28 May, 2010

Authors You've Gotta Read - Kurt Vonnegut

I love an author who can get me laughing out loud while reading and only rarely do I find one. And I'm talking about busting up laughing with people awkwardly staring at me.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of those authors as will be shown below. He is probably most famous for Slaughterhouse-Five [US] [UK], but my favorite by far has to be his science fiction piece, The Sirens of Titan [US] [UK]. Recently, I listened to Kurt's autobiography, A Man Without a Country and found some priceless bits of advice...

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.All they do is show you've been to college."

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your sould grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a firend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different.
Gems only Vonnegut could give the world.

27 May, 2010

Review - Dante's Journey by JC Marino

A flash of light and Detective Joe Dante steps through. No longer on the cobblestone streets of 1961 Boston, Joe finds himself in a horrifying new world-Hell itself. Joe was in hot pursuit of his family's killer, drug lord Filippo Argenti, when both were killed, and isn't about to let a little thing like death slow him down. So, with a healthy dose of New England stubbornness and the help of a mysterious guide, Virgil DiMini, Joe must evade angry demons, and search ever-lower through the rings of the original Dante's Inferno in hopes of finding justice for his wife and children. However, Joe will soon discover that behind every sin lies a secret and each secret revealed could land Joe in an eternity of hot water... VERY hot.

Dante's Journey [US] [UK] was definitely an interesting book and although it is somewhat a retelling of an older story, it's completely unlike anything I've ever read. I'm starting to sound like a broken record if you've been reading my recent reviews, but I've had a good reading spell, what can I say.

Dante's Journey starts out immediately following Joe Dante as he arrives in Hell, although he would believe otherwise, but the rest of the book alternates chapters in Hell and with Joe's life before Hell, but don't try to convince Dante he's dead - he won't believe you.

I've never read Dante's Inferno, but after some quick research and after speaking with the author, I learned that Marino followed closely to the depictions of the 9 circles of Hell as told in the original poem. I had lots of fun awaiting the new tortures at each level and I thought Marino did a great job getting the characters through surprising twists, turns, and realizations to each of the new levels.

There are plenty of demons that abound including insect types, lizard, and even robotic - all employed to inflict the perfect amount of torture on the damned individual and all given ample opportunity and cause to chase after Joseph Dante.

Early in the book, this was actually a bit of an annoyance for me because Dante would almost purposely and unnecessarily attract these critters in a way that really didn't make sense. I mean, Dante is a smart guy, but he would act a bit dumb at times and this came off somewhat contrived. Luckily that only happened once or twice at the beginning and was no longer a problem for the rest of the book.

Dante's Journey is an interesting take on the afterlife that is non-stop action both as we follow the protagonist in Hell and in his home life before we find him in Hell. I thought I could pretty much fit in at any of the levels so that was a good cause for some introspection and realizations of my own. This made Dante's Journey not only a fun ride, but also a bit of a thought-provoking book at least for me.

There were also plenty of characters that you couldn't help but like even some that you wanted to hate but couldn't, playing into some of the twists that were unexpected. Because Hell had its own sense of time, most of the levels of Hell brought new people from Roman soldiers to Vietnam vets and even gangsters and some good lingo from the 80s. I really got attached to Joe Dante and I'm excited to read more about him.

I was really impressed with Dante's Journey and couldn't wait to come home from work each day to get back to Hell. :) This is just one more example why it's such a good idea to give small presses a chance, they can really blow you away.

When Should You Read Dante's Journey?

Dante's Journey may fit that urban fantasy itch, but really it's just a great story I'd recommend for anyone at anytime. It's self-contained and good for a break from the latest epic series.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

JC Marino has 2 more books planned for Joseph Dante.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

26 May, 2010

It's News To Me #8

My wife's out of town for the week. She gets to spend a vacation with her family on a house boat at Lake Powell and I'm stuck at home working. :( The dishes have already given me an eviction notice. :D

Cover Art

I am one of the many eagerly awaiting the release of Scott Lynch's The Republic of Thieves and really they've outdone themselves with the UK cover. Loving it. The Lies of Locke Lamora [US] [UK] was probably my favorite read from last year, so check it out if you haven't yet.


