Fantasy Book Critic

Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Giveaways and more…

Archive for September, 2007

Winners of the Frank Beddor Giveaway!!!

Posted by cervantor on PM00000060000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Marisa Janes (Illinois) and Jason Farrell (Florida) who were randomly selected to win a Frank Beddor PRIZE PACK, each of which includes a copy of “The Looking Glass Wars”, “Seeing Redd”, the Hatter M graphic novel and two posters courtesy of Goldberg McDuffie Communications!!! If you haven’t experienced Mr. Beddor’s fascinating new take on the Alice in Wonderland mythos yet, I strongly urge that you do so. You can find a ton of information at The Looking Glass Wars Website, and I’ve interviewed Mr. Beddor HERE and reviewed “Seeing ReddHERE, which is now available as well as the hardcover edition of the graphic novel Hatter M. Thanks for reading!

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Del Rey To Publish Tie-in Books Based on the New Indiana Jones film! (Official Press Release)

Posted by cervantor on PM00000070000000030 1, 2008

NEW YORK, NY – September 27, 2007Del Rey Books, an imprint of Ballantine Books at the Random House Publishing Group, announced today that it will publish tie-in books based on the long-awaited, eagerly anticipated new movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which will premiere throughout the world on May 22, 2008.

For more than 25 years, audiences have thrilled to the adventures of Indiana Jones. The three original films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade garnered 14 Academy Award nominations, won 7 Oscars, and grossed more than $1.1 billion at the box office. In the cinematic event of 2008, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford join forces again, bringing Indiana Jones back to the silver screen for his biggest adventure ever.

Del Rey Books was the publisher of the original movie novels, and this new adventure will be penned by New York Times-bestselling author James Rollins (The Judas Strain, Black Order, Map of Bones and Sandstorm). Del Rey will also be publishing The Making of Indiana Jones by Laurent Bouzereau and J. W. Rinzler, a behind-the-scenes look at the people, places, technology, and events that went into the creation of all four Indiana Jones movies, beginning with the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark and culminating with an up-close-and-personal look at the brand-new blockbuster.

“We’re very excited to be working with Del Rey on the new Indiana Jones books,” said Carol Roeder, Lucasfilm’s Director of Publishing. “Del Rey was there with the first Star Wars novel, and the first Indiana Jones novel, so it’s wonderful to be able to continue the great adventure together.”

“The Indiana Jones movies have attained legendary status in the world of film, and the character of Indiana Jones is a legend in his own right,” noted Del Rey editor Shelly Shapiro. “We are thrilled to be a part of his return, and to have the opportunity to show an entire new generation of readers how exciting these novels can be.”

What can I say. I love Indiana Jones and while I’m not much for movie novelizations, I’m also a pretty big fan of James Rollins so I might just have to check this one out. I can’t wait for the movie!!!

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"Blood Engines" by T.A. Pratt

Posted by cervantor on PM00000010000000030 1, 2008

Order “Blood EnginesHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Besides creating chapbooks, co-editing the zine Flytrap, and working as a senior editor / book reviewer at Locus Magazine, Tim Pratt also writes SF/fantasy novels (The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl), poetry, and short fiction (published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, the upcoming Solaris Book of New Fantasy, etc.) including the 2007 Hugo Award-winning “Impossible Dreams”. As T.A. Pratt, the author is producing a new urban fantasy series which kicks off with “Blood Engines”.

