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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

BEA 2010 Show Rundown and Swag

I've been going to BEA of Book Expo America for the past few years. In many ways I've seen the show decline, especially with the abysmal third day last year.  This year BEA was moved to midweek with only two exhibit days.  I think this was a smart move for the show.  Energy on the floor was higher than I've seen it the past few events and the pace was quite frantic at times.  The aisles were especially clogged on Wednesday in not only the big publishers, but in nearly ever aisle I walked down.  Great to see this.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  On Tuesday I got in and had a lovely dinner at Crema in the West Village.  I highly recommend this place. A very good laid-back atmosphere and delicious drinks.  But it was the food I'll be remembering for weeks. I had their version of Peking Duck with mole sauce, which was outstanding and quite reasonable.  After dinner my wife and I went to Madame X's for the Steam Salon hosted by Liz Gorinsky from Tor.  I didn't get there until a little after 7 and was worried I would miss some of the festivities, but things were just getting rolling.  [some links go to photos as mine didn't come out well] This was a great venue for the gathering.  Something a little bigger might have been nice or a mic for the readers, but for the most part the readings went well. Before everything started I introduced myself to Cherie Priest who introduced me to Tor Steampunk aficionado Liz Gorinsky and Caitlin Kittredge.  All three were quite nice and nicely costumed for the event.

First up was Felix Gilman, who was much younger than I thought who did a short reading of The Half-Made World.  I was in the back of the room so it was a little difficult hearing the quiet Brit, but what I caught was good.  I also bought a copy of his Thunderer, which he signed for me and we discussed doing an interview.  Next up was Catherynne Valente who was dressed up Victorian style with bustle and all.  Catherynne was doing a reading from Deathless, which is her take on Steampunk coming from Tor in 2011. Quite intriguing. After this there was a brief break and I recognized Amber and Justin from Tor both of whom I've been corresponding with for a year now and we got to talking for a bit about this and that.  I learned Dot is leaving Tor and we all shared sad faces.

Up next was George Mann who enlivened the room a bit with his reading from his Newbury and Hobbes books.  At this point my energy and that of my wife was waning so we dashed out back to our hotel before Cherie's reading. This was just the first night of falling down.

Wednesday was the first exhibit day of the show.  There were long lines waiting to get in, but pushing was at a minimum.  Wandering around BEA is a bit of a trap.  If you ever go make at least a loose plan of Publishers to visit and signings to go to otherwise you'll likely not get there.  Don't forget comfortable shoes and bags with long handles to carry your booty.  They give away loads of nice bags as well, but it's always best to come prepared. And I know this goes against usual logic, but don't grab every book you see given away. Decide if it is actually something you'd remotely be interested in before absconding away.  There is probably someone else who'd enjoy that mystery more than you if  you don't read any.  I see so many people not even look at the title and throw it in a mountainous bag.

First I stopped by some of the big publishers to see what they had laid out for the taking.  My first find was Steve Martin's first full length novel An Object of Beauty that I hadn't even heard about.  I greatly enjoyed his two novellas Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. The Shopgirl movie is one of my faves.  Martin is just as good at writing as he is at stand-up with moving and funny works.  My wife and I had split up and when we met up again it turns out she grabbed a copy as well so we gave the extra to a friend we ran into. I grabbed a few more galleys all of which are noted below and than I was off to Gilman's signing of The Half-Made World.  Cherie Priest was signing Dreadnought immediately after he finished so I wandered over to one of the author stages to kill time where a YA panel on Paranormal Fiction was going on with Richelle Mead, Holly Black, Ivy Devlin, and Andrea Cremer. It was a good discussion marred by some technical difficulties at the start, but I had to leave before it was over to get in Cherie's line, which by the time I got there was past the roped area. When I was finished it was still just past the ropes and they ran out of books before her allotted hour was up.  Goes to show you that being early is important for those must have books. Cherie is definitely going up in the world.   After the signings I went by some of the genre publishers to see what they had going on and to say hi to a few people I correspond with. I also stopped by Graphic Novel row where Todd MacFarlane was signing The Haunt.

Thursday was a bit more sedate in terms of people, but it was still pretty busy.  A friend of mine came in to wander a bit with me, which was nice. Hopefully this friend will get their stuff together this summer to start doing some reviews here - that means you Vapor.  I went to Karen Miller's signing and said hello to Alex from Orbit while there. We kidded for a minute about the next cover kerfuffle I'm likely to start.   Than I was on to the Joshua Braff signing for his second novel Peep Show after his The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, which showed great promise.  I stopped by the Steampunk panel with Cherie, Catherynne, and Felix for a little bit, but had to move on to meet-up with friends.  They were shooting the panel so hopefully it will be online in the coming weeks.  After that I stopped by the Games Workshop booth where Nick Kyme was signing one of his Warhammer novels.  Next I tried to go back to the Graphic Novel area for a Garth Ennis signing and found out it was the day before.  Oh, well.  But I did happen upon the Paizo booth and talked with the publisher for a moment and he gave me a copy of the anthology Before They Were Giants even though they weren't giving them out.  After that I lost steam quickly and headed home with my two bags full of booty. Below are pics of what I grabbed and the usual info.


Haunt by Todd MacFarlane - This autographed and from what I've heard so far so basically MacFarlane continuing his venom stuff.
Dreadnought by Cherie Priest - Autographed by the very kind Cherie.  I must get to this soon.
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman - Gilman's Steam-Western, which had me even more intrigued after his short reading at the Steam Salon.
Before They Were Giants edited by James L. Sutter - This is a collection from Paizo of the first published stories from well known authors such as China Mieville, Ben Bova, Greg Bear, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, and many, many others.  Plus after each story there is a small interview with each discussing where they were in life and also if they would change anything about the stories if they could.
Steppe by Piers Anthony - This also came from Paizo as part of their Planet Stories line of reprints.
Witches Incorporated by K.E. Mills - This is autographed from Mills aka Karen Miller.
The Prodigal Mage by Karen Miller -  Even though I have the hardcover I had to get an autographed copy.
The Noise Within by Ian Whates - I never found the Solaris booth, but my friend snagged me a copy of Whates' novel.
Salamander by Nick Kyme - Warhammer here I come.  


Packing for Mars by Mary Roach - If you didn't enjoy Roach's Stiff than something is wrong with you.  The follow-up Spook wasn't as interesting, but I'm more than willing to give this a shot. I opted to take the book and run instead of waiting in the 150+ long line.
Peep Show by Joshua Braff - This is Braff's sophomore effort, which I'll probably read over next vacation.  Great cover. I got it autographed.
Savages by Don Winslow - This was the much ballyhooed crime novel of the fair and the copy sounded interesting.
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore - The lost journal of Arthur Conan Doyle.  This has the propensity to be really good or truly bad.  Time will tell.
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin - The biggest find of the show.  My wife will start in on it first though.  She was a big Shopgirl fan.

Word on the street is Book Expo will be going back to 3 exhibit days next year.  Now I go and fall down and rub my feet.

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INTERVIEW | Jon Sprunk author of Shadow's Son

Jon Sprunk is the author of the Fantasy debut Shadow's Son from Pyr Books, which I just recently reviewed. Sprunk only has a few short story credits to his name so little was known about him, which is why I had to corner him. This is the first interview I have ever conducted without first reading one of the author's books prior so in some ways it was a challenge for me, but I think it accomplishes what I set out to do.

MH: What first drew you to Fantasy and Science Fiction?

SPRUNK: I read a great deal as a child (and still do), but SFF stories always held a special magic for me. They possessed a sense of wonder that more mundane adventures couldn't match. In the end, I suppose its a matter of taste and predilection.

