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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

The Mad Hatter's Gift Guide (A Few Suggestions to Put On Your Holiday Wish and Gift Lists)


Given all the impending holidays I thought it might be nice to share a few recommendations of presents to ask for or give. This isn't my year end best of list merely some books and games I think highly of that may whet your fancy if given or received as a gift.

Books for People Who Want to Be 
Impressed & Entertained


The Last Page by Anthony Huso

The Last Page is one of the most original books released this year and deserves more attention.  It is a world I lost myself despite the main characters not being entirely likable, which says quite a bit to me.  In my review I said:
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.
For Ages: 17+


Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Every good thing you've ever heard about Chiang and his collection is true.  It is without a doubt in my mind one of the best and most memorable short story collections of this era. Here are a few words from others who have stated better than I ever could how wonderful this collection is
“United by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” —China Mieville, The Guardian

“Shining, haunting, mind-blowing tales . . . this collection is a pure marvel. Chiang is so exhilarating so original so stylish he just leaves you speechless. I always suggest a person read at least 52 books a year for proper mental functioning but if you only have time for one, be at peace: you found it.” —Junot Díaz author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
For Ages: 15+. There are some sometimes heady things are going on that might not be as well processed from those younger.


One Day by David Nicholls

One Day is the story of two college friends who love each other but can't admit it. Some might say this is a more approachable version of The Time Traveler's Wife as it follows a linear format, but still jumps forward in time regularly. And no this is not speculative work at all. The two main characters merely meet up around the same time every year. This was one of my wife's favorite books this year, which she summarily ordered me to read next and I'm certainly glad she did. It is a touching and sometimes heartrending story of two smart people too stupid to realize they belong together. I'm not ashamed to admit the ending had me tearing up a bit.

For Ages: 17+.  It takes a few years as an adult to get deep meaning with the story and connect well with the characters.


Lamb or The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

The title pretty much nails what this book is. This is without a doubt one of the funniest books I've ever read and made me a lifetime Moore fan. I've summarily gone through his whole backlist and eagerly await every new title.

For Ages: 15+

Side Notes: Some may think Christians wouldn't like a satirization of Christ's adolescence, but I've given it to many all of whom have eaten it up.


Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde 

Mixing satire and a beautiful dystopian future Fforde is one of those author's you'll kick yourself for not trying sooner. Here a nip of my review:
Shades of Grey is without a doubt the best dystopian novel I've read since Brave New World and it will be re-read many times. Fforde has challenged himself to create something entirely new and different which he more than succeeded at. Shades of Grey is a very colorful and downright silly future where classes are divided depending on what color they can see. Everyone is colorblind with most seeing only one color strongly while others that can only see grey are the lowest class and are treated like pack mules performing the most arduous tasks.  
For Ages: 14 and up

For the Young and the Young at Heart


Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel is the first in the well loved The Old Kingdom or Abhorsen trilogy involving necromancy, magical books, and a daughter searching for her father while fighting evil in a land cracked with evil magic. This is a book you'll not put done until the last page and than ache for more. Good thing there are two other books as well.

For Ages: 12+. The story is mired in exploration of death and loss, which may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Side Notes: There is even a box set of the trilogy that I wished I got to start with since I've now ordered the next two books.



Fraggle Rock (Volume 1 Graphic Novel) by Archaia Comics

Yes the Fraggles are back in comic form.  Whether initiating your child into the world or giving yourself a throwback treat this collection lives up to the spirit and style of the show with a few added extras. Archaia has done a wonderful job producing this volume ala the Mouse Guard format.

For Ages: Perfect for any age.

Side Notes: Many fine Muppet comics have been coming out over the last year or so including the main series The Muppet Show Comic Book starting with Meet the Muppets done in the style of the original show as well as Muppet adaptations of King Arthur, Peter Pan, and Snow White.

For the Gamer & Family


Image Courtesy of boardgamegeek.com's EndersGame
Dominion Card Game published by Rio Grande Games

This is a deck building game where everyone starts with the same hand and each round you buy new cards to add to your deck from a collective pool of available cards.  Think of it as almost reverse Magic: The Gathering mixed with a little monopoly as the goal is to accrue as many land points as possible. There are quite a few expansion packs as such as Dominion: Seaside, Dominion: Alchemy, and the latest Dominion: Prosperity. I've played all the packs except for Prosperity and each set brings different things to the game. The key thing is you can mix and match from all the sets to create a unique game every time. Dominion has replaced Apples to Apples as my go to game when friends are over. I recently saw the basic set of Dominion in Borders so it appears to have hit the next level of popularity outside of game shops.

For Ages: The box says 8+, but my 4 year-old nephew has been playing longer than me and enjoying it. He has also beat the pants off me on more than one occasion.

Side Notes:  The main set is made for 4 players, but can easily be adapted for as many as 6 or even 8.  Rio Grande also publishes the very fine Carcassonne. Although not from the same publisher a very similar game is Thunderstone from Alderac, which is even more Fantasy based and involves a lot of fighting with monsters, but takes the same deck building format.  Lastly, if you have an Android phone go to the marketplace and search for "Androminion".  This is a free version you can play against two bots.



