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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


Publisher: We want something that screams shooting rainbows from the eyes from a bland looking guy.

Art Director: Done and done.

Publisher: Oh, and the same figure (clones obviously) should be in the background and they should all be wearing protective head gear.

Art Director: I said done didn't I? Look, I'm a professional. Leave it to me.

Publisher: Yeah, yeah. Just as long as it doesn't cost us much. Is printing the rainbow in 4 colors an absolute must?

Art Director: We'll make most of the cover in black, white, and grey. That should keep the colored ink bill down.

Publisher: You're a gem. I didn't want that to get out of hand. Every penny counts. This is just a Sci-Fi book. No need to go the extra mile. Oh, while I'm thinking about it add "A Science Fiction Novel" to the cover. That way people won't be expecting much.

Art Director: Of course. But you already have the words Intergalactic and Stars on the cover brief. You don't think that covers us?

Publisher: These are Sci-Fi fans. They need everything to be as blatant as possible. 

Art Director: Too right. I'll have it for you by the end of the day.

Publisher: That long?

Art Director: How about an hour.

Publisher: That's what I like to hear.

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GUEST POST | What Does It Mean to Be Compelling? by Robert Jackson Bennett

What Does It Mean to be Compelling?
by Robert Jackson Bennett, author of The Troupe

We don’t relate to fictional characters in the way we relate to real people. There’s a distance there: the people we want to know in real life, for example, should generally mesh with our lifestyles, and behave in predictable, dependable ways.

Fictional characters often defy both these expectations – after all, that’s what makes them fun.

But while we know what makes a good friend, what makes a good fictional character? This is a little less certain. Because while we can enthusiastically read about characters we like, love, and trust, we can do the exact same thing for characters that repulse us, that disgust us, vicious, thoughtless sociopaths roving through society like sharks through ocean waters.

So what’s the mechanism that makes us invested in Harry Potter to the same degree that we are in Tony Soprano? “Likeable,” see, can’t be the only thing that makes a character good. I think it’s part of a tier of qualities, each one as valid as the next.

The first quality that makes a character work is that they’re sympathetic. Odds are, this is a character you want to know in real life. They either have problems that are like your problems, or they react to problems that you don’t have in ways you probably would. Harry Potter, for example, is a frequently sympathetic protagonist: he is our everyday man (or boy) thrust into wildly unusual circumstances, and he’s got a tragic backstory that’s humanized him, made him more compassionate. Similarly, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is a sympathetic character, living a childhood we both wish we had had and, once we understand the circumstances of her society, wish had been totally different.

Sympathetic characters are not limited to children, naturally: think of Maximus from the movie Gladiator, or Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. Both of these are highly sympathetic characters, due to their behaviors, their stories, and the circumstances we see them in. We both understand them,and like them.

The thing about sympathetic character is that the audience directly connects to the character themselves. This is different from merely understandable characters, where a character does things the audience would not do, but these actions are understandable due to the circumstances the character is in, or their history in their world. Henry from A Farewell to Arms is such a character: though his situation is extreme and dangerous, the book does not spend time making him likeable, or exploring his feelings, and he kills one character for sheer insubordination. His actions are examined as matter of fact, a result and reaction to a war-torn world. We understand that he does not act as we would act, because we have not been through what he has been through.

The character Brody on The Wire, for example, was often tremendously unsympathetic: a young, thuggish drug dealer, he was often the most aggressive and thoughtless of the three young dealers at the start of the show. Yet the show’s objectives were not to make Brody a likeable character, but to demonstrate the effects the war on drugs has on a city and a community. So Brody’s actions, when viewed through this lens, act as an indictment against the institutions that keep such brutal situations in place: he is not a player, not a villain – he is a symptom, more effect than cause, and, eventually, a victim as well.

Characters who are more understandable than likeable are often connecting to the reader via means beyond the character itself: whether it’s the world, or the message the story is trying to make, the character is often not an end, but a means.