I believe the first fantasy novel I read was a little tale called Kothar and the Wizard-Slayer by Gardner Fox. From there I discovered Robert E. Howard's Conan series before moving on to works by writers such as Leiber, Moorcock, Eddings, and Lovecraft. Those are still the voices that whisper in the back of my head when I'm reading, or writing, for that matter.

MH: You started as a short story writer, but have admitted you wrote a novel early on. Was your short story writing important to your development to long form? And what was wrong with that first novel?

SPRUNK: I was first published as a short story writer, but I have always been--in my heart--a novelist. However, its difficult to crack into the novel market. Short stories are good way to pad your resume, if you will, and they're also valuable to hone your technique. Among other things, writing shorts taught me how to: pace for length, write with brevity without sacrificing emotional content, know when a story just isn't working, and (sometimes) how to fix it.

As for that first novel, well, the simple answer is that I tried to build a million-dollar mansion with a pair of scissors and some duct tape. I just didn't have the right tools for the job. It took me years to develop those tools. And, by the way, I think I'm still developing.


MH: What can you tell me about Shadow's Son to whet our appetites? It definitely seems in the vein of Swords & Sorcery.

SPRUNK: I suppose S&S is as good a category as any. My agent describes the book as a fantasy version of the movie Batman Begins. That might be stretching it, but I like to think I keep the reader on his or her toes. The hero, Caim, is a freelance assassin. He's damned good at what he does, but he gets in over his head when he finds himself in the middle of socio-political plot that threatens the heart of the empire. That's the tagline, but really it just means you get a ringside seat to a rousing good brawl.

MH: Hmm, Batman Begins... What kind of character is Caim? Sword slinging hero? Cold-hearted killer? Assassin with passion?

SPRUNK: The short answer is that Caim is human. He loves, hates, mourns, despises, and cherishes, just like all of us. At the start, he may be slightly dysfunctional. Okay, more than slightly--he's a train wreck of a person. But the events of this novel stretch his perceptions, both of himself and the world around him. Is he a hero? I can't answer that. He is the engine that drives the story. You'll have to tell me if he is heroic.

MH: What does Sword & Sorcery mean to you?

SPRUNK: S&S means adventure--danger, magic (hence the sorcery), and lots of pointy metal objects (and the swords). The fantasy stories I fell in love with as a child were S&S like Robert E. Howard's Conan and Moorcock's Elric series and, to quote Master Yoda, forever have they dominated my destiny.

MH: Where there any real life experiences that helped shape Shadow's Son?

SPRUNK: Not really. I mean, I tried to make a living as a freelance assassin, but there aren't many listings for that kind of work in the classifieds. On a more serious note, one of the book's central themes is loss, specifically the loss of a loved one. The passing of my mother when I was a child had a monumental effect on my life. In this book I explore the path of an individual who has suffered that kind of loss and never recovered.


MH: The beautiful cover art by Michael Komarck depicts a ghost-like woman standing behind Caim. What kind of role does she play?

SPRUNK: First, I have to take off my hat to Mr. Komarck. I'm extremely honored that this artwork is going to be attached to my humble novel. The ghost-like woman is Kit. She is Caim's best (and maybe only) friend. She also happens to be completely intangible to everyone else but him.

MH: How do your stories take shape? Are you a detailed outliner or more streams of consciousness?

SPRUNK: I do make outlines for my novels, but I'm not a slave to them. The story can, and often does, veer away from my finely-laid plans, and I am content to follow new ideas as long as they lead to someplace interesting. When I'm doing it right, it feels like both the logical and the creative sides of my brain are working in tandem. For short stories, the experience is more like flying by the seat of my pants; I grab an idea, and try to ride it to a suitable (and entertaining) conclusion.

MH: What are your greatest strengths as an author? (world-building? characters? suspense?)

SPRUNK: I have no idea. I believe that's for the reader to decide. Hopefully, my greatest strength is presenting a story that many people can enjoy.

MH: As a debut author you have to tell your obligatory road to getting Shadow's Son published story. And how was your first World Fantasy Con?

SPRUNK: Well, I wired a large bribe to the publisher... Actually it happened when I least expected it. I had just read the First Law series by Joe Abercrombie. I was so impressed that I emailed Lou Anders at Pyr Books. Among my praise for his work, I mentioned I had a fantasy novel and would he be interested in seeing it? Long story short, he took a peek, and liked it enough to offer me a contract. At that time I didn't have an agent, so I picked his brain and he suggested JABberwocky. A couple weeks later I had an agent and a contract for three books. It felt like I'd won the lottery, but better because I worked very hard to get to that place.

World Fantasy was a wonderful experience. There was an atmosphere of camaraderie among the people there. And it's pretty awesome to just be hanging out at the bar and watch one of your author-idols walk past.

MH: In keeping with the name of this blog what’s your type of hat?

SPRUNK: I prefer baseball caps for everyday wearing, but my favorite is an old bomber-pilot-type hat that I got from my grandfather. I still wear it outside in the winter when I shovel the driveway.

MH: What are 2 things about you most people don’t know? Do you have a pet monkey you keep sequestered in the backyard?

SPRUNK: Two things, huh? Okay, (1) I play a mean guitar on Guitar Hero/Rock Band, and (2) I originally wanted to move to Japan to study martial arts after high school, but my parents talked me into going to college. Since that's where I met my wife, I suppose I have to give them props.

MH: Very nice. I'm only decent at Guitar Hero. Forever stuck on medium. Thanks for your time!

To learn more you can visit Jon's blog or following him on twitter.

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REVIEW | Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk
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Cover & Blurb Unveiled for Richard Kadrey's Kill the Dead (Sandman Slim 2)


What do you do after you’ve crawled out of Hell to wreak bloody revenge? If you’re Stark you turn to bounty hunting, tracking and decimating whatever rogue monsters you’re paid to kill. Stark hates the work, but he needs the money, especially the big bucks Lucifer is offering. In town as an advisor on a biopic of his life, Lucifer needs protection, and he wants Stark as his bodyguard. But the gig isn’t all bad; there is the very sexy, very hot French porn star Brigitte Bardo, a friend of Lucifer’s in LA to remake her reputation as a legit actress. While it isn’t love, it’s pretty damn good, and after 11 years of demonic chastity, it’s enough for now.

Stark has enough trouble juggling a diva devil and a scorching French bombshell without a zombie plague to complicate matters. And just what happens when a human-angel half-breed is bitten by the living dead? His human side begins to die, transforming him into an unstoppable angel of death—a killing machine devoid of emotion or thought, with no regrets or future to worry about. Not a bad way to be when you’re choices are limited. Now, Stark has to decide...if he does finds a cure for the zombie infection, will he take it?

Richard Kadrey made a name for himself in the late 80's and early 90's as a pioneer in Cyberpunk with books like Metrophage and Kamikaze L'Amour. With the Sandman Slim series he has brought an edge to Urban Fantasy seldom seen which is why it made my best of 2009 list. Coming later this October we'll be treated to some more of Kadrey's Stark no pulled punches style with Kill the Dead. This is a man not afraid to stab an Angel in the back.

The cover is perfect for the series.  It is stark and desolate yet colorful like Kadrey's prose. I especially like the clashing of the green sky with the orange type. Sandman Slim just came out in mass market for those who didn't take the hardcover plunge. Also, the hardcover is on sale at Amazon for $9, which is a steal and a great little package.

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Cover Unveiled for Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Found this via DragonMount:


After a few false starts we finally have the final cover for the penultimate book in The Wheel of Time series for The Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson.  I have to say this is one of the best covers of the series, but the eBook relaunch art keeps blowing me away.  If you visit DragonMount you can take a gander at the full wraparound art by Darryl K. Stewart.


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VIDEO | The Machinery of Light Trailer

I've just finished the very complex The Mirrored Heavens, which kept getting better and better. It is very much a mix of Cold War Thriller and Cyberpunk with a hole lot of action. In honor of the release of the third and final book in David J. Williams' Autumn Rain series here is the well done trailer for The Machinery of Light.



