Sunday, 31 August 2014

Books Received in August, 2014

My sincerest thanks to the people at TOR for the following books. You'll be seeing several TOR reviews coming up as I try to work my way down the pile.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone - This book has jumped the queue as my next read.  I loved the previous 2 books (Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise) and can't wait to see where Gladstone takes the series of roughly interconnected stand-alone novels with this one.

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren't conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods-perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she's grievously injured-then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear-which will crush her, if Kai can't stop it first.

The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson - A new SF noir novel!  Sounds pretty cool.

In the twenty-second century, a future in which mortaline wire controls the weather on the settled planets and entire refugee camps drowse in drug-induced slumber, no one-alive or dead, human or alien-is quite what they seem. When terrorists manage to crash Coral, the moon, into its home planet of Ribon, forcing evacuation, it's up to Dave Crowell and Alan Brindos, contract detectives for the Network Intelligence Organization, to solve a case of interplanetary consequences. Crowell' and Brindos's investigation plunges them neck-deep into a conspiracy much more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.
The two detectives soon find themselves separated, chasing opposite leads: Brindos has to hunt down the massive Helkunn alien Terl Plenko, shadow leader of the terrorist Movement of Worlds. Crowell, meanwhile, runs into something far more sinister-an elaborate frame job that puts our heroes on the hook for treason.
In this novel from Patrick Swenson, Crowell and Brindos are forced to fight through the intrigue to discover the depths of an interstellar conspiracy. And to answer the all-important question: Who, and what, is the Ultra Thin Man?
Wolfsbane by Gillian Philip - This is the third book in the Rebel Angels series.  I really enjoyed the first one, Firebrand, but haven't had time to pick up the second, Bloodstone.  Ever wish you could read 5 books at once?

It's tough being the foretold savior of your race. Rory MacGregor, kept a virtual prisoner in his own father's dun and hunted by the Sithe queen, needs a break now and then-and what better fun than tearing the Veil no one else can tear and escaping to the Otherworld?
In that dangerous Otherworld, Hannah Falconer is as trapped by circumstance as the strange wild Sithe boy whose horse nearly kills her. When Rory tricks her into crossing the Veil and entering his world, she's sure it can't be any worse than her usual home life.
Meanwhile, Seth MacGregor is fighting to keep his clan safe from the malevolent queen Kate. When an attack comes after years of stalemate, he is shocked to discover who is leading it...and who else is conspiring against him.
Black Ice by Susan Krinard - This is the second book in an urban fantasy series that started with Mist.

Centuries ago, all was lost in the Last Battle when the Norse gods and goddesses went to war. The elves, the giants, and the gods and goddesses themselves were all destroyed, leaving the Valkyrie known as Mist one of the only survivors.
Or so she thought.
The trickster god Loki has reappeared in San Francisco, and he has big plans for modern-day Earth. With few allies and fewer resources-but the eyes of the gods and goddesses of an old world upon her-it's up to Mist to stop him before history repeats itself.

Echopraxia by Peter Watts - I'm honestly not sure I'm intelligent enough to understand this book, but it sure sounds... different.

Prepare for a different kind of singularity in Peter Watts' Echopraxia, the follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight.

It's the eve of the twenty-second century: a world where the dearly departed send postcards back from Heaven and evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline humans and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off self-awareness during combat. And it's all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself. Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat's-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he's turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out. Now he's trapped on a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son. To his right is a pilot who hasn't yet found the man she's sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call "The Angels of the Asteroids." Their pilgrimage brings Dan Bruks, the fossil man, face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Shout-Out: Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City's floating Towers.
When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman's ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai's home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower's rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless— until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.
With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

Out September 2.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Shout-Out: The Devil’s Intern by Donna Hosie

Seventeen-year-old Mitchell discovers a time-travel device that will allow him to escape his internship in Hell's accounting office and return to Earth, but his plans to alter the circumstances of his own death take an unexpected turn when his three closest friends in Hell insist on accompanying him back to the land of the living...

Out August 31st.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Video: The Anti-List - 15 Must Read Books for Summer

Summer's almost over, so it's time to knuckle down and read Barely Political's 15 book picks for the summer.  Caution, adult and book humour ahead.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Book Review: After Party by Daryl Gregory

Pros: complicated & diverse characters, interesting plot

Cons: some far fetched action

Several years ago Lyda was part of a scientific company looking for a drug to cure schizophrenia.  But on the night of their success, the team was drugged, and the resultant overdose left one of them dead and the others seeing god.  Now in a mental hospital for delusions, Lyda encounters a young woman who’s symptoms resemble those of the drug her team created, NME 110, numenous.  In order to stop the drug from spreading in this new world where designer drugs can be printed onto paper and drug parties are de rigueur, Lyda gets herself released to hunt down the remaining members of the team and find out who’s behind it.

