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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


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
My BlogCatalog BlogRank Wikio - Top Blogs - Literature

POLL | What Door Stopper Should I Read Next???

There is a new poll in the upper left corner.  As usual I have a huge backlog of books, even after my vacation tear along with normally reading at least 2 books a week. Well, to clear a bit of space on my to-read shelves before the end of the year I'm putting up 6 giant sized reads.  All are each around 500 pages or more. Some of these will just be big books while others might be omnibuses or complete series I own, but haven't read yet. My goal is to read the winner before the end of the year   I decided to go with a very eclectic mix of mostly older across the genres I read. Once these are moved along it will allow me to neaten up my to-read shelves, which is now more of a to-read bookcase.  Here are the choices:

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (656 total pages) - I've heard this called the smart-person's Da Vinci Code, which has been sitting on my shelf for at least 2 years since a friend highly recommend it.  I read Eco's somewhat heady, but enjoyable The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana a few years back.

Three clever book editors, inspired by an extraordinary fable they heard years before, decide to have a little fun. Randomly feeding esoteric bits of knowledge into an incredible computer capable of inventing connections between all their entries, they think they are creating a long lazy game--until the game starts taking over.... Here is an incredible journey of thought and history, memory and fantasy, a tour de force as enthralling as anything Umberto Eco--or indeed anyone--has ever devised.

Age of Misrule (World's End, Darkest Hour, & Always Forever) by Mark Chadbourn (1350 total pages) Now that I have all three volumes it is taking up a lot of space and I keep hearing generally good things.

All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic mythology are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: the Fabulous Beasts, shape-shifters and Night Walkers, and other, less wholesome beings. As they grow in power, so technology is swept away. It is myth and magic that now rule supreme in this new Dark Age: The Age of Misrule. The Eternal Conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. On one side stand the Tuatha de Danann, golden-skinned and beautiful; on the other are the Fomorii, monstrous devils hell-bent on destroying all human existence. But in times of trouble, come heroes. Five flawed humans, Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, are drawn together to search for the magical talismans which which to fight the powers of old. But time draws short and humanity looks set to be swept away ...

On Her Majesty's Occult Service (Omnibus edition of The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue) by Charles Stross (784 total pages) - This would be my first introduction to Stross's work and from what I've seen it would be a lot of fun.

Publisher's Weekly: "With often hilarious results, the author mixes the occult and the mundane, the truly weird and the petty. In "Atrocity," Bob, a low-level computer fix-it guy for the Laundry, a supersecret British agency that defends the world from occult happenings, finds himself promoted to fieldwork after he bravely saves the day during a routine demonstration gone awry. With his Palm, aka his Hand of Glory (a severed hand that, when ignited, renders the holder invisible), and his smarts, he saves the world from a powerful external force seeking to enter our universe to suck it dry. In "Jungle," Bob teams up with a cop, Josephine, to save the Laundry from a power monger who seeks to stage an internal coup by using zombies as her minions. Amid all the bizarre happenings are the everyday trappings of a British bureaucracy. Bob gets called on the carpet by his bosses because he requested backup during an emergency without first getting his supervisor's okay and filling out the requisite forms. Though the characters all tend to sound the same, and Stross resorts to lengthy summary explanations to dispel confusion, the world he creates is wonderful fun."

Cyteen (Omnibus of Cyteen: The Betrayal, The Rebirth, and The Vindication) by C.J. Cherryh (696 total pages) - I've heard this compared to Dune only it is supposed to be better and again this would be my first indoctrination into Cherryh's work..

Library Journal: "A brilliant young scientist rises to power on Cyteen, haunted by the knowledge that her predecessor and genetic duplicate died at the hands of one of her trusted advisors. Murder, politics, and genetic manipulation provide the framework for the latest Union-Alliance novel by the author of Downbelow Station. Cherryh's talent for intense, literate storytelling maintains interest throughout this long, complex novel."

Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff (496 total pages) - I know this is shy of the 500 page count, but I love Ruff and this has been hanging around for far too long. Ruff's Fool on the Hill is one of my all-time favorite reads, but this one seems to be more on the serious side.

"I suppose I should tell you about the house.... The house, along with the lake, the forest, and Coventry, are all in Andy Gage's head, or what would have been Andy Gage's head if he had lived. Andy Gage was horn in 1965 and murdered not long after by his stepfather ... It was no ordinary murder.. though the torture and abuse that killed him were real, Andy Gage's death wasn't. Only his soul actually died, and when it died, it broke in pieces. Then the pieces became souls in their own right, coinheritors of Andy Gage's life. . . . "

From the author of the cult classic Fool on the Hill comes a strange and moving story of self-discovery. Andy Gage was "born" just two years ago, called into being to serve as the public face of a multiple personality. While Andy deals with the outside world, more than a hundred other souls share an imaginary house inside Andy's head, struggling to maintain an orderly co-existence: Aaron, the father figure, who makes the rules; Adam, the mischievous teenager, who breaks them; Jake, the frightened little boy; Aunt Sam, the artist; Seferis, the defender; and Gideon, the dark soul, who wants to get rid of Andy and the others and run things on his own.

Andrew's new coworker, Penny Driver, is also a multiple personality -- a fact that Penny is only partially aware of. When several of Penny's other souls ask Andy for help, Andy reluctantly agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that threatens to destroy the stability of the house. Now Andy and Penny must work together to uncover a terrible secret that Andy has been keeping from himself....

This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman (576 total pages) - Many people consider Friedman one of the modern masters of Sci-Fi, but I've yet to delve in.  Maybe this will be the time.

