All is not what it seems in Hallandren, Sanderson's highly imagined Kingdom that has been on the brink of war with its neighbor, Indris for generations. A Princess of Indris's hand in marriage has been promised to the God-King of Hallandren by treaty in order to avert or at least stay the war for a time. From the get go Warbreaker twists and turns all expectations on their head with its tightly woven plot as a reversal of roles happens again and again. Intricate politics, lazy gods, zombie-like soldiers, a magical sword with blood lust, and a damn-fine love story elevate Warbreaker into Epic Fantasy with an intimate feel. The characters start out a little too cliche, but they quickly develop into people you care for. Warbreaker's greatest strengths are the incredible world building well-steeped in its mythology and Sanderson's flair for creating a wholly original magical system is unmatched with anything I've read in recent years. BioChromatic magic or breaths is the ability for one to impart a piece of themselves onto an object to animate it. I was disappointed a little that the magic system didn't have more to do with color, but the gathering of breaths and the way they are used more than made up for my preconceived notions. I also enjoyed the so-called Gods a lot, especially Lightsong as I couldn't wait for his snarky perspective to pop in. A surprisingly quick read at nearly 600 pages when I got to page 500 I didn't know how everything could be tied-up in less than 100 pages, yet somehow Sanderson manages to bring it together without leaving much open and all the major plot threads are answered. The only thing that bothered me a little was guessing early what would happen with the God King near the end. Some Fantasy readers may be disappointed that more action doesn't happen as giant battles are not the du jour, but rather more of the sneak, slash, and run variety. This is my first Sanderson read, but it certainly will not be the last. Sanderson has managed the amazing feat of making classic-style Epic Fantasy new to me again. I give Warbreaker 9 out of 10 Hats. Although written as a standalone Sanderson has left the well open for much more and he has indicated he is probably not done with this world. A follow-up may be years off since he has to finish WOT and he just signed a 5 book deal for his next big Epic Fantasy series. Warbreaker is Epic Fantasy at its finest and I'll be there for a second helping when it is served. Now that I've read Brandon's take on color-based magic I'm curious what Brent Weeks does with his Black Prism Trilogy. Book Link: US Canada Europe
Editors George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois's Warriors has officially been announced for a March 16th, 2010 publication. Here are the contents:
- Introduction: "Stories from the Spinner Rack," by George R.R. Martin
- "The King of Norway," by Cecelia Holland
- "Forever Bound," by Joe Haldeman
- "The Triumph," by Robin Hobb
- "Clean Slate," by Lawrence Block
- "And Ministers of Grace," by Tad Williams
- "Soldierin'," by Joe Lansdale
- "Dirae," by Peter S. Beagle
- "The Eagle and the Rabbit," by Steven Saylor
- "Seven Years from Home," by Naomi Novik
- "The Custom of the Army," by Diana Gabaldon
- "The Pit," by James Rollins
- "Out of the Dark," by David Weber
- "The Girls from Avenger," by Carrie Vaughn
- "Ancient Ways," by S.M. Stirling
- "Ninieslando" by Howard Waldrop
- "Recidivist" by Gardner Dozois
- "My Name is Legion," by David Morrell
- "Defenders of the Frontier," by Robert Silverberg
- "The Scroll," by David Ball
- "The Mystery Knight," by George R.R. Martin
Between the new GRRM Dunk story and a new Haldeman Forever Peace story this is sure to be one of the best anthologies of 2010. This will have to be the GRRM fix we all need until A Dance With Dragons is finished.
I have one copy of JC De La Torre's Rise of the Ancients - Annuna courtesy of the author to give away. Send an email to madpye (AT) yahoo (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "ANCIENTS" in the subject line. The deadline is midnight August 7th. I'll announce the winner the following day. This contest is open to anyone in the World. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest. Book link: US JC De La Torre's site.
Congratulations are in order for Peter V. Brett! Film rights to Peter Brett's debut fantasy novel THE WARDED MAN, have been sold to filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson at Tannhauser Gate with Jeremy Bolt at Bolt Pictures producing. Ekaterina Sedia has also sold a new anthology of werewolves stories titled RUNNING WITH THE PACK to Prime Books. No publication date has been announced yet, but it will probably be sometime in late 2010. Sedia's next novel THE HOUSE OF DISCARDED DREAMS is expected in May 2010.
I have one hardcover copy of Chris Evans's The Light of Burning Shadows courtesy of the fine people at Pocket Books to give away. Send an email to madpye (AT) yahoo (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "BURNING" in the subject line. The deadline is midnight August 4th. I'll announce the winner on the following Thursday. This contest is open the United States only. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest. I also have one mass market copy of Chris Evans's A Darkness Forged in Fire, which was sent to me with my review copy of A Light of Burning Shadows, but since I have it in hardcover already I thought I'd share the wealth with my readers. Send an email to madpye (AT) yahoo (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "DARKNESS" in the subject line. The deadline is midnight August 10th. I'll announce the winner on the 11th or so. This contest is open to anyone in the United States as well. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest. Check out my interview with Chris Evans here.
