Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 26, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)

"The American Southwest has been decimated by drought. Nevada and Arizona skirmish over dwindling shares of the Colorado River, while California watches, deciding if it should just take the whole river all for itself. Into the fray steps Las Vegas water knife Angel Velasquez. Detective, assassin, and spy, Angel “cuts” water for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and its boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert and that anyone who challenges her is left in the gutted-suburban dust.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. With a wallet full of identities and a tricked-out Tesla, Angel arrows south, hunting for answers that seem to evaporate as the heat index soars and the landscape becomes more and more oppressive. There, Angel encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist, who knows far more about Phoenix’s water secrets than she admits, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas migrant, who dreams of escaping north to those places where water still falls from the sky.

As bodies begin to pile up and bullets start flying, the three find themselves pawns in a game far bigger, more corrupt, and dirtier than any of them could have imagined. With Phoenix teetering on the verge of collapse and time running out for Angel, Lucy, and Maria, their only hope for survival rests in one another’s hands.  But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only truth in the desert is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink."

"One hundred years ago, Sand’s ancestors made the long, one-way trip to the Fifth World, ready to work ceaselessly to terraform the planet. Descendants of native peoples like the Hopi and Zuni, they wanted to return to the way of life of their forebears, who honored the Kachina spirits.

Now, though, many of the planet’s inhabitants have begun to resent their grandparents’ decision to strand them in this harsh and forbidding place, and some have turned away from the customs of the Well-Behaved People. Sand has her doubts, but she longs to believe that the Kachina live on beyond the stars and have been readying a new domain for her people.

She may be right. Humans have discovered nine habitable worlds, all with life that shares a genetic code entirely alien to any on Earth. Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them. But no other sign of the ancient farmers has ever been discovered—until one day they return to the Fifth World. They do not like what they find."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 19, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)
"Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose."

 (B&N, Amazon)
"A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remains . . .  Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 12, 2015

 (B&N, Amazon)

"Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden.

Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them.

Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all.
When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling that she will become a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s fabled ring on her own finger—or that in this role, powerful and powerless all at once, she will try to change the course of Eden’s history."

 (B&N, Amazon)

"Aristophanes is inconsolable—his rival playwrights are hogging all the local attention, a pesky young wannabe poet won’t leave him alone, his actors can’t remember their lines, and his own festival sponsor seems to be conspiring against him, withholding direly needed funds for set design and, most importantly, giant phallus props. O woe, how can his latest comedy convince Athenian citizens to vote down another ten years of war against Sparta if they’re too busy scoffing at the diminutive phalluses? And why does everyone in the city-state seem to be losing their minds?

Wallowing in one inconvenience after another, Aristophanes is unaware that the Spartan and Athenian generals have unleashed Laet, the spirit of foolishness and bad decisions, to inspire chaos and war-mongering in Athens. To counteract Laet’s influence, Athena sends Bremusa, an Amazon warrior, and Metris, an endearingly airheaded nymph (their first choice was her mother Metricia, but she grew tired of all the fighting and changed back into a river)."

(B&N, Amazon)

"Inside the firewall the city is alive. Buildings breathe, cars attack, angels patrol, and hyperintelligent pets run wild in the streets. 

With unbridled invention and breakneck adventure, Hannu Rajaniemi is on the cutting-edge of science fiction. His postapocalyptic, postcyberpunk, and posthuman tales are full of exhilarating energy and unpredictable optimism.

How will human nature react when the only limit to desire is creativity? When the distinction between humans and gods is as small as nanomachines—or as large as the universe? Whether the next big step in technology is 3D printing, genetic alteration, or unlimited space travel, Rajaniemi writes about what happens after."

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: mini-reviews for Dark Eden, The Crimon Campaign, and The Autumn Republic

Dark Eden is set on a world with no sun, a rogue planet.  Over a century ago, an exploration team left two people, a man and a woman behind, and now their descendants still await a rescue team from Earth, living among the warmth and light of the native trees until one boy dares to strike out into the unknown.

