Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Short Story Reviews: A SPELL OF VENGEANCE and THE PRICE OF DOING BUSINESS by D.B. Jackson (Tor)

Two THIEFTAKER prequel short stories


Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker in Colonial Boston, scratching out a living by restoring stolen property to its rightful owners. But unlike others in his profession, Ethan relies on magical spells as well as his wits to track down thieves. Being a conjurer doesn’t make him popular with the law in Boston, so Ethan is taken aback when the sheriff seeks his help in settling a dispute between a pair of wealthy merchants and a ship’s captain who has threatened their lives. Ethan knows the captain can back up his threats with magic of his own. But there is more to this matter than the merchants have let on, and Ethan soon discovers that what he doesn’t know might actually kill him.


Ethan Kaille is a Thieftaker in Boston in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Having suffered losses and reversals in his life, he is neither naive nor without considerable personal resources. He isn’t just a detective; he’s also a conjurer, which makes him someone who lives on the margins of polite society. Some people fear his powers; others merely find him a distasteful rogue who should simply go away… but still, he is useful to the powers-that-be when problems arise requiring his unusual skill-set.

This story is one from Kaille’s early days as a thieftaker in Boston. In it, he must face a formidable foe, one of a most unexpected sort, whose own powers, very different from his own, prove the equal of Ethan’s.

Both of these stories are decent introductions to Ethan Kaille and Jackson’s urban fantasy take on early-America Boston. My interest in the novels in the series (now up to three), has grown considerably since reading A Spell of Vengeance and The Price of Doing Business.

Yet Another Fantastic CONSTANTINE Cover (DC Comics)


It’s a series I’ve barely read, but damn does it get some great covers… The image above, by Juan Ferreyra, will be the cover for Constantine #20. The issue, due out on December 10th, is written by Ray Fawkes and art by Jeremy Haun. Here’s the mini-synopsis:

It’s hate at first sight when John Constantine meets his Earth 2 counterpart!

(Got to love a to-the-point synopsis…)

Benjamin Percy Writes Two-Part DETECTIVE COMICS Story (DC Comics)

DetectiveComics-35AI am a huge fan of Benjamin Percy’s novel RED MOON – published in the UK by Hodder and North America by Grand Central. It’s the only book of his that I’ve read, but it will by no means be the last.

I also shared a few days ago information about THE DEAD LANDS, his next novel, which is one of my most anticipated novels. Today, though, I discovered that Percy has also written a two-part story for Detective Comics, one of DC Comics’ various Batman series! This is great news, in my opinion – some of my favourite comic story-arcs have been written by some of my favourite writers (Lauren Beukes’s run on Fairest, Gregg Hurwitz’s run on The Dark Knight, to name but two).

Percy has written the story “Terminus”, which will run over Detective Comics #35-36, to be published October 1st and 8th, respectively. Art for the issues is by John Paul Leon (The Massive, DMZ, American Vampire, Scalped), colours by Dave Stewart (Fray, Lex Luthor, Hellboy), letters by Jared K. Fletcher.

Here’s the synopsis for #35:

In the first chapter of a two-part tale by the guest team of writer Ben Percy and artist John Paul Leon, a civilian appearance at Gotham Airport turns into a horror show for Batman when a plane full of dead passengers arrives on the runway! What happened – and what can Bruce Wayne do about it?

There are also two variant covers, by Cliff Chiang (left) and Becky Cloonan:


If ever there was an excuse for me to catch up on this series, this was it. I’m very eager to read this. Finally, here’s the artwork that will grace the cover of #36:


Also on CR: Interview with Benjamin Percy

CITY OF STAIRS Competition from Jo Fletcher Books!

BennettRJ-CityOfStairsUKRobert Jackson Bennett’s CITY OF STAIRS is absolutely one of my Most Anticipated novels of 2014. I have a copy of the book, now, so it will mostly likely be my next or next-but-one read. To celebrate the upcoming release in the UK, Jo Fletcher Books have five copies of the book to give away, plus one lucky winner will receive a £100 Red Letter Day experience. Here are the instructions:

All people have to do for a chance to win is let us know on our blog, Facebook page or Twitter – with #CityOfStairs – what tangible miraculous object they would create if you were a god of Bulikov.  A door which takes you to the past and a knotted cord that brings rain when untied are just some of the miracles the gods brought to Bulikov, but we want to know what other people would add to them. The competition is open until October 30th for your chance to win.

