28 March, 2011

Quick Reviews - Tigana and The Passage

It's been far too long since I've read these to really give them a decent review at this point so I'm going to summarize a few things and give the rating I gave them at the time.

(Audiobook) Review - Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

This was my first taste of Guy Gavriel Kay and I can already say I'm a huge fan and will be reading everything I can possibly get my hands on. If Ken Follett (Pillars of the Earth) wrote fantasy, this would be it. It was amazing, epic, emotional and the audio version was superb. And all in one single volume.

A heartrending tale of country that has been essentially blotted out from not only the present, but from history itself, Tigana [US] [UK] tells the tale of a country whose name has been magically erased from language itself and the people who will do anything to take revenge.

5 out of 5 Stars

Review - The Passage by Justin Cronin

I was a bit reluctant going into this. Cronin has been compared to Stephen King and I've only been hit or miss with said author, but The Passage [US] [UK] delivers. Told in essentially two different stories, the outbreak and then later (stop reading this paragraph if you don't want to know although it's not a huge spoiler) .... an almost entirely new batch of characters dealing with the aftermath.

The first "book" if we are calling it that, is pretty slow and a bit long as it sets up what happens in the second "book." Once into "book" two, though, it is definitely worth the set up.

I look forward to book two in this planned trilogy, The Twelve (and book three, The City of Mirrors).

Interesting note, The Passage movie rights have been purchased (actually even before publication) by Ridley Scott and Fox 2000 and the screenwriter for Gladiator will be working on this.

4 out of 5 Stars

24 March, 2011

It's News To Me #9

Things have been busy lately, so I apologize for the lack of reviews. I'm currently attempting to find an internship for the summer, write a paper, plan two large events at the law school both in the next week (I think I signed up for way too much when I became President), and actually stay up on readings for class.

Interview with Peter Orullian: Author of The Unremembered [US] [UK] (Book 1 in the Vault of Heaven), a book I'm really enjoying, I just wish I had more time.

Interview with Mark Lawrence: Author of Prince of Thorns [US] [UK] (Book 1 of The Broken Empire trilogy), a book I'm really looking forward to given the very positive reviews that are already coming out.

Paul Kearney's Sea Beggars series re-release: The two previously released volumes will be combined in an omnibus edition with the new third and concluding volume from Solaris. As a huge Kearney fan, this makes happy. :)

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

23 March, 2011

Review - Marysvale by Jared Southwick

An action-packed story filled with monsters and tyrants, heroes and heroines.
John Casey was ten years old when his mother was murdered...and ten when his father hid the truth from him. Without that knowledge, he has no idea of the enemies that lie in wait.

Now grown up, John lives a solitary life, in a world enslaved by ignorance and superstition, when anyone unusual is treated with distrust and even killed...and John has some very unusual gifts. When he is accused of witchcraft, John does the only thing he's ever done - Run! That is, until he meets Jane, who lives in the bleak, imprisoned town of Marysvale. Life outside the safety of the town walls means certain death from the brutal monsters that hunt there. However, life inside, under the rule of a tyrannical leader, means no life at all.

As the love between John and Jane grows, the dangers of Marysvale unfold; and for the first time in his life, John discovers that there is something worth dying for.
Wow, Marysvale [US] [UK] really surprised me. I accepted a review copy from the author thinking, yeah, that's a cool looking cover (in a Twilight sort of way)

and I liked the blurb about monsters and heroes, why not? Wow. One of the best decisions I've made in a long time.

Told in the first person, Marysvale's protagonist, John Casey, is an easy character to adventure with. He tries to do the right thing, but that can be difficult when the victim of domestic abuse isn't cooperative or when you're betrayed or ... you get the picture. It's tough out there.

But John Casey has an advantage not too many people have, he has the ability to see into people's souls, to read them, and that's not even where the powers end. Kind of a Harry Dresden type thing.

Because John's past is a bit hazy, he has no idea where it comes from, but as long as he keeps using it, it gets stronger and stronger.

With his abilities to hand and strong sense of right and wrong, John takes us from one harrowing escapade to the next. Running from another town he wasn't quite able to fit into, John is attacked by huge monsters and led eventually to the town of Marysvale, where the citizenry has been caged in by the monsters and the local government is anything but forgiving.

