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INTERVIEWS

Peter Higgins, author of Wolfhound Century

Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops Series

John Brown John, translator of the Zamonia Novels

Jim C. Hines author of Libriomancer

Nick Harkaway author of Angelmaker (review here)

Martha Wells author of The Cloud Roads

David Tallerman author of Giant Thief

Mazarkis Williams author of The Emperor's Knife

Rob Ziegler author of Seed

Steven Gould author of 7th Sigma

Douglas Hulick author of Among Thieves (review here)

Mark Charan Newton author of Nights of Villjamur (review here)

Kameron Hurley author of God's War (review here)

Brent Weeks author of The Black Prism (review here)

Anthony Huso author of The Last Page (review here)

Brandon Sanderson author of The Way of Kings (review here)

Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

Sam Sykes author of Tome of the Undergates (review here)

Benjamin Parzybok author of Couch (review here)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch author of Diving Into the Wreck (review here)

Ken Scholes author of Lamentation

Cherie Priest author of Boneshaker (review here)

Lev Grossman author of The Magicians (review here)

Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded

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My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

NEWS | Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Announced


The Arthur C. Clarke shortlist has been unveiled and it is quite a good list even though I've only read three out of the six and haven't even heard of one of the picks. Those I have partaken of are definitely deserving of being there for one reason or another. The clear winner for me is The City & The City by China Mieville.   There is a glaring error of a book missing from this list, which is The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It is no small travesty that Paolo didn't get the nomination as he is doing some amazing work different from nearly everyone else in Sci-Fi right now. Below is the full list with a snippet from my review or commentary followed by the description. UPDATE: Looking through the longlist again I noticed The Windup Girl didn't even make it.  This is most likely because the award focus on work published in the UK and while Nightshade titles such as The Windup Girl are distributed there they aren't officially published and therefore ineligible.  Still it is a shame.

The City & The City by China Miéville (Macmillan/Del Rey)  - China is also a past winner for Iron Council and Perdido Street Station.  The City & The City is a detective murder mystery a la Raymond Chandler with a little fantasy mixed in narrated by Inspector Tyador Borlu of Beszel Extreme Crime Squad. The City & The City twists and turns into something I was never expecting, but is all the more satisfying for doing so. 9.5 out of 10 Hats.

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.  Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.


Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts (Gollancz) - I've yet to read any of Roberts books, but have heard generally good things about his work.  People seem very divided over Yellow Blue Tibia with an either love it or hate it attitude.

Russia, 1946, the Nazis recently defeated. Stalin gathers half a dozen of the top Soviet science fiction authors in a dacha in the countryside somewhere. Convinced that the defeat of America is only a few years away, and equally convinced that the Soviet Union needs a massive external threat to hold it together, to give it purpose and direction, he tells the writers: 'I want you to concoct a story about aliens poised to invade earth ... I want it to be massively detailed, and completely believable. If you need props and evidence to back it up, then we can create them. But when America is defeated, your story must be so convincing that the whole population of Soviet Russia believes in it--the population of the whole world!' The little group of writers gets down to the task and spends months working on it. But then new orders come from Moscow: they are told to drop the project; Stalin has changed his mind; forget everything about it. So they do. They get on with their lives in their various ways; some of them survive the remainder of Stalin's rule, the changes of the 50s and 60s. And then, in the aftermath of Chernobyl, the survivors gather again, because something strange has started to happen. The story they invented in 1946 is starting to come true ... A typically mind-blowing SF novel from one of the genre's literary stars.

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins/Spectra) -Galileo's Dream reads more like a biography of the legend that has become Galileo, but gives the reader a deep appreciation of the long and painful life full of triumph and devastation he went through on his way to becoming a Scientific revolutionary. Galileo's Dream is a challenging, but rewarding reading experience. Galileo comes alive as he earns his moniker of The World's First Scientist. 7.5 out of 10 Hats

At the heart of a brilliant narrative that stretches from Renaissance Italy to the moons of Jupiter is one man, the father of modern science: Galileo Galilei.

To the inhabitants of the Jovian moons, Galileo is a revered figure whose actions will influence the subsequent history of the human race. From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. And if that means Galileo must be burned at the stake, so be it.

Yet between his brief and jarring visitations to this future, Galileo must struggle against the ignorance and superstition of his own time. And it is here that Robinson is at his most brilliant, showing Galileo in all his contradictions and complexity. Robinson's Galileo is a tour de force of imaginative and historical empathy: the shining center around which the novel revolves.

From Galileo's heresy trial to the politics of far-future Jupiter, from the canals of Venice to frozen, mysterious Europa, Robinson illuminates the parallels between a distant past and an even more remote future—in the process celebrating the human spirit and calling into question the convenient truths of our own moment in time.


Far North by Marcel Theroux (Faber & Faber) - I've never even heard of Far North, but the description does sound interesting.

Every day I buckle on my guns and go out to patrol this dingy city. Out on the far northern border of a failed state, Makepeace patrols the ruins of a dying city and tries to keep its unruly inhabitants in check. Into this cold, isolated world comes evidence that life is flourishing elsewhere - a refugee from the vast emptiness of forest, whose existence inspires Makepeace to take to the road to reconnect with human society. What Makepeace finds is a world unravelling, stockaded villages enforcing a rough and uncertain justice, mysterious slave camps labouring to harness the little understood technologies of a vanished civilization.But Makepeace's journey also leads to unexpected human contact, tenderness, and the dark secrets behind this frozen world. "Far North" leads the reader on a quest through an unforgettable arctic landscape, from humanity's origins to its likely end. Bleak, haunting, spare - and yet ultimately hopeful, the novel is suffused with an ecstatic awareness of the world's fragility and beauty, and its unexpected ability to recover from our worst trespasses.