In the first age of Earth's colonization of space, the FTL drive that powered the starships caused severe genetic damage in the colonists. Generations later, a new mutant race arises, one which can safely conduct people between the stars. But since they use their ability to tightly control all interstellar commerce, rival interests soon seek to break the monopoly. An when a lab-raised young woman narrowly escapes kidnapping, even as a rogue computer virus wreaks havoc on the interstellar "Net," she must flee into "alien shores", evading her pursuers while attempting to uncover the secrets of her own existence.

So there is a literary Thriller, a very strange Fantasy, a couple of Space Operas, an Epic Urban Fantasy series, and a humorous duo of Lovecraftian inspired spy novels.  So what's it gonna be?

Cover Unveiled for Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science-Fiction

I noticed many of the books I've read recently have had apocalyptic backgrounds or culminations, so I wanted to turn the tide a bit with this one. Also, after the last cover reveal I thought it best to show a cover that is beautifully done.

Shine is a collection of short stories with the goal of throwing light on a brighter future. This is Jetse de Vries first Anthology as an Editor.  Here is a little more about the anthology:
Some of the world's most talented SF writers (including Alastair Reynolds, Kay Keyon and Jason Stoddard) show how things can change for the better. From gritty polyannas to workable futures, from hard-fought progress to a better tomorrow; heart-warming and mind-expanding stories that will (re-) awaken the optimist in you!
I love the coloring and contrasting look. Below is the art without the type.  If anyone knows the artist please let me know.

This is definitely high on my list to check out next year among the many other anthologies currently slated.  Shine will be released in March 2010 from Solaris Books. 

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INTERVIEW | Ken Scholes author of Canticle (The Psalms of Isaak)

Ken Scholes has been garnering accolades for many years for his short fiction including being a finalist for the Endeavor award for his short story collection Long Walks, Last Flights,  & Other Strange Journeys.   Only this year did his debut novel Lamentation release to start The Psalms of Isaak series, which just came out in mass market last month.  This month saw the publication of volume two Canticle.   Lamentation had been hanging around my to-read shelf since its release and when I heard the second book was about to come out I thought it was high time I got to it.  After reading both volumes back-to-back it would be an understatement to say this series will be anything other than memorable for years to come. The characters are well done and the plotting is unbelievably deep. 

MH:  Hello Mr. Scholes, welcome to Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself? 

SCHOLES:  Sure.  I grew up in a small logging town near Mount Rainier in rural Washington State.  I spent some time in both the Navy and the Army and have a degree in History. 

I've worked in a variety of fields including some good stretches in the nonprofit sector, the ministry and in local government.  I spent about a decade writing short stories before I tackled my first novel.  I'm a winner of the Writers of the Future contest—a program I heartily support for new writers trying to break in.  

I live in Saint Helens, Oregon, with my wife Jen West Scholes and our brand-new twin daughters, Rachel and Lizzy.

MH: For those who haven’t read Lamentation, what would you say perspective readers to whet their appetite?

SCHOLES:  The scholarly city of Windwir and its Androfrancine Order, after two thousand years of digging knowledge and relics from the ruins of civilization, has been utterly destroyed.  Its sole survivor—a steam-powered metal man that once worked in its Great Library—claims to be responsible.  But as alliances shift and armies come together around the Desolation, it's quickly apparent that there is more to it than meets the eye and the world is changing once again....

MH: The Psalms of Isaak is a very difficult book to classify.  There are strong Fantasy elements as well as Sci-Fi aspects along with a smattering of Steampunk.  How would you describe the world?

SCHOLES:  I have an unfair advantage over my characters, who believe firmly that they're in a fantasy novel or my readers, who have to wait for the gradual reveal.  I guess I would call it a post-apocalyptic epic.

MH: What music did you listen to while writing Lamentation:

SCHOLES:  Simon and Garfunkel, Matchbox 20, Carbon Leaf, Augustana, Five for Fighting, Alanis Morisette, Tori Amos, Eva Cassidy, Goo Goo Dolls, Paul Simon, Don McLean, Live and much more.

MH: I know it is difficult to pick favorites, but what is a short story of yours you feel best encompasses your strengths as a writer and why?

SCHOLES:  It really is difficult to pick favorites.  But I think the one that feels the most like "me" is "Last Flight of the Goddess."  It's available as a .pdf download through here.  [There is also] a link at  It really captures what I think is most important in life and is a gift I wrote for my wife one Christmas.

MH:  If you could be any character from a Fantasy book who would it be and why?

SCHOLES:  Oh, Bilbo Baggins definitely.  Before the ring turned sour on him, of course.  I love the notion of the ordinary and simple becoming heroic when placed in extraordinary circumstances.

MH: I’ve noticed similarities between Walter M. Miller, Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Psalms of Isaak.  Did reading Miller’s work have a hand in Lamentation?

SCHOLES:  Only in as much as it was part of the canon of post-apocalyptic literature that influenced me as a teen.  That and Hiero's Journey and Earth Abides and host of others, mixed in with a generous helping of Clark Ashton Smith and Cordwainer Smith.

MH: Between Lamentation and now Canticle it is clear this world is heavily influenced by Religion.  How has your own spiritual quest influenced your writing?

SCHOLES:  Well, I could spend a few years on this question and still not quite convey how deep the influence goes.  I think writers are influenced by all the different facets of life and certainly our desire to connect with our environment at a spiritual level is a part of that. 