Be prepared to reread sections of this book in order to figure out what’s going on.  The author cleverly leaves out information that forces you - when you finally realize what’s missing - to reevaluate what’s happening.  The first one of these comes at the end of chapter one.

One aspect of the plot was easy to figure out, but other aspects kept me guessing until the very end.

I loved the diversity of the characters and how they each deal with their own… issues.  Most of the main characters have a mental problem of some sort, and these get exacerbated by the use - and abuse - of drugs.  Lyda, a middle aged black lesbian, is the point of view character for the majority of the book, and has a guardian angel thanks to NME 110.  As an atheist and scientist she knows the angel is part of her own psyche, but has to constantly remind herself that it’s not real.  Ollie is an ex-intelligence officer, whose abuse of drugs made her paranoid.  To counter those effects she must stay on different drugs, ones that dull her senses making it difficult for her to see as well as think analytically.  I loved Sasha as a character who overcomes the challenges she faces - both physical and mental - using technology.

With the exception of Sasha, who only comes in towards the end, and perhaps Dr. Gloria, the characters weren’t particularly likeable.  They were people dealing with difficult circumstances in realistic ways.  Lyda is often angry and demanding, not willing to listen to her conscience if it gets in the way of what she feels she needs to do.  At the same time, I didn’t dislike anyone, though Rovil is a bit irritating in how much of a pushover he is when faced with Lyda’s demands.

While I enjoyed watching Lyda get around her medical implant and deal with the Millies, I didn’t believe how things worked out with her getting into the US.  It seemed far fetched and over the top.  Though, I’m left wondering if Lyda was meant to be an unreliable narrator, and if so, whether her version of events is wilder than what actually happened.  I’ve got an example of why I think this might be the case in the spoiler section below.

This is an interesting book that looks into drug use, mental disorders, extreme belief systems and more.

*** Spoilers ***

The reason I suspect Lyda is an unreliable narrator is because there are major discrepancies between her description of what happened the night of the overdose and Rovil’s.  Rovil states that they all drank directly from the bottle and worried about how much of the drug would be lost due to the bubbling over of the champagne.  Lyda meanwhile pointed states that the bottle was open when Mikala arrived and that she poured it into glasses.  Psychology is a huge aspect of this book with regards to memory, hallucinations and free will.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Shout-Out: The Freezer by Timothy S. Johnston

2402 AD
CCF homicide investigator Kyle Tanner and his girlfriend are on their way to Pluto, en route to a new life together. Just one little death to check out in the asteroid belt first. But when you’re as tangled up in conspiracy as Tanner is, a few hours on a case can change your life. Or end it.
The mystery is a strange one—one man dead, a cryptic message his dying breath. Still, Tanner’s ready to wrap it up until another gruesome murder shakes him to his core. The discovery of a microscopic bomb near his own heart offers the first faint clue, but the clock is ticking. He has four days….

A desperate search for answers takes Tanner to The Freezer, an isolated facility on one of Jupiter’s moons. With anti-CCF dissidents targeting the facility, a team of scientists conducting experiments the military would rather remain hidden, and a mysterious man in white hunting him on the ice, Tanner will have to choose his allies carefully. Putting his faith in the wrong person will leave him bleeding out in seconds.

Out tomorrow.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Blast From the Past: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Before I started reviewing books online I loved rereading my favourite SF/Fantasy books.  Since I don’t have time to do that anymore, this column is a trip down memory lane, where I’ll rave about books I love to read.  And then read again.  These aren’t reviews, as I won’t necessarily mention criticisms, they’re my chance to fan girl about books I love and hopefully garner some interest in some older titles.

Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella wherein a fairy curses Ella with the need to follow all orders she receives. She's advised early on to not let others learn of her affliction, because unscrupulous people could use it against her in devastating ways.  People like her father and new step-family.

I read this book because of the movie that came out in 2004 starring Anne Hathaway.  The book shares the same basic plot, but there are some major deviations, especially the ending and the amount of slapstick humour the movie relied upon.  

This is a kids book that's smart in all the right ways.  Ella is clever and funny, a good friend and kind person.  Watching her fall for the prince is a joy but the complications that arise from it are heart-wrenching.  It's also a book that will have you laughing out loud at some parts and crying softly at others.  But mostly laughing.  

