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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

REVIEW | Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (Eos)

Last year Sandman Slim was the most adrenaline pounding, foul-mouthed, and no-nonsense take on Urban Fantasy seen in years.  Kadrey took Urban Fantasy slapped it around, gave it some balls, and didn't apologize for it.  Nor should he have. So the sequel Kill the Dead comes to us on quite a high and I can happily report that it lives up to the first volume. I wouldn't say it was better, but most definitely on the same plateau. I loved every second of all the zombie killing, alcoholism, and back talking. Stark is still the anti-hero Kadrey's LA needs.  Kill the Dead is more a mystery story than crime novel as Sandman Slim was.

Kill the Dead sees Stark getting drawn into a missing person case while also being tasked as Satan's bodyguard. At first you have to ask what the hell does Satan need a body guard for? Well, he has got enemies. Lots of them from nearly every camp whether light, dark, or grey. Other reasons are eventually given as well. Satan is in town to make a movie because that is what every one in LA is trying to do, which means this time around Stark levels up the crowd he mixes with. Not that they are better people. Just richer and even more perverse than we've seen so far, which says quite a bit.

There were a few characters who got left in the dust this time around. The good Doctor Kinski and his nurse barely show up and Stark's magic fellows Allegra and Vidocq do little more than mix some potions, which seems a poor use, especially given Vidocq's background. There wasn't enough Angelic interaction this time around, but Kadrey makes up for it with a big change to Stark in the last quarter and a few good backstory reveals and plenty of action. 

We do get just the right amount of Kasabian, the bodiless head, filling the world with his thoughts that just bring to mind a dirty old landlord wearing a stained wife-beater every time. As a character Satan brings a lot to the table as well. Kadrey definitely makes him feel fresh and dangerous. Also, Stark finally gets a love interest of sorts that certainly knocked my socks off. Let's just say she was the perfect kind of woman for him.
mystery

Kill the Dead delivers more combat than most action movies and blends in the feel of a modern take on Mickey Spillane. The Noir style still plays off well and the lack of chapter breaks makes the story speed by at a lightning pace to the point that it ends before you are ready for it to stop. Kadrey gives you no fluff as every detail is used to propel the story ahead. I give Kill the Dead 8 out of 10 hats. The use of zombies at first made me groan as I didn't think Kadrey needed to go there given the big world he created in Sandman Slim, but he manages to use them as a lethal weapon and even gives them a few nice twists. Kill the Dead is just as strong as Sandman Slim and left me wanting for the Angel showdown that we know is coming in the third volume Aloha From Hell.

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New Procurements


A Hard Day's Knight by Simon R. Green - The second to last Nightside book is in my hands in galley form, which comes out in January. This pulp series has had its highs and a few lows. I'm hopeful Green goes out on a high note.  

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi - This could possibly be the Sci-Fi debut of the year, which is why I pre-ordered it early this summer.  It made its way across to me from the UK.  Those in the US will have to wait until sometime next year to get there hands on it here.  Nothing but good things have been said thus far so I'll have to keep my expectations in check.

Farlander by Col Buchanan - This galley is for the US edition coming from Tor in January.  I bought the UK version earlier this year and still haven't gotten to it so I'll probably try to review for the US version.

Betrayer of Worlds by Larry Niven & Edward W. Lerner - Only recently did I read Ringworld for the first time, which is why it was fortuitous that this new title showed up acts a prelude to the series.  We get to learn why Wu was chosen by the Puppeteers.

Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth - What caught my on this zombie read sent to me by Permuted Press is the tag line: A Novel of Life Among the Dead.  It brings up all kind of nihilistic thoughts to mind.

A lone survivor in a zombie-infested world, Jonah Caine wandered for months, struggling to understand the apocalypse in which he lives.Unable to find a moral or sane reason for the horror that surrounds him, he is overwhelmed by violence and insignificance. Then Jonah comes across a group of survivors living in a museum-turned-compound. They are led by Jack, an ever-practical and efficient military man; and Milton, a mysterious prophet who holds a strange power over the dead. Both share Jonah’s anguish over the brutality of their world as well as his hope for its beauty. Together with others, they build a community that reestablishes an island of order and humanity surrounded by relentless ghouls. But this newfound peace is short-lived, as Jonah and his band of refugees clash with another group of survivors who remind them that the undead are not the only—nor the most grotesque—horrors they must face.

Twilight Forever Rising by Lena Meydan - Andrew Bromfield, famous as the translator of the Nightwatch series, again turns his hugely capable skills to bringing a new Vampire series to the English reading world. Everyone involved in this project must think the series has some chops since so few Russian works get translated that I'll have to make time for it at some point.

Darel Ericson of the Dahanavar clan is a rarity among his vampire brethren: he’s an empath, strong enough to occasionally read thought as well as emotion. For centuries, his power has given the Dahanavar a significant advantage against the machinations of the other vampire families, an advantage which makes Darel both a powerful tool and a highly visible target.

Fortunately for Darel, it is more useful for the heads of the other clans to maintain the centuries-long peace between the houses than to remove him. But, the cunning and violent head of the House of Nachterret is tired of the truce, and of hiding his presence in the world. The Nachterret would like nothing more than have free reign over the helpless human cattle upon which they feed.

Darel, and the human woman he loves, become central to the Nachterret’s scheme to plunge the Houses into all out war. Darel is ultimately forced to face the question: is one young woman’s life too high a price to pay for peace?


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Kitteh Reads a Book



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Book Resolution Update and Books to Read Before End of 2010

All of a sudden we are approaching the last 3 months of the year.  Where has the time gone? Oh, yeah I've reviewed nearly 40 books and read more than twice that number. But how am I doing with those reading resolutions from the beginning of the year?

  1. 1.  Read more Science Fiction including some of the suggestions from commenter's on this post. Check. Read A Canticle for Leibowitz, Julian Comstock,  To Say Nothing of the Dog, and an Alastair Reynolds novel not to mention quite a few other quality reads.
  2. 2.  Read more short story collections and anthologies. Check, but I hope to get to more. So far I've read Is Anybody Out There?, Swords & Dark Magic, The New Dead, Warriors, Clockwork Phoenix 3, and Hellboy: Oddest Jobs. Plus I've read quite a few other novellas and shorts online including works by Ian Tregillis ("What Doctor Gottlieb Saw" ) and Jason Sanford ("Sublimation Angels").
  3. 3.  Read more books from my shelves. I faltered on this one quite a bit, but here is the list:
  • * Charles Stross's first two Laundry Files - not yet.
  • * The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V.S. Redick - not yet.
  • * The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan - not yet and I might wait until closer to the release of The Cold Commands.
  • * The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson - not yet and a friend has them so getting to them this year is unlikely.
  • * Shadow Falls by Simon R. Green - not yet.
  • * The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem - Started and stopped. I plan on picking it up again, but I wasn't in the right mindset to read it at the time.
  • * Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon - Yes!
  • * The City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VandeerMeer - not yet.
So I'd call the third resolution a big failure, but I still have a little over 3 months to do better. Looking at my shelves has also made me realize how many books I've purchased that are gathering dust. Coupled with the fact I've been concentrating on new releases I've decided November and probably part of December will be dedicated to reading mostly books I've purchased with a mix of the above and those below.

  • * Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky
  • * Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey
  • * Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
  • * Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell
  • * City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton
  • * Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding
  • * The Fade by Chris Wooding
Looks like I have plenty of good reading to look forward to. Out of both lists are there any in particular you'd like to see reviewed?


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A Fantasy Debut to Watch for in 2011 [Updated with final cover]


Two things brought this book to my attention. I recently received the Tor Winter 2011 catalog and the cover immediately caught my eye. I had to flip through the catalog that instant to find out what book this belonged to and didn't have to go far. Right on page 1 was The Unremembered by Peter Orullian. Tor obviously has high hopes for the series. The second connection was Brandon Sanderson mentioning the author in our interview with Orullian's book sitting on his nightstand. Tor hasn't released the final cover in color, but here is a picture of the catalog cover, which shows off this lush image.

Cover art by Kekai Kotaki
UPDATE: Art impressario of Tor Irene Gallo offered to send me the final color version, which I couldn't pass up. So feast your eyes.


Just...drool..ummm...Wow! The art is by Kekai Kotaki who is best known for his work with Gears of War, Guild Wars, Magic the Gathering, and a few books covers such as the recent Shadow Prowler. All around he is producing gorgeous work with a bright future ahead of him.  The cover for The Unremembered is breath taking in its depth and detail. Click to embiggen. It is worth it. Now on to the book itself, which doesn't sound too shabby either.

The Unremembered is Peter Orullian's debut novel although he has published a few short stories in various anthologies the last few years. The series is named The Vault of Heaven, which brings a lot of things to mind. Definitely something on an Epic scale. The Unremembered will be released in April 2011. I know that is a long time, but it certainly could be a strong Epic Fantasy debut. Next year is ramping up to be one of the most competitive years for Fantasy with new books by Abercrombie, Rothfuss, Lynch, Morgan, Abraham, and Grossman. There are also sequels to a number of my 2010 debut favorites coming out, but I always like to make time for debut authors so I'll definitely be one of the first in line to check out The Unremembered. Here is the description to taunt you with:

The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.

Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….

The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey. Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world.
And a bit more from the author's site:

When the First Ones framed the World, they appointed one among them to create adversity and contrariness to harrow the lives of men. But the One became scornful and dark in his work, so that the Council branded him Quietus and exiled him and the dark races he’d created. The Framers sealed them all beyond the Bourne and abandoned the young World, leaving it with but a small hope of redemption.

That hope may come through the choices of a stripling boy, Tahn Junell, in a time when the use of the Will (the energy that exists in all matter) has become a crime, and the Bourne has begun to let loose its secrets. As Quietus’ creations descend into the land with dark indignation, Tahn and his friends (thus far held safe in the Hollows—their home) are chased out.

But a Renderer of the Will and a creature of myth have come to guide them through a world now rife with political turmoil, rumors of war, an insidious human trade, and the dark creations that hunt them. Tahn and his companions race to see if the restoration to him of all his own dark secrets will end his unnatural life or prove him their one last hope.
The author also has an early book trailer up on his site, plus maps, and a few illustrations of the characters. The series is planned to be a trilogy at this point with books released a year apart.

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LOOKING FORWARD Fantasy Books to Watch for in 2010
I just love this cover...

REVIEW | How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe automatically wins the longest title award, which is par for the course given what an enchantingly odd book it is. This is Charles Yu's debut novel, but he has already made a name for himself for his short work especially his collection Third Class Superhero, which won him the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award. I read that collection a few years back and found the titular story ride the line between fun and sad well, showing the human side of having a superpower. Overall it was a strong collection. With How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe Yu successfully subverts the time travel genre into a literary tale about a man's relationship with his father.

"When it happens, this is what happens: I shoot myself."
How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe starts out by giving away the crux of the book. Namely the starring character breaking one of the commandments of time travel. Never interfere with yourself. But who wants to follow rules? Certainly not the starring character Charles Yu. And yes this is one of the meta-fictional tales where the author has named the main character after himself. This is either a bold or lazy way of naming characters depending on the story. In this case this decision is made of win as Yu takes us on a journey through time, alternative universes, and into the depths of a lost man's mind.
"The good news is, you don't have to worry, you can't change the past.

The bad news is, you don't have to worry, no matter how hard you try you can't change the past.

The universe just doesn't put up with that. We aren't important enough. No one is."
This is far from your typical Sci-Fi book. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is probably best seen as the story about a man's search for his father and his own disentanglement from his father's dreams. But it can be enjoyed on many other different levels. As an alternative universe tale, a metaphoric take on how we interact with the world and people at large, a mind bender, and in some ways the story of a family immigration to a new place where they don't feel quite right in. A simpler title for this book might be Zen and the Art of Time Travel.

After Yu shoots himself he enters a time loop and isn't sure he hasn't already done this a hundred times before. Now he must rewrite a book in order to save himself. Along the way we get an introspective look at how Yu grew up and why he has separated himself from reality. The main character has shut himself off from most stimulus generally choosing to stay in his box of a time machine with his not really-real dog and a codependent computer program as a technician for time machines. The structure, although is mostly in first person, is interspersed with everything from diagrams, equations, and excerpts from a manual on, you guessed it, living safely in a science fictional universe. The structure might turn some readers off, but it actually intrigued me more than the characters at first. Some readers may be disappointed more isn't made of the time travel capabilities, but the time paradox more than makes up for this.

There is a comedic bent to the work as well. Read this if you ever wondered what a serious and introspective side of Douglas Adams would be like. In fact, Charles Yu just might be a universe hopper himself and be an alternative version of Adams come to spread his style here. Hey it could happen. According to Yu it probably already has.

What Grossman's The Magicians did for Fantasy last year Yu does for Science Fiction this year leveling up the realism and making the reader feel like this could be part of their Universe. I give How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe 8.5 out of 10 Hats. This is a memorable and thought provoking debut that will stay with you. Yu is a bright talent that uses his skills to the utmost to turn out tender stories in a milieu that rarely reaches that level.

