Sunday, February 28, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 02/27/2010)

Another week, another haul of books for review from publishers:

The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 2 by Ellen Datlow (Trade Paperback 3/09/2010 Night Shade Books) – The second volume in the latest incarnation of Ellen Datlow’s annual retrospective on horror

Celebrities take refuge in a white-walled mansion as plague and fever sweep into Cannes; a killer finds that the living dead have no appetite for him; a television presenter stumbles upon the chilling connection between a forgotten animal act and the Whitechapel Murders; a nude man unexpectedly appears in the backgrounds of film after film; mysterious lights menace the crew of a small plane; a little girl awakens to discover her nightlight--and more--missing; two sisters hunt vampire dogs in the wild hills of Fiji; lovers get more than they bargained for in a decadent discotheque; a college professor holds a classroom mesmerized as he vivisects Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"...

What frightens us, what unnerves us? What causes that delicious shiver of fear to travel the lengths of our spines? It seems the answer changes every year. Every year the bar is raised; the screw is tightened. Ellen Datlow knows what scares us; the seventeen stories included in this anthology were chosen from magazines, webzines, anthologies, literary journals, and single author collections to represent the best horror of the year.

Legendary editor Ellen Datlow (Poe: New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe), winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, joins Night Shade Books in presenting The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Two.

Contents: Summation 2009 - Ellen Datlow / Lowland Sea - Suzy McKee Charnas / The End of Everything - Steve Eller / Mrs Midnight - Reggie Oliver / each thing I show you is a piece of my death - Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer / The Nimble Men - Glen Hirshberg / What Happens when You Wake up in the Night - Michael Marshall Smith / Wendigo - Micaela Morrissette / In the Porches of My Ears - Norman Prentiss / Lonegan's Luck - Stephen Graham Jones / The Crevasse - Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud / The Lion's Den - Steve Duffy / Lotophagi - Edward Morris / The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall - Kaaron Warren / Dead Loss - Carole Johnstone / Strappado - Laird Barron / The Lammas Worm - Nina Allan / Technicolor - John Langan

Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley (Pyr Trade Paperback 03/15/2010) – Dan recently reviewed The Quiet War and he really enjoyed it. I suspect he’ll enjoy this one, too.

The Quiet War is over. The city-states of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, founded by descendants of refugees from Earth's repressive regimes, the Outers, have fallen to the Three Powers Alliance of Greater Brazil, the European Union, and the Pacific Community. A century of enlightenment, rational utopianism, and exploration of new ways of being human has fallen dark. Outers are herded into prison camps and forced to collaborate in the systematic plundering of their great archives of scientific and technical knowledge, while Earth's forces loot their cities and settlements and ships, and plan a final solution to the "Outer problem."

But Earth's victory is fragile, and riven by vicious internal politics. While seeking out and trying to anatomize the strange gardens abandoned in place by the Outers' greatest genius, Avernus, the gene wizard Sri Hong-Owen is embroiled in the plots and counterplots of the family that employs her. The diplomat Loc Ifrahim soon discovers that profiting from victory isn't as easy as he thought. And on Earth, in Greater Brazil, the democratic traditions preserved and elaborated by the Outers have infected a population eager to escape the tyranny of the great families who rule them.

Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the Solar System, a rag-taggle group of refugees struggle to preserve the last of the old ideals. And on Triton, fanatical members of a cabal prepare for a final battle that threatens to shatter the future of the human species.

After a conflict fought to contain the expansionist, posthuman ambitions of the Outers, the future is as uncertain as ever. Only one thing is clear. No one can escape the consequences of war—especially the victors.

Oath of Fealty (The Chronicles of Paksenarrion’s World) by Elizabeth Moon (Del Rey, Hardcover 03/16/2009) – Moon’s Deeds of Paksennarrion is very highly acclaimed and this is the authors first novel in that world in very long time. I started reading this about a week ago and I’m enjoying it. This is the finished version of the ARC I received w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y back in November. The novel is a bit different than I expected, but it wasn’t an easy novel to put down, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I’ll be jumping into the original trilogy at some point.

When the paladin Paksenarrion saved Kieri Phelan from traitorous attack on his way to the throne of Lyonya, it seemed her work was done. Lyonya would once more have a healthy king whose taig-sense would sustain the alliance of elves and humans in this strange land. But a paladin's intervention always means change--and change sweeps through the world in the wake of her great deeds. Who will take over Kieri's former realm? What will happen to those who opposed him? From Girdish yeoman to mercenary veteran, from peasant to king, from the Eight Kingdoms of the north to the Guild League cities of the south, no one escapes the challenges--and opportunities--of this tumultuous period. Those who expected to spend the rest of their lives in the same familiar place or position must cope with these changes, or in failure contribute to
the chaos.

Pleasure Model (Heavy Metal Pulp) (Book One of Netherworld) by Christopher Rowley (Tor Trade Paperback 02/23/2010) – Pulpy SF/Mystery hybrid launching a new imprint from Tor.

