Thursday, October 31, 2013

“Kill City Blues” by Richard Kadrey (Voyager)

Adobe Photoshop PDFSandman Slim is back on Earth, Averting Apocalypse & causing mischief…

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he’s not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall – a multi-story copy of LA – infested with Lurkers and wretched bottom-feeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

In the fifth Sandman Slim novel, we get more of the same. In both a good and less-good way. Kadrey serves up another dose of gritty, sometimes gnarly, often amusing supernatural urban fantasy. All the hallmarks of the Sandman Slim series are on display – the interesting and inspired twists on classic urban fantasy and horror denizens and creatures. His characters are quippy and interesting, not to mention developing rather nicely. The action is well-written, and doesn’t take over from the plot (of the novel or series’ meta-plot). I still love Kadrey’s version of Hell, God, Lucifer and Samael (former Lucifer). All the characters feel very real, now, even if they are outlandish (Kasabian, for example).

Kadrey-5-KillCityBluesUSAt the same time, Kill City Blues felt somehow… less substantial and satisfying than the previous four novels (and novella – which was actually superb). Certainly, it’s tricky to sustain such high quality over five novels and a novella in a relatively short period of time, and this is not exactly a “dud”. It’s perhaps not surprising that Kadrey’s latest novel, Dead Set, is not a Sandman Slim novel. I get the feeling he needed to clear his head and take a break.

Reading this never quite felt like the author may have been going through the motions. It is probably just a case of this being a transition novel. We get some important character and plot developments, and (not wanting to spoil anything) it felt like pieces were being moved into place for what should shape up to be quite a sixth novel.

I would say this is still a must-read novel, but I would caution readers that this should be approached as part of a larger whole, rather than a possible stand-alone. It’s dark, it’s wonderfully dark and irreverent. It’s snarky and twisted fun. But it didn’t quite light all the same fires are the previous novels.

The Series: Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead, Aloha From Hell, Devil in the Dollhouse (novella), Devil Said Bang, Kill City Blues

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Author-Of-Many-Genres: Jeff Somers

I was spending some time on Goodreads, recently (as you do), and I noticed that Jeff Somers wrote in a number of genres. On the face of things, that is not at all a groundbreaking discovery. But, given the publishing industry’s preference for author branding, I thought it was interesting that Somers wrote under the same pen-name for all of the genres. Again, not exactly an earth-shattering discovery, but it gives me the opportunity to feature his work on the blog, before I get around to reading any of it. So, without further ado…

Author Bio: “Born in Jersey City, N.J., Jeff Somers has managed to migrate just five minutes away to nearby Hoboken, land of overpriced condominiums and a tavern on every corner. Between weekly drunks, Jeff manages to scrawl enough prose onto cocktail napkins and toilet paper to keep up a respectable fiction career.”

Genres: Avery Cates (Cyberpunk), Ustari Cycle (Urban Fantasy), Lifers, and Chum (fiction)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Graphic Novels Catch-Up: Hulk, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Superman


Four mini-reviews of graphic novels I have read over the last couple of weeks: Captain America: Road to Reborn and Reborn, Indestructible Hulk, Superman: Secret Identity, Wonder Woman (New 52).

Guest Post: “It’s the End of the World -- Bring Charmin” by Gail Z. Martin


In the post-apocalyptic TV show “Revolution,” one of the characters, a former Google executive, says, “80 million dollars in the bank and I would trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin.” Of all the things that society has lost, at that moment, he misses commercially-produced toilet paper. It’s the little things that count.

I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, a post-apocalyptic medieval epic fantasy series, for Orbit Books. In Ice Forged, the first book in the series, my characters have to come to terms with what they’ve lost, both big and small. Oddly enough, sometimes it’s the small things that matter the most.

Epic fantasy usually deals with the sweeping repercussions of events and decisions — the wars, assassinations, dynastic conflicts and economic collapses that change the balance of power. Certainly anything worthy of being called an apocalypse affects the superstructure of society: government, commerce, economics, and technology. Add in plague and natural disaster and a nation, continent or kingdom loses a significant portion of its workforce, its intellectual capital, its history and its physical infrastructure. Those losses are guaranteed to change what daily life is like for the survivors, and to make just getting by much more difficult.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Books on Film: “Warm Bodies” by Isaac Marion (Vintage)

MarionI-WarmBodiesMovieA brilliant zombie love-story…

Movie Synopsis: Life for Julie (Teresa Palmer) and R (Nicholas Hoult) couldn’t be more different. R is a zombie; with a great record collection; limited vocab and an overpowering love of brain food. Julie is a human; beautiful; strong; open minded and all heart. When R makes an unexpected decision and rescues Julie from a zombie attack, his lifeless existence begins to have a purpose. As the unlikely relationship develops, R’s choice to protect her sets in motion a sequence of events that might just change both of their worlds forever. Directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50) and based on the debut novel by Isaac Marion, the heart-warming Warm Bodies is 2013’s zom-rom-com with a twist.