CITY OF STAIRS is published in the UK on Thursday (October 2nd). It is published in the US by Crown Publishing. Here’s the synopsis:

You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr. Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth - but it is likely to cost her everything.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mini-Review: BLACK SCIENCE, Vol.1 – “How To Fall” (Image)

BlackScience-Vol.01A fascinating, strange, and engaging science fiction series

Writer: Rick Remender | Artists: Matteo Scalera & Dean White

Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home…

Collects: Black Science #1-6

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Black Science. It received a healthy amount of pre-publication buzz – not surprising, given that it’s written by Remender (Deadly Class, Low, Captain America, Uncanny Avengers). Things move pretty quickly in this book, as readers are thrown straight into the action, which never lets up. The series includes everything you might want from a multi-dimensional action/adventure: strange and dangerous situations, back-stabbing, a larger conspiracy, weird and wonderful fauna, interesting technology. It also has everything we have come to expect from Remender: excellent story-telling and well-rounded, diverse characters. The story builds quite excellently over the course of the book, and I felt myself sink in as it took hold completely.

I want to avoid going into too much detail, as things move very fast. Grant is an interesting character, and readers will become invested in his quest and fate, just as they will for the fates of his companions. (Spoiler: not everyone’s going to get out of this one alive…)

Scalera’s artwork is a little strange, quite angular, but by no means unattractive. He does a great job of giving Remender’s story life, merging the weird and scientific excellently. It’s an eye-catching book, certainly.

Overall, then, a highly recommended new series for every fan of science fiction, sci-fi comics, and interdimensional story-telling. This was a lot of fun. I really can’t wait for volume two!

EXTINCTION GAME by Gary Gibson (Tor)

GibsonG-ExtinctionGameSolid parallel-universe disaster science fiction

Jerry Beche should be dead. But instead of dying alone, he’s been rescued from a desolated earth where he was the last man alive. He’s then trained for the toughest conditions imaginable and placed with a crack team of specialists.  Each one also a survivor, as each one survived the violent ending of their own versions of earth. And their specialism – to retrieve weapons and data in missions to other dying worlds. But who is the shadowy organization that rescued them? How do they access other timelines and why do they need these instruments of death?

As Jerry struggles to obey his new masters, he starts distrusting his new companions. A strange bunch, their motivations are less than clear, and accidents start plaguing their missions. Jerry suspects that organisation is lying to them, and team members are spying on him.  As a dangerous situation spirals into fatal, who is an enemy and who can he really trust?

This is the first novel of Gary Gibson’s that I’ve read. I’d been meaning to try out his work for years, but for some reason always got distracted. Luckily, Extinction Game arrived in the mail, and I happily dove right in. I was not disappointed. This is a good novel.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mini-Review: THE MESSENGER by Mark Charan Newton (Tor)

NewtonMC-MessengerGreat introduction to a new character

As an Officer of the Sun Chamber, Lucan Drakenfeld must uphold the two-hundred-year-old laws of the Vispasian Royal Union, whatever the cost.

While stationed in the ancient city of Venyn, a metropolis notorious for its lawless nature, Drakenfeld receives a series of mysterious letters, written in blood, that warn of an imminent assassination attempt on the life of the city’s young Prince Bassim.

Supported by his fiery colleague Leana, Drakenfeld’s investigation leads him down the city’s corridors of power. But nothing is as it seems. Who is behind the conspiracy that threatens the young prince, and will the duo be able to unearth the perpetrator before the prince’s time is up?

Long-time readers of the blog will know that I’m a big fan of Newton’s first series, Legends of the Red Sun. This 9,000~ word novella features the main character of the author’s new series, Lucan Drakenfeld, and is set before the first novel Drakenfeld. It’s a very good short story, and certainly served to whet my appetite for the full-length novels (which I’ve been inexplicable slow about getting around to). There’s a mystery, a rebel group, the possibility of an inside agent, some brutal killing, and the potential for a spot of regicide. Everything that makes a great fantasy crime story. We get to know the main two characters, too, who are two of the more interesting protagonists I’ve read in a while.

A great prequel, and a great way to quickly and cheaply try out Newton’s writing and his new series. Absolutely recommended.

Review: THE WAKE (Vertigo)


Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Sean Murphy | Colors: Matt Hollingsworth

When Marine Biologist Lee Archer is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help with a new threat, she declines, but quickly realizes they won’t take no for an answer. Soon she is plunging to the depths of the Arctic Circle to a secret, underwater oilrig filled with roughnecks and scientists on the brink of an incredible discovery. But when things go horribly wrong, this scientific safe haven will turn into a house of horrors at the bottom of the ocean!

Collects: The Wake #1-10

This is a tricky one to review. This is the whole ten-issue run of the series, which means a lot happens. The multiple timelines, the expansive scope of the story… There’s a lot crammed into this book. It’s the most ambitious of Snyder’s stories that I’ve read, and while I found it excellent on a number of levels, the second half really let the book down.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slipknot Continue to Release Great Songs with Messed Up Videos…

I’ve liked Slipknot’s music since the beginning, really. I was going through my angry teen phase when their eponymous album was released (although, without the “angry” side – I was always more curmudgeonly than angry). Their musical aggression and interesting interviews always kept them on my playlists. As new albums were released, and the band evolved, they remained there. Side-projects emerged – Stone Sour the best by miles. But always Slipknot remained waiting in the wings to drop a new album just when fans were starting to get impatient.