Pandemic by Z-Man Games

Pandemic is a cooperative game, which means all players are trying to work together to eliminate the various plagues and viruses running amok in the world. At the start each player is dealt a role card that explains their special abilities. Some can travel faster around the world and some can cure diseases quicker. Don't expect to win your first few times, but it is a fast paced game that you get caught up in quickly. Definitely great for fans of apocalyptic movies and novels.

For Ages: 16+ and up. This isn't a game for little kids when you're talking about the end of the world and virulent diseases.

Side Notes: There is one expansion set called Pandemic: On the Brink, which includes a Bio-Terrorist role card. Very insidious. Also, many players trick their game out going as far as getting bio-matter disposal bags to hold the pieces and insulin injection bottles to replace the plastics pieces they represent. Also, the expansion pack gives you some petri-dishes for the diseases cubes. All in all very nice touches that help the game experience seem a bit more real.

Gifts to be a Nice Person
Patrick Rothfuss is holding his annual Worldbuilders Lottery with chances to win hundreds of different books. Everything from signed first edition to galleys and even some limited edition books are up for grabs. For every $10 you donate you get a chance to win one prize. All monies go to Heifer International and Pat is even matching each donation up to for 50%. Come on everybody let's go buy some goats for a few people! Peruse and drool over at Pat's blog to see all the booty up for grabs.  Just don't grab Pat's booty. I haven't seen him list that as a prize. Yet.

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The I'm on vaction so here are some cool new covers post

Artist Unknown
The Falling Machine by debut author Andrew P. Mayer is the first in the Society of Steam series. I've been excited about this one ever since Lou Anders from Pyr mention it was like a Steampunk Justice League. That's like honey to a bear for a fan of comics and Steampunk.  This may not be the final, final cover though as Pyr often tweaks things.  I quite like the type setting job and the look of the automaton.  Something looks a little off with the woman in the foreground to me, but in this case I can't put my finger on it.  The Falling Machine is set for a May 2011 release.  The official blurb isn't available, but I did find this:
In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime. But nineteen year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when Dennis Darby, the leader of the Society of Paragons—New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers—is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with Darby's greatest creation; the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they begin to unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. But it is only when Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder that she will discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and truly become the hero she has always wanted to be.
THE SOCIETY OF STEAM takes place in a Victorian New York where Fortified Steam allows ordinary men to wield extraordinary abilities, but can also corrupt gentlemen of great moral strength. The formula behind this amazing substance is something that villains will gladly kill for, and a secret that Sarah must try and protect, no matter what the cost.
Mayer created some stickers which depict the Society members.  It is interesting to see how The Automaton  character is a bit more dapper in Mayer's version.


Next up we have another Pyr cover that has been making the rounds, but I can't help myself.

Art by Jon Sullivan
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is the second in the Burton & Swinburne series of Steampunk adventures from Mark Hodder.  I love everything about this cover.  It makes me want to drop right into this adventure especially given how much I enjoyed The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack.  It will be interesting to see what device Hodder uses as the crux of this novel since he used Time Travel so well in the first. The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man is set for a March release from Pyr. No blurb is out on this one either but LEC Reviews got the scoop in their interview:
It’s called THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE CLOCKWORK MAN, it’s based around the famous real-life case of the Tichborne Claimant, it involves spiritualism, and there are more real historical personages in it. Stuff happens that, according to the natural laws of science, should be impossible. But how? I mean, just ‘cos the timeline is different doesn’t mean physics is different. Does it? Hmmmm?
Also of note is that Hodder has been releasing a Burton & Swinburne short story via twitter and than collected on this blog called The Strange Affair of the Cross Channel Grasshopper.


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Cover Unveiled for God's War by Kameron Hurley

Cover art by David Palumbo, design by Rebecca Silvers
Night Shade has been doing some very nice covers recently and their latest is no slouch either. God's War is Kameron Hurley's debut novel coming out from Night Shade early next year. It gives me a nice desert-like Indiana Jones feel. I particularly appreciate the slanted title treatment.

God's War was originally signed to Spectra, but after some upheavals at Random House the novel was let go a couple years back now.  Hopefully the adage that good things come to those who wait comes true as I was originally interested in this novel nearly two years ago when I first heard about it. It has been described as Bugpunk. Yeah. That probably sounds cool to you. Some might say what Adrian Tchaikovsky has been doing is bugpunk, but from what little I've uncovered this will be very, very different and much darker in tone plus it sports a very strong blurb from Jeff VanderMeer who is not too quick to praise.

"Kameron Hurley's a brave, unflinching, truly original writer with a unique vision -- her fiction burns right through your brain and hour heart."
-- Jeff VanderMeer, author of Finch

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages. Fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers, the origins of the war are shady and complex, but there's one thing everybody agrees on...

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad. Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war -- but at what price?
God's War is the first in a trilogy. I haven't heard the series name yet, but the second book is Infidel and the third is slated to be Bablyon. Hurley is currently at work on the third so the series should steadily come out a year apart if not sooner.