Director: Jonathan Levine | Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovitch

I stumbled across Isaac Marion’s novel when I was in New York. I read the synopsis in the Union Square Barnes & Noble (one of my favourite places in the world…). Despite being intrigued, I wasn’t in a zombie-mood at the time, so I passed over it – rather unfairly, as it turned out. After the movie was released on DVD, though, I decided to watch the movie first – not something I usually do, but given the vast array of books I have to read, I wanted to squeeze this in. And I’m very glad I did.

All of the actors do a great job, and Nicholas Hoult does a wonderful job of making “R” an engaging and even sympathetic character. He’s funny, he’s awkward, and his internal monologue is wonderfully relatable to anyone who has ever felt stuck, awkward, or like their lives need a change. It’s brilliantly done, all-round, and as we see R’s evolution (“re-evolution”?) we realise just how brilliant Hoult is as an actor. It’s a peculiarly sweet love story, and I loved how it was both true to zombie lore and also unexpected and original, as well as paying tribute to some of the greatest love-stories (Romeo & Juliet, for example). It also has a superb soundtrack…

Very highly recommended. I will have to move the novel up the tottering TBR mountain.

Book Synopsis: “R” is a zombie. He has no name, no memories, and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows – warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can’t understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.

This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won't be changed without a fight...


“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt (Vintage/Penguin)

TarttD-SecretHistoryI finally get around to reading the mega-hit novel of a mysterious group of college friends

Richard Papen arrived at Hampden College in New England and was quickly seduced by an elite group of five students, all Greek scholars, all worldly, self-assured, and, at first glance, all highly unapproachable. As Richard is drawn into their inner circle, he learns a terrifying secret that binds them to one another...a secret about an incident in the woods in the dead of night where an ancient rite was brought to brutal life...and led to a gruesome death. And that was just the beginning....

Another quick review, this (I’m still trying to figure out how best to review literary fiction). The Secret History has been an international mega-hit, and is frequently listed on Must Read books of the decade, your life, and so forth. As a result, it has been on my radar for years. But, because I am never lacking in reading material, I just never got around to buying it. After a particularly acute bout of book-restlessness, I decided it was time for a change from the SFF genres, and picked this up. I read it over a few very satisfying days, evenings and one night (I ended up finishing it at around 3am). It’s not perfect, but it is certainly engrossing and well-written.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

“Scars”, Ep.X-XII by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-Scars(HH)The final serial episodes of this Horus Heresy novel

Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster... or neither.

I’m going to keep this very brief, as this review covers the final quarter of a novel. Why ruin it for everyone? The synopsis above is that for the novel as a whole. I must say it is possibly Wraight’s best so far. Everything I’ve reported on from the first nine episodes is just as evident and well-written as in the chapters that have come before. We learn more about the White Scars, and their strange place alongside the other Legiones Astartes, and the Imperium at large. Wraight sets up a lasting conflict and antagonism that (I assume) continues into the “present” Warhammer 40,000 timeline. Two Primarchs face off against each other, and the result of that exchange dictates the fate of the White Scars going forward. These three episodes pack in a lot of action, and the battle-scenes are very well-written (better, even, than Wraight’s Battle of the Fang). I particularly liked the attention paid to the Scars’ as a Legion split in two – mainly because it’s not been particularly well-addressed in other novels. Wraight’s writing is excellent throughout – clear, crisply composed, and briskly paced.

To be honest, a good amount of the story’s impact was lost as a result of the serialisation – hitting cliffhanger moments works for TV series, but not so much for a Horus Heresy novel. Even though I read them in chunks or multiple episodes, I’m used to read a novel in no more than five days (when they’re really long) and as little as one or two days. Stretching one out over a couple of months just didn’t work for me. An interesting experiment, though.

Nevertheless, with the whole novel now available, I would certainly recommend this as a must-read for all fans of the Heresy series. Wraight’s first full-length foray into the era is a triumph of military sci-fi. I certainly look forward to his next offering.

The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanicum, Tales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus, Betrayer, Mark of Calth, Promethean Sun, Scorched Earth, Vulkan Lives, Scars (I-III, IV-IX), The Unremembered Empire

[I’m going to work at filling in those review-blanks – some I’ve already read, but there are a couple of oversights that need addressing. As I am always thirsty for more Heresy fiction, I think I may have to catch up pretty soon. Starting with Graham McNeill’s Mechanicum. Fallen Angels is the only other I’ve never read.]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Upcoming: “A Love Like Blood” by Marcus Sedgwick (Hodder)

Sedgwick-ALoveLikeBloodAn ARC of this novel dropped through my mailbox a little while ago, and I had no idea what it was about. Nor could I find much information about it. Naturally, this made me ever-more intrigued (love me a good mystery book…). Publisher Hodder has now unveiled the artwork and synopsis, so here it is…

I’ve chased him for over twenty years, and across countless miles, and though often I was running, there have been many times when I could do nothing but sit and wait. Now I am only desperate for it to be finished.

In 1944, just days after the liberation of Paris, Charles Jackson sees something horrific: a man, apparently drinking the blood of a murdered woman. Terrified, he does nothing, telling himself afterwards that worse things happen in wars.

Seven years later he returns to the city – and sees the same man dining in the company of a fascinating young woman. When they leave the restaurant, Charles decides to follow...

A LOVE LIKE BLOOD is a dark, compelling thriller about how a man's life can change in a moment; about where the desire for truth – and for revenge – can lead; about love and fear and hatred. And it is also about the question of blood.

