Sunday, October 27, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-10-26)

The last full week of October brings a few books to the 'o Stuff household...

Iron Winter (Book Three of The Northland Trilogy) by Stephen Baxter (Roc Hardcover 11/05/2013) – The conclusion of Baxter’s distant past alternate history saga.

Praised as “not only a gifted storyteller but also a master of speculative fiction” (Library Journal), bestselling author Stephen Baxter brings his epic Northland trilogy to a close as a once-thriving civilization faces winter without end....

Many generations ago, the Wall was built to hold back the sea. A simple dam, it grew into a vast linear city, home to scholars, builders, and merchants. Northland’s prosperity survived wars and unrest—and brought the whole of Europe together.

But now darkness is falling. Days grow shorter, temperatures colder, and in the wake of long winters come famine, destruction, and terror. As a mass exodus to warmer climes threatens to fracture Northland, one man believes he can outwit the cold, and even salvage some scraps of the great civilization—before interminable gloom settles over the land; before the fires of war lay waste to an empire; before the ice comes....

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi (Mulholland Books, Hardcover 11/19/2013) – Carrisi was one awards for his fiction in his native Italy, this is his second novel to appear in the US through Mulholland Books.

A grieving young widow, seeking answers to her husband’s death, becomes entangled in an investigation steeped in the darkest mysteries of Rome.

Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst with the Roman police department, mourns deeply for a marriage that ended too soon. A few months ago, in the dead of night, her husband, an up-and-coming journalist, plunged to his death at the top of a high-rise construction site. The police ruled it an accident. Sanda is convinced it was anything but.

Launching her own inquiries, Sanda finds herself on a dangerous trail, working the same case that she is convinced led to her husband’s murder. An investigation which is deeply entwined with a series of disappearances that has swept the city, and brings Sandra ever closer to a centuries-old secret society that will do anything to stay in the shadows.

Archetype by M.D. Waters (Dutton, Hardcover 02/06/2014) – This is Waters’s debut novel, which will soon be followed six months later by the sequel to this novel.

Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe.

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Recent Reviews and Colums: John Marco, Dan Simmons, Scott Lynch, & L.E. Modesitt

It has been quite a while since I did a round up of my reviews and columns, s, here goes...

Earlier this week, the latest installment of my column at SF Signal, The Completest was posted. This time 'round, I feature a decade-plus old trilogy by a writer whose work I've come to enjoy with every new book. The column covers John Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy.

My latest review was posted earlier this week, The Abominable by Dan Simmons. I've read a handful of novels by Simmons and enjoyed most of them quite a bit.  Unfortunately, the same can't be said for The Abominable:

Simmons uses a clever framing device in the novel, inserting himself into the narrative. The first chapter, which at first seems like a typical author’s introduction, turns out to be a recounting of a fictitious meeting between Simmons and the protagonist of the main novel, Jacob Perry, a veteran mountain climber who once attempted to climb Mount Everest. The character Dan Simmons secures a meeting with Perry to initially discuss Perry’s experience in an expedition in Antarctica for a novel he plans on writing. In what is just the first of many a misdirection in the novel, Perry’s experience on Mount Everest turns out to be the story Simmons reveals rather than anything involving an Antarctic expedition.
The details and minutiae of mountaineering comprises a great deal of the narrative, to the point where I felt it bogged down what was I thought was supposed to be a novel with the feel of a thriller. The scenes involving Perry’s party first meeting Sigl in a German bar were some of the strongest and most tense in the novel. Here, the character development Simmons put into this novel, coupled with a historically familiar setting gave The Abominable a feel of authenticity.

A few weeks ago, I read The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, which published on October 8.  I liked it with some minor reservations.