Chris Evans is the author of the historically influenced fantasy Iron Elves series, which begins with A Darkness Forged in Fire recently released in mass market format. The second in the series The Light of Burning Shadows will be released today in hardcover by Pocket Books. I was a fan of the first book, which is why I'm glad to give Mr. Evans this forum. MH: Hello Mr. Evans, welcome to Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf. Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself? CE: Thanks for having me. Well, I was born in Canada which means I’m a really nice guy until you put me on a patch of ice at which point a switch flips and I find myself doing things that wind up with someone getting a broken jaw…or tailbone…sadly, it was my jaw and butt that got broken which explains in part why I’m a writer today and not a hockey player. I now live in Manhattan and like most New Yorkers I love the city while finding it exasperating at times, too. Overall, it’s an incredibly vibrant and amazing place with an infinite number of distractions to amuse and inspire you, especially if you’re a writer. I also work full time as an editor of history, military history, current affairs and conflicts books for Stackpole Books, and when I’m not doing that you can often find me out running in Central Park. MH: For those who haven’t dipped their toes into your Iron Elves series, what would you say to perspective readers to whet their appetite? CE: I’m an unabashed and unapologetic fan of fantasy, including the ancient tropes of elves and dwarves. That said, when I embarked on the Iron Elves I wanted to try my hand at evolving the traditional European medieval setting to something more like the time of Napoleon. I’d always wanted to see what would happen to the core of Tolkien’s world if you moved it forward in time, and this gave me a chance to explore that. The other big driving force is my interest in history and military history in particular. I wanted to create an epic that was told, in part, from the perspective of the ordinary soldier. Armies abound in many fantasies, but they’re often relegated to the background. My interest was to bring that to the fore. MH: What did you want to accomplish with the Iron Elves storyline? What themes were you exploring and do you think you’ve succeeded thus far? CE: First and foremost I simply wanted to tell an entertaining story. And I wanted to delve into imperialism and colonialism in a fantasy setting. When it comes to the characters, I looked to tap into people not content with the world as they find it, or their place in it. Judging from the emails I receive from readers and the foreign translations that are underway I’d say I’m making progress, but there’s still a lot more I want to achieve with the story before it’s done. MH: The Iron Elves series is heavily influenced by the Napoleonic era and between Naomi Novak’s Temeraire and C.C. Finlay’s Traitor to the Crown it seems like the military historical fantasy sub genre has been having a huge resurgence. What are your thoughts about this? Do you think it will bring more non-fantasy readers into the fold? CE: I think military history has often been a key component of most fantasies, but it tends to get overlooked or placed in the background while the story illuminates the lives of the main characters. What we’re seeing with works like Finlay’s and Novak’s is an explicit acknowledgement of just how central military conflict has been in the fantasy genre and how interesting it can be. I’m not sure if this will bring more non-fantasy readers to the genre, but I think it will broaden the reach in general and that’s always a good thing. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the whole genre labeling system anyway. When you examine it closely it’s really just refined tribalism fueled by bookstore shelving categories. I read a lot on Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt before writing The Light of Burning Shadows, so it’s possible some readers might want to go and check out the real thing in the nonfiction section if mine inspires them in any way. Like most readers, I read widely. Fantasy for me is often the gateway to another genre be it fiction or nonfiction. Ultimately, I hope that these books encourage more people to read, no matter what the genre. MH: What Fantasy books have left you in awe? Which writers have influenced your work the most? CE: Tolkien and Rowling, naturally. Those two have achieved immortality with their fantasies and regardless of what you might think of their prose (I happen to be a fan of both) you can’t deny their success. Well, you can, but then you’d be willfully contrarian and looking for an energetic conversation over a few beers and that’s fun, too. Terry Pratchett is another fantasist who impresses me greatly. The man is spit-your-drink-on-your-keyboard funny, and intelligent about it at the same time. As for influencing my writing, I draw on a different set of names that aren’t often mentioned in fantasy circles, authors like Rudyard Kipling, T.E. Lawrence, Ernie Pyle, Barbara Tuchmann, George MacDonald Fraser, Len Deighton, Bernard Cornwell, and John Keegan to name a few. They’re all masters, but only Kipling would probably be called a fantasist though Lawrence did dabble in stretching credulity at times. MH: What character from your books do you most identify with? CE: They’re all part of me to some degree. Konowa encompasses some of my frustrations, Alwyn some of my fears, and Yimt most definitely a good portion of my sense of humor. And I enjoy writing each one for those same reasons as it lets me explore different facets of myself and go to places I’ve never been. MH: Have you always wanted to be a writer? CE: I think I have. I got serious about it around ten years ago, but ever since I was a child I enjoyed writing. I still have journals and short stories I wrote when I was in grade school so clearly the idea of writing was present at an early age. I’m tempted to call it a wonderful affliction or even addiction because at a deep level I can’t imagine living without writing. MH: How much back-story have you written or have you created most of it as you go along? In other words are you a plotter or more a stream of consciousness writer? CE: I think I fall somewhere between the two, but I’m still working out my system so it remains an evolving process. I research a lot before and during the writing of a novel, and constantly revise as I discover new and more interesting things. There’s a distant point that I’m aiming for, but how I get there I leave open, plotting a few key scenes along the way but otherwise allowing the story to grow naturally as I write. MH: Your Publisher has gone the extra mile by printing your covers with a metallic finish. Are you happy with the covers you’ve been given and how important do you think they are to a books’ success? CE: I am thrilled with the level of support I am receiving from Pocket Books here in the US as well as Simon & Schuster worldwide, especially in the UK and Canada. I love all the covers. As for the metallic finish, I especially appreciate that for the simple reason that most books don’t have it. If everything being published tomorrow came out with metallic finishes I’d be the first to ask for brown paper covers. I doubt anyone buys a book because of the cover, but they might pick it up and read the flap copy, so in that sense the cover matters. There are literally millions of choices out there, so anything that improves the odds in your favor is a good thing. A cover