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.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Sunday Review Review: No Foreplay Edition

Lets just get right to it.

Dark Wolf's up to his old tricks pumping out quality content like there's no tomorrow. Treat yourself to a review of Stephen King's bouncing baby boy Joe Hill's Gunpowder followed by K.J. Parker's The Company

Liviu C. Suciu of Fantasy Book Critic has a review of a book that slipped under my radar. I am always interested in the culture of the Far East so this one sounds like its right my alley. Check out the review of Heart of the Ronin and see if it might be a novel you'd enjoy.

Graeme gives John Marco a try for the first time. See what he liked and didn't like about Starfinder

What if the Roman Empire never fell? What would our world look like today is the premise that Rominatas by Sophia McDougall looks to answer. Does Ms. McDougall get it right? Adam Whitehead tells us what he thinks.

Blood of the Muse has a great interview with Brent Weeks so anyone interested in learning about one of Speculative Fiction's hot newcomers check the interview out. Very good interview in my opinion.

Thursday, February 12, 2009 + Subterranean Press = Bankruptcy

I think I’m late to the party, how come no one told me about this? the bastion of bibliophiles has some killer deals on Subterranean Press books.

I just picked up a signed limited edition Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon for $47.50, that’s more than $25.00 off the cover price.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Here are a few more of the deals:

Drood by Dan Simmons

If you're interested in this one you might want to try to get your order in now as Subterranean Press is stating on their website that they'll be cutting orders to large wholesalers and online retailers.

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

Project Moonbase and Others by Robert A. Heinlein

Most of Subterranean Press's current catalog as well as preorders are on so do a quick search and see if you can't save yourself some cash.

I on the other hand think I’m going to cry. I love supporting local businesses as Subterranean Press is about a hour down the road from me but I also love getting new books. With all the money I could save shopping on Amazon I could’ve saved some serious dough to buy more books. Oh well better to show up to the party fashionably late than not at all.

Has anyone else been buying their Subterranean Books through

Review: Questions for a Soldier

In my opinion John Scalzi is nothing short of the second coming of Robert Heinlein. I devour everything he writes so when I heard about Questions for a Soldier a small chapbook released by Subterranean Press in 2005, I had to have it. For the last year I’ve scrimped and saved my pennies and kept an eye on eBay for one in my price range. Finally a couple weeks ago I purchased Questions for a Soldier at a Buy It Now price of $100.00. A steep sum but a small price to pay for some excellent writing or so I thought.

After reading through the chapbook with kid gloves on I came to the realization that Questions for a Soldier was rather dull.

After my initial disappoint wore off, my second wave of disappoint hit. I paid $100.00 for this? Man I am a sucker.

For those of you who don’t know what Questions for a Soldier is let me sum it up for you. It’s a 28 page chapbook set in the Old Man’s War universe. John Perry is on a Public Relations tour after the Battle of Coral and this is the Q&A from his stop on New Goa. There’s no story per say just the back and forth between a combat veteran and some civilians of the Colonial Defense Force. Perry shoots from the hip with his answers. No censoring what so ever as he says what’s on his mind.

It’s pretty lackluster.

Besides the writing there are some wonderful illustrations by Bob Eggleton. That being said and all due respect to Mr. Eggleton but I buy a book primarily for the writing/entertainment value which there was little to none in this chapbook.

Would I recommend this chapbook? If you are a hardcore John Scalzi collector and want to have all of his work then I might tell you to buy this. It’s bad though. I consider myself a Scalzi collector and I’m even thinking of selling my copy if that tells you anything.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: Those Who Went Remain There Still

Cherie Priest’s Those Who Went Remain There Still is a rip-roaring, page turning adventure romp set in the Kentucky Wilderness. There’re feudin’ families (Manders and Coys), an American trailblazer (Daniel Boone), and one of the most intriguing monster you’ll see this side of the Mississip’. (Bird Creature).

Priest’s simple prose is like a well baited hook. You simply can’t help devouring sentence after sentence. Before you know it you’re hooked and there’s absolutely no way you’re getting off the line. Like a fisherman who knows what bait to use; Priest knows what will catch and keep a readers attention. The three well paced story arcs all leave the reader on the edge of their seat. One arc acts as a history for the story, while the other two become interlaced with each other.

In the first arc we’re introduced to Daniel Boone and his battle of wits with the bird creature and it is just plain good old fashioned story telling. The way Priest portrays Boone is perfect. She makes this iconic figure feel human with all the foibles of regular men. We don’t get a larger then life legend of modern history but rather just a man who wants to protect his men and is pissed off that he can’t.

