26/2008) – This sounds interesting enough, I suppose. My only concern is that it will be another Eragon, quality wise. This is Goodman’s third book, so I think that might outweigh those fears. Viking has a strong marketing push behind this one, moving the original pub date from the fall to just after Christmas hoping to catch some gift-card sales and the packaging on the ARC is nice. Here’s the synopsis:

Does young Eon have the power to become a Dragoneye? His ruthlessly ambitious master believe he does. Now the years of gruelling training will be put to the test: it’s time for the terrifying Rat-Dragon to choose his next apprentice. In a spectacular sequence of events, Eon is catapulted into the opulent but treacherous world of the imperial court. But Eon is playing a dangerous game: he is in fact Eona, a young woman whose true identity must remain hidden, for discovery would mean instant death.

Inspired by the rich myths and traditions of Ancient China, shimmering with energy dragons and fraught with tension, this is a fast-paced, exhilarating page-turner.

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind (Tor Trade Paperback 9/30/2008) – I’m not the biggest fan of this series of books; Tor is re-issuing with another cover to promote the syndicated TV series based off of the books.

ex-Kop by Warren Hammond (Tor Hardcover 9/30/2008) – Sequel to Hammond’s debut novel Kop, this novel continues the futuristic noir that, on the surface, is very reminiscent of Blade Runner. In this hardboiled science fiction thriller, Juno, having been booted off the police force, is barely getting by as a low-level bagman and photographer for the scandal rags. But it gets worse: his wife is in critical condition at the hospital and Juno doesn’t have the money to pay her bills. Desperate for cash, Juno agrees to help his ex-partner, Maggie Orzo, solve a difficult case. A young girl sits on death row, accused of brutally murdering her own parents. She’s confessed to the murders, but Maggie isn’t buying it, so she sends Juno out to get some answers.

Working with Maggie, Juno comes into contact with her new partner, Ian. As dirty as they come, Ian is eager to rise in the police force no matter what the cost. Somehow Ian, a vicious serial killer, and the girl on death row are all connected. It is up to Juno and Maggie to find out how before more people die.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Knopf Books for Young Readers , 10/14/2008) – Lanagan has written some acclaimed short stories and this novel looks like a pretty interesting tale: Set in two worlds and worrying at the border between them. Liga lives modestly in her own personal heaven, a world given to her in exchange for her earthly life. Her two daughters grow up in this soft place, protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever—
magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey Hardcover 01/20/2009) – This is the ARC of the US edition coming out in January. Del Rey has been staggering the release of Morgan’s novels about 6 months or so after the UK publication. What else can I say about this that I didn’t say in my review? Or that Hobbit didn’t say in his review? Anyway, here’s a snippet:

One of the most potent aspects of the novel is Morgan’s unrestrained approach to both the sex and the violence. The sex is intimate and graphic and the violence is on the same level of graphic description, as well as the sexual proclivity of the protagonist, Ringil. Ringil does embody these two aspects very much, from the graphic nature of his trysts to the violent nature of many of his physical encounters with enemies, Morgan is unrelenting in how he puts Ringil into all of these scenes. The harsh language, the graphically depicted non-traditional sex, and stark reality of violence all add a stamp of boldness readers of Morgan’s science fiction will find familiar. Some will (and have already) found these intertwined aspects of the novel off-putting. Too bad for them.

As well as Morgan depicts the characters, what he does to an even stronger degree in The Steel Remains is depict the overall mood of the story and world in which it takes place. Ringil’s world is filled with a great deal of tension and angst with the past of war ever-present as well as the fear of potential war in the air as well in addition to an overall feeling of melancholy and malaise. The word gritty, as I’ve said in previous reviews, gets thrown around all to often and in that sense, the word loses some of its original meaning and potency. Here, I suppose, I would call the world in The Steel Remains gritty and harsh, it is dirty, uncompromising and very real. One gets a feel for the dirt under the fingernails Ringil might have after much travel and war; the feeling of exasperation Ringil expresses in many of his encounters also epitomizes the mood of the story.

Getting to Know You by David Marusek (Del Rey, Trade Paperback 12/30/2008) – David Marusek has been on my radar since his debut novel, Counting Heads, was released almost two three years ago now, to much acclaim. His short stories have won awards (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award) and acclaim as well. This collection was originally offered as a limited edition by Subterranean Press last year.

Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner (Tor , Hardcover 9/23/2008) – Set 200 years before the events of Niven’s most famous novel, Ringworld, this book is itself a sequel to Fleet of Worlds, which I really enjoyed last year. I was, in fact, surprised by how much I enjoyed Fleet of Worlds, and hadn’t realized the sequel was coming out now. Either way, this and Kage Baker’s book landing in front of my garage on Monday were two pleasant surprises. As always, when I get to them is always up for debate.