that stands out has done its job. After that, it’s up to the story inside. MH: Without giving too much away what’s in store for Konowa in The Light of Burning Shadows? Also, will we get to see his father show off his fantastic powers and transformations again? CE: Konowa and the lads are definitely in for a rough time as they sail across the ocean and land in a desert realm. This book delves a little deeper into the inner conflicts of some of the characters and that’s very much inspired by my work with combat veterans. As for Konowa’s father, Jurwan, well, he’s still in squirrel form and as twitchy as ever. I was delighted at how many readers loved that, and surprised that a few seemed quite put out by it. Maybe there’re more allergies to nuts out there than I realized! MH: Will there be any more Iron Elves books after the 3rd volume? With the same characters or something set in the same world? CE: The plan right now is that the Iron Elves will conclude at the end of the third book. I’ve started book three and have a fairly clear end point in sight. Having said that (uh oh, caveat alert,) I can definitely see further adventures with these characters at some point down the road. MH: Do you have any plans for books outside the Iron Elves series? If so how would they differ from what you’ve done? CE: Yes, there will be other books and series. Two are in the works now. One takes a lot of the fantasy elements we all know and evolves them even further in time than the Iron Elves. There will be a strong military history component again and a focus on the individuals who have to face the enemy on the field of battle, but with even more twists than I have in this series, and a greater development of personal relationships. MH: If you could be any character from a fantasy book who would it be and why? CE: Commander Sam Vimes in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. He’s a flawed character to be sure, but who among us isn’t? His competence, temper, and exasperation are equally fascinating and hilarious. Richard Sharpe of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series is another. It’ll come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Sharpe that Konowa was inspired in part by Sharpe’s adventures. MH: What are 2 things most people don’t know about you? Do you have a pet monkey you keep sequestered in the backyard? CE: That I broke my jaw playing hockey, oh wait, you do know that. Ok, well, I did break a tooth playing cricket. (And yes, it was my tooth). Come to think of it, I have a propensity for injuring myself out of all proportion to my skill level at any given sport. I’m currently recovering from a double leg injury from running which is seriously frustrating because the only Olympic dreams I have are confined to the women’s synchronized swim teams. MH: Is there anything else you’d like to say? CE: Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk to your readers. Just like the metallic covers, an interview gives an author a chance to make an impression and get a potential reader to check out the book. I appreciate that chance. MH: Thank you for your time. I’ll definitely be checking out The Light of Burning Shadows soon. Excerpt to The Light of Burning Shadows is available here. Chris Evans's: Blog Chris Evans’s: Website
Mythology In Speculative Fiction By JC De La Torre Search the name Poseidon in Amazon and you’ll be amazed at the amount of fantasy literature that comes up regarding the gods. From Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series to Dan Simmons Olympos saga, the gods must be crazy for speculative fiction writers. The myths of old are big business now-a-days. Certainly, everyone has at least heard of the greek and roman deities. Zeus and Jupiter, Poseidon and Neptune, as they share responsibilities, they share a renewed interest in authors’ minds. Today, the gods run amuck in America (American Gods by Neil Gaiman), are living comfortably above the Empire State Building (Percy Jackson), live on Mars (Olympos), get frisky in London (Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips) are running a boarding school (Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright, and are freed from their underwater prison of Atlantis and reigning hell on the world (as in my own Rise of the Ancients saga), mythology is the new vampirism. When Twilight became the next sensation, everyone was writing teen vampire love triangles. Now, Percy Jackson bursts on to the scene (and will be a bigger force once hit hits the movieplex in 2010 with the Lightning Thief), everyone wants to invite Zeus to the party. It’s funny, when I began writing my first novel in the summer of ‘04, Ancient Rising - Rise of the Ancients Book I, the gods and Atlantis were a subject that had been ignored for a long time. Sure, comic books had tackled Atlantis and the gods, there were a handful of novels that had Atlantis or the gods as a major theme including Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon series and Clive Cussler’s Atlantis Found but interest in mythology seemed to deaden out in the 90’s. No one was interested in retelling or re-imaging the old myths. It was probably due to the feelings evoked when you talk about established mythology. If your subject matter is something as well known as the Greek gods and as debated about as Atlantis – you know you’re going to tick someone off. That was the challenge I faced when I decided to come up with the Rise of the Ancients series. As I wrote the first two installments of the series, Ancient Rising and Annuna (released on July 31st), I wanted to weave the fall of Atlantis with a religion that impacted the world for quite awhile – the mythology that was the Greek gods. In fiction, you can invent your own mythology around the lost continent – but if you aren’t true to the source you get scenarios like flying cars and laser beams, while interesting to the story, may not really be plausible in the mind of your reader. I had to dig further into antiquity, to the earliest recorded mythology – the Ancient Sumerians and their Annuna deities – gods from heaven. It came together as a benevolent race of ascended beings planting the seeds of life on our world. It would incorporate the pantheon of religious belief, including Jewish and Christian tradition. I know that in some ways I took some literary liberties with some of the established canon. Hera, for example, isn’t a major character at all in this series – but she was typically the cause of so much anarchy in the myths of old. At some point you have to decide what is usable and what truly isn’t. In the end, if I was going to tie these converging religions into one, understandable hierarchy, I couldn’t possibly hold to the hundreds of gods or figures that are known in Greek mythology. While I’d love to believe I started the trend, I know it’s more due to the success of Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and Thomas Greanias’ Atlantis saga that have brought mythology back into the mainstream. Video games like God of War introduced Zeus and the other gods to a new audience. While we know Percy Jackson’s movies are coming, I also recently saw an article that said that Dreamworks optioned Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s comic mini-series Atlantis Rising. I have a feeling that the gods are going to be with us for awhile. JC De La Torre is the author of fantasy thriller Rise of the Ancients - Annuna, released on July 31st to retailers everywhere. Book link: US
Original hardcover release from Orbit US.