Not only is John Casey a great character, but the setting is wonderful as well. I pictured M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (only without the director's typical twists...and without his tendency to produce theatrical bombs). There were muskets, horses, monsters, ...tricorn hats, yeah, the real deal.

Marysvale is an unexpected tale of action, adventure and lots of fun to read. I was glued to the page right from the beginning and anytime I thought Southwick wouldn't be able to keep up the great pace and narrative, it only got better.

Why Should You Read Marysvale?

If you want a quick read that's straight-forward and lots of fun, you can't go wrong with Marysvale. There are even pictures at the beginning of most chapters that really set the mood nicely, if a bit creepy at times (in a good way). Highly Recommended.

4 out of 5 Stars

Check out Jared Southwick's website for more information.

Book two, Alyth, is due out Fall 2011, so look out for that as well.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

21 March, 2011

Review: The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear [US][UK] is the second installment in author Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles and my most anticipated read in 2011. With The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss introduced readers to our favorite young adventurer Kovthe, and now, more than 3 years later, we get a little more of his story.

Ever more apparent is the contrast between the narrator and subject. Young Kovthe is strikingly dissimilar to the broken old Kovthe. And readers are given strikingly few hints as to how the first will become the latter. The dichotomy brings on a strong sense of foreboding that leaves you wondering if the next page will hold the tragic event that transforms energetic youth into complacent resignation. And for all that, the events that unfold in The Wise Man’s Fear are surprisingly upbeat. Hero, lover, knower of the arcane, the novel is a journey of self-discovery in which Kovthe embarks on the path to adulthood.

Much like the wind, the narrative flow of the novel tends to skip about somewhat, leaving readers guessing as to where our young adventurer will be blown to next. The merit of the side quests aside, I find this a rather appealing divergence from the linearity of The Name of the Wind.

On the backburner throughout most of the novel, sadly, is Kovthe’s main quest. That of wreaking vengeance on the Chandrian for the brutal murder of his family. Few useful discoveries are made and what little is learned seems of no practical value. Knowing, or at the very least inferring, that the Chandrian are still alive during the telling of his tale, readers are left to wonder whether that particular plot line will be satisfactorily resolved in the trilogy. I, for one, do not doubt that a second trilogy is in the works!

All that nitpicking aside, The Wise Man’s Fear is a rare and remarkable addition to the fantasy pantheon, and a more than worthy successor to The Name of the Wind. Mr. Rothfuss, my hat goes off to you, your big beard, and steady hand for penning such a delightful work.

Predictions and Possibilities

Few and far between are the series that I ponder after the fact, seeking to uncover truth or hints thereof. The Wheel of Time is one of those, A Song of Ice and Fire another. While the detail in the Kingkiller Chronicles are perhaps not as… detailed, I nonetheless find myself ruminating on the possibilities, connections, and contradictions.

First, as I have hinted above, I don’t think the Chandrian will be definitively dealt with in the next novel. I don’t think they can be, given the space allowed and the general tempo of Mr. Rothfuss’s narrative. What I do know, is that when they are dealt with, these elements will come into play.

The Lockless/Lackless Box
The 7 things that stand before the entrance of the Lockless door
The 7 steel clasps on Kovthe’s lute case?!

Perhaps not coincidentally, the number 7 comes up often throughout the novel, when you least expect it. Seven friends. Seven words whispered into Denna’s ear, ect. Are all these numbers somehow leading back to the Chandrian, or are they pure coincidence? Were the Chandrian the original ‘namers’, able to read the name of all things? Is Kovthe now on that same path, in the company of his six friends?

Fantasy is generally about someone becoming something. A king, a wizard, an assassin. Small beginnings to lofty endings. I guess the question is, what is Kovthe becoming?

Any guesses?

New YA Horror From Tim Marquitz

I really enjoyed Tim Marquitz' Armageddon Bound and eagerly awaiting the sequel, but until then, there's always his new YA Horror, Skulls. Tim has posted chapter one on his blog. Looks pretty cool, although I might debate whether this is actually YA. :)

Genre for Japan

Wow, what a great effort to raise funds for those in need after the disaster in Japan:

Press Release: Time to Donate Prizes!

We’ve all heard the news and seen the horrific pictures coming from Japan in the aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami – and no doubt we’ve all wondered how to help.

Following the example of Authors for Japan, where bids are now closed, we’d like to introduce Genre for Japan, a chance for the comics, science fiction, fantasy and horror communities to unite and show our generosity to those who need it right now.