Their fifth album, The Gray Chapter will be released on October 21st by Roadrunner Records. Two singles have already been released: “The Devil In I” and “The Negative One”. Both, naturally, have really messed-up, horror-influenced music videos. And may even one-up Marilyn Manson, this time around. Here they are:

THE DEVIL IN I (the better of the two, in my opinion)


I must confess, also, to still not really understanding the value that Clown adds to the songs. Every so often, he hits a bit drum. In previous songs, it was with a baseball bat. He never seems to add much to the groove or overall quality of the song. It seems he is just an angry dude in a clown mask, who sometimes helps out with the artwork and “artistic direction”.

New Asking Alexandria Music Video…

… shows the band’s ‘softer’ side. Unlike “The Death of Me”, which is one of the best hard rock/metal songs ever written, “Moving On” has a bit more of an ’80s ballad vibe, with an added modern sheen. The song is also from From Death to Destiny, and is one of my favourites from the album. Here’s the video:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Upcoming: THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS by Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey/Tor)


I haven’t read anything by Peter F. Hamilton, but I know a lot of people who love his work. This novel, as the start of a new series (the Commonwealth) looks really interesting, so I hope it will be the first of Hamilton’s books that I read. Here’s the synopsis:

When images of a lost civilisation are “dreamed” by a self-proclaimed prophet of the age, Nigel Sheldon, inventor of wormhole technology and creator of the Commonwealth society is suspicious. Especially as the dreams seem to be coming from the Void – an area of living space monitored and controlled because of its hugely destructive capabilities. With it being the greatest threat to the known universe, Nigel is determined to find out if human life really does exist beyond its boundaries and if so, what the hell they're doing there.

But when he crash lands on a planet beyond the Void he didn't even know existed he finds so much more than he imagined. Bienvenido, a world populated from the survivors of Commonwealth colony ships which disappeared over three thousand years ago. Since then they’ve been fighting an ever-increasingly desperate battle against a space-born predator invading their landscape. The Fallers looks innocuous to begin with and their lure is enticing to any that stray within their path – but they are by far the greatest threat to the continuance of humanity on this planet.

But Nigel soon realises that the Fallers also hold the key to something he’d never hoped to find – the destruction of the Void itself. If only he can survive long enough to work out how to use it…

Above are the US and UK covers. Not sure which I prefer, but the UK cover (left) certainly has a space operatic movie-poster feel to it. Which do you prefer?

Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams is published by Del Rey in the US and Tor/Macmillan in the UK. If you’re a reviewer with a NetGalley account, both publishers have it posted (US/UK). The novel is due to be published in October 2014.

Upcoming: THE DEAD LANDS by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central)

PercyB-TheDeadLandsI thoroughly enjoyed Benjamin Percy’s previous novel, Red Moon, and have been eagerly awaiting his next book ever since. Now (via SF Signal), here are the details of that novel, a re-imagining of the Lewis & Clark saga in a post-apocalyptic setting:

A super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of the world we know. A few humans carry on, living in outposts such as the Sanctuary – the remains of St. Louis – a shielded community that owes its survival to its militant defense and fear-mongering leaders.

Then a rider comes from the wasteland beyond its walls. She reports on the outside world: west of the Cascades, rain falls, crops grow, civilization thrives. But there is danger too: the rising power of an army that pillages and enslaves every community they happen upon.

Against the wishes of the Sanctuary, a small group sets out in secrecy. Led by Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, they hope to expand their infant nation, and to reunite the States. But the Sanctuary will not allow them to escape without a fight.

Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is due to be published in the US by Grand Central Publishing, in April 2015. Red Moon was published in the UK by Hodder, and they will be publishing The Deadlands as well, in May 2015.

Also on CR: Interview with Benjamin Percy

Rocket Girl, Vol.1 – “Times Squared” (Image)

RocketGirl-Vol.01Writer: Brandon Montclare | Artist: Amy Reeder

A teenage cop from a hightech future is sent back in time to 1986 New York City. Dayoung Johansson is investigating the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time. As she pieces together the clues, she discovers the “future” she calls home — an alternate reality version of 2014 — shouldn’t exist at all!

Collects: Rocket Girl #1-5

There is a lot to like about this series: it’s fun, quirky, action-packed, and contains some good light humour. And, of course, the artwork is great (Amy Reeder’s one of the best artists working today). The characters are interesting and varied, their interactions can be pretty fun.