When I read this, it will be the first of Sedgwick’s novel I read. Rather looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest Post: “The Delphi Room – Through the Looking-Glass” by Melia McClure

McClureM-DelphiRoomIn my novel, The Delphi Room, two people watch the past of the other unfold in a mirror. Trapped next door to one another in rooms they believe to be Hell, Velvet and Brinkley are captive audience to the disturbing “home movies” that play in a mirror that hangs in each of their prisons.

Mirrors are compelling symbols and have appeared in various art forms and spiritual texts throughout the ages. The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, referenced in my book’s title, demanded of ancient Greeks “know thyself” – no small demand, and one which my characters grapple with mightily, in mightily eccentric fashion. Among other things, mirrors have historically symbolized self-knowledge and wisdom, and like the ancients who returned to Delphi again and again in search of answers to the riddles of life, countless numbers of people currently revisit a mirror as a daily reference point in the evolving construction of identity. The Delphic oracle answered seekers’ questions with riddles, and for mirror-gazers the riddles of the mind have a drastic impact on the perception of the confounding entity known as “self” that is reflected in the glass.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

“The Unremembered Empire” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Abnett-HH-UnrememberedEmpireIsolation, Confusion and Consolidation during the Horus Heresy

Far out on the Eastern Fringe, the realm of Ultramar stands alone. Having weathered the Word Bearers’ attack on Calth and the subsequent Shadow Crusade against the Five Hundred Worlds, the Ultramarines primarch Roboute Guilliman now draws all loyalist forces to Macragge as he contemplates a new future for mankind. With the arrival of more and more fugitives from the war that has engulfed the rest of the galaxy, all distinction between friend and foe is lost – isolated from Terra by fearsome warp storms, is Guilliman making a bid for power to rival even the renegade Warmaster Horus?

In The Unremembered Empire, Dan Abnett is firing on all creative cylinders. It’s an epic novel, in many respects – action-packed, momentous, a type of bridging point in the overall Horus Heresy series. I blitzed through this, and was left desperately wanting more at the end. A very good addition to the series. Absolutely addictive.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Interview with FREYA ROBERTSON


Freya Robertson is the author of Heartstone, the first in the Elemental Wars series. It is her debut novel, and has already started to create some good buzz. After reading this interview, be sure to check out the excerpt from the novel, which I shared yesterday.

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Freya Robertson?

Hi! I’m Freya, and I’m a Kiwi! That’s what New Zealanders call themselves — because this is the homeland of the flightless kiwi bird, and also we grow a lot of kiwi fruit here. I’m 44, married with one son, and a bit of a geek. Okay, a lot of a geek. :-)

I thought we’d start with your fiction: Your debut novel, Heartwood, will be published by Angry Robot in October. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Yes, it’s the first in The Elemental Wars series, and the second, Sunstone, comes out in March/April. In one way, it’s very traditional epic fantasy and will hopefully appeal to readers who love that genre, with its quasi-medieval European setting, its high stakes (the end of the world is nigh!), its cast of characters and its length — it’s the biggest book Angry Robot has produced so far, and will be useful for holding up the table once you’ve finished reading it!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Excerpt: HEARTWOOD by Freya Robertson (Angry Robot)

RobertsonF-1-HeartwoodIn advance of tomorrow’s interview with Freya Robertson, here is an excerpt (the whole first chapter) from the author’s debut fantasy novel, Heartwood – book one in The Elemental Wars



The belt hung from a hook in the doorway of a tent, weighed down by a bulging leather pouch. Gold coins shone at the top where the tie had loosened – an open invitation to the light-fingered.

The boy’s gaze alighted on it like a bird. He paused amidst the busy traffic on the main road into Heartwood, stepping out of the way of the carts and huge battle steeds that threatened to trample him.

He glanced around to make sure no one was looking and sidled over. A blue Wulfengar banner flew from the top of the tent, and he pulled a face at it as he reached out to take the pouch.

A large, strong hand clamped on his shoulder, and he jumped in fright. The hand belonged to a sturdy Wulfengar lord, his bristling face dark as thunderclouds.

“Laxonian.” The Wulfian sneered, and he spat on the page’s red tabard. “I might have guessed.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Upcoming: “Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh (Headline)

SternberghA-ShovelReadyI first spotted a photo of a Shovel Ready ARC on Twitter (I forget exactly when it was, and who Tweeted the image), and I did some digging. Ever since, I have been rather looking forward to this novel. It’s still some time until it is published, but the new UK cover was unveiled today, and I rather liked it. So here it is, as well as the synopsis:

I don’t want to know your reasons.

I don’t care.

Think of me as a bullet.

Just point.

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, before New York became a burnt-out shell. Now the wealthy spend their days tapped into virtual reality; the rest have to fend for themselves in the streets. Now there’s nothing but garbage.

So he became a hit man.  He doesn’t ask questions, he works quickly, and he’s handy with a box-cutter.

When he’s hired to kill the daughter of a high-profile evangelist, Spademan’s life is upended. He will have to navigate two worlds – both the slick fantasy and the wasteland reality – to finish the job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.