And my spiritual travels have taken me down some interesting roads.  I've moved glacially through a more fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity (and indeed was a minister for a time) into a more ecumenical and contemporary expression.  Along the way, I studied many other religions—particularly in the context of world history—and eventually landed in secular humanism as more of an agnostic atheist (i.e. can't know for certain and don't have a belief in gods).  But because I've believed some things Very Strongly, I think it gives me the ability to explore these notions in the context of fiction in a different way than if I still practiced a religion.

MH: You’ve said The Psalms of Isaak will be 5 books long.  When can we expect volume 3 Antiphon?

SCHOLES:  I'll be done revising Antiphon at the end of October.  You should see it in September 2010.  And ideally, Requiem will follow 9-12 months later with a similar stretch between that and the final volume, Hymn.  Of course, things could change on those last two—could happen somewhat faster or somewhat slower.

MH: That is quite a schedule.  What, if any, plans do you have for books outside the series?  Are you working on any new short stories we can check out soon?

SCHOLES:  Well, I have a rich world to mine for more series—both before and after the events in The Psalms of Isaak.  And possibly during.  I also would like to adapt my short story, "Invisible Empire of Ascending Light," into a trilogy.  My most recent short story, "Love in the Time of Car Alarms," will be in DAW's anthology The Trouble With Heroes.  I have a few other short projects in the pipe for 2010 (along with a second short story collection) and a short novel for sometime in 2011 when I finish Hymn but nothing I'm able to announce yet.

MH:  How has being a Dungeons & Dragons player influenced your writing?  Do you still play regularly and what is your favorite Character Class?  Lastly, what is the best character name you’ve created for D& D?

SCHOLES:  D&D was a huge influence.  It taught me what I call the storyteller's waltz—the give and take between player and Dungeon Master is much like the give and take between a reader and a writer.  I don't play at this point and wish I had the time to.  Last time I touched it was 2001 and that was the first time I'd played since the 80s.  My favorite classes was the paladin or the half-elvish fighter/thief in AD&D.  Best name—well, I lifted it from a SF movie and changed the spelling—Ankharr Mohr. 

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

SCHOLES:  Well, most people don't realize I'm actually an introvert if they meet me in public.  It's actually the one thing people often refuse to believe about me.  I tend to be outgoing and gregarious but I actually get my energy from being alone and people wear me out quickly.  And many probably don't know that I play guitar and harmonica, with over 60 songs written and hundreds of covers memorized.

I always wanted to have a pet monkey, but alas, I do not have one.

MH: To go along with the theme of this blog: What is your favorite type of hat?

SCHOLES:  My green superman ballcap.  Which is, alas, missing at the moment.  But I will find it.  Someday, I will replace it with a Batman ballcap.

MH: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

SCHOLES:  Yep.  Hope you all enjoy the books and that you'll look me up at!

MH: Thank you for your time.  I’m looking forward Isaak’s further chronicling of this strange and wonderful world.

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Midwinter by Matthew Sturges
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Cover Unveiled for Rob Thurman's Chimera

Rob Thurman is best known for the Cal and Niko Urban Fantasy series starting with Nightlife.  Most of Thurman's covers have been Chris McGrath paintings, but it looks like Roc wanted to go for more of a Sci-Fi feel for Chimera so they turned to artist Aleta Rafton.

Chimera was previously titled A Thousand Doors, which was meant more as a Horror novel and written soon after Nightlife was written.  Here is what Thurman had to say about Chimera:
I still wanted to do a book that explored a relationship between brothers, although a significantly different take on it as these brothers have been separated for ten years. And the older brother is not necessarily the wise, 'good' brother. And although there's action, guns, genetic engineered monsters, sarcasm (of course), the book is about establishing that brotherly bond when one brother refuses to admit it exists and has no memory of his former family at all. If you read Dean Koontz, the older Lightning and Watchers was the feel of what I wanted for this book with a Sixth Sense smackdown ending. Hands down, this is my favorite book that I've written. What Cal and Niko always had, Stefan and Michael have to struggle for...and the struggle...writing it was like giving birth...only a lot less messy and no guy telling you he feels your pain (I've never given birth, but I'd like to think I'd punch a man in the testicles on that one.)
Chimera will be released in June of 2010 between Cal Book Five and the second Trixa Novel.

Under the Dome Poll Results

Below are the results to my recent poll To Read or Not Read Stephen King's Under the Dome

Hell yes! Epic is what he does best. 9 (26%)

Yes, but I'm skeptical. 3 (8%)

Hell no! He has lost it. 8 (23%)

Maybe. 6 (17%)

King is doing Epic again? 9 (26%)
Overall, I was surprised to learn many people didn't know Under the Dome is part of King's Epic style.  I did finally succumb  to ordering Under the Dome as the recent price war between Amazon, Walmart, and now Target priced the book at around $9 for top selling preorders. 

REVIEW | The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books)

Paolo Bacigalupi is being heralded as one of Science Fiction's best writers of recent years, having won and being nominated for multiple awards.  His debut novel The Windup Girl caught my eye from the moment I heard the title.  "Is this related to Steampunk," I thought?  "Is it Green Punk?" Which only just before the release received any sort of specific meaning.  It certainly sounded like it could be on both counts.  I was further grabbed by the truly beautiful cover art by Raphael Lacoste.   The final cover actually has a more yellow-tinged look to it to further evoke the smog like conditions of the city.

The Windup Girl is a extremely vivid dystopian future Thailand in a world besieged by food plagues and mistrust. Paolo's superb prose doesn't waste one word in describing the setting.  The world has contracted and segregated itself.  Everything bad that environmentalists now fear has come to pass.  We have run out of fossil fuels, most animal life has died off, and there are massive food famines caused by various food born plagues some of which have terrible effects on humans outside of killing all the crops.  