We are planning to run auctions for genre-themed prizes and we need YOU to donate. We are looking for really fantastic prizes: examples might include signed first editions, coaching sessions with agents for that perfect submission letter or original artwork!

Some of the prizes already donated include a year's supply of books from Tor, signed artwork from Solaris Books and editing/critiques from professional authors and editors.

The prizes will be auctioned on our website, through JustGiving, in aid of the British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal.

If you have something really special to donate, please drop us a line at genreforjapan@gmail.com including information such as a starting bid amount, a sentence or two about the item, and whether you wish to send the prize to a central collecting point or would be willing to post it to the winning bidder. Photos would also help us to list the item, if relevant.

The deadline to receive offers of prizes is 25th March, with the auction set to begin on 28th March.

Find out more information on our website: http://genreforjapan.wordpress.com/

Follow us on twitter: @genreforjapan

E-mail us: genreforjapan@gmail.com

Genre for Japan is organised by:

Amanda Rutter: reviewer and webmistress at Floor to Ceiling Books

Jenni Hill: editor for science fiction, fantasy and horror publishers Solaris Books

Louise Morgan: author and interviewer for the British Fantasy Society

Ro Smith: writer and reviewer; blogger at In Search of the Happiness Max

Alasdair Stuart is the editor of Hub magazine.

15 March, 2011

It's News To Me #8

Great news from Angry Robot and what sounds like a really cool series about superheroes:
We’re absolutely delighted to announce that we have pounced upon the debut novel of British-based New Zealander Adam Christopher.

Adam is well-known to many at the heart of the British science fiction community through his strong presence on Twitter, under the nickname @ghostfinder. It was through reading his posts that AR first became aware of him. When we found out he had ambitions to have his debut full-length novels see print we dove at the chance to check them out.
We loved what we read (and we mean loved), and so Lee has signed Adam to AR for at least two novels, starting with EMPIRE STATE.

Empire State is a story of superheroes, and a city divided in two. Detective Rad Bradbury picks up the trail of a murderer, only to discover that the world he has always known is a pocket universe, recently brought into existence by an explosion of phenomenal power. With a superhero on his tail he crosses into a city that bears a remarkable resemblance to his own – a city called New York. There he uncovers a deadly threat to the Empire State, and finds that the future of both realities are at stake.

Lee said…
“It’s always a great feeling when you find a new author – especially one with Adam’s talent. Empire State is reminiscent of China Miéville’s The City & the City – the existence of superheroes within Adam’s world serving to underline the very human struggle for survival. We’re pretty excited.”

And Adam added…
“I’ve been following Angry Robot ever since their mothership landed in 2009, and they quickly became one of my favourite imprints. Over the last couple of years they’ve built a brilliant list of authors and titles, and to be part of it all really is a dream come true.”

Empire State will be published in January 2012, with a second superhero-themed fantasy, Seven Wonders, to follow before the end of the year too. You are so going to looooove these books.
Amanda already has an interview with Adam over at Floor to Ceiling Books.

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

11 March, 2011

HBO's Game of Thrones and Storm of Swords Reviewed

I know, about every other blog has become unofficial (and unpaid) marketing centrals for HBO's and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones. Then again, this series deserves it whether you love George or hate him - it still comes down to the fact that A Song of Ice and Fire is an amazing series.

Here's the latest Poster:

If that doesn't get you excited for the series, I don't know what will. :)

Also, as mentioned in the title of this post, Tor.com has been reviewing the reader-voted, best SFF novels of the decade and A Storm of Swords gets a review. My thoughts coincide very much with what's said here.

10 March, 2011

Contest - Ask a Question, Win "The Zombie Feed" Vol. 1

The great Harry Markov (aka my arch-nemesis) has worked his magic again. He's giving away a copy of The Zombie Feed Vol. 1, all you have to do is ask a question:
The Contest:

Leave your question that you’ve always been burning to ask zombie writers as a comment under this post. There are no guidelines as to what the question could relate to. Make it scary or make it hilarious. Make it sophisticated or outrageous. Entertain us and you will be picked.
Just make sure to go to the link above and enter your question as a comment to The Zombie Feed post not this one. :) This way you can also make sure you're following the rules of entry.