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INTERVIEW | Amelia Beamer author of The Loving Dead

Joining us this week is Amelia Beamer debut author of The Loving Dead, which crosses horror, romance, and humour unlike any zombie book before. It also features not only sex hungry zombies, but zeppelins, and a trip to Alcatraz. Good stuff all around.

MH: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm giving you fair warning that I'll be getting a little silly and odd at times.

BEAMER: You should know that I do not actually have a sense of humor, nor do I appreciate humor. Or warnings, for that matter.

MH: You've been working at Locus magazine for a few years now, but THE LOVING DEAD is your first novel. What is the greatest lesson as writer you've learned from working in the thick of the Science Fiction and Fantasy world that helped you shape THE LOVING DEAD?

BEAMER: Jeez. I guess the most important thing I've learned is that deadlines are wonderful. You get all riled up, struggling to get all of the little bits in the right places and make sure that names are mostly spelled right, and then it goes to the printer and it's out of your hands. If I didn't have a publisher interested in this novel; if I didn't know a number of people in the industry who acted as advisers and cheerleaders, I wouldn't have had the necessary external pressure--I mean support--to finish the dammed thing. Also, working at Locus makes it possible to understand, quite viscerally, what kind of expectations debut novelists should have these days. The era of selling a novel and quitting your day job has passed.


MH: THE LOVING DEAD centers on two people trying to survive a zombie pandemic. How did you decide that this would be your first book? Judging by your past short story work this is your first horror story and most of your other stories have a very different tone and feel from one another.

BEAMER: I wanted to write a story that centered around a few complicated relationships, and I wanted also for it to have a plot, so I threw in some zombies. People can complain all they want about the ghettoization of genre literature, but genre literature sells in a way that straight up literary relationship stories don't, and I had been learning how to write mostly by writing literary short fiction. With THE LOVING DEAD, I thought I was writing a romantic comedy. I mean, sure, there was some gory head-bashing and gut-ripping, but I didn't realize I'd written a horror novel until the publisher told me so. I'm perpetually amazed and flattered when people tell me I've given them nightmares.

MH: Were you ever worried about backlash from readers about combining sex with a zombie outbreak? How has the reaction been?

BEAMER: I'm not the first to sexualize zombies (you saw the 2008 movie ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, or even the music video "Fashion Freak" by Naked Ape). Zombies are already sexy. What I wanted to do was make this sexualization honest, rather than gross and distant and funny, which is what it has been.

And the reaction? None other than the Godfather of zombie literature, John Skipp, said in his review that I had "sliced through the great and horrible corpse-banging taboo with penetrating wit and astonishing verve." If I did it right, the sexy zombies don't just reinforce the fact that we, the observer, are safely distant from the grossness and goofiness that happens in this book. The promiscuous, wanton zombies make us think about sex in a way that goes against our better judgment: we are all capable of having sex that causes damage to ourselves and our loved ones. That's where the real horror is. The sexy zombies also call into question the very nature of seduction, which I think always has an element of power exchange.

MH: There is a scene taking place in a zeppelin in the skies of San Francisco. Have you ever ridden on that zeppelin? Does the ride exist?


BEAMER: Airship Ventures operates that Zeppelin, and it's terribly expensive, but I was so happy to find out that it existed that I just had to to borrow it. Zeppelins are not just steampunk--they're real!

I did a lot of research and found some great photos on Flickr; my desktop photo for a long time was of that Zeppelin toilet. One day when I am very wealthy and/or conniving I will take the tour around the San Francisco Bay, and we shall play "How Many People Fit In This Bathroom?"

MH: One of the strongest and funniest aspects of THE LOVING DEAD is the dialogue as the characters have a very realistic voices. Conversations often turn out sounding like they would between friends hanging out. During one particular conversation someone says something that the characters think sounds like a weird sex act such as a Dirty Sanchez. What exactly would a Wet Jackson be? And are there any other terms you've come up with? Maybe a Squeaky Swede?

BEAMER: Ew. I mean, thanks! My immediate response is that a Wet Jackson is better than a Dry Jackson, and then I was wondering precisely what a Dry Jackson might be... I was watching TRUE BLOOD, and there's this scene where Vampire Bill crawls naked out of the ground and greets his beloved by grabbing her leg and pulling her towards the ground. Once she realizes it's him, they embrace and then immediately start boning. There's just something about grave dirt--it's a turn-off for me.

So maybe boning a naked guy covered in dirt is a Dry Jackson, and a Wet Jackson is when there's blood and biting involved? Or maybe they refer to acts performed with President Andrew Jackson? Or I could be totally wrong; perhaps a Wet Jackson involves coated wire, olive oil, and a lot of giggling. I suspect vinyl sheets may be necessary.

MH: Trader Joe's in one of the main haunts your characters visit. Have you ever worked at a Trader Joe's? And what is your go-to food when shopping there?

BEAMER: I love Trader Joe's--I haven't worked there myself, but have a number of friends who do, plus a few years of retail experience at a health food store under my belt. With Trader Joe's, it's somewhat masochistic to have a favorite food, because their suppliers often change once you've really gotten to like a particular kind of pesto or trail mix. So the appropriate response is to hoard.

MH: The five things that I need in my emergency zombie apocalypse kit are....

BEAMER: A lighter; good running shoes; cash; liquor; and plenty of reading material, in case the apocalypse takes a while.

MH: If my friend turned into a zombie I would:

BEAMER: Have a nervous breakdown a few months after I killed them.

MH: My all-time favorite zombie movie is...

BEAMER: Oh, that's hard, but my respect has to go to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

MH: I was initiated into the zombie fold at a pretty early age from a sister who though an eight year old would just love RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. What was your first exposure to zombies?

BEAMER: This was an older sister, I presume? Zombies have always been a part of my life; I fell in love with horror as a kid and am still very fond of fear. The thing I learned about zombies, though, once you get past their scary affect, is how loving they really are. They'll stop at nothing to be with you, and they adore you for who you are.

MH: Yup, older sister. You've now covered sex hungry zombies pretty well so what's next for you?


BEAMER: I try not to talk much about my ongoing/upcoming projects because I don't want to wear out the ideas, but you can look for a story called "Pirates Vs. Zombies" in THE LIVING DEAD 2 anthology, out now, and more short fiction and novels TK.

MH: I know you probably don't like to cover up you lovely dreads, but in keeping with the name of this blog what’s your favorite type of hat?

BEAMER: I love hats! Anything that looks good with a zoot suit. My favorite is the one in this picture:


MH: Very nice! Is there anything else you like to add?

BEAMER: The first four chapters of my depraved little novel THE LOVING DEAD are up for free at ameliabeamer.com--along with occasional bloggy action.