However, one thing that really niggled at me was the fact that cops in this future are teenagers. It’s probably completely unreasonable to be slightly annoyed by this, but there seems to be a real lack of attention to future-world-building. Sure, this is the first volume of an ongoing series, and therefore isn’t meant to present a complete story. It’s an origin tale, but one that lacks much depth. Part of the problem, I think, is that the creative team are trying to cram in a lot of information and action in a relatively short period of time.

I had really hoped for more from this series. It had huge potential, but sadly didn’t quite deliver. Despite this, I’m still interested in seeing where this goes in the future. The fish-out-of-water element of the future teen (and, uh, police officer) thrust back into the 1980s, and how she’ll adjust to the lower-tech, now-altered past could be really fun and interesting. Also, there are still some mysteries that have been seeded in the “future” parts that need illuminating.

A cautious recommendation, then. An imperfect beginning, but one that still has a good deal of promise for the future.

Three Upcoming Gollancz Titles…

Culled from Amazon UK (I was searching for something else, found these), here are a few upcoming titles from Gollancz that I think look really interesting. No idea if the covers have been finalised, mind – I’m sure I’ll share the final ones if/when they change.

Lachlan-ValkyriesSongM.D. Lachlan, Valkyrie’s Song (March 2015)

The Harrowing has come to the North and a wolf that will kill a god is on the road…

That’s not the most enlightening of synopses, but I really enjoyed the first two novels in the series – I have somehow managed to bypass the third altogether (Lord of Slaughter). With this only out in March 2015, though, I have time to catch up.

If you like Norse mythology, supernatural twists on history, and excellent writing, then you really do need to try out Lachlan’s series. (Incidentally, Lachlan also writes as Marc Adler, whose Son of the Morning was published earlier this year.)


Lloyd-2-OldMansGhostsUKTom Lloyd, Old Man’s Ghosts (March 2015)

Some men can never outrun their ghosts.

Enchei thought he’d found a home at last – a life of quiet obscurity far removed from the horror of his military days. After a decade in the Imperial City his mistakes have been few, but one has now returned to haunt him.

As Narin’s pregnant lover comes to term, life has never been so perilous. There couldn’t be a worse time for a nightmare to be unleashed on the Imperial City, but luck’s rarely been on Narin’s side.

Once, Enchei swore he’d take his own life rather than let his past catch up with him, but now it’s not just his own in the balance. Demons, rogue mages and vengeful noblemen haunt the city – and a man’s ghosts are always watching and waiting…

The sequel to Moon’s Artifice.


Pinborough-StayWithMeSarah Pinborough, Stay With Me (February 2015)

The Death House is a home where, in a world where people are safe against illness, children and teenagers who are susceptible to terminal conditions are sent to die.

Their fates are certain. Their lives are in their hands. The question is: what will they choose to do with them?

Really enjoyed The Language of Dying, looking forward to reading more by the author. And I really like the understated design for the cover.


Any of these catch your eye? Any others you’re looking forward to?

Excerpt: THE REVOLUTIONS by Felix Gilman (Corsair)



It was the evening of what would later be called the Great Storm of ’93, and Arthur Archibald Shaw sat at his usual desk in the Reading Room of the British Museum, yawning and toying with his pen. Soft rain pattered on the dome. Lamps overhead shone through a haze of golden dust. Arthur yawned. There was a snorer at the desk opposite, head back and mouth open. Two women nearby whispered to each other in French. Carts creaked down the aisle, the faint tremors of their passing threatening to topple the tower of books on Arthur’s desk, which concerned explosives, and poisons, and exotic methods of murder.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Audio Reviews: MICHAEL PALIN’S DIARIES, 1969-1988 (Orion/Audible)


A fantastic pair of memoirs, covering some of the best of British comedy

Michael Palin has kept a diary since being newly married in the late 1960s, when he was beginning to make a name for himself as a TV scriptwriter (for David Frost, the Two Ronnies, etc). Monty Python was just around the corner. In this first volume of his diaries, he tells for the first time how Python emerged and triumphed. Perceptive and funny, it chronicles not only his struggle to find a niche in the world of television comedy, but also the extraordinary goings on of the many powerful personalities who coalesced to form the Monty Python team.

The second volume of Michael Palin’s diaries covers the 1980s, a decade in which the ties that bound the Pythons loosened as they forged their separate careers. After a live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, they made their last performance together in 1983, in the hugely successful Monty Python’s Meaning of Life…

Continuing my consumption of comedian memoirs, I turned to Michael Palin’s excellent Diaries. These first two volumes (I’m listening to the third at the moment), details much of Palin’s most famous work with the Pythons – as part of that group and also the projects that involved just one or two of them. They’re abridged, which sometimes made me wish for more. At the same time, though, they kept the story moving, and I was never bored (in fact, I blitzed through them in three days). If you’re looking for an excellent comedian/celebrity memoir, then I would absolutely recommend these two: The Python Years and Halfway to Hollywood.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mini-Review: THE BROKEN ROAD by Teresa Frohock

FrohockT-TheBrokenRoadA superb, dark new novella

The world of Lehbet is under siege. The threads that divide Lehbet from the mirror world of Heled are fraying, opening the way for an invasion by an alien enemy that feeds on human flesh.