Presenting Heavy Metal Pulp, a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the themes, story lines, and graphic styles of Heavy Metal magazine.

In Pleasure Model, the first book in the Netherworld trilogy, down-and out police detective Rook gets a big break when he’s assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it’ll remain unsolved—until an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur’s only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her owner—in any way. When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically looks for clues, struggling to stay one stop ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur’s spell….?

The Best SF and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 4 by Jonathan Strahan (Trade Paperback 3/09/2010 Night Shade Books) – Strahan keeps knocking out acclaimed anthologies and this is the fourth edition of Strahan’s annual genre best-of anthology, probably the only one to combine both SF and Fantasy.

A ruthless venture capitalist finds love--or something chemically similar--in an Atlanta strip club; a girl in grey conjures a man from a handful of moonshine; an ship blazing a highway between the stars discovers an island of life on a distant gas giant; a boy becomes a man by mastering the sword; a rebellious young woman suffers a strange incarceration; an astronaut shares a lifeboat--and herself--with an unfathomable alien; an infected girl counts the days until she becomes a vampire; an aviatrix and an inventor square off against saboteurs and monstrous brains; a big man travels to a tiny moon to examine an ancient starship covered with flowers...

The depth and breadth of science fiction and fantasy fiction continues to change with every passing year. The twenty-nine stories chosen for this book by award-winning anthologist Jonathan Strahan carefully map this evolution, giving readers a captivating and always-entertaining look at the very best the genre has to offer.

Jonathan Strahan has edited more than twenty anthologies and collections, including The Locus Awards (with Charles N. Brown), The New Space Opera (with Gardner Dozois), and The Starry Rift. He has won the Ditmar, William J. Atheling Jr. and Peter McNamara awards for his work as an anthologist and reviewer, and was nominated for a Hugo Award for his editorial work. Strahan is currently the reviews editor for Locus.

Contents: Introduction - Jonathan Strahan / It Takes Two - Nicola Griffith / Three Twilight Tales - Jo Walton / The Night Cache - Andy Duncan / The Island - Peter Watts / Ferryman - Margo Lanagan / A Wild and Wicked Youth - Ellen Kushner / The Pelican Bar - Karen Joy Fowler / Spar - Kij Johnson / Going Deep - James Patrick Kelly / The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black / Zeppelin City - Michael Swanwick & Eileen Gunn / Dragon's Teeth - Alex Irvine / This Wind Blowing, and This Tide - Damien Broderick / By Moonlight - Peter S. Beagle / Black Swan - Bruce Sterling / As Women Fight - Sara Genge / The Cinderella Game - Kelly Link / Formidable Caress - Stephen Baxter / Blocked - Geoff Ryman / Truth and Bone - Pat Cadigan / Eros, Philia, Agape - Rachel Swirsky / The Motorman's Coat - John Kessel / Mongoose - Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear / Echoes of Aurora - Ellen Klages / Before My Last Breath - Robert Reed / Joboy - Diana Wynne Jones / Utriusque Cosmi - Robert Charles Wilson / A Delicate Architecture - Catherynne M. Valente / The Cat That Walked a Thousand Miles - Kij Johnson / Recommended Reading - Jonathan Strahan

Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt 3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr, Trade Paperback 05/25/2010) – Not that I’m complaining because I want to read them and they look great, but I feel like I’ve been getting a book in Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series at least once a week since the new year began.

Driven by the ghosts of the Darakyon, Achaeos has tracked the stolen Shadow Box to the marsh-town of Jerez, but he has only days before the magical box is lost to him forever. Meanwhile, the forces of the Empire are mustering over winter for their great offensive, gathering their soldiers and perfecting their new weapons. Stenwold and his followers have only a short time to gather what allies they can before the Wasp armies march again, conquering everything in their path. If they cannot throw back the Wasps this spring then the imperial black-and-gold flag will fly over every city in the Lowlands before the year's end. In Jerez begins a fierce struggle over the Shadow Box, as lake creatures, secret police and renegade magicians compete to take possession. If it falls into the hands of the Wasp Emperor, however, then no amount of fighting will suffice to save the world from his relentless ambition.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 02/20/2010)

A bunch of interesting looking books from Pyr, both because of the content and what I’ve heard abou them, but also because of great the physical books (cover and design) look this week:

Backlash: (Fate of the Jedi Book Four) by Aaron Allston (Hardcover 3/09/2010 Del Rey). Fourth book in the latest series involving that pesky Skywalker clan.

Repercussions from the dark side's fatal seduction of Jacen Solo and the mysterious plague of madness afflicting young Jedi continue to wreak havoc galaxy-wide. Having narrowly escaped the deranged Force worshippers known as the Mind Walkers, and a deadly Sith hit squad, Luke and Ben Skywalker are in pursuit of the now Masterless Sith apprentice Vestara Khai. It is a chase that leads to the forbidding planet Dathomir, where an enclave of powerful dark-side Force-wielders will give Vestara the edge she needs to escape -- and where the Skywalkers will be forced into combat for their quarry and their lives.