Governments and Nations have toppled.  The oceans are rising and former places of power are now under water. Religious zealousness rules many parts of the world while the majority is controlled by extremely powerful Calorie companies who grow/design the mass of the food supply. Power is generated by Giant elephants called Megodonts and human labor that is wound into springs to power most anything including Airships and other vehicles.

The narrative is broken into 5 view points, which works well to speed things up somewhat through the slow middle.  However, it was difficult to like and connect with many of the characters as they are designed to survive in this terrible future and make some very tough choices sometimes too easily.  Even the Windup Girl character is hard to to sympathize with, which is surprising given the despicable things done to her.  You can't feel at all for the Calorie Man and Jaidee who is supposed to come off as a hero of sorts is more of a disappointment even to the end.

The Steampunk aspect is more like Clockpunk with the spring tech, but I wish it was described a bit more in depth. Especially in regards to the functioning of the New People or Windups as they are more commonly known. Even with this element I'd say this is as close to Green Punk as anything I've read so far.  The Green Punk mentions are apt in regards to the way people now have to make use of every scrap they have since production of goods is now much more difficult and costly.  And this definitely does not have steampunk's romanticized view of things and focuses on believable technology.  In fact this is a future that is all too real for my liking and very depressive in nature.

Bacigalupi  is a voice that must be heard.  Paolo's work is sure to influence the next generation of writers, but I fear he will become a writers' writer. Meaning that he'll garner high praise and good reviews, but not the large sales he truly deserves for the almost too realistic views and ideas of a future I hope never happens.  In the end The Windup Girl is a bit too depressing for my taste but it has an amazing setting with a great opening and almost as good ending yet suffers in the middle with a less than great storyline and mostly unlikeable characters.  I give The Windup Girl 7 out of 10 Hats.  Paolo's style may be a bit too post modern for some tastes, but his work is light years ahead of what most authors are willing to try.  Readers of Ian McDonald's River of Gods and China Mieville would absolutely love The Windup Girl. Bacigalupi has left the door open for at least more short stories in this world, which I would check out. 

Free Speculative Fiction Online kindly working with Night Shade have three of Paolo's short stories here, if you want to get a good taste for his writing.  This sample includes The Yellow Card Man and The Calorie Man both of which are related to the world of The Windup Girl and Hugo nominees.

Book Link: US | Canada | Europe

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The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
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So Much Steampunk, So Little Time

AUTHOR INTERVIEW | Paul McAuley author of The Quiet War

McAuley has been turning out well regarded Science Fiction since the late eighties with books such as Cowboy Angels, White Devils, and most recently The Quiet WarPaul McAuley totally had me lost in The Quiet War (review here) universe and has had no small part in getting me back to reading more Science Fiction as of late, since I was going through a bit of a downturn earlier in the year.  He is also known to release as much as a 1/3 of his books through his blog, so there is plenty of material out there to get a taste.  There are also many short stories which Paul said are early iterations of The Quiet War universe loosely grouped as the Outer System stories, although he has said things changed a bit as the novel progressed.

MH: Hello Mr. McAuley, welcome to Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to catch-up with us. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?

McAULEY: I was born in England back in the steam age, went to school during the space age, worked in various universities during the rise of the digital age. I used to be a scientist (biology: interactions in plant-animal symbioses); then I was a scientist/SF writer; then I was a university lecturer/scientist/SF writer, and reached a point where I either had to give up my academic job or become a full-time writer. Chose the latter, haven’t regretted it.

MH: What was the inspiration behind The Quiet War?

McAULEY: We have to go back more than a dozen years, when I started writing novellas and novelettes set on various moons of the gas giants and ice giants of the outer reaches of the Solar System. As I deepened and widened my research into the landscapes and histories of those moons, I was overwhelmed by their amazing variety and exoticism. For decades, SF has been imagining all kinds of strange and bizarre worlds that might be orbiting other stars, and all the time they were right here in our backyard. A variety richer and stranger than we could imagine. So that was one big influence: the images sent back by the two Voyagers and Galileo and Cassini, and trying to turn them into landscapes which human beings could inhabit. The kind of thing that Arthur C Clarke and Kim Stanley Robinson (and JRR Tolkien, come to that) were and are so good at. There’s also a reaction against the default californication of space habitats in 1970s and 1980s - every illustration looking like an architectural rendering of a mall, that most deadening and soulless iteration of large enclosed spaces. I wanted to imagination a much wider variety of biomes and closed ecosystems, and inspiration for that came from studying all kinds of gardens around the world, as well as years of curiosity about how biological systems fit together.

MH: One subgenre that is on the rise in at least the public eye, if not in literature, is Green Punk (see Do you think The Quiet War is Green Punk? And what do you think about the movement?

McAULEY: It isn’t *intentionally* Green Punk because I hadn’t heard of the term until this very moment. It is fairly critical of turning environmentalism into a creed in which faith and good intentions are more important than actual observations and understanding of natural systems. Usually signified by a totemic reverence for charismatic species like polar bears or whales, and only a glancing knowledge of the complexity of ecosystems and their ultimate dependency on humble microorganisms. And it does share Green Punk’s credo about use of appropriate technology, something I developed more fully in a previous novel, The Secret of Life, where the more extreme radical greens would tailor themselves to live off the land. The point being, in the end, that nature isn’t something that cares about us; but we are, by our overwhelming numbers of use of dwindling resources, must care about nature.

MH: The Green Saints, while important to the back-story of The Quiet War isn’t explored in-depth. Can you tell us a little more about them and the inspiration?