It's s short book and a quick read, but one that will stay with you long after you close it.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Shout-Out: And Death Will Seize the Doctor, Too by Jeremiah Swanson

Christian Thompson has the power to heal with the touch of his hands, but for every person he cures he must first kill someone else.
Now as he wrestles with not only having such a power but whether or not to use it, he faces the ultimate test and discovers he may not have any real choice. The road this battle leads him down will change not only his life, but perhaps the entire world forever.

You can find it - and read a sample - on Amazon.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Video: If Michael Bay Directed 'Up'

This is a hilarious video that adds all sorts of explosions to the Pixar film Up.  Be sure to watch to the very end.  Courtesy of MrStratman7.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Reminder that the Aurora Award Voting Period is Ending Soon

Just a reminder that September 6th is the last day to vote on the Prix Aurora Award.  Once again, here are the nominees from the Aurora website:

Best English Novel
A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
The Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor, Five Rivers Publishing
Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther, Ravenstone Books
Best English YA (Young Adult) Novel
The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles: Demon Gate by Marty Chan, Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Ink by Amanda Sun, Harlequin Teen
The Lake and the Library by S.M. Beiko, ECW Press
Out of Time by D.G. Laderoute, Five Rivers Publishing
Resolve by Neil Godbout, Bundoran Press
The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
Best English Short Fiction
“A Bunny Hug for Karl” by Mike Rimar, Masked Mosaic, Canadian Super Stories, Tyche Books
“Angela and Her Three Wishes” by Eileen Bell, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“The Awakening of Master March” by Randy McCharles, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“Ghost in the Machine” by Ryan McFadden, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“The Gift” by Susan Forest, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“Green Man She Restless” by Billie Milholland, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“Living Bargains” by Suzanne Church, When the Hero Comes Home 2, Dragon Moon Press
Best English Poem/Song
“A City of Buried Rivers” by Clink, David, The Literary Review of Canada, vol. 21, no. 9, November
“Awake” by Peter Storey, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“The Collected Postcards of Billy the Kid” by Helen Marshall, Postscripts to Darkness, Issue 4, October
“Lost” by Amal El-Mohtar, Strange Horizons, February
“Night Journey: West Coast” by Kernaghan, Eileen, Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, EDGE
“Turning the Leaves” by Amal El-Mohtar, Apex Magazine, Issue 55, December
Best English Graphic Novel
Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza, webcomic
Rock, Paper, Cynic by Peter Chiykowski, webcomic
Weregeek by Alina Pete, webcomic
Wild Game: Sweet Tooth Vol. 6 by Jeff Lemire, Vertigo
Best English Related Work
The Puzzle Box by The Apocalyptic Four, EDGE
Urban Green Man edited by Adria Laycraft and Janice Blaine EDGE
On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Suzenyms by Susan MacGregor, blog
Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing edited by Sandra Kasturi and Samantha Beiko, ChiZine Publications
Best Artist
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Melissa Mary Duncan, illustrations and cover art
Dan O’Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press and the SF Aurora banner
Apis Teicher, body of work
Tanya Montini, cover design for The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles: Demon Gate
Best Fan Publications
No award will be given out in this category in 2014 due to insufficient eligible nominees
Best Fan Music
Brooke Abbey for writing and publishing 12 songs
Debs & Errol for CTRL+ALT+DUETS, EP
Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity
Kari Maaren for Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off, CD
Devin Melanson, Leslie Hudson and, Kari Maaren for Pirate Elves in Space, CD
Best Fan Organizational
Evelyn Baker and Alana Otis-Wood, co-chairs Ad Astra, Toronto
S.M. Beiko and Chadwick Ginther, co-chairs Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Winnipeg
Sandra Kasturi and James Bambury, co-chairs Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Toronto
Randy McCharles, chair When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, chair Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Ottawa
Rose Wilson, Art Show Director, VCON 38, Vancouver
Best Fan Related Work
R. Graeme Cameron, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Steve Fahnestalk, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Robert Runté, ”Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto

Book Review: Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov

Based on the screenplay by Harry Keliner, which was made from David Duncan’s adaptation of the story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby.

Pros: more plot explanation and characterization than the film, ending retains scientific integrity, interesting plot

Cons: sexist treatment of female protagonist

Benes, a scientist fleeing a nameless enemy world power, arrives safely in the US but is injured in an attack.  In order to save his life and gain the secrets he brings, a submarine and crew of experts must be shrunk to microscopic size in order to operate on a brain clot.

This is a fairly close novelization of the film of the same name.  The biggest changes come in the form of a prolonged introduction where the patient is more thoroughly introduced and the necessity of saving him better explained.  The ending, too, was adjusted so that the scientific principles of the story retained their integrity.