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REVIEW | Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk (Pyr)


"A killer stalked the shadows."
-first line from Shadow's Son

That first line is very telling about this solid story, which unfolds in Jon Sprunk's debut, Shadow's Son. The city of Othir is the center for nefarious political and not so political dealings. Caim has made a name for himself in Othir as the go-to man for assassination. He is given a job that looks to be a simple sneak and stab turns into anything, but as Caim is thrust into the middle of a deep plot to change the political structure of the region.

Josey a rich, spoiled heiress is dragged into these dealings far too quickly for someone of her pampered upbringing.  Caim is often accompanied by Kit a rambunctious and quick-witted entity with no physical presence who can only be seen and heard by Caim. Think of Kit as Caim's as to Harry Dresden's Bob the Skull only a much more loose lipped, freewheeling fairy godmother who is scantily clad. Kit is the jealous type and is quick to runaway whenever the mood strikes.

Wonderful fight sequences is what you expect out of a Swords & Sorcery novel and Sprunk more than delivers on that front as Caim swirls out of the darkness and into the hearts of his enemies.  In many ways Shadow's Son isn't a very new plot as we have damsels in distress, cold-blooded assassins, and a political situation ripe for the toppling. Yet Shadow's Son revels in the tropes of Swords and Sorcery keeping it an engrossing, page turner. If you are a reader just after a fun story Shadow's Son is a pleasure. Caim is certainly a likable, albeit closed off, character who rolls with the punches. Caim has unusual powers involving pulling shadows around him. There appears to be more to them, but their extent is still unknown as Caim has pushed himself away from them most of his life.

Josey was at first playing the damsel role to the utmost and falling a bit flat what with her prissy and sheltered nature, but I was surprised in the last third how quickly I grew to care for her. Sprunk does have a habit of being too quick to kill off some characters as he probably could have gotten a bit more out of them, buts he gets to the heart of the matter quickly and effectively. Where Shadow's Son excels is in the area of baddies.  Ral is Caim's nemesis of sorts. Both are assassins. Only while Caim does it because he is good and it is a living, Ral revels in his deeds to fuel the lifestyle he was born into and frittered away, who seems to love to spread his sense of entitlement around. Caim's other foe Leviticus is quite impressive as he bleeds through the world with strange and impressive powers. I could have definitely used a few more fight scenes with Leviticus, but Sprunk is clearly holding that for later in the series.

Shadow's Son had me up late at night as nearly every chapter ended in climax after climax of tight action sequences to see how Caim will get out of the next scrape.  Fans of Brent Weeks and Brandon Sanderson will certainly find plenty to like here, but in a much smaller package as it is less than 300 pages. I give Shadow's Son 7.5 out of 10 hats. Even though this is the first in a trilogy Sprunk does an admirable job at having a clear culmination to most of what he started while leaving plenty left open for the next volumes as things escalate. Sprunk shows loads of promise as he hones his craft. The sequel in this trilogy, Shadow's Lure, will most likely be out sometime next summer, which will delve further into Caim's origins and mysterious powers. Hopefully we'll get more Kit as well because she was missed by me during most of the middle.


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NEWS | New Neal Stephenson collective project


According to Mark Teppo, author of The Codex of Souls series, he'll be working on a collective fiction project headed by Neal Stephen called The Mongoliad. This is no normal collaboration or book though. In fact details are still a bit sketchy, but here's what I've found out thus far. Teppo starts by saying:
I gave notice at my day job today. Fourteen years I've been there. Wrapping it up in the next two weeks to go be a writer full-time. I know. All of a sudden, isn't it? Well, it's been a long process of working in the wee hours of the day and night, but I've finally reached a point where I can't do everything all the time. I have reached the point of needing to simply.

Of course, it get complicated when Neal Stephenson twitters& today that "Our first demo of the new novel I am writing with Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and others" will be happening next week in San Francisco.

This is the Sekrit Project. Called The Mongoliad...
According to Stephenson's Facebook where the first announcement was made:
For those of you who don't know, The Mongoliad is a sort of serialized story, created by Neal Stephenson, and written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, and a number of other great authors. It will be told via custom apps on iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Android, and will be something of an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling.
This one has caught me quite by surprised, but Stephenson is the driving force and writer of the first story in this series(?) Foreworld,  but many other names look to be heavily involved. In some ways this reminds me of John Scalzi's Metatropolis as that was a collaborative world, but Stephenson seems to be taking this much farther afield and into the future using diverse platforms. Stephenson and company have set up a site for the collective called Subutai Corporation, which will carry more info as it is released as well as The Mongoliad. This project isn't only prose though as it looks like video will also be a component somehow and who knows what else. Here is a bit about the world:
The Mongoliad is a rip-roaring adventure tale set 1241, a pivotal year in history, when Europe thought that the Golden Horde was about to completely destroy their world. The Mongoliad is also the beginning of an experiment in storytelling, technology, and community-driven creativity.

Our story begins with a serial novel of sorts, which we will release over the course of about a year. Neal Stephenson created the world in which The Mongoliad is set, and presides benevolently over it. Our first set of stories is being written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, and a number of other authors; we're also working closely with artists, fight choreographers & other martial artists, programmers, film-makers, game designers, and a bunch of other folks to produce an ongoing stream of nontextual, para-narrative, and extra-narrative stuff which we think brings the story to life in ways that are pleasingly unique, and which can't be done in any single medium.
If you'll be in San Francisco on the 25th of May you can catch of preview of what we are in store for at the SF App Show. Since it will be released on Droid I'll definitely be taking a gander. Can you feel the meta? I know I do.

Hats off to Mark Teppo who is moving on to being a full-time writer. It must be daunting to make that move, but he is involved in a project at the ground floor that could help usher in a new way of publishing and interactive with stories.

UPDATE: Here is a bit more I just learned:
We're also working closely with artists, fight choreographers & other martial artists, programmers, film-makers, game designers, and a bunch of other folks to produce an ongoing stream of nontextual, para-narrative, and extra-narrative stuff which we think brings the story to life in ways that are pleasingly unique, and which can't be done in any single medium.

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NEWS | China Miéville has released the Kraken so what's next?

With China Miéville's Kraken just being released in the UK, Pan Macmillan has announced a little about his next new novel. This just in from the Pan Macmillan newsletter:
We’ve also just done a new deal for the next book from China Miéville. His latest novel Kraken (out now) is a fantastic romp through a London that only China could create. The new book Embassytown which we will publish in May next year is a brilliant science-fiction novel.
This should mean Embassytown will be release around the same time in the states as Del Rey, Miéville's US publisher generally tries to match them within a month of each other.  What little I've heard about this new book is that it will be more Sci-Fi than any of his other previous novels.  Here is a tidbit from an interview he recently did:
However he revealed his next book is already with his editor – ’science fiction, aliens and spaceships, but I don’t want to give too much away’ – and should be out next year, while adding he has a bunch of books in mind that he wants to write in the future.
Kraken will be released later next month stateside, which is still too far away for me.

UPDATE: Here is the blurb for Embassytown:
"Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

And that is impossible."


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New Procurements after a used book sale

This week only saw a few review copies show up, but I also went to a local used book sale my library was holding where I picked up a few classics and what I'd call modern classics.  First up is the used book booty.


Foundation and Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov - I haven't read these in more than 15 years and I don't belive I ever owned them so finding these like-new copies was an easy decision at 50 cents a piece.

For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun—or fight them and be destroyed.


The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler - As readers know I've been reading a lot of Urban Fantasy Noir the past year so I decided to go back to one of the main influences and try the famous Philip Marlowe's first outing.

When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.

Men and Cartoons by Jonathan Letham - Couldn't pass up this and the next for a buck each.