There's a great interview with Brandon Sanderson over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist that had been in the works for a while and which is a team-up between Werthead, Neth, Larry and Pat. In it, he reveals a bit more about The Way of Kings and addresses the reaction to Mat in The Gathering Storm. Really interesting stuff and I'm getting that much more excited about The Way of Kings.

Emilia Clarke has been cast to replace Tamzin Merchant as Daenerys for HBO's Game of Thrones. Not that I've seen anything Clarke's done, but I never thought Merchant was the right fit for the role, so I'm glad for the change up.

I haven't read Retribution Falls (Tale of the Ketty Jay Book 1) yet, but there have been way too many great reviews and it's all but inevitable. Book 2, Black Lung Captain comes out this summer in the UK while Retribution Falls [US] [UK] just came out last month in the US. Here's some blurbage on book 2:
Darian Frey is down on his luck. He can barely keep his squabbling crew fed and his rickety aircraft in the sky. Even the simplest robberies seem to go wrong. It's getting so a man can't make a dishonest living any more. Enter Captain Grist. He's heard about a crashed aircraft laden with the treasures of a lost civilisation, and he needs Frey's help to get it. There's only one problem. The craft is lying in the trackless heart of a remote island, populated by giant beasts and subhuman monsters. Dangerous, yes. Suicidal, perhaps. Still, Frey's never let common sense get in the way of a fortune before. But there's something other than treasure on board that aircraft. Something that a lot of important people would kill for. And it's going to take all of Frey's considerable skill at lying, cheating and stealing if he wants to get his hands on it . . . Strap yourself in for another tale of adventure and debauchery, pilots and pirates, golems and daemons, double-crosses and double-double-crosses. The crew of the Ketty Jay are back!

Probably the funniest show out there and continuing my Lord of the Rings theme, Flight of the Conchords (on HBO) gives a warning to Frodo...

And that's the news...at least to me.

25 May, 2010

Final Towers of Midnight Cover Released

Dragonmount has just posted the final cover art for Towers of Midnight, including the back of the dust jacket. Enjoy!

What do you think? Personally, I like it much better than, well, most of the previous art...

21 May, 2010

Review - The Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams

Unlike any book I've ever read, The Mirrored Heavens [US] [UK] blasts out the gates and never lets up. I have to admit that I'm not the most well-read when it comes to science fiction (I'm working on it), but I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this story about a very real future world where terrorists are attempting to take over.

It's not too often that you read a book that's completely told in the present tense. This annoyed me at first, but the more I got used to it the more I realized how much it actually plays into the ideas of the book, whether intentional or not, it was actually quite impressive.
In the 22nd century, the first wonder of a brave new world is the Phoenix Space Elevator, designed to give mankind greater access to the frontier beyond Earth. Cooperatively built by the United States and the Eurasian Coalition, the Elevator is also a grand symbol of superpower alliance following a second cold war. And it’s just been destroyed.

With suspicions rampant, armies and espionage teams are mobilized across the globe and beyond. Enter Claire Haskell and Jason Marlowe, U.S. counterintelligence agents and former lovers—though their memories may only be constructs implanted by their spymaster. Now their agenda is to trust no one. For as the crisis mounts, the lives of all involved will converge in one explosive finale—and a startling aftermath that will rewrite everything they’ve ever known—about their mission, their world, and themselves.
The Mirrored Heavens is told from four different points of view and each person is either a mech or a razor. Mechs and razors are always paired together as an elite team operating within one of the many organizations working against each other in a massive power struggle. One operates essentially as a hacker and brains of the operation and the other is the physical presence.

Razers can connect to Zone, which is in effect the World Wide Web times a bagillion, and hack through systems and even into other agents and each agent has the ability to communicate with each other through the Zone.

As I mentioned earlier, the pace is blazing fast, which serves as both a benefit and a detriment to the story. It keeps you reading and surprised at each twist and turn but this is done in lieu of world building and character development.