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CLASSIC REVIEW | Homeland (Drizzt 1) by R.A. Salvatore

Homeland was selected for me by Sam Sykes for his bravest challenge. Not one to back down from a challenge I was still at first perturbed by the selection. I've remained a virtual shared world virgin for many years having only read two Star Wars novels and one ST:NG. At least from what I can recall, but the DnD/Forgotten Realms/Drizzt books were definitely new territory. That said I didn't enter Homeland with too many preconceptions, which was probably for the best.

I knew that Homeland was actually not the first written Drizzt book that was The Crystal Shard, but the first in a prequel trilogy to explain his origins.  At first I was surprised because Homeland begins before Drizzt is even born, but gives a great portend of the future in the actions that proceed his light being brought into a very dark world. Most characters in Menzoberranzan, the City of the Spider Queen, do bad things because doing good would show weakness which can not be abided. Salvatore has gone to great detail about nearly every facet of Drizzt's upbringing, which caused an immediate connection to the plight of this young Dark Elf. Homeland is not a challenging book in the least, but it sure is entertaining a good window into the Dark Elf society.

The underworld society is a place where malicious intent is looked upon fondly in this society and much revered if done stealthy. It was also interesting to see such a matriarchal society from the perspective of a young boy who is often left in the dark about the whys. The story is very politics heavy, which got to be too much at times. But when training and life beyond service to the aptly named Matron Malice of House Do'Urden gets going for Drizzt things move at a much quickened pace with the Swords & Sorcery aspect coming to the fore. The training of the Drow was particularly interesting and seems to be setting of things for the future.  Most of the other characters are not focused on enough to make them more than one sided, but Drizzt is the lone wolf you want more of as seeds are sowed to make him something very special, especially with his panther companion.


All in all Homeland is much deeper read than I expected from a shared world novel and certainly shows why Salvatore and the first couple Drizzt arcs are so well revered with its sometimes breath taking action that I know will only get better over the course of the next few books, but I'm hoping some of Drizzt's aloofness wears off as he ages. I give Homeland 8 out of 10 hats. With more than a couple hundred Forgotten Realms novels now out this story doesn't make me interested in reading a lot more in the wider world, but Homeland does make me interested in Drizzt's further adventures. I have a feeling I'd like to see him a little older so jumping ahead in the series (Crystal Shard maybe) might be in order as I'd like to get to more action instead of politics and family squabbles. This is a series the 15 year-old in me loves and I need to keep the slacker happy a few times a year.

So, Mr. Sykes I have bested your challenge and I thank you for initiating me into the world of Drizzt.

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Mad Hatter's Reading Log Vol 1.

My recent read posts are now going to be called Mad Hatter's Reading Log mostly so I can keep better track of them.  November was my month to read whatever the hell I wanted without any thought to reviewing anything around release. And what a month of lovelies I've had. It has been quite freeing after all the hullabaloo of Steampunk Month, which don't get me wrong I had a lot of fun with as well.  But this month I pulled out lots of books by some of my favorite authors of the last 5 years, which turned into a British invasion of sorts.



City of Ruin  by Mark Charan Newton - This was a doozy of a book.  Charan impressed me quite a bit with Nights of Villjamur, but he explodes this world from the ground up in some very unexpected ways.  Many of the events of Nights of Villjamur don't move forward much, but the new actions, characters, and massive world-building make-up for any disappointment at leaving Villjamur for the rough and tumble Villiren. Highly recommended. Can't wait for the next book The Book of Transformations.

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie - Review to be held until closer to publication. But I'll say I enjoyed it quite a bit.and if Best Served Cold left you a bit cold than The Heroes will probably warm you up.


The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding - This is the sequel to one of my favorites last year Retribution Falls. I'd put it on par with the first book, but there is a formula to the books that will now seem familiar. Regardless if you like a rip-roaring adventure with a colorful cast you'll not be let down in the least. Some deeper mysteries of the crew are to be had as they all try to release the baggage they've been carrying. Highly recommend.

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher - I had read more than half of these stories in various anthologies.  If you are a hardcore Dresden Files fan this is a must.  If you aren't too huge a fan you\re only missing little bits and pieces for the most part, but the inclusion of Backup and Aftermath will probably push you over the edge to get your Dresden fix.  The stories are uneven, but as they progress they do get better.


Peep Show by Joshua Braff - This was a moving story of a boy caught between two worlds. And I don't mean Fantasy worlds.  It is the 1970s and a teenager has to decide if he wants to live the life of his mother a recently devout Orthodox Jew or his burlesque theater owning father. You'd think it would be an easy choice, but leaving behind family never is.  Recommended. This is Braff''s second book after The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green. And if you're curious Joshua is the brother to the actor Zach Braff.

Thicker Than Water by Mike Carey - The fourth volume in the Felix Castor series.  After getting a taste of Dresden I was in need of a healthy portion of Urban Fantasy. This volume builds off well to the big storyline that has been brewing and left me wanting more as Carey always does. The Castor series is a criminally under read series in the states.  This is possibly because the 4th and 5th volumes weren't available here, but a deal was struck a few months ago and the latest UK editions can now be found on Amazon US and many of the larger book chains. Highly recommend.