“The Vision” is a story about drunken neighborhood parlor games, boys who dress up as superheroes, and the perils of snide curiosity.
“Access Fantasy” is part social satire, part weird detective story. Evoking Lethem’s earliest work, it conjures up a world divided between people who have apartments and people trapped in an endless traffic jam behind The One-Way Permeable Barrier.
“The Spray” is a simple story about how people in love deal with their past. A magical spray is involved.
“Vivian Relf” is a tour de force about loss. A man meets a woman at a party; they’re sure they’ve met before, but they haven’t. As the years progress this strangely haunting encounter comes to define the narrator’s life.
“The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, Is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door” is a Borgesian tale that features suicidal sheep. (This story won a Pushcart Prize when first published in Conjunctions.)
“Super Goat Man” is a savagely funny exposé of the failures of the sixties baby boomers, and of their children.


The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham - This was the big find of the used book sale. It is a first printing, first edition hard cover of a book I've been meaning to read for years. It'll definitely be on my next vacation pile.

The Fortress of Solitude is the story of Dylan Ebdus growing up white and motherless in downtown Brooklyn in the 1970s. It’s a neighborhood where the entertainments include muggings along with games of stoopball. In that world, Dylan has one friend, a black teenager, also motherless, named Mingus Rude. As Lethem follows the knitting and unraveling of their friendship, he creates an overwhelmingly rich and emotionally gripping canvas of race and class, superheros, gentrification, funk, hip-hop, graffiti tagging, loyalty, and memory. The Fortress of Solitude is the first great urban coming of age novel to appear in years.


The Fade by Chris Wooding - After Retribution Falls I'm eager to get at some more Wooding so I bought this along with my wife's birthday present. Something for her equals a little for me and it is a standalone.

A subterranean world of vast caverns, underground seas, crystalline forests. A civilization born of darkness, in darkness, protected by shadows. A city of merchants, whose eyes have turned upward to the surface, where the lethal light of day beats down on their world. A conspiracy so vast that it will swallow them all. This stunningly original fantasy from a multi-award winning author introduces an epic quest across a world like no other in fantasy.

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S. Jablon - This is the finished copy sent to me for review, which means it should show up in stores shortly.

Dragons: Fearsome fire-breathing foes, scaled adversaries, legendary lizards, ancient hoarders of priceless treasures, serpentine sages with the ages' wisdom, and winged weapons of war... Wings of Fire brings you all these dragons, and more, seen clearly through the eyes of many of today's most popular authors, including Peter Beagle, Holly Black, Orson Scott Card, Charles De Lint, Diana Wynne Jones, Mercedes Lackey, Ursula K Le Guin, Dean R Koontz, George R. R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon, Garth Nix, and many others.

Blue and Gold by K.J. Parker - This is Parker's next novella from Sub Press coming out later this year. I'm eagar to dip in since Purple and Black was a fine read.

“Well, let me see,” I said, as the innkeeper poured me a beer. “In the morning I discovered the secret of changing base metal into gold. In the afternoon, I murdered my wife.”

For a man as remarkable as the philosopher Saloninus, just another day.

Of course, we only have his word for it, and Saloninus has been known to be creative with the truth. Little white lies are inevitable expedients when you’re one jump ahead of the secret police and on the brink of one of the greatest discoveries in the history of alchemy. But why would a scientist with the world’s most generous, forgiving patron be so desperate to run away? And what, if anything, has blue got to do with gold?


Speculative Horizons edited by Patrick St-Denis - Yes, the famous Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Also, if you preorder by May 21st 10% of the cover price will be going to the American Cancer Society. It is an odd, but good grouping of authors.

Speculative fiction is wide in scope and styles, and Speculative Horizons showcases the talent and storytelling skills of five of the genre’s most imaginative voices:

In C. S. Friedman’s “Soul Mate,” it’s love at first sight for Josie at the arts and crafts festival when she meets the handsome Stephan Mayeaux. It all sounds too good to be true until her newfound boyfriend starts to act strangely and unexplained occurrences begin to take place around her.

In Tobias S. Buckell’s “The Eve of the Fall of Habesh,” contragnartii Jazim must carry out one final assignment before the armies of the Sea People lay waste to the city he loves.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the universe of his bestselling Recluce saga in “The Stranger.” A young herder’s existence will be forever changed by the unexpected arrival of the black-clad man recounting tales of angels living on the summit of the Roof of the World.

In “Flint,” Brian Ruckley introduces us to a young and inexperienced shaman who must venture into the spirit world to discover the source of the sickness which afflicts his tribe before they are all wiped out.

Talk to any cop working for Homicide, Narcotics, or Vice, and they’ll tell you that they get the worst cases imaginable. But in Hal Duncan’s “The Death of a Love,” you realize that they have nothing on Erocide.


How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu - This is Yu's novel debut, but he did have a short story collection a couple years back called Third Class Superhero. The titular story is quite a fine read and worth tracking down, especially for those prose superhero fans ala Soon I Will Be Invincible. Yu won a National Book Foundation Award for that story as well.

National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award-winner Charles Yu delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father . . . through quantum space-time.

Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time-travel is serious business. Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician—part counselor, part gadget repair man—steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally. When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a onehour cycle, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.

Wildly new and adventurous, Yu’s debut is certain to send shock waves of wonder through literary space-time.


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New Procurements with a bunch of signed books - May 9th, 2010 edition

Cover & Blurb Unveiled | Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World


A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism.

The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.

To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People, who live at one with the earth and its elements. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.
Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World is his attempt at a Steampunk/Weird West novel, which seems to be the next trend developing in Speculative Fiction.  The cover is a tad sedate when compared to other steampunk covers, but I quite like the da Vinci-like illustration and in this case the simplicity is working.  It is a far cry and improvement from what Spectra did for Gilman's debut Thunderer a couple years back, which was a bit off the mark in my estimation.


The Half-Made World certainly seems promising though and will be released this October from Tor.

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REVIEW | Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr)

The Wasp Empire is coming to the lowlands. They are conquerers who known no bounds. No one believes they are a threat even as the swarm the region, except one very smart Beetle-kinden and the people he has encircled himself with.

Bug people. Sounds intriguing doesn't it? Bug people with steamtech in a Fantasy setting with large warring factions sounds even better, which is what you get in the shockingly original Empire in Black and Gold. Tchaikovsky is an author to watch and this Shadows of the Apt is a series to take note of.

Empire and Black and Gold is as different a Fantasy world as you're likely to find. Picture a world where humans have broken into different tribes known as kinden with each developing vaguely insect features and traits known as ancestor art, but with some steam-tech thrown in that makes perfect sense with the overall history. Some of the main kinden include the mind linked Ants, the warrior Mantids, the flying and stinger handed Wasps, and the technologically minded Beetles. Finding out about each breed and what they can do is half the fun of the book as Tchaikovsky introduces more than a dozen types with more to come. But also there are half breed people who tend to end up with a mixed bag of attributes from both parents yet are generally looked down upon by society at large.

One concept took a while to gel in my mind. Some insect-kinden are what is known as Apt, which means they have an aptitude for understanding and developing technological advancements such as clockwork or steam driven devices. Some kinden are non-Apt where they cannot even begin to fathom how to use most of this technology let alone create it. The non-Apt are also more in touch with magic although it plays only a small part in this story, but will be greatly expanded upon in future volumes.

The Wasp Empire from the northwest is coming to the Lowlands. Most accept them and their money. A few are wary because of what they have seen and heard and only a small group is ready to slow them down because the Wasps can't be stopped by a few stalwart Beetle and Mantis people. They are a swarm that threatens to destroy or enslave everything in their path. Stenwold Maker is a Beetle-kinden trying to rally the lowlands into defense. Empire in Black and Gold surrounds his young protégés as they each play deep hands into the coming war. Some of the characters are a bit wishy washy with their inner thoughts and desires, but Tchaikovsky has set them up well to grow in succeeding volumes.