The main storyline involves Locke’s recovery from a severe poisoning, through the help of the powerful Bondsmagi (sort of like demi-god wizards) named Patience. The price of that cleansing is maneuvering the Local elections to produce an outcome that is beneficial to one of two factions of the Bondsmagi. Locke’s opponent is his lost love Sabetha, who Locke hasn’t seen in years. So on one side, you’ve got Locke and Jean Tannen, and on the other Sabetha. Part of what makes this such an enthralling enterprise for Locke (and the reader) is the long-awaiting (awaited) chance to see Sabetha. Before they actually see each other; however, their cons begin and as the story progresses, Lynch builds a great deal of tension – dramatic, sexual, and altogether addictively frustrating – between the two former lovers and partners. They’ve been instructed by their Bondsmagi masters to not team up with each other against the Bondsmagi, but that doesn’t stop them from meeting with one another on several occasions. These meetings between Sabetha and Locke are fraught with a tense thin line between Sabetha and Locke that divides the truth from both characters from trying to con each other. In point of fact, the election could have easily been called the Macguffin election since it serves more of a thing to get Sabetha and Locke (and Jean to a lesser extent) reunited and shine as characters rather than having an immediate effect on their world.

Most recently, I reviewed the first installment of L.E. Modesitt's popular and long-running fantasy saga, The Magic of Recluce. Despite receiving many, many of Modesitt's books review, this was the first one by him I decided to read. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and think I may have found another massive fantasy series I'll be following.

Lerris is a bored young man, he tells us this with regularity through the first person narration Modesitt employs for a great majority of the novel. People like Lerris who don’t fit within the Brotherhood’s strictly governed land of Recluce, are given two choices – partake in the dangergeld, a journey people of this world go through in order to find their purpose or be exiled. Lerris’ parents send him to apprentice under his woodworker Uncle, which they think will give him the discipline he requires when he partakes in the ritualistic dangergeld. While he becomes good at woodworking, he of course becomes bored with it, despite the familial ties. When he readies to leave, his uncle Sardit gifts him an incredibly beautiful wrought staff of black wood, bound at the ends in metal
Modesitt has been writing for more than thirty years and at the time The Magic of Recluce was published, he’d been writing and publishing science fiction for nearly twenty years; it was his first fantasy novel. While the framework of The Magic of Recluce is classic in nature, he brings in enough of a unique take to make the novel an extremely enjoyable read. Initially, Lerris was not the most…pleasant of characters. His continual boredom and interactions with other characters made him come across as somewhat caustic. Not exactly the preferred qualities of a protagonist, especially when that protagonist is telling the story as the first person narrator. What made Lerris’s journey believable was Modesitt’s ability to not just make the hero bearable in the fantastical situation, but to slowly turn him into an admirable mature man.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-10-19)

Here's the small haul for this week at the 'o Stuff. I've given up trying to predict which books I'll read of those that arrived, but I have enjoyed books by two of authors in today's post.

Copperhead (Ironskin #2) by Tina Connolly (Tor Hardcover 10/15/2013) – Turn of the Century Fantasy of Manners, sequel to Ironskin

Set in an alternate version of early 1900s England, Copperhead is the sequel to Tina Connolly's stunning historical fantasy debut.

Helen Huntingdon is beautiful—so beautiful she has to wear an iron mask.

Six months ago her sister Jane uncovered a fey plot to take over the city. Too late for Helen, who opted for fey beauty in her face—and now has to cover her face with iron so she won’t be taken over, her personality erased by the bodiless fey.

Not that Helen would mind that some days. Stuck in a marriage with the wealthy and controlling Alistair, she lives at the edges of her life, secretly helping Jane remove the dangerous fey beauty from the wealthy society women who paid for it. But when the chancy procedure turns deadly, Jane goes missing—and is implicated in a murder.

Meanwhile, Alistair’s influential clique Copperhead—whose emblem is the poisonous copperhead hydra—is out to restore humans to their “rightful” place, even to the point of destroying the dwarvven who have always been allies.

Helen is determined to find her missing sister, as well as continue the good fight against the fey. But when that pits her against her own husband—and when she meets an enigmatic young revolutionary—she’s pushed to discover how far she’ll bend society’s rules to do what’s right. It may be more than her beauty at stake. It may be her honor...and her heart.