The Mirrored Heavens switches back and forth between characters many times very quickly (like every page) and this made it hard to remember where all there characters were exactly. Sometimes I wouldn't figure it out until a sentence or two before the next character came in.

Overall, this was great fast-paced fun with lots of futuristic action and some great twists that make for an excellent ending.

When Should You Read The Mirrored Heavens?

The Mirrored Heavens is filled with great ideas and moves at an amazing pace. Definitely recommended. I'm already well into The Burning Skies and it's just as good so far.

4 out of 5 Stars

The Autumn Rain Trilogy

The Mirrored Heavens [US] [UK]
The Burning Skies [US] [UK]
The Machinery of Light (out May 25, 2010) [US] [UK]

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

20 May, 2010

Review: Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts

Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts, Urban Fantasy author
From the mouth of the beast:

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for a low-budget movie, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group. When the lead actor breaks Sarah’s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, it sends the director into fits. Sarah agrees to repair the blade to avoid reshooting scenes. One of the extras claims to be a dwarf and offers to help her at the forge. That’s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as he claims? Why does he want her to kill a Portland investment banker? And what is it about that homeless guy that has her on edge? As if things weren’t surreal enough at that point, Sarah’s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… “I love you.” Black Blade Blues is about forging an existence in a world that is much different than one expects. Oh, and dragons.

Black Blade Blues (2010), by J.A. Pitts is the first installment in his Beauhall series. Pitts weaves a modern day epic that is a compelling hybrid of sword and sorcery and urban fantasy. Highly recommended for those readers who generally snub naked women on covers, or urban fantasy generally - Black Blade Blues is the perfect initiation for fans of epic fantasy looking to get their feet wet with an imaginative and tightly written adventure.

I would stop short from calling Pitts the Abercrombie of urban fantasy, but not all that short. Black Blade Blues is infused with a wry cynicism and dark humor that is just hard to resist. Pitts’s protagonist, a blacksmith named Sarah Beauhall, is the fount of the witticisms that make the book so enjoyable. Did I mention the story is pretty good too?

I have to say straight off that reading Black Blade Blues breaks virtually all my ‘rules’. I don’t read Urban Fantasy, I don’t read books with dragons, and I don’t read books with women on the cover who are in indecent degrees of undress (the cover is actually pretty good). Well, let me just say I am glad I broke my rules, thanks in part to the review of Black Blade Blues at FBC. The novel is a refreshing take on old tropes and new issues that makes just enough fun of itself to remain modest and still be serious. Impossible you say?

This crisp urban fantasy adventure centers on a sexually confused modern day blacksmith living on the West Coast. She’s broke, her relationship just hit a major road bump, and she has to kill a dragon. Weird right? Not so, I say. Pitts manages to weave the modern and the epic, the personal and the imaginary into a seriously compelling book. The greatest part about Pitts is that his narrative does not require the suspension of disbelief, as does virtually all fantasy and urban fantasy. He allows for the fact that readers don’t (hopefully) believe in dragons or witches or magic or Norse gods. Indeed, he invites you to think it’s all totally nuts, and so gets you to believe.

As I already mentioned, Pitts’s writing is crisp, modern and fresh. The story itself is chronologically linear and the pacing is workmanlike. Readers will find the novel to be the result of painstaking revisions and will hear the echo of a short story expanded upon. Minor criticisms all in all, but ones which in my mind cast doubt upon Pitts’s ability to stay original, a minor and nagging doubt at this point, but one to keep in mind. Ware overly formulaic authors!

So, if you enjoy Epic Fantasy – or are already an Urban Fantasy fan – you are going to enjoy Black Blade Blues. My hopes are also pretty high for the second installment codenamed Honeyed Words, especially after reading the interview with J.A. Pitts on Tor.


This just had to be shared. A self-portrait done by artist Kasey McMahon as part of her "Global Brain//Connected" series. Can we get her to start doing some cover art please.

wirepunk, webmind, art, McMahon
Reminds me of the Matrix and, for no logical reason, Altered Carbon...

EDIT: So, I finally figured out why I like this so much. It reminds me of one of my favorite sculptures, Danaid, by Auguste Rodin, but in reverse.