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REVIEW | The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer (Night Shade)

The Loving Dead is the fiendish page turning debut novel from Locus Editor Amelia Beamer. It was only a five years ago I thought I had out grown zombies, but then all of a sudden Max Brooks pulled me back and rekindled my joy of reading about flesh eaters. Now we have Beamer making shamblers all sexy-like spreading their STD of love.

Beamer's attempt at melding sex and zombies appears at first to be trying to mix two things that just don't belong together. Yet Beamer pulls off the trick and creates a cinematic story that is destined to be made into a film filled with gore, laughter, whips, and yes even heart.  Her zombies have bite, but also a sexy side that is hard to turn away from.

The Loving Dead takes place in San Francisco over the course of a day, which Beamer explores to the extreme going from the hills into the sky and finally out on to The Rock for a last stand. The story never staggers even as the characters are placed in some sticky situations that might unsettle your stomach or nerves. The Loving Dead centers on roommates Kate and Michael who both work at Trader Joe's because that is obviously where twenty-something's without direction end up working. After a night of partying some friends turn into zombies and than all the fun really begins.

The Loving Dead has spot on dialogue throughout. Funny and witty in the right places, but also naturalistic where needed. Many times it feels like these are conversations you and your friends have when hanging out. Some relationships could have been fleshed out more, but for the most part the characters are easy to connect with. Many times I found myself thinking this is probably how most people would react to a zombie outbreak in a city. But you can't leave until you take a Zeppelin ride to hell.

The epilogue is quite sad and surprising, but fills the void of a zombie pandemic that just ends without full resolution. If you are a fan of zombie fiction and think you've seen it all than look no further for that something new. Beamer effuses dark humor with a deft hand to bring us a modern take on zombies and the spread of a pandemic many of us are preparing for. I give The Loving Dead 7 out of 10 hats. I look forward to what Beamer has cooking next.

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MEME | Finish the Thought With a Title

I spotted this at The World in a Satin Bag who nabbed it from WrittenWyrdd.

The challenge:

Complete the following sentences with book titles that you have read this year. Put the author of the book in parenthesis.

I am: The Bookman (Lavie Tidhar) alternatively The Man Who Read Books Too Much (Allison Hoover)
I will never be: Changeless (Gail Carriger)
I fear: Child of Fire (Harry Connolly)
My best friend is: Julian Comstock (Robert Charles Wilson)
What’s the weather like? The Mirrored Heavens (David J. Williams)
Best Advice: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (Charles Yu)
I’ve never been to: Ringworld (Larry Niven)
Favorite form of transport: The Passage (Justin Cronin)
I’ll never fit in at: Terminal World (Alastair Reynolds)
How I’d like to die: The Last Page (Anthony Huso)
You and your friends are: The Loving Dead (Amelia Beamer)
Thought for the day: Retribution Falls (Chris Wooding)
Your soul’s present condition: The Black Prism (Brent Weeks)

I'm surprised how well those fit together. What does your list look like? Be sure to leave a comment so I can check it out.


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MEME | Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks
MEME | Gollancz SF Masterworks
MEME | Book Habits Meme, Summer 2010 Edition

The Brandon Sanderson Interview: A StompingMad YetiHatter Collaboration - Part 2 of 2

Brandon Sanderson has quickly become a juggernaut in the Fantasy genre with not only the successful Mistborn series behind him and carrying the torch for The Wheel of Time, but with his last two solo novels both making it to the New York Times list.  The Way of Kings has just hit its second week on the Times list as well.

This was a co-interview effort between myself and fellow blogger Patrick from Stomping on Yeti.  All in all Brandon laid out plenty of tasty morsels I was happy to learn about. Check out the first part of the interview over at the Yeti Homestead. The Way of Kings left me wanting more and Brandon has shed some light on what he has planned and why he did things a certain way. We talk about everything from influences on the world, Magic: The Gathering, and why The Gathering Storm wasn't the right title for him.

MAD HATTER: Weather is a major force in The Way of Kings since that is where they derive their magic powers from. Also, the mythology of the series most people believe they are descended from others who lived in another world similar to heaven, but were thrown out of because of the voidbringers. Reincarnation seems to be a theme as well. All these ideas follow along with Norse mythology to a degree. Was that intentional or just a byproduct of the evolution to this world?

SANDERSON: Half and half. I am steeped in mythology, and I enjoy reading about it. I’m absolutely in love with the idea of Valhalla and Ragnarok. But this was not me saying I’m going to copy Norse mythology. Whatever I’ve read can pop into my head. You’ll probably see a bunch of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism too if you look for it. But it was me drawing on various sources, and also just trying to make my own thing. Yes, there’s certainly a Norse aspect to a lot of the weather magic and things like that, but it’s more that I wanted to tell a story about a world that got hit by these magical hurricanes every few days. Weather being such a force is going to therefore be an aspect of the religion, the belief systems, and the day-to-day workings of the people who live in that world. So it was partially natural outgrowth and partially my love and fondness for things that I’ve read.


MAD HATTER. If you can tell us, what's the tentative title for Book 2? And estimated release date? I know you've plenty left to tackle with WoT 14 so we'll take anything you say with that in mind.

SANDERSON: Good. The tentative title was originally Highprince of War. I’m not decided on that yet, because it might be Shallan’s book, not Dalinar’s book. It depends on whose flashbacks I decide to tell, and which ones will complement the events of the next book. Though I have an expansive outline for the series, I really have to sit down and get a more detailed outline for the second book before I decide which title I want. If it’s Dalinar’s book, it will be Highprince of War. If it’s Shallan’s book it will not be. Tentative release date? I’m going to start on A Memory of Light January first, and it will be published probably about three months after I finish it. (Knowing how Tor’s publishing my books these days.) It will just depend on how long that takes to write. Then I will start on The Stormlight Archive 2 after that. I don’t anticipate that book being as hard to write as A Memory of Light, which is going to take a lot of time and a lot of work. Best case is that I finish A Memory of Light in August of next year, it gets published in November, and I write the sequel to The Way of Kings starting immediately after that and finish it in the middle of the next year so it can be published November 2012. That’s the best-case scenario. But it’s what I hope to be able to do; we’ll see.

MAD HATTER: Will we ever get to visit The Origin of Storms? And has the ending for the series already come to you?

SANDERSON: I know exactly what the ending of the series is. I’ve been tempted to write it down a few times. Things Robert Jordan has said make me not want to write it down yet because he felt that writing the ending down before he got there was the wrong move, and I think he might be right. But I do have it worked out. In fact, I’m going to have a big powwow with Peter, Isaac, and Emily where I sit down and explain all these things so that they can point out holes before I start the second book, which is going to be a very interesting thing--we’ll probably record that and then twenty years from now post it on the internet. But yes, I do know the ending. I will not say whether we’ll go to the Origin of Storms.