But the really odd duck in all of this are characters who are neither sympathetic, nor understandable: they are not like us, we would not act as they do, and we have no means of explaining exactly why they do what they’re doing. So why do we keep watching them? Why stay with a character if you have no access to them? We watch them, in essence, because we are compelled to.

The character Patrick Bateman – and in fact most of Brett Easton Ellis’s characters – falls under such a category. He is not like us: he is a serial killer and a rapist of an unusual enthusiasm. And we are not sure why: we never come to learn of any abuse, or trauma; his personal circumstances are not challenged, for he is phenomenally rich, and swimming in attractive women and drugs. Yet he does not enjoy these things, as we might: he is brimming with disgust and rage, which he takes out on coworkers and women with gruesome glee.

Why would anyone want to spend time reading about such a person? It’s because he is, strangely, compelling. And the nature of a solely compelling character is one of the hardest to nail down: it’s the one where the author himself or herself must work the hardest, either by establishing a magnetic voice, or exploring the character’s actions in a highly unorthodox or stylistic fashion. In addition, there’s often an attraction to understand the character, to figure them out like a puzzle: the character, being neither likeable nor understandable, is a mystery. But the voice of the author and the story must be strong enough to attract the reader in the first place.

Don Draper from the show Mad Men is another example. Don frequently acts as a cryptic cipher throughout the show: the show never telegraphs what Don is about to do, and we only get glimpses of why he does the things he does, which are often terribly amoral. But the voice and style and atmosphere of the show is so strong, and the nature of everything so enticing, that we are always left with the question, “What did that mean? Why did they do what they did? And what will the effects be?”

When you find a character compelling, you are invested in their future, if not their immediate actions, and usually you are invested because you wish to understand them more. For these characters, the author and the execution of the story is the manner by which the audience connects to them: we follow them for their style, for their voice, for their intriguing artistry.

Now, not all characters fall into one category. And characters change. To dip back into the AMC well, Walter White of the show Breaking Bad starts out as a sympathetic character : he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he wants to provide for his family. Then, he becomes an understandable character, if not sympathetic: he’s in too deep, he can’t walk away, and he’s forced to do the horrible things he does. But when he has no reason to keep doing what he’s doing, and yet continues to, he becomes compelling: he’s neither sympathetic, nor likeable, but he’s become a mystery to us, a creature we are willing to follow due to the sheer weight and style and artistry of the story.

So, when you’re reading your next story or watching your next show or movie, and you find yourself thinking, “I don’t find this character likeable,” you should then wonder: is that a genuine criticism? It must be judged on the goals of the story. Not all stories are out to make their characters likeable. Nor do they set out to make their characters understandable. Stories, after all, are not your friends: they are stories, viewpoints, positions and perspectives, winding tunnels and tangled roads. Simply because you did not like someone you met on the road does not mean the road is necessarily bad: you might not have noticed it, but that unlikeable person might be the sole reason the road got to where it was going to.

Robert Jackson Bennett‘s 2010 debut Mr. Shivers won the Shirley Jackson award as well as the Sydney J Bounds Newcomer Award. His second novel, The Company Man, won a Special Citation of Excellence for the Philip K Dick Award, as well as an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. His third novel, The Troupe, is out now to wide acclaim.

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New Procurements

It is that time again. Yes, it means the piles of new books have to be shelved before they tip over and threaten to leave a hole in my floor. This batch includes loads of review copies and pile of purchases. First up  some review copies.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks eluded me at Book Expo this year so I've very glad to have gotten a review copy. Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson has a platypus for a protagonist. Nuff' said. Other Worlds Than These is edited by John Joseph Adams who has never disappointed me with his anthology selections. Spin the Sky is Katy Stauber sophomore effort, which I hope to dip into soon. I received two copies of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer so expect a giveaway at some point. Containing original stories by Ted Chiang, Garth Nix, and Alan Moore this is something I'm already thumbing through. The Hollow City by Dan Wells is his latest Thriller and this time instead of a serial killer it stars an insane man whose delusions might be realer than he imagined. Assignment in Eternity by Robert A. Heinlein is a reissue of some of the master's older works and given they're new to me I may just dip in, but I have been meaning to read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress so we'll see which wins out. The Monster Hunters is an omnibus of the first 3 books in the series of the same name by Larry Correia, which I've heard is a very good pop corn read. Elfhome by Wen Spencer is the second Tinker book.