First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde - The fifth book in the much loved Thursday Next series. First Among Sequels lives up to the series and it appears Fforde is an author who can do no wrong as he twists words like no other. There was some repetitiveness here and there with explanations, but it didn't dampen the fun at all. I highly recommend the entire series, but start with The Eyre Affair. You'll be hooked from than on as Fforde packs his stories with so many different storylines and a whole lot of satire.

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski - Superman is THE iconic character of Comicdom.  He has been retooled dozens and dozens of times, erased, and killed as well.  Sufficed to say nearly everything that could be done to his has been. Now Straczynski tries to start from scratch while still paying homage to what has gone before by slightly altering the origin story.  I won't go into how, but Superman: Earth One is one of the top comics I've read this year. Superman: Earth One ranks up there with All Star Superman and is a worthy addition to the DC Multiverse. I can only hope the quality stays as high for the next volume and other Earth One stories that are sure to come.


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NEWS | Jim C. Hines Sells New Series to DAW


Publisher's Marketplace is reporting that Jim Hines best known for the funny Fantasy series Jig the Goblin, has sold two books in a new series to DAW. Libriomancer will be the first in the series, in which the pages of books are a source of magic and now the magic is starting to go awry as a result of the flood of paranormal literature. The second book is currently titled Enforcer. Libriomancer is tentatively set for publication in 2012 and Enforcer in 2014. My first thought is this could be a humorous take on Spellwright. More as it develops.

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Cover Unveiled for Never Knew Another by J. M. McDermott

Art by Julian Alday
Never Knew Another is J.M. McDermott's second novel after 2008's Last Dragon. I believe the art is by Santiago Caruso, but I haven't been able to confirm that. The ink and scratching technique is one of Caruso's know styles that he does exceptionally well and I'd call this piece exceptional.  Even if this isn't Caruso I love this cover as the two tone sepia sketch works really well and the touch of color draws me in.  UPDATE: The art is by Julian Alday who is new to me and the layout by Federico Piatti and Victoria Maderna.  Here is the description:
J. M. McDermott delivers the stunning new fantasy novel, Never Knew Another -- a sweeping fantasy novel that revels in the small details of life.

Fugitive Rachel Nolander is a newcomer the city of Dogsland, where the rich throw parties and the poor just do whatever they can to scrape by. Supported by her brother Djoss, she hides out in their squalid apartment, living in fear that someday, someone will find out that she is the child of a demon. Corporal Jona Lord Joni is a demon's child too, but instead of living in fear, he keeps his secret and goes about his life as a cocky, self-assured man of the law. Never Knew Another is the story of how these two outcasts meet.
I'd like a fuller description to know a bit more about the story and world, but this is one of those books where the cover is enough to get me to buy it. Never Knew Another is the first in the Dogsland Trilogy, which will be released in February 2011. This is another to add to the checkout list next year. This list keeps getting longer.

As an added bonus here is the unadulterated art called 'Jona's Tears', which is from Alday's blog.  Also, he did a write-up on the process for the cover.



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New Procurements (Damn that is a tall pile)

Well. It has been a few weeks since I updated you all on the books sent me and those I purchased.  This batch only has one purchase pictured and rest were sent to me for review although I have one those on pre-order still.

A lot of your eyes are probably immediately drawn to that thick fellow near the middle. Yes, I have The Heroes and yes I am already done with it because I can't help myself when it comes to Abercrombie. However, my review won't come out for a while. I've always been in the camp that feels reviews shouldn't come out months before the book does. I don't mind a month early, but much before that is kinda of like trying to stuff the turkey before you've cut off the head. It will just annoy all parties involved. One book purchased, but not pictured is The Habitation of the Blessed, which sports a nice deckled edge.


Rather than list of the books like I normally do I'll just point out some of the highlights.  This doesn't mean I don't like the other books I'm simply strapped for time and will just mention the ones I'm most interested in. All of the below were sent to me for review unless otherwise mentioned.

Black Wings by Christina Henry - I've been getting a rash of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance lately with all sorts of off putting covers.  I still try to do my diligence and check out the description because lord knows I've read plenty of good books with bad or misleading covers and this one certainly sounds like a decent fun little read.
As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It's a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.

Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.

Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.

Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...
Of Masques and Martyrs by Christopher Golden - Ace is reissuing all of Golden's Peter Octavian series of vampire books with new covers, which I read and quite enjoyed years ago.  So I recommend grabbing a copy, but start with the first Of Saints and Shadows.

Usual Suspects edited by Carole Nelson Douglas - This is an original anthology of Urban Fantasy/Mystery stories.  I'll largely interested in the this for the Simon R. Green story.

First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher - As many of you know I'm a huge Dresden Files fan, but I've yet to read the Alera books despite having the first volume sitting on my shelf for nearly two years now.  This is book six so it will be sometime before I get around to it, but knowing Butcher once I start on the series I won't be able to help myself from devouring the rest. This is doubly true now that the series is complete. This is also the first so called "premium mass market" I've ever gotten.  I did notice his publisher has been reprinting the earlier books in this size as well.