Fiendish Schemes by Tor Trade Paperback 10/15/2013) – Sequel to Jeter’s landmark Stempunk novel Infernal Devices

In 1986 K. W. Jeter coined the term "steampunk," applying it to his first Victorian-era science fiction alternate-history adventure. At last he has returned with Fiendish Schemes, a tale of George Dower, son of the inventor of Infernal Devices, who has been in new self-imposed exile…accumulating debts.

The world Dower left when he went into hiding was significantly simpler than the new, steam-powered Victorian London, a mad whirl of civilization filled with gadgets and gears in the least expected places. After accepting congratulations for his late father's grandest invention—a walking, steam-powered lighthouse—Dower is enticed by the prospect of financial gain into a web of intrigue with ominously mysterious players who have nefarious plans of which he can only guess.

If he can locate and make his father’s Vox Universalis work as it was intended, his future, he is promised, is assured. But his efforts are confounded by the strange Vicar Stonebrake, who promises him aid, but is more interested in converting sentient whales to Christianity—and making money—than in helping George. Drugged, arrested, and interrogated by men, women, and the steam-powered Prime Minister, Dower is trapped in a maelstrom of secrets, corruption, and schemes that threaten to drown him in the chaos of this mad new world.

Stalking the Beast (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Howard Andrew Jones (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 10/22/2013) – This is Jones’s second Pathfinder novel and I loved his second installment of The Chronicles of Sword and Sand so I’ll be reading this one.

When a mysterious monster carves a path of destruction across the southern River Kingdoms, desperate townsfolk look to the famed elven ranger Elyana and her half-orc companion Drelm for salvation. For Drelm, however, the mission is about more than simple justice, as without a great victory proving his worth, a prejudiced populace will never allow him to marry the human woman he loves. Together with a fresh band of allies, including the mysterious gunslinger Lisette, the heroes must set off into the wilderness, hunting a terrifying beast that will test their abilities—and their friendships—to the breaking point and beyond.

From acclaimed author Howard Andrew Jones comes a new adventure of love, death, and unnatural creatures, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. 


by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Hardcover 11/05/2012) I’ve read a handful of novels from McDevitt and enjoyed most of them. This is a prequel to the series featuring the character who first appeared in The Engines of God

Priscilla Hutchins has been through many experiences. This is the story of her first unforgettable adventure…

Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins has finally realized her lifelong dream: She's completed a nerve-bending qualification flight for a pilot's license.

Her timing is far from optimal, however. Faster-than-light travel has only recently become a reality, and the World Space Authority is still learning how to manage long-range missions safely. To make matters worse, efforts to prepare two planets for colonization are killing off native life-forms, outraging people on Earth.

So there's not a lot of demand for space pilots. Priscilla thinks her career may be over before it has begun. But her ambition won't be denied, and soon she is on the bridge of an interstellar ship, working for the corporation that is responsible for the terraforming.

Her working conditions include bomb threats, sabotage, clashes with her employers—and a mission to a world, adrift between the stars, that harbors a life-form unlike anything humanity has ever seen. Ultimately, she will be part of a life-and-death struggle that will test both her capabilities and her character…

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New York Comic-Con 2013

So...New York Comic-Con...this year was the second year I attended and this time, I was able to get in with a Press Pass thanks to the writing I do for SFFWorld and now and SF Signal. Also, thanks to Myke Cole for suggesting I try to get a Press Pass.

Last year, I attended on Saturday with my wife but this year, I flew solo on Friday thinking (and hearing from other folks) that Friday is typically not as crowded as Saturday.  Not so much, if anything, Friday this year was as packed as Saturday was last year.

As I was getting closer to the Javits Center (which, every time I go there, amazes me with how big it is), I chatted with a Dalek.  Rather, we exchanged shouts of "Exterminate!" at each other.

R to L Mike Sullivan, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear,
Brian Staveley
, and Drew Karpyshyn
The first thing I did was head over to the The Wheel of Time Turns and Epic Fantasy Remains Epic! panel in the basement at the back back back of the convention.I've read three of the five authors (Sullivan, Lynch, & Bear) on the panel and may try the other two in the near future. Brian Staveley in particular impressed me with how comfortable he came across.  It was a fun panel and the authors seemed to get along nicely. Of course, it helps when two of them are partners, Bear and Lynch. The panel was moderated by Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy books and she did a fine job.