McAULEY: I was thinking of the influence of Rachel Carson on environmentalism in the 1960s, and speculated in a very vague way about what might happen if the green movement became a religion - or at least, fused with one or more the world’s major religions. The Green Saints are living embodiments of that fusion, hugely influential in their time (after a sudden and catastrophic environmental disaster) but more revered than followed by the time The Quiet War starts. So if they’re sketched in a little vaguely it’s because they’re part of the texture of the back-story.

MH: The idea of humanity repeating history and trying to control one another comes up a bit in The Quiet War. Do you think humanity as a whole can overcome this?

McAULEY: It would require either a vast effort of collective will, or a massive change in human nature. There have been various experiments in harnessing collective will - Soviet Russia is an obvious example. An attempt to create a kind of modernist utopia that very quickly fell apart as its leaders fought amongst themselves. We can always hope that the next attempt will be better, of course, but the chances aren’t great. So any break-out from old patterns will require some kind of change in human nature, perhaps through reengineering ourselves. Which may, of course, lead to all kinds of new and unpredictable problems.

MH: You keep a very active blog and often post large sections of your books to them in addition to copious articles. Do you feel having such a presence has been important to your success?

McAULEY: The books are the main thing. I spend most of my creative time and energy on them. The blog is a spin-off from all that activity, really. A kind of scrapbook. Notes on some of the things I’ve encountered during research, of passing and more permanent enthusiasms, and half-formed (or half-baked) ideas more notion than thesis. And like many authors I put up extracts and other free stuff in the hope that they might interest people passing through the blog to check out the actual work. I have no idea how well that works, but it’s cheap and relatively easy to do, so why not?

MH: Awhile back Stephen Hawking put out a statement saying humanity needed to start spreading out into space and living there or our race will die. What is your feeling? Is humanity destined to die out?

McAULEY: Well, I’m very dubious about the lebensraum argument for space exploration and colonization. As Oliver Morton has pointed out, there’s always New Zealand. As for long-term survival of the human species, well, apart from a few archaebacteria, all species on Earth have either died out or evolved into something else. I don’t think that Homo sapiens will be any different, except in one respect: we’re developing tools that may enable us to rewrite our genetic inheritance. So we might become the first self-determined species, able to improve ourselves at will. Or before we’re able to do that, our burgeoning overpopulation may cause a massive reboot of Earth’s ecosystems. Either way, our decedents won’t be much like us.

MH: Gardens of the Sun, which is the sequel to The Quiet War was just released in the UK. Where does the story go from The Quiet War and do you think GotS will be the last book with these characters? Also, do you know the planned US publication date from PYR?

McAULEY: Publication of Gardens of the Sun in the US is presently scheduled for March 2010. In one sense it’s a direct sequel to The Quiet War, in that it picks up and follows the stories of the characters in the first novel through the aftermath of war and the development of new tensions. But I prefer to think of the two novels as a diptych. The first about the onrushing inevitability of war; the second about attempts to win some kind of conciliation and new direction out of war’s aftermath. The first is the lesson; the second is the lesson learned.

MH: Who are some authors/books you think are under appreciated and deserve a wider audience?

McAULEY: Apart from me? Sticking to SF, I think that authors like Cordwainer Smith, Cyril Kornbluth, Joanna Russ, Thomas Disch, James Blish, M John Harrison, and Pat Cadigan deserve wider attention. For the quality of their writing, for their vigorous inquiry of convention, and because they wrote (and write) at a slant to the genre’s mainstream. That isn’t easy, it’s a big risk with generally little reward, but it opens up all kinds of possibilities that are later exploited by other authors.

MH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

McAULEY: Thanks for asking me what I’m going to do next. It’s one of two things, and I’m not sure yet which is more urgent (which may mean that I end up doing something I haven’t yet thought of).

MH: Thank you for your time. I’m looking forward to US release of Gardens of the Sun early next year.

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MISHMASH | Swords and Dark Magic Contents & Recent Deals

According to Publisher's Marketplace Alex Bledsoe has signed with TOR for 2 more Eddie LaCrosse adventures following The Sword-Edged Blonde and Burn Me Deadly.  The third book in the series is titled Dark Jenny, in which the sword jockey is suspected of murder in an island kingdom, and forced to find the real killer to save his own life for publication in 2011 with the fourth book in 2012.

John Joseph Adams recently signed with Night Shade Books for yet another reprint anthology titled Brave New Worlds, which will feature the best of dystopian fiction from best-selling authors.

Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan have officially posted the table of contents for their anthology Swords and Dark Magic: The New Swords and Sorcery coming from EOS in June 2010 along with a limted edition from Subterranean Press as well.

1.Introduction, Lou Anders & Jonathan Strahan
2.“Goats of Glory”, Steven Erikson
3.“Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company”, Glen Cook
4.“Bloodsport”, Gene Wolfe
5.“The Singing Spear”, James Enge
6.“A Wizard of Wiscezan”, C.J. Cherryh
7.“A Rich Full Week”, K. J. Parker
8.“A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet”, Garth Nix
9.“Red Pearls: An Elric Story”, Michael Moorcock
10.“The Deification of Dal Bamore”, Tim Lebbon
11.“Dark Times at the Midnight Market”, Robert Silverberg
12.“The Undefiled”, Greg Keyes
13.“Dapple Hew the Tint Master”, Michael Shea
14.“In the Stacks”, Scott Lynch
15.“Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe”, Tanith Lee
16.“The Sea Troll’s Daughter”, Caitlin R Kiernan
17.“Thieves of Daring”, Bill Willingham
18.“The Fool Jobs”, Joe Abercrombie

What a line up.  Lou and Jon, you had me at Abercrombie and Lynch.  2010 is looking to be one of the strongest years for anthologies in quite a while.  We have Christopher Golden's impressive The New Dead, Lou Anders next anthology With Great Power that has an equally good line-up, GRRM and Gardner Dozois's all-star Warriors, Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio are doing something called Stories, plus GRRM and Dozois are working on another anthology called Star-Crossed Lovers for the second half of next year with stories from Jim Butcher, Robin Hobb, and Diana Gabaldon.