Dragon's Deal by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynne Nye - The third and final Griffen McCandles book.  The series was being written solely by Asprin, but due to his untimely death a couple years back his Myth Adventures collaborator Nye finished it.  The first two books were quite a bit of all right, but it felt like Asprin was planning on doing more than a third book in the series given the world he setup.  Hopefully Nye can wrap this up well.

Right Hand Magic by Nancy Collins - This is another PR/UF book I wasn't sure about when it came through, but a quote from Simon R. Green made me look a little deeper. The mention of a strange neighborhood ala the Nightside might make me check this out.
Like most Manhattanites, aspiring artist Tate can't resist a good rental deal-even if it's in the city's strangest neighborhood, Golgotham, where for centuries werewolves, centaurs, and countless other creatures have roamed the streets.

Her new landlord is a sorcerer name Hexe, who is determined to build his reputation without using dark, left-hand magic. As Tate is drawn into Hexe's fascinating world, they both find that the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing-and avoiding darkness is no easy trick...
The Wolf Age by James Enge - The Morlock series is another I have to give a better shot at given I bought the Blood of Ambrose and still haven't read despite loving Enge's story in Swords & Dark Magic. Gorgeous cover art and finishing on this one really help the package. Pyr has been stepping up their game on the cover finishing with working in more matte and foiling details.

I Love You More Than You Know: Essays by Jonathan Ames - The lone purchase in this batch is by the creator of HBO's Bored to Death, which is a can't miss show for me.  I hadn't realized Ames' has done so many books, but after coming across one the other day in an indie store I couldn't pass it up. I rarely leave an independent book store without purchasing something.

Man-Made Monsters by Dr. Bob Curran - This is a non-fiction mythology book from one of my favorite folklorists. I showed off the cover and another piece from the book the other day. It is fun to just flip through.

Thirteen Years Later by Jasper Kent - Kent's first book Twelve is near the top of my to read and review pile so I'm glad to have the historical vampire sequel waiting in the wings.

The King of Crags by Stephen Deas - This is the sequel to The Adamantine Palace, which I had some problems with, but from what I've heard a lot of those are cleared up in this volume. Its US release is still a few months off, but I plan on reading it closer to publication.

That's it for now.

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Cover Unveiled for Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Art by Tom Kidd
The first Girl Genius novel Agatha H. and the Airship City finally has a cover and a bit shockingly it is not drawn by Phil Foglio. My thinking is his publisher wanted to set the novels apart from the comics. I'm unsure if that is entirely the right move given the popularity of Girl Genius, but the illustration by World Fantasy Award winning artist Tom Kidd, known for his recent work related to Jack Vance, does surprisingly seem fitting. Kidd's Agatha is not as bubbly looking as Phil's, but I always thought she was a little too well endowed on the illustrated page.

At first the title treatment seemed over the top, but I've turned around on that front. The blue around the border doesn't seem right to me. Maybe a different color is needed or to simply bleed the image to the edge. From what I have been told Phil and Kaja will be combining the first three trade graphic novels and adding quite a bit to set them apart from the base material. Agatha H. and the Airship City is set for a January release from Night Shade Books as a hardcover.

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The Steampunk Kerfuffle and Going Beyond the Zeppelins


Any rising genre ends up getting attacked after it gets to a certain level of popularity/notoriety. Remember all the debate about Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, and Vampires? Wait that is all still going on. But now it is Steampunk's turn apparently again. I've been feeling the tide coming against Steampunk recently and it was finally set to a fever pitch a couple weeks back by Charles Stross.

Stross set everything off with:
I am becoming annoyed by the current glut of Steampunk that is being foisted on the SF-reading public via the likes of Tor.com and io9.....
Which made me go why pray tell? What has Steampunk ever done to you? He goes on:
Contemplating the numerous errors of the zombies'n'zeppelins fad in SF makes me twitch, for reasons that parallel China Mieville's denunciation of The Lord of the Rings (except that I have the attention span of a weasel on crack and am besides too lazy to anatomize the errors of a generation at length in such an essay: personally, I blame the internet). The romanticization of totalitarianism is nothing new (and if you don't recognize the totalitarian urge embedded in the steampunk nostalgia trip, I should like to remind you that "king" is a synonym for "hereditary dictator" and direct you to the merciless skewing Michael Moorcock delivered to imperial hagiography in his Oswald Bastable books). Nevertheless, an affection for the ancient regime is an unconsidered aspect of the background of most steampunk fiction: much like the interstellar autocracies so common in space opera (and again, let me cite Michael Moorcock on Starship Stormtroopers). The Science! in steampunk (which purports to be science fiction, of a kind ... doesn't it?) is questionable at best (Cherie Priest, I'm looking at your gas-induced zombies) and frequently flimsier than even the worst junk that space opera borrows from the props department, because, as it happens, the taproots of steampunk lie prior to the vast expansion in the scientific enterprise that has come to dominate our era. But that's just about forgivable, inasmuch as much modern SF doesn't even like to pretend that sometimes a spaceship is just a spaceship, and not a metaphor. That leaves the aesthetic ... which I can't find anything intrinsically wrong with, as long as steampunk is nothing more than what happens when goths discover brown. Viewed as a fashion trend for corsets and top hats, steampunk is no more harmful than a fad for Che Guevara tee shirts, or burkas, or swastikas; just another fashion trend riffing thoughtlessly off stuff that went away for a reason (at least in the developed world).
So he goes on to lambaste Cherie because her science isn't right in regards to zombies. What kind of nonsensical comment is that? Maybe Stross should think about writing The Science of Zombies so all the writers out there can get it "right" according to him. Because writers need guidelines to work with if they're going to please Stross. That's what most authors want isn't it? To be told how their stories should have been?

