Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Night Shade Books Sale!

Thanks go out to The Mad Hatter for bringing this sale to my attention and I thought I'd pass it along to anyone else who's reading this blog.

Here's the wording directly from Night Shade Books website:

It’s that time of year again, sale time at Night Shade Books. We’ve got a lot of big new titles coming in, and we need to clear space in a big way (and pay off a few print bills)! So for the next two weeks, from Wednesday, June 3 until midnight on Wednesday, June 17, we’re offering 50% off all in-stock and forthcoming* Night Shade books, with a four book minimum order.

This sale is a doozy and I've made full use of it. Picking up a ton of great books. You can check it out here

Need a few recommendations? Well alright I'm happy to oblige.

You can't go wrong with any of the novels by Glen Cook. Night Shade has an extensive selection of his work.

Likewise John Joseph Adam's anthologies The Wastelands and the Living Dead are both fantastic. Also he's got a new Vampire anthology coming out By Blood We Live and I'm guessing it'll be of the same high quality of his previous work.

Pump Six and Other Stories
by Paolo Bacigalupi is also excellent.

There's so much more so if you're interested in saving yourself some dough and picking up some great books give it a gander.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Review: Fevre Dream

Vampires on the great Mississippi River, who’d have thunk? George R.R. Martin, of course. Martin is a genius. He's able to take a genre in this instance Vampire Horror and reimagine it in a completely fresh and compelling way. Much like he did with his werewolf novella The Skin Trade Martin takes the vampire mythos and completely shatters it and then begins piecing it back together. That's all I want to say on that front as seeing how Martin twists the Vampire lore around is a huge part of the fun with this novel and I don't want to detract from your experience.

The novel is what we've come to expect from Martin as its littered with intriguing central characters with a plethora of supporting characters to bolster the story. The story focuses on our main protaginist; Abner Marsh the ugly, honorable, overweight Riverboatmen who's fallen on hard times. Then three main supporting characters: The mysterious, light skinned Joshua York. The enigmatic plantation owner and vampire Damon Julian. And lastly the riverboat herself the Fevre Dream.

From the beginning Martin hooks you as you can't help but enjoy the character of Abner Marsh. He's gruff and he's a straight shooter. He'll tell you what he thinks whether you want to hear it or not. He has a very interesting perspective and as I read the novel it was much like reading the Tyrion sections from ASoIaF. I couldn't wait to see what would happen to the character. How was Abner Marsh going to handle this situation or what would he say when confronted by a beautiful vampress. Abner Marsh is simply a phenominal character and then you have a host of supporting characters that are equally as fleshed out.

The characterization that Martin gives each person that inhabit his world is outstanding. A couple paragraph's of dialogue lend so much personality to characters you become totally immersed in the world that Martin has created.Martin must have done a great deal of research on Riverboats and the Mississippi River as the inner workings of the Riverboat felt realistic. Not only was there great detail about how a river boat functions, but the piloting, securing loads in various ports, the woodyards along the river where riverboats would stop to get more wood all contributed to the sense of immersion I felt as I read the story. Martin made me feel as if I was traveling on the Fevre Dream as we made our way down the Mississippi.

Never was there a dull moment where I had to slog through a portion of the story it flowed; like the Mississippi River unrestrained and free. This is truly a fantastic novel and its made me want to do more research on riverboats as I'm fascinated by the entire subject now.

Get your hands on a copy of this novel.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

June Releases I'm Excited About

With May winding down and June quickly approaching I thought I'd share with you the new releases that I'm excited about. These four books are all ones that I'll be picking up upon their release.

An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat by Glen Cook
Release Date:
TBD (Preorders are shipping at the moment so shouldn't be long before anyone can get their hands on a copy.)

I've been looking forward to the release of this book for months now. I preordered my copy back in February and my credit card was just charged yesterday so think its on its way. (Fingers Crossed)

This book collects of all the short fiction set in the Dread Empire along with a brand new story from Cook entitled "Hell's Forge." Apparently it's a story of haunted pirates in far off lands. Arrrrr! Can't wait to read the pirate's tale and catch up with my old friends Mocker and Bragi.

Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton
Release Date: June 5, 2009 (UK Only Release)

This book is the current belle of the blogosphre in that it's the pretty girl that everyone seems to have a crush on. This book has garned so many rave reviews I'm in a fever pitch to get my hands on it. Unfortunately for us in the good ole' USA its only going to see a U.K. release.

Fortunately we live in the Internet Age and can get our hands on anything we want. Including The Nights of Villjamur. I've already preordered my copy from Have you?

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Release Date: June 16, 2009

The Angel's Game is Zafon's follow-up to The Shadow of the Wind. This one is a no brainer for me. With the Shadow of the Wind Zafon crated an amazing story that I recommend everyone reading (immediately!)

It appears that this novel will loosely follow the events of Shadow of the Wind with the story happening a few years down the road featuring a new cast of characters. If it's even 50% as good as the Shadow of the Wind I'm going to love it.

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
Release Date: June 23, 2009

Lastly that brings us to Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America. In my review of Julian: A Christmas Story I noted how the novella felt like a chapter in an overall larger biographical work and this my friends is that larger biographical work. It'll be interesting to see how Wilson expands the story. For those of you who haven't read the original its narrative is almost Twain-like in its delivery and the alternate history that Wilson has created is fascinating.

Nice how the release dates worked out. Leaves me with roughly one new book a week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Impressions of Postscripts 18

Impressions aren't a review per say rather just some thoughts on what I've been reading. Impressions will usually consist of a cluster of short stories seeing as I usually read short stories in spurts between novels. I feel this will be a good way to get my thoughts down and more digestible for you the reader.Postscripts 18: This is the Summer of Love from PS Publishing focuses on some newcomers to the field of Speculative Fiction. For the most part these authors are unknown to me and as far as I know the public at large. It's always a treat discovering new authors and so far I've only read three stories but I've already found an author who I think is great. So without further adieu let me give you my impressions of the stories I've read so far.

In the Porches of My Ears by Norman Prentiss

The first story of the anthology touches upon a pet peeve of mine and that is people who talk in the movie theater. Apparently the author has just as much distaste for the act as I do; however he puts a nice spin on it here as the person doing the talking is describing the movie to her blind husband. Seated directly behind the couple what do you do? Get up and move? Remain seated and have the movie ruined for you? A difficult position to be put in.

There's some nice paranormal activity added into the story but I wasn't overly impressed with it. I'd say its fairly mediocre.

Horses by Livia Llewellyn

I skipped this story for the moment as the premise didn't grab me. I'll read it at a later time or then again maybe not.