Meanwhile, Han and Leia Solo are on their own desperate mission, shuttling madness-stricken Jedi from Coruscant to safe haven in the Transitory Mists -- and beyond the grasp of Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala. But the bold maneuver only intensifies Daala's fury, and she is determined to shatter Jedi Order resistance once and for all.

Yet, no greater threat exists than that which still waits in the depths of the distant Maw Cluster: A being of pure, ravenous dark-side energy named Abeloth calls out across the stars to Jedi and Sith alike. For some, it may be the ultimate source of answers crucial to their survival. For others, it could be the ultimate weapon of conquest. But for all, it is a game-changing -- and life-altering -- encounter of untold magnitude, and a tactical gambit with unimaginable consequences.

Prince of Storms (Book Four of The Entire and the Rose) by Kay Kenyon (Pyr Hardcover 01/26/2010) – I read all three books in this series Bright of the Sky, A World too Near, and City Without End) as each was released and thoroughly enjoyed them. What I received this past was the final version of the ARC I received back in September

Finally in control of the Ascendancy, Titus Quinn has styled himself Regent of the Entire. But his command is fragile. He rules an empire with a technology beyond human understanding; spies lurk in the ancient Magisterium; the Tarig overlords are hamstrung but still malevolent. Worse, his daughter Sen Ni opposes him for control, believing the Earth and its Rose universe must die to sustain the failing Entire. She is aided by one of the mystical pilots of the River Nigh, the space-time transport system. This navitar, alone among all others, can alter future events. He retires into a crystal chamber in the Nigh to weave reality and pit his enemies against each other.

Taking advantage of these chaotic times, the great foe of the Long War, the Jinda ceb Horat, create a settlement in the Entire. Masters of supreme technology, they maintain a lofty distance from the Entire's struggle. They agree, however, that the Tarig must return to the fiery Heart of their origins. With the banishment immanent, some Tarig lords rebel, fleeing to hound the edges of Quinn's reign.

Meanwhile, Quinn's wife Anzi becomes a hostage and penitent among the Jinda ceb, undergoing alterations that expose their secrets, but may estrange her from her husband. As Quinn moves toward a confrontation with the dark navitar, he learns that the stakes of the conflict go far beyond the Rose versus the Entire—extending to a breathtaking dominance. The navitar commands forces that lie at the heart of the Entire's geo-cosmology, and will use them to alter the calculus of power. As the navitar's plan approaches consummation, Quinn, Sen Ni, and Anzi are swept up in forces that will leave them forever changed.

In this rousing finale to Kenyon's celebrated quartet, Titus Quinn meets an inevitable destiny, forced at last to make the unthinkable choice for or against the dictates of his heart, for or against the beloved land.

Muse and Reverie (A Trial of Blood and Steel #2) by Joel Shepherd (Pyr, Trade Paperback, March 23, 2010) – Second volume in Shepherd’s historical fantasy, the first book of which received some good reviews.

Book Two in the quartet, A Trial of Blood & Steel, picks up the story of the brave and independent heroine, Sasha, now living in the port city of Petrodor. Away from the hills of her Lenayin homeland, Sasha is making a new life in the dark alleys and wealthy houses of Petrodor. An influential trading center, Petrodor holds the key to preventing the coming war between Lenayin and the mighty Bacosh. Together with her old mentor Kessligh, Sasha attempts to navigate the political intrigues of the port city and find a way to stop the war. It is the serrin, the beautiful but dangerous people from beyond the Bacosh, who will be the pivotal point in this struggle. How much can Sasha trust her old serrin friend Errollyn? And how much can she trust herself?

Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt) 1 by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr, Trade Paperback 03/13/2010) – This book received good and reviews when it was published in the UK last year. This is a beautiful final copy of the ARC I received late last year.

The city states of the Lowlands have lived in peace for decades, bastions of civilization, prosperity and sophistication, protected by treaties, trade and a belief in the reasonable nature of their neighbours.

But meanwhile, in far-off corners, the Wasp Empire has been devouring city after city with its highly trained armies, its machines, it killing Art . . . And now its hunger for conquest and war has become insatiable.

Only the ageing Stenwold Maker, spymaster, artificer and statesman, can see that the long days of peace are over. It falls upon his shoulders to open the eyes of his people, before a black-and-gold tide sweeps down over the Lowlands and burns away everything in its path.

But first he must stop himself from becoming the Empire's latest victim.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Swords, Space Opera, Necromancer, and Vampires - 4 SFFWorld reviews

A bunch of new reviews have been popping up at SFFWorld over the past week. Mark churned out three, while Dan cranked out one.