This is a very bold novel, with a ton of ideas and an incredibly unique setting.  I wish more current authors would take risks like this working out the mechanics of the biology and the society of such a place.  The writing style takes a little getting used to.  Plus, I had a problem with the characterization, though I can't put my finger on why. 

Rating: 8/10.
This is the sequel to 2013's Promise of Blood.  I gave that book a 7.5 rating because while it started off strong, it got bogged down in stereotypical fantasy battle-stuff by the end.  This book gets the same rating though for a different reason. 

The plotting and tone are much smoother and better handled this time.  Tamas' sequence of retreat through enemy country is particularly well done.  The negative part is in the characterization, or more accurately, the character interactions.  Characters seem to butt heads merely for dramatic and plot purposes than for genuine reasons.  Still, it was a fun and gripping read.

Rating: 7.5/10.
I rarely read sequels back to back, but this I decided to read The Autumn Republic right after The Crimson Campaign.  The big problem this time was plotting as it felt like part of this book should have been merged with a condensed version of the second book and then the plot in Adopest expanded.  There is a lot that could have been done just with the elections and the character of Claremonte.  Plus, as someone else said there is the feeling that weaknesses you put up with in the first two books are less forgivable by this point.  It would have been nice to get a much broader look at the world than the author gives us as some things were clearly important, but were not shown.  That being said, for all their flaws these books were certainly exciting reads and Brian McClellan is most definitely an author to keep an eye on.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eye on New Releases for May 5, 2015 and mini-review of The Gospel of Loki

 (B&N, Amazon)

"This novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods—retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. A #1 bestseller in the UK, The Gospel of Loki tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself.

Using her lifelong passion for the Norse myths, New York Times bestseller Joanne M. Harris has created a vibrant and powerful fantasy novel that the Sunday Sun recommends “to her long-standing audience with wit, style and obvious enjoyment;” The Sunday Times claims it “lively and fun;” and The Metro adds that “Harris has enormous fun with her antihero...this mythical bad boy should beguile fans of Neil Gaiman."

I read the UK edition of this book when it came out last year.  It's a pretty interesting book with a very mythic feel and flavor, full of gods, beasts, witches, magic, feasts, and adventure.  It also has an absolutely gorgeous cover by Andreas Preis.  Like the synopsis says, the book is told from Loki's point of view so he's the hero of the story.  As you may suspect, there is some unreliable narrator going on, though not on same the level as say, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun.  Loki is also quite funny and with the good writing, this makes for a very fun read. 

I did have one major problem with the book toward the end.  Without going too much into spoilers, in his view, Loki is not treated very well by the other gods so he sets out to get revenge.  This leads him to make a decision that I felt was way out of character for Loki the Trickster.  One can argue that it's part of his character development, and perhaps I'm a little colored by the recent Marvel movies, but it didn't feel right Loki would make the decision that he did so it brought it down at least half a rating point for me. 

Rating: 7.5/10.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Old Venus

Old Venus
edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Format: Hardcover, 589 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Cover Art: Stephen Youll
Release Date: March 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0345537287

George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have previously edited an anthology titled Old Mars, of stories written in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury.  Of Planetary Romance before the robotic explorers started showing us what the planets really looked like, and in the case of Mars we get a dry, red planet of canals and dead alien cities.

Old Venus is the same idea, but with Venus instead.  A Venus of rain, jungles, and dinosaurs like the stories of Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore. Some of the stories deliberately imitate the same plots and styles of Planetary Romance, while most of them just use the basic inspiration and go for something more original. 

"Frogheads" by Allen Steele.  The first entry in the anthology follows a private investigator hired by a wealthy family to find a missing heir.  It's a somewhat dark story exposing the seedy underbelly of the illegal Venusian drug trade.  Nothing to write home about, but enjoyable enough.

"The Drowned Celestial" by Lavie Tidhar.  This is kind of an odd story about a human and a native Venusian who get involved with evil men, gods, and mysticism in the deep jungle.  It's technically well written, but I never really connected with it. 