19 May, 2010

It's News To Me #7

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming. I just started a new job for the summer at the law library at my school. I have to say it's not quite as cool as working for a regular public library...the books are much more stale.

Cover Art

I really love these covers (does Pyr ever let you down?) and the more I hear about this series, the higher it goes on my To-Read pile. I think I'm gonna have a hard time not reading this series before the end of the summer. Here are some reviews: Hatter, Horizons, Graeme, Wolf.


As announced on The Wertzone, Steven Erikson's pushed back the release date of The Crippled God (book 10 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen) to 2011. It looks like he won't be able to deliver the book until August. We can forgive the guy I think since he's been so consistent on every other installment.

In other news, Tia Nevitt (a fellow blogger at Debuts & Reviews) is going to be published. Congrats, you're living the dream!


What qualifies a book blogger? That's what Amanda Rutter's asks at Floor to Ceiling Books. I've thought about this a lot in the last months and it really comes back to whether people are consistently coming back to read your reviews/posts.

No one is forced to read a book blogger's blog, although I may just figure out a way... :) People don't have to come back, but if they do and they find they have a similar opinion, then that's what gives a blog value and hence "qualifies" it, in my opinion.

I spoke with an author, who will remain nameless, on a forum thread where people were giving their opinion on chapter titles. I mentioned that for some reason when a chapter is titled I feel like that shows an author is working that much harder. Obviously that doesn't actually show how hard an author works, but I get that feeling nevertheless.

The author proceeded to ask me who I am to say such a thing. I admit, I don't have any published work, yet I have a say because I'm a fan. Each person has the ability to give their opinion on the work and everyone else can take that information how they will, especially on a forum where people discuss books.

I apply this to book blogs as well. :)


I found this at Edi's Book Lighthouse and it's awesome. I want two.

And that's the news...at least to me.

18 May, 2010

So What Happened to Goodkind's 3 Book Putnam Deal?

The recent press release from Tor (which I took some liberties with here) confirming Terry Goodkind's new contract for three more Richard and Kahlan novels came as no real surprise. His widely publicized Law of Nines, dubbed a thriller, was a bomb, and not the good kind. I don't have any hard figures on the sales, but it is pretty clear that the hard cover print run was severely ambitious. When you start seeing hardcover copies in your local B&N for $2.99 and on Amazon for less than the cost of most paperbacks, well, you can be sure sales are not as rosy as you expected.

Further evidence of the Law of Nines relatively poor sales can be inferred from what happened to Mr. Goodkind's "revolutionary" website and all its fancy Flash functionality. It stopped working for six months. My assumption is that someone, somewhere, just wasn't getting paid. Did I mention the website magically returned to coincide with the announcement of the next Sword of Truth book?

Lastly, the issue of timing. A well known moderator of the Terry Goodkind forums asserted that the new Richard and Kahlan novel with Tor will be released before any further books from Terry under his Putnam contract. Now, given the early 2011 release date set for the new Sword of Truth book, and the nature of the publishing cycle, this means that for all intents and purposes the book is already written?! Which, in turn, means that Mr. Goodkind started writing it shortly after the Law of Nines sales figures came in and his next book, something about the Devil being chained in someone's basement, got a red light?!!

I could reference more circumstantial evidence, but then this might actually come off as a rational argument as opposed to the unfounded rambling that it is. Did I mention I might be biased? Not surprisingly, a number of forums have addressed these issues more or less rationally, so I refer you to those explanations in lieu of any sort of logical rigor on my part. So what if your average author would sell her firstborn for figures like Goodkind's, or hitting the New York Times bestseller list like he did... doesn't mean I'm not right.

17 May, 2010

Review: Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon

Trading in Danger, by Elizabeth Moon, Vatta's War Series
Trading in Danger [US][UK], by Elizabeth Moon, is a military science fiction adventure that begins the Vatta’s War series. This first installment introduces readers to Ky Vatta, an officer-candidate dropout that draws danger like iron to a lodestone – and manages to miraculously survive impossible situations.

