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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

Best Books of 2010 (That I've Read)

2010 was a bit of a revelation for me.  Many of my favorite genre authors were without a new release or had them pushed off for another year, which left me looking at a lot of authors I've been meaning to try and also lots of discoveries and saw a decline in reading Epic Fantasy than in years past. 2010 also turned out to be the year of the Cross Genre book coming more to the forefront, which would include New Weird reads and many that probably would have gone under Epic. This is also the year that Steampunk has come into its own and no longer belongs with Sci-Fi where it has been for so many years, but as a genre all on its own. So without further preamble here are the best books I've read this year.

Urban Fantasy Novel of the Year

Winner - Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (Eos)
Runner-up (tie) - Kraken by China Mieville (Del Rey/Tor UK)
Runner-up (tie) - The House of Discarded Dreams by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
Honorable mentions - Changes by Jim Butcher (Roc) and Heartland by Mark Teppo (Night Shade)

Urban Fantasy is always a tough one to judge especially since many books that are considered Epic and High Fantasy occur in a city of some sort. For this I generally go for the more rigid definition of a work placed in present times in an Urban environment although I still eschew most Paranormal Fantasy. As my list shows my tastes for UF lean towards the more male or harder edged stuff, which Kill the Dead had in spades. Kraken is probably Mieville's weakest book to date what with the haphazard and fractured-ness of it all, but still shows what a genius he is and that yes, he can have a good time. Sedia's latest release The House of Discarded Dreams hasn't been getting many mentions, which is probably a product of its release schedule, but it certainly deserves more attention as she brings home the immigrant experience more than her other books have so far. The story dances in and out of mythology and Urban Legends in very unexpected and original ways. All in all it was a good year for Urban Fantasy with many books trying to break the mold and as with Butcher recasting what has worked so well up till now.

Series Debut of the Year

Winner - Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton (Tor UK/Spectra)
Runner-up - The Last Page by Anthony Huso (Tor)
Honorable Mentions - Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Tor) and Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

I've long been a fan of series books. I like to get invested in not only the characters, but the world at large that has been created. I also like to see these worlds drastically change and that certainly came in spades with the new entreats this year. This year many new kids stepped up to start wild and vivid worlds with the two top both being debut New Weird authors. Nights of Villjamur really just hints at a lot of what this world is and has been that tantalizes like few book have.  Newton made an instant fan with Villjamur so much so that I immediately had to lay my hands on the next book in the series, which raised the game to lofty heights. Huso's debut The Last Page seems to be a very polarizing book. Either you immediately fall in love with the style or it just turns people completely off. I fell decidedly in the camp of the former and couldn't get enough of this dark world. Bitter Seeds is a melting pot of genres bringing together Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Alternative History seamlessly. Sanderson brought the Epic with The Way of Kings while only giving us a glimpse of what his world has to offer. Fforde brings the brave new world in his latest series that finally steps away from the Thursday world. I was very trepidacious about him trying something new as I can't get enough of Thursday and her ilk, but Shades of Grey proves Fforde's imagination is limitless.

Steampunk Novel of the Year

Winner - The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder (Pyr)
Runner Up - Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (Tor)
Honorable Mentions - The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Tor) & Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)

This was a very competitive area this year, which shows just how burgeoning the genre on to itself has become. Not only are established authors venturing into the Steampunk fold, but many new voices are finding homes there. In the end I went for the fun factor as the decider here, which The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack oozes. Priest's latest Clockwork Century novel took a bit to get going, but once it did not even a 10 ton locomotive engine couldn't have stopped it and we get more closure on some of the characters we loved from Boneshaker. But with the Steampunk we've also seen the resurgence of Weird West. The Half-Made World was about as surreal a world as you'll likely fine with Gilman giving us a Western like no other before in a world that is still settling into reality. The VanderMeer's second Steampunk anthology is much stronger with the first for it gives us many more examples of the styles that exist in the genre while also giving a good world view of the movement beyond the literary.

Cross Genre Novel of the Year

Winner - City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton (Tor UK/Spectra)
Runner-up - The Last Page by Anthony Huso (Tor)
Honorable Mentions - City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates (Angry Robot) and Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Tor)

My favorite novels this year were invariable those that weren't afraid to create something new by melding all genres.  I think it would behoove publishers to leave the New Weird name in the dust and simply refer to these novels Cross Genre as that area seems to be growing with the likes of Ken Scholes laying the groundwork the last couple of years. Newton's City of Ruin simply blew me away. He built the world so well with Nights of Villjamur and than went and changed the game completely in exciting and strange ways. While Huso brought in Horror, Sci-Fi, with a Fantasy feel into strangely beautiful yet grotesque places. Ian Whates is another debut author who hasn't been getting mention many places and while his style isn't as devious as Newton or Huso his world-building is an intense affair. City of Dreams and Nightmare envisions a city size building of 100 floors where different sects live on each level that has been built over thousands of years. The first novel merely sets the stage for some odd happenings that are sure to fill-in this world.

Vampire Novel of the Year
Winner - The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine)
Runner-up - The Greyfriar by Susan & Clay Griffith (Pyr)

I've never been ashamed to admit I'm a vampire fan. And while I read many Vampire related books this year there were only two standouts that used these creatures in new and interesting ways. The Passage has an vampire epidemic of Epic proportions and feels very much like a Stephen King novel in all but name.  Time will tell if Cronin can make the complete trilogy as strong, but he has a knack for working in the human factor and making you care about each and every character. The Griffith's The Greyfriar took me aback because I didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I ended up. One normal strike is the Romance aspect, but the pulp sensibilities just overtook the narrative and provided a few hours of enthralling reading pleasure. If you're just looking for a good time The Greyfriar will provide that much needed escape in a very well stylized world.

Funniest Novel of the Year

Winner - Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Penguin)
Runner-up - Changeless and Blameless by Gail Carriger (Orbit)
Honorable Mention: Divine Misfortune by A. Lee Martinez (Orbit)

I'm one of those readers who needs to jump around in not only style, but temperament. Too many melancholy or dark books can often push me in to dark place so some levity needs to be injected every now and again. Jasper Fforde can always delivery the laughs with his trademark wit and turn of phrase and while Shades of Grey is not as light-hearted as his past books there is still plenty to snicker at. Gail Carriger's Alexia always seems to get herself in outlandish situations, but it is her dialogue both internal and external that brings the wit to no end. If you can get through a Parasol Protectorate novel without laughing you've got issues. Martinez is getting to be known as the American Pratchett. While I still wouldn't put him at the same level he sure can create some odd circumstances placed in a reality close to our own and fill them with amusing and breezy language.

Science Fiction Novel of the Year

Winner - How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (Pantheon)
Runner-up - Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Penguin)
Honorable Mention - The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz/Tor)

Charles Yu just blew everyone else away this year.  His debut novel is nothing short of a wonder. The way the story is constructed it shouldn't work, but does on many levels because of the skill and sweat Yu imbued into a heartfelt story that also mixes in mind-bending paradoxes and also a dark self-effacing humor.  I've already talked a bit about Shades of Grey so I'll skip that as it is the new voices that are dominating the Best Books this year with Hannu Rajaniemi displaying strong skills at not only hard Sci-Fi, but also at creating an action packed caper. While not a perfect novel it showcases Hannu's vivid imagination.

Anthology of the Year (Multiple author release)

Winner - Swords & Dark Magic edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders (Eos)
Runner-up (Tie) - The New Dead edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martins) & Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)
Honorable Mention - The Clockwork Jungle Book from Shimmer

I felt like I missed out on a lot of anthologies this year, but most of those that I did take part in brought a lot to the table. Swords & Dark Magic gave a fairly complete view of where the genre of Swords & Sorcery has been and where it is going with a few truly exceptional stories, by many of my favorite authors. The New Dead does about the same thing with zombies with many haunting tales. The Joe Hill twitter story still gives me the creeps when I think about it. The Clockwork Jungle Book was long in gestation, but it was worth the wait as it introduced me to the beautiful prose of Shweta Narayan and provided no end of fun stories involving wind-up and steampowered animals.

Single Author Collection of the Year

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (Small Beer)

This is a bit of a cheat as it is a reissue, but it also wins by default as it is the only single author collection I read this year despite Kim Stanley Robinson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Ken Scholes collections all hanging about. That is not to discount Stories of Your Life and Others as it is now possibly my favorite collection of one author's work and ranks with Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors as a collection I'll turn back to many times over the years. Chiang will awe you.

Publisher of the Year

Tor Books is my hands down winner this year.  Tor blew me away with many of their debuting authors and breadth of styles. Between Huso, Tregillis, Rajaniemi and returning stars Priest, Sanderson, and Scholes they've pushed their bar a bit higher. This is especially heartening as only 5-10 years ago Tor barely registered on my radar except for some of the usual suspects in Epic Fantasy and truly shows how much they have been trying to broaden their own horizons.

Best Overall Book of the Year

Horns by Joe Hill (Morrow)

Joe Hill took me by surprise this year. I read Heart Shaped Box and was very underwhelmed and wasn't at first going to read Horns, but after reading the first couple of pages I was hooked. Hill has crafted a tale of redemption, horror, and heart that is nearly peerless. Horns is the most touching and heart-rending book I've read all year and even if you aren't a Horror fan is well worth checking out. Hill's adeptness at characterization and dialogue is some of the most believable prose you'll find in modern literature.

Books Most Destined to Be Re-Read

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Horns by Joe Hill
The Last Page by Anthony Huso
City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton

This list acts as a best of the best short list as well.  These are the books I'll turn back to in the future whenever I need something that won't disappoint or I need a recharge of some sort.

On Letdowns

There weren't too many let-downs this year for me.  But I have to say my first novel taste of Alastair Reynolds, Terminal World, certainly soured me on him a bit yet I still intend to read some of his older work. Paul Hoffman's much touted The Left Hand of God started off so strongly and than degenerated into something not all that special. George Mann's Ghosts of Manhattan could have also been better in a lot of ways despite enjoying it for what pulpy fun it was. I was also mildly disappointed in Antiphon since I loved Ken Scholes's first two Psalms of Isaak books Lamentation and Canticle, so very much and have been talking them up to friends nearly non-stop. This is not to say that Antiphon is a poor read. It still kept me interested in the narrative, but I just didn't like the way a couple formerly main characters were given such back seat roles for much of the story. You can still count on me being there for Requiem next year as soon as it is out. But for every disappointment there have been a dozen books I adored. So all in all I called this a great year for genre publishing  with many new stars debuting.  2011 is looking very bright as well with these new voices and many of the masters all re-entering into the fray.

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A Fantasy Debut to Watch for in 2011
Top 5 Reads for first half of 2010 (Plus Top 5 Most Anticipated)
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Best Genre Books of the Year - 2010 Long List Edition

VIDEO | A Long Time Ago, In a TARDIS Far, Far Away

Just because I've been watching a bunch of Doctor Who lately.

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VIDEO | Amanda Palmer's Labyrinth Parody With Neil Gaiman

I think this speaks nicely for itself. It has also inspired me to rewatch the original Labyrinth.

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FREE FICTION | Greg van Eekhout's In The Late December

Tis' the season to spread some holiday joy. And what would be better than a Sci-Fi story about Santa delivering presents at the end of the Universe? Absolutely nothing I tell you. "In The Late December" was a story I read last year and was brought back to mind as the holidays approach. It has quite a bit of heart for such a short tale. Enjoy!

Here's a secret of the North Pole: Santa powders his hands with talc before donning his thick red mittens.

It is a small secret, true, but some would give anything to steal even that. A secret is a detail, and here in the late December, a detail is as precious as a true name.

Santa, a red exclamation in a white world, walks the reindeer line, stroking sugar-and-cinnamon fur. The reindeer shiver and snort and stamp their hooves, the lines connecting them to the parcel-laden sleigh jingling. Santa looks over to his candy-brick castle and waves good-bye, but no one stands in the doorway to wave back. With a sigh, he climbs onto the sleigh's driver's seat, the bench creaking beneath his weight. He pauses, holding the smooth and supple leather reins, and considers how to start the team. Onward? A-heya? Giddyup? Ho-ho? No, he's already used those. He makes a point of uttering a different word to inaugurate every outing, because he's been doing this for a long time, and if he didn't deliberately insert some bit of novelty into the procedure, he fears his jolly round head might well explode. That is another detail.
Enjoy the rest of van Eekhout's "In The Late December" over at Strange Horizons.

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Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve

Enjoy the tune as I do every year.  See you all after Christmas

NEWS | Terry Gilliam to Exec. Produce 1884 (A Steampunk Puppet Movie)

Tip of the hat to Tor Steampunk.

1884 is a Steampunk infused film that is being co-produced by Terry Gilliam and directed by Tim Olive who worked with Gilliam an various films in the past. 1884 will be a mix of puppets with CGI used for the heads, which should give the film an usual look and feel. Judging by the early clip above this should be a hoot and a half. Anything Gilliam is involved with never disappoints in terms of quality. Some Monty Python alums will be voicing some of the characters, but no word yet on who from the illustrious group have been committed.

Variety did a piece on the film where Gilliam said:
"The quality of the work is amazing: It's not slick and sleek CG work, such as studios in L.A. particularly produce. It looks crafted by an artisan, and the scale and design are spectacular."
The goal is apparently to have a futuristic sci-fi story about 1884, but make it look as if it were made in 1884. No word on release date as they are still looking for the last bit of financing, but given Gilliam's involvement it should move forward. I've always been a fan of Gilliam's work especially Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

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Mad Hatter's Reading Log Vol 2.

This month I was hampered by some personal goings on, which had my mind flip-flopping so I haven't been able to get into any long books unless they were in more of a short story format. This batch were all under 400 pages except one although most were closer to 300. This grouping is something of a dash to fit in a few titles I wanted to read before the end of the year including new releases and some oldies that have been hanging around.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi - Next in line for author's with impossible last names is Hannu Rajaniemi, who has been making waves over in the UK with this debut.  It definitely lives up to any hype and is one of the most memorable Sci-Fi novels to come in quite sometime. Already reviewed.  Highly recommended.

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer - I've had VanderMeer's big book of Ambergris sitting around for years and it was also on my list of try to read from my shelf this year. Check. With all my New Weird reading this year it was high time I delved into VanderMeer's world of mushroom men and odd occurrences. Overall, this is a very, very strange book with not only content, but style as VanderMeer never sticks to one for long.  Everything from a fairly straight forward lovelorn narrative to a history of the city with extensive footnotes and than pamphlet type chapters showcasing various aspects of the city of Ambergris. Highly recommended, but not for those who don't like a challenge.

Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker - Already reviewed.  Highly recommended.

The House of Discarded Dreams by Ekaterina Sedia - Sedia's latest is her wildest book to date, which says something if you've delved into The Alchemy of Stone or The Secret History of Moscow. Review to come. Highly recommended.

Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne - I'm a sucker for robot characters, but few authors seem to want to tread upon the ground that Issac Asimov developed so well with I, Robot. Ballantyne's takes it up a level with the development of an entire planet solely populated with robots of various factions. The most interesting aspects was how each city/faction of robots differ in not only there body types, but also their personalities.  The story is clunky in places as the points of view switch up, but once you get the patterns down everything coalesces.  Recommended and I'm eager for the next volume Blood and Chrome.

Blameless by Gail Carriger - Changeless left off on such a big cliffhanger that I couldn't wait any longer for my Steampunk candy fix. This gave me some much needed laughs when I needed them and Carriger keeps surprising me as she broadened and fills-in the world. Recommended.

Autumn by David Moody - I was in a very fatalistic mood and what better to read in such a state than a novel where most of the world dies in the first few pages and some rise as zombies a few days later? Overall, the novel seemed like an overblown short story, but there are some good aspects as well with the way characters respond to the world. Shell shocked would be putting it lightly.  Recommended with reservations.

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard - Obviously it was the title that grabbed me here and the cover in the vein of The Shadow of the Wind didn't hurt either. "Imagine that some people have the power to affect your thoughts and feelings through reading—to seduce you with amazing stories, conjure up vividly imagined worlds, and manipulate you into thinking exactly what they want you to." This Thriller is placed in a bookstore following the murder of the main character's father. With the added psychic abilities related to books this is a book lovers wet dream for the first half. After that it was a real slog to finish it up as some parts just seemed thrown together and clichéd. It could have to do with the translation which is just on the side of okay. Not recommended unless the setting and abilities really set you off.

The Giver by Lois Lowry - This is a YA classic of a Dystopian future where everyone strives for Sameness. Definite shades of Brave New World, but only much grimmer involving infanticide and suicide. I can't really say much else without giving the story away as it is a very slim volume. Recommended.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang - Hands down the best single author collection I have ever read.  Go and buy it now. I'm not kidding in the least. Small Beer recently re-released it so it should be easy to track down. Chiang is the living master of the short form. Everything from the re-telling of the building of the tower of Babel to the inner mind of a man given super intelligence make this my I-can't-believe-I-haven't-read-this-before book of the year. Highly recommended.

The Greyfriar by Clay & Susan Griffith - This is first in the Vampire Empire series that is a ball of Pulp, Steampunk, and Alternative History goodness. Some people like to talk smack about vampires, but this is a novel that even a jaded reader will find plenty to like. The romance aspect seemed off to me, but otherwise it was a rollicking adventure. Highly recommended.

The Book of Joe by Jonathan Trooper - Tropper is one of those authors I keep going back to every time I need a fix of more realistic literature. Generally I feel very close to Tropper's characters even if they aren't the best people. He has a gift for creating uncomfortable situations yet permeating them with humor. The Book of Joe is his shakiest work that I've read so far, but it still more than kept me turning the pages. Recommended.

They Call Me Baba Booey by Gary Dell'Abate - I'm a longtime Howard Stern listener. He has gotten me through some very tough drives over the years and his Producer came out with this memoir. I was hoping for some inside details on the show, but what I got is probably better. Baba Booey shares his rough upbringing by his bi-polar mother. This book hit quite close to home for me and probably didn't help my disposition given family events later in the week. Nonetheless it was an entertaining peep into the mind of an average man who has been surrounded by some odd people most of his life.

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REVIEW | This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper
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REVIEW | The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

For the last couple years there has been a dearth of new blow-you-away Science Fiction novelists. Many of the authors that have been around for 5+ years are doing well regarded work such as Charles Stross, Peter F. Hamilton, John Scalzi, Neal Stephenson, Paul McAuley, and Alastair Reynolds. While they keep packing punches it is only recently that new stars are emerging in Science Fiction area. We've already been inundated by the new school of Fantasy with the likes of Abercrombie, Rothfuss, and Lynch, but where are this generations new Sci-Fi superstars? Well, they've been coming along, but it seems to be taking a little longer. Over the last two years the bright voices have finally been coming out of the woodwork and short story world like Paolo Bacigalupi and Charles Yu. Now we can firmly ensconce Hannu Rajaniemi in that crew of authors sure to direct the future of Sci-Fi.

UK Art by Chris Moore
The Quantum Thief is one of the most fast paced Sci-Fi novels in recent years, which sets the mind afire with culture-building and the highly stylized scientific curiosities including a spaceship that looks like a black spider web as depicted on the UK cover.

 The story begins in a prison, but this isn't a typical space prison in some quiet corner of the galaxy. It is a prison of the mind where each day you must face down a copy of yourself in some sort of battle to the death and than just wake up the next day to do it all over again. Jean le Flambeur is a master thief and he has been imprisoned by the Archons, a super-intelligent race of AIs only someone wants to get him out. The Prison section could have actually lasted longer as we only get a few glimpses of the Archons and how they operate, however they still have pivotal roles.

After Jean escapes things get very complicated and difficult to follow at times as there are some issues that take getting use to. The shifting of first to third person gets confusing as does the identity of some characters. Many have multiple names that are referenced differently as the story progresses and there is another aspect of memory transfer and identify theft that also play in to the confusion at times. I almost wished for an identity key at the end as I might have missed some connects at points. Jean is particularly unknowable as he isn't even sure who he is himself. Is he just a master criminal or revolutionary or simply delusional?

Regardless, The Quantum Thief is a book to re-read just to catch those little nods and clues the author included. There are also issues in empathizing or connecting with many of the characters. They all try to seem distant and superior to one another except for possibly Isidore the detective character who was my personal favorite, especially his chocolate investigation in the beginning. But they do have depth and motivations that ring true.

US Art by Kekai Kotaki
Where The Quantum Thief comes alive is the different groups and how they evolved. Most of the action takes place in a moving city on the face of Mars, which is home to the Oubliette to whom time literally is money and where personality imprinting and memory sharing is common place by touch. They are a group of humans who take turns as a normal person for a life span only to have to devout their minds to the body of strange creatures to help keep the society moving because Mars is a planet still very much wild country. The city is also home to a refuge for the Zoku who are a group of highly evolved former MMO players with incredible technology.

 If anything Hannu suffers from trying to fit too much in too small a page count. Many of the ideas could have been expanded upon and not much if any of the pacing would have been lost.  But The Quantum Thief is a full throttle ride that shouldn't be missed if you're a Sci-Fi fan. Even with some narrative problems The Quantum Thief is one of the most memorable Hard Sci-Fi debut novels that have come around in years. The mixing of detective, caper, and Sci-Fi styles plays well and shows off Hannu's deep imagination. I give The Quantum Thief 9 out of 10 hats. Rajaniemi has left himself plenty of room to grow in not only this universe and characters, but with his own style. I want to read the next book just to see what else Rajaniemi's future holds. It is no wonder that The Quantum Thief is already in its 5th printing in the UK and looks to be a major release in the states come this May.

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VIDEO | Trailer for Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes

Gollancz made this nice little CGI video in honor of The Heroes. Are you all drooling yet?

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Mad Hatter's Reading Log Vol 1.

Best Genre Books of the Year - Long List Edition

It is getting to be that time of year where the blogging masses post lists of all stripes. And not one to be left out in the cold I've been keeping track of my favorites as well. I've read more than 100 books this year and reviewed close to 50 of them while only mentioning a few others. Summations are good. They make you reflect on what really worked. My more definitive best of list will be up around the end of the year, but there is plenty to dip into if you feel so emboldened. Without further preamble here are the best, most entertaining, and original books I've read this year in no particular order.

  • Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Pyr/Tor UK) 
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin (Ballantine)
  • Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton (Spectra/Tor UK)
  • City of Ruins by Mark Charan Newton (Tor UK/Spectra)
  • The Last Page by Anthony Huso (Tor)
  • Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis (Tor)
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
  • Spellwright by Blake Charlton (Tor)
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Tor)
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (Viking)
  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (Pantheon)
  • Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne (Tor UK)
  • The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder (Pyr)
  • The New Dead edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martins)
  • Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)
  • Swords & Dark Magic edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders (Eos)
  • The Clockwork Jungle Book (Shimmer)
  • Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardiner Dozois  (Tor)
  • Horns by Joe Hill (Wm Morrow)
  • The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (Tor)
  • Kraken by China Mieville (Del Rey)
  • Dreadnought by Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes (Pyr)
  • Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra)
  • Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (Eos)
  • Changes by Jim Butcher (Roc)
  • Gardens of the Sun by Paul McAuley (Pyr)
  • Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding (Gollancz/Spectra)
  • The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding (Gollancz/Spectra)
  • Sleepless by Charlie Huston (Ballantine)
  • The Quantum Thief  by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz/Tor)
  • Blue and Gold by K. J. Parker (Sub Press)
  • The Greyfriar by Clay & Susan Griffith (Pyr)
  • Heartland by Mark Teppo (Night Shade)
  • Blameless by Gail Carriger (Orbit)

Some Favorites Read This Year That Came Out Prior to 2010:
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (Small Beer)*
  • Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter (Harper)
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney (Touchstone)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr (Eos)
  • The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett (Riverhead)
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix (Harper)
  • Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper (Ace)
  • My Dead Body by Charlie Huston (Del Rey)
  • Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
For those fans of statistics here is the break down by publishers with multiple books on the list excluding the books that came out before 2010**. These numbers leave out the books from before 2010.

9 Random House*** (3 Ballantine | 5 Spectra | 1 Del Rey) (25%)
8 Tor US (23%)
5 Pyr (14%)
4 Tor UK (11%)
3 Gollancz (9%)
3 Eos& (9%)
2 Orbit (6%)

The dominance of Tor US at first surprised me, but not after I had a chance to look at the nominees.  This list could also be changing as I have a couple 2010 releases I hope to fit in, which is why I wanted to wait until the year is closer to actually ending before committing myself. First and foremost is Ekaterina Sedia's The House of Discarded Dreams, which I'm 1/3 of way through. Already I can tell it at least belongs on this long list.

* This has been out of print for awhile, but Small Beer just reissued it.
**Note some books are counted twice if they had different publishers in the US versus UK.
*** Note that 4 of Spectra's books have been published in the UK and only one has been official released in the US so far.

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Cover Unveiled for The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

The Dragon's Path could be Daniel Abraham's breakout best-seller. Even given how much Abraham's Long Price series is loved and has been praised it has never realized the sales his original publisher wanted. But Orbit has picked up the ball for The Dagger and the Coin series, which is supposed to be a more traditional style Epic Fantasy. The cover most definitely fits the mold of Epic Fantasy covers and is much brighter than the cover that leaked out a few months back. It also adds a lot more depth than the earlier cover, but I'm not sure about the shadow horse figure which I didn't care for on Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains as well. The Dragon's Path is one of my most anticipated novels for 2011. Lauren Panepinto from Orbit had this to say:
The cool thing about the world of The Dragon’s Path is that the titular dragons are part of the ancient past of the current civilization — without giving too much away, I’d say it’s kind of like imagining that the Roman Emperors had been dragons, and so much history has passed that all that is left is artifacts (like, say, a sword), myths, and folklore that some people believe and others doubt. And of course now, there is an ominous threat of history perhaps not being quite as dead and buried as was hoped.
And here is the official blurb to whet your appetites:
Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.
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UK & US Covers Unveiled for Shadow's Lure by Jon Sprunk

Art by Chris McGrath
Jon Sprunk's debut Shadow's Son has garnered some nice praise since its release earlier this year. I enjoyed it quite a bit for its fast pace and and strong action scenes that hearkened back to Fantasy of the eighties. Sprunk's sophomore effort Shadow's Lure will show if he can grow from here. Above we have the UK cover from Gollancz with art by Chris McGrath who did the cover for Shadow's Son as well. Below is the Pyr art for the US edition from Michael Komarck, but it doesn't look to be the final version so I'll reserve judgement for now. Shadow's Lure will be released in the US next June and July in the UK.

Art by Michael Komarck

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REVIEW | Blue and Gold by K.J. Parker

Cover art by Vincent Chong
K.J. Parker is a big enigma in the world of Fantasy. No one is even quite sure if Parker is a man or woman, but most think female. Whatever the case Parker has yet to disappoint me with the crafting of tales. Last year I thoroughly enjoyed the novella Purple and Black and when I first heard the title of Parker's second novella for Subterranean Press, Blue and Gold, I immediately thought this would be a sequel of some sort or at least placed in the same world. As far as I can tell the two stories aren't related in the least.
"Well, let me see," I said, as the innkeeper poured me a beer. In the morning I discovered the secret of changing base metal into gold. In the afternoon, I murdered my wife."
While Purple and Black went for the unusual style of letter correspondence Blue and Gold goes for the first person POV of an unreliable narrator. He is an alchemist. Maybe the best in the world. Maybe not as he contradicts himself from page to page. I'm not giving anything away by mentioning this. The main character reveals this himself on the second page.
"I'm Saloninus, by the way. And I tell lies, from time to time. Which goes to prove the old rule; never entirely trust a man who talks about himself in the third person."
Saloninus is not a self-aggrandizing rogue you'll love to hate. There are lots of those out there in Fantasy nowadays. I simply fell in love with his voice as he pulls punches and still stabs daggers into many backs all in the name of survival and some would say selfishness. The story jumps around during many of Saloninus's many escape attempts while also mixing in directions on alchemical formulas and philosophical debates, which show off Parker's imagination and also research skills. At first I thought the recipes would bog down the story, but the voice of Saloninus is so strong he could have been telling you about his trip to the market yet makes every word said riveting.

Blue and Gold is the black comedy cousin to The Usual Suspects with its unique take on the science of alchemy and a murder that might not be. Sly humor is effused throughout with quips and outright lies that starts and finishes strongly. Blue and Gold surpasses the other short fiction I've read from Parker and is one of her most memorable pieces to date. I give Blue and Gold 8.5 out of 10 hats. Even once finished you'll question exactly what the true story is beneath all the deceit and slight of hand, but you'll do so with a big grin. I can't wait to see what Parker has in store for us next, especially with the The Hammer coming out early next month.

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INTERVIEW | Brent Weeks on the Durzo Novella and More

The Night Angel series established Brent Weeks as part of the new school of Epic Fantasy authors going for the darker path while also embracing his own twisty style of story telling.  In the past Weeks mentioned his intention to return to the world of Night Angel, but not until after he finished the Lightbringer series, which  started strongly with The Black Prism.  But he has a special treat in store for all the Night Angel fans out there.  As mentioned earlier Brent Weeks has just finished a Durzo Blint short story. I couldn't help but try to find out more and Brent was kind enough to answer my questions.

WARNING: If you haven't read the Night Angel series there is something mentioned below that can be considered a spoiler.

MH: This Durzo novella sort of came out of nowhere. What made you want to delve back into Durzo's history? Fan response or have you always had this story in mind?

WEEKS: First, I should throw a caveat in here. Technically, it's a novelette--it's 16,000 words (60-ish pages), and a novella is 17,000 to 40,000. But I called it a novella in my tweet because, heck, who's ever heard of a novelette? So readers should expect like a really long short story, rather than a short novel. I'm an epic fantasy writer, so I'm incapable of writing a short novel. However, blowing way past the limits of a short story--that, I can do.

My sneaky idea, which I have no idea if it will really work out, because the creative mind loves what it loves, is to do one Durzo short story between each of the Lightbringer novels. That way, I'm keeping something alive for the fans of Night Angel, I'm getting to experiment and do something different while engaged in a multi-year project, and I'm showing more of the world I'll eventually come back to after Lightbringer is finished. Durzo has been around for a long time, and I've always thought it would be fun to tell more stories about him.

The story came out of nowhere because it's got a really different flavor. I demand more of my readers in this one. Quite honestly, I didn't know if I could pull it off. So I didn't want to sell it before I wrote it and then be obligated to turn in something--because that something might not have been that great. And I worked on it for a couple weeks at the end of the summer, didn't think it was going anywhere, and then got caught up in touring, and then after touring sat down to work on the next Lightbringer book--but this stupid thing just started scratching to get out. Now that it has, I'm really quite proud of it.

MH: Does the novella have a working title? And what sort of release is planned? Your publisher Orbit announced a few months back a short fiction eBook program so that was brought to mind.

WEEKS: Well, since Orbit has only just received the story, I probably shouldn't tell you my brilliant title ideas (or crappy ones), in case those get rejected in favor of something else. Because then I'll get fans writing me, saying, "But I thought you had another short story, called X! This one was terrible. I want to read that one!"

What sort of release is planned? Ha ha ha. You think there's a plan? The Orbit short fiction program will probably be its first home, and I definitely have some other hopes--but nothing's been signed yet, so I better sit on that one.

MH: What can we expect from the novella? Does it take place right when Durzo gets his powers or earlier when he was becoming someone important in the land of Midcyru?

WEEKS: The bulk of the story is literally how Gaelan Starfire becomes Durzo Blint. So you'll see a younger Momma K, assassinations, ka'kari and more. I think it stands on its own, but it will be much more rewarding if you've read the Night Angel trilogy. I don't do a lot of hand-holding in this story. You can catch things, or just miss them. It moves really fast. I did have moments where I thought, "I could easily turn this into a full length novel." And if I didn't feel an obligation to fans to finish Lightbringer in some relatively reasonable time frame, I might have entertained those thoughts more, because this was really fun to write.

MH: What's next for you? Vacation to some fabled island where authors can relax or are you jumping into the next Lightbringer novel?

WEEKS: When I sent my agent this Durzo story for his comments, he gave me some great suggestions, and then at the end, he said, "Great story, brilliant, wonderful. Now get back to work."

So I'm back to working on Lightbringer 2: tentatively titled The Blinding Knife.

MH: Thanks for your time!

Brent Weeks is the New York Times best-selling author of The Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge, and Beyond the Shadows. To learn more about Brent Weeks visit his blog or follow him on twitter.

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New Procurements with a Limited Edition and Gifts!

The last couple weeks has been quite a blur, but I've gotten a lot of good looking books. Both review copies and a few purchases including a very nice signed limited edition make up this batch. So we can definitely say my book buying hiatus is over. Still I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did. While away I learned I had $10 in Borders bucks that expired that week.  Which meant I had to go to a store. Low and behold that store was having a closing sale with everything discounted. So...Well anyway there are two batches pictured below as I got a bit behind with things and the second includes some early holiday gifts I received.

Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper - I've been slowly making my way through Tropper's catalog and on break last week I read his The Book of Joe and on my trip to the bookstore I of course had to pick another of his novels up.  I'm starting to like his stories even more than Nick Hornby's work as it is a bit more relatable to me personally.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - I got it in my head that I needed to read some Vonnegut so during the bookstore run I picked up Sirens, which I have never read before. At least not that I can remember.

King Rat by China Mieville - This is the signed and numbered limited edition Earthling Publications did a few years back of Mieville's debut novel, which I nabbed for an insane $27 from a sale they were having. It sports a slipcase and a nice simple leather cover with numerous interior illustrations by Richard Kirk.  It originally went for $85 so I consider this the deal of the year.

Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams - The latest J.J. Adams reprint collection was sent to me from Night Shade which follows Wastelands in many ways.  This is a massive collection of dystopian fiction from dozens of classic and modern masters featuring a veritable who's who of speculative fiction. Every one from J.G. Ballard and Ray Bradbury to Tobias Buckell and Neil Gaiman are represented. I definitely want to sink my teeth into this one soon.

  • Introduction — John Joseph Adams
  • The Lottery — Shirley Jackson
  • Red Card — S. L. Gilbow
  • Ten With a Flag — Joseph Paul Haines
  • The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas — Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment — M. Rickert
  • The Funeral — Kate Wilhelm
  • O Happy Day! — Geoff Ryman
  • Pervert — Charles Coleman Finlay
  • From Homogenous to Honey — Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot
  • Billennium — J. G. Ballard
  • Amaryllis — Carrie Vaughn
  • Pop Squad — Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Auspicious Eggs — James Morrow
  • Peter Skilling — Alex Irvine
  • The Pedestrian — Ray Bradbury
  • The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away — Cory Doctorow
  • The Pearl Diver — Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • Dead Space for the Unexpected — Geoff Ryman
  • “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman — Harlan Ellison®
  • Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution? — Genevieve Valentine
  • Independence Day — Sarah Langan
  • The Lunatics — Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Sacrament — Matt Williamson
  • The Minority Report — Philip K. Dick
  • Just Do It — Heather Lindsley
  • Harrison Bergeron — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • Caught in the Organ Draft — Robert Silverberg
  • Geriatric Ward — Orson Scott Card
  • Arties Aren’t Stupid — Jeremiah Tolbert
  • Jordan’s Waterhammer — Joe Mastroianni
  • Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs — Adam-Troy Castro
  • Resistance — Tobias S. Buckell
  • Civilization — Vylar Kaftan
  • For Further Reading — Ross E. Lockhart