Orbit paperback release planned for a January 2010.
The hardcover design never did a lot for me as the type was a bit overwhelming, but it did give a more of a virtual feel with the coloring than the mass market. Yet I find the mass market cover more appealing. Eyes always seem to draw me in, especially when colored oddly.
Next up is Cory Doctorow's Makers:
Hardcover release from Tor US.
Hardcover release from HarperVoyager UK.
The image on the US release is quite interesting. but the hands down winner for me is the UK version. It is very original and makes me want to pick it up to breakout the individual pieces.
About a month back I did a post on What Author Haven't You Read But Should. In that article my greatest shame was not having read any books by Charles de Lint. Well now I can certainly say it was an enormous shame that I haven't delved into his work sooner as he took me on an amazing journey though mystical lands and a magical house. Moonheart has been lauded as a modern Urban Fantasy classic. It certainly deserves all the praise it has garnered and more. I was discussing Moonheart with a friend and he asked me who de Lint is like. My response was "he is kind of like an Urban Fantasy version of Robert J. Sawyer." Both Sawyer and de Lint take great strides to create believable characters with deep personality in a fairly contemporary setting. Both also have a tendency to place their stories in Canada and drop in a lot of references to that effect, which can get a bit bothersome at times yet I'm sure other countries get tired of reading about the US as well. And both put out high-quality work regularly. Moonheart is a much more methodical tale than most Urban Fantasy. You won't see sword-wielding heroines battling vampires astride a motorcycle here. This is more akin to a modern mythology as it weaves Celtic and Native American folklore gorgeously into a contemporary locale. Celtic Bard Taliesin's history is used to amazing effect as de Lint weaves his story around that of Taliesin, the Kendell family, and a great evil that has risen. The opening had me hooked, although it is a bit slow going as de Lint has to include a lot of back story and setup to get where he needed to go. Yet everything works beautifully together from his demon-like creatures to the Ogham type Weirdin divination system one of the characters uses which is amazing in and of itself. The story centers on Sarah Kendall, a free spirit and Keiran, an apprentice Wizard of sorts, as they gain power and try to uncover the identity of the mysterious evil that is after Sarah and Kerian's teacher Thomas Hengyr who has a deep history with Taliesin. The narrative switches between many characters in the past and present including minors one, which can get tiresome. I could have done with fewer chapters coming from the many police characters that seemed very pointless. de Lint suffers a bit from wanting to give even minor characters more life than they need or should warrant. However, this same affliction will give you a deeper understanding of the main characters and what they must go through. One of my favorite aspects was de Lint's odd Tamson house, which becomes a character of its own as it spans two worlds and houses an array of equally odd characters. Moonheart is also a rich love story with plenty of action to keep you moving forward. I wish I had found de Lint sooner as I would have probably appreciated him more if he had been my introduction to Urban Fantasy. I give Moonheart 8 out of 10 Hats. I'll definitely be checking out a lot more of de Lint's work in the future. I'd recommend this to anyone in is a fan of mythology melding with the present day. Book Link: US Canada Europe
A good friend passed on this link to a very surreal and mostly funny review of Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy and Best Served Cold. Some highlights include:
Logen Ninefingers is like Chuck Norris, Rambo, the Terminator, and Bruce Lee all had a child… and then Logen Ninefingers came along and killed that child. Yet still, I’m left with the feeling that where Bayaz and his arch nemesis Khalul are concerned, it’s not a battle between “Good and Evil” it’s a battle between “Shit” and “Oh SHIT!”If you tire be sure to scroll down towards the end (after Best Served Cold cover) for an imaginary kidnapping of Joe Abercrombie. BEWARE spoilers abound through out this posting.