The Wages of Salt by Deborah Kalin

Set in a Desert Dystopia an archeoligist and her crew dig up something that should have remained buried. That's all I'll say as far as the story's plot goes but this one is worth the price of admission alone. Kalin from the first paragraph brought me into this world she's created and I'll be honest; I'm feinding for more. I've already read the story twice now and I want, no I need more. Can't wait to get my hands on some more material by this author.

Shem-El-Nessim by Chris Bell

As a child I loved everything about Egypt. The Pharoahs, The Mythology, The Mummies the Pyramids I was fascinated by all of it. Chris Bell has done a great job of capturing the essence of everything I loved as a child and putting it in an adult context. The central focus of the plot revolves around a mysterious fragerance and a haunting woman which leads our protagnist to Egypt. Another exceptional story.

Well that's all for these impressions look for another one of these in a week or two after I've got some more short stories under my belt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Collector's Corner: Some Recent Pick-Ups

Huge Lot of Glen Cook Books

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that I'm a huge fan of Glen Cook. So when I saw this huge lot of Cook novels up for auction on eBay I couldn't pass it up. I placed my bid and kept my fingers crossed and for once no one sniped me on the auction at the last second.

So for $45 shipped I received all the novels you see above. Some good books there especially a few of Cook's stand alone novels such as The Tower of Fear, Passage At Arms, The Sword Bearer and The first three novels in The Dread Empire series along with the entire run of The Black Company.

You read that correctly the entire run of the Black Company! Including the very rare Bleak Seasons and She is the Darkness. These are the hard cover copies complete with dust jacket both in Near Fine condition.

Each book cost me roughly $2.65 which I couldn't be happier about seeing as:

The Softcover edition of Bleak Seasons is selling for an average of $23:

Completed eBay listings for Bleak Seasons

And the softcover edition of She is the Darkness is selling for between $50 and $60:

Completed eBay listings for She is the Darkness

Gunpowder by Joe Hill (Signed Jacked Hardcover, Limited edition #91/300)

Joe Hill has made quite a name for himself in a short amount of time so I was looking forward to checking out some of his work. Unfortunately for me by the time I became aware of Gunpowder released by PS Publishing it was out of print prior to publication. So with the books huge popularity sellers were and still are asking exorbitant prices for it. Luckily one popped up at auction and I won it for $45. (OH YEAH!) So it's currently sitting on my shelf besides its PS brethren.

Brasyl by Ian McDonald (1st Edition/1st Printing)

I've heard so many good things about Ian McDonald's River of the Gods and Brasyl I had to get copies of both. (I just had to.) Picked up the beauty above for an even 20 bones.

The Reef by Mark Charan Newton (Signed, Dated, Lined with a Quote, Doodled. THEN signed, dated doodled by the cover artis
ts Darius Sinks.) So basically this is The Reef: Everything But the Kitchen Sink Editon.

Sometimes as collector's we have to throw caution to the wind and just go with our gut and my gut was telling me to pick up this book. After reading The Fantasy Book Critic's interview with Netwon where I learned that his first novel was not in fact Nights of Villajmur but rather The Reef which was released in March 2008 by a small publisher in Britain known as Pendragon Press it became my quest to track down a copy of this novel.

At the beginning of my quest I had no idea it would end with me shelling out a substantial amount of quid in order to get my hands on a copy.

The Reef has a supposed print run of only 300 copies. With the upcoming release of Nights of Villajmur one would think Pendragon Press would begin to print more copies however at this time the publisher is saying there are no plans at this time to print more.

The copy pictured above is one of only 26 Lettered Editions. (I got "D" if anyone is interested.) However this seller is claiming that he was the one that personally commissioned the lettered editions and there are also two more copies (One for the prologue and one for the epilogue.) So that would make 28 Lettered Editions. I have no reason to doubt this seller as he has superlative feedback on a number of other books.

The copy he's selling however is priced much higher than what I paid for mine. I purchased mine for $85 which included shipping from the U.K. A hefty sum no doubt, but one I feel is worth it to add such a unique book to my collection.

So what have you picked up this week? I always love to hear about what other readers/collectors are adding to their collection.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: The House of the Stag

The House of the Stag by Kage Baker knocked me out with its one two combination of humor and world building. Previous to finding this book on the shelves of my local library it wasn’t just below my radar it wasn’t even a blip. As I scanned the titles of the novels in hopes of finding Baker’s Gardens of Iden the title The House of the Stag jumped out at me. So I took it down off the shelf and read the blurb:

It begins with a tragedy. Before the Riders came to their remote valley, the Yendri led a tranquil pastoral life. When the Riders conquered and enslaved them, just a few escaped to the forests. Only one of them possessed the necessary rage to fight back: Gard the foundling, half-demon, began a one man guerilla war against the riders. But his struggle ended in the loss of the family he loved and condemnation from his own people.

I was sold. Sitting down in my lazy boy recliner and cracking the cover I didn’t quite know what to expect and sometimes it’s the unexpected that turns out to be just what I was looking for.

From the beginning the story seems to draw influence from of all books; The Bible. In the beginning the Yendri live in a Garden of Eden environment content to live out their days in harmony with nature. Unfortunately this harmony is shattered when the Riders appear and enslave the Yendri and ravish the land

Other similarities exist as well. Cain and Abel is revisited in the form of Gard and his brother Ranwyr, The Beloved in a Moses type role, Lendreth in the role of Joshua and even a foretold savior that will arrive to deliver the Yendri from their enslavement.

Along with the biblical motifs Baker also mixes in quite a bit of primitive mythology and in turn creates a unique mythos for her world. The world Baker creates will look vaguely familiar; like someone you went to high school with who has had some work done. Baker offers the fantasy genre a face lift with numerous fresh ideas.

The concept of The Mountain in the second section of the book is wholly unique to any fantasy I’ve read. Also the way she handles the race of demons is exceptional and completely different than any demons I’ve ever come across. (in the pages of a book.)

Along with these fresh ideas Baker infuses the story with humor throughout. She takes more than a few shots at the Fantasy Genre in particular. You can’t help but smile when you see the Theatre company perform variations of The Great Theme time after time. Each play is just like the one before in much the same way many Epic Fantasies are derivative of each other.

With this humor and a number of fresh ideas The House of the Stag was an unexpected surprise for me and one that I hope many others will take the time to search out along with its predecessor The Anvil of the World.

The House of the Stag is truly a unique book and to me feels like several different novellas collected into one book and that’s not a knock on it at all. Each section of the book has its own “feel” which makes for a very pleasurable reading experience.


You'd have to pay me to finish: The Caryatids by Bruce Sterling

This book is not good. Not good at all. You'd have to pay me to finish this novel.

How much?

About $60.00

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review: Dandelion Wine

It’s not often that I find myself in the perfect frame of mind, on the perfect day with the perfect book in my hands but at one point or another it’s happened to all of us. I’m happy to report that I had such an occurrence this past weekend.