The Killing of Worlds: Book Two of Succession by Scott Westerfeld (Tor Trade Paperback (9/30/2008) – This is the second half of the Succession duology begun in The Risen Empire. I only read the first half of this duology, actually a book split by the publishers, but since reading and loving his novels Peeps and The Last Days , I’ve wanted to revisit this Space Opera.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Weber Review, TV Recap & Yankee Stadium

I haven’t always been a big reader/fan of Military Science Fiction, nor have I been a detractor - I just haven't read all that much of it. What I’ve read (Heinlein, Scalzi, Buettner, Haldeman, OSC, etc) has been pretty good, but the subgenre is awash with a great many authors. Just take a look at Baen. That having been said, one of the top names in Military Science Fiction (and to a lesser extent Military Fantasy) over the past couple of decades has been David Weber. The books set in his Honorverse are considered by some to be top books in the subgenre. For people like me who may want to sample Weber’s copious output and get a slight feel for some of the milieus in which he writes, Worlds of Weber is a terrific collection to do just that. This all leads, to of course, the review of Worlds of Weber I posted last night.

TV viewing so far this fall has been hit or miss, as I’ve been saying here at the o’ Stuff. I didn’t even watch Fringe last night, but rather, I tuned in for the “mid-season finale” of Eureka on the SciFi Channel. I may watch Fringe on line to see if I missed anything, but I’m in no rush. I’ve been following Eureka since it started and think it has a really solid blend of humor, character, plot and science-fictiony stuff. In other words, one of the instances were the SciFi Channel did something right. As a result of the last game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday*, I didn’t catch up with True Blood until last night, but I’m still really intrigued by the story and Harris’s version of the Vampire. Although I thought the most recent episode was the series’s weakest, it was still good. Paquin is really settling into the Sookie role very well.

Heroes was OK, but then again, I think I’m one of the few people who didn’t really hate last season. I think too much was crammed into the first episode and I fear the writers are in danger of writing themselves into a corner. I thought the FX for the Speedster were pretty cool, grim-and-gritty Peter has the potential to be annoying, Hiro is becoming less relevant, Mohinder has the potential to fall into Mad Scientist category and Sylar’s character arc still remains the most interesting thing on the show.

The two sitcoms Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I catch every week, How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory started off pretty strongly this week. Much as I love NPH and How I Met Your Mother, I fear that it may jump the shark this season. Everybody has guilty pleasure sitcoms (I think) and these two are ours, since I can’t even call The Office a guilty pleasure

*My last game at Yankee Stadium was in May (the photo on the left was taken with my camera phone that day) of this year with a bunch of friends, much beer was consumed so of course we had a really good time. I think my very first game at the Cathedral must have been when I was three or four. Whether or not the following is memory is of my first game, it is one of my earliest memories in general: I clearly remember being at the Stadium during a rain storm on Helmet Giveaway day. Growing up, my parents and I would trek out to the Boogie Down Bronx at least once a year. This was when they sucked in the 1980s and it wasn’t always a guaranteed win. However, I got to see my favorite player, Don Mattingly. I remember him patrolling right field wearing #46 before he was awarded the first base job and was battling it out with Steve Balboni** for the first base position. We went to a 4th of July game one year (no not when Rags had his no hit day) and a few bat days. When I got old enough to drive I went to a few games with my high-school crew. I even saw Pink Floyd play at the Stadium in 1994.

However, some of the best times at the Stadium I had were with Mrs. o’ Stuff – in the late 90s when the Bombers were the kings of the sports world. This was before we were married and had annoying things like a mortgage, house bills and all that nasty grown-up stuff. We saw the raising of the banner on opening day in 1997 from the bleachers with my (then 13-year old) brother-in-law which, unfortunately, ended in a loss to the As after McGwire smacked a homer into the black. Later in 1997, we went for my brother-in-law’s birthday, we unknowingly bought tickets for a random game against the Expos – it turned out to be Don Mattingly Day. Throughout 1998 to 2000 we went to about 3 or 4 regular season games per year and a nice handful of playoff games. For our wedding, we had a Yankee NY sculpture and we made our entrance to “Here Come the Yankees.” In trying to find the song, Mrs. o’ Stuff had to go all the way to Yankees Media relations in order to get a copy – he was so impressed by our dedication as fans (she told him of the ice sculpture) he said we could have a tour of the media and press box, which was pretty cool. He would probably be impressed with my pin-stripe Yankees basement. The stairs leading up from the basement are adorned with the retired numbers.

One year for my birthday (I think or was it our anniversary?), Mrs. o’ Stuff purchased a stadium tour for me, which allowed us to sit in the dugout and walk on the field. We also happened to go to a Mets-Yankee game with one my Fraternity Brothers and his now wife on one of their first dates.

In all, the place has a lot of good memories and helped to generate more memories. My favorite (not being there) memory is probably watching them win the 1996 World Series.

I thought Sunday's ceremony was nice. Bad: No Mattingly and Bob Sheppard couldn't make it in person, and the start time of the ceremony should have been 6 PM. The Good: Everything else including Bernie Williams return to the Stadium and the clear omission of Roger Clemens.