This is kind of last minute since I'll be done with Warbreaker in the next couple of days, but I'm having a hard time deciding what to read next. So I'm going to saddle you, gentle readers with the choice by poll. I often like to switch from one type of book to another even if they are the same genre. Meaning I try to avoid reading two door stopper fantasy books in a row if they are both traditional epic style, but can if one is more humorous. My first reaction was to go to The Prodigal Mage next as I've been waiting for it, but I fear Warbreaker may be similar in style and tone so I don't want my mind to associate one with the other. Hence my switching from different styles regularly. Please vote in the upper left corner. Well here are the choices: The Prodigal Mage by Karen Miller (Orbit) Many years have passed since the last great Mage War. It has been a time of great change. But not all changes are for the best, and Asher's world is in peril once more.The weather magic that holds Lur safe is failing, and the earth feels broken to those with the power to see. Among Lur's sorcerers, only Asher has the skill to mend the antique weather map that governs the seasons, keeping the land from being crushed by natural forces. Yet, when Asher risks his life to meddle with these dangerous magics, the crisis is merely delayed, not averted.Asher's son Rafel has inherited the father's talents, but has been forbidden to use them. Many died in the last Mage War and these abilities aren't to be loosed lightly into the world. But when Asher's last desperate attempt to repair the damage leaves him on his deathbed, Rafel's powers may not be denied. For his countrymen are facing famine, devastation, and a rift in the very fabric of their land. Diving Into the Wreck by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Pyr) Boss loves to dive historical ships, derelict spacecraft found adrift in the blackness between the stars. Then one day, Boss finds the claim of a lifetime: an enormous spacecraft, incredibly old, and apparently Earth-made. It's impossible for something so old, built in the days before Faster Than Light travel, to have journeyed this far from Earth. What Boss finds could rewrite history, cost lives, and start an intergalactic war. Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo (Night Shade) Markham has returned to Seattle, searching for Katarina, the girl who, a decade ago, touched his soul, literally tearing it from his body. But what he discovers upon arriving is dark magick - of a most ancient and destructive kind! An encounter with a desperate spirit, leaping destructively from host to host, sets Markham on the trail of secretive cabal of magicians seeking to punch a hole through heaven, extinguishing forever the divine spark. Armed with the Chorus, a phantasmal chain of human souls he wields as a weapon of will, Markham must engage in a magickal battle with earth-shattering stakes! Markum must delve deep into his past, calling on every aspect of his occult training for there to be any hope of a future. But delve he must, for Markham is a veneficus, a spirit thief, the Lightbreaker... Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (EOS) Supernatural fantasy has a new antihero Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you're James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles. Now Stark's back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you'd expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future. Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse. Darkly twisted, irreverent, and completely hilarious, Sandman Slim is the breakthrough novel by an acclaimed author. EDIT: The winner with half the votes was Sandman Slim.
Mishmash | Orbit Bad Cover Contest Update, Blogger Appreciation Week, and Book Reviewers Linkup Meme
One of my entries for Orbit's The Worst Ever Cover Contest made it to the final five. I guess that means I know a thing or 2 about bad SF/F tropes. They are taking votes to see which one will make it to the final cut to actually get designed. Check out the full list here. You can vote for your favorite here. My entry is (nudge, nudge): An Old Dragon, A Dead Witch, and a Fat Guy: The Third Book of Stories that Go Nowhere Who wouldn't want to see something this awesomely bad? Although I am against some stiff competition with other entries like The Thing with the Glass Buttock. John at Grasping for the Wind is looking for SF/F bloggers to register and do a link up post. Check out the details here. I also signed up for Book Blogger Appreciation Week and I encourage you all to cast your votes for your favorite book blogs. There are a lot of categories, but you don't have to pick one blog for each category. Just vote for the areas you read blogs for such as Best Speculative Fiction Blog and Best Literary Blog. They also have nominations for best designed blog in addition to a whole host of other things. Here is a little more info: Last year over 400 blogs came together to celebrate the art of book blogging during the first ever Book Blogger Appreciation Week! I am so pleased to announce that the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be taking place September 14-18. WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week! WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recognizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways. WHEN September 14-18, 2009 WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.) WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!
I think my mail person hates me or at least the number of packages I get. Pyr has answered my call for some new sci-fi with The Quiet War and Diving Into the Wreck, which I'll have to get to sooner than later. Orbit was very kind to send me a copy of The Prodigal Mage, which I have been hotly anticipating as Kingmaker, Kingbreaker is one of my favorite series from 2007. Look for a review in the not too distant future in addition to an interview with Karen Miller. If I wasn't already 150 pages into Warbreaker I'd jump right to Prodigal, but I'm enjoy Warbreaker too much to set it aside. My copy of the next Felix Castor series Dead Men's Boots turned up as well in addition to a few other good looking titles. Also, not pictured is Sandman Slim which I was just handed. It is an oddly cute size. I wouldn't have thought of describing anything by Kadrey as cute, but here we are.
I've been jonesing for some science fiction since I've been a bit heavy with the fantasy lately, but few sf books have been catching my eye. Than came the mass market release of Implied Spaces, which I had been eyeing in hardcover with the tag line "Sword and Singularity." Let me start by saying that Implied Spaces didn't turn out to be quite what I expecting or looking for. Judging by the cover art and back cover copy I thought it would basically be people in space with swashbuckling along with some sort of grand conflict, which it lives up to in some ways yet this book is so much more. The first section is a big fake out as you are in a fantasy world where trolls and orcs exist, which lends credence to my first inclination about swashbuckling. However, Implied Spaces quickly turns out to be grandeur and much more philosophical. The central idea is "What does it means to be human?" This is a future where people have everything they could ever want, can change their body at a whim, and evade death eternally with science of galactic proportions. Technology is so evolved it might as well be magic at a time where the society can create entire pocket universes for no more reason than a place to take a vacation or as a power source. The main character, Aristide, even carries a seemingly magic sword while followed by a highly intelligent cat, which both get explained in their own fashion. Aristide is in search of a reason to keep on living as he is over 1,000 years old and is one of the few people to remember a time when you couldn't live forever. He has a great wit about him and I found him endearing. The title refers to the spaces that weren't specifically designed in their created worlds and universes that come about because they have to fill the whole area. Aristide studies these random spaces which have implications in the large scope of the whole story. Williams has amazing ideas about technology and what could happen to society given the chance that I wish he had spent more time exploring and explaining. There is so much going on and so many things are thrown about it was almost too much to up with. Williams somehow mashes up conspiracies, zombies, AIs, government bureaucracy, planet crushing weapons, and galactic war yet it never seems absurd. His characters are well done, although Aristide is bit over the top as the alpha male at points and his love interest is screwed with so much I lost the connection to who she is supposed to be. The sword fighting goes by the wayside quickly, which was a bit disappointing, but the battles were well done. The many plot twists were better than expected, especially one in the last quarter. The ending was a bit anticlimactic given the grand setup yet it was a great and never slow journey to get there. I give Implied Spaces 7.5 out of 10 Hats. Williams is definitely not done with this universe and I hope to read another great novel from him set here hopefully exploring the setting and themes in-depth. I recommend this to sf readers who love far out technology. Book Link: US Canada Europe
Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake is available as a downloadable ebook from Night Shade Books. There are also a couple other Jay Lake stories available at the same link for free. Also, I've mentioned Richard Kadrey's Butcher Bird here a few times. Well I keep forgetting to mention Night Shade has had the complete book available for free download for quite a while. If you are an Urban Fantasy fan go and check it out.