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz/Spectra) - I was a little surprised to see Retribution Falls on the list.  Don't get me wrong I absolutely love it, but it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the picks, which for the most part have a more literary bent.  My full review will be going up next week, but here is a little to whet your appetite. Comparisons to Firefly are quite apt, but Wooding has created an amazing crew and equal amazing world for the setting.  The fast and furious Retribution Falls is staggeringly entertaining and a ridiculously good page turner. The quality of the writing is close to that of Scott Lynch and has left room for so many more immersive stories for the crew of the Ketty Jay. 9.5 out of 10 hats.

Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is ...

Spirit by Gwyneth Jones (Gollancz) - Jones is a past winner for Bold as Love along with four total books making the shortlist. Somehow the description has never interested me. Am I missing out?

Bibi (it means princess) is the sole survivor of a massacre. Lady Nef, the General's wife, stops the General taking her as a concubine, winning Bibi's eternal and passionate devotion. Years later, a diplomatic mission to a supposedly friendly planet ends in disaster. Bibi, now a junior officer in Lady Nef's household, is incarcerated with her mistress in the notorious high-security prison on Fenmu. Lady Nef, 150 years old when arrested, dies in prison; she bequeaths to Bibi her rank, her level of access to the AI systems that permeate the Diaspora of inhabited planets, and a highly secret set of 4-space co-ordinates. Bibi uses Lady Nef's death to escape from Fenmu, finds Spirit, an instantaneous-transit space pod, and follows Lady Nef's co-ordinates to a treasure beyond price: a virgin, perfect, uninhabited planet. Soon after this, the mysterious, fantastically wealthy Princess of Bois Dormant makes her debut in the high society of Speranza, the Diaspora's capital city. Thus disguised, Bibi sets out to discover why she and her mistress were condemned to a living hell; and to punish the guilty. Twenty years have passed: Lady Nef's enemies now rule Speranza. As she uncovers a forgotten, ruthless and far-reaching conspiracy, Bibi's vengeance is transformed into a project of world-changing reparation.

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Contest for Christopher Moore's Bite Me



I have two hardcover copies of Christopher Moore's newest vamp book Bite Me courtesty of Harper and Wiredset.  To enter send an email to madhatterreview (AT) gmail (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address and "BITE ME" in the subject line. Also, include who your favorite Moore character is.  The deadline is midnight April 9th. I'll announce the winner on the following day or as soon as I remember. This contest is open to the people of the United States only. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest.

Let’s take a look at vampires, shall we?

There’s Nosferatu: a violent, brainless, insatiable scavenger out for blood...

Polidori’s Vampyre, Lord Ruthven: a handsome, aristocratic, sexually exciting figure with a hypnotic stare...

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: enigmatic, erudite and evil...

Ann Rice’s Lestat: sensitive, sensual, and emotional...

Stephanie Meyer’s Edward: beautiful, beguiling, and vegetarian…

And then there’s Christopher Moore’s vampires in his latest novel, BITE ME: A Love Story: Jody, a fiery redhead who used to work in insurance and her consort in blood C. Thomas Flood, a former Safeway stock boy who wants to be a writer.

BITE ME wraps up the outrageous adventures begun in You Suck: A Love Story and Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. In it, Jody and Tommy live the undead life in San Francisco with their sidekick, Goth girl Abby Normal, otherwise known as Allison Green, and her bio-chem Ph.D candidate boyfriend, Steve “Foo Dog” Wong. The thing is, Jody and Tommy are imprisoned in a bronze shell in the pose of Rodin’s The Kiss.

Meanwhile, Chet, a giant shaved vampire cat and his recently turned meowing minions are on the prowl. As Abby says, “There’s nefarious shit afoot, Foo. Bring portable sun and fry these nosferatu kitties before they nom everyone in the hood.”

BITE ME is an inventive, hysterically funny, sophisticated comic horror novel with flamboyantly original (and endearing) characters, pitch-perfect postmodern dialogue, break-neck pacing, and utterly entertaining vignettes. BITE ME readers have a lot to sink their teeth into.


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How Do Your Organize Your Library?

Whenever I visit someone's house I'm always drawn to their library to see what the have and how they put things together.  So when John O. founder of Grasping for the Wind sent out the question "How Do Your Organize Your Library?" a couple weeks back I had to partake despite my less than stellar system.  Go on over to see what I and two dozen other bloggers had to say.  My take is a bit disjointed as I wrote it on my post-vacation haze, but there are a couple photos of my shelves as well.

Cover Unveiled for Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes w/ Description

Joe Abercrombie's next novel The Heroes won't be out until 2011, but Orbit has kindly released the cover for the US market along with the blurb. The art follows that of Best Served Cold. Orbit is really hammering home that this will be one bloody book between the tagline and the copious use of blood on the cover. I can't say it does much for me, but I do like the faces reflected in the blood which is a nice effect.  Either way it is the first must-read of 2011 for my list. If you haven't read The First Law Trilogy or Best Served Cold do so immediately.
War: where the blood and dirt of the battlefield hide the dark deeds committed in the name of glory. THE HEROES is about violence and ambition, gruesome deaths and betrayals; and the brutal truth that no plan survives contact with enemy. The characters are the stars, as ever, and the message is dark: when it comes to war, there are no heroes…

Meet THE HEROES.

Curnden Craw: a ruthless fighter who wants nothing more than to see his crew survive.

Prince Calder: a liar and a coward, he will regain his crown by any means necessary.

Bremer dan Gorst: a master swordsman, a failed bodyguard, his honor will be restored—in the blood of his enemies.

Over three days, their fates will be sealed.