REVIEW | Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey (Grand Central)

Dead Men's Books is the 3rd novel in the Felix Castor novel, which raises the bar on this already thrilling series.  The story opens shortly after the events of Vicious Circle (reviewed here), but with a decidedly more somber tone than previous volumes as Castor is attending the funeral of a fellow exorcist.   Its a glamorous life he is leading isn't it?

Castor is asked to look into the death of his exorcist friend, Gittings by his wife, Carla as she doesn't believe he committed suicide.  As usual Castor is also brought into another case, which somehow involves the infamous Myriam Kale, who was a mob hit woman from decades earlier in Chicago long dead.  But just what the hell is a ghost doing in Chicago and how could a ghost have killed a man?

Castor is a bastard that can't admit to himself that what he does isn't for purely selfish reason.  It is like he wants people to think badly of him so that they won't involve him in their lives. It seems that if he admits he cares about people his world will come crashing down. This is most evident with his dealings with Carla and Pen as he is willing to answer their calls for helps, but keeps them at arms length whenever possible.  Castor is still dealing with the backlash of the Rafi and Pen story line from Vicious Circle, but the stakes are raised as Castor's nemesis of sorts, Professor Mulbridge is to her old tricks trying to pull a snatch and grab with Rafi from his imprisonment.  Carey is clearly building to something big with Mulbridge and Rafi that I hope culminates in the next volume.

Carey's use of spirits is again impeccably done.  In Castor's world all the supernatural elements are spirits of some kind whether they be normal ghosts/poltergeists or werewolves which are spirits inhabiting and modifying animal bodies.  The sumptuous layers of intertwined cases, which has become a Carey staple never gets old. Juliet the succubus turned private investigator grows a lot and you get to see what a struggle the succubus goes through trying to "act" human.  We're also introduced to a great new mysterious associate who as always is out for themselves, which also adds a bit of tension to Juliet's backstory.

Visceral, action-packed, and wholly engrossing, Dead Men's Boots is easily the best book in the series so far.  I give Dead Men's Boots 9 out 10 Hats. Carey has made a life long fan out of me and I'll be checking out the other volumes in the series as he is building to something truly Epic.  I heartily recommend starting with The Devil You Know to start with the series.  Carey's habit of holding out is the one thing that could be the downfall of the series if the carrot keeps getting dangled further and further away.  Readers will want to see more payoff in the next volume.

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GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW | 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man by Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)

Lately, I've been tending to go for more standalone non-superhero graphic novels rather than superhero types.  Don't get me wrong I've been enjoying Green Lantern: Blackest Night and all the prelude to it.  However, I didn't enjoy large parts of the whole Final Crisis story lines and I don't like to review mid-series comics on Mad Hatter's because I don't think most people are interested in hearing about vol. X.  This is why I have stuck to reviewing standalones such as Thor: Ages of Thunder, which is out of continuity and The Mice Templar which is full of cool. 

Which brings me to Matt Kindt's 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man.   3 Story is the very lonely story of Craig Pressgang growing up with gigantism and how it affects his life and those around him.  Kindt's style of art is a bit austere, but it works well given the story and setting.  His text is also very sparse, but what little there is leaves a deep impact.  The packaging is well done with a die-cut hardcover.

3 Story is split into 3 sections from the points of view of the women in Craig's life with the first told from his mother, which  is surprisingly emotional given many pages have little to no text.  Craig's mother comes off lamentable, yet very cold especially once Craig leaves home for college.  The detachment of Craig is already present at a young age. 

The second story is told from Craig's love interest Jo.  This section gives you a good feeling on how living with someone so large can be hard on not just the giant.  Craig continues to become more and more remote with his affections and humanity.  One of the most interesting aspects is that as Craig grows his hearing and eye sight change with him.  Especially, when he has delayed responses to touch and pain as his pain receptors are further removed from his brain.  During this time we're also treated to Craig's involvement with the CIA as a supposed secret agent.  Keep in mind most of this section takes place during the cold war times of the 1950s and 60s.

The 3rd part tells of Craig's time out in the wilderness as he faces his imminent demise from the point of view of the daughter he never really knew.  This section is the shortest, which could have been longer, but that was my desire for more. The melancholy ending is more than fitting to this sad life story.

Overall, Craig is a very difficult character to understand, but Kindt gives you a view from the outside instead of the inside on what it could be like living with a giant.  Surprisingly moving, 3 Story is one of the better liteary graphic novels I've had the pleasure of reading.  I give 3 Story 9 out of 10 Hats.  Kindt is best known for Super Spy, which has been lauded by most as one of the best graphic novel in recent years that I'll now have to check out.  If 3 Story is any indication of Kindt's talent he'll be here for a long time.

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REVIEW | 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man by Matt Kindt

Covers and Descriptions for Changes (Dresen Files 12) and 3rd Remy Chandler

Firstly, the Changes description has a big spoiler.  So if you like to be surprised pass this over. Also, Dresden is finally leaving the US and that is not the spoiler. But if you're a big Dresden/Jim Butcher fan you'll want to check it out.