According to SFScope Simon R. Green sold the first three novels in a new series to Ace Books. The series will most likely be called Ghost Finders and "will deal with the adventure and interaction of competing groups investigating the paranormal in modern London." His agent also said the fourth Eddie Drood novel, From Hell with Love, has been submitted to his publisher. The new series sounds promising. I still have to make my way through the Drood books though.According to Winter is Coming Sean Bean has been cast as Eddard Stark in the Song of Fire & Ice HBO series. He was Boromir in the Lord of the Ring movies if he doesn't sound familiar. ScifiGuy has a good interview with Mike Carey to celebrate the US release of Dead Men's Boots the 3rd Felix Castor novel. See my review of the second book Vicious Circle here.
Ever since the moment I first finished Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind I was left wanting for more of his beautiful Barcelona and never have I wanted to visit a time and place as much. Now with The Angel's Game we finally get another look. The translation is impeccable and beautiful while never feeling overly verbose as some translations are wont to do. The Angel's Game is one to savour. I found myself re-reading whole chapters again and again as I was entranced by not only the story but the sumptuous language. Zafon has once again proven he is one of if not the brightest voices in literature today. The Angel's Game has easily become my favorite book of the year and it will be tough to knock it from that perch. However, do not expect Angel and Shadow to be similar. The Angel's Game is a much darker and much more melancholy Faustian tale with stronger supernatural themes running throughout. The themes of love taken away, unreciprocated love, and filling of voids are still are here along with memorable characters, dialogue, and love of the written word. Quite a few characters from TSOTW show up in younger forms, but I won't ruin it by telling who. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books plays a central and even more important role as well. We are also gifted with a little more history of the Cemetery, which I have been salivating for since the opening pages of TSOTW.
Zafon has truly conceived a rich mosaic city where every character and the city itself has a heart and lost soul all its own. With the main character, David Martin, he managed to create someone with a deep sardonic humor and no matter their foibles you want to see him somehow best his creepy publisher Andreas. The discussions between Andreas and David are something out of a good philosophy debate. Zafon takes the no happy ends to an entirely different realm with this as he twists and turns the written word to his incredible will. The biggest let down was the character of Cristina who needed a few more scenes earlier on to grab me a bit more, maybe even in their childhood. In the end I felt she was very short shifted. There are also a few plot lines that aren't answered very well or at all that may nag some, but it was done with the intent of perpetuating the mysterious and any explanation may have ruined the narrative.
The ending was quite unexpected as it leaves you more perplexed than anything else, which will probably turn a few readers off, but you are left with a sense of wonder that will stay with you. I give The Angel's Game 9.75 out of 10 Hats. This is a book no one should miss. The Angel's Game can be thoroughly enjoyed without have read The Shadow of the Wind, but I highly recommend you read Shadow first.
Books I've read and recommend:
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia - Sedia has created one of the best characters in Steampunk with her Mattie. Exciting and emotional at the same time. Dark Wolf just did a great review here.
Candle Man The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Glenn Dakin - Someone from the comments recommend this one as a good Young Adult Fantasy tale with Steampunk elements.
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson - This one has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time.
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt - Newish Steampunk series I've heard decent things about.
Books I am looking forward to or haven't gotten my hands on yet:
New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear - I've heard good things.
The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo - Been meaning to pick this up for years. Di Filippo is another early Steampunk originator.
Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers - What little I've heard about this Steampunk noir sounds interesting. Releases in September 2009. Akers will also be doing a Steampunk/Crime Noir book with Pyr sometime next year called The Horns of Ruin.
The Ebb Tide by James P. Blaylock - Novella of new Langdon St. Ives story from Subterranean Press.
The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker - Novella prequel to her Company series from Subterranean Press. Sounds intriguing.
Bone and Jewel Creatures by Elizabeth Bear - A new Steampunk novella with Subterranean Press to be released in March 2010.
Infernal Devices: A Mad Victorian Fantasy by K.W. Jeter - I don't know much about this other than it was another early Steampunk work. Currently out of print. The subtitle is enough to make me want to track a copy down. Jeter is also credited with coining the term Steampunk.
Steampunk related books I didn't care for (Don't hate me too much for the first one.):
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers - I had one major problem with the book that if mentioned would ruin it for everyone. Suffice to say I was able to figure out the big mystery way too early.