REVIEW | Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
New Cover Unveiled for The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
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MISHMASH | Updatery, Bite Me, and New Procurements

Its been a little quieter than normal here on Mad Hatter's since my vacation as I came back to a avalanche of work, but not to worry I'm back on track. Right now I'm working on two interviews that will both go up in the near future. And I've loads of books to finish reviewing with the foremost being Gardens of the Sun. Also, Larry has an interesting challenge going for bloggers that I just may take up.


"Wet towel under the door," said Barry. "It's what you do when you're smoking weed in a hotel and you don't want everyone calling security.  Your always supposed to have a towel.  I read about it in a guide for hitchhiking through the galaxy."
I just finished Christopher Moore's newest and probably last entry into his vampire series Bite Me, which just released this week. I probably won't do a full review on it so here are my thoughts. It had to be the shortest book of his yet and it felt that way in many respects. The first 75 pages or so was basically a recap of the previous books that I could have done without, which was mostly voiced by Abby Normal the teen goth minion of the main characters from the first two books. Abby's voice was a bit of a roller coaster ride for me. She was definitely funny and snarky in a good way, but too repetitive with her dialogue and actions. Still, Bite Me was a hilarious Moore novel that probably ranks in the middle of all his books with Lamb being him in top form and Fluke near the bottom for me. The ending also felt too rushed, but there are plenty of vampire kitties and enjoyable dialogue to push all the right buttons. Bite Me also made me realize how much I missed the Emperor of San Francisco.

Anyway that's enough of my blathering. Below are the books I've gotten over the last few weeks, which is a little lighter than the last couple of months, but quality is sky-high in terms of books I've been counting the days for and more than half of them were purchases.  Also not pictured below as I literally just came back from the bookstore is Changeless by Gail Carriger. My wife and I greatly enjoyed her debut Soulless. Plus I snagged A. Lee Martinez's latest comic fantasy Divine Misfortune with the last of my Christmas gift cards, which sports another winning cover by Will Staehle who also has done the last few Moore covers and Martinez's Monster.


Farlander by Col Buchanan - A part of my BookDepository haul. So far this book has received some very solid praise, which I hope to get to in the near future.

Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton - Charan's debut had the blogs teeming with praise last year putting him near the class of China Mieville, which means this summer release will definitely be gotten to very soon .


The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett - I finally bought the just released mass market edition after hearing so much. I'll see for myself in the next month or so if it lives up to the considerable good things said thus far. I've been tempted to pick-up Brett's recent novella, which has a story excised from The Warded Man as it looks like Sub Press is running out and I'd hate to love this series and not to have everything. Ahh, the completest in me rears its ugly yet somehow sensible head again. Also, for those who are raleady fans of Brett be sure to stop by his blog as he is giving away signed bookplates for those buying the sequel The Desert Spear, which comes out next month.

Bite Me by Christopher Moore - An instant purchase for me. As you saw from above I've already read it as a new Chris Moore release is a drop everything and enjoy it moment, which might only be trumped by a new GRRM or Dresden Files book.

Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky - A Sci-Fi apocalyptic debut, which is translated from Russian. This came through Book Depository since no US date has been announced and is only the start to what will probably be a long running series. A video game based on this world also just came out, which has been getting good marks as well.

The year is 2033. The world has been reduced to rubble. Humanity is nearly extinct. The half-destroyed cities have become uninhabitable through radiation. Beyond their boundaries, they say, lie endless burned-out deserts and the remains of splintered forests. Survivors still remember the past greatness of humankind. But the last remains of civilisation have already become a distant memory, the stuff of myth and legend. More than 20 years have passed since the last plane took off from the earth. Rusted railways lead into emptiness. The ether is void and the airwaves echo to a soulless howling where previously the frequencies were full of news from Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires. Man has handed over stewardship of the earth to new life-forms. Mutated by radiation, they are better adapted to the new world. Man's time is over. A few score thousand survivors live on, not knowing whether they are the only ones left on earth. They live in the Moscow Metro - the biggest air-raid shelter ever built. It is humanity's last refuge. Stations have become mini-statelets, their people uniting around ideas, religions, water-filters - or the simple need to repulse an enemy incursion. It is a world without a tomorrow, with no room for dreams, plans, hopes. Feelings have given way to instinct - the most important of which is survival. Survival at any price. VDNKh is the northernmost inhabited station on its line. It was one of the Metro's best stations and still remains secure. But now a new and terrible threat has appeared. Artyom, a young man living in VDNKh, is given the task of penetrating to the heart of the Metro, to the legendary Polis, to alert everyone to the awful danger and to get help. He holds the future of his native station in his hands, the whole Metro - and maybe the whole of humanity.

Speak to the Devil by Dave Duncan - I must confess to never having read one of Duncan's books before, but this ARC certainly sounds interesting.

In the Kingdom of Jorgary, the days of feudal chivalry are fading as national armies are formed. But Ottokar Magnus is still baron, and his host of brothers include Anton, an ambitious young soldier, and Wulfgang, an amiable teenager. Unable to seek his fortune as a knight errant, Anton has enlisted with the royal Jorgarian hussars and taken Wulf along as his servant.

There is magic in Jorgary, but it is regarded as Satanism, rituals performed by Speakers who are in contact with the Devil. The Speakers, though, believe that the Voices they hear belong to saints. Anton is not a Speaker...but Wulf is.

Anxious to impress the court, Anton exhibits spectacular horsemanship at a royal hunt, with a little boost from Wulf. Two nights later he is dragged before Cardinal Zdenek, the king’s chief minister. Zdenek offers him an earldom and anything else he could dream of if he will ride at once to a strategic fortress at Cardice and take command there. The count and his son have died, victims of both treason and witchcraft. The cardinal thinks that neighboring enemies are preparing to invade, using “modern” arms to capture the fort. Mortal resources alone will not suffice, but Zdenek knows that Anton’s improbable jump at the hunt was aided by supernatural power.