On the surface, “Blood Engines” seems like any number of urban fantasy novels out there. Strong leading heroine? Check. Contemporary backdrop? Check. Supernatural action, sex, and sarcastic humor? Check, check & check. Yet, “Blood Engines” has more going for it than you might think. For instance, in most of the urban fantasy series that I’ve read, the opening volume usually spends a lot of time on set-up and ends up leaving the reader with more questions than answers. Not so in “Blood Engines” which is basically a self-contained story. Sure, there are a couple of threads left unresolved that will get picked up in the already announced sequels, but never once did I feel that I was reading a set-up novel. Part of the reason is that the leading protagonist reads like a veteran character—apparently Marla Mason has appeared in previous short stories by Mr. Pratt so that has something to do with it. So from the very beginning of the book Ms. Mason, chief sorcerer of the city Felport, and her associate Rondeau, an “inhuman psychic entity that long ago possessed the body of a little homeless boy”, are thrown into the fire. In short, the two are in San Francisco searching for a powerful artifact that will help prevent a rival from usurping Marla’s position as chief sorcerer. What should be a fairly simple job becomes vastly more complicated when an acquaintance turns up murdered and the artifact in question is stolen for use in a diabolical, world-threatening plot that has something to do with poisonous golden frogs, hummingbirds, blood sacrifices and Aztec mythology. Throw in a sex party, alternate universes, ancient gods, some interesting magic concepts, and a wild cast of supporting characters, and you have a story that is just as fun & outrageous as it sounds.

Character-wise, “Blood Engines” is a bit of a mixed bag. Marla Mason is obviously the star of the show getting the bulk of the third-person narrative, and what I liked about her is that she knows what she’s about (her strengths and her weaknesses), she doesn’t take crap from anyone, and even though she’s the good guy, she’s definitely not a saint. Plus, besides being a “jill-of-all-trades” sorcerer, she also has martial arts training, possesses a knife that can cut through the metaphysical and owns a bad-ass cloak that is as powerful as it is dangerous. Rondeau meanwhile is not human, comes from unknown origins and has a gift for tongues, or more specifically Cursing. Basically, there’s not really that much to Rondeau and he’s more or less there for the banter and the funny quips, but he is open sexually, which is actually a common theme with some of the other characters including Marla. Then there’s Bradley Bowman or ‘B’, a former actor with psychic abilities who shares part of the narrative with Marla. While B isn’t that well-developed, I liked him better than Rondeau and I hope that he’ll be featured more prominently in future books. Of the rest, there’s your usual blend of villains, allies and those that fall somewhere in-between. Mutex plays the main baddie and while he had some impressive abilities, the motives behind his overall actions were a bit thin. Personally, my favorites in the whole book were some of the side characters, particularly such unconventional sorcerers as the pornomancer Finch, the technomancer Dalton and the cannibal Bethany.

Regarding the writing in the book, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Mr. Pratt’s other works so I can’t comment on that, but from what I’ve seen in “Blood Engines” I’d say he’s pretty competent. The author displays a good grasp of the world that he’s created, specifically the magical elements some of which are quite unique; his research seems detailed, especially the city of San Francisco; and he knows how to write a page-turner—I finished “Blood Engines” in just over a day 😉 About the only thing I didn’t like was I thought the metaphors were too simple & clichéd and I thought the pop culture references (Bruce Lee, the Beatles, Godzilla) too obvious, though I did see one to post-rock band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead 😉

All in all I enjoyed “Blood Engines”. Obviously I’m not an expert on urban fantasy. Heck, there are countless series that I haven’t started yet, but I am a fan of the subgenre and I’ve read my fair share of books that fall in that category. Whether or not that makes my opinion worth anything is up to you, but I believe T.A. Pratt’sBlood Engines” is worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of urban fantasy and want to try something that’s recognizable, but distinctive. For those who do give it a spin, note that volumes two (Poison Sleep) and three (Dead Reign) are due out in 2008, with “Grift Sense” following in 2009…

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Author Contests/Giveaways

Posted by cervantor on PM000000100000000030 1, 2008

David Anthony Durham, author of “Acacia” which is one of the best fantasy debuts this year, has arranged a little giveaway for an audio copy of his book. The rules HERE are pretty simple. Basically, you just need to sign in or log on to Mr. Durham’s forum and leave your sign-in name on the appropriate thread HERE. Easy as pie 🙂

Over HERE at Kate Mosse’s website, there’s another contest. This one you’ll have to work a little as it requires submitting a 1000-word short story that includes at least one hatpin! I’m not sure what the prize is, but I’m sure it’s pretty cool 🙂 Deadline for that is Sunday, October 7, 2007 at Midnight. By the way, Kate Mosse’s new book “Sepulchre” is due for release October 31, 2007. Pick up a copy!