Travys, the youngest of the queen’s twin sons, was born mute. He is a prince of the Chanteuse, nobles who channel their magic through their voices. Their purpose is to monitor the threads and close the paths between the worlds, but the Chanteuse have given themselves over to decadence. They disregard their responsibilities to the people they protect — all but Travys, who fears he’ll fail to wake the Chanteuse to Heled’s threat in time to prevent the destruction of Lehbet.

Within the palace, intrigue creates illusions of love where there is none, and whenTravys’ own brother turns against him, he is forced to flee all that he has known and enter the mirror world of Heled where the enemy has already won. In Heled, he must find his true voice and close the threads, or lose everyone that he loves.

The Broken Road is the first in a new series from Teresa Frohock. It exhibits all of the strengths of her previous work (the excellent Miserere and a number of short stories): excellent prose, brisk-yet-unhurried pacing, a dark and gothic atmosphere, and a wonderfully horror-tinged fantasy approach. All of this makes for an excellent read.

Upcoming: FIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)

Sanderson-R2-FirefightUKI rather enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheartthe first in the Reckoners series and also the first of the author’s novels that I’ve read. I stumbled across the UK cover for Firefight, the sequel, while researching something else. It’s a rather excellent cover, I think, and will sit very nicely alongside Steelheart and the novella Mitosis. Here’s the synopsis:

They told David it was impossible – that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart – invincible, immortal, unconquerable – is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realise he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic – Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Firefight is due to be published in the UK by Gollancz in January 2015. Here are the other two covers:


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guest Post: “Writes & Wrongs” by Edward Cox

CoxE-AuthorPicIt’s time for me to admit that I might have taken the longest route possible to getting an agent. I’m something of a blunderer by nature, and learning the hard way is the theme of my life. So much so that I sometimes wonder how I managed to get an agent at all.

The original version of The Relic Guild is very different from the version that was signed by Gollancz. It was written for a Master’s degree that I concluded in in 2009. When I was coming to the end of that degree, I had been wondering if my work could hold its own with the bigger names in the publishing industry. I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis of the novel to the man who is now my agent. It impressed him enough to request the remainder of the book. However, although that early version of The Relic Guild gained me an MA, it didn’t quite make the grade with my agent.

For the sake of avoiding long and boring explanations, let’s just say that the original version was something akin to an academic exercise. The result fell somewhere between a fantasy adventure and a pseudo-intellectual dystopian wannabe. It was right for academic purposes, but wrong for the publishing industry. It had potential, but lacked focus and commercial value. Make it the fantasy adventure it wants to be, my agent said, and then we’ll do business.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming: MOCKINGJAY, Part 1 (Movie, Lionsgate)

The third (of four) Hunger Games movies. The trailer was unveiled today:

I rather enjoyed the first two movies, having not read Suzanne Collins’s novels. I intend to read Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but I still haven’t decided if I want to do it before or after I’ve seen all the movies.

The Hunger Games trilogy is published by Scholastic.

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence | Screenplay: Danny Strong, Peter Craig.


Upcoming Orbit Titles (Spring/Summer 2015)

Orbit unveiled the covers for their Spring/Summer 2015 releases today (US/UK – although, they’re mostly the same), and I thought I’d share some of the ones that caught my eye, here. I present them without commentary, but I will say the Peeler cover is rather eye-catching not only because of its bold colouring, but because it’s rather amusing.

Daniel Abraham, The Spider’s War (Dagger & Coin #5)



James S.A. Corey, Nemesis Games (Expanse #5)



N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season


This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze – the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years – collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.


Nicole Peeler, Jinn & Juice


Cursed to be a jinni for a thousand years, Leila nears the end of her servitude – only to be bound once again against her will. Will she risk all to be human?

Born in ancient Persia, Leila turned to her house Jinni, Kouros, for help escaping an arranged marriage. Kouros did make it impossible for her to marry – by cursing Leila to live a thousand years as a Jinni herself.

If she can remain unBound, Leila's curse will soon be over. But Ozan Sawyer, a Magi with the ability to See, Call, and Bind jinn has other plans.