Next we’re introduced to Meshack Coy followed in the next chapter by his Uncle John Coy. Both of these men have managed to escape from the backwoods of Kentucky and make new lives for themselves. However, they’re pulled back into old feuds as one of their relatives passes away. Even in death the relation is a nasty bastard as he’s left his will deep in a cave that from all accounts is haunted. Both men reluctantly journey home one last time vowing that this would be the last time either sets foot back in their hometown.

Lastly there’s one more character that needs mentioning and that is the bird creature itself. The bird creature is absolutely terrifying. It is relentless in pursuit of Boone and his men, picking them off one by one and it is seemingly invulnerable. We don’t know the reason why it kills. Perhaps animal nature, perhaps defending its turf we simply don’t know, it just kills. Yet somehow despite its murderous nature Priest manages to make us empathize with creature. The whole Boone story arc just completely blew my mind.

The bird creature that Priest has created is the best monster I’ve seen in the least ten years. It is absolutely horrifying in nature and yet it’s so simple. The bird creature belongs to the backwoods of Kentucky like Godzilla belongs to Tokyo.

By the end of the book all these story arcs come to a satisfying conclusion having interwoven with each other making an already exceptional novel truly great. This is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Cherie Priest is a writer on the top of her game and Those Who Went Remain There Still is the frontrunner for Book of the Year on my list.

I can not recommend this novel enough.


Post Script: For those of you who opt to go with the Limited Signed Edition of the novel from Subterranean Press you’ll also get a Chapbook of additional material.

While the Chapbook isn’t anything especially earth shattering, it does shed some light on the authors creative process along with her inspiration for the novel. For those wondering, it was largely based around her own personal family history. The chapbook contains several clever anecdotes about the research process and the difficulty of getting people to remember the past.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Sunday Review Review: Building My Library Back Up Edition

About three years ago I went through a non-materialism phase and sold off most of my material possessions. Books, DVDs, TVs, Videogames, Clothes, Furniture you name it I pretty much got rid of it. Now I'm still not very materialistic but getting rid of everything WAS a bit extreme. Most of the things I got rid of I don't miss in the least. One thing I did miss however were my books. So over the past year I've slowly but surely been building up my library and in the next couple weeks hope to have a post about my small book collection.

So look forward to with out further adeiu lets take a look around the Speculative Fiction Blogosphrere.

Plinydogg aka the Speculative Fiction Junkie is quickly becoming my go to reviewer. He's introduced me to two novels so far which I've loved both Shadow of the Wind and Those Who Went Remain There Still. In his latest review he takes a look at Danielle Parker's The Infinite Instant. When you're done with that review make sure to purview his old reviews as well as they're all great.

Likewise, I've just discovered Neth Space this week and the site is great. Ken currently has a review of the much talked about and highly touted Lamentation by author Ken Scholes. Nice to get a variety of takes on this book as its receiving mixed reviews at the moment. Click the link to see what Ken thought.

Glen Cook is getting some love around the blogosophere.

Pat St. Denis the Godfather of Fantasy/Science Fiction bloggers has a great review of The Books of the South up. So check that out and after reading the review make sure to check out Pat's Interview with Glen Cook as well. Its a refreshingly frank interview as Glen Cook doesn't pull any punches and says whats on his mind. Nice to see an established author not editing himself. Very interesting read.

Mulluane (beautiful name by the way), has a review of Shadows Linger one of my top five favorite books of all time at her site. So check the review out and then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Shadows linger you won't be sorry.

Graeme of Graeme's Fantasy Book Review fame found himself not wanting to wake his significant other up and lucky for us he's such a gentlemen as he had no choice but to read The Secret War and give us his take on it.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great news from The Wertzone which is that authors Paul Kearny has just signed a two book deal with Solaris. The two books...are you ready for this...will be set in the world of the Macht! ***Chanelling Macho Man Randy Savage*** Ohhhh Yeeeaaaah!

Well that's it for this week...still trying to come up with a clever outro.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: Light Stealer

When I received my huge shipment of PS Publishing Books Light Stealer by James Barclay was the one I was most eager to read. I’ve read several stellar reviews of both Barclay’s trilogies; The Chronicles of Raven and The Legends of Raven and thought Light Stealer would be a great introduction to his world. Light Stealer takes place several hundred years prior to the events of the trilogies. It’s The Hobbit of the Raven World if you will.