It was a picturesque day in Michigan. The sun was shining down, the lawn freshly mown and a warm breeze rustled the leaves in the trees. I had nothing to do that afternoon but read. I parked myself in a nice chair with a cold glass of water within reach and opened up my copy of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Over the course of the afternoon I was transported not only back to small town of Green Town circa 1928 but also my own childhood.

The story focuses on Douglas Spaulding and his brother Tom as they make their way through the summer months in the small town they call home. The boys are both at the age when the world still seems a place filled with magic and mystery and through their adventures it reminds you how much magic truly does exist in the world.

Page after page made me wax nostalgic for my own childhood. As I read about Doug and Tom’s lives it conjured up many fond memories for me. I remembered the long days of swimming at the beach followed by long sessions of Mario Kart 64 with my friends. The lazy summer evenings spent reading Battle Tech novels on the back porch until the sun finally set. The novel evoked so many feelings for me it truly made me appreciate all the small moments that make life worth living.

Doug and Tom remember their summer days by bottling them in the form of Dandelion Wine. One bottle for each day of summer. Whenever they yearn to return to summer they simply go down to the cellar and open a bottle of Dandelion Wine. As they savor the taste of the wine it transports them back to the wonderful moments of summer’s past.

Like Doug and Tom whenever I need to remember my own lost summers I’ll turn to Dandelion Wine again and again. This is a book that will touch your heart. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: The Empress of Mars

With the recent release of the Empress of Mars I decided I’d take a look at the novella that was expanded upon to make the most recent incarnation. I was interested to see the genesis of the story and then later read the expanded novel. The first incarnation of the Empress of Mars was released by Night Shade Books in 2003. It was a jacked hardcover release limited to 500 signed copies.

With this novel Kage Baker does an exceptional job of creating a plausible Mars scenario. Throughout the course of the novel she pulls away our preconceptions of what colonization of far off planets would be like. Oftentimes we picture shiny rocket ships with the perfect specimens of humanity aboard them in for the adventures of their life. However Baker makes us realize within the first few pages of the novella that this is not the reality in which we live.

She reminds us how truly dreadful and at times wonderful the colonization process can be. Baker uses historical precedent when taking into account the Colonization of Mars as she looks to the examples of Australia and Georgia which were set-up as penal colonies as is the Mars we are given in this book. Likewise with the Frontier where settlers took solace in their local saloon so do the denizens of Mars. As after a long day of work they head to the Empress of Mars which is run by Mary Griffith.

Mary Griffith along with an assortment of family members and castoffs from various walks of life make up the staff of the Empress of Mars. Mary is an intriguing character and reminds me of so many women I know. She’s tough, intelligent and above all stubborn. She deals with a great deal of sexism from the British Aerean Company (BAC) who for all intents and purposes owns Mars and her neighbors of the Celtic Federation. For me the way Mary handles herself is a pleasure to read about. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone. She knows who she is and she doesn’t change for anyone. The woman also knows her beer.

I no longer drink but at one point I considered myself a beer aficionado so it was nice to see a writer who was actually knowledgeable about beer. We don’t get the usual generic references to beer; rather we’re given various beer styles from Oatmeal Stone to a nice India Pale Ale. (which is fitting for the story as India Pale Ale was the choice of the British while they were occupying India.) It’s the little things like this that add so much to a story. Knowing which beers are served at the Empress add another tangible aspect that develops the world that much more.

At this point you might all be saying so it’s a story about a bar? It is a story about a bar, in fact it’s a great story about a bar but over the course of the novella playing out it becomes so much more. The story encompasses everything that human beings have an interest in; our place in the cosmos, women, drinking, religion, politics, family, loyalty and freedom to pursue life in our own ways. So if you as a human being have an interest in any of those things I can not recommend this novella highly enough.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review: The Last Book

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a good mystery novel. I went through a James Patterson jag during my college years which completely killed the thriller/mystery genre for me as it all seemed a bit too formulaic. It was going to take something special to revive the genre for me and as luck would have it Zoran Zakovic’s The Last Book did just that.

The premise of the novel is a straight forward mystery. People at Papyrus Books are dropping dead for no apparent reason and it’s up to literature loving inspector Dejan Lukić to get to the bottom of it. Along the way Zakovic hits every trope the mystery/thriller genre has to offer. They’re all here from the femme fatale to the mysterious cult. While it is the same formula we’ve seen a million times Zakovic makes it different enough that I don’t feel like I’m reading the same book I’ve read a million times before. That and the metafictional nature of the story that underpins the narrative adds a wonderful what the hell just happened feeling at the end. This is a mystery that leaves you feeling somewhat in the dark even after the denouement.

The thing I took away from reading this book is to not allow preconceived notions to hamper your enjoyment of a variety of literature. Throughout the book there’s a large debate between the characters about what is worthy of being considered serious literature versus fluff and genre writing. Ultimately the conclusion I came to about the books message was that as readers we should judge the content of the book rather than the genre it has been placed in. I myself am guilty of this very thing when it comes to the mystery/thriller genre. I hope to amend that in the coming months as I begin to once more reenter the genre.

If you enjoy a good solid mystery novel then you’re going to like this book. If you enjoy metaphysical “what the hell” just happened stories then you’re going to love this book.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Review: Act of Will

A.J. Hartley’s novel Act of Will is a nice change of pace for me. I’ve been predominantly reading a host of dark and gritty fantasy novels over the last couple months so it was nice to sink my teeth into some lighter fare. You won’t find swearing or sex in this novel; you will however get a healthy dose of violence along with a smooth talking rogue who can best anyone in a battle of wits.

Act of Will focuses its attention on William Hawthorne a young actor turned fugitive from the Empire who’s now taking center stage in an adventure all his own. As he flees from the Empire’s soldiers he runs smack dab into a group of adventurers. Despite the fact that these adventurers have safely smuggled him from the Empire’s grasp Will still is weary of associating with them. He sees them as little more than mercenary cutthroats. It’s with reservation he decides to continue on with them as they set forth to take up a difficult commission in far off lands.

Brief summary out of the way the thing I liked most about this book is that it was a nice tight read. There are no wasted words or chapters. Each chapter propels the story forward allowing me to move along at a good pace enjoying myself the entire time.

Next I have to mention the extraordinary character that is Will Hawthorne. The man can talk there’s no doubt about it. His silver tongue is both a blessing and a curse however as his tongue gets him into just as much trouble as it gets him out of. While that’s not good for him its good for us the readers as each time Will opens his mouth you can’t help but be entertained. The lies he spins are clever and its clear that Will likes to lie just for the pure joy of it. It’s an art for him and he’s one of the finest bullshit artists I’ve ever seen.