** As it turned out in a strange twist of fate (Not the Hardy Boyz kind), Balboni wound up coaching my brother in law in little league before Mrs. o’ Stuff became Mrs. o’ Stuff.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 09/21/2008)

Pretty slow compared to last week, but still a good amount of books. This time, it looks like Ballantine & Del Rey sent out their stuff with an offering from Tor.

Swallowing Darkness: (Meredith Gentry Series #7) by Laurell K. Hamilton (Ballantine, Hardcover 11/04/2008) – I read the some of the early (maybe 5) Anita Blake novels; basically whatever was in the first two omnibus editions The Science Fiction Book Club offered when I was a member years ago and thought they were entertaining at first, but after endless repeating of the Nikes and wardrobe Anita wore and the spiral into eroticism, I grew tired of the stories. These Meredith Gentry novels follow the titular faerie princess private investigator in a world where faeries are part of the populace and have profound impacts on history.

Every Last Drop (Joe Pitt Casebook #4) by Charlie Huston (Del Rey Paperback 9/30/2008) – I read and really enjoyed the first Joe Pitt Casebook, Already Dead, but just haven’t caught up with the remaining books. I have the third book, Half the Blood of Brooklyn, staring at me as well as this one. I really need to catch up with these books because I though Already Dead was a really solid novel. When I interviewed Charlie a couple of years ago, he was really cool so I feel I’ve got to get into synch with these books even more.

Enclave by Kit Reed (Tor, Hardcover 2/03/2009) – I read one of her 2005 novel, Baby Merchant, and thought it was an interesting and thought provoking novel and have The Night Children on my to be read pile. Since this one doesn’t hit until February of 2009, I’ve got time to get to it. Hopefully.

Set in a mountaintop school run by an ex-Marine pledged to protect and reform spoiled rich kids, Enclave brings together warped teenagers and faculty misfits, an ancient monk left over from the old monastery, a drunken doctor and his beautiful P.A.-- and a mysterious stranger. Then the island's server crashes and people start getting sick...

Starfist : Wings of Hell by David Sherman & Dan Cragg (Del Rey, Hardcover 12/30/2008) – This is the 13th entry in a Military Science Fiction saga set in the 25th Century. I received another StarFist novel a couple of years ago for review and neither book really compels me to read them. I haven’t heard much about the series in general, and what I’ve read/seen is less than positive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mini-TV Wrap-up and New Poll

Fringe is pushing me away and True Blood continues to suck me into the show. The acting is not that believable on Fringe and Joshua Jackson’s character is downright annoying. I’ll give Fringe another week or two before jumping ship totally. I’m still enjoying Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and it seems British hottie Sonya Walger is going between this and Lost, but Heroes may dent my watching of Sarah.

Which major US genre imprint’s output do you enjoy the most / anticipate the most?

Bantam Spectra
Del Rey
Night Shade Books

I tried to stick with the US publishers who are publishing original fiction. I realize Subterranean Press and Golden Gryphon are absent, but the majority of what they do is special edition reprints. This is a one-choice only poll. If I've neglected any of the major ones, do let me know.

Shit, I knew I'd forget one, sorry folks at Baen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Steel Saturn

Two reviews went up today, Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains and Charles Stross’s Saturn’s Children. On one hand, you might say two very different books one is Sword & Sorcery/Epic Fantasy the other is Space Opera. On the other, over the course of the narrative in both novels, gender roles are examined and both books are quite graphic. Saturn’s Children published in July from Ace and The Steel Remains in August from Gollancz in the UK and will be publishing early 2009 from Del Rey. I realize I may be the last of my kind (online reviewer/blogger) to tackle The Steel Remains, but whatever.

Here’s a snippet of my review of Saturn’s Children:

Freya constantly references her One True Love bringing focus back onto what her, and all of her kind’s, purpose in the galaxy is. Stross characterizes her enough to make her seem human, until she ponders removing an arm and a leg in order to secure safe passage in the galaxy.
So, then, Stross provides ample rumination for identity in the future and how circumstances lead to identity. Freya’s jumbled identity isn’t the only one up for debate; she is blocked at several points along her journey and it’s rarely clear just who is employing her and who is trying to stop her. In many senses, this element of the novel lent a heist-like feel to the story.

Here’s some from The Steel Remains:

Like many a fantasy novel, one of the main themes hanging over the heads of the characters is war. However, Morgan doesn’t focus on war itself as much as the specter of a past war and the threat of a potential war. In the protagonist Ringil Eskiath (Gil), Morgan captured an air of embittered veteran. Ringil is called home by his mother to search for his missing cousin Shering, rumored to have been sold into slavery. Ringil brings with him an enchanted sword, Ravensfriend, with the magical ability to can through anything. Unfortunately, Ringil’s father and people from his town are dead set against his quest to save his cousin. Adding fuel to the fire is the disdain Ringil’s father holds over his son; despite Ringil being an honored war veteran, dad still can’t look past Ringil’s homosexuality. Clearly, Ringil is a complex character who has quite a lot baggage, straddles many lines, and ultimately, comes across as rather genuine.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Well, it looks like Ace/Daw/Roc AKA Penguin passed along all of their October releases to me this week. Every book from them came in a separate package over the course of a few days. SFFWorld seems to be down; again.