The characters are better drawn in the book as well, as there’s more time to get to know them.  Cora Peterson is portrayed as a competent technician, even though the men around her - with the exception of Dr. Duval, whom she works for - see her beauty, not her brains.  Something she comments on with irritation,

“Her mirror told her, plainly enough, that she was not plain.  Quite otherwise.  Her dark eyes were ingenuously wide-set; her lips reflected quick humor when she let them do so - which wasn’t often; and her figure annoyed her for its apparent propensity for interfering with the proper understanding of her professional competence.  It was for her ability she wanted wolf-whistles (or their intellectual equivalent) and not for the sinuosity she couldn’t help.” 

And predictably, the leading man of the film, a secret agent, Grant, has trouble seeing her as anything but an object of flirtation, even when she - at the beginning at least - constantly rebuffs him.  I do give Asimov props though, for explaining the reason for her coldness towards Grant and his attentions, in a way that shows what an ass he is at times.  Grant is, of course, not the only one who objects to having a ‘girl’ on the mission or treating her as somehow feebleminded despite her abilities. 

The descriptions of the workings of the inner body that the characters pass are interesting, and are broken up well by the variety of problems the crew face.  There are a lot of tense scenes, and some action before the climax.

It’s a quick and interesting read.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Shout-Out: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra-an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn't involve herself in the business of gods-in fact, she doesn't even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don't just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

Out August 19th.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Review: Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power

Edited by Marin Meyer and Richard Smith, 1994

Pros: good introductions to each section, lots of explanatory notes, variety of texts

Cons: only has a few pictures in instances when illustrations are present in the text

Ritual has long been a part of spiritual practices, Christian or otherwise.  These texts, written in the Coptic language of Egypt (invented as a way of transliterating Egyptian hieroglyphs using Greek letters), shows how Christianity amalgamated older traditions of using words as protection against the evils of the world.  The texts presented in this book mix Egyptian gods and Christian stories to create amulets, love spells, curses and more.

There’s a fantastic mix of texts presented here, many for the first time in English.  There are extensive end notes, though a casual reader will get enough information from the introductions to the individual texts - which are, in some cases, longer than the texts themselves. 

It’s interesting seeing the variety of names of power called upon for the different purposes: Mary, Christ, archangels, Biblical figures, ancient gods and more.

My only complaint with the book is that some of the manuscripts included diagrams.  In a few cases the translator copied the picture, but in many more cases only a notation stating there was a diagram is included.  Actual photographs of some of these manuscript pages would have been welcome to get a feel for how the text and diagrams worked together and to see the original images.

I would advise reading up on the ancient Egyptian religious practices or the Book of Coming Forth by Day (now known as the Book of the Dead) before reading this though, as you’ll get a better idea of how much of the Coptic Christian tradition was borrowed from what came before it.

If you’re interested in magic and ritual practices, and how they developed, this is an interesting book.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Shout-Out: Drift by M. K. Hutchins

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Tenjat is poor as poor gets: poor enough, even, to condescend to the shame of marriage, so his children can help support him one day. 

But Tenjat has a plan to avoid this fate. He will join the Handlers, those who defend and rule the island. Handlers never marry, and they can even provide for an additional family member. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. And just in time: the Handlers are ramping up for a dangerous battle against the naga monsters, and they need every fighter they can get. 

As the naga battle approaches, Tenjat’s training intensifies, but a long-hidden family secret—not to mention his own growing feelings for Avi—put his plans in jeopardy, and might threaten the very survival of his island.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Video: Book Nerd Problems

Epic Reads, a YA video channel by Harper Collins, has a fun series called Book Nerd Problems.  The videos are only a minute or so long, but they're really funny - if you're a book nerd.  They cover such issues as trying to avoid spoilers, choosing between buying groceries and books, and lending books to friends.

Here are two of my favourites:

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Book Review: Dead Inside: Do Not Enter, Notes From the Zombie Apocalypse by Various

 This is a found note story.  There’s an editor’s note at the beginning, explaining that these notes were found in a backpack and a quick chronology of the super-flu outbreak that led to the zombification of the world.

The notes run the gamut of letters to loved ones, confessions, warnings, pleas and threats.  There are a few photographs thrown in for effect.  The notes create a strange juxtaposition as some of them are written on items of normal life (flyers, greeting cards, etc.).