For fans of near-future, science fiction/spy thrillers, check out Josh Conviser’s website HERE for a contest he’s running. The prizes are for three signed copies of his debut novel “Echelon” and an advance copy of the sequel “Empyre”, which comes out on October 30, 2007. I just got a copy of “Empyre” myself so I look forward to reviewing it 🙂 Also, I was a bit late on finding out about the contest, which ends Monday, October 1, 2007 so don’t dawdle…

Finally, Matthew Hughes, an underrated science fiction & fantasy writer, will be starting a contest on his website this Saturday, September 29th at 6:00PM Eastern Time. What can readers look forward to? How about copies of the author’s “The Spiral Labyrinth”, the “Majestrum” trade paperback and a Payseur & Schmidt limited edition chapbook of his Luff Imbry novelette, “The Farouche Assemblage.” Even better, three lucky people will receive one of the limited edition Night Shade versions of Mr. Hughes’The Gist Hunter and Other Stories”, “Majestrum” or “The Spiral Labyrinth.” Sounds good to me, so be sure to visit the website HERE at the appointed time 😀

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Winners of "The High King’s Tomb" Giveaway!!!

Posted by cervantor on PM00000080000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Jerri McSloy (Texas), Brittany Weems (Texas), Melissa Markham (Virginia), Karlene Karrfalt (Indiana), Haley Brown (Ohio), Jacquelyn Desch (Delaware), Emily Minick (Alaska), Gregory Goodman (Missouri), Betty Gatton (New Mexico) and Helen Diamond (New York) who were all randomly selected to win an ADVANCE Readers’ Galley of Kristen Britain’sThe High King’s Tomb” thanks to DAW Books!!!

The High King’s Tomb”, the long-awaited sequel to “Green Rider” and “First Rider’s Call”, is scheduled for a November 6, 2007 release. In support of the book, I’ll be reviewing “The High King’s Tomb” sometime in October and I’m also working on an interview with Ms. Britain so keep your eyes peeled!

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Winners of "The Book of Joby" Giveaway

Posted by cervantor on PM00000020000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Marta Yera (Florida) and Amelia Province (Virginia) who were randomly selected to win a copy of Mark J. Ferrari’s excellent debut “The Book of Joby” thanks to Tor Books!!! If you’re not familiar with the title yet, the book is out NOW and you can read an interview with Mr. Ferrari HERE and my review of “The Book of JobyHERE. Thanks to everyone who entered and much love & respect 🙂

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"End of the World Blues" by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Posted by cervantor on PM00000010000000030 1, 2008

Order “End of the World BluesHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

In 2007 M. John Harrison won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his novel “Nova Swing”, which I just reviewed HERE. Funnily enough, the book I just finished reading, “End of the World Blues” by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, was one of the titles shortlisted for that award. “End of the World Blues” also won the 2006 BSFA Award for Best Novel, was originally released by Gollancz in August 2006, and was my introduction to Jon Courtenay Grimwood, a science fiction writer critically-acclaimed for such works as “Stamping Butterflies” and the Arabesk trilogy.