Shovel Ready is due to be published by Headline in January 2014.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

“Con Law” by Mark Gimenez (Sphere)

Gimenez-ConLawAnother great Texan political thriller from Gimenez

John Bookman – “Book” to his friends – is a tenured professor at the University of Texas School of Law. He’s thirty-five, handsome and unmarried. He teaches Constitutional Law, reduces senators to blithering fools on political talk shows, and is often mentioned as a future Supreme Court nominee.

But Book is also famous for something more unusual. He likes to take on lost causes and win. Consequently, when he arrives at the law school each Monday morning, hundreds of letters await him, letters from desperate Americans around the country seeking his help. Every now and then, one letter captures his attention and Book feels compelled to act.

In the first of a thrilling new series from the author of international bestsellers The Colour of Law and Accused, Book investigates a murder in the corrupt world of deepest, darkest Texas.

I’m a big fan of Gimenez’s novels. In the early years of his career, he was (too) often compared to John Grisham (another of my favourite authors – and I will admit that’s why I first tried Gimenez’s novels). Personally, I think he carved out an authorial identity all his own far quicker than some other critics. From The Perk onwards, at least, he has been producing some highly addictive, well-crafted thrillers. Con Law, the first in a new series featuring Book, is another excellent example of the author firing on all cylinders. I blitzed through this, and can’t wait for the next book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

“A1 Annual: The World’s Greatest Comics” (Titan Books)

A1-WorldsGreatestComics-Vol.1An interesting collection, from a broad selection of creators and talents



The exciting return of the award-winning graphic anthology series – for readers who want to see inside the mind of the creator, to see what truly makes them tick and witness them doing what they truly want to do!

From all around the world, the greatest comic talents are given full and free rein to explore the art of graphic storytelling.

Reviewing this book offers an interesting conundrum. It’s very bitty, as can be expected from anything referred to as an “annual”. I do, I must admit, tend to prefer a single, longer (or more substantial, at any rate) story. But there were some interesting offerings in this.

With so many people contributing, how do you select which to discuss, if not all of them? I will, therefore, keep this very short. A1: The World’s Greatest Comics is a great taster volume for all the authors and artists who have contributions printed herein. Where it’s the classic-era Kirby tale that opens the book; or Dave Elliott, Toby Cypress & Sakti Yuwono’s “Odyssey” (a Captain America analog – interesting, but sadly riddled with early typos); or Barnaby Bagenda & Jessica Kholinne’s interesting “Weirding Willows” (just three of sixteen stories included), this is an interesting volume. The artwork is varied, of course, and the stories draw from a broad range of genres. If you’re after a single story, this won’t suit, but if you’re new to comics, or want a selection of short, interesting and entertaining ‘samplers’, then this is a good option.

“Fortune’s Pawn” by Rachel Bach (Orbit)

Bach-P1-FortunesPawnThe start of a fun SF series from the author of the Eli Monpress novels

Devi Morris isn’t your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It’s a combination that’s going to get her killed one day – but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn’t misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she’s found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

I only heard about this series a few weeks ago. About the same time, I learned that Rachel Bach was a pseudonym for Rachel Aaron, the author of the amusing Eli Monpress fantasy series (also published by Orbit). Knowing that, I had a good idea of what I might find in Fortune’s Pawn, and my interest rose as a result. On the whole, this met my expectations, and while flawed, I think it’s a fun, breezy start to a new sci-fi series that will please a great many readers.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lazarus, Vol.1 – “Family” (Image)

Writer: Greg Rucka | Art: Michael Lark, w. Stefano Gaudiano & Brian Level | Colors: Santi Arcas

Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family.

In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains.

Forever Carlyle defends her family’s holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever’s day goes downhill from there...

Collects: Lazarus #1-4 & “Family: Prelude”

Prior to this, I was perhaps most familiar with Rucka’s first two, excellent Punisher volumes (must remember to finish off that series at some point). On the strength of just those books, I knew I wanted to read more of his work. That’s when I started to read and hear about Lazarus. As soon as this collection was available, I snapped it up and read it in one sitting. All I can say is that the hype is justified. While short, this is a very strong beginning.

Witchblade: Rebirth, Vol.1 – “Unbalanced Pieces” (Top Cow/Image)

Witchblade-Rebirth-Vol.01Writer: Tim Seeley | Art: Diego Bernard | Inks: Fred Benes, Alisson Rodrigues | Colors: Arif Prianto of IFS

In the wake of Top Cow’s Rebirth, Sara Pezzini has relocated from New York to Chicago and struggles to adapt to being a private detective. Pezzini quickly discovers that a change of scenery and occupation hasn’t changed one thing... the Witchblade is still a magnet for the supernatural Quickly drawn into a conflict between two mystical gangs, she must once again balance her responsibility as bearer of the Witchblade with her personal life.

Collects: Witchblade #151-155

I haven’t read a great deal of Witchblade comics, or other comics in Top Cow’s universe (Artifacts, The Darkness), but I’m somewhat conversant in the mythology. I read the first book by Ron Marz, which was itself a reboot/jumping-on-point, but then became distracted by the New 52 and a selection of other books (I’m not proud of it, but… Batman, baby!). After it was announced that Tim Seeley was taking over writing duties, my interest was piqued once again, having rather enjoyed his Hack/Slash horror-comedy series. So I dove in... And rather liked what I found.