Will seems to revel in his wretchedness much like another young rogue the world has fallen in love with; Huckleberry Finn. Both characters appear to be little more than charlatans and are more than happy to be seen as such. Beneath each character’s façade however lies a good man. (whether either of them want you to believe that or not.) This is evidenced in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Huck’s relationship with Jim. Mirroring that relationship is the one Will develops with Orgos a black man who is death incarnate with a blade.

Throughout the story it’s this relationship between Will and Orgos that gives the story legs. It’s a friendship that develops naturally between the two and it’s a treat to watch it unfold. It feels wholly organic which is a testament to Hartley’s ability. Throughout the story the two teach each other a lot about life and what it means to be an honorable man. It’s this foundation Orgos lays through his actions rather than his words that begins to, if not necessarily change Will, gives him a new perspective.

While the character development with Orgos is well done I felt that the other supporting characters could have used a little more fleshing out. We are given a few good scenes with Mithos and Garnet that let us gain a little more insight into what makes them tick but not enough for my tastes. Renthrette and Will’s flirtation is entertaining throughout but again Renthrette feels a bit hollow and I don’t feel like I know much about her when the story ends. The worst though was the leader of the group Lisha who I felt was almost nonexistent as a character.

The second qualm I had with the novel was that there wasn’t a sense of real consequences. Even when characters were in grave jeopardy there never a sense of foreboding as I felt that the characters would always make it through a little worse for wear. It’s this lack of danger that made it less enjoyable for me.

Those criticisms aside the positives far outweigh the negatives of this novel. This novel is just a joy to read and I could see it bringing a lot of people into the genre as it’s well done and accessible in a way that many fantasy novels just aren’t.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Collector's Corner: Patrick Rothfuss's First Book

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is one of my favorite fantasy novels of the last few years and I've been an ardent collector of his work which is quite easy to do as he's only released only one full length novel. After reading his blog however it was brought to my attention that in 2005 a book entitled Your Annotated, Illustrated College Survival Guide Volume 1 by Patrick Rothfuss with B.J. Hiorns was released from Cornerstone Press, University of Wisconsin.

Tracking this book down was no easy task as the print run was quite small. Rothfuss himself believes there to be roughly 500 copies in circulation. I have heard from other collectors that the amount printed could be closer to 700 copies. Either way it's a difficult book to get your hands on.

Wanting to add this book to my collection I scoured, abebooks and alibris to no avail. Then I turned to eBay; land of the rare, quirky and hard to find items where as luck would have it someone had a BIN (Buy It Now) on a signed copy of College Survival Guide for $40.00 shipping included. So with a big grin in on my face I purchased the book and two weeks ago I recieved it in the mail:

Happy with the condition of the book and as I'm wont to do with most new book purchases I put kid gloves on and began skimming the book. There's some great illustrations from Rothfuss that anyone familiar with his blog will immediality recognize his illustration style. After reading a few articles I must say it was good for a chuckle or two. The book is a collection of the first four years of a humor column Rothfuss wrote and is very similiar to the informal writing style you'll find on his blog.

Content with knowing that I have a copy of Rothfuss's first book I gently placed it in a place of honor upon my shelf and began searching for that next hard to find tome for my collection.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: The Drowned Life

The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and The Empire of Ice Cream are two of the best short story collections I’ve ever read. Not only did they introduce me to the Golden Gryphon Press but they introduced me to one of my favorite authors; Mr. Jeffrey Ford. It’s hard for me to put into words my thoughts on Jeffery Ford as his writing is both ethereal and grounded at the same time. Any story he writes is worthy of attention and it was with great pleasure that I sat down to read his latest short story collection The Drowned Life.

The Drowned Life-
Whatever it was he was going for in this story whether it was allusion, metaphor or allegory it was over my head and thus didn’t do it for me.

Ariadne’s Mother
-Very Short. Very Clever.

The Night Whiskey-An absolutely great story which takes a interesting concept and then executes it flawlessly. I’m so glad to have this collection as I read the Night Whiskey a couple years ago in an anthology and its just such a great idea I always want to have it on hand.

All I’ll say about the story is that with the Night Whiskey there are more dangers then just a hangover the next day or hitting on your best friend’s wife.

A Few Things About Ants-This story for me defines Jeffery Ford. He turns an odd premise into something completely enthralling as the narrator reminisces about his past. It makes you remember how great the simple things in life can be.

The Bottom of the Lake
-Original narrative perspective that I hadn’t come across before. The story unfolds in front of us and the narrator at the same time. A good solid story that I was able to sink my teeth into.

Present from the Past-Ford has an absolute mastery of the family dynamic and this is a perfect example of such. The story is one of the up and downs we all encounter in our family life. There is redemption, then loss, and finally a sort of redemption in the end. The way in which this story unfolds you can’t help but empathize with the main character as Ford puts you directly in his shoes.

The Manticore Spell
-This is something you don’t see often from Ford; Traditional Fanstasy i.e. swords and sorcery. Much of his Fantasy is set in the modern world so it was nice to see his take on medieval fantasy. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s a solid story.

The Fat One- Just a fun story to read. Be warned though this is not one to read on an empty stomach as it will make you ravenously hungry. Unless you’re a vegetarian or a health nut in which case you’ll probably be sickened.

The Dismantled Invention of Fate-Here’s the first truly science fiction story of the group and it’s a doozy. The story delves into the true nature of love and also in the true nature of reality. Very enjoyable read.

What’s Sure to Come-For my money this is the best story in the collection. With a combination of prophetic dreams, card games, horse racing, small business ownership and a cast of great characters this is one not to be missed.
The Way He Does It-Whatever “It” is he does it well. Not just well he does “It” the best. What is “It” he does? I don’t want to spoil it for you so you’ll have to check out the story yourself.

The Scribble Mind-
One never really knows what’s occurring in this short little mystery. Dark ulterior motives may lay beneath the surface. Then again maybe not. It will keep you guessing throughout.

The Bedroom Light
-Call me a wimp or what not but certain scary stories tend to creep me out. Namely the ones with sinister small children and those of a more psychological nature. This story had both and as such gave me the heebie-jeebies.

In the House of the Four Seasons
-This is another example of Ford experimenting with narrative structure and unfortunately for me this one came across as a failed experiment. There’s really not much to be said here as I don’t want to spoil anything for you future readers out there.

The Dreaming Wind
-In each story collection there’s one story that is just beautiful. It’s the type of story that you want to read to your children as it’s truly magical. In The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant we were given The Annals of Eelin-Ok and in The Drowned Life we are given The Dreaming Wind.

As I mentioned before it is a beautifully written story and truly will pull at your heart strings. In the last days of summer The Dreaming Wind comes down from the distant north to wreak havoc on the tiny village by distorting everything into a dreamscape with weird creatures and other oddities that can only be found in one’s dreams.