Oz needs Leila to help him penetrate Pittsburgh’s steel-soaked magic, a juice potent but poisonous to supernatural creatures, in order to find a missing girl with her own mysterious connection to Kouros. Unfortunately for Leila, becoming Bound to Oz may risk more than just her chance to be human once more – it could risk her very soul…

Jinn and Juice is the first in a new series by fantasy writer, Nicole Peeler, set in a world of immortal curses, powerful jinni and belly dancing.


Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora



Angus Watson, Clash of Iron (Iron Age #2)



Iron Age warriors Dug and Lowa captured Maidun castle and freed its slaves. But now they must defend it.

A Roman invasion is coming from Gaul, but rather than uniting to defend their home, the British tribes go to battle with each other – and see Maidun as an easy target.

Meanwhile, Lowa’s spies infiltrate Gaul, discovering the Romans have recruited British druids. And Maidunite Ragnall finds his loyalties torn when he meets Rome's charismatic general, Julius Caesar.

War is coming. Who will pay its price?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

New Books (September #1)


Featuring: Kelley Armstrong, Greg Bear, Sandra Brown, Steven Erikson, Liu Cixin, Sergei Lukyanenko, Alexander Maskill, Amy McCulloch, David Mitchell, Joseph O’Neill, Alice Peterson, Cherie Priest, Mike Resnick, Jamie Schultz, Adam Sternbergh, Jeff VanderMeer

Friday, September 12, 2014

Audiobook: “Small Man In A Book” by Rob Brydon (Audible/Penguin)

BrydonR-SmallManInABookJust the sort of memoir I’d imagine Brydon would write: endearing, engaging, and funny

A multi-award-winning actor, writer, comedian and presenter known for his warmth, humour and inspired impressions, Rob Brydon has quickly become one of our very favourite entertainers. But there was a time when it looked like all we’d hear of Rob was his gifted voice.

Growing up in South Wales, Rob had a passion for radio and soon the Welsh airwaves resounded to his hearty burr. However, these were followed by years of misadventure and struggle, before, in the TV series Marion and Geoff and Gavin and Stacey, Rob at last tickled the nation’s funny bone. The rest, as they say, is history. Or in his case autobiography.

Small Man in a Book is Rob Brydon’s funny, heartfelt, honest, sometimes sad, but mainly funny, memoir of how a young man from Wales very, very slowly became an overnight success.

Rob Brydon has been in, or involved with an awful lot of productions that I am familiar with. Some, of course, are more famous – Gavin & Stacey and Marion and Geoff were very popular in the UK, for example. More recently, his two excellent road-trip shows with Steve Coogan. This is a delightful audiobook, delivered perfectly, and entertaining throughout.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Franklin Ship Discovered – Time to Read “The Terror”?

TorontoStar-201409-FranklinShipThis is huge news in Canada at the moment: one of the Franklin expedition’s lost ships has been discovered under the northern ice. The ship will either be the HMS Terror or the HMS Erebus, both Royal Navy ships commanded by Sir John Franklin were lost during his doomed 1845 search for the Northwest Passage. From the Toronto Star:

“Because the wrecks of Erebus and Terror are both British property and Canadian national historic sites, the the 1997 memorandum of understanding carefully lays out each country’s claims and responsibilities. Britain retains ownership of the wrecks but has assigned ‘custody and control’ to the Government of Canada. That means Canadian archeologists get to lead the recovery mission, and Canada can keep everything taken from the wreck — with a few important exceptions.”

The Star and Globe & Mail have both published multiple stories today about the discovery, so I’d recommend heading to their websites to read more. Stand-outs include this commentary by Ken McGoogan, a short piece on the HMS Terror’s history, and also this piece about the Franklin expedition.

While nobody seems to be prepared to make a guess as to which of the two ships the discovered wreck is, the news naturally made me think of Dan Simmons’s The Terror, which was published in 2007 by Transworld Books (UK) and Little, Brown (US).


I have yet to read the novel (like oh-so-many others), but it has been inching up my TBR mountain for some time. With this latest discovery, though, I have a feeling it will leap closer to the top. Here is the synopsis…

The men on board Her Britannic Majesty’s Ships Terror and Erebus had every expectation of triumph. They were part of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition – as scientifically advanced an enterprise as had ever set forth – and theirs were the first steam-driven vessels to go in search of the fabled North-West Passage.

But the ships have now been trapped in the Arctic ice for nearly two years. Coal and provisions are running low. Yet the real threat isn’t the constantly shifting landscape of white or the flesh-numbing temperatures, dwindling supplies or the vessels being slowly crushed by the unyielding grip of the frozen ocean.

No, the real threat is far more terrifying. There is something out there that haunts the frigid darkness, which stalks the ships, snatching one man at a time – mutilating, devouring. A nameless thing, at once nowhere and everywhere, this terror has become the expedition’s nemesis.