Crusade:Destroyermen Book 2 by Taylor Anderson (ROC, Hardcover 10/07/2008) – I liked the first book, Into the Storm, quite a bit both for the action and world/creatures Anderson created, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of Walker, have chosen sides in a war not of their making. They have allied with the Lemurians—a mammalian race whose peaceful existence is under attack from the warlike, reptilian Grik.

The Lemurians are vastly outnumbered and ignorant of warfare, and even the guns and technology of Walker cannot turn the tide of battle. Luckily they are not alone. Reddy finally finds Mahan, the other destroyer that passed through the rift. Together, the two American ships will teach the Lemurians to fight and stand against the bloodthirsty Grik...Or so they think.

For there is another vessel that does not belong on these strange seas—the massive Japanese battle cruiser Amagi, the very ship that Walker was fleeing from when the rift took them. Like Mahan, it followed them through. And now Amagi is in the hands of the Grik.

The Chosen Sin by Anya Bast (Heat Paperback 10/06/2008) – Sometimes in the weekly batch of books, one book in the haul just puts me off completely. I don’t know, maybe its the cover image, but I think this book just doesn’t appear to be my thing.

Daria is a special forces agent with one obsession: to wreak vengeance on the vampire who nearly destroyed her. But to succeed, she must become something she detests: a vampire. Her fate rests upon Alejandro Martinez, a sexy vampire with whom she once shared an unforgettable night of scorching passion.

Now, while Daria struggles against her newfound bloodlust, the two must slip into the shadows to bring a monster to justice—even as their desire threatens to consume them…

When Duty Calls(A Novel of the Legion of the Damned) #8 by William C. Dietz (Ace, Hardcover 10/07/2008) - The eighth book of an ongoing series is a daunting thing to tackle, but I did read a short story set in this world that I remember liking. I may try this one if it seems enough of a stand-alone set in the world Dietz has created. Here’s the synopsis:

As the war with the Ramanthian empire continues, Captain Antonio Santana and his force of bio bods and cyborgs find themselves surrounded by enemy forces, faced with annihilation at every turn.

Deep inside the Clone Hegemony, Santana’s love—diplomat Christine Vanderveen—copes with concerns about what may be taking place at home, treacherous allies, and her own emotions. And when she meets the charismatic newly elected president of the Clone Republic, she finds herself torn between old love and new loyalty.

As Christine fights her own divided heart, light years away, Santana battles to survive. And this battle may be his last…

Key to Redemption by Talia Gryphon (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 9/30/2008) - Third in a series about a vampire hunter who is also a psychic.

In Romania, the estate of master vampire Aleksei Rachlav has become the headquarters for those paramortals who stand against Dracula's army. And soldier and paramortal psychologist Gillian Key finds herself with a new group of clients. One is straight out of legend—a disfigured, masked man who haunts a Parisian opera house— and who becomes Aleksei's rival for Gillian's heart.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni P.L. Kelner (Ace 10/07/2008) - Of the long list of contributors I’ve only read Simon Green and Carrie Vaughn, but have wanted to read Briggs and Harris.

New York Times bestselling authors Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, and Carrie Vaughn—along with eleven other masters of the genre—offer all-new stories on werewolves and the holidays, a fresh variation on the concept that worked so well with birthdays and vampires in Many Bloody Returns.

The holidays can bring out the beast in anyone. They are particularly hard for lycanthropes. Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner have harvested the scariest, funniest and saddest werewolf tales by an outstanding pack of authors, best read by the light of a full moon with a silver bullet close at hand.

Whether wolfing down a holiday feast (use your imagination) or craving some hair of the dog on New Year's morning, the werewolves in these frighteningly original stories will surprise, delight, amuse, and scare the pants off readers who love a little wolfsbane with their mistletoe.

Blood Memories by Barb Hendee (ROC, 10/07/2008) - She and her husband, J.C. Hendee, have been on my radar for a bit because of their Noble Dead saga, which sounds interesting blend of high fantasy and vampire fiction. I’ve seen relatively positive reviews for the books, but this new book is Barb flying solo in a new world. I think this is a re-issue of either a self-published or small press version of her first novel, originally published in 1999 before The Noble Dead became so popular (moving from paperback first issues to hardcover first issues, much like E.E. Knight and Jim Butcher)

Eleisha Clevon has the face of a teen angel, but she is no angel. Unlike most vampires, she doesn't like to kill, but self-preservation comes first. When an old friend destroys himself by walking into sunlight right in front of her, Eleisha is shocked. And what she finds afterward points to how very sick of his existence he had become — piling drained corpses in the basement and keeping records of other vampires' real names and addresses.