From time eternal the Dream Wind has blown through the village only this year it hasn’t…

The Golden Dragon-
This story is the last of the collection and as such is a nice way to close. It’s somber as it focuses on a young man just starting a family and the friends he makes in his neighborhood. Throughout the daily grind that each endures they meet up for a weekly card game which allows each to relax from the stress of daily life. Only as with life, things change and not always for the better.

In conclusion this is another strong showing from Ford and well worth your time to pick it up. While there are some stories that didn’t gel with me the ones that did gel were phenomenal. I firmly believe that Ford’s work will endure for 10, 20 even 50 years down the road as they speak to me in a way which few works of fiction ever have. He’s a wonderful author and it’s my hope that more people will seek out Ford’s work and fall in love with it as I have.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: Vault of Deeds

James Barlcay’s Vault of Deeds has completely redeemed him in my eyes as I was less than thrilled with Light Stealer. Vault of Deeds is a farcical look at your common Sword & Sorcery adventure complete with all the clichés that make the genre great. The clichés are given new life as the author delves into the symbiotic relationship between the Hero and his scribe. It becomes a question of if there’s no one there to record a Hero’s heroic feats did they actually occur?

The story takes place at the best H.E.R.O. (Hideous Evil Routinely Overcome) school in the land of Goedterre where future heroes are taught about Heroic Utterances (Virtue always triumphs over evil! Hearty Laugh for effect) and the proper way to uphold a fair maiden’s honor. Their scribe counterparts are taught how to tell rip roaring yarns of the hero’s exploits to ensure that never a dull read is to be found in the Vault of Deeds. Therein lies the problem, where once evil was routinely overcome something has gone amiss as now evil routinely triumphs over good.

47 heroes have perished at the hands of nev’do wells leaving their scribes hero-less and unemployed as is the case with our main protagonist Grincheux who thinks something stinks about the whole situation and is bound and determined to remedy the problem. With a bit of a role reversal Grincheux takes up the mantle of the heroes he once wrote about and sets off on his quest and oh what a quest it is. Along the way he’ll find a new hero, battle the forces of evil and writers cramp all in order to put the world back as it should be.

The pacing of the story is perfect as there’s never a dull moment. There’s plenty of sword swinging for those of you who like that kind of thing along with a healthy dose of humor. Caustic one-liners left me chuckling as did the absurd situations that are protagonists encounter along the way. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Barclay’s take on the Ancient Elfin Language. While the action and humor are all well and good what separates this novel from the pack are the characters.

The relationships the characters develop with each other over the course of 80 pages gives the story a lot of heart. While it is definitely farcical in nature and doesn’t take itself too seriously the way the characters begin to care about one another in turn makes you as the reader begin to form a deeper bond with each of them and this adds a lot of depth to the story. In lieu of this great character development Barclay will be sure to remind you that this is a bit of a farce by the motivations which drive the two central “evil characters”. It’s great how one of the “bad” guys actions at least in his own eyes are completely justifiable and the others actions are just because he’s evil “mwaahahahahaaha”

When the novella ended I felt as if I had just been through a whirling dervish of humorous devastation. It had all the elements needed for a great adventure; action, humor and intrigue along with a couple of well placed twists I didn’t see coming. The ending is spectacular and gave me goose bumps. Any story which can evoke that kind of emotion in me is one I would highly recommend to everyone.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Sunday Review: Catching Up Edition

It feels good to be back from my self-imposed exile and back among my fellows in the Speculative Fiction blog-O-sphere. I had a lot of catching up to do and lucky for you I came across some great content this week.

Starting us off Plinydogg at the Speculative Fiction Junkie has pledged not to buy another book for 3 months. While I'd like to lend my morale support by abstaining from book buying myself unfortunately the release of The City & The City, The Angel's Game, Nights of Villajmur and Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd America will all prevent me from doing so. Bets are also being taken to how long he'll last. Highlander is wagering he'll only be able to last 3 weeks. My money is on him lasting the whole three months though. He comes across as a guy that sticks to his guns.

While your placing your bets also check out this review of Bill Hussey's The Absence and his review of the book I'm currently in the midst of Act of Will by A.J. Hartley

If you're looking for another opinion on The Absence by Bill Hussey check out Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews. After reading both reviews I'm really looking forward to reading some of Hussey's work but I'm having a hell of a time tracking down his first novel Through The Glass, Darkly. Might have to import it.

Speaking of importing I'm going to do just that through for Mark Charan Newton's latest novel Nights of Valljamur. The Fantasy Book Critic also has a stellar interview with Mark posted so make sure to check that out as well.

Also stumbled upon Highlander's Book Reviews for the first time this past week and was veryl impressed with his review of Rain by Conrad Williams. I think I'm going to have to track down a copy of it for myself. I was also purviewing the archives and came across his review of Read by Dawn: Volume 3. Hadn't heard of this anthology before but looks very interesting.

I mentioned it on her blog but I'll mention it again here Mulluane is a book reviewing machine! Her reviews of A Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone were excellent. I really like her review style. It's very informal and reads as if she's a friend giving you advice of what to read next. Not content to rest on her laurels though she's already reviewing a new series of books starting with Book 1 of the Worldweavers Series: Gift of the Unmage.

Last thing I wanted to mention was as I was reading The Blood of the Muse and took a look at A Note About Review Grades. His philosophy about reviewing books really resonated with me so for all you bloggers out there I think its worth a gander.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: The Silver Spike

2009 continues to be the year of Glen Cook for me as I jump back into his Black Company series with The Silver Spike, a transitional novel set between The Books of the North and the Books of the South. The story begins directly after the events of The White Rose and we’re quickly reintroduced to some old friends. So as not to spoil anything for people who haven’t read Cook’s earlier Black Company novels all I’ll say is that Croaker is noticeable by his absence.

After reading the original three novels you can’t help but begin to feel an affinity for Croaker and the narrative he weaves throughout the stories. His perspective on things is cynical and grounded. To put it frankly Croaker doesn’t bullshit. He tells it like it is. So while his blunt narrative is missed Cook introduces some great new characters to the fold which pick-up the slack in the narrative department.

It has become apparent to me after reading many of Cook’s work that the author has a talent for bringing background characters to the forefront as well as introducing interesting new characters to each book he pens. In this novel Case, a friend of Raven’s from the Barrowlands takes front and center and we watch the story unfold through his eyes. He’s a bit uncouth some might even say dimwitted but his voice is similar to Croakers if not as witty. Case lends a nice sense of continuity to the novel as he’s able to shed some light on the events which occurred in The White Rose and also the history of the enigma known as Raven.