Next bunch are my purchases with the first three bought in used shops on a trip to Philly. The first The Forerunner Foray by Andre Norton I scooped up since I LOVED ForerunnerThe Gunseller by Hugh Laurie is one I keep meaning to pick-up so I finally did. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is one my wife and I have both wanted to get after hear very good things when it first came out. THe next two are UK releases I ordered. The first Dark Eden by Chris Beckett sounds all kinds of screwed up.
You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of Angela and Tommy. You shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest's lantern trees, hunting woollybuck and harvesting tree candy. Beyond the forest lie the treeless mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. The Oldest among you recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross between worlds. One day, the Oldest say, they will come back for you. You live in Eden. You are a member of the Family, one of 532 descendants of two marooned explorers. You huddle, slowly starving, beneath the light and warmth of geothermal trees, confined to one barely habitable valley of a startlingly alien, sunless world. After 163 years and six generations of incestuous inbreeding, the Family is riddled with deformity and feeblemindedness. Your culture is a infantile stew of half-remembered fact and devolved ritual that stifles innovation and punishes independent thought. You are John Redlantern. You will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. You will be the first to abandon hope, the first to abandon the old ways, the first to kill another, the first to venture in to the Dark, and the first to discover the truth about Eden.
The Broken Isles by Mark Charan Newton finishes of the Legends of the Red Sun series. I quite enjoyed City of Ruin and Nights of Villjamur so I'm eager to see how all the threads are finally connected. It will probably be my next read. I went a bit mad on comics recently. I'm still keeping up with Eric Powell's The Goon, as all of you should be with volume 11 The Deformed of Body and Devious of Mind, which explores a backwater circus and sees the Goon laying into sparkly vampires. I also picked up the first volume of Incorruptable by Mark Waid, which runs concurrently with Irredeemable that I've also been devouring. Chris Roberson's Elric: The Balance Lost volume 2 snuck up an me. It is great seeing all of Moorcock's big guns coming together.  Last, is Mike Norton's Battlepug. How could I resist a Sword & Sorcery story where the hero rides around on a gigantic pug? You can check out the webcomic here.

And because I'm behind in posting here are even more review copes with many sequels. Be My Enemy is Ian McDonald's second Enverness novel after Planesrunner. King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence is his sophmore novel. I had mixed feelings about Prince of Thorns, but I was left with enough questions that I want answers to to check this one out. I've heard more than one review who called Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson a revolutionary war era  Dresden Files. *Ears piqued* Next are a few books from 47North, which is Amazon's Sci-Fi/Fantasy imprint. The Prankster by James Polster seems like it will be a fun time travel novella and I've been itching for a new time travel story. Next is The Mongoliad: Book 2 from Stephenson, Bear, Teppo, and company. The last in the bunch is the Sci-Fi novel Containment by Christian Cantrell.

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REVIEW | Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Jeff Salyards is another new kid on the Fantasy block brought to us by Night Shade Books. His debut - also series starter - Scourge of the Betrayer isn't Epic Fantasy (at least not yet though it is building), but it is a very personal Fantasy with plenty of blood and realistic fights. The labels Low or Military Fantasy might apply. Either way it is one of the most grim and feral Fantasies I've read in some time. There is a stark honesty about battle, the consequences of it, and what killing someone means to those who do the deed.