Mark had a chance to look at a very under-appreciated practitioner of classic Sword & Sorcery, Harold Lamb. Mark reviewed Swords from the West:

Harold wrote at a time when the pulp magazines were aplenty. His tales of heroes and enemies, of valour and derring-do are of that time (and the tales here date from 1921 to 1953.) Though he was known at the time for his screenplay writing and his historical biographies, like Tolkien before him, he wrote other things as a hobby. These adventure tales were written for fun as well as publication.

But, what fun! There are seventeen tales of the Crusades and the Indian Raj here, most of them not seen since their first publication in Adventure magazine. We meet Nial O’Gordon, young crusader on a life-changing journey to Constantinople, and Sir Robert of Antioch fighting Mongol masses. As you might expect in tales of the Crusades, we meet men who epitomise the conflict, such as Hugh of Dol, a Christian minstrel, and his opponents, the Turks. King Richard the Lionheart also appears on his quest. We also meet Michael Bearn, fighting for vengeance after being betrayed by an Arabian sultan. In the India of the nineteenth century we have Captain John Malcolm and Rawul Singh defending the British Empire against the Afghan Ali Khan and his co-conspirator Gom Gion.

Dan reviewed The Quiet War by Paul J. McAuley:

Some times, when presented with a political saga of epic proportions, I can get confused about who it is we are supposed to root for. In The Quiet War there is a big cast of characters but, as you would expect, some are merely props to move the action forward. What I soon discovered, the tale belongs to four major players.
A lesser character but one with the important role of villain is Loc Ifrahim who begins the tale as minor diplomat attached to the embassy on Callisto. His family ties to the dominant Brazilian family cause him to be around at crucial points of the story. Loc’s major character flaw is ambition, an ambition that everyone recognizes. His enemies tend to sneer at his efforts; his allies tolerate them. You just know he will come to a bad end.

Mark also took a look at Johannes Cabal the Necromancer:

The tale is an old tale done well: that of the Faustian deal. Johannes Cabal, Necromancer wants his soul back, and is prepared to do a deal with Satan to do so. He’s lucky in that he catches Satan in what seems to be a forgiving mood. Result: Johannes is given a year to collect one thousand souls for Satan with their signatures on the contracts.
The books supporting cast also enhance the reader’s impression of events. Johannes’s relationship with his brother is typically familial, being both bickering and yet touching. On a broader palette we meet enemies from Johannes’ past, and are amused by his relationships (or perhaps non-relationships!) with his colleagues and compatriots.

The last review Mark posted was a retrospective/coffee table book on vampires by Charlotte Montague, Vampires - From Dracula to Twilight:

The structure of the book is pretty straightforward, beginning with the background history of the legend and bringing it up to the present. The book is divided into five chapters, with subsections. Chapter One deals with the vampire myth and how the original idea has been recorded in history. Chapter Two shows how the legend has evolved from peasant to nobleman, looking at elements as diverse as vampire babies and vampire immortality. Chapter Three looks at variants of the vampire myth, from female (succubae) and lesbian vampires to the chupacabra and the psychology and anthropology of vampires. Chapter Four looks at historical examples of people connected to the vampire legend, from Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory (‘Countess Dracula’) and Fritz Haarmann. The final chapter looks at vampires through literature, pop and film, from Varney the Vampire to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, True Blood and, of course, Stephenie Mayer. Twilight has a whole subsection of its own, which tells the reader something perhaps of the book’s target audience.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 02/13/2010)

A pretty slow week, this past week perhaps due to Snowmageddon 2010. No complaints here after last week had me drowning in new arrivals:

The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Ballantine, Hardcover 02/23/2010) – This is a retrospective of the popular Web comic

> open book

The book is now open.

> read book

Entitled The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade, it details the history of a comic strip called Penny Arcade. The comic appears to catalog the lives of two young men who are utterly steeped in popular culture.

Each chapter gathers into a coherent beam of savory trivia, strange facts, formerly mysterious origins, biographical information, interviews, inaugural conventions, an unlikely charity, and comic strips. You get the sense that some of the content may be apocryphal—for example, the part where they eat a whole wolf basically comes out of nowhere. Also, if one of them really did become “King of the Britons,” you’re sure you would have heard about it somewhere else.

> close book

You close the book and place it back on the shelf. Maybe next time..

Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt 2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr , Trade Paperback 04/13/2010) – One (of the many) things Lou Anders and the fine folks at Pyr have been very good at doing is rolling out these trilogies in monthly succession. It worked great for Mark Chadbourn and James Barclay and I suspect it will work well for Adrian Tchaikovsky. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen and read good things about this series of books. This is an ARC of the 2nd book of the series.

The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark, which is even now preparing for siege. Within its walls Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden take a stand, against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen.

After his earlier victory against them, the Empire's secret service has decided that veteran artificer Stenwold Maker is too dangerous to live. So disgraced Major Thalric is dispatched on a desperate mission, not only to eliminate Stenwold himself but to bring about the destruction of his beloved city of Collegium, and thus end all hope of intelligent resistance to the remorseless imperial advance.