Trading in Danger is a fun read that quickly builds the necessary momentum to keep readers hooked. Genre veterans will find the heroine and plot startlingly akin to Weber’s Honor Harrington and Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr, with perhaps a few empire building capitalist tendencies thrown into the mix – galaxy spanning trade empires are, after all, not built overnight.

Ky Vatta is the quintessential protagonist. She is young, brilliant and invariably lucky. Her expulsion from officer-candidate school – for being overly trusting - sees her put at the helm of one of her family’s many intergalactic trading ships. Following the family philosophy of “trade and profit”, Ky quickly manages to get her ship embroiled in a “small local conflict” that fails to remain small. War, betrayal, sabotage and revenge ensue. How fun!

Trading in Danger ultimately leaves readers guessing in which direction the series is headed, even though the plot is fairly straightforward. The narrative unpredictability stems from the lack of an identifiable threat, which can in turn be countered or acted against by the protagonist. In short, we don’t know who the bad guys are, or even what they want... Flaw or virtue, the issue will likely only be decided somewhere beyond book two, which is where I am now.

Science fictionally speaking, Elizabeth Moon does a passable job of describing a far distant future. The technology is reasonably construed if somewhat vaguely so, and the logic of the socio-economic reality she depicts is internally consistent. In other words, her story is believable. However, Vatta’s War remains, irrevocably, a character driven drama. Indeed, the environment and setting are only tangential to the story’s focus: the emergence of a charismatic leader in times of grave uncertainty destined to restore her families preeminence in the interstellar arena.

Taken in its entirety, Trading in Danger is not without its flaws, especially when viewed in comparison to similar series, such as the notorious Honor Harrington. That said, the first two books in the Vatta’s War series have made for more than passable morning commute fare and should only be considered less than brilliant when taken alongside some of the brighter stars in the military science fiction niche. Personally, I was disappointed that Trading in Danger did not live up to my high expectations of Moon after reading her utterly engrossing The Speed of Dark (review).

16 May, 2010

Giveaway: The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War [US][UK] is the book which simultaneously broke my addiction to epic fantasy and introduced me to science fiction. A strange place to start, some might argue, but one which I found and still find increadibly enjoyable. Mark at Walker of Worlds ran a Science Fiction Appreciation Month in which his favorite author, Peter F. Hamilton (another great SF author), wrote a short essay on the enduring quality of Haldeman's Forever War and its most deserved spot as a modern classic of science fiction literature.

After reading Peter's incisive analysis, I immediately proceeded to tear through my shelves in search of the book, determined to rearead it before the sun set. Needless to say, the Forever War was MIA and a quick run to the local B&N ensued. Four hours later, my freakishly strong urge to read the book was satiated and so was I. Did I mention that it is fairly short?

So, before blindly entering the giveaway check out my old review of The Forever War and see if you are interested. Now, if you still are, follow the exceedingly simple directions below.

How to Enter This Giveaway

E-mail me your name and address, with "FOREVER WAR" as the subject of the email. Snarky comments in your entry increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. The giveaway is open worldwide as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

13 May, 2010

(Audiobook) Review - The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead by Max Brooks

You ever find yourself thinking what you would do if a zombie suddenly came up the hill in front of you. Would you run and try to tell the world? Would you think its already too late and fend for yourself? Would you just go take care of the ghoul yourself?

These are the questions I kept asking myself, especially while listening to The Zombie Survival Guide late at night while driving up the hill to my apartment. Not a good idea if you don't want to really creep yourself out.

I figured zombies would be a good follow up to the vampires from Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. It was actually kind of funny since each book described historical events from the perspective of their particular ghoul. Both actually describe the disappearance of the colony at Roanoke Island to be from zombies/vampires respectively.

The Zombie Survival Guide [US] [UK] is a manual for people to use to prepare for a zombie uprising. The premise of the book is that zombies are already common or at least known, but have yet to overrun humanity. Plus, they've been around for ages, it's just been a cover-up.