The story probably won't sate those after Abercrombie yet a grim "falling around in the mud while trying to wildly stab someone in the back" story does unfold told through the eyes of a chronicler just trying not to die every two seconds. But when you sign up with the Syldoon Empire paying up your rent for the next month is probably not a very good investment. Arkamondos or Arki as he is affectionately called by the Syldoon's Captain Braylar Killcoin leads us through the world as the Syldoon work their clandestine missions. Many of the characters are cold and distant as befits their upbringing as warriors from an early age, but as they get to know Arki they become fully formed in their own fashion. This doesn't stop them from all being brutal monsters. Arki is of course thrown into the fish-out-of-water role that he plays quite well and works to keep you vested in his fate.

None of the characters get away unscathed and injuries aren't things that they just shrug off. They are slowed and need to recover, if they are lucky enough to survive. This is a medieval world with very scant magic. People aren't slinging spells at one another, but there are remnants of a bygone era that do still have mysterious power and a much alluded to group still yet to be seen that have a strong hold on people. Braylar's mysterious flail is quite a good play on the magical weapon ala Elric's Stormbringer. The action sequences are planned out very realistically, but it was the dialogues between Arki and Braylar and Ariki and the only female warrior Lloi that kept the black humor going.

An infuriating part of the structure is just when you think there will be a big reveal things pull back, which just makes you want it more. Scourge of the Betrayer is a book that doesn't give up its secrets easily. It makes you work for them. There are shades of much bigger machinations at work. Groups alluded to with very dark power and those bent on nothing more than causing chaos.

Scourge of the Betrayer isn't a book I can say I loved outright, but it does pull you along and leave you wanting more. I did grow a strong sense of comradeship with the crew by the end even with an ending that wasn't wholly satisfying as the final reveal isn't as big as I was expecting.  I give Scourge of the Betrayer 3 out 5 hats. Jeff Salyards and Arki are the closest thing to Glen Cook and Croaker that I've ever found. Bottom line is if you like the Black Company then the Bloodsounders Arc is a series that you should seek out and it is building to something. What that something is has yet to be firmly established, but judging by Scourge it will hopefully be just as morally grey and bloody.

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NEWS | Neil Gaiman Signs 5 Book Deal + New Sandman!

The biggest news from Comic Con so far is that Neil Gaiman will be penning what a Sandman Zero volume for Vertigo to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Sandman. I personally refuse to call it Before Sandman. Check out the below video for more details.

Publisher's Weekly is reporting that Neil Gaiman has just signed a new contract with his long-time publisher HarperCollins for 3 novels and 2 picture books. Here's a bit form PW:
Both picture books will feature a new character created by Gaiman, a little panda named Chu, that is known for having an outsized sneeze. The first book, Chu's Day, will be illustrated by Adam Rex; it is set for January 8, 2013.

The other three titles in the deal will include a middle-grade novel called Fortunately, the Milk, which will feature art by Skottie Young and which HC calls "an ode to the pleasure and wonders of storytelling itself." Gaiman will also write a sequel to the 2009 book Odd and the Frost Giants (also published by HC), which features characters from Norse mythology. The third novel in the deal will be a middle grade book, and is currently untitled.
Also, Gaiman recently discussed the novel he just finished:
On the plane to the UK I finished writing the new novel. I'm not sure right now if it's going to be called Lettie Hempstock's Ocean or not. I think it's a good book - or at least, I think it's a real book, and I'm proud of it, and whether it's good or not will be up to other people to judge. Despite the protagonist being about 7 years old for most of the novel, it's a book for adults. Or at least, I think it is.
Whether this is the aforementioned Fortunately, the Milk under a new title or not isn't entirely clear since he above says the book is meant for adults, but given Gaiman's popularity with the younger generations it could go either way depend on how his publisher seek to position it. Lettie could also be the yet untitled book as has mention the title isn't necessary final yet. No release dates have been given for the new novels, but I'd bet on Fall 2013 or possibly Summer.

I'm certainly up for more adventures of Odd, which was originally going to come out a year or two ago. The best news would have been on the sequel to American Gods, which Gaiman admitted he was originally trying to write before Lettie Hempstock took things over. Some day we'll get more shadow.