Alternating between the third-person point-of-views of Kit Nouveau and Lady Neku, “End of the World Blues” chronicles a fascinating tale that is largely a contemporary crime noir thriller, but also part fantastical sci-fi, and part soul-searching. While it takes a little while for things to become clear, we eventually learn that the book is set in the year 2018, that Kit Nouveau is a British military deserter living out his days in Tokyo running a bar with his wife Yoshi, and that Lady Neku is an exile from an apocalyptic far future. Needless to say, the two storylines are quite distinct. Nouveau’s narrative for instance is grounded more in reality and finds Kit returning to England where he must confront his past while dealing with such subplots as murder, affairs, suicide, Yakuza, drug dealers, law enforcement, former girlfriends, and various other difficulties. Lady Neku’s story meanwhile is much stranger and mainly follows the Countess of High Strange as she’s trying to remember the bizarre events that led to her banishment. While the two characters’ lives may seem as far apart as possible, they are actually closely tied together—for Kit, it’s a chance at redemption; for Lady Neku, it’s an opportunity to start anew…

There are so many wonderful things to say about “End of the World Blues” that I’m not sure where to begin. The writing was impressive, both edgy & stylish; the characters multi-dimensional and intriguing; the plotting was tight & entertaining; the SF elements—a sentient castle (Schloss Omga), body snatching, a talking cat, et cetera—were fun; and I loved the whole ambiguity behind Lady Neku who may or may not have been the imagination of a 15-year-old runaway girl. For me though, what really impressed me was the vividness in which Mr. Grimwood brought Tokyo to life. Don’t get me wrong, England and Nawa-no-ukiyo—the novel’s other two settings—were also brilliantly defined, but there was just something about Tokyo and its Japanese culture that took my breath away. As far as shortcomings, there weren’t many but I did have a few issues with the book. One was how the year 2018, aside from a few subtle differences, was basically the same as 2007. Then there was Kit Nouveau. While Mr. Grimwood utilizes the flashback device to great use throughout the book, I wish that we would have learned more about Kit who had a lot of interesting backstory left to tell. Also, there were some inconsistencies regarding Lady Neku who I thought was a bit underutilized towards the end of the book. In fact, the ending as a whole seemed a bit too neat considering everything that came before. Truthfully though, these are just minor problems I had with “End of the World Blues” and are easy to forgive, especially when you look at the book as a whole which is about as good as it gets.

In the award-winning “Nova Swing” it was easy to recognize and respect the talent & creativity of author M. John Harrison, but I can also see how readers might be polarized by the book. With Jon Courtenay Grimwood’sEnd of the World Blues”, not only do you get a novel that is sophisticated, thought-provoking and award-worthy, but you also get a book that is accessible, engaging and highly recommended. In the end, “End of the World Blues” may have been my first Jon Courtenay Grimwood novel but I can guarantee you that it won’t be my last…

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Winner of the Temeraire Giveaway!!!

Posted by cervantor on PM000000110000000030 1, 2008

Congratulations to Raymond Blum (Illinois) who was randomly selected to win a whole SET of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books including “His Majesty’s Dragon”, “Throne of Jade”, “Black Powder War” and “Empire of Ivory”, all thanks to Del Rey!!!

For those unfortunate enough not to win, remember that the new Temeraire novel “Empire of Ivory” came out today, so go pick up a copy HERE! Also, just a reminder that the remaining live giveaways will end this week and next. Additionally, I will be starting three-four new ones next week 😀

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"Nova Swing" by M. John Harrison

Posted by cervantor on PM00000010000000030 1, 2008

Order “Nova SwingHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

I readily admit that when it comes to science fiction literature, I’m not much of an expert. Sure, I’ve read such classics as Robert A. Heinlein, Orson Scott Card’sEnder’s Game”, William Gibson’sNeuromancer”, and I’m a fan of cyberpunk, Richard K. Morgan, Neal Asher, space opera, military SF, et cetera, but I’m still naïve in a lot of ways regarding the genre and I’ve only recently been introduced to the likes of Joe Haldeman, Peter F. Hamilton and now, M. John Harrison.