The Zombie Survival Guide is an insanely well thought out book. Brooks really mapped out all the possibilities of a zombie uprising and prepares the reader for every contingency. Here's just a taste (from the blurb):

Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

1. Organize before they rise!
2. They feel no fear, why should you?
3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
4. Blades don’t need reloading.
5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
9. No place is safe, only safer.
10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

The book is divided into different sections that detail everything from what to do on the run to how to organize and attack. There's even a section on recorded attacks throughout history (as described a bit above).

One of my favorite sections was about weapons use. He describes a large array of weapons detailing which work well against zombies. The problem is that they can only be "killed" by head shots so he'll often go into popular movies and say why those instruments will or will not work.

For instance, he says that a chainsaw that you always see in the movies is one of the worst weapons because it's not only extremely heavy, but it's gas-powered. This means it probably won't last you very long especially if you're trying to survive for more than a couple days. On the other hand, a Shaolin Spade is one of the best weapons you can use because it is light and long enough to keep you safe.

When Should You Read The Zombie Survival Guide?

While The Zombie Survival Guide was entertaining and fun, it's still a guidebook. There's no story arc and there are plenty of lists, but of course this is exactly what's promised. If anything, The Zombie Survival Guide was a really good set up for Brooks' World War Z [US] [UK] and I'm really excited to see how that plays out, especially in light of what I've learned about Zombie survival.

3 out of 5 Stars (Liked it)

Zombie Dance!

11 May, 2010

It's News To Me #6

Summer's so close I can taste it, if only the weather would cooperate. Hope it's already looking nice in your neck of the woods. I just found out my copy of Return of the Crimson Guard [US] [UK] is finally on it's way (it was on back-order) so things are already looking up for me.

I know I haven't given any updates on the baby front in a while, so if you didn't already know, the wifey and I are having a boy on or around July 15. He's been healthy so far and we just found out he's measuring pretty dang big...in fact, he's just under 5 pounds when the average is around 3 pounds at this point. His head is measuring off the charts in fact. He's only 7 months along.

So... I guess that means he's gonna be a smarty, which obviously means he takes after his dad (okay, we all know who he really takes after).

Cover Art

Le Frrench, zey do eet agane. Love this cover art (and sorry to alienate all the French readers and Alec). :) This is Neal Asher's Shadow of the Scorpion [US] [UK], which I've had my eye on lately. It's a stand-alone as far as I've heard and until someone corrects me and a prequel to the Agent Cormac books. Thanks Speculative Book Review for the heads up.


Iron Man opened this last weekend and somehow it's number one, who'd've thunk? Still looks great and I'm hearing that it's about as good as the first. Let me know if you've already seen it.

Now welcome to one of the greatest videos I've ever seen. I promise it gets funnier the more times you watch it.


I can only imagine the thick skin you have to have to be a writer, let alone a writer who uses the internet frequently. No matter how great a novel you have, if you look hard enough you can always find a negative review. Then again, it comes with the business right?

Mark Charan Newton (author of Nights of Villjamur [US] [UK] and City of Ruin) discusses an interesting article on whether an author can survive the internet.
The poor darlings. It must be terribly difficult for writers of Literature to finally have to answer to readers now, in addition to critics who may or may not go to the same dinner parties.


New book blogs pop up all the time, but how many of those are from Norway? A big welcome to Ole A. Imsen (aka Weirdmage) of Weirdmage's Reviews.

May's a big month for our former colleague EdiFanob who's celebrating his 19th wedding anniversary (and earlier this month, his wife's birthday). Congrats to you guys and may you have many more. Plus he's also looking at some really cool books (or book).

Looking Forward

I'm almost done with the first in the Autumn Rain Trilogy, The Mirrored Heavens [US] [UK], and I'm already looking forward to The Machinery of Light [US] due out May 25 in the US. Review will be up shortly (for MH not MoL). Here's an extract at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

And that's the news...at least to me.

10 May, 2010

Review: WWW:Watch, by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW:Watch (2010) by Robert J. Sawyer follows hot on the heels of WWW:Wake (2009) and is an enjoyable and stimulating take on artificial intelligence and the spontaneous manifestation of consciousness. Given that both books are relatively short by genre standards and that WWW:Watch resumes at the precise moment where WWW:Wake left off, I see no reason not to review both books simultaneously. Also, if these books seem up your alley after the review, make sure to check out our giveaway.