Besides Case, we’re also introduced to a foursome of some of the most interesting characters you’ll ever have the pleasure to read about. They go by the names Smeds, Tully, Timmy and Old Man Fish respectively. They play a central role in this book and each time they were the focal point of a chapter it was a true pleasure reading about their exploits. Their plan for retrieving the Silver Spike from the tree was so simple it was genius. By the time the book ended these characters ranked right up there with Marron Shed from Shadows Linger, which is saying something as Marron Shed is one of my most beloved characters of all-time.

While the characters were fantastic as always, the beginning of this book didn’t capture my heart right a way. It took me quite some time to warm up to this novel as the first fifty pages appeared to be nothing more than a rehash of the previous Black Company stories. As the characters began to take on more depth and the narratives began to weave together, I felt a bit ashamed for ever having doubted Mr. Cook for even a second. The story had me completely engrossed until I finished the last page.

Cook writes in such a way that you never know what’s going to happen. Characters don’t do what you expect them to they do what’s logical to them. The characters feel as if they’re making decisions for themselves rather than having the man with the pen making the decisions for them. There’s just certain free flow in his writing that I find lacking in so many other fantasy novels out there.

So if you haven’t picked up any Glen Cook novels yet, I suggest you get cracking and find yourself the first three novels of the Black Company or the Dread Empire novels as they’re both just incredible reads.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: The Etched City

The Etched City by K.J. Bishop is a book I’ve been wanting to read for nearly four years. For some reason I just never picked it up. I let it linger in the back of my mind for some time and every once in awhile a remembrance would hit me; I’ve got to pick this book up.

Finally I pulled the trigger and I’m so glad I did. It ended up being one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. The Etched City is now one of my favorite novels of all-time and one I plan to reread at some point down the road.

Now on the back of the book there’s a quote from Publisher’s Weekly comparing The Etched City to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, which to be blunt I think is ridiculous. The novel that K.J. Bishop has crafted in my mind doesn’t resemble either author’s work in the least. This work is much darker than Perdido Street Station and never as lubricious and incomprehensible as King’s Dark Tower series often becomes.

This book is a strange beast in that it is continuously morphing into something different and unexpected. It’s this metamorphosis the novel is constantly undergoing that is a true joy to read. Bishop manages to mix the darkest dalliances with such flights of fantastical whimsy that it is impossible not to gasp at her prowess as a story teller.

She also hits you when you least expect it with her writing. You’ll be reading along at a steady clip thoroughly enjoying yourself and then from nowhere you’ve just read some of the most profound passages of your life. This occurs more than once as Bishop’s insights into the human psyche is inestimable.

So please do yourselves a favor and pick this book. It is a work worthy of more attention.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Nugget Reviews

A Nugget Review is just a small review.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon is the speculative fiction communities little darling and I did enjoy it quite a bit. Not as much as some others but all around it was a good solid mystery yarn with good character development and world building. Anyone can come up with a great concept but its all about the execution. Morgan executes his resleeving concept admirably. Was a bit slow at times for me which lost it a few points but overall I a very good novel.


The Company by K.J. Parker

I really enjoyed this novel as Parker interlaces the history of the character with the present very nicely. The story unfolds from multiple perspectives which is nice as we see situations from different perspectives. To me it’s Robinson Crusoe with swords. It is in the Fantasy genre but it has only a very small underlying fantastic element which you’ll see if you read the novel.


Book on Tape: The Business by Iain M. Banks

This is my first time listening to a book on tape and I’ll say one thing for books on tape they make a twelve hour car ride go much faster. At parts the novel’s dialogue seems a bit trite when read out loud and the cadence was awkward. I did like the narrators female voice with English accent. All of the male parts though seemed to have been read by an effeminate geek. Its tough to take some of the main villains seriously when their voices sound like a mixture of Boy George and Urkel.

The story was good however.


Fahrenheit 451

Amazing book. Read it for the first time in high school. I have reread it many times since and each time discover something new. Bradbury has crafted an exquisite masterpiece with this one.


Your Blog Is Fabulous!

I've been gone for quite some time. As I was making the rounds to some of my favorite blogs it was nice to see that Plinydogg thinks I'm fabulous! (Well me and four other exceptional blogs.)

The standard is to now list 5 things that you're obsessed with and can not live without. So here goes nothing:

----Long Hiatuses From Blogging: I love sharing my thoughts on books with people, but I need to recharge my batteries every so often. When I start over analyzing books and start thinking about what I'm going to write in my review of the book instead of simply enjoying the book I need to take a break.

----My dog: I've always had big dogs. Golden Retrievers, Labs, Irish Terriers but when I saw my current dog Missy at the Humane Society I fell in love with her. She's a 15 lb Schnoodle (Cross between a poodle and a Schnauzer) and besides my girlfriend she's the love of my life.

----Books: Obviously I love reading, but the thing I like most about books is that they require no technology what so ever to work. As long as your brain is working and you can crack a book open it's going to work and to me that is incredibly comforting.

----Exercise: Without exercise I'd be fatter than I am now.

----HBO: I'm one of those sanctimonious sons of guns who like to say at parties with their noses raised "Oh I don't watch much TV." and it's the truth I watch one TV show a week and that's history channel's Ax Men. However I watch a ton of HBO shows on DVD while I'm working out. I love them all. Deadwood, The Sopranos, The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Rome if its on HBO its quality.

Now I'm supposed to nominate 5 blogs for this award as well but I think I'm going to skip this portion as I'm about a month behind the times and every blog on my blogroll is worthy of a nomination.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Review: The Steel Remains

Fantasy has grown up and many aren’t going to recognize nor are they going to like the man it’s become. You try so hard to raise ‘em well but eventually they become their own man. They cast off the shackles of their elders as you won’t find poetical prose and happy go lucky elves in Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains what you get is a nihilistic, immoral, depraved joyride that leaves you feeling like a good shower is in order.

I pride myself on having a thick thin. There’s not much that makes me feel uncomfortable however The Steel Remains left me uncomfortable throughout. Some novels allude to sexual intercourse The Steel Remains is not one of those. Both homosexual and heterosexual intercourse is written about in graphic detail. I was cringing as I read whole passages about the main characters Ringil’s carnal appetites.

As well if you’re offended by the use of fuck, cunt, bitch, slut, shit, faggot then this is not the novel for you. The word cocksucker is used as much in this novel as it is in the show Deadwood, which means its used quite a lot. So if you don’t like your fantasy full of sex and foul language avoid this one.

If you do however enjoy your fantasy full of sex and foul language you’re in for a treat. This is by far the most adult fantasy I have ever read. There are a number of complex issues that are dealt with throughout the novel such as the aforementioned homosexuality. Also religion, family, slavery are all dealt with in a manner which makes you reflect on each issue and may even make you question your own beliefs. The author pulls no punches in his writing. It is abrasive and puts things in your face that are going to make you uncomfortable.