Anton wants nothing to do with this mission, but Wulf’s Voices tell him that they should accept the charge. The result is a harrowing ride through limbo with astonishing results.


Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk - This ARC is a Fantasy debut that has been on my personal want list since I saw the awesome cover. I'll definitely be reviewing it around the release date. I've already interviewed Sprunk, which I believe is his first, but am holding it until a little closer to publication. The series has already been sold into a lot of other languages so things are looking good.

The Office of the Shadow by Matthew Sturges - I thought Sturges novel debut Midwinter was a blast so I'm hoping the comic scribe's follow-up continues the characters well. It also changes focus to another character from Midwinter, which should give it a fresh perspective. This ARC will be reviewed around the release date.

Midwinter has gone, but that cold season has been replaced by a cold war in the world of Faerie, and this new kind of war requires a new kind of warrior.

Seelie forces drove back Empress Mab at the Battle of Sylvan, but hostilities could resume at any moment. Mab has developed a devastating new weapon capable of destroying an entire city, and the Seelie have no defense against it. If war comes, they will almost certainly be defeated.

In response, the Seelie reconstitutes a secret division of the Foreign Ministry, unofficially dubbed the "Office of Shadow," imbuing it with powers and discretion once considered unthinkable. They are a group of covert operatives given the tasks that can't be done in the light of day: secretly stealing the plans for Mab's new weapon, creating unrest in the Unseelie Empire, and doing whatever is necessary to prevent an unwinnable war.

The new leader of the "Shadows" is Silverdun. He's the nobleman who fought alongside Mauritane at Sylvan and who helped complete a critical mission for the Seelie Queen Titania. His operatives include a beautiful but naïve sorceress who possesses awesome powers that she must restrain in order to survive and a soldier turned scholar whose research into new ways of magic could save the world, or end it.


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Cover Unveiled for Metatropolis edited by John Scalzi

METAtropolis has quite an unusual publishing pedigree.  It was originally envisioned as a audio only product, which Audible released in late 2008. Last year Subterranean Press decided to do a limited print version, which I picked up before it quickly went out of print. I actually have a review written, but decided to save it for the trade release from Tor this June.

All of this means we have three covers that gives us very different interpretations of the world jointly created by John Scalzi, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, and Karl Schroeder.  Above we have the Tor version which came via Irene Gallo and designed by Senior Designer at Tor Peter Lutjen. Below we have Sub Press's take with art by Edward Miller followed by Audible's original version. All very, very different takes.  The Audible version is the most modernistic look while Tor went for something a little more techie. The Sub Press cover is clearly going for the austere and dystopian feel of the novel. All around there is not a bad one in the bunch, but having read the stories the Tor version does evoke the tone of the collection best as it goes for the rebuilding of society aspects of the story more than the doom and gloom of the others.



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REVIEW | Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra)

Robinson's Galileo's Dream is a Sci-Fi book unlike any other I've ever read. At its heart Galileo's Dream is Robinson's blood and tear soaked letter to the man responsible for igniting the scientific process. Told through someone very close to Galileo, Galileo's Dream reads more like a biography of the legend that has become Galileo, but gives the reader a deep appreciation of the long and painful life full of triumph and devastation he went through on his way to becoming a Scientific revolutionary.

Galileo's Dream starts at what most would consider the height of his fame before the infamy from the Church took over.  The bulk of the narrative takes place in Galileo's time and begins when he is coming in to prominence around his creation of telescope. The story gives a perfect rendition of how Galileo implemented what is now known as the scientific process.  We also learn about the daily life in the 17th century and how engrained religion was to its people.

Robinson uses a lot of Galileo's personal correspondence interspersed throughout the narrative, which gives the work a strong historical aspect unseen in most Science Fiction. At times the story can be overly dry and take longer to move along as Robinson strives to keep an accurate record of all of Galileo's follies, foibles, and foes.

There is definitely a space opera bent to this story as well. Galileo is visited by a mysterious stranger who's suggestions often lead Galileo back to or into a new train of thinking he hasn't explored much. Eventually he travels to the far future with this stranger where humanity is still at odds with one another and an important decision is being debated. These sections are very cloudy at first, but as Galileo learns more the situation is revealed. One tiresome part was how Galileo kept having his memory wiped, but never cleanly from these advanced people.


The future sections were far too brief for my liking, in their instances not their length. It did feel right for the visits to be short, but in the last half of the book we only visit this time period a couple times which left a lot of questions unanswered about the future. In a way I think that is precisely what Robinson was going after as a fundamental question in the book is that our future in not knowable and if it were would it change our actions and therefore the future? But this also had me wondering if Robinson forced himself a little to divorce more material from the latter time frame in lieu of revealing more about Galileo.

Galileo's Dream is a challenging, but rewarding reading experience.  Galileo comes alive as he earns his moniker of The World's First Scientist. I give Galileo's Dream 7.5 out of 10 Hats.  For long-time Robinson fans this will be a must. However, historical science buff will get the most out of the reading experience. The work just begs the question: If Galileo was instead brought to a more contemporary time what would he think of our world?


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REVIEW | Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

If it is gritty Fantasy you've been dying for than Tome of the Undergates will certainly be the answer for you as Sykes has made the name Adventurers out to be a vile thing with his debut effort. Tome of the Undergates drops you in the middle of a vicious battle from the first page and only gets bloodier from there. Although not nearly as bloody as I thought it would be though at first glance.

Tome of the Undergates is a breath of fresh air tinged with a pang of dank water. Refreshing in the sense that it was fun to read an action packed Fantasy quest not mired in some underground dragon den nor traipsing through mountains. Sykes embraced the water like no other author before.  He has taken to the high seas with a rough-born lot featuring the most unlikely grouping of characters you can think of who all loathe one another. Lenk and his gang remind me of Jason and the Argonauts on crank. Clocking in at little more than 600 pages it is a breezy read that feels two thirds that length once the story gets going.