While the Empire's troops are laying waste all in their way, the young Emperor himself is treading a different path. His thoughts are on darker things than mere conquest, however, and if he attains his goal he will precipitate a reign of blood that will last a thousand years.

Friday, February 12, 2010

No Doors No Windows at S/SF Book Review

A few days ago, my latest review for the Sacramento Book Review /San Francisco Book Review went up on their Web site, No Doors No Windows by Joe Schreiber.

I thought it was a solid, tight horror novel, maybe checking out the review will convince you to pick up the book, too.

Snowmageddon hit NJ hard this past week, about 2 feet of snow at my house on Wednesday. On the one hand, I was home with Mrs. o' Stuff and we were able to have an unexpected mid-week fire going in the fire place. On the other hand, I've been feeling the effects of some kind stomach bug or virus for the past few days. Not pleasant. I'm blaming it on the Nutella I had Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Blowing the Horn

The second stop in my Wheel of Time re-read concluded with The Great Hunt a couple of days ago. Starting from the ending, I’ll say two books in that Jordan shows a skilled hand at crafting endings that balance closure with promise of things to come.

I’m beginning to realize just how much of this series I’ve forgotten over the years, which I feel is a good thing. Well, what I remember is generalities and it is interesting and fun to compare that with the specifics of the story. I forgot how annoying Mat was in these two books. Granted, he was a heavily cursed individual, but up until he blew the Horn of Valere, I wasn’t too miffed when Jordan chose not to focus the story on him.

I also find myself continuing to not hate Nynaeave. Her intelligence and flat out dedication to her roots – The Emond’s Field irregulars one might say – help to keep her focused and accomplish important things.

The Seanchan are a wicked gang of people and Jordan nicely conveys their alien-ness to the people of Randland. The threat was hinted at for much of the book, but when Bayle Domon first encounters them on the sea, their power is immediately felt. Later, Jordan reveals the truth behind their channelers – Damane.

I would have liked to see more of Moiraine and Lan in the latter half of the book, but Jordan did introduce more Aes Sedai to offset that.

The closing chapters of the novel has a reveal that works almost as well as the Amyrlin Seat telling Rand he is the Dragon Reborn. This reveal, of course, is Lanfear revealing herself. Good, powerful and to the point.

As I hinted at in my last WOT post, I’m taking a bit of a break from the re-read before jumping into The Dragon Reborn.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 02/06/2010)

All the March Releases from the Penguin Imprints arrived on Monday, a big box of Random House’s SF/UF/F releases for 2/23/2010 arrived on Thursday, with Black Library’s 2/23 releases dropping on Friday, leaving me adrift in a sea of books, a few of which I’ve received in ARC form in the past:

Cat’s Claw (Book 2 of Calliope Reaper-Jones) by Amber Benson (Ace Paperback 03/02/2010) – I tried reading the first book in this series last year but found the protagonist an utterly annoying twit, which was made even worse because it was a first person narrative.

Calliope Reaper-Jones is Death's Daughter. She owes a debt to Cerberus, the three headed dog that guards the gate's of hell-a debt that involves a trip to Purgatory, Las Vegas, ancient Egypt, and a discount department store that's more frightening than any supernatural creature she'll ever encounter

Shalador's Lady (A Black Jewels novel) by Anne Bishop (Roc, Hardcover 03/02/2010) – Second book in a trilogy, which is part of a larger, popular series

Return to the "intense...erotic...and imaginative" (Nancy Kress) world of the national bestselling Black Jewels novels in this sequel to The Shadow Queen.

For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever...

Neverland by Douglas Clegg (Vanguard Press, Hardcover 04/16/2010) –I really enjoyed Isis, by Clegg last year. This is a reissue of one of his early novels, which has garnered some nice praise over the years.

Beau Jackson and his cousin Sumter were only six when they first met. But even then, Beau recognized his cousin's obsession with evil. Every summer, Beau and Sumter vacation with their families on the dreary bluffs of Gull Island, and every year Beau watches as his cousin grows increasingly more powerful. But nothing prepares him for the terror that emerges when Sumter introduces him to Neverland, the place where grownups are forbidden and Sumter reigns supreme. In Neverland, the boys and their sisters escape their parents' authority, only to discover a nightmarish world of garish rituals, evil games, and ultimate bloodshed.

Red Inferno: 1945 by Robert Conroy (Ballantine Paperback 02/23/2010) – Nazis and the US team up against Russia in this alternate history by Conroy.

In April 1945, the Allies are charging toward Berlin from the west, the Russians from the east. For Hitler, the situation is hopeless. But at this turning point in history, another war is about to explode.

To win World War II, the Allies dealt with the devil. Joseph Stalin helped FDR, Churchill, and Truman crush Hitler. But what if “Uncle Joe” had given in to his desire to possess Germany and all of Europe? In this stunning novel, Robert Conroy picks up the history of the war just as American troops cross the Elbe into Germany. Then Stalin slams them with the brute force of his enormous Soviet army.