YETISTOMPER. All of your fantasy worlds exist in the same universe and share linked magic systems and at least one character. Can you speak to the overall vision of this shared Hoidverse? Why not create separate worlds?

SANDERSON: I started doing this early in my career before I got published, when I felt that writing sequels was not a good use of my time. Just look at the hypothetical; if I’m trying to get published and I write three books in the same, if an editor rejects book one, he or she is not going to want to see book two. But if an editor rejects book one but is optimistic about my writing, I can send them a book from another series and they can look at that.

During my unpublished days I wrote thirteen books, only one of which was a sequel. So I had twelve new worlds, or at least twelve new books--some of them were reexaminations of worlds. But I wanted to be writing big epics. This is what I always wanted to do; something like the Wheel of Time. So I began plotting a large, massive series where all these books were connected, so I could kind of “stealth” have a large series without the editors knowing I was sending them books from the same series. It was mostly just a thing for me, to help me do the writing I wanted to be doing. And then when publication came I continued to do that, and told the story behind the story.

Why not do separate worlds? Because it was more interesting for me this way. This is the story I want to tell. The big, overarching story that I’ve planned out. I’ve been talking recently about how my inspiration for this is the idea that in science people have for a long time been looking for a unified theory of physics, some theory that will explain all interactions of physics in a concise way. I wanted to tell about a universe where there was a unified theory of magic, where magic worked according to a unifying principle. Despite the magic systems looking very different and doing lots of different and interesting things, hopefully original for each book, there is an underlying rationale that is keeping them all together. I write what I find interesting, and that was interesting to me.

MAD HATTER: Besides "Firstborn" have you tried your hand at Sci-Fi any other time? By the same token will you ever dive back into short fiction?

SANDERSON: I did write two science fiction novels during the era that I was unpublished. Neither are particularly good, but they were experiments, with me trying to figure out where my talents and interests lie. I was just experimenting a lot during those days, so I did write two science fiction novels--I believe they were my second and fifth novels. I will go back to short fiction. I’ve said before that I don’t feel I’m as good at it as I am at the longer form, but I like doing new things and trying new things. You will see more short fiction from me, but we’ll have to see when it happens. I’m thinking of writing a short story to post on my website, during my break between Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. And there’s also “Defending Elysium,” another science fiction story, which appeared in Asimov’s and is already on my website.

MAD HATTER: Glad to hear you'll be back in the short game.  Can you take us through a normal writing day? Do you have a word count goal?

SANDERSON: Yes. It depends on the day and the book, but generally 2,000 words is my goal. 3,000 to 4,000, probably around 3,500 is a really solid day for me. A basic writing day: I get up at noon or 1:00, depending on when I went to bed. I play with my son for about an hour, giving my wife a break. Then I go downstairs for four or five hours, check my email, write for a while, go up and have dinner, play with my son some more, then go back down and go back to work until I’m done for the night. The last couple of years have been pretty much a lot of me with my laptop on my couch or in my beanbag chair writing books.


MAD HATTER: Terry Brooks recently said he'll be doing more Shannara books and that he wishes he didn't use the title The Elfstones of Shannara already since his new arc is basically all about the Elfstones. Did your reticence to titling The Gathering Storm as such have anything to do with The Stormlight Archive? The Gathering Storm certainly seems like a perfect title for a book in the series.

SANDERSON: Yeah. I didn’t choose The Gathering Storm. If you know the story, it all happened while I was asleep, and they said this was the title they were going to use. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, I knew I was releasing a book soon afterward that was in a series called The Stormlight Archive. Perhaps I pay a little too much attention to making sure that I don’t feel like I’m repeating myself. Kaladin in The Way of Kings was originally named Merin, and one reason I changed his name was because it sounded too much like Perrin. He had been Merin for eight years or so, but when I was just a Wheel of Time fan, it was okay to have a name that sounded a little like a Wheel of Time character’s. But now I may be a little hypersensitive to that.

Honestly, the greatest reason I might have preferred The Gathering Storm to have a different title is that I felt it was just a little bit generic, more so than recent titles in the series have been. Recent Wheel of Time titles have been beautiful; I love The Crossroads of Twilight as a title, for example. But The Gathering Storm is a good title for a lot of other reasons, and it works very well for the first of that sequence. So I was satisfied with it even though it wasn’t the title I would have chosen.

MAD HATTER: Was there any physical inspiration behind the Shattered Plains, which features so prominently in The Way of Kings? Too many visits to the Grand Canyon?

SANDERSON: I’ve only been to the Grand Canyon once, but I do live in Utah, which has beautiful red rock formations and this wonderful, windblown stone formations scattered all across southern Utah. I’ve hiked there and spent a decent amount of time there. I would say that Roshar is partially inspired by that.

MAD HATTER: You're an avowed Magic: The Gathering lover. What is your color combo deck of choice? Also, preferred edition? I've always leaned towards Revised/Fourth as later editions focused on counters too much for my liking.


SANDERSON: I would say Black/Blue/White is what you find me playing most often, and usually Blue/White. Favorite editions? I’m going to disagree about the focus on counters. They’ve actually taken counterspells down a notch or two in recent years, which is nice. Besides, I play casual games, where I don’t run into a lot of counterspell decks, land destruction decks, or card discard decks--you know, the “un-fun” decks. My favorites recently--I really like Eldrazi, the set they released this year, which I’ve had a blast with. Other than that, probably Ravnica and Time Spiral were my favorite of the recent sets.

MAD HATTER: I haven't bought any new decks in a few years so I just may have to check out Eldrazi. You’ve obviously been indisposed the last few months with Towers of Midnight so I’m curious about what is on your nightstand to be read next?

SANDERSON: There’s a big stack. Peter Orullian’s book, which Tor is releasing next year is one I’ve wanted to read for a while. Spellwright, which a lot of people really loved and I got to read. There are a couple of Pratchetts I still haven’t read. I’ve been slowly working my way through Jim Butcher’s books, which I think are fantastic. I’ve also started reading through Brent Weeks’ works. So there are a lot of things to read. I still want to finish The Hunger Games. There’s so much to read, but fortunately during my two-week tour there will be a plane ride every day. Hooray.

MAD HATTER: To go along with my other obsession what is your favorite type of hat?

SANDERSON: I do have a fedora that I’m somewhat attached to, but I haven’t worn it in years. When I was a high school kid, I would wear my fedora around until I discovered that wearing a fedora was already cliché for a nerdy kid like myself, which I found annoying since I’d been doing it because I thought it was original. I still have that fedora, which sits in my closet, and someday perhaps I will wear it. But the problem is that Dan Wells, my friend who writes in my writing group and in my basement, already wears a hat around. So I would feel like I was just copying Dan. Maybe I need to get a fez or something.