Upcoming: “Innocence” & “Wilderness” by Dean Koontz (Harper Collins/Bantam)


Dean Koontz is an author who I have been familiar with for years (it’s hard to miss his novels in the SFF and Crime sections of any bookstore in – at least – the English-speaking world). And yet, I have never read anything by him. I think this novel, though, could change that. It sounds great. And, I’ll admit, the UK cover caught my eye – well played, Harper Collins Design Team. Well played. Then I saw the US cover (on the right), and I was even more smitten. Here’s the synopsis:

Addison Goodheart is not like other people…

Addison Goodheart lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from a society which will destroy him if he is ever seen.

Books are his refuge and his escape: he embraces the riches they have to offer. By night he leaves his hidden chambers and, through a network of storm drains and service tunnels, makes his way into the central library.

And that is where he meets Gwyneth, who, like Addison, also hides her true appearance and struggles to trust anyone.

But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance − and nothing less than destiny − has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

Innocence is due to be published in the UK December 10th 2013 (eBook), and on January 2nd 2014 (Hardcover) – according to Amazon UK. The novel is due to be published in the US by Bantam, also on December 10th 2013.

KoontzD-WildernessIn the meantime – and, if like me, you’ve never read anything by Koontz – the author has written a prequel novella! It’s called The Wilderness, and is published on October 29th 2013 in both the UK and US. Here’s the synopsis for the novella:

Addison Goodheart is a mystery even to himself. He was born in an isolated home surrounded by a deep forest, never known to his father, kept secret from everyone but his mother, who barely accepts him. She is haunted by private demons and keeps many secrets—none of which she dreads more than the young son who adores her.

Only in the woods, among the wildlife, is Addison truly welcome. Only there can he be at peace. Until the day he first knows terror, the day when his life changes radically and forever...

Friday, October 11, 2013

TANYA HUFF Finally Coming to the UK! (Titan Books)

I’ve been aware of Tanya Huff’s writing for a long time – her novels have been mentioned on so many of the US-based book blogs that I read. I also consider he agent a friend. And, of course, I know of the TV show, Blood Ties, that was inspired by her Urban Fantasy series of the same name (sometimes called the Victoria Nelson Series, after the protagonist). I have, however, never read a single one of her novels… This year, Titan Books will be publishing two of her novels, which should help me remedy this oversight – and very soon. Here are the details…


The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen — she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader — to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. But with every step the odds against their survival, let alone their success, grow steeper...

This sounds like a pretty interesting fantasy novel. Maybe a little steampunk-y, given the US cover? Regardless, I’m certainly intrigued. The Silvered is already available in the US, published by DAW Books.


HuffT-C1-ValoursChoiceVALOUR’S CHOICE

In the distant future, humans and several alien races have been granted membership in the Confederation — at a price. They must serve and protect the far more civilized species who have long since turned away from war. When her transport ship is shot down, a routine diplomatic mission across the galaxy becomes anything but, and Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr must fight to keep her platoon alive.

This is the first novel in Huff’s Confederation series. I believe Titan will be re-issuing all of the books in this series, although I’m not sure of the timetable. The rest of the series: The Better Part of Valour, The Heart of Valour, Valour’s Trial, and The Truth of Valour. [In the British spelling, of course…] The Confederation series is also published in the US by DAW Books (first published in 2000).


Neither of these UK editions have a Goodreads listing, yet, but I’m sure that’ll be fixed in the near future. I’m really looking forward to both of them. Be sure to follow the author on Twitter, for more up-to-date news and all the usual stuff one finds on Twitter.

Guest Post: “The Magnificent Liar” by Tim Powers

Continuing Tim Powers’s blog tour, I present to you a guest post about the colourful ‘hero’ Edward John Trelawny.

The Magnificent Liar


Hide Me Among the Graves had a number of colorful characters in it – I can say that with all due modesty, since I cheated and took real people who really lived for characters: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a genius painter who lost his health and his mind to chloral hydrate addiction; Christina Rossetti, a devout celibate recluse who nevertheless worked face-to-face with London’s prostitutes to reform them and wrote reams of poetry about guilt and reproachful ghosts; and Algernon Swinburne, possibly the best English-language poet since Shelley, who furiously dissipated his gifts with alcohol and sado-masochistic obsessions – but the most fascinating of this circle was a man whose greatest accomplishment was telling lies about his own life.

Edward John Trelawny managed – largely by living a long time – to be a central character in the Italian circle that included Lord Byron and Percy Shelley in the 1820s, and also a prominent figure in the London of the 1860s, a close friend of many of the Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets. The only other figure I can think of right now who did the same kind of era-straddling is Neal Cassady, who was the friend and inspiration of Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg in the 1950s and then, after the Beat phenomenon had petered out, went on to be the same for Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in the late ’60s.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Recent Acquisitions (Early October)…


Another clutch of interesting books.

A nice mix, actually. I’m really trying to broaden what I feature on here – who knows how successful I will be in that endeavour. Partly, this is because my day-job involves reading a fair bit of SFF, which means I’m finding myself drawn more to thrillers (e.g. John Sandford) and (literary-)fiction. I’m still going to be reading plenty of SFF, of course (my interest in that is never going to go away). I just hope I can at least somewhat keep on top of all of these titles. Maybe I need to get some more writers involved.