Because now, there are policemen on the case: two very special humans with some gifts of their own. They know who Eleisha is, and, even more dangerous, what she is.

Foundation Book One of the Collegium Chronicles (A Valdemar Novel) by Mercedes Lackey (DAW Hardcover 10/07/2008) - I’ve been reading fantasy for quite some time and Lackey’s been one of mainstays on the shelves whom I’ve never read. This is an “episode” of a series that contains over 25 books. On one hand, a book like this could be somewhat daunting for a new reader. On the other, Foundation at least seems somewhat approachable to new readers.

In this chronicle of the early history of Valdemar, Mercedes Lackey’s bestselling world, a thirteen year- old orphan named Magpie escapes a life of slavery in the gem mines when he is chosen by one of the magical Companion horses of Valdemar to be trained as a Herald. Thrust into the center of a legend in the making, Magpie discovers talents he never knew he had—and witnesses the founding of the great Heralds’ Collegium.

Witch High by Denise Little (DAW Mass Market Paperback 10/07/2008) - Another of those themed anthologies, this time its 14 stories based around magic schools.

High school is different for everyone. For some, it’s a time to shine, and for others, a time to survive. Then there are the students who attend those special schools for the gifted. But what if there was a school that catered to those rarest of students—those who can do magic?

These fourteen tales explore the challenges that students of the magical arts may face in a high school of their very own. If you think chemistry is tough, try alchemy. If you ever fell victim to a school bully, how would you deal with a bully gifted with powerful magic? And if you needed more time to study, what spell could give you all the time you desired?

These are just a few of the magical adventures that will await you when you enter Salem Township Public High School #4— otherwise known as Witch High...

City of Jade (A Novel of Mithgar) by Dennis L. McKiernan (ROC Hardcover 10/07/2008) – I've seen McKiernan described as both a good storyteller and a Tolkien hack clone. Whether I get to this one and come to my own conclusions, well, we’ll just see. Although part of the overall Mithgar cycle, this seems to stand on its own. The cover is a fairly typical fantasy cover, but I think it is appealing.

The myth of a lost city carved of precious jade has proven irresistible to many in Mithgar. Now Aravan, captain of the Elven ship Eroean, has undertaken a quest to find it. With his true love Aylis, the Magekind Seeress, beside him and a crew of men and dwarves, he sets sail to follow the lure of legend.

The journey will be long and perilous—and the voyagers will find more than treasure awaiting them in the City of Jade. They will find dark sorcery and great danger, and some among them will find death.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vampire Stalking, Vampire Waitress, Fire on the Fringe

I was able to put up my review of Mike Resnick’s Stalking the Vampire, hopefully all the issues with SFFWorld have been resolved. I was a little disappointed in the second Mallory novel, it seem almost a rehash of the previous with too many asides which distracted from the plot and sense of flow in the story. However, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not read it back-to-back with Stalking the Unicorn. However, I would read more of Mallory.

Speaking of vampires, I caught True Blood on Sunday night and thought it was a very good first episode in terms of establishing characters, tone, and the world of Sookie Stackhouse. I’m not a big fan of Anna Paquin*, but I think she was pretty good in the role and I can buy her carrying the series The show is graphic in both the depiction of sex and violence, so in that respect it is balanced. I was a bit surprised how graphic the sex was at first, but then remembered the guy behind the camera was also behind Six Feet Under. I haven’t read the books by Charlaine Harris, so I can’t compare the two, but I’ll be tuning in and TiVO-ing it.

HBO also ran a couple of specials (True Bloodlines: Vampire Legends & True Bloodlines: A New Type) about vampires to help promote the show and what was most surprising about both was the total lack of Buffy. I’m not a huge Buffy fan, but she only got a passing nod and I don’t recall that Laurell K. Hamilton was even mentioned. Again I’m no huge fan of Hamilton’s (I stopped reading the series around the 4th or 5th book), but Vampire Fiction likely wouldn’t be nearly as popular without those two.

In other HBO news, the network just exercised its option on George R. R. Martin's opus A Song of Ice and Fire. To quote George himself: "this is a very encouraging sign, and one that suggests a continued high level of enthusiasm and commitment for A Game of Thrones.

The other big debut this week was J.J. Abrams new show, Fringe. As a pilot episode, I don’t think it was all that successful, there were too many logic leaps and some things seem predictable – oooh…big industry has more sway than government…ooh estranged daddy/son issues….ooooh a twist at the end. Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff remarked (rightly so) whether “this guy only starts shows on airplanes.” Snarkiness aside, I find the premise of the show appealing, I like John Noble who plays bug-fuck crazy pretty well and thought there was enough good stuff to tune in next week plus Abrams is know for long-term payoff so I’m cautiously optimistic about the show as a whole.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

People's Choice & SFFWorld status

Something wonky is going on with the SFFWorld server, so folks who are trying to visit the main site or the forums please be patient. The server was moved to another facility about a week ago without warning and has been going down ever since. Hopefully this will be resolved soon. Right now the site is up and working, but I thought this was the case a few days ago and yesterday it went kerflooey.