MAD HATTER: Is there anything you’d like to add as we close this out?

SANDERSON: Thank you guys for the interview, and I hope everyone enjoys The Way of Kings. This was fun.

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

New Procurements

The last couple of weeks has been on the lighter side of books showing up in the mail, but quite a few good looking one are now entering the to be read stacks including one I have special plans for.


Twelve by Jasper Kent - A historical vampire novel that is just being released in the states after much ballyhoo in the UK.  Looks really grand and as though the author has done loads of research to make it as historical as possible. He going as far as to use the old Julian calendar as was the parlance of the time instead of the now standard Gregorian.

The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor - The latest in the mash-up craze, which I haven't been a fan of. I do like the idea of subverting this American classic though.

Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer - I refuse to call this one Steampunk II.  It is and shall be known as Steampunk Reloaded, which is a much cooler title and as the editors had wanted it.  This will definitely be read quite soon.

Esperanza by Trish J. Macgregor - Tor has been trying to diversify themselves beyond traditional Fantasy the last few years and this Supernatural Thriller certainly doesn't come to mind when you think Tor.  Very cool metallic cover.


Antiphon by Ken Scholes - The finished copy of the third Psalms of Isaak series, which I recently read and enjoyed despite it lacking the same hold on me as the first two volumes.  Still a great series more people should be checking out.

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August to September Reading Round-up

So I've been reading a few things that I haven't talked of much here so I thought an update was in order. Just because I don't write a review doesn't mean it isn't worth checking out. Some of the below will get a full review while others make me feel like I'd be repeating myself as they are series books.

Except for the first these recent reads also show that I hit another big book wall after The Black Prism and The Way of Kings. Reading lately has tended to be books of less than 500 pages and that will probably continue for the next month or so.


The Passage by Justin Cronin - Every good thing you've heard about the series is true. If you like The Stand and I Am Legend than you can't miss this. Cronin has breathed new life into apocalyptic fiction that is rewarding and memorable. Don't expect sparkly vamps here. They are out for blood and to take over the world. As rich as the world-building it is the characters you'll be drawn to as they make their way through a world out to destroy them. The story is too long at points, but Cronin's style is to fill-in as many gaps as possible even when skipping 80 years of history. Highly recommended.

My Dead Body by Charlie Huston - This is the last of the Joe Pitt casebooks and what a doozy it is. Huston more than managed to close the series out in a big and satisfying way. Almost too satisfying given what Joe Pitt goes through, but Joe is the anti-hero of anti-heroes. He never does it the easy way, but he still gets the job done. On a whole Huston has written one of the most solid vampire series in years. Just be sure to have a shot of whiskey handy to bring you down from the adrenaline rush. Highly recommended.

Clockwork Phoenix 3 Edited by Mike Allen - This was my first Clockwork Phoenix anthology, which have been lauded as being a bastion for strange and wonderful fiction. It definitely lives up to that. I didn't connect with all of the stories, but there were quite a few that stood out. Expect a review of some of my favorites in the future.

The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer - What a perverted hoot this one was. Expect a full review in the next week or two as well as an interview with the author. Recommended for fans of zombies and lovers of the odd.

Unnatural History by Jonathan Green - The first in Abaddon's Pax Britannia series of Steampunk pulps. This is just a plain fun read. The hero of the tale is a bit too goody-goody for me, but there is a lot going on in this world so I plan on delving in a bit deeper. Recommended for fans of George Mann and classic pulps.

Antiphon by Ken Scholes - Some very big things come to a head in the latest volume in The Psalms of Isaak series. Scholes packed so much in much it felt too rushed. Barely time to breathe before flipping to another point of view. And even though it had some of the biggest revelations in the series it is so far my least favorite. This could be because Rudolfo took a turn for the worse and a back seat role during much of the story and Jin was nearly a nonentity. But we get plenty of Isaak and Neb, which almost makes up for it. Even with problems this is still one of the most original series going and light years ahead of most Fantasy. Recommend, but start with Lamentation.


How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu - Yu automatically wins the longest title of the year award. Review to come. Highly recommended.

Salute the Dark by Adrian Tchaikovsky - The fourth book in the Shadows of the Apt series brings a resolution to many story lines and character arcs including the big Wasp conflict. I've been loving this series and this arc ender didn't let me down. It still didn't bring me back to the high that was Dragonfly Falling, but it made everything I've read up to now worth all the time spent, which is what should happen in a long running series. With more Shadows of the Apt books on the way I'm eager to see where Tchaikovsky takes the series from here. Highly recommended.


Hellboy: Oddest Jobs edited by Christopher Golden - This is a prose collection of short stories in Mignola's Hellboy universe with stories by China Mieville, Joe R. Lansdale, Tad Williams, Garth Nix, Amber Benson, and Mark Chadbourn. I've been eyeing this collection for a while even though it is the third of the series by Golden. A friend recently gifted me a copy.  It was the Mieville that I really wanted. Most of the stories caught the flavor of Hellboy quite well with a few missteps.  The Lansdale was a standout even though Hellboy's voice was a little too polished, but it mixes in some crazy concepts such as a ghost train.  Tad Williams's story "The Thursday Men" was also quite memorable making use of an old nursery rhyme in a fantastic way. Recommended.

Homeland by R.A. Salvatore - The first in the Drizzit series was selected for me by Sam Sykes as part of his bravest challenge. It was much better than expected, which is all I'll say for now. Review to come.


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VIDEO | Game of Thrones Teaser and Behind the Scenes Look

Last night before the season finale of True Blood HBO aired the longest look to date of A Game of Thrones.



They also aired a behind the scences look interviewing the producers as well as George R.R. Martin who seems quite happy with what he is seeing.



Are we ready for Winter already?  I know I am.

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REVIEW | The Last Page by Anthony Huso (Tor)

The Last Page is the most unexpectedly good novel I've read this year and is a remarkable debut from a daring author. Technology and High Fantasy come together to create a symphonic novel of a high order. This review is going to be kept short because the less you know about this book the bigger the impact it will have. I had some preconceived notions about what this book was and all of them turned out wrong except for thinking the story would be good and it somehow had Steampunk elements.

The story begins in a high class school where Caliph is studying in anticipation of becoming a ruler to his country because of succession. This is not another Harry Potter riff. Only the first part of the book takes place in the school and magic is just one small part of what they teach although intricate to the plot as it develops. The form of magic they teach is called Holomorphy and is seen as high magic mixed with mathematics giving it a light as a science albeit a dark one. The story actually gets much more exciting once Caliph leaves school and takes on the yoke of leadership while dealing with powers seeking to overthrow him. Sena especially comes alive on her journey.