Empire in Black and Gold is a rousing start to a series that is full of awesome ideas and premises in a tantalizing world of what is to come. I didn't see the end sequence coming, even after all the finale hints were laid out, but man can Tchaikovsky write big beautiful battles. With Empire in Black and Gold debut author Tchaikovsky has created a completely original world never seen in the Fantasy genre prior as he eschews Elves and Goblins for races of people with attributes of insects. I give Empire in Black and Gold 8.5 out of 10 hats. Empire in Black and Gold is an awesome open salvo to a series I'll be devouring for years to come. This is a world filled with wonders, magic, and mechanics with characters that pull you through every step. The second volume Dragonfly Falling and third Blood of the Mantis are already available in the US with the fourth coming out this September, which caps the first major story arc of the series. So it will be a long haul series, but Tchaikovsky doesn't hold back much as he continues to reveal more about this world to keep you captivated.  My one big question is where are my kinden action figures?


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GETTING TO KNOW | Mary Robinette Kowal's Evil Robot Monkey & More

This is the first of what I hope to be a regular feature called Getting to Know. The goal will be to give a brief overview of an author that is new to me and some of their short work while also mentioning what novel length works they have in the pipeline. This also plays in to my reading resolution of getting to more short fiction this year. First to fall victim is Mary Robinette Kowal.

(Cover designed by Terry Rohrbach)

Mary Robinette Kowal falls under the category of "authors new to me" even though she has had a growing fan base the past few years for her short story work. I recently received a review copy of her debut Shades of Milk and Honey and before I tried that I wanted to get a better sense of her style and after a little googling discovered she has loads of stories online through Apex, Strange Horizons, and other various venues.  Kowal's first short story collection Scenting the Dark and Other Stories came out from Subterranean Press last year. One key thing to know about Kowal is that she is a professional puppeteer having worked for Jim Henson Productions amongst other outfits, which is just too neat. Here is here puppetry demo reel, which showcases her work:


Now on to her fiction.  I was immediately drawn to Kowal's Evil Robot Monkey to start for two reasons. Firstly, it has to be just about the best title evah! She has combined three of my favorite words in the English language. Secondly, it was nominated for the Hugo award last year, which also made it a good candidate to start with.

Evil Robot Monkey is a very short, short story that is much more tender than the title lets on. The monkey in question is Sly who is an oddity what with having been enhanced and doesn't fit in with the monkey world nor the human. It is a sweet and fun read that'll only take you a couple minutes to blaze through.  Give it a try, but I think her slightly longer stories tempt the imagination a bit more. Evil Robot Monkey is available as a free PDF, MP3, or web page through Mary's site. 

After Evil Robot Monkey I went on to Clockwork Chickadee because, well, it sounded like a steam/clockpunk story and my like of that genre is well know to readers here. This is a delicious story of a devious Clockwork Chick working with malicious intent against a clockwork sparrow and as of right now is one of my favorite shorts this year.
The clockwork chickadee was not as pretty as the nightingale. But she did not mind. She pecked the floor when she was wound, looking for invisible bugs. And when she was not wound, she cocked her head and glared at the sparrow, whom she loathed with every tooth on every gear in her pressed-tin body.
Read the rest of Clockwork Chickadee over at Strange Horizons or an audio version here.

Clockwork Chickadee shows off Kowal's skill quite well as does Jaiden's Weaver, which has a surprising amount of good world-building.  Kowal's greatest ability from what I've read thus far is her dialogue. She writes dialogue that feels spot on and real and I'm now more interested than ever to pick-up here debut Shades of Milk and Honey.  Kowal has an extensive list of her short work available online that I'll be perusing over the next few weeks. I hope you will as well.


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Lou Anders' With Great Power... superhero anthology retitled

(Cover art by Trevor Hairsine)

I've been conducting an interview with Lou Anders over the past couple of weeks and in our chat he revealed that his superhero prose anthology With Great Power... would be retitled.  The title and revised cover have just been release and the anthology is hence forth known as Masked.  The release date is still July 20th so don't have any fear of it being late because of the change.

(Limited Edition cover for Subterranean Press. Art by Dominic Harman)

I'm about a third of the way through Lou's other forthcoming anthology Swords & Dark Magic which is co-edited with Jonathan Strahan. So far it is living up to the editors goal of creating a definitive view on Swords & Sorcery. I found the James Enge story The Singing Spear, starring his Morlock, quite a fun read and was surprised how much I liked the Steve Erickson story Goats of Glory, despite its slow and somewhat stale beginnings.  He certainly turned the volume way up the last few pages.


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New Procurements with a bunch of signed books

This post is a little longer than most since I've let the books pile up what with my back killing me I haven't had much inclination to spend time sitting in a chair typing if I can help it.  On the plus side I've been reading plenty while recuperating in bed. The last couple of weeks have seen an influx of great looking books both purchased and sent for review. There is one very notable limited edition purchase as well as a few other autographed books that happened into my grasp. Plus my visit to the local comic shop for Free Comic Book Day netted me quite a few trade comics I've been meaning to pick-up for sometime. I actually read a lot more trade comics than I discuss here, but I mostly borrow those.


American Gods Limited Edition by Neil Gaiman - This is the lovely edition published by Hill House a few years back, who is now defunct. I bought it through Subterranean Press for original list price despite copies selling online elsewhere at higher amounts, which made me very happy. This edition is the authored preferred text, which means it is longer than the standard. It doesn't have Sub Press's usual touches such as added art, but it is a very fine copy that will stand the test of time housed in a beautiful slipcase. Perched on top of the limited edition is the accompanying readers copy. This is the first time limited edition that I've ever seen with this feature and I appreciate since I don't want to muss the signed edition and the readers copy is also numbered to match my edition. American Gods is going to look gorgeous nestled besides my limited copies of The Graveyard Book, Adventures in the Dream Trade, and my much loved hardcover version of American Gods which I got signed last year.

Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress - Kress is a new to me author, but what I've heard I like and this blurb has caught me a couple times.

The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet:

“We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly. We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it. Therefore we request twenty-one volunteers to visit seven planets to Witness for us. We will convey each volunteer there and back in complete safety. Volunteers must speak English. Send requests for electronic applications to witness@Atoners.com."

At first, everyone thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t.

This is the story of three of those volunteers, and what they found on Kular A and Kular B.


Clockwork Phoenix 3 edited by Mike Allen - The Clockwork Phoenix series has been lauded pretty well for an indie anthology. This is the first I'll be reading, which the publisher was kind enough to send.  The fact that it has a Shweta Narayan story is what grabs me above all else, which just happens to be another clockwork bird story like her tale from The Clockwork Jungle Book. Here is the table of contents:

  • Marie Brennan, "The Gospel of Nachash"

  • Tori Truslow, "Tomorrow Is Saint Valentine's Day"

  • Georgina Bruce, "Crow Voodoo"

  • Michael M. Jones, "Your Name Is Eve"

  • Gemma Files, "Hell Friend"

  • C.S.E. Cooney, "Braiding the Ghosts"

  • Cat Rambo, "Surrogates"

  • Gregory Frost, "Lucyna's Gaze"

  • Shweta Narayan, "Eyes of Carven Emerald"

  • S.J. Hirons, "Dragons of America"

  • John Grant, "Where Shadows Go at Low Midnight"

  • Kenneth Schneyer, "Lineage"

  • John C. Wright, "Murder in Metachronopolis"

  • Nicole Kornher-Stace, "To Seek Her Fortune"

  • Tanith Lee, "Fold"
  • Editor Mike Allen says CLOCKWORK PHOENIX 3, like its predecessors, "is a home for stories that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the ways they cross genre boundaries, that aren't afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques. But experimentation is not a requirement: the stories in the anthology must be more than gimmicks, and should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder. I will value a story that makes me laugh in its quirky way more than a story that tries to dazzle me with a hollow exercise in wordplay.