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

Next up is Thomas E. Sniegoski's third Remy Chandler novel Where Angels Fear to Tread.

Six year-old Zoe York has been taken and her mother has come to Remy for help. She shows him crude, childlike drawings that she claims are Zoe's visions of the future, everything leading up to her abduction, and some beyond. Like the picture of a man with wings who would come and save her-a man who is an angel.

Zoe's preternatural gifts have made her a target for those who wish to exploit her power to their own destructive ends. The search will take Remy to dark places he would rather avoid. But to save an innocent, Remy will ally himself with a variety of lesser evils-and his soul may pay the price...

Both books are scheduled to be published in April 2010.

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REVIEW | The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks (Doubleday)

The Golden City is the third and final book in the Fourth Realm series by John Twelve Hawks.  I devoured The Traveler soon after its hardcover release and thought it showed great promise for a modern take on 1984, but with more Fantasy elements.  The Harlequin mythology and realms pulled me along with its mix of different eastern ideologies and the Travelers influence through history.  The Dark River suffered from middle-book syndrome somewhat, but it did keep things moving along fairly well.  However, things fall apart with The Golden City.  The story gets bogged down with far too much of the author trying to impart his ideals rather than telling a good story.  While I appreciate and realize our world is closer than ever to being turned into a freedomless prison, readers would have been better served with a story that stayed with them and therefore imparted its message rather than being beaten over the head with one.

What's great about so many Sci-Fi and Fantasy books from the last few years is that instead of having black and white characters and situations things are grayer. This aspect is totally missing from The Golden City where Hawks prefers hardliner axioms of good and evil.  The only redemptive part is that all of the realms previously discussed are revealed although one is sick and twisted and another a bit of a disappointment. The story moved far too quick and is more akin to a screen play where the action elements are left in, but the parts that would connect you to the characters are left out or overdone. Maybe things could have been improved with a few extra scenes.  Maya's rescue was especially underwhelming and Boone being redemptive just doesn't ring true even with the backstory.

What tries to be a modern speculative fiction thriller ends up being more akin to books from 20 years ago just veiled with modern settings and technology. Lastly, the ending didn't entirely make sense as to why the brothers did what they did and as a final confrontation it was a let down.  I give The Golden City 4 out of 10 Hats.  I'd only recommend this if you've read the first two books as you get resolution on quite a bit, but otherwise I'd steer clear.  If you've only read The Traveler stop there and enjoy it for what it was and what could have been.  John Twelve Hawks will have to blow me away with the premise of his next book to get me back on board.

Copy purchased.

Covers Unveiled for Simon R. Green, John Scalzi, and Stephen Deas

As we near the end of the year Publishers have been releasing the art for books due out next year. First up is the cover and description for Simon R. Green's latest Nightside book The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny.

Things were going so well for P.I. John Taylor, that it was only a matter of time before everything hit the fan. Walker, the powerful, ever-present, never­to-be-trusted agent who runs the Nightside on behalf of The Authorities, is dying. And he wants John to be his successor-a job that comes with more baggage, and more enemies, than anyone can possibly imagine.

Decent art, but definitely not as good as some earlier volumes.  I still have to read Just Another Judgement Day, which will be released in mass market the same time as the hardcover of The Good, The Bad, and The Uncanny.  Next we have a new version of John Scalzi's The God Engines followed by the original just for comparison sake.  It seems the new version will be used on both the trade edition and signed limited edition.   The new art is much better, but I did enjoy the cheese of the old.  Either way Scalzi's first foray is a must-read for me.

Next up is the US cover for Stephen Deas's The Adamantine Palace.

I have to say this is well done and an improvement over the UK cover.  Lastly, not to deride Deas's UK covers as they have a nice classic feel is  the second in the Memory of Flames series is The King of the Crags from Gollancz.

REVIEW | Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Delacorte)

Going Bovine is crazy in every way that is good. It is one of those books that as soon as you read the surreal plot you just have to check out.  Here is the part that cinched this as a must-read for me: 

With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.
Going Bovine is Libba Bray's first standalone novel after the huge success of her Historical Young Adult Gemma Doyle trilogy, but this is quite different in that it is set in modern Texas yet still YA, although it more than passes as an adult novel.  Bovine centers on Cameron who is a 16 year-old coasting through life.  He is not really enjoying anything or anyone, especially when he is getting stoned just to numb him from life.  If anything he runs from the chance of having any semblance of life as he is his own worst enemy.

Than tragedy strikes as Cameron is mysteriously diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease or better known as Mad Cow Disease and slowly starts to lose control of his body and mind.  Flashes of oddness happen to him including visions of Dulcie, a punk girl with wings who may or may not be a Guardian Angel.  As his disease worsens Cam ends up in the hospital where he is befriended by a fellow high schooler who also happens to be a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo.  Gonzo has some of the best dialogue as he is afraid of nearly everything from hotel rooms to diner food.

From the hospital Dulcie starts Cameron on an adventure to save the world, himself, and to get a life. With a whining Gonzo he travels from Texas to Florida in search of Dr. X who may have the answers to all of Cameron's problems, including the meaning of life.  Along the way they pick up a smart talking yard gnome who could be the Norse god Balder tricked by Loki into the gnome form.  Or Cam could just be crazy and think the gnome is talking to him. Either way this is a laugh riot with a surprisingly large amount of heart.  My only complaints are that the road trippers' time in The Big Easy was far too short and the ending felt a tad rushed.  It could be I didn't want the adventure to end.