From American soldiers and German civilians trapped in the ruins of Potsdam to U.S. military men fighting behind enemy lines, from a scholarly Russia expert who becomes a secret player in a new war to Stalin’s cult of killers in Moscow, this saga captures the human face of international conflict. With the Soviets vastly outnumbering the Americans—but undercut by chronic fuel shortages and mistrust—Eisenhower employs a brilliant strategy of retreat to buy critical time for air superiority. Soon, Truman makes a series of controversial decisions, enlisting German help and planning to devastate the massive Red Army by using America’s ultimate and most secret weapon.

Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint (Tor, Hardcover December 2009) – De Lint’s most enduring creation is his Newford milieu and this is his latest collection of stories set in the world.

Muse and Reverie is an all-new collection of short fiction in Charles de Lint’s “Newford” universe—the fifth such collection since 1993, and the first since 2002. Previous collections are Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and the Horn, the World Fantasy Award-winning Memory and Dream, and Tapping the Dream Tree.

The city of Newford could be any city in North America, bursting with music, commerce, art, love and hate, and of course magic. Magic in the sidewalk cracks, myth at the foundations of its great buildings, enchantment in the spaces between its people. In this new collection, de Lint explores that magic and those spaces, shedding new light on the people and places that readers of novels like Moonheart, Forests of the Heart, The Onion Girl, and The Mystery of Grace have come to love.

Soul Hunter (Warhammer 40,000) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library Mass Market Paperback 02/23/2010) – Dembski-Bowden seems to be one of the hot new young writers in BL’s stable, this is his second of three books for them in less than a year

The Night Lords are one of the most feared legions of Chaos Space Marines. Remorseless hunters and killers, they relentlessly battle the Imperium of Man to avenge the death of their Primarch Konrad Curze. Their dark crusade takes them to the valuable world of Crythe Primus, where they will fight Imperial forces to claim the planet. But will the allegiance with their cohorts in the Black Legion last long enough for them to be victorious?

A Magic of Nightfall (The Nessantico Cycle Book Two) by S.L. Farrell (DAW Paperback 3/02/2010)– I received this as a hardcover last year, a month after receiving the paperback of A Magic of Twilight, which got some good reviews and is currently the Book of the Month in SFFWorld’s Fantasy Book Club:

Second in a brilliant new fantasy series.

A masterwork of fantasy, The Nessantico Cycle is the epic tale of an empire at its height, yet poised on the brink of what could be a devastating descent into ruin. Told from the viewpoints of numerous characters, it is a sweeping saga of murder and magic (portrayed both as a powerful religion and a forbidden art), deception and betrayal, Machiavellian politics, star-crossed lovers, and a realm facing war on every front.

Xombies: Apocalypticon by Walter Greatshell (Ace Paperback 03/02/2010) – Sequel to Greatshell’s Xombies: Apocalypse Blues, which was re-released last year.

XOMBIES: APOCALYPTICON is the continuing saga of the USS No-Name, an Ohio-Class submarine converted to a refugee vessel during the worldwide plague of "Agent X"--a disease that changes women into raving, homicidal Typhoid Marys.

Leading the fight to survive are Dr. Alice Langhorne, whose research helped spawn the plague; Commander Harvey Coombs, Navy captain minus a navy; Sal DeLuca, BMX champ facing the ultimate Xtreme sport; and troubled teenager Lulu Pangloss, who died and was born again.

Facing off against them are mutinous shipmates, yoga-crazed prison convicts, hostile mercenaries...and the all-encompassing threat of the Xombies themselves.

Deep in the Woods (Vampire Babylon #6) by Chris Marie Green (Ace Trade Paperback 03/03/2009) – Sexy Vampire Hunter showing midriff in tanktop hunting vamps in Hollywood. This is the sixth book in a series:

With the female master of the London Underground in her hands, stuntwoman-turned¬vampire hunter Dawn Madison must fight off her followers, a vicious pack of undead teenage girls who put the vamps Dawn had to deal with in Los Angeles to shame...

How to Defeat Your Own Clone: and Other Tips for Surviving the Biotech Revolution by Kyle Kurpinski and Terry D. Johnson (Bantam Trade Paperback 02/23/2010) – Nonfiction / humorous approach to impending dooms of Science Fiction

Send in the clones! On second thought, maybe not.

Find out the answers to these and other burning questions in this funny, informative, and ingenious book from two bioengineering experts who show you how to survive—and thrive—in a new age of truly weird science.
For decades, science fiction has been alerting us to the wonders and perils of our biotech future—from the prospects of gene therapy to the pitfalls of biological warfare. Now that future looms before us. Don’t panic! This book is all you need to prepare for the new world that awaits us, providing indispensable cautionary advice on topics such as

• Bioenhancements: They’re not just for cyborgs anymore.
• DNA sequencing and fingerprinting: What’s scarier than the government having your DNA on file? Try having it posted on the Internet.
• Human cloning: Just like you, only stronger, smarter, and more attractive. In other words: more dangerous.