Most of the notes have no context and are incomplete, but some tell horrifying stories and are really jarring.  For example: “they weren’t bitten, I just told you that so it would be easier for you to leave them.”  Or:
My only complaint with the book was that most of the notes were handwritten in script that was hard to read.  It made it authentic, but there were times I had to puzzle out the words.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Shout-Out: Chimpanzee by Darin Bradley

Unemployment has ravaged the U.S. economy. People struggle everywhere, exhausted by the collapse that destroyed their lives. Benjamin Cade is an expert in cognition, and before the flatlined economy caught up to him, he earned his living as a university instructor. Now, without income, he joins the millions defaulting on their loans - in his case, the money he borrowed to finance his degrees. But there are consequences. Using advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy, Ben's debtors can reclaim their property - his education. The government calls the process "Repossession Therapy." The data Ben's repossession will yield is invaluable to those improving the "indexing" technology - a remarkable medical advance that has enabled the effective cure of all mental disorders. By disassembling his mind, doctors will gain the expertise to assist untold millions. But Ben has no intention of losing his mind without a fight, so he begins teaching in the park, distributing his knowledge before it's gone in a race against ignorance. And somewhere in Ben's confusing takedown, Chimpanzee arrives. Its iconography appears spray-painted around town. Young people in rubber chimpanzee masks start massive protests. As Ben slowly loses himself, the Chimpanzee movement seems to grow. And all fingers point to Ben.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Creature Feature: Elves

In this column I talk about some of the more unusual fantasy creatures and/or creatures it would be cool to see in books.

I know what you’re thinking, elves are everywhere in fantasy.  And they are, though a lot of newer books have started using fewer traditional fantasy creatures in favour of a variety of human, which is fine.  But I’m not talking about the Tolkien style elves that are human height (or taller) paragons of wisdom, gravitas, and goodness.  I’m talking about real mythological elves.  You know, the playful, revelrous, and often mischievous miniature humans common in Northern European (especially German) folklore.  The ones that dance in a circle in moonlight, bewitching unwary humans who stumble by with their beauty.  Though they’re often intermixed with fairies, dwarfs, pixies, brownies, etc. elves were originally their own separate, distinct creature.

"Rackham elves" by Arthur Rackham - Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Aside from children’s stories and Christmas tales, traditional elves don’t show up that often.  The only adult book I can think of is Saga by Jeff Janoda, a novel that deals with medieval Iceland.  And the elves aren’t real in the book, merely believed to be real by the populace who leave offerings for them and hope to not attract their wrath.  I believe Terry Pratchett’s elves are human sized, though he brought back their merry nature and enchanting ways in Lords and Ladies.  

Right now the thinking is that elves need to be retired for a bit (or forever), but I think rebooting them in their original form could be entertaining and still give people a break from the cliches they’re tired of.  But I’d love it if more authors thought of creative uses for old tropes, the way Chris Evans did with his Iron Elves trilogy, by giving them guns.

Elves have been staples in fantasy since both were created and they’ve gone through several modifications.  I’d love to see them make a return.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Shout-Out: Return of the Wizard King by Chad Corrie

After nearly eight centuries, the last wizard king seeks a return to Tralodren. But doing so requires the manipulation of some mercenaries oblivious to his goals.

The gladiator sold his soul for revenge. The knight's a bigot. The dwarf only cares about regaining his honor. Even the wizardess seems too bookish for anyone’s good. But they’ve all been hired by a blind seer and his assistant to retrieve some forgotten knowledge kept hidden away in some jungle-strangled ruins.

Get in. Get out. Get paid. At least that’s what they thought. Instead, they uncover hidden agendas and ancient power struggles threatening to take the world to the brink of annihilation.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

StoryBundle's Steampunk Bundle

StoryBundle's got a new DRM-free package of ebooks, this time focusing on steampunk.  You get the 4 ebooks pictured on top as pay-what-you-want and the 3 pictured below if pay over $10.  Head to their site to see what the books are about.

The Telegraph - Military Kit Through the Ages

If you haven't seen this yet, take a look as it's pretty awesome.  Photographer Thom Atkinson did a series of photographs for The Telegraph of what comprised the soldier's kit in 13 armies including the Battle of Hastings up to a 2014 sapper in Helmland Province.  Nine of the kits get detailed itemizations.  It's cool to see how things changed and were modified, especially when you get to the more modern stuff. Though I wish all of the kits were itemized, as the explanations of what some of the pieces were is very interesting.

1244 Mounted Knight, Siege of Jerusalem, photo by Thom Atkinson

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book Review: A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer

Pros: interesting characters, interesting setting, intricate plot


It’s 1917 and though San Francisco’s far from the war in Europe, the war’s affects are felt there.  Delia’s become Isadora’s apprentice in dealing with ghosts in order to help with her ‘gift’ of seeing them.  But her schooling’s tried by the ghost of a young girl that has started haunting her, which doesn’t seem bound by the normal rules and can’t be banished.  Meanwhile, Captain Gabe Ryan and his partner Jack Fitzgerald start investigating a murder that appears to have an occult connection. 