The story arc carried through both novels centers on a young and brilliant girl who has been blind since birth because of a rare ocular disorder. One day, out of the blue, a researcher from Japan contacts her and her family with the hope of installing a digital signal processing prototype behind one of her eyes, with the aim of helping her see again. While the surgery at first appears to be a failure, Caitlin quickly realizes that she is able to see virtual space, the World Wide Web, and the connections it generates.

Parallel to the development of Caitlin’s new vision, readers are given glimpses of a being slowly moving towards awareness of the world and of itself. This being, as readers will quickly infer, is a nascent intelligence that resides in the World Wide Web. Mr. Sawyer is adept at introducing complex theories on intelligence and cognitive development and presenting them in an appealing way; one of his many talents.

What pleased me most about the book is the sense of wonder and novelty that Mr. Sawyer manages to gift his narrative. Readers will feel like they are seeing the world for the first time, believe it or not, through the eyes of a young blind girl.

Watch and Wake straddle the period right before the singularity – that moment where human history takes a dive off the deep end and no one knows where it will surface again. While Mr. Sawyer does entertain in both books, I see no practical reason why there could not have been only one book. As such, while the pace doesn’t feel slow and drawn out, there does seem to be a lack of substantive plot development when both books are considered individually.

Sadly, a number of unfulfilled plot lines leave the last installment, as yet unnamed, a fairly predictable conclusion to the WWW trilogy. Regardless, Mr. Sawyer scores at least an 8 out of 10 on the entertainment level, even if his abuse of social-medial colloquialisms (woot!, brb, omg) does leave readers feeling like they have just read am AIM chat log.

Mr. Sawyer, the creator of Flash Forward, is a pretty creative guy. In Watch and Wake he mixes the right amounts of science and fiction to create a fairly seamless and enjoyable reading experience, albeit one that will appeal mostly to the intellectual YA / teen audience. I recommended the WWW trilogy for those with an interest in near-future fiction who enjoy stories about the emergence of AIs or are simply interested in developmental psychology. I do not recommend this series to well read science fiction aficionados, who will surely see in it, as did I, all the excesses of an author catering to his audience.

09 May, 2010

Giveaway: WWW:Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW:Watch (2010), which I will review tomorrow, is a light, quick, and fun read that entertains almost as much as it enlightens. Following hot on the heals of the highly acclaimed WWW:Wake (2009), also included in this giveaway, the novel deals with the rise to sentience of an entity within the world wide web.  WWW:Watch is one of the rare sequels that betters the first installment, at least in my humble opinion.

Enjoy books dealing with the singularity and supercomputers and want more? Done. Just follow these simple giveaway instructions for your chance to win a copy of WWW:Wake and WWW:Watch (giveaway runs till 5/25/10 @ 11:59 PM EST):

E-mail me your name and address, with "SAWYER" as the subject of the email. Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. Open worldwide as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

06 May, 2010

Review - Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson

Book 7 of Steven Erikson's beyond epic Malazan Book of the Fallen series, Reaper's Gale [US] [UK] continues the events from The Bonehunters and Midnight Tides. That's right, it's the sequel to both and no wonder because it is massive.

I find myself having a hard time with these massive volumes in this series. First, they are incredibly daunting to pick up and I wonder if they couldn't use just a bit more editing down. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of the series and should just be happy with any bit of the Malazan universe I can get right?

Reaper's Gale begins yet again with another people we are meeting for the first time, the Awl. So, just like the rest of the series, Reaper's Gale is familiar, yet still takes some time getting into the story. I really like this about the books because while it does add to the confusion, the series definitely doesn't become stale like some longer epics tend to get.

The Awl struggle with the Letherii who continue to conquer everyone and leave little to no survivors. What the Letherii come to find out is that they are being united by a legend, the famous Red Mask.

While this is taking place, we also continue to follow the surly group of travelers including Silchas Ruin, Udinaas, and others on their quest for the soul of Scabandari Bloodeye.