In other news, I won the “People’s Choice Award” at a charity chili-cook off over the weekend. This was the second year for the cook-off and whereas last year the rules were pretty strict (no beans and rather traditional), this year we had free reign to make it how we pleased. Well, beans and stewed tomatoes are a big element in my chili so I was able to make my “true chili.” I’ve been using the same recipe for a base for a number of years; I’ve honed it and added to it each time I make it and was especially pleased with this batch. Some key ingredients always remain though; in one word: Bacon.

There were two awards, the award I won and the Judges award. To be honest, I think in any of these things, the People’s choice is tougher since you have to please more people. In the end, I got a trophy, bragging rights and a gift card to my favorite local restaurant.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 9/06/2008)

Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie - I read the first two books (The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged) and really liked them so I’ll definitely be getting to this one soon. I have the UK ARC signed, a copy of the US ARC and what arrived this past week is the ‘final’ book as it sits on shelves in fine retailers near you. From my review of Before They Are Hanged:

All of this may lead one to believe Abercrombie is merely writing a character study set in a harsh fantastical world. Well, in some respects the characters do give the novel its greatest flavor. However, within each character interaction, Abercombie fleshes out both the story and the world. Through Glotka’s eyes, we see how war is affecting the nation of Angland and those who run the nation. Granted, Glotka may have a hardened point of view, but this makes it no less entertaining or warranted. Through the eyes of Bayaz and his companions seeking the Stone, we see the larger affects of war on the world and more importantly to their cause, the wide-spread misuse of magic. We also see the history of the world through the stories Bayaz and his protégé Quaim tell on their collective journey. Again, these snapshots of the world past are thrilling reads and enhance the already ample depth of the world Abercrombie has created.

The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams - This looks gigantically awesome.

From White Zombie to Dawn of the Dead; from Resident Evil to World War Z, zombies have invaded popular culture, becoming the monsters that best express the fears and anxieties of the modern west. The ultimate consumers, zombies rise from the dead and feed upon the living, their teeming masses ever hungry, ever seeking to devour or convert, like mindless, faceless eating machines. Zombies have been depicted as mind-controlled minions, the shambling infected, the disintegrating dead, the ultimate lumpenproletariat, but in all cases, they reflect us, mere mortals afraid of death in a society on the verge of collapse.

The Living Dead is 230,000 words of zombie fiction (34 stories!), collecting the best tales from Book of the Dead, Still Dead, and Mondo Zombie, along with the best zombie fiction from other sources.

Table of Contents:

Introduction - John Joseph Adams, This Year's Class Picture - Dan Simmons, Some Zombie Contingency Plans - Kelly Link, Death and Suffrage - Dale Bailey, Ghost Dance - Sherman Alexie, Blossom - David J. Schow, The Third Dead Body - Nina Kiriki Hoffman, The Dead - Michael Swanwick, The Dead Kid - Darrell Schweitzer, Malthusian's Zombie - Jeffrey Ford, Beautiful Stuff - Susan Palwick, Sex, Death and Starshine - Clive Barker, Stockholm Syndrome - David Tallerman, Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead - Joe Hill, Those Who Seek Forgiveness - Laurell K. Hamilton, In Beauty, Like the Night - Norman Partridge, Prairie - Brian Evenson, Everything is Better With Zombies - Hannah Wolf Bowen, Home Delivery - Stephen King, Less Than Zombie - Douglas E. Winter, Sparks Fly Upward - Lisa Morton, Meathouse Man - George R. R. Martin, Deadman's Road - Joe Lansdale, The Skull-Faced Boy - David Barr Kirtley, The Age of Sorrow - Nancy Kilpatrick, Bitter Grounds - Neil Gaiman, She's Taking Her Tits to the Grave - Catherine Cheek, Dead Like Me - Adam-Troy Castro, Zora and the Zombie - Andy Duncan, Calcutta, Lord of Nerves - Poppy Z. Brite, Followed - Will McIntosh, The Song the Zombie Sang - Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg, Passion Play - Nancy Holder, Almost the Last Story by Almost the Last Man - Scott Edelman, and How the Day Runs Down - John Langan

Woods and Waters Wild by Charles de Lint - Woods and Waters Wild is the third volume of Charles de Lint's Collected Early Stories. Here's the table of contents, a list of obscurities that will be the envy of de Lint readers everywhere.