It takes a few chapters to get over the fact that none of the main characters like each other and can't stop acting like a rove of 5th graders always hitting and spitting on the girls they like, but after that it is clear sailing into an Epic Fantasy with teeth. I do get the feeling Sykes has played some snarky, bitter, venomous games of D & D, which led him to create the world and characters of Tome of the Undergates. Sykes has made the career choice of Adventurer into something more loathsome than being a mercenary.

The leader of this brooding gang of Adventurers is a human named Lenk. He is a bit on the small size, but is quite a fierce warrior when the chips are down and is the easiest character to connect with. He is usually follow closely by Kataria, who is a Shict. Think of an elf that is rough around the edges who thinks of humanity as a plague. Also, in the band of unmerry travelers is a Wizard still finding his feet in the craft, a cut-throat ne'er-do-well, and a blood-thirsty Dragon man. You read that right. An honest to badness Dragon man. They fight for their lives on a severely screwed up world just for money. They know little of honor and their back stories are only lightly covered so their motivations take sometime to get a grasp on. They are survivors and fighters to their core, but aren't adverse to a knife to the back.

While on the job protecting an important passenger they get tossed into a quest that will test their mettle in every possible way facing frog men and giant proselytizing sea monsters from the deep. The world building is quite interesting with a deep secret history of god and demon off shoots, but only some broad strokes are revealed. There is enough to whet your appetite, but you'll be wanting more which will hopefully be fulfilled in future volumes.

The dialogue was very reminiscent of Scott Lynch at times and the action close to that of Abercrombie. Still Sykes has created his own distinctive style and voice that is wholly different and much more visceral. He clearly has quite a flair for action sequences and monster creation. Sykes is holding out on us a bit as I think his biggest battles are still to come in future volumes. I give Tome of the Undergates 8 out of 10 hats. If Abercrombie was too much or rode the line too harshly for you at times than Tome may be the right where you want it to be. Tome is set for an April release in the UK from Gollancz with a US date from Pyr to still be announced update: in September. And where are the swears Mr. Sam Sykes Swears? Where are they?


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Recent Read Run-Down

I devoured quite a few books over the last week's vacation.  Many of which are sure to end up on my favorite list and a few others that won't but they were fun to read regardless of their flaws.  I didn't get to Strata (shortly) or To Say Nothing of the Dog (soonish), but I did finish everything else I brought including Empire in Black and Gold, which surpassed all my expectations with a review to come in the next couple of weeks. Here's a bit more on each:

  1. Dead to Me by Anton Strout - This one is a bit too on the soft side of Urban Fantasy for me.  I kept wanting it to be darker or deeper, but the agencies created piqued my interest and I'll probably pick-up the second in the series to see if the ante gets raised appropriately. Still the dialogue was quite fun.
  2. The Skinner by Neal Asher - The first book in the Spatter Jay series was quite good.  A little slow paced, but still highly recommend for Sci-Fi fans out for something different in the genre.  The only comparable series I can think of is Jeffrey Thomas's Punktown, but vastly different and a bit more Space Operaritic.  Asher certainly has a flair for creating grotesqueries.  After finishing I'm most interested in trying a Polity book, which is the series set in the same universe only 700 years in the past.
  3. The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs - Jacobs as always is very drool. This slim collection features mainly Jacob's writing for Esquire, but most of it was new to me.  The chapter on him out sourcing his life was one of the best along with him doing everything his wife asks for the month, which might give my wife a few bad ideas. I'd recommend waiting for the paperback in July as the cover price is a bit much given its diminutive size.  If you haven't tried Jacobs's memoirs I highly recommend The Year of Living Biblically.
  4. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding -  This will definitely be making it into my top reads of the year even though I still have a few chapters left, but I'm loving every page. Piratry, chicanery, and ambiguous characters in the skies makes this one of the most action filled books akin to Scott Lynch's work. Full review to come and I've already pre-ordered the sequel.

Cover Unveiled for STORIES ed. by Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio


Next to nothing has been available about the Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio edited all-original anthology STORIES.  Now we have the cover, which sports a neat illustration. Plus the cover reveals a large list of the contributors which includes quite an illustrious and varied lot. These names include: Jodi Picoult, Joe Hill, Chuck Palahniuk, Walter Mosley, Gene Worlfe, Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tim Powers.  Unanswered is whether Gaiman will himself have a story in the bunch.

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Covers Unveiled for Abercrombie, Lloyd, and Wilson

MINI REVIEW | Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan is delightful Steampunk and WWI alternative history blending that comes off gripping with its rapid-pace. Europe is divided into two factions. Austria-Hungry have advanced weaponry called Clankers, which can cause devastation in their many walking tank-like forms. Britain and its affiliates are Darwinists adhering to an advanced genetic science.

Leviathan doesn't contain your typical airships as Westerfeld's best innovation is the Darwinist genetic created Beasties, which include dozens of imaginative types that fill the world with creatures raised from the ocean into the skies. The Clankers are fun as well, especially when you get into the mechanics.  The illustrations strewn throughout the book help greatly and nail the descriptions.

The story is split from two points of view that you know from the start will intersect and is at turns very predictable, which feels a bit done before. An unwanted Priceling is escaping capture and a girl does her best to pass as a boy in the military. The world-building is what saves the book as it is so beautifully realized keeping up wasn't a problem. Leviathan is marketed as a YA read, but felt a little more like a middle-grade reader, but it can be easily digested in a couple of sittings.


Leviathan is as Steampunk as you can get, but is a little on the popcorn side of things and has a very cinematic style. There isn't a lot of depth to the story or characters yet, but hopefully they'll come more alive in the next volume. I give Leviathan 7.25 out of 10 Hats. The illustrations by Keith Thompson are gorgeously done and the whole production reminds me of the quality of Subterranean Press's work. I have bought books for art alone before and for that reason alone I'll be picking up the follow-up Behemoth later this year.