    Mine All Mine by Adam Davies - Davies is an author I've heard about over the years, but never given a chance. This one sounds too crazy to pass up when I spotted it in the wild. Come on. It is about a cyanide popping security guard and it is also a romantic comedy.  What's not to like?

    Otto Starks is a "pulse"—a highly specialized security guard who has hyperdeveloped senses and a nervous habit of popping tabs of cyanide. Otto was once a rising star but then he was rolled three times by the notorious Rat Burglar. Now, demoted and dangerously in debt to a loan shark, all he has left is Charlie Izzo, the woman he loves. Unfortunately, she is also the Rat Burglar’s zealous advocate. That’s bad enough. But then Otto gets robbed yet again and the cops pronounce him the prime suspect. When Charlie disappears and Otto becomes a fugitive, he realizes that the Rat Burglar has stolen much more from him than art. And to get it back he must break the law he has devoted his life to upholding. A nail-biting thriller about deception, betrayal, and ownership—in art and in love—Mine All Mine is also a quirky and hilarious romantic comedy.

    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald - This ARC might sit a little while until the mood strikes me. I enjoy McDonald's work as I found River of Gods to be an amazing read, but it took me two weeks to get through it as his work needs a dedicated mind to grasp all the interconnecting threads.

    It begins with an explosion. Another day, another bus bomb. Everyone it seems is after a piece of Turkey. But the shockwaves from this random act of 21st century pandemic terrorism will ripple further and resonate louder than just Enginsoy Square.

    Welcome to the world of The Dervish House; the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. The year is 2027 and Turkey is about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its accession to the European Union; a Europe that now runs from the Arran Islands to Ararat. Population pushing one hundred million, Istanbul swollen to fifteen million; Turkey is the largest, most populous and most diverse nation in the EU, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided. It's a boom economy, the sweatshop of Europe, the bazaar of central Asia, the key to the immense gas wealth of Russia and Central Asia.

    Gas is power. But it's power at a price, and that price is emissions permits. This is the age of carbon consciousness: every individual in the EU has a card stipulating individual carbon allowance that must be produced at every CO2 generating transaction. For those who can master the game, who can make the trades between gas price and carbon trading permits, who can play the power factions against each other, there are fortunes to be made. The old Byzantine politics are back. They never went away.


    The Last Page by Anthony Huso - This autographed ARC came from debut author Anthony Huso, which amazed me a bit yet this has happened a few times lately. I was already intrigued when I heard about it a few months ago, but I'll definitely be reading and reviewing it around the release date this August. Seems like an odd Urban Fantasy tinged with some Steampunk.

    The city of Isca is set like a dark jewel in the crown of the Duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling landscape, the monsters one sees are nothing compared to what’s living in the city’s sewers.

    Twenty-three-year-old Caliph Howl is Stonehold’s reluctant High King. Thrust onto the throne, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest court secrets. He also faces a brewing civil war that he is unprepared to fight. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his old lover, Sena, is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: she has been trained from birth by the Shradnae witchocracy—adept in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood—and she has been sent to spy on the High King.

    Yet there are magics that demand a higher price than blood. Sena secretly plots to unlock the Cisrym Ta, an arcane text whose pages contain the power to destroy worlds. The key to opening the book lies in Caliph’s veins, forcing Sena to decide if her obsession for power is greater than her love for Caliph.

    Meanwhile, a fleet of airships creeps ever closer to Isca. As the final battle in a devastating civil war looms and the last page of the Cisrym Ta waits to be read, Caliph and Sena must face the deadly consequences of their decisions. And the blood of these conflicts will stain this and other worlds forever.


    The Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn - Pyr is planning on doing another 3 months drop for the Dark Age series, which follows The Age of Misrule trilogy. I started on The Age of Misrule series last year and lost steam when it came to picking up the third volume despite enjoying the first two volumes. I still have to get back to that last one before starting on this series.

    Humanity has emerged, blinking, from the Age of Misrule into a world substantially changed: cities lie devasted, communications are limited, anarchy rages across the land. Society has been thrown into a new Dark Age where superstition holds sway. The Tuatha De Danaan roam the land once more, their terrible powers dwarfing anything mortals have to offer. And in their wake come all the creatures of myth and legend, no longer confined to the shadows. Fighting to find their place in this new world, the last remnants of the Christian Church call for a group of heroes: a new Knights Templar to guard the priesthood as they set out on their quest for souls. But as everything begin to fall apart, the Knights begin to realise their only hope is to call on the pagan gods of Celtic myth for help.

    Pinion by Jay Lake - The last in Lake's clockpunk series follows the events of Mainspring. Another gorgeous cover from Stephan Martiniere.

    Rejoin the Librarian and the Chinese submarine captain, the British sailor, the clockwork man, and the young sorceress who has gone south of the great equatorial wall. This adventure in Lake’s Clockwork Earth continues the tale begun in Escapement.


    Child of Fire by Harry Connolly - A signed courtesy of the author.  I've been meaning to try this new Urban Fantasy series and I'll probably get to it very soon. I can seem to keep myself from reads that mix in Noir tones lately. I may burn out soon though.

    Ray Lilly is living on borrowed time. He’s the driver for Annalise Powliss, a high-ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers devoted to hunting down and executing rogue magicians. But because Ray betrayed her once, Annalise is looking for an excuse to kill him–or let someone else do the job.

    Unfortunately for both of them, Annalise’s next mission goes wrong, leaving her critically injured. With the little magic he controls, Ray must complete her assignment alone. Not only does he have to stop a sorcerer who’s sacrificing dozens of innocent lives in exchange for supernatural power, he must find–and destroy–the source of that inhuman magic.


    Silversands by Gareth L. Powell - I ordered this novella from indie press Pendragon Press a few months back as the Vincent Chong cover art was enough to sell me.  It was a limited run and I managed to get copy #38 out of 300 copies, which was also signed.  This is Powell's longest work to date. I've already devoured it. Silversands reminded me of what a prequel to Pohl's Gateway would be like. A fun little read that with a universe I hope Powell expands on. Mark from Walker of Worlds has a good review, which I mostly agree with.

    In an age where interstellar travel is dangerous and unpredictable, and no-one knows exactly where they’ll end up, Avril Bradley is a Communications Officer aboard a ship sent to re-contact as many lost souls as possible. But a mysterious explosion strands her in a world of political intrigue, espionage and subterfuge; a world of retired cops, digital ghosts and corporate assassins – all fighting for possession of vital computer data that has lain hidden for almost a century.

    Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon - This is Chabon's first non-fiction book so I'll have to give it a chance in the near future.

    A shy manifesto, an impractical handbook, the true story of a fabulist, an entire life in parts and pieces, Manhood for Amateurs is the first sustained work of personal writing from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon. In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, one of our most brilliant and humane writers addresses with his characteristic warmth and lyric wit the all-important question: What does it mean to be a man today?

    Fathom by Cherie Priest - Since I was officially introduced to Cherie's writing last year I'm trying to make it a point to go back and try her other non-steampunk books since she has quite a few. My office just moved and we're now less than a 10 minute ride to a Borders, which could spell trouble for me in the long run. I probably would have picked up the first Eden Moore book if the store had it, but they only seemed to have Fathom, which was fine by me.

    The ageless water witch Arahab has been scheming for eons, gathering the means to awaken the great Leviathan. She aims to bring him and the old gods back to their former glory, caring little that their ascendance will also mean an end to the human race. However, awakening the Leviathan is no small feat. In fact, Arahab can’t complete the ritual without human aid. Arahab’s first choice is José Gaspar, a notorious sea pirate from eighteenth-century Spain. But when the task proves too difficult for Gaspar, she must look elsewhere, biding her time until the 1930’s, when the ideal candidate shows up: a slightly deranged teenager named Bernice.