Light Stealer focuses on the famous mage Septern who is referenced quite frequently throughout the Raven Trilogies along with four of his students. From all accounts the legend of Septern the Mage is one of the lynchpins of Balaia’s history and as such you would think we would get some great character development for this historical figure. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Barclay’s work is oftentimes criticized for how one dimensional his characters are and after reading Light Stealer. I have to agree whole heartedly. The characters never take on any depth or feel real. Rather they all feel rather cookie-cutter. Barclay doesn’t do much beyond the superficial to distinguish one from the other. We the readers are given a brief description of each of the four student’s physical traits which would be fine if a more in depth look at what made each character tick followed but it doesn’t. All we glean of the characters is that Janeth is quick witted and the teacher’s pet, Sandor is a big lug of a farm boy and so on. Yet none of this makes us care one way or the other about the characters. Not even Septern feels fully fleshed out.

With Septern, Barclay is going for the whole concept that the mage is a brilliant genius yet very naïve when it comes to the ways of the world. That’s fine but it just doesn’t ring true. Here we have the most brilliant mind in the entire world and we’re somehow supposed to believe that he has absolutely no inclination that his discovery of the Dawnthief spell (the equivalent of a Doomsday Device.) is going to lead to problems?


I could see if the guy didn’t have the best interpersonal skills or has trouble fixing a broken wagon axle but to not realize that when there is a war of attrition going on that a spell that could easily wipe out the opposition in one fell swoop is going to cause him some trouble? Well I’m sorry but that is just completely moronic.

To be fair to Barclay I think there just weren’t enough pages to tell the story he was trying to tell. The book felt very rushed as we were constantly jumping ahead and skipping large chunks of time. The book clocks in at 89 pages and in my opinion another 100 pages were needed in order to tell the story properly.

The one redeeming quality I found in this novella was the system of magic which Barclay introduces. It’s a very unique system in that it has a scientific basis. Magic like psychology and science in our world has its own distinct Colleges which each have their own distinct lores and spell books. Spells don’t pop out of thin air in this world; there is trial and error until the mage comes up with the result he’s looking for.

When magic is used there should be consequences and risks associated with it. Barclay does this perfectly as the mages are worn down by both the duration of the spell, its difficulty and the size of the spell. The longer the spell lasts the more stamina that is drained from the mage. For example, the size of the spell the mage chooses to cast could completely drain him in a matter of seconds leaving him completely vulnerable. There’s nothing else to say on this matter other than Barclay has done a superb job developing a realistic magical system for his world.

Despite the fact that I didn’t like this novella it doesn’t deter me in the least from pursuing Barclay’s other work. I have a feeling he can do some real damage with a full length novel. There were glimpses of a spectacular story here in this book and a great magic system however the lack of character development was a real turn off for me. It just never found the mark for me.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This and That

Perhaps I’m getting crotchety in my old age (25) as I just don’t have the patience for books that I once did. I’ve taken to 50 page rule. Which simply put is that if a book doesn’t have my attention by the 50th page I stop reading. Two novels have recently fallen into this category. The Gormenghast Trilogy and The Magic of Recluce.

The Gormenghast Trilogy
falls under the it’s not you it’s me category. This novel is just not clicking with me at the moment so I’m going to shelf it for the time being and return to it sometime down the road.

The Magic of Recluce falls under the awful blind date category. There’s just no chemistry. Magic of Recluce is like the party girl who may be somewhat attractive in a skanky way but what I’m looking for is a nice girl to bring home to mom. I’m so used to the gritty Fantasy of George R.R. Martin, Glen Cook, Steven Erickson and so many others that to me the Magic of Recluce just seems clichéd and trite at this point. Not for me.

In other reading news I’m tearing through A Cruel Wind: A Chronicle of the Dread Empire at the moment. I finished A Shadow of All Night Falling about a week ago and just finished October’s Baby. Taking a quick break from the series to read a few other things and then I’ll hop back in with both feet to finish off the Omnibus by reading All Darkness Met. Mr. Cook has yet to disappoint. Hope to have a review of these books up by months end.

In the next few days I also hope to have reviews of a couple more books from PS Publishing for you. The two books I’ve finished reading in the last week are The Light Stealer by James Barclay and The Human Front by Ken MacLeod. Also halfway done with VAO by Geoff Ryman.

Lastly, I received my copy of Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest from Subterranean Press and the book looks fantastic. I can’t wait to crack this one open.

I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again. Subterranean Press is a special company. The books they put out are obviously second to none. The covers are all tasteful and well done. The stories are great. Each book is carefully packaged and turn around time on orders is superb. So here’s to you Subterranean Press, I wish you many long years of making us bookworms salivate over your wares.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Review: Jigsaw Men

Some of the best stories are written when the author says to hell with everyone, I’m going to write what I want to write. There is no better example of this then Gary Greenwood’s Jigsaw Men. This novel takes a mish mash of different concepts and throws them all into a pot and begins to stir it up. A lesser chef or writer in this case would likely come out with some wretched slop not fit for a dog. However in capable hands such as Gary Greenwoods’ we are treated to one tasty jambalaya of a story.