Anyway, here’s what has turned up in the first few days of October…



Rebecca Alexander is the author of the much-anticipated The Secrets of Life and Death, which was published today by Del Rey UK. I caught up with the author, and asked her about her novel, her writing practices, and more…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Rebecca Alexander?

I’m a writer with one foot in the occult and the other in crime. This is perfectly normal for a psychologist, I used to meet the most interesting people in my job. I’ve worked with people in all categories of prison; with people in the community who ought to be in prison; and some very intriguing people who explore the occult. I’m also fascinated by folk beliefs and magical thinking – the belief ordinary people have in magic that they are not always aware of. Once you’ve literally had tea and biscuits with a pair of heathens, a few druids and a chaos magician the lines between real life and fantasy get blurred.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Superman, Vol.3 – “Fury at World’s End” (DC Comics)

Superman-Vol.03-ArtWriter: Scott Lobdell | Artist: Kenneth Rocafort (#13-17,19), Aaron Kuder (#18), Tyler Kirkham (#18), Robson Rocha (#18) | Inks: Aaron Kuder (#18), Jaime Mendoza (#18) | Colors: Sunny Goh (#13-16,18), Blond (#17-19)

H’El has come to Earth. When a mysterious ghost from Krypton’s past comes to Metropolis in hopes of finding the lost planet’s last son, his arrival comes with disastrous consequences for not just Superman, but also for Superboy and Supergirl. H’El has decided that Earth is the place to resurrect Krypton, but the price the lives of everyone on the planet! Guest-starring the Justice League, Wonder Woman, Orion and more!

Collects: Superman #13-17 [+ #18-19]

Continuing my attempts to catch up on a few New 52 titles, before I… uh… give them up… I actually quite like the Superman series. It wobbled a bit early on when the DC Powers That Be (DCPTB) decided to tie it in to the daemonite/Helspont mess that dominated the story-arcs of Grifter and Voodoo, but also roped in Stormwatch (and maybe a couple others?). I liked the greater attention paid to Superman/Clark’s everyday life, as a journalist and as someone navigating the changing industry and also his personal relationships. This collection of issues had a lot of this, too, and I’m certainly glad I read it. However, it also features the Superman issues that tie into the Super-family Event, “H’El on Earth”, which presented some issues for me.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Guillermo Del Toro’s SIMPSON’s Opening Credits Sequence…

… is riddled with awesome SFF references. This has been doing the rounds on the SFF blogosphere, but I thought I’d share it as well, because it’s quite brilliant. Check it out:

Link: An Interesting Article about Literary Agencies & One of the Most… Ornery of Agents


Over on (the online home of The New Republic), they have recently posted an article about the “Andrew Wylie Rules” and the eponymous Wylie Agency. It’s comprised of a short introduction followed by an interview by Laura Bennett with Wylie himself, in which they focus a fair bit on Amazon’s new publishing ventures.

“Among literary agents, Andrew Wylie is as old school as they come. Dubbed ‘the Jackal’ for his aggressive poaching of other people’s clients, his distaste for commercial fiction and his disinterest in social media is legendary. He is the reigning king of the backlist, profiting mainly off classic titles rather than taking risky bets on new ones. His only criterion is enduring quality, and his client list is eye-popping: Amis, Nabokov, Bellow, Rushdie, Roth.”

That client list certainly is eye-popping. It’s massive! And I recognised very few of the authors listed, save those names everybody knows – those writers who have either transcended the notoriety of most authors (no disrespect intended, there, despite how it sounds), or public figures who have gone on to write (e.g. Kofi Annan). Literary Agencies continue to be rather misunderstood institutions – they don’t get a whole lot of press, in my experience, and as a result they have a rather strange place in the minds of SFF (or reading) fans. As someone who currently works for a literary agency, I thought this was an interesting look at how someone else does it.

Here’s what Wylie had to say about Amazon’s new publishing business:

“I believe that Amazon has its print publishing business so that their behavior as a distributor of digital content can be misperceived by the Department of Justice and the publishing industry in a way that is convenient for Amazon’s bottom line.* That is exactly what I think.”

* Wylie’s argument: Amazon wanted to enter into the publishing business to avoid being accused by the DOJ of trying to create a monopoly over e-book sales and distribution.

It’s an interesting piece. If you’re interested in the publishing industry, I’d recommend giving it a read for just one perspective on one of the major new developments.

Photo Credit: Melville House Article

“Silken Prey” by John Sandford (Putnam/Simon & Schuster)

Sandford-23-SilkenPreyUKMurder, scandal, political espionage, and an extremely dangerous woman. Lucas Davenport’s going to be lucky to get out of this one alive.

Very early one morning, a Minnesota political fixer answers his doorbell. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up on the floor of a moving car, lying on a plastic sheet, his body wet with blood. When the car stops, a voice says, “Hey, I think he’s breathing,” and another voice says, “Yeah? Give me the bat.” And that’s the last thing he knows.   

Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads to the man’s disappearance, then — very troublingly — to the Minneapolis police department, then — most troublingly of all — to a woman who could give Machiavelli lessons. She has very definite ideas about the way the world should work, and the money, ruthlessness, and sheer will to make it happen.

No matter who gets in the way.

I’m a huge fan of Sandford’s Minnesota-based crime thrillers. In fact, I would say that he’s probably my favourite thriller author bar none. Silken Prey is the 23rd novel in his Lucas Davenport series, and the series just keeps firing on all cylinders. This time, Sandford turns his attention to politics, which always offers new and ‘exciting’ ways in which an investigation can become muddled, dangerous, or even impossible. Lucas is tasked by the Democratic governor to investigate what appears to be a political framing of the Republican Senator. Making things really tricky, of course, is the fact that they are all in the middle of the election. Party politics, dirty tricks, extreme suspicion, and a deadly killer (or two) operating on the sidelines? This is Davenport. He can handle it. Maybe…

Monday, October 07, 2013

Awesome BATGIRL Cover

I haven’t shared any comic cover art recently, After I spotted this one, though, I had to share it (thanks to Abhinav, who shared it on Facebook, which is where I saw it first):


It’s Alex Garner’s cover for Batgirl #24, which is part of Gail Simone’s “Wanted” storyline. It’s pretty good, no? Internal art is done by Fernando Pasarin and Jonathan Glapion. Batgirl is one of the best DC New 52 titles, and it has rarely dropped below very good. I’m waiting for all the issues in this storyline to be released (Volume 4, in the collected hardcovers), before catching up. I’m rather looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

On My Growing Frustration with Marvel & DC Comics…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few days. I’m not really sure what this post is supposed to achieve, either. But, I thought I’d write it down. Mostly, I think, it indicates a shift in how I’m going to read and review comics.

Since I started reading comics again, in September 2011 with the launch of DC’s New 52 reboot, I have slowly started to become more and more frustrated with the near-endless cross-over events. Sure, this is not a new complaint from comics readers, and certainly it won’t do anything to change things. But, it will change things for me.

I understand the business rationale for cross-over Events: it encourages people to try new series, which in turn could lead to consistent interest in previously-unread series. Or, at the very least, a short-term up-tick in sales that isn’t bad for the publisher, either.

For me, though, it is annoying. I’ve always approached Marvel’s titles with eyebrow firmly raised, because it’s a given that any title will be involved in an Event at least twice a year – and, in 2012-13, it seems like the rate of Events is spiraling so far out of control that the only conclusion is that Marvel’s brain-trust (or, more likely, executives) have zero imagination, and can’t conceive of any title surviving/succeeding on its own. Which is too much cynicism for creativity and long-term success, in my opinion. “Avengers vs. X-Men”, “Age of Ultron”, “Infinity”, and even in the Ultimate Comics line, we had “Divided We Stand/United We Fall” and the Ultimate Comics series will be brought to an end with the “Cataclysm” Event.

Let’s take a look at DC: First, there was the Bat-family “Night of the Owls” Event, which had one tie-in issue per series (more or less). Then there was the larger “Death of the Family” Event, which was pretty good (but a little flat, by the end), and quite expensive for anyone who wanted the whole picture/story. Now, Batman will also have the “Year Zero” event, which will include 10 tie-in issues from other series. Sigh. There was the “Throne of Atlantis” Event, which was relatively short, and only connected two titles together (Aquaman and Justice League). There is the just-completed “Trinity War” Event, tying together Justice League, Pandora, Justice League Dark, Phantom Stranger and Constantine. Now, we have “Forever Evil: Blight” (18 issues, total), which is a cross-over between Constantine, Pandora, Phantom Stranger, and Justice League Dark. In addition to this, there was the early, tedious daemonite cross-over mess that tied together too many series early on in the New 52’s history. Green Lantern series had the Rise of the Third Army and immediately-following Wrath of the First Lantern.

Valiant Comics have had at least two cross-over events, too. Which is rather excessive for a line that has only been going (after a renewal) for little over a year. And all of the Events mentioned in this post don’t account for all of the ones that have been unveiled, or are pending.

This endless crossing over, mixing is just too much. For me, anyway. So, I’m going to stick to a very limited number of New 52 titles, and also Ultimate Comics series, some older Marvel series (mostly Captain America-related), and explore more offerings from other publishers. Perhaps the only exception will be Vertigo Comics (the “mature” imprint of DC Comics), which has some truly excellent series – many of which are already complete, which makes it easier to plan purchases and reading.*

It’s just too expensive to get the whole picture with the Big Two. Marvel have been ridiculous for a long time. DC, after pulling off a great re-boot, seem to have caught the Cross Over Bug a little too hard, which has just killed my enthusiasm to fork over all that money. Getting the whole story is very important to me. As, I’m sure, it is for a lot of reading junkies. If you’re going to pursue a strategy that whiffs of gouging… Count me out. I have rent and food to pay for (which I can barely manage as it is).

So, yeah. I’m not really sure if this post really achieves anything. But there we go.

* That being said, even Vertigo are going to be running a Cross Over: Fables and Unwritten… It’ll hopefully be short, though, and does benefit from being comprised of two of my favourite comics.

“Scars” Eps.IV-IX by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-Scars(HH)-pt4The next six parts of the serialised Horus Heresy novel

Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster... or neither.