Ringil, the main protagonist is a homosexual but Morgan does an admirable job of not letting this one small facet of Ringil’s life become his defining characteristic. He fleshes out Ringil with so many other facets of his personality that his homosexuality while ever present doesn’t overpower his other personality traits. Ringil is the asshole friend you have. He’s clearly an asshole but he does have just enough redeeming qualities for you to like him and root for him to succeed.

The world of The Steel Remains is an interesting place as they have fought and defeated the great evil which encroached upon their lives but now with the evil defeated they’re at a loss of what to do now. Life goes on, but for many the scars of the great war they fought will never heal and it has left a generation of humanity feeling very lost and confused. The world they fought so hard to defend isn’t what they believed it to be. Its this common link and nihilism that runs throughout this book that makes it so dark. Even when humor is mixed in, the darkness is always there just under the surface.

Richard Morgan set out to write a fantasy novel for adults and he’s succeeded. This is one that is going to stick with you for awhile and it’s not going to be an uplifting experience. It is an experience I think any reader however should embark on. This novel is going to push your limits when it comes to good taste and in my opinion it’s always good to see just where your own limits lie.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: A Cruel Wind: Chronicles of the Dread Empire

A Cruel Wind: Chronicles of the Dread Empire collects three novels that together form one of the defining fantasy series ever written. Glen Cook’s writing is a great flood that washes fantasy tropes and cliché’s away and in their place we are given three novels that make us reflect on what it means to be human.

Love, Longing, Loss, Friendship, Betrayal, Cowardice, Pride, Prejudice, Regret, Hope, Intelligence, Empathy, Sympathy, Bravery, Destruction, Rebirth, Hate, Manipulation are all displayed in a rich tapestry of human emotion involving hundreds of characters in a world based loosely on our own.

Glen Cook has succeeded in creating a world not only as rich as our own but in many ways richer. The images Cook conjures with his simple prose are haunting as the story unveils itself not only from the perspective of the mighty but also the lowly.

On more than one occasion I found chills running down my spine. Words don’t do these novels justice but I’ll try.

A Shadow of All Night Falling

I hated this novel. I had to force myself to continue reading it. At page forty I finally put it down, it had completely burned me out on fantasy. For the next month I read nothing but nonfiction.

Perhaps the nonfiction acted as a palette cleanser because when I picked up A Shadow of All Night Falling some things began to click into place. I no longer hated the characters in fact many I came to like. No doubt, Mocker is an acquired taste. His language can oftentimes read like little more than gibberish.

While I still had to sludge my way through the novel by the end I thought it was okay, a decent if somewhat typical fantasy yarn. The odd pacing and lack of motivations for the character’s actions still left me somewhat disappointed. As a stand alone, this novel is average at best. When read as a whole with the other two novels in this omnibus it’s easier to see what this novel was meant to do.

It is essentially the foundation for the next two novels. It provides an introduction to the characters and a shared history that is then referred to over the course of the next two novels.


October’s Baby

In October’s Baby Glen Cook begins to find his voice as a writer. None of the tediousness of reading A Shadow of All Night Falling remains. Instead the cast of characters we were introduced in the first novel come into their own. The author has clearly found his focus as you begin to empathize with each character and find yourself enmeshed in the world Cook is conjuring.

Building upon the first book the character’s rich history is drawn on to add much needed depth to each of the characters. Perhaps it’s because we are given more time with each character individually then in the first novel but throughout this novel you really get to know and love each of the characters.

Ten years have passed since the events of A Shadow Of All Night Falling and none of the character’s are completely happy with their lot in life. The longing of each character for something else will lead them down a path they thought they’d never walk again. As we go along with them on their journey we are taken on an incredible ride of realpolitik along with some of the best military fantasy I’ve read since ASoIF.

Battles are won and lost on twists of fate, tactics and planning do play a factor but the tiniest thing can sway a battle and possibly the course of an entire war. This unpredictability both in the battles and in the narrative make October’s Baby an exceptional work of Fantasy. The mix of the fantastic and mundane leave the reader wanting more and luckily…we get it.


All Darkness Met

All Darkness Met is a work worthy of the title best fantasy novel of all time. There is no doubt in my mind that this novel along with its two predecessors are going to be read 25, 50 and even 100 years from now if there’s any justice in the universe.

The continuity that carries over from the first two novels is unbelievable. A small throw away sentence from the first novel comes back to have ramifications in the third. The class battle that existed in the second still lingers many years past. Minor characters reappear to assert themselves more fully in the story.

This novel truly completes the series as everything in the Dread Empire series is weaved, smashed and pulled together bringing a fusion between these three novels that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. This novel manages to retroactively make its two predecessors better; a remarkable feat.

Throughout the novel the story jumps from past to present and back again. New characters are introduced as the story continues to unfold. There are heartbreaking scenes, scenes that are uplifting and some that you’re downright distraught after reading. I’ve felt chills down my spine when reading other novels but never to the extent and frequency with which they came in this novel.

There’s nothing more you can ask for from an author then what Glen Cook gives here. On the pages of this novel Glen Cook put his heart and soul into this story and it shows. When a writer writes something he cares so deeply for it can not help but to be transmitted to the reader.

This novel is a classic.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reflections On My Collections #3

Last but not least are the four books above.

We have to the two prequels in the Dread Empire series collected together in A Fortress of Shadow. Also don't forget this THURSDAY, I'll have my 3 in 1 Review of A Cruel Wind posted. I'll give a brief spoiler by saying that is a favorable review of Mr. Cook's work.

Also have Leningrad Nights by Graham Joyce one of the earliest books published PS Publishing, so very glad to add that one to my PS collection.

The last two books come from Delirium Books. City of the Dead by Brian Keene is supposedly the IT book of Zombie fiction has a lot of hype to live up to. Slime After Slime by Mark McLaughlin is supposed to be really good for gross out humor so I'll try to report back on that one by year's end as well.

I've got a lot of reading to do and to make matters worse I went to the local library and picked up some more book as well.

Better get at it!

Postscript: I think from now on I better take photos of all the books in one bunch otherwise it becomes a lot of post like we have above.

Reflections On My Collections #2

If I can do a little bragging for a second, anyone else notice how many great small press publisher's Michigan produces? Moving from Phantasia Press we go into the current King of the Hill when it comes to genre publishing that of course being Michigan publisher Subterranean Press.

The copy of Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest is the second copy I've purchased. This one isn't for me though. I'm visiting one of my best friends along with his wife down in Atlanta in March and I decided he might need a little bit of southern discomfort in the form of Cherie Priest's southern fried horror.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest I'll admit is for me. As are Allen Steele's The Last Science Fiction Writer and Proteus Sails Again by Thomas M. Disch.