    Bernice is sophisticated, torn from New York and forced to spend a miserable summer on Anna Maria Island, a tiny rock off the coast of Florida. She’s also been saddled with the companionship of her farm-raised cousin Nia. Eventually, Bernice’s disenchantment gives way to rage and she commits a deadly crime. When Nia won’t cover for Bernice, she turns on Nia, chasing her into the deadly coastal waves.

    But the elementals have better ideas: the moment the girls go under, Bernice is commandeered for Arahab’s task force, and Nia is turned into a strange and powerful creature by a servant of the earth who doesn’t want to surrender his green fields and muddy plains—not yet, at least. Add in a hapless fire inspector who’s just trying to get his paperwork in order, a fire god whose neutrality has been called into question, and a bizarre religious cult, and rural Florida doesn’t seem quite so sleepy anymore.

    The Goon Volume 0: The Rough Stuff  and Volume 1: Nuthin' But Misery by Eric Powell - I've been threatening to start this series for a couple years now and with Free Comic Book Day I finally decided to take the plunge with what started as an underground hit and has blossomed into a huge following.

    Bones will be broken and heads will roll! The Goon is a laugh-out-loud action-packed romp through the streets of a town infested with zombies. An insane priest is building himself an army of the undead, and there's only one man who can put them is their place: the man they call Goon.

    Hatter M Volume 1: The Looking Glass Wars by  Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier Another buy from FCBD, which just happened to be signed by both writers. A very unexpected boon I didn't notice until home. Given the title do you even need to ask why I wanted it?

    Put to rest any delusions or disinformation you have of the tea-guzzling madman of faux literary history and prepare to expand your consciousness as the saga of Hatter Madigan and his relentless search for the lost Princess of Wonderland unfolds in Volume 1 of the Hatter M graphic novel series! In Frank Beddor's bestselling The Looking Glass Wars, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan was ordered by Queen Genevieve to take Princess Alyss and leave Wonderland after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd. But while escaping through the Pool of Tears (the portal connecting Wonderland to our world) crushing centrifugal force pulled them apart, and Alyss was lost. In this first volume of the geo-graphic parallel adventure trilogy, Hatter finds himself in Paris, France in the year 1859 shockingly separated from the child he had been sworn to protect. Hatter must now embark upon a non-stop quest, crisscrossing the globe for 13 years in search of his lost Princess.

    Hellboy: The Wild Hunt by Mike Mignola - I've been reading this series on and off, but Mignola's take on the Wild Hunt is hopefully something to behold.

    When ancient giants begin to reawaken in the British Isles, Hellboy is invited to join an ancient band of fellow monster hunters called the Wild Hunt and help bring them down. But an unexpected betrayal sends Hellboy after a quarry far more deadly: the Queen of Blood, first seen in 2007's best-selling Hellboy: Darkness Calls. This newly reborn evil has her murderous sights set on all of humanity, and the only way Hellboy can stop her is to finally confront the truth about his own dark heritage.

    Lenore: Wedgies by Roman Dirge - This graphic novel came courtesy of Titan Books. I've never heard of the series, but it has fun macabre art with a cute little dead girl. It is also slim so I squeezed it in yesterday. Definitely reminded me of Beetle Juice a lot and Tim Burton's recent work. Worth checking out for those fans of Oyster Boy out there.

    Firefly: Still Flying - This is the latest book from Titan Press who does the Firefly tribute books that I've been talking about for awhile now. Still Flying contains 4 original Firefly short stories written by the original series writers, which will be devoured very shortly. This is the finished copy, which is quite lavish with lots of full color pictures and should be hitting shelves in the near future.

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    REVIEW | Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Tor)

    The year is 1939 and World War II is upon us. The Nazi have raised their own team of elite battery-powered X-Men through scientific means called the Gotterelektrongruppe. The British have access to dark, blood thirsty demons. Both sides make undeniably hard decisions in the effort to thwart the other.

    Bitter Seeds begins when many of the main players are children and where we see how events of the past entwine their future for the rest of the narrative. The British dark magicians pass on their knowledge to their children for some very interesting reasons. The subject matter involving Nazis may turn some people off, but Tregillis handles delicate matters deftly and does not at all show support or in any way condone what they did. In fact he has clearly made the group at large the bad guys while molding some of the Nazis into deep and complex characters. And he has developed a great mad scientist that rivals Dr. Moreau. Both sides stoop to some very evil yet justifiable depths, but when doesn't that happen in real war? Harsh times call for harsh decisions.

    Ian Tregillis has arrived and what a bright and promising voice he has brought to bear. Bitter Seeds is an extraordinarily original work of fiction that blends ideas of Alternative History, Fantasy, and Science Fiction seamlessly yet denies being labeled specifically as one type. No matter how you approach it though it wins on each count.

    The view point switches between various characters but mostly settles on Klaus for the Gotterelektrongruppe who can walk-through walls and spymaster Raybould Marsh for Milkweed, which is a covert group in Britain. Marsh is kind of the Jason Bourne of the book as you follow his missions into enemy territory.  Both Marsh and Klaus show unbelievable strength as characters to endure. Tregillis has a knack for knowing when to switch view points. Just when you want to long to see what's going on in the other camp he delivers. Other standout characters are William Beauclerk whose makes pacts with demons he hardly understands and Gretel, Klaus's sister, who is as mysterious as any seer of the future ought to be. Gretel is a very central character as she shapes future events, but to what end is still unknown.

    The swiftly moving Bitter Seeds is a debut from a new and powerful voice in speculative fiction that I hope stays around for years to come. If you are a fan of dark comics or alternative histories Bitter Seeds would be well worth your time as we see a masterful mix of mad science versus the dark arts unlike any other. I give Bitter Seeds 9 out of 10 hats.  Bitter Seeds is the best debut so far this year and I can't see leaving it off my year end best of list. I suspect it will be on many others as well. 

    Tregillis has caught me as much with his originality this year as much as Jesse Bullington and Ken Scholes did last year. Bitter Seeds is the first in a trilogy, but it more than stands on its own. However, you are left with greater implications on the world stage as events lead into Tregillis's version of the Cold War. The second in the Milkweed Triptych, The Coldest War will be released in February 2011.  Tregillis is also part of the Wild Cards consortium helmed by George R.R. Martin with stories in the three latest volumes.


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    INTERVIEW | Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds

    Ian Tregillis is a debut novelist, scientist, screenwriter, man of leisure, and best of all mammal. His alternative history trilogy, The Milkweed Triptych, which starts with Bitter Seeds has just recently been released from Tor Books. His work has also appeared in the latest volumes of George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards.

    MH: Firstly, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Secondly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I know you've been involved in GRRM's Wild Cards consortium for a few years now.

    IAN: You're welcome. Thanks for interviewing me.

    I'm originally from Minnesota. I grew up in the Twin Cities, and attended the University of Minnesota for both college and grad school. But then the lure of gainful employment lured me to New Mexico. A few years later, after a long sequence of events where I was at just the right place at just the right time, I fell in with an amazing collection of professional science fiction writers. I'm still somewhat amazed that they took me in.

    A while after I joined up with the local writers, George Martin and Melinda Snodgrass were looking for new writers to join the Wild Cards consortium, in preparation for a relaunch of the series. Melinda and Daniel Abraham convinced George to take a chance on me.

    And I've been chained in the hold of his dirigible ever since.


    MH: How would you describe Bitter Seeds to new readers?

    IAN: It's a fantasy alternative history of World War II, with superpowers, warlocks, spies, demons, and explosions. It's about the human costs of war, both in battle and behind the scenes. (Sometimes I say "superheroes" instead of "superpowers", but I looked ahead to your next question and cheated.) My friend Daniel Abraham calls it an adventure story with magic and spectacle. I jokingly refer to it as, "Watchmen meets Inglorious Basterds."