When Franklin meets a terrible death, it falls to Captain Francis Crozier of HMS Terror to take command and lead the remaining crew on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. With them travels an Eskimo woman who cannot speak. She may be the key to survival – or the harbinger of their deaths. And as scurvy, starvation and madness take their toll, as the Terror on the ice become evermore bold, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape…

You can read an excerpt from The Terror on the author’s website.

Guest Post: “Writing in the devastating wake of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” by Jonathan Wood

JonathanWood2To the best of my recollection, the first thing I ever had published was a review of the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. I was ten. I belonged to a local Youth Club that put out a small paper ’zine every month or so. You could write in and volunteer to review movies. I was devotee of the TNMT cartoon, and had been awaiting the release of the movie with growing anticipation for months. I wrote in, and to my shock and delight was selected. I even got free movie tickets. Few ten year olds have known the height s of ecstasy I reached.

This is typically the point in the story where my dreams are all crushed, and I leave the theater shaking my fist at an unrepentant Hollywood heaven. But in fact, the movie fulfilled my every pre-teen wish. I laughed, I gasped, I demanded pizza afterward. As for the review itself… it was a breathless plot summary that descended into excruciating detail. My father cut me off when I was about halfway through – a mercy killing if ever there was one. As I recall, the final immortal line was, “And the rest was great too.”

Darwyn Cooke Covers Some DC Comics

This December, 23 DC Comics will be available with Darwyn Cooke-created variant covers. Five of them in particular jumped out at me, so here they are…

Batgirl #37


Batman/Superman #37


Catwoman #37


Detective Comics #37


Superman #37


You can find the other covers here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Audio Review: “Still Foolin’ ’Em” by Billy Chrystal (Audible / Macmillan)

CrystalB-StillFoolinEmA really good audiobook by a great comic

Billy Crystal is 65, and he’s not happy about it. With his trademark wit and heart, he outlines the absurdities and challenges that come with growing old, from insomnia to memory loss to leaving dinners with half your meal on your shirt. In humorous chapters like “Buying the Plot” and “Nodding Off,” Crystal not only catalogues his physical gripes, but offers a road map to his 77 million fellow baby boomers who are arriving at this milestone age with him. He also looks back at the most powerful and memorable moments of his long and storied life, from entertaining his relatives as a kid in Long Beach, Long Island, and his years doing stand-up in the Village, up through his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live, When Harry Met Sally, and his long run as host of the Academy Awards.

Listeners get a front-row seat to his one-day career with the New York Yankees (he was the first player to ever “test positive for Maalox”), his love affair with Sophia Loren, and his enduring friendships with several of his idols, including Mickey Mantle and Muhammad Ali. He lends a light touch to more serious topics like religion (“the aging friends I know have turned to the Holy Trinity: Advil, bourbon, and Prozac”); grandparenting; and, of course, dentistry. As wise and poignant as they are funny, Crystal's reflections are an unforgettable look at an extraordinary life well lived.

I didn’t know this when I started Still Foolin’ ’Em, but this audio edition has won a number of awards (and was also nominated for a Grammy). Certainly, I can see why. This is a great audiobook, and I laughed out loud on a number of occasions. Crystal was a favourite in my household when I was growing up, so I was familiar with so many of the movies and moments Crystal mentions (his reminiscing about When Harry Met Sally is, of course, excellent and probably a stand-out).

I particularly liked that some chapters were performed and recorded live – this offered a nice change from the ‘normal’ format of just a reading from the book, and the added audience aspect of it brought to mind a live recording of a great stand up shows. If I had one quibble, it would be that some jokes and themes were rather drawn out and therefore lost impact. A minor issue, though.

All in all? I would definitely recommend this if you are a fan of the actor. Even if you are only somewhat familiar with his work, though, I think you’ll appreciate his humour and thoughts on growing older.

A fun, honest, humble, and generous memoir.

Quick Reviews: “Sigmar’s Blood” and “Bone Cage” by Phil Kelly (Black Library)

Before the End Times… Two prequels to the Warhammer event…

KellyP-SigmarsBloodSIGMAR’S BLOOD

A great darkness has fallen over the land of Sylvania, and monsters are abroad… When an artefact of unholy power and evil is stolen from the Imperial Palace itself, Grand Theogonist Volkmar leads a crusade of the faithful into the benighted realm of the vampire counts to confront and destroy the source of the darkness: Mannfred von Carstein. With the aid of an embittered witch hunter and a senile old wizard, Volkmar faces the dread forces of the undead even though he knows it means his own end…

This novella left me with mixed feelings. I liked it, and thought it was a good example of a mid-length Warhammer story. At the same time, the story was too big to be contained in a novella that doesn’t even hit 150 pages. It left me wanting more, but in both the good and less-good way…

The story is pretty interesting, but at the same time the pacing was rather inconsistent. Sometimes, the story lurched forward, not unlike one of the zombies or skeletons reanimated by the antagonists.* The author’s prose is good, though, and descriptions are neither too sparse nor excessive. The characters are pretty interesting, but the book’s not long enough to properly flesh them out – as a result, certain moments of character-building felt half-baked or clunkily inserted into the narrative. Sigmar’s Blood could have done with being longer, which would have allowed us to get to know the characters more, and smooth out the narrative issues. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and quick read, laying down a few of the elements needed for the End Times.