Our future may be populated by designer babies, genetically enhanced supersoldiers, and one (or more!) of your genetic duplicates, but all is not lost. How to Defeat Your Own Clone is the ultimate survival guide to what lies ahead. Just remember the first rule of engagement: Don’t ever let your clone read this book!

The Conqueror's Shadow by Ari Marmell (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 02/23/2009) – I read the ARC earlier late last year and just posted my review a few days ago:

Ari Marmell has written a number tie-in fiction novels for both Wizards of the Coast (Magic: The Gathering) and Vampire: The Masquerade, but The Conqueror’s Shadow is his first novel set in a secondary world of his own creation. It is a novel of war and revenge, populated with humans, goblins, ogres, witches and sorcerers wearing enchanted armor, adorned with demon-possessed talismans, wielding amorphous magical weaponry.
The revenge comes in many forms. Corvis Rebane, the Terror of the East is now a man of peace, married with two children. He hears of war brewing, but wants little to do with it. That is, until his daughter and son are kidnapped by members of the roving army. Once he finds out who is pulling the strings, namely Audriss a would-be conqueror in his own right, Rebane reluctantly gathers some of his old compatriots in the hopes of squelching the uprising.

Complicating matters; however, is just who Rebane’s wife is. In the last days of Corvis’s conquest, he took the hand of a young noblewoman as hostage and guarantee of his save journey. As Corvis’s army slowly dissipated, Corvis began falling for the young woman, Tyannon. The two were not many years apart and as Marmell begins the story, the two are indeed husband and wife. How this complicates matters is this: Tyannon’s brother Jaisson is a high-ranking general in the forces trying to conquer the world.

A Thousand Sons (Horus Heresy) by Graham McNeill (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 02/23/2010) – The Horus Heresy is one of the most popular sub-series within the WH40K universe. McNeill has been churning out the WH books at a fairly rapid click, himself.

Censured at the Council of Nikea for his flagrant use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion retreat to their homeworld pf Prospero to continue their use of the arcane arts in secret. But when the ill-fated primarch forsees the treachery of Warmaster Horus and warns the Emperor with the very powers he was forbidden to use, the Master of Mankind dispatches fellow primarch Leman Russ to attack Prospero itself. But Magnus has seen more than the betrayl of Horus and the witnessed revelations will change the fate of his fallen Legion, anmd its primarch, forever.

Star Wars Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth by Karen Miller (Del Rey/Star Wars Books Trade Paperback 02/23/2010) – Miller churns out novels like a machine, this is her second Star Wars novel and seventh novel over the past two years. This is the ARC of a book I received way back in November.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are on a secret mission to one of the many worlds caught in the middle of the struggle between the Republic and the Separatists. A pastoral planet, Lanteeb wants only to be left alone to survive -- but it is the source of what could be one of the most devastatingly destructive weapons ever. If this potential weapon were to fall into the hands of the Separatists, uncounted worlds would fall. But should the Republic succeed in destroying it first, one world that needs it to survive will be annihilated. A frightening dilemma that Obi-Wan and Anakin will have to untangle, if they can get in and out of the occupied planet alive...

A Girl's Guide to Guns and Monsters edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg (DAW, Mass Market Paperback 02/02/2010) – The March 2010 monthly DAW anthology contains 16 stories with the conceit that you can time travel to any place and era for your vacation.

Take a vacation through time with the help of a Time Travel Agency offering excursions into the past and future. Readers will find themselves in exotic, adventurous locales-and in all manner of trouble and mysteries. And figures from the past will be able to squeak by the other way.

Picture Cleopatra in modern-day New York City, or Hannibal searching for elephants at Wisconsin's Circus World. And that's just the beginning of the thrills and danger..

of the Demon (Kara Gillian, Book 2) by Diana Rowland (Bantam Mass Market 02/23/2010)– I know the same can be said of the subgenres I tend to favor (Epic Fantasy and Space Opera), but a lot of these Urban Fantasies to sort of blend together, especially with the similar cover treatments and demon/vampire titling. I fully admit this is not fair to any of the authors or books, which I’m sure have merit, but there you go


Welcome to the world of Kara Gillian, a cop with a gift. Not only does she have the power of “othersight” to see what most people can’t even imagine, but she’s become the exclusive summoner of a demon lord. Or maybe it’s the other way around. The fact is, with two troublesome cases on her docket and a handsome FBI agent under her skin, Kara needs the help of sexy, insatiable Lord Rhyzkahl more than he needs her. Because these two victims, linked by suspicious coincidence, haven’t just been murdered. Something has eaten their souls.

It’s a case with roots in the arcane, but whose evil has flowered among the rich, powerful, and corrupt in Beaulac, Louisiana. And as the killings continue, Kara soon realizes how much there’s still to learn about demons, men, and things that kill in the night—and how little time she has to learn it.

Call to Arms (Empire Army Novel) by Mitchell Scanlon (Black Library, Mass Market Paperback 02/23/2010) –The Empire is analogous to the Imperium in WH40K, this is the latest entry in the WH Fantasy sub-series.