This is a murder mystery with ghosts.  It’s twist is that the culprit’s discovered fairly early but proving a case against the person, that would hold up in court, proves to be very difficult.  The viewpoints alternate between Delia and Gabe, focusing on the troublesome ghosts on the one hand and the murder case on the other.  There are a good number of twists and turns and you don’t know who will survive ‘till the end. 

I loved all of the characters.  They’re well written, with backgrounds that are painful in different ways, making them feel like real people.  The protagonists all have understandable motivations for their actions, and while the antagonists’ reasons for doing things aren’t as well defined - until the end -  they don’t feel like cookie cutter villains at any point. 

You get to see a bit of chinatown and some of the racism the inhabitants there faced.  Those scenes were handled carefully and considerately.

It’s the second book in the series, but the books are written episodically, so you can easily pick this up without reading Delia’s Shadow.  If you like ghosts and mysteries and good writing, you’ll love this series.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Shout-Out: Demon Stones by Michael Drakich

It’s been almost a hundred years since warlock meddling freed the demons from their underground domain. Their eventual capture has encased them in large stones across all the lands. They became known as the demon stones.

Over time, the truth of their imprisonment devolved into legend and tales to frighten children.

Now, the seven kingdoms are in upheaval. The demon stones are being opened and the vile creatures once more roam the land. War has broken open between realms as the fingers of accusation are pointed.

Caught in the middle is Gar Murdach, a farm boy who recently passed the age of ascension of sixteen marking him as a man, and his younger sister, Darlee, as they both struggle in their separate ways to escape the horrors wrought by the demons and the war that swarms round them.

Available at Amazon.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in September, 2014

Once again, this list was compiled from Amazon Canada's listings and therefore represents Canadian release dates for the books.  Amazon tends to throw a lot of middle grade fiction in with the YA, and while I try to edit that out, I'm not always successful.  David Gemmel's books are being reprinted, and there are several authors with omnibus editions coming out.


Visions – Kelley Armstrong
Terre’s World – Mitch Benn
Chimpanzee – Darin Bradley
The Complete Cosmicomics – Italo Calvino
Vampires of Manhattan – Melissa de la Cruz
The Savior – Tony Daniel & David Drake
Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions For a Better Future – Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer, Ed.
Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle – Phil Foglio & Kaja Foglio
Exo – Steven Gould
The Night of the Hunter – David Grubb
The Witch With No Name – Kim Harrison
The End of the Sentence – Maria Dahvana Headley & Kat Howard
The Brothers Cabal – Jonathan Howard
The Midnight Queen – Sylvia Izzo Hunter
A Mountain Walked – S. T. Joshi, Ed.
Son of No One – Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Collected Short Stories of R. A. Lafferty vol 2: The Man With the Aura – R. A. Lafferty
Last Plane to Heaven: The Final Collection – Jay Lake
The Fatal Tree – Stephen Lawhead
Good House – Peyton Marshall
The Falcon Throne – Karen Miller
Bete – Adam Roberts
Forgotten Realms: Rise of the King – R. A. Salvatore
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome – John Scalzi
Wood Sprites – Wen Spencer
The Golden Princess – S. M. Stirling
The Hawley Book of the Dead – Chrysler Szarlan
The Colour Illustrated Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien & Jemima Catlin
Granny Yaga – Vitali Vitaliev
The Seventh Sigil – Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes
Brian Froud’s Faeries’Tales – Wendy & Brian Froud
Sleeping Late On Judgement Day – Tad Williams

Trade Paperback:

Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn – Danielle Ackley-McPhail & Day Al-Mohamed
Trust and Treachery: Tales of Power and Intrigue – Day Al-Mohamed & Meriah Crawford, Ed.
Beta-Life: Short Stories from an A-Life Future – Prof. Martyn Amos & Ra Page
Flypaper – Chris Angus
Company Town – Madeleine Ashby
The Engineer Reconditioned – Neal Asher
Drowned World – J. G. Ballard
The Unlimited Dream Company – J. G. Ballard
Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon – David Barnett
Sci-Fi Chronicles: A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction – Stephen Baxter & Guy Haley
City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett
The Necromancer’s House – Christopher Buehlman
Memory – Lois McMaster Bujold
The SEventh Miss Hatfield – Anna Caltabiano
Red Blooded – Amanda Carlson
The Clockwork Dagger – Beth Cato
The King in Yellow – Robert Chambers 
The Night of the Triffids – Simon Clark
Ancestral Machines – Michael Cobley 
Copperhead – Tina Connolly
Warhammer 40K: Grey Knights – Ben Counter
Species Imperative Omnibus – Julie Czerneda
The Last Dark – Stephen Donaldson
Dinosaurs and Dirigibles – David Drake
Earth Flight – Janet Edwards
Permutation City – Greg Egan
Forge of Darkness – Steven Erikson
Blood and Bone – Ian Esslemont
Bastion – Craig Gallant
Dark Prince – David Gemmell
Hawk Queen: The Omnibus Edition – David Gemmell
Knights of Dark Renown – David Gemmell
Lion of Macedon – David Gemmell
Morningstar – David Gemmell
Stones of Power: The Omnibus Edition – David Gemmell
The City – Stella Gemmell
Doctor Who: The Blood Cell – James Goss
Angel – Jon Grahame
Shadow of the Ancients – Pierre Grimbert & Matt Ross
Transcendental – James Gunn
Phantasm Japan: Fantasies Light and Dark, From and About Japan – Haikasoru, Ed.
War God – Graham Hancock
Twenty-First Century Science Fiction – David Hartwell & Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental – Danielle Ackley-McPhail, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Lee Hillman, & Jeffrey Lyman, Ed. 
Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute – Jonathan Howard
The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane – Alex Irvine
Daring – Elliott James
The Cusanus Game – Wolfgang Jeschke
Outrider – Steven John
Circus Immortale – A. R. Kahler
Imaginarium 2014 – Sandra Kasturi
Die and Stay Dead – Nicholas Kaufmann
Yesterday’s Kin – Nancy Kress
Kinslayer – Jay Kristoff
Kalimpura – Jay Lake
Mayor of the Universe – Lorna Landvik
Grudgebearer – J. F. Lewis
The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
Doctor Who: Engines of War – George Mann
Gifts for the One Who Comes After – Helen Marshall
Channel Blue – Jay Martel
Myths & Legends: Sinbad the Sailor – Phil Masters
The Man With the Compound Eyes – Wu Ming-Yi
Secret of the Tree – Dorothy Mitchell
Pegasus Colony – Phyllis Moore
Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard – Kim Newman
Fortunes of the Imperium – Jody Lynn Nye
Dreamwalker – J. A. Oswald
Sherwood Nation – Benjamin Parzybok
Sword of the Bright Lady – M. C. Planck
Pathfinder Tales: Reign of Stars – Tim Pratt
Maplecroft – Cherie Priest
The Causal Angel – Hannu Rajaniemi
The Demi-Monde: Fall – Rod Reese
Doctor Who: Silhouette – Justin Richards
Butterfly: Tomorrow’s Children – David Saperstein
Rivers – Michael Farris Smith
The Bloodline Feud: A Merchant Princes Omnibus – Charles Stross
Radiant – Karina Sumner-Smith
Science Fiction Video Games – Neal Roger Tringham
Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror – Mike Tucker
Widow’s Dozen – Marek Waldorf
Age of Iron – Angus Watson
The Prophecy Con – Patrick Weekes
Stories of the Raksura v1: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud – Martha Wells
This Old World – Steve Wigenstein
Yesterday’s Hero – Jonathan Wood
Warhammer: Stormcaller – Chris Wraight
Consider Her Ways: And Others – John Wyndham
The Seeds of Time – John Wyndham
Soulminder – Timothy Zahn

Mass Market Paperback:

To Dance With the Devil – Cat Adams
Rogue Angel: Celtic Fire – Alex Archer
Generation 18 – Keri Arthur
Spells at the Crossroads – Barbara Ashford
Blood Red Tide – James Axler
Year of the Demon – Steve Bein
Star Trek: Voyager: Acts of Contrition – Kristen Beyer
The Journey – Roddy Brooks
The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield – Jack Campbell
Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution – Keith DeCandido
Summer Moon – Jan DeLima
Magician’s End – Raymond Feist
1636: The Devil’s Opera – Eric Flint & David Carrico
Burdens of the Dead – Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint & Dave Freer
Mage’s Blood – David Hair
Beauty and the Beast: Vendetta – Nancy Holder
Hidden – Benedict Jacka
Divinity – Michelle Johnson
Energized – Edward Lerner
The Bloodbound – Erin Lindsey
Dangerous Women 1 – George Martin & Gardner Dozois, Ed.
The Winter Long – Seanan McGuire
Warhammer 40K: False Gods – Graham McNeill
Twilight Forever Rising – Lena Meydan
House Immortal – Devon Monk
The Waterborne Blade – Susan Murray
Crux – Ramez Naam
Glory Main – Henry O’Neil
Night of the Hunter – R. A. Salvatore
Solace Arisen – Anna Steffl
Flex – Ferrett Steinmetz
The Given Sacrifice – S. M. Stirling
Incarnate – Anton Strout
Grimm: The Killing Time – Tim Waggoner
Tour of Duty: Stories and Provocations – Michael Williamson