Priest fired back:
OMG YOU GUYS it has come to my attention that SOMEONE on the internet is saying that my fictional 19th century zombies are NOT SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND. Naturally, I am crushed. To think, IF ONLY I’d consulted with a zombologist or two before sitting down to write, I could’ve avoided ALL THIS EMBARRASSMENT.

If you’ve been heretofore unaware of my EGREGIOUS CRIMES against reason and scientific probability, but you too would like to criticize my technique when it comes to MAKING SHIT UP about the pretend undead … then boy, have I got a proposal for YOU!
I think she let it off a little lightly, but many others have taken up the cause to take on Stross. Scott Westerfeld came to the defense of Steampunk:
Yes, the current emblematic book of steampunk is totally Dickensian, but no one pays attention to that because it’s got zombies and airships, and therefore must be a madcap lark. Because this whole conversation has been about flap copy, not actual texts.

By the way, I think I’m the first person in this whole internet kerfuffle to quote text from AN ACTUAL STEAMPUNK BOOK. And thus I win.

.....

Not to go flat out into Sturgeon’s Law mode here, but space opera is a subgenre of which an astonishing percentage is crap, both aesthetically and politically, and which gluts the bookshelves far more than steampunk. But no one will be declaring how much they hate it, because it’s been around long enough that old people aren’t bothered by it.

And yes, this is about YOU being OLD, steampunk-haters. (In spirit, not in years.)

THIS is why I don’t write for adults. Their heads are all full of genre cooties and “Taj Mahal? Nah, don’t like tombs.” Whereas a kid will come home from the library with a mystery, an sf novel, an autobiography, and three books about sharks. That’s how kids read, and when something’s cool and fun and awesome (or weird and gnarly and thought-provoking), they don’t worry about how many times it’s been mentioned on io9, or whether it’s that-genre-Fortnight on Tor.com.
Catherine Valente than entered the fray as a Steampunk detractor saying:
Steampunk is starting to look a lot like the endless dragons and maidens covers of old extruded product fantasy. Sameness is never exciting, and steampunk

......

When I look at steampunk books and how they're marketed to us, all I see is surface. Look! The megasitesthings that either sparkle or blow up strung together on the hope that some kind of magic will happen and a zeitgeist will be capitalized upon.
Others have gone to bring up very good and pertinent points even if they aren't necessarily falling head over heels for the genre such as:
The most interesting thing to me about steampunk (though I’m not really an enthusiast, more of a vaguely interested observer) is that it isn’t a literary movement at all. It’s very much a mixed media movement with a huge emphasis on artwork, craftsmanship and costuming. That’s where the greater passions of steampunk seem to lie, with the literary aspect desperately trying to catch up. There’s a flashmob sensibility to it, rather than a single line of influence. Many people in the comments of Catherynne’s post preferred to define steampunk as an aesthetic, rather than a literary movement or sub-genre.
So it seems more people are upset by the dress-up factor of Steampunk than anything else. But Cosplay has been going on for decades. In fact it had its origin in modern culture with Sci-Fi. Star Trek conventions anyone?

Valente than came back with a good piece on what she actually likes about Steampunk:
I like how steampunk is a deconstructive genre, or at least has the potential to be so. I see this lately in costuming, where the insides of the bustles and corsets can be worn on the outside, (hell, corsets themselves were never meant to be worn on the outside), the workings of the clothes made explicit. That's one of the things I like best in books of any type, and I'll be interested to see how it trickles down--or up--into literary steampunk, showing the workings of the novel, the culture, the history, the insides on the outside. I love postmodernism, and sometimes it looks an awful lot like pre-modernism.
So what does this all add up to? It all comes down to if you don't like it have you actually read it? Because it doesn't seem like most of the haters have actually read much of what is going on in Steampunk. Sure some is fluff, but there are a lot of amazing stories going on. And aren't fiction books for entertainment? For the detractors out there go out and read more in the genre to see what it is you "think" isn't good. I did the same a few years ago with Urban Fantasy and now I'm a big fan. Sure there is crap out there, but there is in every genre.  I'm not in them for a history lesson and while that can be a nice bonus with some books it is not something I'm after as a fan and reader. If you actually want to find out what Steampunk is about than read Shweta Narayan's short clockwork bird stories, Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World, or Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer just to get a taste of what is out there beyond the zeppelins.