KellyP-TheBoneCageBONE CAGE

A group of holy men and women of many faiths – from the Grand Theogonist of the Empire-spanning Sigmarite church to the Fay Enchantress of Bretonnia – are being transported through the wilds of Sylvania in a sinister cage of living bone. At the head of their procession of the dead is Mannfred von Carstein, lord of that benighted realm. But where is he taking them, and to what end? As the prisoners decipher the vampire’s goal, they make a desperate attempt to escape and thwart the count’s plans – but treachery from within may see them undone.

This short story, released only a couple of weeks ago, continues the story started in Sigmar’s Blood. It starts just shortly after the events (so I’m not going to delve into the plot). It’s short and punchy, but also throws in a mini-twist at the end, and some appropriately gribbly undead action and circumstances. Sometimes it feels like a who’s-who of new and scary beasties for the undead army, but this doesn’t upset the flow of the story. Is it essential reading for the End Times? Probably not, but Bone Cage shows that Kelly has improved as an author. I’m looking forward to reading more by him.


The next book in the End Times series, I believe, is the newly-released The Return of Nagash by Josh Reynolds. I am very much looking forward to reading this – as I mentioned in the Upcoming post I wrote a little while back. It’s also encouraging that Black Library are bringing Warhammer back into the spotlight (even if it might be just a little bit), after a couple of years that have been dominated by new Warhammer 40,000 and the Horus Heresy fiction. Which reminds me, I do need to get around to Rob Sanders’s Archaon: Everchosen, and caught up on the latest Gotrek & Felix novels.

* It’s a story about the undead. Of course there was going to be a comment like this…

Monday, September 08, 2014

Guest Post: “Where Writers Get Their Groove” by Sebastien de Castell

SebastienDeCastell-AuthorPicBy far the most common question you get asked as an author is, “Where do your ideas come from?” Of course, my ideas come from the same places as yours do: the crazy parts of your brain intersecting with the crazy parts of the world around you. Human brains are hard-wired to find patterns even when there are none and those little synaptic misfires are part of what makes us creative beings.

Now, the question I never get asked is, “Where do you get your groove from?” Maybe this sounds like a silly question. After all, books don’t have a groove, do they?

deCastellS-GC1-TraitorsBladeThink about those big moments in a story when your eyes are racing across the page to find out what comes next. If the author is doing their job every line should be moving the story along at the perfect speed for the action taking place. Remember back to one of those heart-rending passages where your eyes suddenly freeze on the last three words of a sentence as the implications of an emotional turnaround hits you. That strange, almost magical timing is pacing. It’s rhythm. It’s groove. My first experiences with storytelling were as a touring musician, so I often go back to music for the inspiration in finding the right pacing for key scenes in the books I write. Here’s a few that helped put Traitor’s Blade onto the page.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Guest Post: “On Trying a Trilogy” by Tom Fletcher


Gleam is the first book of The Factory Trilogy, which is my first trilogy. My first three novels – The Leaping, The Thing on the Shore, and The Ravenglass Eye, are horror novels that shared a universe, but are essentially standalone. And so writing the first book of a trilogy was an entirely new experience for me – one that I was apprehensive of, but have found thoroughly enjoyable.

I wanted to experiment with developing a particular protagonist – or, as it turned out, group of protagonists – across a series. I wanted to have a go at presenting the readers with a character who would grow and change from book to book, and whose whole past could be explored. Obviously, this required a series built around a character. So I knew from the beginning that characterisation would be central to this trilogy, and that the protagonist would need a motivation compelling enough to propel them forwards through three whole books, and a personality that would carry the readers.

Upcoming: THE SHOTGUN ARCANA by R.S. Belcher (Tor/Titan)


Two very cool, very different covers for R.S. Belcher’s follow-up to The Six-Gun Tarot. On the left, the US cover (Tor Books); and on the right, the UK cover (Titan Books). Here’s the US synopsis:

1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party… and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness. But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before — and some of them will never be the same.

I really want to read this series. I have no idea why I haven’t done so yet… I shall make that a goal for the rest of 2014. Watch this space…

You can read an excerpt from The Shotgun Arcana over on Tor.com.

The first book in this series, The Six-Gun Tarot had equally interesting covers, but I must say in that case the UK cover was by far the best. Here’s the US and UK covers, side-by-side: