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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
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GUEST POST | Edward Lazellari on From Crusades To Awakenings

From Crusades To Awakenings

©2011 Edward Lazellari,
author of Awakenings

Although I can cite many influences for my writing, three books that were integral to my first novel, Awakenings, are Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

Awakenings began as a graphic novel concept called “Crusades” in the 1980s, when I was pursuing art as my main career with a focus on getting into Marvel or DC comics. At the time, I was a big fan of Brian Bolland’s Camelot 3000 and also a big gamer, playing 20-hour marathons of Dungeons & Dragons. During one game, I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we were all really from a fantasy universe on a secret mission instead of just playing this game.” A few years later, I read Amber and was inspired to write my story as a novel instead. It was around the early ‘90s when I was working for Marvel Comics that I began to transition to writing because I found it more satisfying than illustrating. (I believe I’m better at it too.) Taking stock of my talent level, I realized I needed more than my nascent skills at the time to become a good novelist. I put aside Crusades and went back to school to get my B.A. in English Literature for the sole purpose of becoming a writer. The English lit track is more about criticism and essays than writing fiction, but I focused on what made a story still readable a hundred, four hundred, or a thousand years later. If I understood why Dorian Gray and Hamlet were still relevant today, then I could apply that to my own stories (that’s the theory at least). So I read selfishly to absorb story telling and writing techniques and wrote my critical essays to placate the department requirements. (Occasionally, the two goals intertwined.) I graduated in 1999 and began working on the book again in 2000.

Nine Princes In Amber begins with the protagonist, Corwin, in a modern hospital and no memory of his identity or his past in another plane of reality. The amnesia was a great idea. The best books are journeys of discovery, and what more challenging journey is there than to discover your own lost self. You’re already in danger and at a disadvantage from the first page, and it puts the reader on the same journey as the character. As anyone who has read The Chronicles of Amber knows, Corwin is part of a larger, dysfunctional royal family that is at war with each other, and with other factions at the other end of time and space. Amber is filled with sorcerers and dark happenings. The details of Mr. Zelazny’s concept are pure brilliance, and I would urge anyone who loves fantasy (or just great stories) who has not read him to run out and get this series. Amber was the seed that started my story growing. It wasn’t until after college that I read Game of Thrones and Neverwhere and began pruning my bonsai. I changed the title of the book to “Lost Souls” during this period, which stuck until around 2008.

The concept of a dysfunctional family posing as warring nations also exists in Game of Thrones. But more importantly, from Mr. Martin, I found the voice I wanted to tell my story through. I had been writing Crusades from an omniscient third-person perspective and had never really been happy with it. I didn’t think a first-person account would work either. Game of Thrones, which is an ensemble piece, is written in third-person limited.

Each chapter is from the perspective of just one character. That doesn’t mean you can’t affect the fates of other characters in that chapter, only that it has to be viewed through the senses of the character you inhabit at the moment. I knew immediately after Game of Thrones that this was the narrative voice I wanted to use. Like Mr. Martin’s book, Awakenings is also an ensemble piece. What I also found fascinating about The Song of Ice and Fire series are the shades of gray in terms of the characters’ rectitude. Just when the reader is sure he or she knows who the villain is, Mr. Martin would write the story from that character’s perspective, and suddenly things were no longer black and white. Many of us hate Cersi, but she’s a product of her culture, shopped around like a cow so that her father can secure Lannister power. As sick and evil as she is, the bum deal she got in a lout like Robert Baratheon certainly pushed her over the edge. Mr. Martin is a master at the politics of interpersonal relations. The empire in Awakenings is the back story. Aandor is as Westeros might be a hundred years later if it fails to reunite under a new leader. This is the catalyst that commences my adventure. One of my protagonists, a boy named Daniel, represents the hope of unifying the empire according to the accord between these shattered nations. In that way, Daniel is a bit like Harry Potter in that he is a savior figure. Unlike Harry, though, Daniel has no support from the people who know
what he really is. He’s on his own.

Another thing I got from Mr. Martin’s writing is restraint. Although Westeros is a land of old gods, magic, and dragons, you don’t see spells cast every 10 seconds. Magic is rare and mysterious. Most things that people think are magical, like comets as portents, can be explained by science or trickery. Mr. Martin keeps magic close to the vest and lets the characters’ human wants and desires propel the story. If a fantasy story can hold up without the magic, it’s that much better a story because then you are relying on motivations that are more universally recognized.

From Neverwhere came the duality of a fantasy urban world existing within a modern world. You can argue that Amber did something similar, but Mr. Gaiman took it to a new place. (I imagine Neil admires Mr. Zelazny’s work.) There’s just something about Neverwhere that just clicked with me at a time when I was dusting off the remnants of my story after finishing school and beginning to write seriously again. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Gaiman’s work since he did Sandman for D.C. comics and believe he is one of the godparents of modern urban fiction. He has the uncanny ability to reach deep into myth, legend, fable, or Bible -- both the grand stuff and the quiet lesser known tales -- and weave entirely new stories that fit snuggly into pre-molded slots in your brain you didn’t even know where there. You never get the sense that he’s writing fiction, more that he’s transcribing actual events that we’ve had some vague sense of having heard of, but here he is now fleshing out the details. I’ve never been to London, but I reasonably expect to meet a girl called Door and find a floating market at Harrods, no less than I expect to run into a Leprechaun in Ireland.

There’s a certain amount of arrogance involved, to read Tolkien or Shakespeare and say, “Oh yeah, I can do that.” But Shakespeare, Tolkien, Louis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and so on were themselves inspired by others before them. There will always be new stories and someone’s got to create them until the computer program meant to replace writers is ready. T.S. Eliot said, “Good writers borrow and great writers steal.” I don’t condone stealing, but all writers take something from their inspirations -- vocabulary, energy, tropes, pacing, poetry, prose -- it’s our favorite books that have instilled in us the desire to write our own stories.

Edward Lazellari has worked as an illustrator and graphic artist, doing projects for Marvel Entertainment, DC Comics, and Jim Henson Productions. His short story, “The Date,” won Playboy magazine’s prestigious college fiction contest in 1999. Lazellari lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. Awakenings is his first novel. He can be found online at his website or twitter: @EdwardLazellari.

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Contest for Awakenings by Edward Lazellari

Thanks to Tor I have 2 hardcover copies of Edward Lazellari's debut Awakenings, which hits the shelves tomorrow.  Awakenings might easily be classified as an Urban Fantasy, but it is much more than that. As I mentioned in my reading log recently I was greatly reminded of the Amber books. Worlds within worlds, the magical mixing with the technological all play a part in the world Lazellari has created. Here is the blurb to whet your whistle:
Cal MacDonnell is a happily married New York City cop with a loving family. Seth Raincrest is a washed-up photographer who has alienated even his closest friends. The two have nothing in common—except that they both suffer from retrograde amnesia. It’s as if they just appeared out of thin air thirteen years ago, and nothing has been able to restore their memories. Now their forgotten past has caught up to them with a vengeance.

Cal's and Seth’s lives are turned upside down as they are stalked by otherworldly beings who know about the men's past lives. But these creatures aren't here to help; they're intent on killing anyone who gets in their way. In the balance hangs the life of a child who might someday restore a broken empire to peace and prosperity. With no clue why they're being hunted, Cal and Seth must accept the aid of a strange and beautiful woman who has promised to unlock their secrets. The two must stay alive long enough to protect their loved ones, recover their true selves—and save two worlds from tyranny and destruction.
To enter send an email to madhatterreview (AT) gmail (dot) com with your full name and snail mail address in the body and "AWAKE" in the subject line. The deadline is midnight September 13th. I'll announce the winners on the following day or as soon as I remember. This contest is open to the everyone. If you send multiple entries you will be disqualified from the contest. The winner will be selected via random number generator per usual.

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REVIEW | Machine Man by Max Barry

Scientist Charles Neumann loses a leg in an industrial accident. It's not a tragedy. It's an opportunity. Charlie always thought his body could be better. He begins to explore a few ideas. To build parts. Better parts.

Max Barry has developed a style of skewering corporations. With Company he tackled the absurdity of office politics and in Jennifer Government what it means to become a company drone. Barry's latest pushes things further in a more personal yet funny manner.

The Singularity is closer than we all think. Our bodies are becoming more malleable or at least we're forcing them to be, but where will that progression push us? Machine Man explores this desire to improve one's self. Where do you start? Where do you end? How far are you willing to push or sacrifice? It all starts with an accident in the lab that turns Charles, an aloof guy, into a man bent on improving his body.

Machine Man is much darker book than Barry's last few efforts. This is partly because of the some times gruesome events Charles puts himself through. Yet it also stems from the selfishness of the main character who I guess you'd describe as having large social inadequacies. But he is also a technical genius. Even though I found it hard to like or even empathize with the main character the story permeated my mind so much I couldn't wait to get back into it. Almost like watching a car accident in progress. You can't turn away until you learn how it ends.

Machine Man is a very matter-of-fact story. Barry even goes as far to name characters after their traits such as Neumann. Get it? So much of what happens is a foregone conclusion. There were problems with the female love interest. She was left too unformed until the end where it just seemed tacked on.

Seeing the technologies evolve and the incremental steps that brings Charles to the end point was well done and enthralling. Everything is all too feasible right down to the money hungry corporation and science lackeys willing to try anything after watching what their mentor goes through.

Alternative Cover Not Used
Filled with geek and cringe-worthy humor Machine Man is a delightfully screwed-up little book. Barry tells it in a very believable manner with flawed characters in a world that seem like it is just next week. I give Machine Man 8 out of 10 Hats. While not as laugh-out loud as Company, Machine Man has its moments and offers up some nice commentary about where the world is headed and the decisions we must face.

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NEWS | Tor and NASA to Team-up for a Series of Books

Science Fiction and NASA have gone hand in hand for years now. Many NASA employees over the years have cited Science Fiction as what got them interested in space and science with most notably Arthur C. Clarke being at the fore who has influenced generations with his stories and technological wonders. Gregory Benford is a former NASA adviser and authors Edward M. Lerner, Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis, David Brin, and Eric Kotani have all had jobs working for NASA or programs associated with NASA over the years.

Now, a new venture with NASA and Tor will further cement their connections to Science Fiction. NASA and Tor have signed an agreement to develop a series of books that will hopefully inspire future generations to work and improve NASA, space travel, and science in general. A couple authors that may take part are Douglas Preston and Vernor Vinge, but nothing is firm at this point as it will depend on schedules and in the end what stories these visits inspire. Tor Executive Editor Robert Gleason will be the series will be editor. This is an idea that should have happened decades ago and only now in the waning days of NASA are they taking a more proactive approach to getting people interested in the program.  Here is the press release:
NEW YORK, NY (August 22, 2011) – In an effort to educate and encourage math and science education Tor/Forge Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, and NASA have embarked on a collaboration to publish a series of science based, commercial fiction books, referred to as "NASA inspired Works of Fiction" around concepts pertinent to the current and future work of NASA. NASA will allow existing and new Tor/Forge authors to team up with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC) Subject Matter Experts (SME) to create scientifically accurate and entertaining novels in a distinctly unique way.

Tor/Forge and NASA hope that pairing scientists and engineers with the imprints’ award-winning roster of writers will raise awareness and inspire the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in line with the President’s Technology Agenda. They also hope to contribute towards the goal of attracting and retaining students in the above fields, thereby strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce in a compelling manner.

“When I was a boy, books by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and their colleagues excited me, inspiring a lifelong fascination with space and the science and technology that would get us there,” said Tom Doherty. “From Fulton and his steamboat, through Alexander Graham Bell and Edison, to Silicon Valley and the advent of the internet, innovative Americans have built a future in which we lead the world.”

GSFC’s Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office will host a select group of Tor/Forge authors – some of whom already write science based fiction – to learn more about science and space exploration. Authors will visit GSFC for a two day workshop in November consisting of presentations, facility tours and one-on-one sessions with SMEs. NASA contributions to the project will also provide access to their data, facilities, and educational design and evaluation experts.

“It is my hope that in working with NASA in the creation of new stories of science and discovery we will inspire the next generation of explorers and inventors, because it all starts with the imagination – with stories and dreams of better things to come,” said Doherty.

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New Procurements

The past few weeks have been a book invasion of sorts. I've gotten lots of review copies and made quite a few purchases mostly at the Borders closeouts because I just cannot help myself. The first two photos are review copies and the second two the purchases.

Den of Thieves by David Chandler caught my eye a few months back. I'm hoping it is fun caper type read as the series is being released in quick succession. The next four are high on my to-read list as three are from series that I've been enjoying quite a bit.  Aloha from Hell is Richard Kadrey's latest Sandman Slim novel. I expect epic badass-ness. Machine Man by Max Barry story about one man's desire to improve his body mechanically. Singularity anyone?.Fenrir is M.D. Lachlan's sequel to Wolfsangel that I completely fell for earlier this year. The Rift Walker is the second in the Vampire Empire series that started so strongly with The Greyfriar. Than we have Mirror Maze, which is a Victorian Fantasy that I can't decide if I'm interested in or not. I think the cover is throwing me off. Holding up all the other books is the thick The Time in Between by Maria Duenas, which is getting some heavy comparisons to The Shadow the Wind as it is also translated from Spanish. We shall see if it is that worthy.

White Tiger by Kylie Chan has long been in gestation and the start to the Dark Heavens series, which sounds a little like American Gods in China.  It was first to be part of Angry Robot, but when Harper decided to focus its attention on making Voyager an international imprint it was moved over to Voyager. The series is being released in quick succession with Red Phoenix and Blue Dragon following at one month intervals starting in late August with White Tiger.  Next I got a big package from Edge Publishing who haven't been on my radar until recently, but they've got a heck of a new list of books coming out. To start is Circle Tide by Rebecca K. Rowe just sounds awesomely crazy. Here is a brief part of the description that immediately nabbed my attention:
Noah is a rebellious son of privilege caught up in a brutal murder in a city ravaged by the eco-catastrophe Circle Tide. Promising his dying friend that he'll deliver a highly confidential datasphere, Noah plunges into a gritty subterranean world where he collides with knife wielding monks, a crew of oddball hackers and a smart intelligence bent on his destruction.
Than I have Technicolor Ultra-Mall by Ryan Oakley and again looks like a great concept novel. Here is a bit from the author's description:
It’s a satirical and ultra-violent dystopia about consumerism. In a world where people live in giant malls, a young man tries to escape the crushing poverty of the section where he was born. But his gang doesn’t want him to go. Hilarity ensues.
Tesseracts 15 is the latest in the long running anthology focused on writers from Canada. I haven't read one in the series for quite sometime, but we all know I like a dose of short fiction from time-to-time, but one of the others from Edge will probably come first.

Q: A Novel by Evan Mandery looks to be a twisted take on the love story where the protagonist is visited by a future version of himself and told not to marry the love of his life. Handing the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist is a new author to me, but he is also the author and screenwriter of Let the Right One In, which is one of the best vampire movies I've seen in ages so his take on zombies certainly could work. Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan is the sequel to Farlander, which I liked well enough to see how things go this time around. Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright is the start to a new Space Opera series. Now on to the buy piles.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman is one of my most anticipated titles this year. Even though I have a galley I decided to wait for the final version as Grossman said there were some big changes between drafts.  Next are Paul Malmont's first and third books. Have you heard of Malmont before? Well you better take notice now. I finished his second book The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and it is one of the finest pieces of adventure fiction I have ever read so I of course had to get his other books Jack London in Paradise and The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown immediately. Each uses real writers of the past as main characters with Chinatown doing great justice to the pulp era. Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams has gotten a lot of buzz and I've always been enamored by Machu Picchu so I'm interested to see what he has uncovered. Last is America Pacifica by Anna North is a very well reviewed Dystopian, which I always seem to be in the mood for. I'm not sure what that says about me and I am probably better off not knowing. Those last 3 books were all Borders closeouts with Jack London costing me only 2 bucks! Shazam!

The above are a bunch of purchases mostly from Borders close-out sales except the first two. Perched on top is Never, Never Stories by Jason Sanford, which is signed and numbered that I ordered from the author. I've been a fan of Sanford's short fiction for a while. Next is The Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy, which makes me wonder what happened to the Mammoth Book of Old Comic Fantasy? This is actually the book club edition that I found in a remainder store in southern New Jersey. Germline by T.C. McCartny is a military Sci-Fi debut. Swamplandia is one of those books I've hemmed and hawed about from nearly a year and I finally went for it. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai was a total impulse buy. How to Talk to a Widower finishes out my collection of Jonathan Tropper books. Hopefully by the time I get to it he'll have his next announced.

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REVIEW | Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Do you know who Gary Gygax is?
Can you quote lines from nearly every John Hughes movie?
Ever wished you could drive a Delorean?

If you answered yes to any of these than run now and buy a copy of Ready Player One because your favorite book of the year has arrived. In fact, buy two so you have one to lend out knowing your collection is still complete. The movie Fanboys was Cline's love letter to Star Wars while Ready Player One is his scrawled over notebook to everything he loved about the 70's and 80's and tied into a story just as memorable as all the movies and games he mentions. Even if you don't get all the references the story can most definitely still be enjoyed.

Ready Player One is pure adventure mixing media, a dystopian future, and a virtual world known as OASIS. A virtual treasure hunt for the fortune of the world's richest man and most famous game designer has been announced, but 5 years later no one seems close to solving the puzzle. Everyone wants in, but few have the skills and knowledge until all hell breaks loose as gunter (egg hunter) Wade Watts cracks the first clue.

With lots of humor and pop-culture references that never seem forced Cline has created one of my favorite Sci-Fi novels of the last decade. It isn't hard Sci-Fi by any stretch, but an adventure style quest with pop-culture trappings in a virtual world where everything can be made real. Ready Player One also has heart and lovable characters as believable friendships and relationships develop. There is an evil corporation that you'll love to hate and there is even a bad guy you just pray will get his in the end. All in all Cline has stacked the deck to make this a memorable read that I finished in two days.

Children of the 80's rejoice and get your geek crush on. I give Ready Player One 10 out of 10 hats. This is one to savor and fall over in love with again upon each eventual re-read. Now if we could only transport the Richard Donner of the 80's through time to direct the eventual awesome movie that will be Ready Player One.

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NEWS | Ray Bradbury Tribute Anthology

Tribute anthologies have been hot recently with Jack Vance (Songs of the Dying Earth) and Frederik Pohl (Gateways) both getting the treatment.  And now it is Ray Bradbury's turn. According to The British Fantasy Society Live Forever: An Anthology of all New Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle with Bradbury doing the introduction is tentatively set for July, 2012 from William Morrow. Weller is actually a biographer of Bradbury's penning The Bradbury Chronicles and Castle is a well-known Horror writer.

Contributors include Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Joe Hill, Alice Hoffman, David Morrell, Tom Monteleone, Lee Martin, Ramsey Campbell, Robert McCammon, Dan Chaon, Harlan Ellison, Margaret Atwood, Joe Meno, Dean Koontz and a few others to be named.

As if the first three names weren't enough we'll also have Ellison, Campbell, and Chaon? That is a heavy hitting line-up. Lee Martin also announced the collection going into the origin of the anthology title:
The title comes from something that happened to Bradbury when he was a boy. He went to a carnival to see a magician named Mr. Electrico. This man sat in an electric chair and was electrocuted at every performance. As the electricity shot through his body, he raised a sword and knighted all the kids sitting in the front row near his platform. Here’s how Bradbury describes what happened when it was his turn to be knighted: “When he reached me, he pointed his sword at my head and touched my brow. The electricity rushed down the sword, inside my skull, made my hair stand up and sparks fly out of my ears. He then shouted at me, ‘Live forever!’”

Here’s a link to the rest of Bradbury’s story about how Mr. Electrico gave him a future with his exhortation and also, the next day, a past when Bradbury returned to the carnival and Mr. Electrico claimed that he, Bradbury, was the reincarnated spirit of an old friend

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NEWS | Joe Abercrombie's Red Country

It was announced Joe Abercrombie signed a 4 book deal a ways back with the first book being a standalone and the following three a new trilogy all placed in the First Law World.  Joe has been calling the standalone his version of a Western, but other than that not much has been said.  Abercrombie has just put up a lengthy post describing it a bit more:

So I’ve finished the first draft of the second part of my latest masterwork, workingly titled, ‘A Red Country,’ or possibly just, ‘Red Country,’ we will see on that score. For those who have failed to follow this blog religiously for the past few months (shame on you faithless scum), it is another semi-standalone set in the world of The First Law, and fusing fantasy elements with western elements, in the same way that The Heroes was a fantasy/war story and Best Served Cold fantasy/thriller-ish. That puts me about 40% of the way through a first draft, though I suspect there’ll be a fair bit of work to do once the first draft is complete. Isn’t there always? Now the terrifying wait for feedback from my editor and readers while I try and sort out what exactly I’m going to do with my next part. I guess one could say that if Part I was a little bit Searchers then Part II rolled into Lonesome Dove territory and Part III has something of a Deadwood/Fistful of Dollars motif.

I feel a fair bit more comfortable with this second part than I did with the first, as you’d expect or at least hope. One generally aims to get a better and better handle on the plot, settings and characters as one goes through a draft, until by the time you’re finishing your first draft you know pretty much exactly what you’re aiming at, and editing becomes largely a case of bringing earlier parts into line with that final one.