Speculative Book Review Looking for New Reviewers

Speculative Book Review is one of my favorite blogs and right now they're looking for some new reviewers to carry on their excellent tradition. In order to narrow down the field, they'll be holding a contest for the best reviews/reviewers possible.

They have a couple guidelines for review submissions and frequency, but if you were ever interested in entering the blogging game, obviously we can never have enough, now's a great time to make a name for yourself.

06 March, 2011

Review - Kraken by China Miéville

First off, a book with the title Kraken is required to have a sinking ship attacked by a Kraken or at least have the line "release the Kraken" make sense. This did not have any. Sorry, it's in the rules.

If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere, although if you know anything about Mieville (I'm told), you should know that you never really get what you expect from his novels.

Kraken [US] [UK]was my first crack (or should I say krak - hehe) at China Mieville outside of the 100 or so pages I read of Perdido Street Station [US] [UK], which I do plan to someday finish. This is one of those books that leaves an indelible impression on you for a very long time after. This is also why I changed my rating a few days later (in the upward direction) as I'll explain in a bit.

Throughout the book, I was thinking I'd give Kraken at most a 2 out of 5.
I have to applaud the imagination the Mieville has. It's impressively insane. He not only has the craziest characters/entities/whatchamacallits, but he describes them in a way that makes it completely believable in the world he's created. It's quite amazing and I'd say Mieville's worth a read for the sole opportunity to have your mind blown with an extremely unique take on a fantasy novel.

The problem, and the reason for the initial rating, was that I felt so bogged down in the imagination, in the vivid descriptions and interesting characters, that I didn't feel like there was really any progression to the story; any reason to continue besides to find out about more cool creatures. This was much the same reason I stopped reading Perdido Street Station part-way through, although to a much larger degree. Like I said, I will get back to it as I now know it will all be worth it in the end.

The tale's protagonist, Billy Harrow, is a curator at Natural History Museum in London and its biggest draw, and on which Billy has personally worked, is the Giant Squid - Architeuthis dux. The only problem is that it's suddenly disappeared...out of nowhere...with no trace whatsoever.

Thereafter, Billy finds himself in a London that is not the same London he knew before he found the Kraken was gone. There are cults and gangs, creatures and spirits, Billy never would have believed existed including the notorious gang leader Tattoo, who is actually a tattoo of a face on the back of an unwanting punk, and Wati (my favorite), the Egyptian spirit who can only inhabit figurines and statues that are at least mostly human shaped.

The problem for Billy is that all these groups in this underground London think Billy is behind it all and he doesn't know a thing.

Like I said earlier, Kraken is amazingly imaginative and it stays with you long after you read this book, as I'm told are many, if not all, of China Mieville's work. The more I get away from reading this book, the more I find myself still thinking about it. It really was an enjoyable book that I'd definitely recommend.

Because this is my first Mieville book, I'm not the expert, but I've read this is the most linear and accessible of all his work.

Why Should You Read Kraken?

Well, don't read it if all you wanted were pirates and ships and sword-fights, etc. You won't get any of that. What you will get is a great book filled with characters and creatures that you can't believe how real you think they now are. :) (like henchmen that have actual hands, fingers and everything, for heads)

4 out of 5 Stars

03 March, 2011

A Dance With Dragons has a Publication Date!

George R.R. Martin confirms it in his own words (on his blog) that the new release date of July 12, 2011 for A Dance With Dragons is real. It's not some publisher's mistake or hopeful assertion, not that we've seen one in the past. It's the real deal! ...and it's HUGE!
((For what it's worth, the book's a monster. Think A STORM OF SWORDS))
Above is the newest cover, as shown on his blog. The Wertzone has another version that'll be coming out as well. And here's a timely interview on EW.

Review - Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

I don't think my love of Kurt Vonnegut is a secret, I just can't get enough of that humor that also makes you cringe a little bit. Vonnegut does a wonderful job with a short story and while most stories in Welcome to the Monkey House [US] [UK] were "okay" to "yeah, I liked it I guess", it's definitely worth it for the few 4 to 5 star ratings. I thought a short review on Goodreads put it niceley:
If you think you don't like short stories, or that short stories can't deliver a satisfying read like a novel...
This is not quite true for the entire collection, at least for me, but many are very much worth your time. Not all are SciFi, but I've marked the ones that are and they are all definitely worth a read.

"Where I Live" (Venture- Traveler’s World, October 1964) - 2/5 Kinda boring start and no real plot. Don't worry, it gets better.