At the conclusion of the panel, I had a chance to chat a bit with Irene Gallo whom everybody reading this likely knows is the art director for Tor (as such, she's responsible for the gorgeous design on Brian's debut novel The Emperor's Blades) and one of my bosses at We chatted a bit about Breaking Bad (happened to be wearing my Breaking Bad/Game of Thrones mash-up T-Shirt) and I had to make sure I told Irene how great the post she did at featuring the printing process of A Memory of Light was.

I swaggered over to the autographing to get my books signed by Michael (Theft of Swords), Scott (The Lies of Locke Lamora 1st US HC), and Elizabeth (Range of Ghosts).  I bumped into Mike Underwood (author of Geekomancy and Angry Robots Marketing) on line and chatted with him a bit and realized I need to read his books. From there, I entered the chaos that is the main floor of the Javits Center during New York Comic-Con.

To be honest, I was wandering around like a cross between a zombie and a kid at the annual carnival trying to get to everything I wanted to see. Friends of the family own a comic shop (JC Comics) so I wanted to make sure to visit them. Their double booth in the comic retailer area was swamped with customers rifling through the back-issue bins and buying comics. 

Strolling through the aisles, I stopped over at the Orbit Books booth, chatted with them a bit and had to admit that I was one of the few who didn't like a certain book they published and is getting rave reviews but that I was immensely enjoying Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron).

At the Penguin Booth (ACE, ROC, DAW, RazorBill and other YA imprints) SFF Marketing guru and all-around awesome person Colleen Lindsay was running a tight ship, but a fun ship as she was keeping folks in line for book signings with a bull-horn.  I grabbed a few freebies from them, including a book I've been curious about - Fated by Benedict Jacka as well as The Nethergrim by Matthew Tobin (a YA fantasy publishing in April 2014) and Vitro from Jessica Khoury (a near future YA SF publishing in January 2014). 

I stopped by the 47North booth and was offered copies of The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler and Seven Kinds of Hell by Dana Cameron.

Wandering the aisles I arrived at the booth for Abrams Books, who publishes lovely retrospective and coffee-table type books. I had to buy Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook, which is signed so I had no problems slapping down some cash for what is an amazingly gorgeous book. The DelRey/Spectra booth was very nice, and was packed for both the Jason M. Hough signing and the Scott Lynch signing. 

I wasn't walking out of the Javits Center without at least a few comics.  I needed volume five of Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke & Key so I picked that up.  What I found surprising is that some of the comic publishers exhibiting weren't offering discounts on their books and merchandise (especially when the booth across from it, Midtown Comics, was offering a blanket 20% everything). Typically at these things, a discount of at least 10-20% is an across the board thing. Image was knocking off prices on some of their larger graphic novels and I was able to get a deal for 3 trades at the BOOM! booth, but Dark Horse wasn't offering anything. I would have picked up a couple of things if they were.  Based on a recommendation from Jeff Patterson on the SF Signal podcast (or maybe it was his new Three Hoarsmen with Fred Kiesche and John Stevens), I picked up The Hypernaturals by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning.  I'd been wanting to pick up/read Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter Krause for a while, so I picked up those two (and The Hypernaturals) at the BOOM! booth.  Lots of dealers were offering 50% of trade paperbacks and/or trades for a flat $10, so I picked up (after years of knowing I should be reading it) the first Hellblazer collection.

I made some more acquaintances at the Tor booth after informing them I wrote for, in particular Marco Palmieri (I think) who was sporting an Orphan Black t-shirt so we both gushed about the show since I write about it.  Brian Staveley had a signing at 5PM (or was it 6PM?) and I was initially planning on sticking around for it, but between the crowds, my growing sense of claustrophobia, being on my feet all day, and wanting to make sure I got on a train to NJ that got me home in a timely fashion, I left at about 4:30. Regardless, hearing Brian on the panel (coupled with my SFFWorld colleague Nila's review of the book) convinced me to read The Emperor's Blades when it publishes.