Miss Spelled – Sarah Belle
For the Love of Death – Tamara Rose Blodgett
Aurora: Meridian – Amanda Bridgeman
Enigma in Blue – Klaus Bytzek
The Land Beyond All Dreams – Bryan Fields
Shatterwing: Dragon Wine – Donna Maree Hanson
Rogue’s Paradise – Jeffe Kennedy
Kings of the Realm – Oisin McGann
Spirit – Daniela Sacerdoti
Gun Shy – Eleri Stone
Nature Futures 2: Science Fiction From the Leading Science Journal – Colin Sullivan & Henry Gee, Ed.
A Planet For Rent – Yoss & David Frye

YA Fiction:

Enclave – Ann Aguirre
The Aftermath – Jen Alexander
Vision – Lisa Amowitz
Trial by Fire – Josephine Angelini
The Book of Days – K. A. Barker
The Witch’s Boy – Kelly Barnhill
Survival Colony 9 – Joshua David Bellin
Monsters – Ilsa Bick
The Boo of Kindly Deaths – Eldritch Black
Winterkill – Kate Boorman
Never Fade – Alexandra Bracken
Thunder – Bonnie Calhoun
Land – Alex Campbell
Splinters – Matt Carter & F. J. R. Titchenell
Erin – Simon Clark
Endless Knight – Kresley Cole
Tumble & Fall – Alexandra Coutts
Meet Me At the River – Nina de Gramont
A New Darkness – Joseph Delaney
The Zodiac Collector – Laura Diamond
Steampunk: Charles Dickens a Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens & Zdenko Basic
Conjured – Sarah Beth Durst
Sky Jumpers – Peggy Eddelman
Earth Flight – Janet Edwards
Bone, Fog, Ash & Star – Catherine Egan
Blackfin Sky – Kat Ellis
The Jewel – Amy Ewing
Task Force – Brian Falkner
The Lord of Opium – Nancy Farmer
The Song of the Quarkbeast – Jasper Fforde
Circle of Stones – Catherine Fisher
Falls the Shadow – Stefanie Gaither
A Tale of Light and Shadow – Jacob Gowans
Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales – Kelly Link and Gavin Grant, Ed.
BZRK Reloaded – Michael Grant
Projection – Risa Green
Black Moon – Teri Harman
A Breath of Frost – Alyxandra Harvey
Destined for Doon – Corey Corp & Lorie LangdonFeuds - Avery Hastings
Replica – Jack Heath
When the Sea is Rising Red – Cat Hellisen
Oblivion – Anthony Horowitz
The Secret Countess – Eva Ibbotson
Dancing Jax: Fighting Pax – Robin Jarvis
Love is the Drug – Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Brokenhearted – Amelia Kahaney
Salt & Storm – Kendall Kulper
Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light – Derek Landy
Winterspell – Claire Legrand
Tabula Rasa – Kristen Lippert-Martin
The Twinning Project – Robert Lipsyte
Inheritance – Malinda Lo
Champion – Marie Lu
Crown of Midnight – Sarah Maas
Heir of Fire – Sarah Maas
Storm – D. J. MacHale
Egg and Spoon – Gregory Maguire
Shattered – Mari Mancusi
The Caller – Juliet Marillier
Made for You – Melissa Marr
Firebug – Lish McBride
In a Handful of Dust – Mindy McGinnis
Shadows – Robin McKinley
Invisible – Dawn Metcalf
The 100: Day 21 – Kass Morgan
Forest of Whispers – Jennifer Murgia
On a Clear Day – Walter Dean Myers
The Vault of Dreamers – Caragh O’Brien
Paradox – A. J. Paquette
The Shade of the Moon – Susan Beth Pfeffer
Dead City – James Ponti
The Winter People – Rebekah Purdy
Jackaby – William Ritter
All These Broken Angels – Peter Adam Salomon
Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson
What Came From the Stars – Gary Schmidt
Battle Angel – Scott Speer
Misty Falls – Joss Stirling
The Dolls – Kiki Sullivan
The Burning Sky – Sherry Thomas
The Perilous Sea – Sherry Thomas
The Battle – Jennifer Torres
The Disappearing – Jennifer Torres 
The Return – Jennifer Torres
Of Monsters and Madness – Jessica Verday
Lark Rising – Sandra WAugh
Afterworlds – Scott Westerfeld
Faces of the Dead – Suzanne Weyn
Illusions of Fate – Kiersten White
The Chaos of Stars – Kiersten White
Starry Nights – Daisy Whitney
Twist of the Blade – Edward Willett
Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer
The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey
Echoes of Us – Kat Zhang

Once We Were – Kat Zhang