Highly regarded in many circles, Mr. Harrison is a British writer of fantasy (the Viriconium Sequence), science fiction (The Centauri Device, Light), short stories and other fiction (Climbers, The Course of the Heart). The writer’s latest novel “Nova Swing”—originally released in the UK November 2006 via Gollancz—won the 2007 Arthur C. Clarke Award, was a finalist for the 2007 John W. Campbell Award, and is a loose sequel to the James Tiptree Jr. Award-winning “Light” (2002). And it also happens to be my first M. John Harrison experience…

Even though “Nova Swing” is labeled as science fiction and bears the evidence to prove it—set in 2444AD; utilizes such concepts as nanotechnology, interstellar space travel, alien tech, holograms, body modifications, etc.—it doesn’t really fall in any category that I’m familiar with such as space opera, hard SF, or cyberpunk (though there are traces of the last). Instead, there’s a strong noir influence running through the book that is partly due to the story which features a detective and a mystery, but mainly is because of the nostalgic/retro milieu—bars (Black Cat White Cat, Café Surf, the Semiramide Club) are prominent hangout spots; tango, bebop and other vintage styles of music are in vogue; one character drives a 1952 Cadillac roadster; rickshaws are a popular form of travel; and so on. What makes “Nova Swing” even harder to define is that a lot of the futuristic ideas in the book are quite bizarre—the physics-bending Kefahuchi Tract, daughter code, cultivars (a type of sport fighter), Monas (prostitutes), shadow operators, the Uncle Zip franchise, the altered rickshaw girls—and are left to the reader’s imagination rather than explained in detail. In addition, the actual plot – an entradista being investigated by a Site Crime detective who believes the travel agent is smuggling illegal artefacts from the event aureole – is overshadowed by the characters. Thankfully the characters are a pretty interesting bunch. While tour guide Vic Serotonin is arguably the novel’s main protagonist, I actually found him a bit bland compared to the others such as the Albert Einstein look-alike Detective Lens Aschemann who pines for his murdered wife and Edith Bonaventure, daughter of the famous entradista Emil Bonaventure. Also involved in the story are barkeeper Liv Hula, ex-EMC (Earth Military Contracts) Paulie DeRaad who runs illegal activities out of the Semiramide Club, Aschemann’s new nameless partner, Fat Antoyne, Irene the Mona, and Vic’s latest client Elizabeth Kielar. Strangely, the book actually reaches its climax about 200 pages in (out of 252) with a convergence of events that involves Vic, Aschemann, Paulie, the nameless partner and Elizabeth with the remainder of the novel focusing on some of the supporting characters. This direction was a little bit different from what I’m used to, but I actually found the ending of the book to be quite satisfying & uplifting.

If I had read any of Mr. Harrison’s other works, the opportunity for further discussions regarding “Nova Swing” would be endless—How does the book relate to its predecessor “Light”? How does it compare to the author’s other SF books? His fantasy novels? How does “Nova Swing” work as a novel compared to the short story it was based on? Should readers new to the author pick up “Light” before starting “Nova Swing” or should they start out with another title altogether? And so on. Instead, all I can offer readers are my opinions as someone who has only read “Nova Swing” and is not that well-versed in science fiction literature. So from this perspective, what I can say is that the book is quite a bit different from other SF that I’ve read and is probably not something the casual reader would enjoy. I mean, “Nova Swing” doesn’t have balls-to-the-walls action, an epic story, or cool heroes & villains. Instead, the plot is fairly simple but can be confusing to follow; the pacing is not so much slow but methodical; the characters, while wonderfully developed aren’t exactly memorable; and the book as a whole requires a certain commitment from the reader. In fact, I would say that “Nova Swing” serves as some sort of metaphorical examination about loneliness, humanity, hope, or some other such theme. In other words, using movies as an example, don’t expect Star Wars or The Matrix with “Nova Swing”, but something more along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Fountain. As for myself, “Nova Swing” wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had with a science fiction novel, but it impressed me enough that I plan to continue reading M. John Harrison, especially his Viriconium novels, and I can easily see why the book is an award-winner. Fans of accomplished prose, a surreal imagination, and storytelling that makes you think will definitely want to pick up M. John Harrison’sNova Swing”…