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Wrong Bookstore

Confucius say,

"If you are in a bookstore and cannot find

the book for which you search, you obviously are in the

REVIEW | Horns by Joe Hill (William Morrow)

Horns is a devilishly funny read that'll make you question the very nature of good and evil. Horns is even perhaps the best Horror novel I've ever read, which I finished in three sittings and nearly didn't go to a friend's party just to get further. Yeah, it's that good.

Now, I'll readily admit I'm not a huge Horror reader so take it for what it is worth. Hill's first effort Heart Shape Box was too unevenly paced and also went off on a few too many tangents for me. The whole ghost standing around all the time just didn't give me a creep factor either, which is why I wasn't expecting amazing things from Horns. Boy, am I glad to have been proven wrong here.

Joe Hill's sophmore effort is without a doubt one of the best books released this year.  I was totally engrossed from the second page in. Horns is dark, depraved, and fiendish in the most unexpected ways yet it is a Horror story with a heart. Two hearts in fact with the angst-ridden Ig and easily lovable Merrin both coming across as endearing and understandable characters whose deep love tear them apart.  Rather than go into the plot here is a bit of the description:

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Ig's powers lead to particularly lurid conversations, which examine the human thought process in dark ways as seemingly everyday people are prodded to say exactly what demented things are on their mind. Multiple flashbacks give insight into many of the story threads including 3 different character's POV for one incident, which worked better than I anticipated.

Horns is a writing exercise in perfect subplots, pacing, and characterization that achieves on every level. This is one of the few books I can't find any fault with in anyway. Well, I did figure out one aspect within the first couple of chapters, but the reveal wasn't any less enjoyable for it, especially as Hill pulled a couple good rabbits out of his hat to make it work.

Hardcore Horror fans may feel Horns doesn't go dark enough, but the story goes as far as it needs to in order to achieve the depth it required, which is quite touching, sly, and immensely clever. Still there are some disturbing parts that'll make some turn away. I give Horns 10 out of 10 Hats. Hill has raised his game to lofty heights and he has now made me an unabashed fan. I can't wait to see what he does next.

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Vacation Pile

Well, I leave today which means I've packed and had to pick out all the books I'm bringing. This trip I've stuck to mainly mass markets and no review copies except for Empire in Black and Gold, which is currently being read and greatly enjoyed as it has some of the most original world-building I've seen in recent years. The insect angle works so well, but for some reason I keep waiting for Lion-O and the Thundercats to make an appearance. So I've narrowed by vacation reads down to the following:

  1. Strata by Terry Pratchett - It has been too long since I've read a Pratchett and a friend lent it to me. Plus I usually go for shorter reads on a trip.
  2. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis - I've been meaning to read a Willis book for years and a friend highly recommend it. Also, the cover quote compares it to being as funny as A Confederacy of Dunces, which is one of my all-time favorite reads.
  3. Dead to Me by Anton Strout - For my Urban Fantasy fix.
  4. The Skinner by Neal Asher - So many people have recommended it and Asher stopped by the blog.
  5. The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs - I've enjoyed Jacob's first two memoirs, especially The Year of Living Biblically and I've been neglecting my non-fiction pile too long.
  6. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding - Comparisons to Firefly have made me want to read this for a long time.
Is this too many for a 6 day trip? I'm not sure everything will be read before I get back, but I'll try my hardest. If we get enough good beach days I may get there.  Look for a short recap of all the books read when I return as I don't plan on doing a full review of each, but knowing me at least two or 3 will warrant a full take.

VIDEO | Evolution of a Steampunk cover


Orbit design guru Lauren Panepinto has put together a video, of less than 2 mintues, on how a cover is made in this case using the third Alexia Tarabotti book, Blameless, by Gail Carriger as an example.  Here is a bit of Lauren explaining what you see:
Over 6 hours of my onscreen compositing, retouching, color correction, type obsessing, all condensed down to a slim sexy one minute 55 seconds of cover design. Trust me, no one wants to watch it in real-time…and even then I left out the not-as-riveting-onscreen stages of my cover design process, such as reading the manuscript, sifting through Alexia photoshoot outtakes, background photo research, etc. And since this is a series look that has already been established for Soulless and Changeless, there weren’t the usual batches and rounds of versions of different designs that happen with standalone or first-in-a-new-series covers. That would be a weeklong video!
A tip of the hat to Lauren and Orbit for putting this illuminating video together.  The second Alexia Tarabotti novel Changeless will be released late this month.


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MINI REVIEW | Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Inherent Vice is Pynchon letting himself loose and just having a good time, which is exactly what you'll do when you read the story of Doc Sportello, would be PI, as he wanders around greater Los Angeles, usually stoned, on odd ball cases. Pynchon works in bad cops, even badder pimps, druggies, and ladies of the evening, but he makes it all feel appropriate with a levity few authors have mastered.

Doc is an immediately likable character and Pynchon has done his homework as he works in minuscule period references throughout the narrative. Nearly every chapter Pynchon squeezes in a song from the time, including the lyrics which was a bit overdone by the end especially since I knew so few of them. But the dialogue is what you'll crave as Sportello takes every opening to snake in a joke.

More and more cases fall into Doc's lap as the stakes keep getting more dangerous. Somehow most of the pieces fall together in the end yet somewhat haphazardly, but you'll be grinning all the way to the slightly lackluster ending. If anything the story suffers from Pynchon trying to squeeze too much in with aimless additions such as visiting relatives. Comparisons to The Big Lebowski are quite apt, but Doc is his own beast and is a much better detective than The Dude ever could be. I give Inherent Vice 7.5 out of 10 Hats. If you're in the mood to see LA ala Dragnet style from the hippie's point of view this is definitely worth the trip. I'd also venture to say that this is Pynchon's most accessible read ever and not only because of the trim page count.  Great vacation read material.