I was really hoping RED BUBBLE would have a booth again this year, but sadly, they did not make it to the show so I didn't walk out with any new T-shirts for myself. However, I did pick up a "Coulson Lives" shirt for my wife who liked Coulson in the past Marvel movies, but has a full on crush thanks to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 

As I was losing steam, I made one last pass through the aisle where the Del Rey booth was located and ran into of Myke Cole who gave me a Challenge Coin (probably the best thing I snagged at the con).  In tow was Peter V. Brett and his girlfriend Laura who was wearing a cool dress that looked to be comprised of panels from Marvel Comics.

The con seemed to run smoothly from my perspective, even if it was extremely crowded. As I get older, I'm liking crowds less and less. The only real gripe I have is with some of the folks who dress up. Rather, I have no problem with the cosplayers, on the whole because it is cool to see how inventive and accurate some of the people's costumes can be.  The issue is when somebody decides to dress up like a 10 foot tall robot and an entire crowded aisle needs to make a path for him. Or the people who hold up the foot traffic taking pictures of folks in a Deadpool costume having a sword fight with Link from Legend of Zelda.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Running Post: My First Half-Marathon

Normally, the postings you’ll read here at the ‘o Stuff revolve around books, movies, and TV shows. This one is slightly different. As some folks who follow me on twitter and facebook may be aware, I’ve been doing a lot of running over the past few years. Most recently, I’ve been training for a half-marathon. Well, yesterday, I completed my first half-marathon: the Shades of Death half-marathon in Allamuchy, New Jersey. (Shades of Death Road is one of haunted American roads, covered in Weird NJ)

I began running about four years ago after years of scoffing at it for many years. I would see people running in my neighborhood or on the treadmill at the gym and not get it. My quip was always if I need to get there faster than walking I’ll get in my car. Then one day, I decided to get on the treadmill after a weight training session and pushed through a mile. I realized I wanted to push more and pushed myself to four miles on a treadmill before taking my running outside and cancelling my gym membership. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from averaging 9-12 miles per week (about 3 miles per run), to 15-20 miles per week (between 4 and 8 miles per run) and participating in various 5K charity runs (the best and most organized of which is the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Flemington, NJ which has upwards of 7,000 participants), Warrior Dashes, and larger runs. 

What I once scoffed at has become a very big part of my life. Now that I've been running for about four years, if I don't get out and run at least three days a week, I feel as if I've failed a bit. You might say, this has become a bit of an addiction. In case the picture below isn't evidence, I'm what in runner's parlance as a Clydesdale.

My wife started running about a year after I did, but caught up quickly with (and surpassed) me because she had been doing P90X for a few years so she had the cardio aspect beat. She actually competed in a half marathon in the spring of this year (Rutgers Unite Half-Marathon) so Shades of Death was her second while it was my first. I've already signed up for the 2014 Rutgers Unite Half-Marathon.  I was extremely proud of her for kicking ass in April and completing the half-marathon and I realized I needed to catch up with her so we both signed up for the Shades of Death and recently for the Rutgers Half-Marathon  While my pace is faster than hers (I have much longer legs after all), she'll always have that first half-marathon ahead of me and helps to push me.

So, I was pretty happy with this half-marathon. A relatively flat course (aside from the hills at the beginning which we ran up twice since we looped the course twice for the 13.33 miles) which was a lot like running in my neighborhood since it was all farmland. I managed a pace of exactly 10 minutes/per mile, which is about where I should be.

I'm pretty proud of completing this thing.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-10-12)

Only a couple of new releases from Tor this week...

Esrever Doom (Xanth #37) by Piers Anthony (Tor, Hardcover 10/22/2013) – What can I say about a book series, heavy on puns, that is now has three dozen installments in the sequence? Not much, at this point with Anthony’s Xanth novels you are either reading them or ignoring them. Lots of folks must be buying them if this is the 37th. Anthony is one of those “classic” fantasy authors I’ve never read

Piers Anthony’s 37th adventure in Xanth changes the Mood to one of Doom!