I hate to give summaries of books when reviewing them so I’ll let the books jacket speak for itself:

In a world where Frankenstein succeeded… In a world where the Martians have invaded…In a world where the British Empire still exists… Detective Livingstone of the Metropolitan Police is assigned to the case of a missing girl, the daughter of a prominent MP. What seems to be a straightforward missing person case is soon complicated by the involvement of the underground porn industry, anti- Old World Order terrorists and a conspiracy to steal the Empire's most closely guarded secrets. Running through everything are the Jigsaw Men, the products of Frankenstein's Theorem.

On the surface this book appears to be a fairly straight forward whodunit/fantasy/science fiction/alternative history romp (if there is such a thing.) with all the trappings that make those genres great. We get tidbits of the alternative history which the writer conveys in such a way as that I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and buy into his world. We have the Jigsaw Men or Jiggers as the Brits call them fulfilling the fantasy quotient. Martian technology for the Sci-Fi. Lastly we have the classy dames and hard boiled detectives for the whodunit. What you discover as you go along though is that the novel is anything but straight forward.

While the book is an incredibly fun read with action, laughs and intrigue this book has so much depth to it. Each chapter unveils something new about the world and about the characters that inhabit it. The author slowly pulls back the curtain on his world’s history much to the readers delight. It never feels forced, rather just a natural progression within the context of the story. Ever so slowly in a slow dance of information seduction we are given a little more insight. Then some action. Then a little more insight. You think to yourself you’ve got it all figured out and then there’s a twist you never saw coming and you’re back wondering where the hell this story is going.

It’s a page turner in the truest sense of the word. The cliffhangers at the end of many chapters will force you to turn to the next page, and each page will keep you wanting more until you realized that you’ve finished the book. Upon that realization as I closed the book I thought to myself “damn that was a good story.”

In this review there were many comparisons to food and chefs so I’ll say this in closing. This book is like eating a good meal and being completely satisfied when you’re done.


After finishing this novella I had to go and scrounge up whatever I could about the author’s other works and was very happy to find that he had authored three other novels all of which I plan to pick up in the next couple months.

His other novels are:

-The Dreaming Pool

-The King Never Dies

-What Rough Beast

Books abound on my to read pile, and time is limited. However imaginative writing of this caliber deserves to skip a few spots in the Queue towards the top.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review: A Year in the Linear City

The thing I enjoy most about reading Fantasy and Science Fiction is that there’s always something to read no matter what mood strikes you. Over the last month I’ve grown a bit tired of the doorstop size books I’ve been reading and decided a change of pace was needed. I purchased a slew of novellas I’ve been wanting to read from the great small press publisher PS Publishing based out of the U.K. With bated breathe I awaited their arrival. When they showed up at my door step I eagerly scanned the books. The first one I decided to read was Paul di Fillipo’s A Year in the Linear City.

This book was a breath of fresh air and reinvigorated my thirst for speculative fiction. Prior to reading this novella I was primarily reading nonfiction but thanks to di Filippo’s wonderful world building and character development I remembered quickly what I love about speculative fiction.

The premise of this book is what hooked me. The denizens of this moderately modern city, pulsing with music and commerce, seemingly of infinite length, yet only as broad as a wide avenue, flanked on one side by Heaven, on the other by Hell. Alright I can dig it. As I mentioned before di Filippo’s world building is second to none and is not as heavy handed as you see in many novel lengthy books. (I’m looking at you Recluce!) Within the 90 some odd pages of the novella the world takes shape and you enjoy all the wonderful intricacies that exist within the cityscape. The world is so huge and we get such a small glimpse of it that I can’t help but think of all fodder di Filippo has for more possible stories set in this world. The novella really conjures up memories of Riverworld for me as it just needs to be explored in more than one story.

Within this world which di Filippo created his characters have a field day living their lives. Its fun to see the characters interact with each other and explore the world around them while philosophizing about their existence most specifically their mortality which is constantly shoved in their faces by having Heaven and Hell on either side of them. The characters are all diversified with none of the cookie cutter characters found in many novel length books. (I’m looking at you Recluce!)

The last thing I’m going to mention about this book is that the pacing of the story is very odd. It’s tough for me to articulate, but something is just off about it and I mean that in a good way. It doesn’t stick to the usual narrative structure. Rather than one seamless story arc we’re given numerous minor subplots dealing with drug addiction, diplomacy and book deals.

Overall I can’t say enough good things about this novella. Its tight, focused, oddly paced and mostly importantly a great read.