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MISHMASH | A Whole Bunch O'Stuff

General Hatter Stuff:


I saw Alice in Wonderland last night in 3D.  It was a fun movie that moved along at a nice clip, but the ending was very anticlimactic and very predictable.  Also, the 3D didn't enhance the experience at all for me or my wife. However, the story was a nice melding of Lewis Carol's Alice stories along with the Jabberwocky poem with strong special effects.  Anne Hathaway was wasted doing a bad Snow White impersonation.  Overall I'd give it a B-.

I'll be going on a much needed vacation next week.  Yeah to those of us with family who own property near the beach in Florida.  Don't worry I've plenty of articles already written to tide you good readers over until I return.  Also, I'll probably be twitter from time to time because I just can't help myself and it is so easy.  Right now I'm in the midsts of selecting books for the trip which is always equal parts torture and joy.  Joy because I get to see what it is I have to read and I know I'll get to read nearly a book a day.  But it is also torture as I like to float between different types of books and I never know what kind of mood I'll be in when I finish one and move on to the next.  This generally means I'll end up bringing too many books.

So far I know I'll be bringing Empire in Black and Gold, but I'll probably be focusing on non-review copies for the most part since they've been feeling a bit neglected as of late.  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and Strata by Terry Pratchett will definitely be coming with.  I'm between Neal Asher's The Skinner or Alastair Reynold's Pushing Ice as well since they are both authors I haven't tried in long form yet, but I know I only want to bring one.  If anyone has an opinion on which it should be chine in in the comments.  The common tread between all these books is they have been lent or recommended to me.

Lastly, my review index has been updated for those who use it, which is always more people than I would have ever guessed.

Cover Stuff:

First up for completion sake since I've talk about it so much we have the newly minted cover of The Black Prism, which is definitely much stronger than the first try. It also sets the tone apart from the Night Angel series, but still gives Weeks a distinctive look. I do miss the color bit from the first cover a little since color magic is involved, but this does have a much edgier feel about it.


Aidan also has the cover for Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, which is the first to a projected 10 book series. Yikes! That is a commitment to know that from the start it'll probably be ten years at least before the series is wrapped up and probably more since Sanderson has other commitments to tend to.  A lot of people have been knackering the cover, but the coloration keeps catching me every time I see it.

Book Stuff:

Debut author Amelia Beamer will be serializing her novel The Loving Dead starting next week.  It will begin with the first 4 chapters and than one chapter will be released every Monday until Night Shade's official publication in July.  I've been really intrigued by this book since I heard the title and read the short pitch. Here is the description:
The Loving Dead is a zombie-comedy-romance that reads like the love-child of Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore. It tells the story of Kate and Michael, twenty-something housemates working at the same Trader Joe’s supermarket, who are thoroughly screwed when people start turning into zombies at their house party in the Oakland hills. The zombie plague is a sexually transmitted disease, turning its victims into shambling, horny, voracious killers after an incubation period during which they become increasingly promiscuous. Thrust into extremes by the unfolding tragedy, Kate and Michael are forced to confront the decisions they’ve made, and their fears of commitment, while trying to stay alive. Kate tries to escape on a Zeppelin ride with her secret sugar daddy — but people keep turning into zombies, forcing her to fight for her life, never mind the avalanche of trouble that develops from a few too many innocent lies. Michael convinces Kate to meet him in the one place in the Bay Area that’s likely to be safe and secure from the zombie hordes: Alcatraz. But can they stay human long enough?

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REVIEW | The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar (Angry Robot)

Lavie Tidhar has been making quite a name for himself the last few years as one of the most original voices in the short story game garnering placements in many anthologies including a couples year's best collections. The Bookman is a bit of a departure for Tidhar as he generally goes for something a bit edgier and weirder than Steampunk. Don't get me wrong there is still plenty of weird going on and The Bookman is probably the most out there Steampunk novel I've yet read. Tidhar has thrown in everything from dissident robots, Karl Marx, a Lizard ruling class, Jules Verne, giant mushrooms, whale songs, and exploding books into the fray. Even amidst the strangeness, The Bookman feels like Tidhar's love letter to K.W. Jeter, Alan Moore, and all those who came before him.

One of the fascinating aspects of Steampunk is how authors alter the timeline and introduce historical characters, which The Bookman has in spades. The story starts off a bit sedately, but quickly moves into something all action oriented with nary a slow spot. The world building is immense as Tidhar has warped history into something altogether wonderful and exciting, which also shows the authors great love for the written word and the power it can convey.

This is a world that veered off course hundreds of years ago with the discovery of a race sentient Lizards called Les Lézards, who upon learning of humanity's great empires summarily took over the biggest, which was of course Britain. Orphan is the all too aptly named protagonist who I immediately fell in love with despite his total lack of forethought and insight into his situation and personal history. So many things are foreshadowed yet Orphan never seems to realize any of it or even try to figure it out on his own. Still Orphan is an affable fellow who is surrounded by a very intriguing cast of people. All of whom are not necessarily human.  After losing someone close Orphan makes it his goal to get to the bottom of who the Bookman is, what he is after, and if he can returned his beloved to him.  The answers to all of these leads Orphan deeper and deeper into the world's political center stage.

The Bookman is very much a setup novel, but what a fun setup it is. Dozens of twists, turns, and revelations await that you that kept me turning the pages. I give The Bookman 7 out of 10 hats. Tidhar only gives you glimpses of most characters and with so much hinted at the next book in this trilogy will be must.  The second book in the trilogy is titled Camera Obscura which will released in November in the UK with the US date still to be determined.