Kody woke up in a hospital bed, not knowing how he got there. Before his questions could be answered, he was told that he was about to undergo surgery, and that there could be some side effects…. And then he woke up again, this time in Xanth.

Kody is the only person in Xanth who has not been affected by a dreadful spell that reverses how people see each other. What was adorable is now loathsome. What was ugly is now beautiful. What was loved is now hated. Kody has clearly arrived just in time! Only he has any hope of reversing the spell, turning Esrever Doom into Reverse Mood.

The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke (Tor, Hardcover 12/24/2012) – Jeschke is German and this book is translated from his native language. He is also an editor at one of the larger SF publishing houses in Germany.

Biologist Domenica Ligrina fears her planet is dying. She might be right.

An atomic disaster near the French-German border has contaminated Northern Europe with radioactivity. Economic and political calamities are destroying the whole planet. Human DNA is mutating, plant species are going extinct, and scientists are feverishly working on possible solutions. It becomes increasingly apparent that the key to future salvation lies in the past. In 2052 a secret research facility in the Vatican is recruiting scientists for a mission to restore the flora of the irradiated territories. The institute claims to have time travel. When Domenica’s sometime-lover tells her that he knows her future but that she must decide her own fate, she enlists despite his ambiguous warning.

The Middle Ages hold Domenica spellbound. She immerses herself in the mysteries, puzzles, and peculiarities of a culture foreign to her, though she risks changing the past with effects far more disastrous than radiation poisoning. Perhaps there is more than one Domenica, and more than one catastrophe

In the tradition of Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick, Wolfgang Jeschke's The Cusanus Game is a novel of future disaster in Europe by the grand master of German science fiction

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Orphan Black, Coldfire and Old Mars Reviews and Recaps

Busy week on teh intarwebs for me and it is only Wednesday!  Three things I wrote over the past week or so have been posted in two of my newer digital locales.  

Monday, my latest recap of Orphan Black went up on  This was my recap of episode 4 Effects of External Conditioning.

Yesterday, my second installment of The Completist went up to SF Signal, featuring The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman.

Art by Michael Whelan

Also yesterday, my review of the Old Mars anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois was posted on  The anthology features 15 stories on the theme of Mars as we once thought it could be. That is, when it was a planet we thought could be inhabited by ancient races.  Good stuff.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Thursday, October 03, 2013

SFFWorld Review Round-up: Lawrence, Bond, Correia, and Leckie

It has been a while since I rounded up my reviews at SFFWorld, so here goes, starting with the "oldest" and finishing with the most recent review.

Mark Lawrence brought The Broken Empire, the story of his dark, cynical, and tortured protagonist Jorg to a close with Emperor of Thorns, cementing himself as a Important writer of fantasy in the early 21st Century.  This is a series that I loved and one that demands a second reading.

Going into the finale of a trilogy, the reader has certain expectations, certain hopes, and certain story beats they’d like the writer to hit. In many respects, the story and character of Jorg fight against expectations. In the previous volumes, Jorg has committed heinous acts and while he continues his misbehaving ways in Emperor of Thorns, in the “current” timeline of the novel he is more insightful of his past actions. Part of that is the result of the pending birth of his child, for one of Jorg’s greatest concerns in the narrative is not being a callous, heartless parent to his child like his father was to him. An older Jorg now reflects on how he should be proactively unlike his father rather than react to how his father treated him. Subsequently, this older Jorg has a goal that is greater than himself, extending even beyond the safety of his wife and child.
While Jorg’s journey to become Emperor could be considered the ‘skeleton’ of the novel, the muscles and support could be considered the backstory of the world. Details such as the Data Ghosts, the Builders and other elements that hint at the world before it was ‘broken’ become more prominent. The fact that these novels take place in a Post-Apocalyptic landscape of our future is no longer much of a secret to readers and Jorg’s exploration of ancient ruins become conjure familiar images. Through that, a dark sense of dread simmers off the page. Some of the dark depths to which Jorg delves are quite evocative to the point I’d like to see Lawrence try his pen with a full out horror story.