High Fantasy:
"A Kingly Thing" (5900 words); first appeared in Beyond the Fields We Know #1; 1979
"Woods and Waters Wild" (2400 words); first appeared in SPWAO Showcase #1, 1981.
"The White Road" (8170 words); first appeared in Tales of the Witch World, edited by Andre Norton; Tor Books, 1987.
"The Graceless Child" (8650 words); first appeared in Halflings, Hobbits, Warrows & Wee Folk, edited by Baird Searles & Brian Thomsen; Warner, 1991
"The Fane of the Grey Rose" (14,700 words); first appeared in Swords Against Darkness IV, edited by Andrew J. Offutt; Zebra Books, 1979
"Cold Blows the Wind" (4450 words); first appeared in Sword and Sorceress II, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley; DAW Books, 1985
"The Weeping Oak" (5400 words); first appeared in Sword and Sorceress IV, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley; DAW Books, 1987
"Into the Green" (5500 words); first appeared in Sword and Sorceress V, edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley; DAW Books, 1988
Dennet & Willie
"Dennet & the Fiddler" (8000 words); first appeared in Night Voyages #8; 1982
"Dragonwood" (5700 words); first appeared in Night Voyages 10; 1984
"A Tale of Tangle Who Has Many Names" (1200 words); first appeared in Valhalla #1; 1979
"Of the Temple in the City of the Burning Spires" (600 words); first appeared in Valhalla #1; 1979
"Nareth the Questioner" (800 words); first appeared in Valhalla #1; 1979
"Llew the Homeless" (1750 words); unpublished.
Thomas the Rhymer
"Thomas the Rhymer" (10,800 words); first appeared in The Mythic Circle #1, 1987
"Gipsy Davey" (8200 words); first appeared in Mythic Circle #5; 1988
"Cruel Sister" (7950 words); unpublished

Star Wars: Order 66 A Republic Commando Novel Karen Travis - After the fierce combat of Hard Contact, Triple Zero, and True Colors comes the spectacular culmination of New York Times bestselling author Karen Traviss’s gripping Republic Commando series. As a battle-scarred era nears its end, a shattering power play is about to stun the entire galaxy . . . and set in motion events that will alter destinies and resound throughout history.

Even as the Clone Wars are about to reach an explosive climax, no one knows if victory will favor the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) or the Separatists. But no matter who wins, the stakes are highest for elite Special Ops clones like the Republic Commandos in Omega and Delta squads–and the notorious renegade Advance Recon Commando troopers known as Null ARCs.

With Republic forces stretched to the max and casualties mounting, the last thing these beleaguered warriors need to hear is that Chancellor Palpatine is keeping vast armies of secret clone troops in reserve. Sergeant Skirata, a mentor to the clone commandos, has no intention of standing idly by while Palpatine sends them into battle like lambs to the slaughter. Skirata begins to plan the clones’ escape from the GAR, but his heroic effort will be in vain unless he can reverse the clones’ accelerated aging process.

Caught in the treacherous dealings of their leaders, and locked in the battles of their lives, the disillusioned Null ARCs and Commandos nonetheless fight with everything they’ve got, determined to wrest victory from the Seps and save the galaxy.

But even the deadliest weapons may not be powerful enough to defeat the real menace. And nothing will stop the apocalyptic horror unleashed when Palpatine utters the chilling words The time has come. Execute Order 66. Translation: The Jedi have tried to stage a coup, and all must be shot on sight.

With their faith in the Republic and their loyalty to their Jedi allies put to the ultimate test, how will the men of Omega and Delta squads react to the most infamous command in galactic history? All the breathtaking action, suspense, and intrigue of Karen Traviss’s Republic Commando series comes alive in Star Wars: Order 66.

After the Downfall by Harry Turtledove - 1945: Russian troops have entered Berlin, and are engaged in a violent orgy of robbery, rape, and revenge...

Wehrmacht officer Hasso Pemsel, a career soldier on the losing end of the greatest war in history, flees from a sniper's bullet, finding himself hurled into a mysterious, fantastic world of wizards, dragons, and unicorns. There he allies himself with the blond-haired, blue-eyed Lenelli, and Velona, their goddess in human form, offering them his knowledge of warfare and weaponry in their genocidal struggle against a race of diminutive, swarthy barbarians known as Grenye.

But soon, the savagery of the Lenelli begins to eat at Hasso Pemsel's soul, causing him to question everything he has long believed about race and Reich, right and wrong, Ubermenschen and Untermenschen. Hasso Pemsel will learn the difference between following orders... and following his conscience.

From Harry Turtledove, the master of alternate history, comes After the Downfall, a novel of magic, epic warfare, and desperate choices.

Friday, September 05, 2008

New Poll: Would you like to see more comic book posts at the Blog o' Stuff?

My visitors have spoken and SF Signal seems to be the favorite. I put them a bit higher than io9, SF Signal covers more literature related SF stuff while io9 goes for the media and comics a bit more.

Which leads to my next poll.

Would you like to see more comic book posts at the Blog o' Stuff?
It doesn't matter to me

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mistborn and Green Thoughts

This month’s selection in the SFFWorld Fantasy Book Club is Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire. I read and reviewed it, as well as the second volume, Mistborn: Well of Ascension last year. I really enjoyed both of those novels and I’m finding the final volume, The Hero of Ages, just as good and maybe better. Certain writers work in certain ways for people and when I started The Hero of Ages, there was that spark of excitement for me.