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NEWS | George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones Greenlit for HBO

According to The Hollywood Reporter A Game of Thrones has been greenlit by HBO.  Here is a bit for the post:

The premium network has picked up the project for a first season debut next spring (below is the first released photo from the series). Nine episodes plus the pilot have been ordered. Production will begin in Belfast this June.

The sprawling tale set in the mythical land of Westeros tells the story of the noble Stark family who become caught up in high court intrigue when patriarch Eddard (played by Sean Bean) becomes the king's new right-hand man. The four-and-counting books in the series would each be used as one season of the series.

Unlike many fantasy novels, the "Thrones" series largely avoids relying on magical elements and instead goes for brutal realism -- think "Sopranos" with swords. Martin, a former TV writer ("Beauty and the Beast"), writes each chapter as a cliffhanger, which should lend itself well to series translation.
So we'll have at least 10 episodes of one of the best Fantasy series ever finally make it to our televisions. and hopefully what could become of the best Fantasy TV series ever as well.  Fingers crossed.  It is also interesting to note they are calling it A GAME OF THRONES instead of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, but that could all change as production ramps up.  The cast is certainly looking very, very good.


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GUEST POST | Exclusive Deleted Scene from Blake Charlton's Spellwright

In honor of tomorow's release of Blake Charlton's debut novel Spellwright (reviewed here) he has given us a piece that was excised from the final book as a special treat along with the story of why it just didn't fit into Spellwright's final form. Mr. Charlton also made the selection available in audio format as he is a big proponent of audio performances, especially for his fellow dyslexics out there. Also be sure to stop by his blog where is is making more audio selections available.  Enjoy!  Oh, and be sure to pick-up Spellwright tomorrow!

*****************


The inspiration for Spellwright came to me in a rush; it began with a moment of sharp pain but then evolved into a flight of ideas that felt...almost incandescent. As origin stories go, it’s not a bad one; you can find it on my website. I’ll remember the day it happened forever. I was in New Haven, in late autumn. The afternoon was dark and overcast, the sun shining through a far off break in the clouds to give the impression that the whole city was contained in a giant room. The few remaining leaves were brightly lacquered red and yellow, and the air had the smell and feel as if it might snow at any moment.

It was a wonderful day, but the days that followed were much more crucial. I had the sensation that if I didn’t get the spirit of Spellwright on paper, I’d lose it forever. The next morning, it began to snow hard. So I woke up early and hurried to a coffee shop to find a seat by the window. I sat there for about three hours, watching gothic Trumbull College fill with snow and trying to revive the wonder that fantasy literature had so often evoked in me before I had become a rabid pre-medical undergraduate.

An image came to me then of a nighttime dirt road. A small stone house stood beside it and spilled from its windows and doorway brilliant rectangles of light. A single black silhouette appeared in the doorway, took a few steps toward the road, and then stopped.

That was it. Generic. Innocuous. Overly precious.

But it evoked in my twenty year old mind a powerful emotion. And, somehow, I picked up a pen and wrote a brief scene that created Spellwright’s aesthetic. Even ten years later, they are some of my best “sounding” sentences.

The problem with this passage was that it captured only my desire for lyricism, no story or character. I wrote these sentences for a spirit, not for a novel. Over the years, Spellwright went through many different incarnations. For each, I worked in the following passage, but each time it didn’t quite fit. Both my agent and then editor pointed out that this passage wasn’t really part of the novel I had written. I fought back, but some part of me knew they were right. Spellwright had become the story of Nicodemus Weal, his teachers, and his peers--not the story of the vague person venturing out into the night. One of my mentors and friends, Tad Williams is fond of quoting William Faulkner on situations like this: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings." Remembering that quotation, I saw I was holding this scene too close to my heart.

So on one of the final draft, I rolled up my sleeves, sharpened my backspace key, and deleted the following passage:

*****************
Spellwright’s Lost Invocation



Setting out alone on an empty, feral, moonlit road is a feat more daunting than most can ever manage. For in the solitude of the dark, the road beneath your feet stretches out into the night and, mixing with the shadows, takes on a life of its own. The road becomes a serpent, tremendous, moonpale and heavy. And though such a monster lies still upon the land, in the mind it writhes with all the poison and immensity of imagination. The world changes to show its hostility, and worse, its indifference. Wind and shadow put leaf to leaf and form leathery lips that whisper, “This is no place for you. Not anymore. This is a place of deepgreen, dirt, nightblue, and beasts. Go back. Get out of the night. Go back to the fireside.” Something moves behind the trees. Somewhere fangs connect to an empty stomach, and somewhere rages a flood, a fire, or a frost. And the road dragon beneath you goes ever on: a thread of civilization stretching from one town to the next.

But somewhere else a window spills golden-yellow light into the implacable night. Somewhere the clink of plates competes with the voices of men, swords on a mantel shine through dust, and a bed waits.

Safe and comforting though it may be, such domestic spaces are also confining. Each night, weary from the day’s duties, you return to the same few rooms. Each night of your life, you regard the same few walls, framing the same familiar faces of kith and kin, growing older. So when the day’s toil is through, the minds of some turn to wandering.

These dreamers steal to the door while others are preoccupied with food or drink or talk. Lightly leaning against the threshold, they flirt with the idea of walking out into the evening. But the gentle path that splashes down from the door with the reds and oranges of the hearth soon runs into the ever-flowing road. And, after looking down that darkening lane awhile, the dreamers know to shut the door and forget the bluenight, because somewhere down that graveled path--past the elm, through the gate, and beyond the pen of sleeping pigs--is a universe more fantastic and a reality more indifferent. So they snuff their fantasies and turn back into the house, their now smoldering dreams casting only a ghostly smoke into their thoughts.


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