The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling - I read this a long time ago, but I don't have any fond memories.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Many of China Mieville's books are also said to have Steampunk elements, but I can't say for sure how they are used since I haven't read most of his work. I hope to update this list periodically[Last update
Steampunk Magazine. An online magazine that is pretty interesting. It not only includes literature but art, style, and a bit of mad science.
Very exhaustive Steampunk book list from LibraryThing is here. Although some books mentioned don't have much to do with Steampunk so beware, as many people confuse Victorian Fantasy with Steampunk all too easily.
Steampunk themed blogs:
Clockworks is a Steampunk themed webcomic updated regularly.
Steampunk Tales is an iPhone Steampunk themed comic, but can be downloaded as a PDF and in other formats as well.
Vicious Circle is the second Felix Castor novel by Mike Carey who is best known as occult comic writer of Hellblazer and Lucifer. I've had the hardcover sitting on my shelf for a while and with the mass market edition coming out in the states I thought this would be a good time to catch up. I'm sorry I waited so long as Vicious Circle was even more entertaining than the first volume The Devil You Know which introduced the characters and setting well. There are ghosts, spirit-possessed zombies, werewolves, succubi, and demons aplenty for any horror lover in a world where they are free to roam and becoming all too commonplace.
This is one of the few series books I've read that I feel could be read without reading the first volume although it certainly helps to have read the first. Carey's work in graphic novels shines through in this darkly written noir where professional exorcist Castor is in search of a missing ghost.
Castor is a very detached person yet I easily found a connection with him as he is very believable. Carey has managed to create a character in Felix Castor that is resourceful, rude, and sweetly demonic at times all with the bravado of a seasoned investigator. Castor's quick wit is possibly the best part of the book as he isn't afraid to tell someone off even when tied to a chair.
At the beginning there was almost too much going on with a multitude of seemingly unconnected sub-plots that were masterly pulled together in the end. All in all this is a read that in lesser hands would have fallen apart. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how each exorcist is able to use their talent with spirits such as Castor's use of a tin whistle to bind ghosts. My biggest gripe is not being able to get more involved with the characters as Castor keeps getting pulled into more and more problems with little time spend with most of the supporting cast. Vicious Circle is one of those books you wish were another 100 pages that keeps you up well past your bedtime as you wonder "How the hell is he gonna get out of this?" I give Vicious Circle 8.5 out of 10 Hats. The 3rd volume Dead Men's Boots will be released shortly in the US and I plan on picking up a copy. If you are into Urban Fantasy or supernatural themed Thrillers do yourself a favor and try this series out. Carey is setting this series up for some big things and I plan on being there for it.
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REVIEW | Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey
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There is a lot brewing on this end so I thought I'd share what is to come here on Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review over the next couple of months. Here are some highlights:
An interview with Lev Grossman author of The Magicians; An interview with Chris Evans author of A Darkness Forged in Fire (Iron Elves series); An interview with Karen Miller author of The Prodigal Mage and the Kingmaker, Kingbreaker Duology;I should have another interview or 2, but these haven't been confirmed yet. There will be a couple giveaways during this time as well. Another author guest post/article is in the works too. I'm also working on a new article that I hope to turn into a regular feature regarding a few different series. This will mostly focus on established series that I've been behind the curve on so instead of reviewing book 4 in a series I haven't discussed here it will give me an opportunity to share what I love about them. Hopefully it will entice readers to give the series discussed a chance. As always you'll see 2 new book reviews a week if I can keep the place up. I just started The Angel's Game and so far it is living up to expectations. I tried not to have them too high though so I wouldn't be let done as The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favorite books of all time. I liked Shadow so much I purchased the gorgeous limited edition from Subterranean Press. The edition of The Angel's Game I have is a signed and numbered from Random House as discussed in an earlier post. For the collectors out there I got number 2 out of 50, which I was very pleased with. The book itself is wonderfully put together. The jacket removes to reveal a beautiful library painting. I urge everyone to sit down in a bookstore and just read the first 10 pages. You'll be pulled in immediately. Tor.com is serializing Cory Doctorow’s Makers in 81 posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Check out the announcement here. The first 3 chapters have already been posted: 1, 2. 3. The Subterranean Press signed-limited edition of The Blade Itself has been put up for pre-order. They also announced Peter V. Brett’s The Great Bazaar and Other Stories, which is supposed to expand the world of The Warded Man/The Painted Man with "outtakes from the first novel in the series — really, standalone short stories themselves — as well as additional material to flesh out Brett’s bravura storytelling." Time magazine's Nerd World blog has an interview with Michael Moorcock here. Time also discusses the A Song of Fire & Ice HBO series here. Although it didn't have anything new to add it is nice to see a major publication spreading the word.
What are 10 speculative fiction (the definition of which is left up to you, of course) would you say are among the best ever?
Here is my attempt in no particular order:
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Forever by Pete Hamill
Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Fool on the Hill by Matt Ruff
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Please note Larry said "among the best ever" in his challenge not "the best" as this is more of an off the cuff list than anything else and is by no means comprehensive. I also do not define favorite as "best." If I did this list would be very different and would include the likes of Christopher Moore, Tom Robbins, and Walter Moers. Also, it was tough for me to leave out The Shadow of the Wind, but there is very little that ends up being speculative in the work. For me to be among the best there are a few qualifiers:
a: A work I have or would re-read. b. A work which is incredibly inventive. c. A work that is superbly plotted. d. A work I would highly recommend to anyone. e. A work with believable characters. f. A work that has made me think.