White Noise Press produces some of the best looking chapbooks I've ever seen. The three above are the first three I've managed to get my hands on, but in the future I'm going to try and add some more to my collection. Just leafing through these books the artwork and attention to detail is awesome. Plus The Last Stand of the Great Texas Patrack is something I can relate to: It's a story of a man when his love of books and book collecting become more than just an innocent obsession. I'll have to make sure to keep my priorities straight.

Reflections On My Collections #1

In this day and age when everything can be delivered overnight I’ve really come to enjoy Media Mail. Yes it slow, usually takes about 7-14 days to arrive on your doorstep but that’s fun for me. The anticipation of knowing a book is on its way and not knowing when it will arrive is a great feeling.

Just so happens that today for whatever reason I got six packages all at once so it was a regular bonanza at the Holtz household with bubble wrap and packing peanuts strewn everywhere.

Here’s a look at the books I purchased for my collection:

Phantasia Press was a relatively small publisher based out of Michigan which ran a first class operation for a number of years. The titles above were both released by them as special limited editions.

Being a huge fan of Phillip Jose Farmer especially his Riverworld novels I had to pick up River of Eternity. River of Eternity which is better known as To Your Scattered Bodies Go is how Farmer wanted to tell the story before his editor's forced him to expand the novel, change character names etc. Phantasia Press heard about the novel and somehow tracked down the earliest manuscript they could find, not even Farmer is sure if this is the earliest manuscript or the second earliest. I'm very interested to read this novel to see how it compares to To Your Scattered Bodies Go which I loved.

(Limited to 500 Signed/Slipcased Editions, Also released in Trade Format)

Eros Ascending by Mike Resnick is about a space brothel. Enough said.

(Limited to 300 Signed/Slipcased Editions, Also released in Trade Format)

If you want to see all of the books Phantasia Press published you can find their website here

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Sunday Review Review: Upcoming Review Edition

Another week in the books and we've got a slew of great reviews for you yet again this week. Also in the next week I plan on having my massive review of Glen Cook's A Cruel Wind: Chronicles of the Dread Empire up so look forward to that.

Without further adieu lets get to the reviews.

Week after week dark wolf consistently puts out great content. This week is no different take a gander at his review of Tim Lebbon's The Reach of Children.

Aidan at A Dribble of Ink gives Kurt Vonnegut a shot for the first time here's the review of The Sirens of Titan

For some pulpy goodness Blood of the Muse has your fix with his review of Killer Tease by Danny Hogan

The Speculative Fiction Junkie has hooked me on his current speculative fiction of choice that being D.M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series. Here's his review of the latest installment, Lamplighter

John at Grasping for the Wind has a review of the recent release Midwinter by Matthew Sturges

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Julian: A Christmas Story

Julian: A Christmas Story by Robert Charles Wilson gives us a glimpse into a world that finds itself struggling to determine what course to take after an apocalypse of sorts. The Church of the Dominion is in control of the thoughts and minds of the people and looks to build a morally upright Christian Society so that the evils of the Secular Age don’t revisit the present.

The Church of the Dominion’s presence can be felt in every facet of life. While the government is not a complete theocracy the lines of Church and State have become so blurred that its impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. A truly horrifying scenario as the Church wields ultimate power and has rewritten history in such a way that technological progress has been completely stalled. For instance according to the Church’s history man has never set foot on the moon. (Moon Landing Hoax aficionado’s rejoice.)

The United States has returned to a simpler time much like the 19th and 20th century mixed with a touch of Feudalism. Railroads and steam engines along with horses are used as the major means of transportation. Electricity is used only sparingly and then only in major metropolitan areas such as the U.S. Capital, New York City. It’s in these tenuous times that the story of Julian Comstock begins.

Julian Comstock the nephew to the President of these 60 United States is an intriguing character. He has a great number of personality quirks that lead many people to question his morale scruples, some even go so far as to say he’s a sodomite. It is these same personality quirks that will inevitably make him a great man one day.

Julian’s story unfolds from the perspective of the stories narrator Adam Hazzard one of Julian’s only friends. The narrative does a good job of detailing the minute as well as events on a grand scale. Hindsight is twenty-twenty as they say and Adam is writing a history of Julian Comstock as a young man, alluding to various events that happen after the story unfolds. It’s these allusions that make this novella feel like a single chapter in a larger autobiographical work on the life of Julian Comstock.

That being said the story is satisfying the way it stands. It gives us a nice beginning, middle and end. There’s closure at the end of the story while leaving it open for perhaps an expanded work of some kind.

Wilson crafts the story in such a way as we empathize with Julian as both a boy struggling with the responsibilities of his station in life and as a reluctant history changing force. It’s this juxtaposition that gives the novel a certain shimmer and it’s yet another jewel from PS Publishing.


Post Script: After doing a little research it turns out that Robert Charles Wilson has expanded this novella into a full-length novel.

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America will be released on June 9, 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review: Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling

With Monster Blood Tatoo: Foundling author D.M. Cornish has created an imaginative world filled with memorable characters that will leave you smiling about their exploits for days after you put the novel down. It has been nearly a week since I finished Foundling and thoughts still linger in my mind about the world which I spent a better part of two days visiting. It’s a world rife with excitement, danger and intrigue and D.M. Cornish is the creator who brought life to this world and from what I can tell he didn’t even rest on the seventh day.

Monster Blood Tattoo's world building is obviously a labor of love for D.M. Cornish as his attention to detail rivals any other author writing in the genre today. In the back of the novel you will find a one hundred and twenty-three page Explicarium: Being a Glossary of Terms & Explanations including Appendices. In this Explicarium we are shown a detailed map of the Half-Continent. When I say detailed I mean we see the continent down to its tiniest detail. AAA would endorse this map, that’s how good it is.

Along with the map we are given a number of appendices. There’s a calendar for the entire year, holidays, there’s even a currency conversion chart. This is an author who has spent some time constructing his world. He realizes that god is in the details and these details lend credibility to the world and its characters when you get into the meat of the story.

Each character encountered feels fully fleshed out. From the main protagonist Rossamund, to the monsters, down to the little gopher at the wayhouse each character feels at home in this novel. The only way I can put it more clearly would be to say the world D.M. Cornish has created is fully-realized. The thought I got after putting the novel down was that the characters in these novels continue to exist and live their lives even when we’re not reading about them.

High praise for the author indeed but completely deserved.

The story is nicely paced throughout, while it can be a little slow at some points the action will always pick up; oftentimes out of thin air, which adds some spontaneity to the story. This is truly an example of “it's not the destination but the journey that’s the important part”.

The journey D.M. Cornish takes us on in this novel is a reminder of youthful exuberance and finding ones way in the world. This is a journey I recommend any reader young or old taking. You’ll be richer for the experience.