    MH: Bitter Seeds centers around your version of the World War II or more specifically the conflicts between Nazi Germany and Britain. Did you ever worry that creating a story involving Nazi Superhero like people would be seen in a bad light?

    IAN: Good question. The last thing I'd ever want is for people to think that Bitter Seeds is intended, in any way, as a glorification of the Third Reich. I tried to make it clear that although the war described in Bitter Seeds isn't the war we know from history books, the background of the fictional world is our world. So the German soldiers in Bitter Seeds serve the same twisted ideology they did in the real world. That hasn't changed.

    The project that creates the "supers" in my book is modeled on gruesome human experimentation that really took place. If the book is dark in places, that's because it's skirting the edges of real history. That said, "superhero" is a convenient shorthand to describe some of the characters in the novel--one I use myself, frequently--but it's actually somewhat misleading. What we really mean is that these characters have unnatural abilities. "Superhero" connotes a dogooder, but none of the characters fit that description. Likewise, there are no supervillains.

    I tried to paint all the principals in shades of gray. Nobody is purely evil or purely good. Even the protagonists of the story do dark things. At the same time, there is a point of view character on the Axis side of the war, and I wanted to ensure that he wasn't a cartoon. He's very conflicted about what he's doing and what he's a part of. And he should be.

    MH: I can attest that none of your characters are placed in easy situations and never with clearcut choices. Your German X-Men come about their powers through scientific means. How did your own scientific background working with Los Alamos National Laboratory and other research influence Bitter Seeds?

    IAN: You know, people often ask me that. When I first started kicking around the ideas behind this story, I brought an outline to my local writers' group, to see if they thought it was a project worth pursuing. (They did, enthusiastically.) One of the things I'll always remember from that meeting was the awkward silence, until somebody broke the ice by saying, "So, uh, what exactly do you do at the lab?"

    But in fact my science background played very little part in the development and writing of Bitter Seeds. The story is purely fantastical. Writing is my escape, and if I started writing a novel rooted in rigorous science, it would feel like I was taking my work home with me. Although I couldn't resist working just a little bit of real-world physics into the plot.


    MH: When I was a kid I would watch reruns of In Search Of hosted by Leonard Nimoy everyday after school and learned about all kinds of weird stuff on ancient civilizations, Dracula, and Loch Ness. This is also the show where I learned the Nazis were very into Ancient Mysteries such as Atlantis and strange science, which was little known until after their downfall. How much if and did the speculation of Nazis experimenting on humans and creating flying saucer tech play into your world?

    IAN: In Search Of ! I loved that show when I was a little kid. (It scared the bejeezus out of me, though. Leonary Nimoy made everything sound so creepy.)

    There was definitely an undercurrent of weirdness to pieces of the Third Reich, from the Ahnenerbe and pseudohistory, to Himmler's dabbling fascination with the occult. (Although not everything in the Third Reich was steeped in occultism, and in fact many prominent Nazis decried such things. In the grand scheme of things, it was probably more of a footnote than anything else.) The occult angle has been explored quite a bit, so I wanted to take the story in a slightly different direction.

    World War II jump started tons and tons of technological research and development, for both the Axis and the Allies. It's also known that the Axis powers performed some truly horrific human experimentation. (At extermination camps in Europe, but also in places like occupied Manchuria.) So, while I didn't veer into saucer tech and foo fighters, I did think it would be interesting to build on that historical record of intense scientific development, and combine it with an overly-literal quest for Nietzsche's "overman".

    MH: With so many well known and well regarded writing cohorts you must have been imparted some great wisdom at some point. What's the best advice you've been given as a writer? Have you followed it?

    IAN: I've been extremely lucky in my writing efforts, largely because I've been able to work with and learn from some tremendous talents. I've received a lot of advice and guidance over the years, and I try my best to
    keep it in mind while I work. Just off the top of my head:

    George Martin taught me to, "Never hoard your silver bullet."

    Charles Coleman Finlay taught me that spending a lot of time struggling with some aspect of writing isn't necessarily a sign of weakness.

    Cory Doctorow taught me that every writer has strengths and weaknesses, and that good writers acknowledge this.

    Walter Jon Williams taught me that a truly skilled writer can make anything riveting.

    Elizabeth Bear taught me that writing is a process of continual improvement.

    Daniel Abraham taught me that "information control" is one of the keys to good storytelling.

    MH: While Bitter Seeds is a complete story in and of itself you've set things up well for more stories. What can we expect out of The Coldest War? Will you be attempting to do things any differently in form or style? New character points of view? And most importantly when can I get my grubby little hands on it?

    IAN: Hmmmm, let's see...

    Bitter Seeds is the novel that introduces Marsh and Gretel, and where she puts all of her pieces on the board. The Coldest War is the novel where Marsh uncovers her plan. Necessary Evil is the novel where he has to deal with it.

    There is a new point of view character in Coldest War. That novel follows a similar structure to Bitter Seeds. Necessary Evil, which I'm finishing now, differs from the previous two novels both in style and viewpoint characters. The stylistic change in this third novel has made for an interesting challenge, but I'm excited about it. The Coldest War is currently scheduled for February, 2011. I don't know when Necessary Evil will be hitting shelves.

    MH: What caught me when I first saw Bitter Seeds was the beautiful, yet austere cover art by John Jude Palencar. Do you think his depiction of Gretal is accurate to what you envisioned? Did you have a hand at all in the cover's evolution?

    IAN: My only influence on the cover art was in writing the actual book. But that didn't bother me at all, because when my editor told me that Tor had hired John Jude Palencar to do the cover for my first novel, I felt like I had hit the jackpot! I've been a fan of Mr. Palencar's work for a long time-- I'd never dreamed his artwork would someday grace one of my covers. The cover art for Bitter Seeds is yet another place where I've been phenomenally lucky.

    His rendering of Gretel, and the entire novel, is pitch-perfect. The painting captures so many little elements from the book, both literally and stylistically, that it bowled me over the first time I saw it. I *love* the cover.

    MH: Besides the Milkweed Triptych what else are you working on?

    IAN: I wrote and tentatively sold a couple of short stories earlier this year (but I'm superstitious, so I'm not ready to announce those sales until the contracts are signed and the checks have cleared-- another thing I learned from GRRM). I'm also playing around with ideas for my next novel project, post-Milkweed. In fact I'll be discussing these with my agent when I see her in a few days. My gift to myself, after I turn in the manuscript for Necessary Evil, will be to finally turn my full attention to stuff that's been on the back burner for many years. I'm very excited about the next novel.

    MH:What are two things most people don't know about you?

    IAN: I once was thrown out of a Christmas party by a sock puppet.

    And, I once had an unfortunate encounter with a Nobel Laureate--a man whom I admired greatly. (Not a bad encounter, just unfortunate.)

    MH: In keeping with the name of this blog what is your favorite type of hat? (or just favorite hat if you have one)

    IAN: I am very fond of my Tilley hat [pictured at the top]. It has a nice wide brim (which is a good thing, because my pasty Minnesota complexion doesn't respond well to the New Mexico sun) and plenty of airflow. Plus, any hat that can allegedly) pass through the digestive system of an elephant yet still do its job afterwards has got to be a good one, right?

    MH: What was the book that made you love the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre?

    IAN: My introduction to science fiction happened when I was 5 years old, after the first day of kindergarten. That's when I discovered Dr. Who on public television. The first SF book I remember reading (devouring) was Heinlein's Red Planet. It's a very fond memory for me.

    MH: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

    IAN: I'm running a contest/puzzle on my website right now! First prize is a signed advanced review copy of Bitter Seeds. Details on the contest and some hints on how to play can be found in several entries on my blog, starting here.


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