I’ve made quite a significant change to the personality of one of my two central characters – or perhaps not a change but a clarification, a shift of emphasis and a refinement of style – and he seems to be working quite a bit better now. In essence, I’ve made him a bit more of a shit than he was before, which tends to be a fruitful direction for me to go in with characters on the whole. Who knew?

It’s taken me a little longer to get this part together than I’d hoped, what with one thing and another, but if I can up the pace a little from here on in we should still be looking at delivery early next year and publication somewhere around late summer early autumn 2012. Such is the hope. But you know what they say about hopes.
So hopefully this time next year we'll be treat to Red Country and more of Abercrombie's wonderfully depraved mind. In the comments Abercrombie also mentions some old characters will pop-up as well, but he's mum on who exactly. Personally I always felt there was more to do with Ferro, but a further comment about sex scenes makes me think it isn't her.

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Mad Hatter's Reading Log Vol. 7 (July)

July saw a smaller number of books read from the norm at only 10 volumes, but there was a lot of door-stoppers taking up the space including 3 by George R.R. Martin. After I finished those tomes though I was inclined towards short reads.

61.  A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - Still my favorite in the series so far. So many big events happen and man, the Red Wedding. Unforgettable.
62.  A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin - We follow the strongest in the series with the weakest. So many problems incur with pacing, POVs, and changes in style from previous books. A must to keep up with the series, but a skim at best the next time I attempt a re-read.
63.  The Griff by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson - A graphic novel from humor novelist extraordinaire Moore and Hollywood scribe Corson. It was a nice break after all the giant reads of late, but not what I was hoping for. The story is based off a screenplay that the pair wrote years ago that never sold and it shows. Think of it as the movie Independence Day with dragon-like aliens. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Falling Skies. The story had some nice jokes here and there, but not as many as most would expect from a Moore related project. Overall it is a pass unless you are a die-hard Moore fan or love explosions.

64.  Naked City edited by Ellen Datlow - Datlow's latest anthology focuses on Urban Fantasy with a big line up including Jim Butcher, Naomi Novik, Caitlain R. Kiernan, Lavie Tidhar, and Jeffrey Ford. This was a very mixed collection, but the pluses definitely outweigh the minuses. The Tidhar and Kiernan were definitely standouts. The Butcher was another Dresden short, which I'd have to describe as cute. Harry attempts to solve the mystery of the Cubs curse and made me smile quite a bit. Recommended.
65.  A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin - The most highly anticipated book of the last 4 years has come. The Jon chapters along make this a must read, with some amazing scenes coming nearly every chapter. Cersei's sections also get a lot of resolution and it will be interesting to see what she turns into now.  Martin is mostly back on track, especially if he can start tying-off all the threads he has created. There is still a lot of bloat and some POVs could have been dropped, but big reveals abound, especially many unexpected turns. It is not without its problems, but still highly recommended.
66. Awakenings by Edward Lazellari - The start to a new Urban Fantasy series and a debut. At first this was a confusing read since most of the characters have amnesia, but once the back story is peeled back it all starts to payoff. I was reminded of Zelazny's Amber books quite a bit. UF fans should definitely sit-up and take notice. Recommended.

67.  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline- This is Cline's debut, but he is already well known as he is the writer of the movie Fanboys. RPO is by far one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year.  From start to finish I was enthralled with a treasure hunt of the future filled with video game Easter Eggs, pop culture references of the 70s and 80's, along with a a healthy does of Role Playing love. Seriously funny and even heart-warming. This is a can't miss book if you grew up in the 70's and 80's and played any kind of game. The eventual movie will rock. Highly recommended. Review to come.
68.  Doctor Who Classics: Omnibus 1 - This covers the first Doctor Who comics published in the 70's and 80's with adaptations of "City of the Damned," "Spider God," "Time Slip," and a dozen others. I've only seen a few of the episodes these stories were based on so it was a great collection for those not steeped too well in the older Whos, but I'm sure the fans of old would love it as well. Recommended.
69.  Girl Genius Volume 10: Agatha H and the Guardian Muse by Phil and Kaja Foglio - The latest collection is just as great as all of the rest. If you aren't reading the ultimate Steampunk comic series you are missing out and I pity you. Highly recommended.

70.  Heart of Iron by Ekaterina Sedia - Although, not strictly marketed as a Steampunk novel many assumed given the cover it would veer that way. But don't expect something akin to The Alchemy of Stone. Sedia's latest tackles Decembrist Russia as they clash with China with a focus on feminism. A mix of the historical, espionage, and a dash of superheroes promises a lot, but ultimately doesn't have as much punch as expected. The story meanders for the first 100 pages before setting out on some semblance of action and never really lives up to its potential. If you haven't read Sedia before try her earlier work such as the aforementioned The Alchemy of Stone or the wonder that is The House of Discarded Dreams.
71.  Ghost Story by Jim Butcher - I've already shared my thoughts on the latest Dresden here.

This month the stand-outs are Ready Player One and A Dance With Dragons. A few disappointments happened as well, but it has been such a good year it was probably time.

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MISHMASH | NPR Top List, Dread Empire Covers, & GoT Parody

Publisher's Marketplace is reporting the sale of A Game of Thrones parody novel.

George R.R. Costanza's A GAME OF GROANS, a parody of George R.R. Martin's bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series, set in a world where seasons can last decades (and comparisons to Tolkien a lifetime), the warmth is returning, and in the thawing tundra to the North of Summerseve, the future of the Bark family, their BFFs, and their enemies dangles in the balance, to Thomas Dunne Books.
Clearly it was only a matter of time before this happened. Many on twitter wonder when the Porn Parody will happen. Probably sooner than we all expect. No release date is available for A Game of Groans, but I'd be surprised if you saw it any later than around the premiere of season two of Game of Thrones. I'm sure we're in store for lots of bad midget jokes.


NPR has released their survey of the Top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels.  It is a very expected list as it is based off popularity over quality. No real surprises, but it does serve as a good beginners list. I've read about 45 from those listed (they combined series books so it is actually more) and many of those would make it into my own top 100 including Lord of the Rings perched at number 1. LofR wouldn't be my number 1, but it would probably make the top 30. The list also leaves out Urban Fantasy instead choosing to put those in their own survey for a later date, which is a little baffling.


A brief study claims that knowing spoilers about a book can improve the experience for them. I don't buy into it especially since only several dozen people were involved in the testing and they were all of college age. Also, I hate spoilers, so there.


Seen above are the new covers from Orbit for the trade paperback versions of Joe Abercrombie's last two novels, which again go a completely different way from all his other covers with the company. They are okay, but nothing to jump up and down about.  Now the next set of covers is something to jump up and down about.

Come on you know you want to click on each to embiggen them. Do it.

Night Shade has announced they are releasing the final three volumes of Glen Cook's Dread Empire series, which includes the never before released A Path to Coldness of Heart along with An Ill Fate Marshalling and Reap the East Wind. Now I'm not the biggest fan of Cook, but I am a huge Raymond Swanland fan who has does all of the covers for the series along with the omnibuses for The Black Company series.

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The Dresden Files Has Jumped the Shark

Beware I will be talking about Ghost Story pretty in-depth so spoilers are bound to appear unless you've read it and the previous volumes in the series.

The Dresden Files has been one of my favorite long running series ever. I'd even consider myself a proselytizer of the books. I've blogged lots of Butcher news since I started here. Turn Coat was my first review ever posted on Mad Hatter's, but not the first written. I've turned many friends on to the series, probably buying the first volume Storm Front at least 5 times and lending my copy out at least as much. Heck, I even own the RPG, which is gorgeous by the way, along with most of the anthologies that have had Dresden shorts. Suffice to say I've bought and sold quite a few Jim Butcher books. I even enjoyed the TV show for what it was.

Changes was the culmination of a lot of story-lines over the course of the series (12 books long) so far and remains one of the most satisfying high points. Perhaps THE high point. Butcher risked a lot with Changes and I and most fans are happy with where he had brought us so far. Yet 13 is a very cursed number for the Dresden Files. With Ghost Story nearly all the good-will that had been developed over the series has been washed away. And no it isn't because Butcher killed his main character, which was a very brave stroke. Not many authors are willing to sacrifice to such a degree forcing themselves to rebuild and Butcher should be lauded for that alone. Yet it still comes down to what you do from there. Ghost Story fails for a lot of reasons. The biggest being Ghost Story amounts to what is a pointless time waste that will have nearly no bearing on the series.

Ghost Story returns to the detective style format we've known for most of the books. Harry is trying to solve his own murder yet spends less than two dozen pages actually doing so. Dresden, or the Ghost of Christmas Past as I think of him in this volume, saunters around peeking in at all of his friends most of whom have no idea he is there. And the ones that can communicate somehow don't seem very interested in hearing from him. So much has changed in the world yet post Changes events are mostly glossed over and amounts to: "The world has gone to hell since you killed the Red Court with all powers are trying to grab territory. You left the world in a shit storm, Harry." "Oh, my bad."

Ghost Story is essential a recapping of past events and does nothing more than reintroduce major and minor characters. Some that have even been dead for more than half a dozen books. If you cut out all the recapping the book would most likely be half of the size, possibly even smaller. Sure there are some decent reveals with Harry's early time with Justin Dumorne, but it is just one episode that could have been an earlier short story and doesn't seem to warrant a novel length work. The whole point of the Ghost Story could have been summed up and executed as a few chapters to a much larger story that actually moved things along.

With some long-running series authors try to include recapping to some extent for new readers that pick up later books as a starting point, but Ghost Story is about as far from a starting point as you can get, so much of the recapping is not only unneeded, but insulting to long-time readers. This also caused a very stop, go, stutter, and go feeling throughout as once things get moving some sort of flashback or remembrance is brought up, which kills momentum.

Ghost Story is about the consequences the world must now face because of Harry's actions in Changes. This is an introspective Harry, which was probably necessary for him to develop further as a character if he's to go on, but it goes on ad nauseum about how he made tough choices and he couldn't see beyond that day. All of which leads to a very self-centered Dresden. But, hey he is dead so we should just accept that...

There are some more specific problems as well having to do with continuity. One section in particular that made no sense addresses Thomas and Justine's relationship problems, which amounts to her being poison to him since they love one another. The "cure" ends up not making sense given what we've learned about how the White Court acts and if this was a solution why wasn't it brought up many books ago? "Oh, if I just have sex with someone else the stink of love will be washed away and than you can have me." Really? In the long life spans of these vampires no one has ever figured that out? Won't the same thing happen again once you make love again? And don't get me started on the Bob subplot, which was needlessly complicated.

Not enough time was spent with any of the characters we've come to know except for Molly and a little Butters action. I did however like Mort's development and can see him becoming more of a player and greatly enjoy the big Molly scene at the end. That was just plain cool. Given Murphy's importance during the course of the series and especially the last book she gets severely cut short and turned into a caricature of "a tough lady who has been through hell." But most of all the Winter angle was very predictable as was the very end, which I saw coming within pages of starting.

All may not be completely lost. There is potential for an author saving throw.  Butcher might even have earned an automatic +2 for past success. Given the state of Harry in Ghost Story, Butcher could certainly turn things around and even act like this episode didn't happen. This will be a dividing book for many fans of the series. Some are still bound to love it just because Harry is in it and also lovers of clip shows. Others will be totally turned off the series.

I guess the big question is will I still read the next Dresden Files Cold Days next year? Well, yes. But it certainly won't be a "must-buy the day of release" or even something I feel the need to read as soon as a buy it, which has been the case for at least the last 5 or 6 books in the series. For me, at least, the spell of the Dresden Files is broken. My days of being addicted to the Dresden Files like pancakes on a Sunday morning are done...for now...

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Cover Unveiled for Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

This week's cover is a doozy. We have Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden's Joe Golem and the Drowning City, which looks to be the start is a new series by the duo ala the Baltimore: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire novel of a couple years ago also illustrated by Mignola. If you're a fan of Mignola's art than you will obviously be a fan of Joe Golem. If you're a Steampunk fan this may work for you as well. Regardless, I'll be checking it out as the blurb alone catches me.
Fifty years have passed since earthquakes and a rising sea level left Lower Manhattan submerged under more than thirty feet of water, so that its residents began to call it the drowning city. Among them are fourteen year old Molly McHugh and her friend and employer, Felix Orlov. Once upon a time Orlov the conjuror was a celebrated stage magician, but now he is an old man, a psychic medium, contacting the spirits of the departed for the grieving loved ones left behind. When a séance goes horribly wrong, felix orlov is abducted by strange men wearing gas masks and rubber suits. molly finds herself on the run. her flight leads her into the company of Simon Hodge, a Victorian detective, and his stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, whose own past and true identity is a mystery to him.
Here is the pitch that originally sold the book, which gives us a bit more color:
A supernatural-steampunk illustrated novel following an orphaned teenage girl, an aging conjurer, a lunatic scientist, a Victorian occult detective, and the stalwart sidekick, Joe Golem, as they struggle for the fate of an alternate 1970s Lower Manhattan, which sank into the water during a catastrophe in 1925, leaving those unwilling or unable to abandon it to make a new life in streets turned to canals.
Joe Golem and the Drowning City, will be released March 27th, 2012 from St. Martin's along with a second unnamed book to follow. Mignola will be doing about 100 pieces of art of the interior as well. Mark down another 2012 book for your to-procure list.

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Cover Unveiled for Empire State by Adam Christopher

Art by Will Staehle
Empire State is Adam Christopher's debut novel coming from Angry Robot, which is part of a two book deal for two Superhero influenced novels. The art for Empire State certainly seems fitting with its art deco style given the story is placed in 1930 America. Very Batman and original Sandman-esque. Here is the official blurb, which is short, but traditional for Angry Robot with their should be patented categories:
It was the last great science hero fight, but the energy blast ripped a hole in reality, and birthed the Empire State - a young, twisted parallel prohibition-era New York.

When the rift starts to close, both worlds are threatened, and both must fight for the right to exist.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Pocket Universe | Heroes or Villains | Speak Easy | Loyalties Divided ]
In an interview conducted by Amanda from Floor to Ceiling Books the author described the book a bit more indepth:
The first book is called Empire State, and it’s sort of a science fiction-detective-noir. Private detective Rad Bradbury, who lives in this dreary, fog-bound city called the Empire State, is called to investigate a gruesome murder, only to find himself being chased not only by a superhero who is supposed to be dead, but by a couple of masked agents who seem to know an awful lot about him. His investigations reveal an alarming secret about the Empire State and its connection with another place called New York, and he gets caught up in a conspiracy that threatens both worlds.
Empire State will hit the shelves at the end of December in the States and the first week of January in the UK.  Christopher looks to be an author to watch if you're a fan of Superheros as he has a standalone sequel titled Seven Wonders that will be out in the latter half of 2012.

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Winners of 7th Sigma

The winners of Steven Gould's 7th Sigma are Brian from Tallahassee, FL and Pat from Pipe Creek, TX. Thanks to the kind people at Tor for providing the copies.

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REVIEW | The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future.

That's right windships, don't call them airships. Steampunk this is not, but Epic Fantasy of a grand, beautiful, and political scale which uses an elemental magic with wielders of wind and fire taking predominance. The main pitch for The Winds of Khalakovo is Westeros meets Earthsea, which is pretty on-the-money if you add "through the lens of Muscovite Russia" to the end.

Debutist Bradley P. Beaulieu has created an immersive world with The Winds of Khalakovo. Great detail is paid to the world-building blowing life info what could be seen as just a world nearly covered in water yet hides so much more with uncharted islands, hidden refuges, and nefarious political machinations.

Beaulieu doesn't just leave it to one world though as he shows glimpses of an ethereal realm just as interesting and delves deep into the nature and mechanics of his magic and how they are intertwined with the world.

Even amid all the Fantasy it is the characters who you'll remember the best. Each goes through torn loyalties all for believable reasons. The action surrounds Prince Nikandar Khalakovo for the most part as he is thrown into the middle of everything unknowingly, but once he starts he cannot stop as the life and honor of his Dutchy are at stake. It is through his eyes we get to partake of the beautiful culture Beaulieu created with all the Russian touches on politics and even garb, which showcase the prose that was at points very poetical.

The region is ruled by a hereditary line of Dukes with each claiming a chain of islands for themselves, but governed by one Grand Duke. But it is the Duchess's that truly control things as they can set the worlds elements to their will.

Cultures clash as Nikandar's landed people lord over an indigenous population who follow a path more akin to our Eastern beliefs such as the islands belonging to everyone while the Duchys of the world scoff at that thought and use numbers and force to control the lands. Obviously, this leads to escalating problems as factions within each are formed. Yet the Duchys must work with the other group as they are the ones who control most of the magic in the world and make travel and commerce possible.

The only complaint I have is the switching of POVs can be confusing at times, but you get the rhythm down after a while.  I almost wonder if the named chapter aspect from Game of Thrones would have been another element to pick-up on, especially as this story seems likely to widen its cast in the next volume of this proposed trilogy.

The Winds of Khalakovo is a satisfying entry into the Epic Fantasy fold that may seem familiar in some ways, but Beaulieu takes those familiarities and evolves them with his own unique and complex flair. I give The Winds of Khalakovo 8.5 out of 10 hats. The sequel in The Lays of Anuskaya series is titled The Straits of Galahesh will explore a region little seen in the first volume and should be out in April 2012.

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Cubism from Nyna Wee.

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GUEST POST | Jonathan Wood on Everything I Know I Learned From Kurt Russell

Everything I Know I Learned From Kurt Russell

by Jonathan Wood, author of No Hero

That title is a horrible lie. I mean, it's patently false.

But, and this really is what Kurt Russell has taught me, that doesn't matter at all.

You see, Hollywood has been lying to us for years. In previous centuries, authors and poets and storytellers lied to us, but the Hollywood machine has really taken it to new heights. I believe it was John Ford who said, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend,” and this has become law at Hollywood. What's more, this law has caused Hollywood to enter recursive loop of absurdity, as the legend it embellishes is usually its own.

And so we too loop back to Kurt Russell, and the most ridiculous movie ever made. Let us take a moment to bask in the madness that is Tango and Cash.

I mean really, if the movie title hadn't clued you in already, this one is going to be a bit of a bumpy ride as far as reality is concerned. But rather than hang shamefacedly behind some pretenses of mimicking real life, the movie immediately embraces it's silliness by establishing Sylvester Stallone as... wait for it... the straight man. Seriously, motherfucking Rambo is this movie's moral compass. This is bound to be awesome.

And then comes Kurt Russell, a sort of John Wayne fever-dream of gunslinging awesome who stumbles into a buddy cop movie. And how do we know Kurt Russell’s Gabriel Cash is a badass? Because people try to kill him immediately. He's just too damn cool to survive his own opening scene. In this movie, being shot at is character development. Screw this depth crap, let's blow things up already!

And so it goes. Deeper and deeper into the depths of madness. Soon enough you have sweaty half-naked men breaking out of jail, and folk driving around in monster trucks, and people seducing Teri Hatcher, and through it all you have Kurt Russell's hair defying the laws of mullet-dom. It's brilliant.

And so, circuitously, I get to the whole point of this essay – which is talking about what I, as a writer, learned from Kurt Russell and the movie Tango and Cash.

So, rule number one: reality doesn't matter. I mean, reality is great and all, but if it was all that we wouldn't need Kurt Russell in the first place. If I got up, was shot at, dived out my bedroom window after the man, got embroiled in a car chase, accidentally seduced Teri Hatcher and then went back home for my cup of morning Joe, then why on earth would I bother watching someone else do it? Stories have to resemble reality, certainly, they have to have familiar echoes, but echoes are all they are.

Rule number two: go big or go home. If reality isn't a big concern, then your action scenes should be uninhibited celebrations of violence. There really is no other way. The car doesn't just race down the road. The car peels through a crowded square chased by tanks and fighter planes. People don't just shoot at it. They fire missile launchers, laser guns, battleship cannons, and ancient Egyptian super weapons. The drivers don't just dive out of the car. They drive the car off a cliff face, leap out, and parasail into rocky rapids. It's what Kurt Russell would do, why shouldn't you?

Rule three: every author's hair should defy reality. It works for Kurt Russell. It works for Neil Gaiman. Why should you be any different?

Rule four: Believe the madness. One thing I admire about Kurt Russell is his steadfast refusal to break the fourth wall. He is truly in every moment of crazy in Tango and Cash, even when he’s in drag. No really. The fourth wall can be played with, can be hinted at, but if you’re going to largely abandon reality then in order to preserve the bubble of madness, you have to believe in the world you create.

Some people may take issues with these rules of storytelling, of course. They may have concerns I am reducing a fine art to escapist nonsense. So, should stories just be ways to ignore the woes of the reality, rather than facing them? No, of course not. Stories can be wonderful tools for addressing the problems we face as a civilization and as a culture. They can be astounding vehicles for plunging deep into the human pscyhe. They can teach us empathy, and perspective, and can bring us a thousand new benefits.

But, the thing is, this essay isn't about that. This is about what Kurt Russell taught me, and he didn't teach me any of that shit. What he taught me was that Chekhov was a fool to leave the gun on the mantelpiece until the third act. I mean, why the hell settle for a gun when missile launchers exist? And while we're about it why the hell are we waiting for the third act? Start turning people into meat mist already! Let's go!

Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. He is the author of the No Hero--a Lovecraftian urban fantasy that dares to ask, what would Kurt Russell do?. He also writes odd little things that show up in odd little places, such as The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Chizine, and Weird Tales. Most of his short fiction is available for free on-line. Links can be found on the bibliography page.

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