A Spell for the Revolution is the 2nd volume of C.C. Finlay's Traitor to the Crown series. I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I liked The Patriot Witch so I was eager to start this one. You can check out my very positive review of the first volume here, which is so far one of my top 5 reads of the year. A Spell for the Revolution picks up a year after the events of The Patriot Witch. Proctor is in search of other witches to join him and Deborah at The Farm so they can combat The Covenant who are supporting the British in their efforts to thwart the American Revolution. Finlay shows yet again that he is no light weight when it comes to American history. His melding of history with fantasy is completely seamless. Proctor and Deborah undertake a journey that brings them to the front lines again and again. As with the first volume they play pivotal roles in explaining the events around many of the Revolution's most baffling times. A Spell for the Revolution had a few slow places as Finlay sometimes has to put the characters through a lot to get them at the scene of some incidents, but it all works beautifully in the end. A Spell for the Revolution truly evokes what hardships Americans were under during the times and how close the British came to putting down the Revolution. Finlay's portrayal of George Washington and other pivotal historical characters feels so right. The main characters certainly have shown growth as well in more than just their skill with magic. Proctor is coming into his own instead of being overshadowed by Deborah. Deborah still comes off as a strong woman though her perniciousness in the 3rd quarter did get on my nerves a bit. I could also have done with a little less arguing between Deborah and Proctor. It just seemed like they were having the same argument again and again. The new enemies introduced worked well and I love the mythology behind them. Mentioning exactly who and what they are would ruin their introduction so I'll refrain. The ending is satisfying as all of the players come together for a show down of sorts. This is the most solid series I've read this year and it flows so easily. I give A Spell for the Revolution 8 out of 10 Hats. I've already picked up the third volume The Demon Redcoat so expect that to be reviewed quite soon as I am anxious to see how everything culminates. I'd recommend this to any American history buff in addition to alternative history fans. Book Link: US Canada Europe
I thought this was an interesting use of Orbit's marketing team:
Here at Orbit we’re very proud that our books tend to be smart, sophisticated — dare we say, awesome? (yes, we dare) — but there’s still a part of all of us that loves the look and feel of a truly, epically bad SFF book cover. And since we don’t get a chance to publish books that fit that profile we thought we’d call on our readers to help us create one — or at least create the jacket for one. Over the next few weeks we’ll be asking for your help coming up with the most ridiculously bad high-concept SFF book cover in the universe – think Wyvern II: The Wyverning, or Martian Under the Doormat. (We know you can do better) Once we’ve settled on the titles we’ll work out the reading line, the blurbs, and cover elements. And then, with your help, our fearless Orbit US Creative Director Lauren is going to design a cover for it that will present it in all its mad glory.Leave feedback here. I for one can't wait to see what terribly wonderful (or is it wonderfully terrible?) covers they come up with. Orbit's covers are generally very well executed. I somehow see a dragon and maybe a flying saucer/space ship charging at one another with all guns ablaze. Yes, I imagine the dragon having some sort of weapons meshed with his skin or maybe part of armour or well maybe his space suit. And he has to be breathing fire in space because we all know in the vacuum of space that is possible. Hmmm for a title I'll say Showdown in Space.
William Kotzwinkle is best known as the author of the novelization of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and the Walter the Farting Dog children series. Most people don't realize what amazing adult fiction he has written such as his Doctor Rat, which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1977 along with a lot of other counter-culture themed novels. Kotzwinkle is also the author one of my favorite reads earlier this year The Bear Who Went Over the Mountain (pub. 1995) about a bear who happens upon a manuscript and decides to try to get it published, which leads him on an incredibly funny journey to bestsellerdom. Kotzwinkle manages to stretch what sounds like an ehh idea into a book that is a complete joy to read. I would recommend Bear to anyone, even those not interested in speculative type reads although it is more in the vein of a Muppet movie for adults. After reading Bear I was eager to get into some other Kotzwinkle books, which led me to The Fan Man, one of Kotzwinkle's earliest works and is still something of an underground classic having been in print more than 35 years. The Fan Man is a week in the life of Horse Badorties told from his point of view in his very own hippie language circa 1970. Horse is not a horse. Horse is an aging hippie burn-out with a serious case of ADD who somehow makes everything he wants happen. Well, kinda. He is not the down and out type. He has everything he needs in his piles of trash and somehow finds anything he could ever want when he wants it until he sees something else he wants. It takes a little while to get use to Horse's voice as every fourth word is Man. As in "Hey Man. What's going on, Man." But once you get use to that it is an amazingly silly journey with the Knight of the Hot Dog as he goes on missions that quickly turn into wanderings in NYC. At first I thought I would get burned out on Horse, but quickly grew on me. I was constantly shocked by the different levels to Horse as he interacts with people. Surprisingly, Horse is something of a musical genius with his moon lute and leads a choir of young ladies whom he is hoping to eventually bed. Nearly every page had me chuckling as Horse switches between pure lucidity to ramblings no one even in a drugged out state could follow. Overall, I was surprised how fresh a book written 30 plus years ago still holds up. It was nice to see how NYC looked back than as well when it wasn't such a clean place. This was when the West Village was still very much the center of counter culture. At a breezy 200 pages this can easily be read in a couple sittings as most chapters are only a few pages and Horse's thoughts and dialogue drew me in. I give The Fan Man 8 out of 10 Hats. Now if only Kotzwinkle would write the follow-up to Bear which is supposed to be Bear for President I'd be a very happy reader. Book link: US Europe Canada