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UK Cover Unveiled for Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Map by Dave Senior and Daggers by Didier Graffetaption
Joe Abercrombie's next book seems to be officially titled Red Country on both sides of the pond with the UK finally dropping the "A." The cover is very much in line with the style that has been established over the last few books and I can brook no complaints. Well done all around especially with the detail worked into the worn map. Is it October yet? Here is the wraparound and blurb for those who missed it earlier:

“They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…”
Also, here is the limited edition cover for Best Served Cold for those who haven't seen it.

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NEWS | John Scalzi Returning to the Old Man's War Universe

Art by John Harris
Just a few weeks back I included a tidbit about a new book coming from John Scalzi I found using my Google-fu. Not one for wanting to use my Google-fu for evil I updated the post soon after he commented that the info wasn't exactly right. But as it turns out some of that info was close to correct and Scalzi was kind enough to talk to me on the phone about his next project for Tor, which has just been officially announced.

Scalzi's most popular works to date have undoubtedly been his Military Sci-Fi series that began with Old Man's War. For the last few years when people have asked him if he'll return to that universe he has always replied something along the lines of "if the right idea comes up." Which is really as it should be.

Well, that idea has come up in the form of The Human Division, but this isn't an ordinary novel or simply a short story collection placed in the Old Man's War Universe. It is a series of short stories focused on the memorable Harry Wilson and a certain Mr. Schmidt acting like a season of a television show where each short story will stand on its own as an episode would, but together form a continuous whole of a larger arc ala a season of television. Scalzi's recent work for Stargate: Universe seems to be an influence of sorts given the episodic nature along with the short story "After the Coup" he wrote previously about these characters.

There is also a big twist in how these stories will be released in an effort to experiment with the way a story can be released. Each story will be released a week apart by Tor to the major eBook channels starting in December and ending in February.  The complete run of 13 stories will be published in print and a complete eBook as The Human Division in May 2013 for those who want it all in one shot. The final book may also have some extras not found in the single story releases.

For those wondering the movie of Old Man's War is still in development, but seems to have forward momentum as of this moment.. So all around today is a great day for fans of the series.

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New Procurements (Short Story Heavy Edition)

I went on a slight buying binge last week as I somehow found my self in a used bookstore and a couple orders showed up. Some fine review copies came as well and between the two piles 4 anthologies and 2 short story collections entered my stacks. First up the purchases.

I partook of Apex's pre-order promo for The Apex Book of World SF 2 with getting the first volume for an additional 5 bucks. After hearing many reviewers call Bear's Range of Ghosts one of the best books of the year I ordered a copy. The next 3 are from the used store visit. Slam is the only Hornby I didn't already own, although I still have to read Juliet, Naked. Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy has been on my reading bucket list for years and it was high time I at least had a copy. I'm not very familiar with Kate Wilhelm's work, but I read her short "The Funeral" in John Joseph Adams' awesome Brave New Worlds  so finding her older collection Infinity Box seemed like serendipity. The cover was also shiny.

In the review copy pile things started with a finished copy of Charles Yu's Sorry Please Thank You. The spine is pretty neat, but I stand by my earlier thoughts about the understated cover. Year Zero is Rob Reid's debut and from what little I've heard (all good things) it  as if Douglas Adams wrote a story concerning the music industry. I'm excited about The Kingmakers as the first two books in the Vampire Empire were solid showings so I'm eager to see how the Griffith's close things out. Lastly, is 21st Century Dead, the zombie anthology sequel of sorts to Christopher Golden's The New Dead. Containing original stories by Simon R. Green, Duane Swiercyznski, Caitlin Kittredge, and Dan Chaon will most likely see me getting to it sooner than later.

Not pictured is the Ray Bradbury tribute anthology Shadow Show that I mentioned awhile ago and given recent events I'll be reading it post-haste. I already stuffed it in my bag for a trip I'm on as this goes live.

All in all a very nice haul.

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