FYI: The American cover featuring the cat makes a nice companion piece to the cover for “Light”, but personally I like the UK version better, which seems to capture the ambiance of the story more accurately…

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"The Electric Church" by Jeff Somers

Posted by cervantor on PM00000010000000030 1, 2008

Order “The Electric ChurchHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist’s INTERVIEW With Jeff Somers

While Brian Ruckley’sWinterbirth” and Karen Miller’sThe Innocent Mage” handled the fantasy side of things, and Lilith Saintcrow’s Dante Valentine series the urban fantasy crowd, Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” is representing the science fiction portion of Orbit Book’s US launch. For Mr. Somers, American author of “Lifers” (2001), “The Freaks Are Winning” (2002) & various short fiction, and creator of The Inner Swine e-zine, “The Electric Church” is the writer’s graduation to the next level…

If you’re a fan of cyberpunk and futuristic noir, then “The Electric Church” will be right up your alley. If you’re not sure what cyberpunk or futuristic noir is, think of a hard-boiled crime/mystery thriller crossed with science fiction elements. For further references, check out Blade Runner (based on a Philip K. Dick novel), Ghost in the Shell, Akira, William Gibson’sNeuromancer”, Richard K. Morgan’sAltered Carbon”, Warren Hammond’skop”, et cetera. In the case of “The Electric Church”, Mr. Somers utilizes a number of familiar cyberpunk/noir-esque ideas such as the gritty first-person point-of-view, an apocalyptic dystopian near-future setting, unflinching language/violence, corrupt law enforcement, cyborgs, artificial intelligences, telepathy and so on. Of course “The Electric Church” also has its distinctions. Instead of a cop or private eye as the main character, there’s anti-hero Avery Cates, a Gunner or assassin-for-hire who happens to be more trustworthy & honorable than the majority of lowlifes that inhabit his world. Then there’s the whole concept of the Electric Church which is a religion where individuals give up their bodies in favor of immortality—the more time to seek salvation, the better.

Regarding the plot, Avery is placed in a bad-to-worse situation that involves Richard Marin the director of SSF’s (System Security Force) Internal Affairs, the cybernetic Monks, the founder of the Electric Church Dennis Squalor, a psychotic SSF officer (Barnaby Dawson) who becomes even more of a threat as the book progresses, and many other complications, all of which are intent on making Cates’ life a living hell. Not everyone is out to get the Gunner though as he does have a few allies in informational guru Pickering, a psionic called Gatz, the techie Kieth, the twins Milton Tanner and someone who or may not be the legendary Gunner Cainnic Orel, but can Avery Cates trust any of them? As with any noir-influenced story, there’s a lot more than meets the eye, so expect a few startling revelations about the Electric Church, SSF, etc. Also, just a warning, but “The Electric Church” is part of a series starring Avery Cates. While “The Electric Church” does a good job of resolving all of the book’s major questions, it’s also setting things up for the sequel. Fortunately, if anything, “The Digital Plague” (TBA 2008) is poised to be even darker, more intense and better than the original.

If I wanted to I could nitpick about “The Electric Church’s” less than original backdrop, the lack of worldbuilding & other info-dumping (not counting the excellent Appendix included at the end of the book or the awesome Electric Church website found HERE), the somewhat weak characterization of anyone not named Avery Cates, or how the prose doesn’t have that panache common in a Quentin Tarantino or Charlie Huston tale, but that would just be mean of me 😉 The fact is, Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” is not the best cyberpunk/futuristic noir novel I’ve ever read, but it’s still a lot of damn fun and highly recommended to anyone who’s a fan of the genre…

FYI: For additional opinions on Jeff Somers’The Electric Church” check out reviews by Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Sci Fi Weekly, and SciFiChick.com.

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