Dieter Lanz is a young recruit to the 3rd Hochland Swordsmen, otherwise known as 'the Scarlets'. His regiment is called into the battle when an orc army starts to rampage across the countryside, and when the Scarlets are defeated, Hochland is threatened with collaspe. As a desperation measure, legendary general Ludwig Von Grahl is bought out of retirement-he is the last hope to stem the vicious green tide.

Where Angels Fear to Tread (The Third of Remy Chandler novel) by Thomas E. Sniegoski (Roc Trade Paperback 03/02/2009) – The third in Sniegoski’s Urban Fantasy about a former Angel from Heaven who is now a private investigator with supernatural cases. He cranks these books out pretty quickly.

Six year-old Zoe York has been taken and her mother has come to Remy for help. She shows him crude, childlike drawings that she claims are Zoe's visions of the future, everything leading up to her abduction, and some beyond. Like the picture of a man with wings who would come and save her-a man who is an angel.

Zoe's preternatural gifts have made her a target for those who wish to exploit her power to their own destructive ends. The search will take Remy to dark places he would rather avoid. But to save an innocent, Remy will ally himself with a variety of lesser evils-and his soul may pay the price...

Coyote Destiny by Allen Steele (Ace Hardcover 03/03/2009) Steele’s popular saga continues with another chronicle of humanity’s future.

"The best space colonization saga to come along in decades" (Rocky Mountain News) continues.

The unexpected arrival of a ship from Earth after their long isolation from their home world leaves the inhabitants of Coyote both hopeful and wary. The lone passenger brings news-both good and bad.

The good news is that there was a survivor of the long-ago explosion of the Robert E. Lee and he is living still on Earth, in the ruined city called Boston. The bad news is that the person responsible for that act of terrorism is also still alive-and somewhere on Coyote...

Deader Matter (Book 3 of Simon Canderous) by Anton Strout (Ace Mass Market Paperback 03/02/2009) – In what is becoming an annual publishing occurrence, Anton Strout has another book hitting shelves:

Shaking up the spirits of Manhattan

The spirit populace of Manhattan doesn't appreciate its well-deserved RIP being disturbed, and Department of Extraordinary Affairs Agent Simon Canderous is sent in to do damage control. Meanwhile, his vacationing partner, Connor Christos, is in a sorry state, and he tells Simon that each night he's being haunted by visions of his long-lost brother at his window. Simon is worried that his partner may be going crazy-or worse, maybe he's not...

Roadkill (Cal Leandros #5) by Rob Thurman (Roc Paperback 03/02/2010) – I received this as an ARC back in Late November. This series seems quite popular, with five books since 2006, that makes a pretty good track record.

It's time to lock, load, and hit the road...

Once, while half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko were working on a case, an ancient gypsy queen gave them a good old-fashioned backstabbing. Now, just as their P.I. business hits a slow patch, the old crone shows up with a job.

She wants them to find a stolen coffin that contains a blight that makes the Black Death seem like a fond memory. But the thief has already left town, so the Leandros brothers are going on the road. And if they're very, very lucky, there might even be a return trip...

Shadowrise (Volume Three of Shadowmarch) by Tad Williams (DAW Hardcover 03/02/2010) – Having this book show up in the mail reminds me I’m now two books behind in Tad Williams’s latest doorstopper saga (and I type that with a smile, because Tad does them really well). :

With King Olin imprisoned and Prince Kendrick slain, the royal twins Barrick and Briony have been forced to flee their homeland. But both families and nations can hide dark and terrible secrets, and even if Barrick and Briony survive learning the astonishing truths at the heart of their own family and of Southmarch itself, they must still find a way to reclaim their kingdom and rescue their home- from traitors, tyrants, a god-king, and even the angry gods themselves..

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell Review at SFFWorld

This week’s book review is The Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell. Marmell cut his teeth on some tie-in / gaming novels and this is his first non-shared world/original fantasy novel. He’s got another one coming out from Pyr in the near future, but this one from Bantam Spectra is promising:

Part of what Marmell seems to be doing in The Conqueror’s Shadow with Rebaine is ask the following question: How possible is it to recapture old glories? Can a once looming and dreadful figure still be the intimidating and powerful Terror of the East? Thematically and superficially, this isn’t too dissimilar to the manner in which Druss the Legend is called back to action in David Gemmell’s landmark novel Legend. The storyline also felt similar to the films Gladiator and Braveheart in that great warriors are called to duty in a somewhat reluctant manner.
The magic is interestingly handled, in that demons inhabit gems and weapons that bend to the will of the wielder can become either sword or axe, depending upon in whose hands the weapon rests. On the other hand, the magic elements seem almost like plot coupons to be used and discarded. I also thought the antagonist, Audriss and to a greater extent, Jaisson (Tyannon’s younger brother) lacked a certain depth despite the intricate weaving of plotting power they both wove.