Gwenda Bond's second novel, The Woken Gods, published in the beginning of September and I liked it though not quite as much as I enjoyed her debut. Still, a solid novel from a very smart writer.

Soon enough, while venturing with her friends, Kyra enters a museum and draws the attention of two of the trickster gods; one who warns her and the other who threatens her. Fortunately for Kyra and her friends Tam and Bree, emissaries from the Society of the Sun, the human governing body which oversees much of the deities’ activities, steps in to prevent any problems from exacerbating. One of these emissaries, Osborne “Oz” Spencer takes a liking to her. Kyra hates to admit it to herself, but she also feels an

What ensues mixes a thriller plot with government conspiracy and a dash of family drama in a stew of mythology. For the most, these elements come together well and each feeds off and into the other elements very well. The government is tied up with Kyra’s family, the government is tied up with the gods, and Kyra seeks to both escape and save both. Sounds quite twisty-turny, but it was pretty solid mix of elements for my reading tastes.
Bond does a lot of things well in her second novel. Her pacing is as brisk and frenetic as in her previous novel and her characters, particularly the protagonist Kyra, is far more than simply the “plucky, clever girl.” Kyra’s emotions come across very well; her urge to help her father, the conflict she feels over Oz, and the fear she has for her friends. I empathized and believed in her as a character and felt for her plight. She takes the full spotlight.

I started reading Larry Correia's Monster Hunter series last year and I recently caught up with the second in the series, Monster Hunter Vendetta, which I thought was a blast:

Correia’s over-the-top ultra-violent style makes for a quickly paced novel. Since the government endorsed Monster Control Bureau has much to say in things involving monsters on US soil, they have made it their responsibility to ensure Owen is not abducted by the Necromancer, who happens to know very intricate details about Monster Hunter International. Not only does the Necromancer want a measure of revenge against Owen for thwarting his masters, the Old Ones (as depicted in Monster Hunter International), but because Owen is special. He is a once in era person who can be a key to the Old Ones entry and destruction of our reality. Further complicating matters for Owen, and all of the team of Monster Hunter International, is that the Necromancer hints of traitor in the ranks.

I also enjoyed the deeper exploration of the Old Ones (though Correia hasn’t fully mined this, I think) and more of the history of Monster Hunter International. In other words, I like the mythology for this world Correia has thus far built in the two novels. Granted, he’s using some ready-made ingredients with the Old Ones clear homages to the Lovecraft/Cthulhu mythos and the familiar element of a secret black ops paramilitary force fighting against the things normal people would not believe existed.

My most recent review and it is a contrarian review at that.  My twitter stream, at least those who read SFF like me, have been raving about this book for weeks.  For me, it just didn't work.  The book...Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie:
Leckie has an inventive point of view and injects a lot of originality into the novel. There’s interesting things to ponder in terms of evolution, singularity and machine intelligence in a far future. Breq is far from a reliable narrator and her past selves aren’t fully able to resolve themselves and their memories as she progresses through the present. The system of Justices and planetary colonization seems like it could be fodder for a great many stories. Although Leckie isn’t the first to posit intelligent, thinking star ships in a Space Opera setting, her execution and foundation from which the story flows is something she makes her own, it feels fresh.
The shifts between the past narrative and the present proved problematic, it wasn’t a smooth transition for me and I found myself having to re-read back a bit in some cases to get a better understanding of the timeframe in which the story lens was focusing at that time. Although the opening grabbed me, as the story progressed, the narrative and the character’s plight failed to significantly hold my attention.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Orphan Black Rewatch: Episode 3 "Variation Under Nature"

Up at (as of Monday) is my recap/breakdown of the third episode of Orphan Black since BBC America re-aired the third episode this past Saturday.  Have a look, won't you?

Orphan Black Rewatch: “Variation Under Nature”