I could not put Going Bovine down as it is one of the most unusual and funny books I've read this or any year. There are dollops of String Theory, Worm Holes, and an inter-dimensional time traveling Inuit rock band kind of like the Beatles all along the way, which should please most Sci-Fi fans who wouldn't normally read this type of book.  And Balder is a huge treat for Norse fans. I give Going Bovine 9.5 out of 10 Hats.  If you ever wanted to see what Douglas Adams could do with a story somewhat more grounded on Earth this is as close as you'll get.  Be sure to check out the video below of the author.  Who couldn't laugh at a woman willing to wear a cow costume on the streets of NYC.  She reminds me a lot of a female John Hodgman.

Book Link:  US Europe Canada

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Review copy provided by Delacorte Press

OPINION | To Read, or Not to Read Stephen King's Under the Dome

Okay, firstly I should say I'm not the biggest King fan.  Not that I don't like his work.  I, like most people have read more than a few Stephen King books over the years.  My first taste was The Eyes of the Dragon, which was King's first and to my knowledge only long form YA effort.  Eyes greatly influenced my early teen reading habits and I probably devoured  it 5 times by the time I was 12 in addition to being one of the first Fantasy books I had to own.  I've also enjoyed The Stand, Tommyknockers, parts of The Dark Tower saga, Pet Cemetery, and It.  There were probably a couple others as well, but these are the ones that come to mind.  However, other than It and Cemetery I haven't read too many of King's more standard Horror fair, as they aren't really my thing.  It particularly screwed with my teenage head a bit much to the point where I still have an aversion to clowns.  So it is safe to say I'm more a fan of his Fantasy/Epic related works more than anything else.

However, in my eyes King has been going downhill for a long time.  Especially, since his Publishers have essentially stopped editing him.  Granted there are parts of The Stand, Uncut Edition that could have been left in the original release, but still some of it should have been trimmed.  Now it is almost verboten to do anything to his text, while most of his books could stand to lose at least a few dozen pages.  The last King book I read was Cell, which had a nice zombie-ish plot about the foibles of technology engraining itself in humanity and how it could turn itself on us.  Sounds decent right?  It was at first, but the cop out ending totally ruined it.  I'm sure there are plenty of people who enjoyed Cell so I'm not looking for flaming comments about how wrong I am.  This is just how I view it.  Since Cell I've vowed to stay far away from any new King novel, although I've re-read some of his older work and he is still pretty good with short stories.  Now comes Under the Dome, which King has been working on and off for a couple decades in some form.  Here is the description:
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away. Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.
Sounds pretty great to me.  From what little I've read Under the Dome could be his best Epic since The Stand.  It is also his third longest book ever following The Stand and It.  And as my readers know I like my books like I like my burgers: big and fat.  Also, the cover is wonderful and a departure from all King's past covers.  Here is the wrap around which shows a lot of interesting detail.

Dan Simmons also had some very nice things to say about Under the Dome last year:
What’s amazing to me is that Under the Dome is the kind of huge, generous, sprawling, infinitely energetic novel that we (or at least I) associate with gifted young novelists in their 20’s—all energy and enthusiasm, the young author having not yet learned a long-distance novelist’s greedy trick of holding back characters or plot or techniques for future novels—and yet here with a master’s total control of the telling, myriad of characters, tone, and effects.
I take this as a huge vote of confidence as Simmons is one of modern masters of Epics.  So do you think I should give Under the Dome a shot?  Will you be reading it?

CHARACTER INTERVIEW | Lord Akeldama from Soulless by Gail Carriger

Whilst having tea with Alexia and Lord Maccon, where we were discussing Soulless by that "little strumpet" Gail Carriger (review here), I managed to nibble on Lord Akeldama's ear a bit.  I thought it was only fair after all the nibbling he has done to others over the centuries with him being a Vampire and all.  Lord Akeldama is probably the most colorful character in Soulless with his flowery yet sometimes incendiary dialogue.  Read my discussion with Alexia and Lord Maccon here.

MH: Thank you for gracing us with your presence. Do tell us, Lord Akeldama, what intrigues you about Alexia so much that it encourages you to invite her into your world? Also, where did you first meet?

LORD AKELDAMA: Well, my darling pumpkin seedling, it's not like me to gossip behind someone's back, but I will say this. She's such an adorably practical little thing, who wouldn't like her? All that common sense and assertive attitude is quite refreshing in a female of this day and age. Also, my little sprouted potato, it's been so very long since I have had any genuine social interaction with a preternatural, I find it enchanting. One might even be tempted to say: revitalizing. As to the location of our first meeting, I'm afraid I must demur and simply point out that that is not, entirely, the right question to ask.

MH: Do you think Alexia and Lord Maccon are a good pairing?

LORD AKELDAMA: Darling, I refuse to commit myself to the very idea of pairing, one wouldn't want to limit oneself like that, now would one? Thusly I feel entirely incapably of judging the matter. That said, they do seem to enjoy barking at one another, which, I'm under the impression, is the practice amongst werewolves.

MH: How do you view the Victorian era versus the other epoch’s you’ve lived through?

LORD AKELDAMA: Ah, sugar bell, I do find this era a little staid in the matter of color and shoe adornments, and of course I simply cannot and will not approve of the muttonchops. Not even slightly. But I shall admit that I do find some of the new brass accessories unexpectedly intriguing.

MH:  Thank you for your patronage.  I hope to read a bit more about your life with Gail Carriger's Changeless, Book the Second next year.

Alternatively: pick your poison: Friend or follow Gail on Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal, or Blogspot. Options options! Or join The Parasol Protectorate facebook group and take over the world one sip of tea at a time.

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