The above is one shot of some concept art more from the potential Green Lantern movie and here is some more all by Brian Murray. Since I’ve been reading comics (oh, about 20 years now), Green Lantern has been one of my favorite characters and concepts. As I type this, I’m wearing a sterling silver ring emblazoned with the GL logo and prior to being married, the awesome Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff gifted me with this cool tryptich of statues:

Rumors of a GL film have been floating for decades and with the recent push by DC Comics and Warner Brothers for more of the comics properties to get the Hollywood treatment, GL has been re-invigorated with some real pre-production effort. I’ve always thought the concept would work great on the big screen since it melds both the superhero and some really cool Science Fiction elements (like the classic Lensmen stories from Doc Smith) that non-comics reading people could get behind. Although I have hopes the eventual film will be good because some comics writers are working on it, let us not forget that James Robinson (whose virtues I’ve extolled before and may at a later date since I finished the first Starman Omnibus recently) scripted this thing. The movie is supposedly using elements of the Emerald Dawn storyline which might not be the best way to go, but is somewhat understandable. If anything, why not mirror what Goeff Johns is doing now and how he's handling both the character (Hal Jordan) and the mythos of Green Lantern in general. Shit, Johns has Hollywood experience, why not just get him to have a hands on role in the film? At this point everything is conjecture and the expected bitching and moaning of a comics fan.

Lastly, read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for free.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I've Been Melded...AGAIN!!!

The fine folks at SF Signal invited me to join in one of their regularly scheduled Mind Meld round-table discussions. This time, the theme was: How Do Media Tie-In Novels Affect SF/F?

Here’s part of my response:
The simple answer is that it means there are more Science Fiction and Fantasy books on the shelves. More books are a good thing right? The grain of salt to add is that 90% of everything is crap and media tie-ins are no exception. Let’s look a little closer, though.
The early Star Trek novels are a virtual who’s who of talent and award winners: James Blish, Joe Haldeman, Vonda N. McIntyre, Greg Bear, and John M. Ford. Even before media tie-ins were the major aspect of the bookstore shelves they are today, it becomes pretty clear this cross-pollination has been going on for quite some time.

Go to SF Signal to read the rest. I’m in pretty great company, with some cool folks who know what they are talking about (unlike me since I'm not cool and I only play-act at knowing about what is I am speaking). To be honest, I’m pretty honored to be in the same company as these folks: Kevin J. Anderson, Alan Beatts, William C. Dietz, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Tracy Duncan, David Gerrold, Jim C. Hines, Paul Raven, Chris Roberson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Carl Vincent, Andrew Wheeler, Sean Williams, and Walter Jon Williams . Which reminds me, I’ve really got to get my hands on some of Hines’s Goblin novels, I’ve heard/seen nothing but terrific things about them.

On a side note, as my little blurb-bio indicates, Paul S. Kemp started up a similar topic in the SFFWorld forums about a year and half ago. I’ll be getting to your second Cale trilogy soon Paul! I promise.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Summer's End & New Resnick Review

Summer is over for all intents and purposes and even though the weather wouldn’t lead one to think that was the case (at least here in NJ), when your wife teaches, summer ends at Labor Day. All in all Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff and I had an awesome summer; we got some work done on our house: one bathroom completely renovated including new tile, tub/shower, sink, painting and fixtures and the bedroom which included painting the walls/ceiling and ripping up the rug to find hardwood floors in (thankfully) pretty good condition. To give the credit where it’s due, the Amazing Mrs. Blog o' Stuff did a lot of the work. It’s always cool to come home to find what surprise she has for me, be it a shrub cut down or a wall painted or new tiles in the bathroom. We also did some landscaping work removing a giant eyesore of a bush from the front lawn, had a new roof installed and added shutters to the front of the house. It wasn’t all hard work as we relaxed in our pool quite a bit both with friends and without. I finished up my summer bowling league with my brother-in-law this past week coming in third place, allowing us to win what we've come to call the “Prize of the Beast.” Like I said, the summer flew past us but it was a great one.

That said, Labor doesn’t deter me from my geekish responsibilities; I put up another review at SFFWorld yesterday, Stalking the Unicorn by Mike Resnick. Pyr has been reissuing and publishing a lot of Mike Resnick’s fiction since the imprint’s inception. This is good for people like me who have been relatively unexposed to Resnick’s copious and vast output of genre fiction. Stalking the Unicorn was originally published in 1987, long before the current crop of Urban Fantasy authors. The protagonist of the story was also featured in two stories (Chinese Sandman and The Amorous Broom) in the terrific collection Pyr published a couple of years ago: New Dreams for Old. It should also be noted that Mallory story appears in the Solaris Book of New Fantasy as well.