"Harrison Bergeron" (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1961) - 5/5 Loved this one - science fiction - Handicapping people so everything is fair and no one can take unfair advantage because of their looks, intelligence, physical prowess, etc. Sad but true and hilarious at the same time - exactly what Vonnegut does best. It can also now be found in the new collection of Dystopian stories, Brave New Worlds [US] [UK].

"Who Am I This Time?" (The Saturday Evening Post, 16 December 1961) - 3/5 A play that I guess Vonnegut had to put on (Street Car Named Desire). I don't know if it's a true story or what, but it sounded autobiographical. Main actor who acts amazingly in everything and duddy female actor who he is able to bring out of her shell.

"Welcome to the Monkey House" (Playboy, January 1968) - 4/5 - Another science fiction story where the world is overpopulated and there exists a mandatory pill called "ethical birth control" that doesn't make it impossible to have children (the ethical part), but makes you numb from the waist down. Another sad but true, although I don't quite agree with the jab against religion in this one.

"Long Walk to Forever" (Ladies Home Journal, August 1960) - 3/5 A military man visits a woman he's in love with and who's about to get married.

"The Foster Portfolio" (Collier's Magazine, 8 September 1951) - 2/5 Nothing really exciting here. A financial consultant consults a man who's reasons for how he manages his money are more than they seem.

"Miss Temptation" (The Saturday Evening Post, April 21 1956) - 3/5 An actress struts her stuff, but is brought down for no reason she can help.

"All the King's Horses" (Collier's Magazine, 10 Feb 1951) - 5/5 A game of chess becomes a game of survival. Definitely one of the best of the collection.

"Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog" (Collier's Magazine, 14 March 1953) - 4/5 A funny story about a really annoying "me monster" (Brian Regen) who corners a man in the park.

"New Dictionary" (The New York Times, October 1966) - 3/5 Who hasn't looked up dirty words at one time in their life in the dictionary? :)

"Next Door" (Cosmopolitan, April 1955) -4/5 Pretty funny story about a kid who hears fighting next door and tries to help. Assume makes a what out of whom?

"More Stately Mansions" (Collier's Magazine, 22 December 1951) - 3/5 Quaint story about interior decorating and very atypical Vonnegut.

"The Hyannis Port Story" - 3/5 Secret Service calls a Commodore Rumfoord (a name that comes up a few times in Vonnegut's work) about his son. Rumfoord is not a big Kennedy fan.

"D.P." (Ladies Home Journal, August 1953) - 3/5 A kid in a prison camp meets his "father".

"Report on the Barnhouse Effect" (Collier's Magazine, 11 February 1950) - 3/5 - SciFi - Barnhouse is a scientist who discovers an interesting talent he has.

"The Euphio Question" (Collier's Magazine, 12 May 1951) - 4/5 - SciFi - An interesting discovery leads to "happiness" although it's more than you bargain for.

"Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son" (Ladies Home Journal, July 1962) - 3/5 A famous actress and her fifth husband have some work done on their bathroom.

"Deer in the Works" (Esquire, April 1955) - 3.5/5 An owner of a newspaper decides he needs something more secure and gets hired on at a large corporation. Say bye bye to your freedom.

"The Lie" (The Saturday Evening Post 24 February 1962) - 3.5/5 About a father's excitement for his son to enter boarding school.

"Unready to Wear" (Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1953) - 4/5 - SciFi - Bodies are really just a pain in the neck aren't they?

"The Kid Nobody Could Handle" (The Saturday Evening Post, 24 September 1955) - 2/5 A boy who's been neglected all his life acts out. Actions speak louder than words.

"The Manned Missiles" (Cosmopolitan, July 1958) - 4/5 This was a really emotional tale about two astronauts' fathers writing each other whose sons recently died.

"EPICAC" (Collier's Magazine, 25 November 1950) - 4/5 - SciFi - Our narrator has a discussion with the smartest machine in the world.

"Adam" (Cosmopolitan, April 1954) - 3/5 - This one was definitely close to home for me, I have a seven month old. Babies are great.

"Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" aka "The Big Trip Up Yonder" (Galaxy Science Fiction, January 1954) - 4/5 - SciFi - Another story about overpopulation in the future. In this one, because of a new anti-aging drug, there are so many people, each family lives together for generations and there are no more resources.

3.5 out of 5 Stars