"Forbidden by most governments, silenced through flames that had once danced on great piles of holomorphic lore, slowly, very slowly, holomorphy was being practiced again. Opportunist seeking an edge in business, politics--they had begun drawing blood."

The Last Page is filled to brim with new ideas and is a sumptuous baroque delight of horrors, wonders, and real people. More than once I had to sit back and absorb all that had just happened. The style does take a while to get used to as unusual words and even non-English fonts or glyphs are used for some words. This threw me for a while and even the footnotes didn't seem to help much, but it all adds to making this world more believable and absorbing. I could see this turning off some readers, but I can only suggest you persevere if this becomes a problem.  Another issue was the map included didn't show enough of the land where a lot of the action takes place.

Caliph is at once a protagonist you want to root for while also a character one might like to take to the side to smack some sense into. Sena is the women every man wants and every women despises. Things come easily to her. Almost too easily as she has a taste for the forbidden and arcane. The relationships created are utterly convincing and whether I loved or hated a character I had to know where each and everyone of them ended up. Huso gives his characters a path and than sets it ablaze in the name of identifying what love is and what someone would do for the one they love. This is not Steampunk, but it does use the devices such as zeppelins as aesthetic in a world that feels very natural and sets an atmosphere unlike any Fantasy novel before. Huso has an immense talent for creating wonders and playing with language and emotions.

The Last Page is overflowing with poetic prose that beckons you further into this world and into the minds of the main characters. Sena stands as one of most beguiling and attractive characters that have come in ages. Caliph who's stuck playing a role foisted upon him shows unexpected ruthlessness and yet a tenderness as well. The Last Page is a remarkable debut that shouldn't be missed with a very satisfying climax. I give The Last Page 9 out of 10 hats. I urge my readers to discover what an unkind and wondrous world Huso has concocted. The Last Page is the first half of a duology with the follow-up Black Bottle scheduled for a 2011 release. Between Huso and Tregillis Tor is knocking me out with their stellar debuts this year.

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NEWS | Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti to Become Graphic Novels


Gail Carriger has sold world Graphic Novel rights to the first three books in the Alexia Tarabotti series: Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless, to Yen Press, via her agent Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency. No word yet on the artist slated for the project or a release date.

Given how colorful and fun Soulless was this series should make a nice transition to the Graphic Novel form depending on how the art is handled. Blameless has just been released and two other books in the series are expected, currently titled Heartless and Timeless. Yen Press recently combined offices with Orbit Books who is also Carriger's English publisher so this seems like a perfect fit and might portend more Orbit books getting transfered to this medium.

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Limited Edition Cover to The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Art by Vincent Chong
The Angel's Game was one of my favorite books last year.  While not as memorable as The Shadow of the Wind it held up to the standard I now expect from Zafon.  Subterranean Press is coming out with a limited edition of The Angel's Game and the cover is quite an eye catcher. Love the colors, atmosphere, and imagery created by Vincent Chong. If you're a big Zafon fan than get on over to Sub Press to pre-order as it is likely to sell out as did their edition of Shadow.

I'm a bit torn on getting this edition.  I do have the Sub Press edition of The Shadow of the Wind so having a matching set would certainly be nice, but I already have the signed and numbered edition from Random House.  It was the same as their normal hardcover edition except with a few little extras.  Plus I'll be buying a paperback copy of The Angel's Game at some point to have one on hand to lend out.  I've bought at least 7 copies of Shadow over the years to give to friends knowing they'll never return. In fact I've got to grab one for a birthday next month.

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Winners of Tome of the Undergates! And some neat news (for me at least)


The winners of the finsihed copies of Tome of the Undergates from Pyr are:

Greg S. from Mass.
Travis B. from Penn.

The winner of my galley copy is:
Myra C. from Texas

Thanks to all who entered!  If you didn't win be sure to go out and buy a copy of Tome of the Undergates as it is now available in most stores. It is fun to support a new author and they appreciate it.  If you look closely on the finished book you'll note a short quote from my review on the back cover.  This is a first for me and I'm doubly proud that it is a book and author I think quite highly of.  The final book also looks very sweet as it is printed on a matte cover stock with nifty silver foil on the title.

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Updated Cover Unveiled for The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente

Something of an outcry happened after Catherynne M. Valente first posted the cover to her new series with Night Shade for The Habitation of the Blessed. Accusations of white-washing the female character on the cover as well as a sloppy looking design job on the text and minimalization of Valente's name were just some of the issues raised. Not to mention those Andre The Giant hands hodl the book.  The cover has now been redone and it corrects nearly all of its problems.


Much, much improved. More of a streamlined approach to the title helped a great deal. And they smartly moved the author's name to cover the hands.

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NEWS | Hugo Winners Announced (Big Tie for Novel!)


The Hugo Awards have been announced and a bit of surprise has happened in the novel category. I didn't relish the voters this year with such a great selection of novels to choose from. I myself read 4 out of the 6 and found each to have its own merits for inclusion and possibly winning.  I certainly don't disagree with the end result. The Windup Girl and The City & The City have tied for Best Novel. There have been two ties previous for Best Novel. In 1966 for Dune by Frank Herbert and Roger Zelazny's And Call Me Conrad and in 1993 for Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and Connie Willis' The Doomsday Book. Without further adieu here are all the results.


Best Novel
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade) (tie winner)
  • The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK) (tie winner)
  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
  • Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
Best Novella
  • “Palimpsest,” Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace, Orbit) (winner)
  • “Act One,” Nancy Kress (Asimov’s 3/09)
  • The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean)
  • Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon)
  • “Vishnu at the Cat Circus,” Ian McDonald (Cyberabad Days; Pyr, Gollancz)
  • The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean)
Best Novelette
  • “The Island,” Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos) (winner)
  • “Eros, Philia, Agape,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com 3/09)
  • “It Takes Two,” Nicola Griffith (Eclipse Three; Night Shade Books)
  • “One of Our Bastards is Missing,” Paul Cornell (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Three; Solaris)
  • “Overtime,” Charles Stross (Tor.com 12/09)
  • “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Eugie Foster (Interzone 2/09)
Best Short Story
  • “Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09) (winner)
  • “The Bride of Frankenstein,” Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 12/09)
  • “The Moment,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Footprints; Hadley Rille Books)
  • “Non-Zero Probabilities,” N.K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld 9/09)
  • “Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld 10/09)
Winners of the other categories.