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NEWS | Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear is Done(ish)


Last week Patrick Rothfuss mentioned The Wise Man's Fear was nearly done, but I kept my squee in check. Gollancz just confirmed that the manuscript has been recevived so all systems are go to have the book out for the announced March 1st release in the states from DAW and Gollancz in the UK.


There is still some cleanup work to be done such as final copy editing, but galleys are apparantly in the works which means the book is on schedule. Huzzah!!! Apparently galleys will be in limited supply and numbered so I doubt one will find its way to me, but my fingers are crossed.

This is much welcome news given that Scott Lynch's The Republic of Thieves has been pushed back again this time to June and Richard Morgan's The Cold Commands is currently set for October, but both of these could change.  Now how long until people start complaining about the wait for The Doors of Stone (book 3,  Kingkiller Chronicles) from Rothfuss?


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REVIEW | The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Tor)

There are some books you enter knowing exactly what to expect, which can be good. Sort of like sitting in your favorite chair. Nice and cozy. Than there are those books that immediately jar you into realizing how different they are, which are few and far between. The Half-Made World is decidedly in the second camp evoking a sense of isolation while exploring a world so big that its western regions are still forming into existence yet has a history of thousands of years.

From the very first chapter the tone is set for a vivid adventure involving a general of a dead republic lost in his own mind, a psychologist out of her depth, and a man who has done evil things for decades. The Half-Made World is filled with magical realism, magical people, and the warring factions of possessed guns and thinking engines of destruction both on control. There are even religious groups such as the Smilers who just want you to be happy. The Half-Made World takes you on a journey so strange and wondrous that you will be left spellbound by the world in a literary surreal dream of another plane.

The story is being marketed as a Steam Western, but it is all New Weird in a Western-like setting. Images of the Australian outback often came to mind in this story of Progress versus Chaos; Anarchy versus Order; and Technology versus Faith. There is a large machine/industrial element, but done so it appears to be more magic. This is not a light read by any stretch. It is challenging, but worth it as the tapestry Gilman created comes together. The Half-Made World left me feeling a bit grimy. Like the dirt from the roads the characters trod upon infects your own skin and under your nails.

The Half-Made World is a very complex story. The characters aren't good or bad and it would be a stretch to call them grey. They just are what they are making their way through life. The dialogue between the two main characters is perfect and each have distinctive voices that make them.  Each goes through so much as their journey progresses and many have untold layers, which are slowly peeled back as Gilman gives us a peek into their soul. Gilman drips out the world-building at a languid pace never giving you more than needed to understand the scenery and current happenings. At times I found this frustrating, but as everything progressed I admired this approach instead of long descriptive paragraphs that would have only slowed down the pace of action. There is a section that tends to drag on too long, but once through things pickup dramatically.

The Half-Made World will stay with you long after you close the cover. The Half-Made World has more in common with other New Weird books such as Nights of Villjamur or The Last Page than most of the Steampunk that is out there. But if you like your books weird, wild, well nuanced The Half-Made World will fill you as full as a good hearty chicken soup on a cold day. It is nothing like you've seen before filled with original elements that will leave your mind gasping. I give The Half-Made World 8.5 out of 10 hats. Be sure to go back and read the prologue again after a hundred pages or so as it will make a lot more sense.

The Half-Made World is the first in a duology. The story stands decently on its own so I don't hesitate recommending to check it out sooner than later, but a lot of work has been laid for plenty more.  Many things are left vague such as the origin of the different factions, which I hope are revealed in the future.  No word on the sequel yet except it will probably be finished sometime in 2011 so don't expect it before 2012.

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Cover Unveiled for BLACK HALO by Sam Sykes

Sam Sykes was kind enough to allow me and Amanda from Floor to Ceiling Books to premiere the cover  for Black Halo the second book in The Aeons' Gate series, which follows on the heels of Tome of the Undergates.


The cover follows the same format as the first and is by the same artist Paul Young. Here is what I wrote to Sam after he sent the cover to me: "Damn son. That is one fine cover.  Even better than the Tome art."  When Sam first told me the cover would portray Lenk again as on Tome of the Undergates I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a Dragonman, but after seeing this my disappointment was summarily dismissed. As cool as the water was on Tome the fire trumps it here.  This should definitely draw in the post-Dungeons & Dragons audience.  Black Halo will be released in the US in March and the UK in April.


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Cover Unveiled for Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

As soon as I announce Steampunk Month is over of course I find a new cover that I have to share with all of you.


Genevieve Valentine might not be too familiar to many of you unless you read a lot of short fiction. But she should be as her stories have appeared in numerous anthologies such as The Living Dead 2, Federations, Running With the Pack and as well as in Clarkesworld, Jabberwockey, Apex, and Shimmer. I stumbled upon her work in Paper Cities and The Clockwork Jungle Book and both really caught me off guard.