Now add to this what we've been waiting for since The Bonehunters, the champions, Karsa Orlong and Icarium, are still waiting for their chance to fight the emperor, Rulad Sengar. I promise this DOES get resolved by the end of the book. :)

While attempting not to give too much away, throughout this book, I kept thinking about the juxtaposition of the Letherii and Malazan empires and wondering if Erikson is comparing them to any present day countries. One empire conquers and decimates or subjugates while the latter conquers and makes life better for the people. Take this how you will, it was just something to ponder.

Many people say this is where the series gets off-base and Reaper's Gale is where they quit. While this is probably my least favorite in the series so far, I have to say this is still the same quality and yet another great ending full of pathos.

When Should You Read Malazan Book of the Fallen?

I've come up with a new rule for reading Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen and it goes like this:

First, read all kinds of traditional fantasy, ones where the scullery boy/girl is actually King/Queen/Powerful sorcerer, etc.

Then, once you've gotten to the point where you can't read another "traditional" story, you're ready to get into the world of the Malazan Empire.

I happened to read Feist's Riftwar Saga and Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean before reading Malazan Book of the Fallen and it did wonders for me. It's something completely different and massive and great.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

My review of The Bonehunters.

05 May, 2010

Winner: The Booksafe

Blending seamlessly with your Peter Hamilton, Robert Jordan, and Steven Erikson this diversion safe is the perfect addition to your growing collection of books, and hopefully valuables too.

And so, our lucky winner is Logan K. from some depressingly Republican state in the middle of the USA. Its OK Logan, we can't all live in good states...

Doreen R., waxin poetical once again, takes home the bonus entries. Give me an extra stanza next time Doreen and I'll throw in an extra entry, even though you are low on the snark meter.

What! You want snarky. Don't ask me twice. I'll give you snarky. But it comes with a price.

And thats all she wrote folks. Make sure to check out our Dream of Perpetual Motion giveaway for more goodies.

04 May, 2010

It's News To Me #5

The next two weeks I have finals on Wednesday, so I'll be posting the news a bit early each week. Once finals are over (after next week thankfully) I'll be back to the normal Wednesday schedule. Hope the week's going well for you, I'm ready to be done...like that's abnormal. :D

Cover Art

Swords & Dark Magic is THE anthology to read this year, with names like Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, and Glen Cook. How can you go wrong? I love this cover for the new Subterranean Press edition and the last update is that there are fewer than 200 copies left. Here's the blurb:
Swords & Dark Magic is the most important new fantasy anthology to be published this decade. Featuring new stories from the bestselling and brightest writers working in the genre, including: New York Times bestselling authors Scott Lynch and Garth Nix; genre greats Michael Moorcock (with an all-new Elric novella), Michael Shea (with a fully authorized new Cugel the Clever adventure), Robert Silverberg (with an all-new Majipoor tale), Glen Cook (with an all-new Black Company story), Gene Wolfe, and C. J. Cherryh; and hot new writers who've been re-inventing swords and sorcery like Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Tim Lebbon, and many more.


Good news for The Steel Remains fans as Richard K. Morgan has a "set" publication date for next year:
So here’s where we are: my UK publishers, who’ve carried these delays with much good grace, have set a putative publication date of April 2011. That means that I need to deliver the manuscript by some time in early Autumn this year...I’m actually starting to inch forward in the narrative, and I have – possibly a side effect of writing a lot of game and tie-in comic-book treatments recently - a clearer overall idea of where the book will go than at any time in the last two years.

Ron Howard is talking about directing a trilogy adaption of The Dark Tower series with rumors of leading into a TV series. I enjoyed the first installment (The Gunslinger) and you can count me in line for these movies.


China Mieville won the Arthur C. Clarke award with The City and The City for best novel of 2009, making it the third win for Mr. Mieville. Here's the acceptance speech.


NextRead's hosting Short Story Month and he's got an open thread discussion where you can talk about your favorite short story, plus featured short stories and guest reviews throughout the month.

And that's the news...at least to me.