Best Related Book: This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance (Subterranean)

Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

Best Editor Short Form: Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Editor Long Form: Ellen Datlow

Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan

And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines): Seanan McGuire


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REVIEW | Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson

REVIEW | The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Tor)

The Way of Kings is the first in a multi-volume Fantasy Epic from New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson, now known best as the author chosen to finish out one of the most beloved series known to modern Fantasy, namely The Wheel of Time. However intimidating it must have been for Sanderson to take over WoT, he knowing only committed himself to two or three volumes, but with The Way of Kings he has already stated it will be at least ten volumes. Is this the first case of an author ever realizing from the start how long it may take to tell a story properly? If so Sanderson is in a class all of his own making.

Sanderson has given his fans exactly what they wanted: a book filled with a new magic system, a wondrous and violent world, and characters you'll grow to cherish like old friends. I managed to finish The Way of Kings over a few long days staying up well past midnight more than one night because it was that captivating. Sanderson clearly has been thinking about this world and its races for some time and his love of them shines through to the reader.

The Way of Kings is sprawling in every way that is good and epic to its utmost. The world-building is immense to say the least, but Sanderson smartly decides to focus on the characters while still slipping in facts about the world, history, and the cultures. At a few points the narrative turns into an info dump, but that feels like what is needed to flesh things out a bit more as the desire for more knowledge of this world and its deep mythology infects you.

War between the Alethi and Parshendi has been on-going after the Parshhendi killed the Alethi King Galivar. The two sides have been fighting daily to a stalemate for many years on the Shattered Plains, which is one of the most fractious battlefields found in Fantasy. The very land has been split like a puzzle with deep chasms separating one plateau from the next. In order to move troops from one plateau to the next movable bridges are needed. The swiftest bridges are carried by slaves known as bridgemen.

The Way of Kings is about the truth and how it becomes legend, which changes and gets reinterpreted with time. Heroes become heretics, the lawless become laws givers, and once great places become shattered. The world is known as Roshar, which suffers highstorms that are so violent and frequent that the very ground is eroded away and life on the planet has evolved to survive. Think land creatures that have shells and plants that close up. The flora and fauna were at first very difficult to picture, but some art strewn through the book helps visualization. These highstorms also somehow distribute energy known as Stormlight that is involved in the magic of the land, which I found to be a great concept.

The story is told from 4 main character points of view, well, really 3 and the son of another from time-to-time. There are also a couple sections known as "interludes" told from characters not involved in the main action. The inclusion of these sections puzzles me a little, but Sanderson is likely laying the groundwork for the introduction of characters in future volumes to tell the story from more points of view as the telling grows and action varies from region to region.

The two most prevalent characters are Kaladin and Dalinar. Kaladin is a fearsome warrior whose luck ran out after he pushed it a few too many times. His story splits between present day and flashbacks all the way to his childhood leading up to his fall from grace and eventual slave life as a bridgeman in the Shattered Plains. The divergent storylines never appear unnecessary, but Kaladin's back-story does go on too much. Sanderson hammers home just how much Kaladin suffers and what brought him to his bridgeman status, but does so to a degree I found a bit repetitive. Two or three flashbacks could have been eliminated and still had the same effect. Also, one flashback that was built over the course of half the book, which seemed to shape Kaladin so much from his early warrior years felt underwhelming when finally revealed. Kaladin's present story were the sections I most look forward to as his abilities shine even when covered in dirt and we get to see a broken man become whole again.

Dalinar a High Price of Alethkar is Uncle to the current King of the realm after his brother Gavliar was murdered. Much of what Dalinar does is driven by his need to do what is right, which is not always seen as what is best for him politically. Because of this he comes off a bit flat, but his action sequences were some of the most edge grabbing parts. Dalinar's scenes of prophetic/ecstatic visions don't make much sense at first, but when the last two comes they are humdingers. Dalinar is a Shardbearer like his son Adolin(another point of view at times). Both wear Shardplate and have a Shard blade, which are incredibly durable and enhance the wearer's strength and stamina and therefore make them the most formidable warriors around. (And yes all the capitalization do get tiresome after awhile.) The Shards are a relic from a time now gone into myth and are coveted by all. At first it seemed like the Shards were very rare, but as more pop-up their lustre is somewhat dimmed yet when they get involved in a melee things pick-up. There are promises of even great power and magic coming back into the land.

Shallan is the third main view and her storyline while the most sedate in comparison to the battle laden Kaladin and Dalnar was also the most intriguing and played out very much like a spy thriller. Her story takes place away from the Shattered Plains, but does involve some overall intrgue that will propel the series forward. She is trying to save her family by becoming an apprentice to Jasnah the sister to the King, but she clearly had a lot happen to her in the past most of which is only alluded to. Shallan grows so much in the pages that she became the character I wish I could speed ahead in the series in order to find out what is in store for her in the next volume as she will be in the thick of the march soon enough.


At more than 1,000 pages The Way of Kings does come off as slightly bloated, but keep in mind there are around 30 pages full of art as Tor spared no expense in bringing us a book that nearly rivals a Subterranean Press edition. Plus, The Way of Kings has a surprisingly complete narrative as both the characters and storyline move forward. There were some expected coming together of characters in the end, but they were all ones I had been hoping for. The aspect of the spirit-like spren seem mostly window dressing that didn't add much to the story at this point except for one very odd one. There were too many types of spren that kept popping up in nearly every chapter to the point they lost their allure for me. Deathspren, windspren, painspren, rotspren, joyspren, etc. Maybe they'll turn out to be more in later volumes. But all flaws are minor quibbles and hardly detracted from the enjoyment factor.

Is it Dune as the back cover of the galley suggests? Well, no. And that's an unfair comparison to make. Was Dune as revered when it first came out? Or The Wheel of Time? No. They earned their place after years, if not decades, of growing fandom and buildings of their worlds. But Sanderson has laid the groundwork for a series that has the propensity to be up there with the other giants if he can develop what he has begun into something just as memorable. The Way of Kings contains characters who you'll miss when their section ends and a setting that begs to be explored. The Stormlight Archive series could quite possibly be up there with Jordan, Eddings, and dare I say Tolkien when all is said and done. This is without a doubt the most epic Fantasy novel of the year and should not be missed by any fans of the genre.

I've only scratched the surface with this review as there is plenty of political backstabbing, great battles, secret organizations, details on the magic system, and intrigue happening as well. As a whole we only get an inkling of what this series has in store for us, but it is more than enough to leave me satisfied.  Sanderson is at the top of his game and on to something with this world known as Roshar, which however inhospitable is a place I hope to return to over many, many years to grow alongside the characters. I give The Way of Kings 9 out of 10 hats. Also, be sure to re-read the prologue about a third of the way through. It will make much more sense and help things click into place a bit better. The follow-up to The Way of Kings will most likely not be out until at least 2012 as Sanderson has pledged to finish the last WoT book before beginning work, which I can't fault him for wanting to do. Why haven't we just figured out how to clone this guy yet?

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