It was over a year ago now that I found out Valentine sold her first novel Mechanique to Prime Books and since than there has been hardly any news. That is until now.  Feast your eyes on the fun and colorful cover to the post-apocalyptic Steampunk Circus novel of a different future: Mechanique.

Art by Kiri Moth
The coloration and title font is good as is the illustration, but I'm not a fan of all the gears at the bottom.  At the top the gears look good, but it feels like it was pushed a little too far.  Not much has been released in the way of a description except this info from Valentine's blog:
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti is coming from Prime in 2011. It’s about a post-apocalyptic steampunk circus, and what happens when a dozen brittle, vicious people are forced to form a makeshift family whether they like it or not. Also, there’s war. This is the vaugely-back-cover-copy logline:

The Mechanical Circus Tresaulti travels the landscape of a ruined country under the spectre of war, but when two of its performers become locked in a battle of wills, the circus’s own past may be the biggest threat of all.
According to Amazon Mechanique will be released in April 2011.  UPDATE: Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a story from Valentine placed in the Tresaulti Universe available that is well worth checking out and whets my appetite even more.

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FREE FICTION | Peter Orullian's Sacrifice of the First Sheason


Tor.com has been on quite a roll late with its short fiction program. This week brings us a (longish) short story by Peter Orullian. Some of you may remember me gushing on about the cover by Kekai Kotaki for his debut The Unremembered. "Sacrifice of the First Sheason" also features art by Kotaki and is the first of three stories that Tor.com will publish placed in the world of The Unremembered with Orullian doing another nine on his on site all of which are supposed to stand on their own, but lead into some of the mysteries revealed in the series. Many of the stories will take place before the events of The Unremembered as "Sacrifice of the First Sheason" does. Here is the first part:
Deep in the Divide Mountains, wind and thunder shook conifers that towered a hundred strides tall. Rain fell hard, battering the village of Estem Salo and leaving it awash in the sound of rushing waters. Lightning struck every few moments, flashing the world beyond Palamon Dal Solaas’ window in stark, momentary relief before darkness reclaimed the heights around his home. Beside him, Solera slept soundly, nestled into the crook of his arm. But he could not sleep, finding the tempest in the heavens too disquieting. So, when Palamon first heard the pounding at his door over the tumult of the storm, he had a sense of foreboding about the late night caller. Who would brave these storms at this hour?

The heavy beating at his door came again, faster this time, more insistent. Quickly but carefully he freed his arm from beneath his slumbering companion and hurried to the door. He could imagine only a member of the council coming to him at this hour. He’d seen them in private chambers often lately; perhaps this visit was related to these new secrets. His visitor would likely be Dossolum, the Voice of the Council, who’d been struggling to maintain balance as the Founders labored to complete their formation of this world.
The rest of the story can be read here or heard here. The story shows promise for the world and I'll definitely check out the others to see how everything progresses.

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Steampunk Month Comes to An End (Month in Review)

Imperial Inventor by James Ng

Steampunk Month is at a close. And what a month it has been.  This is without a doubt the biggest month I've had since Mad Hatter's Bookshelf launched. A huge thanks and a tip of the hat to all the authors, editors, publicists, and bloggers who helped make everything happen. Cheers to all of you!

I hope long time fans of the genre found something new and those who have never picked up a Steampunk book have been inspired to do so.  The quality of the guest posts were at an all-time high and many great issues with the genre were brought to light. Sufficed to say it was fun while it lasted, but I'm looking forward to reading other genres at present, but you can still look forward to regular coverage of Steampunk in the future for all the new visitors.  In fact the next review will be a hold over I didn't have time to finish before the end of October. Below is an index of sorts to all the steamy goodness brought to you this past month.


---ARTICLES---

The Old West Brings the Steam by Felix Gilman

Steampunk as Alternative History by Clay & Susan Griffith

Steampunk: The Spirit of the Time by Mark Hodder

The Future of Steampunk by Paul Jessup

Writing Steamy Punk by Lavie Tidhar

Steampunk Comics by Chriss Cornish



---REVIEWS---
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers

Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder



--INTERVIEWS--

CHARACTER INTERVIEW | Eva Forge from The Horns of Ruin

Steampunk is...(13 Authors & Editors Answer)

INTERVIEW | Anthony Huso author of The Last Page



---FUNPUNK---

Cover Unveiled for Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
 
Cover Unveiled for Mechanique by Genevieve Valentine

ART | A Most Amazing Clockwork Woman by Ian Daniel

Some Very Cool Steampunk Robot Art

Sci-Fi versus Fantasy versus Steampunk

VIDEO | Steampunk Duel: A Short Film

VIDEO | Atomic Robo: Last Stop

Everything You Need to Know About Prester John with Action Figures and lolcats


This week sees the release of Catherynne M. Valente's The Habitation of the Blessed. This will be the first in the Prester John Trinity from Night Shade. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but will very shortly as it is on my must-buy list plus this video pretty much seals the deal.



Valente also just launched a site for the series, which has all kinds of useful info on the history Prester John, sample chapters, and the original short story that inspired the series. Hopefully she'll treat us to more videos in the future.

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