Originally, I was going to read this serialised novel in chunks of three ‘episodes’. However, after leaving things for a little longer than intended, I ended up blitzing though the middle six parts in one go. While I’m still not entirely sold on the serialisation-aspect of this project, I do believe Scars will shape up to be Wraight’s best Black Library work to date. This is a very good novel (so far).

Thursday, October 03, 2013

“The Shining” by Stephen King (Hodder)

KingS-TheShining2011Perhaps King’s most famous novel. Review by a first-time reader.

Danny Torrance is only five years old, but in the words of old Mr. Hallorann, he “shines” with an exceptional psychic talent. For most of Danny’s life, his clairvoyant abilities have helped him to puzzle out his parents’ troubled relationship, but when his father accepts a position as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel high in the Rocky Mountains, the little boy’s visions spiral into the realm of nightmare.

As blizzards isolate the Torrances, the hotel seems to develop a sinister life of its own. At night, unseen revelers ride the elevators and even the animal-shaped hedges of the topiary prowl the hotel’s grounds like threatening predators. But when Danny meets the woman in room 217, he discovers that the hotel’s phantom guests are more than shadows. Like Danny, the Overlook shines, but the energy it emanates is deadly.

The Shining is one of those novels pretty much everyone knows about. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, like me, they know many references from it without having ever read the book. True, some will know about it from the Kubrick movie (which Stephen King is not too fond of) – although, I haven’t seen that, either. When I got my hands on the novel, I was certainly eager to see what all the fuss was about, and fill in this important gap in my reading history. It is, of course, brilliantly written. But. While it is a fascinating read, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite click for me. I would, however, agree that this is essential reading.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Want to Read: “Jack of Spies” by David Downing (Old Street)

DowningD-JackOfSpiesA twist on the “Upcoming” posts that I frequently write, I’m going to start posting a few more of these – looking at novels that are already out that I really want to read. Some of these will be recently-released books that I just happened to miss, but I’ll also be featuring older titles that I’ve only just stumbled across, or have been meaning to read for years.

I’ve never read anything by David Downing, and I’m not really sure why. It is probably just down to the fact that I get so many books these days that, if it doesn’t arrive in the post, or isn’t from an established series that I’ve been following for some time, I often just can’t get around to it. David Downing, however, I have been aware of (he is the author of the Station series of spy novels), just never had the money to buy the books when I was reminded of them. Jack Of Spies may just change this. It is the first in a new World War I espionage series, and it sounds really good:

Jack McColl is a globe-trotting salesman for a luxury car firm. He is also a part-time spy for the fledgling Secret Service on the eve of the First World War, doing London’s bidding wherever internal or external enemies threaten the security of the British Empire. As 1913 ends he is in China, checking out the German naval base at Tsingtao between automobile demonstrations in Peking and Shanghai. Caitlin Hanley is a young Irish-American journalist with the sort of views that most British men would find dangerously advanced. McColl is no exception, but once captivated he finds himself unwilling to give her up – even when Caitlin's radical politics and family connections threaten to compromise his undeclared career as a spy. Then the pair become involved in a plot that threatens the Empire in its hour of greatest need...

I’m very intrigued by this. Anyone read it? Also, how great is that cover?

Q&A with Andy Serkis on adapting Samantha Shannon’s THE BONE SEASON & George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM

AndySerkisIn a Q&A organised by Samantha Shannon’s publicists in the UK, Andy Serkis discussed the acquisition of movie rights for Shannon’s debut novel, The Bone Season. Serkis, best-known perhaps as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, has set up his own film studio, Imaginarium Studio. The Bone Season will be one of their first projects, alongside an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, both of which will be directed by Serkis.


What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio’s very first slate of films?

We first came across the manuscript at the London Book Fair and immediately fell in love with the scope, the scale and the exceptional detail of the world Samantha had created. It’s a really compelling story with such a great central character – we all immediately saw its potential as a fantastic feature film.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Guest Post: “Confessions of a TV Series-aholic (Or, What Writers Can Learn From TV Series)” by Rowena Cory Daniells

Rowena Cory-Daniells discusses her addiction to certain TV series, and how they’ve inspired elements of her own fiction…

I’ve discovered I prefer TV series to movies, series like Boardwalk Empire, Deadwood, House of Cards and now from the UK the Peaky Blinders. (So named because according to some sources they sewed razor blades into the peak of their caps to slash across their enemies’ faces).


(Cillian Murphy plays gang leader Thomas Shelby)

If a movie is the equivalent of a short story (Minority Report was a story by the same title by Phillip K. Dick), then a TV series is the equivalent of a book in that a series has time to develop complex story arcs and in-depth characterisation.


(Breaking Bad: Walt and Jessie taking a break in between cooking crystal meth)

As someone who writes big fat fantasy books, I know the craft involved in creating interesting characters and interweaving narratives. When Walter White first found out he had lung cancer and needed money for his pregnant wife and disabled son, I could appreciate the way the audience were positioned to identify with Walt and sympathise even when he broke the law. We go on his journey with him as we see the roll-on effects of his decision to cook crystal meth. Breaking Bad raised the question: Would you break the law to protect your family?