The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell - Another buy from my Borders run.  I've been hearing the most wonderful things about this zombie novel that I had to finally pick it up. Although thinking about the word wonderful doesn't seem right for a zombie book.  Fiendishly good things perhaps? I'm in the middle of David Moody's Autumn right now so Reapers will probably wait until after the New Year.

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.
For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers - I reviewed this only a few short weeks ago, but Pyr was kind enough to send me a finished copy which sports a blurb by a few cool bloggers. It is out in stores now. So grab a copy if you're in the mood for an action packed Swords & Science novel.

Hawkmoon: The Runestaff by Michael Moorcock - The latest in the Hawkmoon reissues just showed up from Tor. I still need to make time for these, but I'll probably try the first Elric omnibus first.

Elfsorrow, Shadowheart, and Demonstorm by James Barclay - The first three volumes of the Legends of the Raven series is coming out quickly from Pyr with Elfsorrow already out and the other two following this month and next.  The gorgeous Swanland covers are still catching my eye. These are covers you want posters of on your walls.

Vampire Federation: Uprising by Sean McCabe -  This is an arc to the first in a series I don't know much about so here is the blurb:
A gruesome ritual murder has stained the Oxfordshire countryside. It's just the first incident in a chain of events awakening Detective Inspector Joel Solomon to his worst nightmare-and a dreadful omen of things to come. Because Joel has a secret: he believes in vampires.

Alex Bishop is an agent of the Vampire Intelligence Agency. She's tasked with enforcing the laws of the global Vampire Federation, and hunting rogue members of her race. A tough job made tougher when the Federation comes under attack by traditionalist vampires. They have a stake in old-school terror-and in an uprising as violent as it is widespread.

Now it's plunging Alex and Joel into a deadly war between the living and the unloving-and against a horrifying tradition given new life by the blood of the innocent.
The Last Hieroglyph by Clark Ashton Smith - The 5th and final volume of  The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith that Night Shade Books has been lovingly been releasing over the last 3 years and was kind enough to send me a review copy of. I haven't read much Ashton before, but it looks like I know have the change.

The House of Discarded Dreams by Ekaterina Sedia - Sedia is now one of those authors that is on my must-buy list and this is the last of my awaited books for this year.  For a bit more on the book look at this earlier post. It took me a few visits to different stores to track a copy down, but now it is mine and will be read before the end of the year.

Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell - Greatshell is a new to me author, but this slim Sci-Fi Thriller was sent from the publisher and I have been looking for a short Sci-Fi novel to try out.

Unconscious for fourteen months after a debilitating accident, Maddy Grant awakens at the Braintree Institute, where scientists have successfully implanted her with a radical technology designed to correct her brain injury. But Maddy is more than cured. Her intellect has been enhanced to process information faster than a computer-an ability that's sending her emotions into overdrive.

To monitor her condition, the institute sends Maddy to the nearby village of Harmony, where she will be free to interact with the community. But Braintree's scientists are not only monitoring her behavior, they're modifying it, reprogramming her personality to become someone else. 

A killer.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - The first gift I received for the holidays is Fforde's first foray into the YA scene with an Urban Fantasy. This will be read before the holidays are over.

In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in magic release form B1-7g.
Then the magic started fading away.

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for soothsayers and sorcerers. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and even magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery.

So it’s a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer, and say something is coming.  Big Magic . . .

Scud The Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang Edition by Rob Schrab - The other gift I received. My friend asked what I wanted.  He is a big graphic novel fan so I told him something fun that isn't book 1 of 10 and so I got the complete Scud. He said since I'm a big Atomic Robo fan I enjoy the hell out of this.  I have no doubts.

In the world of Scud, bullets are cheaper than human life. Corner vending machines provide any weapon you might need. The most popular weapons are Scud disposable assassins: Robot hitmen that self-destruct when they kill their target. This volume follows Scud 1373, assigned to take out a hideous female man-eater named Jeff. While fighting the indestructible Jeff, Scud discovers his infamous warning panel in a bathroom mirror. Realizing that to kill Jeff is to kill himself, Scud blows off her arms and legs and hospitalizes her. Her life support bills will have to be paid, and Scud will have to find more work to stay alive.
Songs of the Dying Earth edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois - This massive anthology is in honor of Jack Vance and his Dying Earth series.  So heavy hitters make me want to take a close look. Between the GRRM, Gaiman, Simmons, and VanderMeer this should be quite a treat and I'm hoping it will improve my opinion of the Dying Earth series as I wasn't a big fan of the first in the series.

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