"Planet of Fear" by Paul McAuley.  Standard strange planet mystery story.  Russian miners send a distress signal and when the military investigates they find the crew dead or missing.  The Russian distrust concerning Americans and science borders on cliche.  It's a fairly decent sci-fi story, not especially good, but not especially bad either. 

"Greeves and the Evening Star" by Matthew Hughes.  I had a rough start with this one trying to get a handle on the names and setting, but once I did I quite enjoyed it.  Victorian explorers come to Venus for adventure and to study native newts, however, the Venusian species are considerably more dangerous than their Earthly ones.  It's a straightforward alien monster story, but it helps that it's also something of a comedy so it's more enjoyable than you would think. 

"A Planet Called Desire" by Gwyneth Jones.  This is the first piece of fiction by this author that I've read.  It's also the first story in the collection that deliberately follows the same style of Planetary Romance as Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The main character uses some weird, inexplicable interplanetary mechanism to travel to Ancient Venus and has myriad adventures there with the native people, especially one woman in particular.  Rather forgettable actually.

"Living Hell" by Joe Haldeman.  Another monster story of a pilot trying to rescue some crash-landed scientists from the hostile jungle and learning a truth about Venus in the process.  Nothing particularly noteworthy, but it is written by Joe Haldeman after all so it's quite good.

"Bones of Air, Bones of Stone" by Stephen Leigh.  A man, crippled in an accident, attempts to reconnect with his former girlfriend, an adventurer who plans to dive down a deep hole in Venus's ocean after a previously failed attempt.  This story has a little bit of emotional change, a little bit of adventure, and a little bit of native mystery, but not much is really done with any of it.  Decent enough story, though I could have done with a bit more resolution. 

"Ruins" by Eleanor Arnason.  Locals are hired to guide a National Geographic team for a wildlife safari into the Jungles, but wind up with clashing with the CIA over alien ruins.  This is obstentiously a "into the jungle" story, which has some interesting stuff, but the bulk of it is really a political story about interference by America and the CIA.  It's a fairly good story if you don't mind a little preaching. 

"The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss" by David Brin.  Brin's story is quite good, though it doesn't quite fit the theme of the anthology as it's set on a Venus more like the real one.  Earth had started terraforming Venus when it was attacked by a hostile alien species.  Survivors took refuge in habitats at the bottom of Venus's newly formed ocean and are now eking out a meager existence.  Still, it's a pretty good story about hope and the future, and certainly worth reading.

"By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers" by Garth Nix.  Like "Ruins", this is another political story, about the American military experiments coming to light.  It doesn't follow the previous story point-for-point, and it does its own stuff, but it is similar.  That being said, it's still an interesting story. 

"The Sunset of Time" by Michael Cassutt.  I have to be honest, I've never cared for Cassutt's fiction and this story isn't any different.  It's about an engineer building a wormhole-like device on Venus, while the native Venusian population is preparing for some kind of apocalyptic event.  What really jerked me out of the story though was the planet's day.  As most fans of astronomy know, Venus has one of the strangest rotation periods in the solar system, and while all of the other stories in the anthology have days that reflect that of the real Venus or one more like Earth's, Cassutt's Venus is tidally locked with the sun like Earth and the Moon.  It's really strange.

"Pale Blue Memories" by Tobias S. Buckell.  Set during the 60s and 70s where the space race never  cooled down and now the race is on for Venus.  The Americans get there first only to crash-land and be enslaved by the natives.  A sad, but well written story about how some evils are not limited to one world and that the struggle always goes on. 

"The Heart's Filthy Lesson" by Elizabeth Bear.  A scientist has a fight with her wife and runs off into the jungle alone to prove herself by finding alien ruins.  Another "into the jungle" story, but it's really about how people, especially those who sometimes have big egos, relate and get along with each other.  A pretty decent story. 

"The Wizard of the Trees" by Joe R. Lansdale.  Like the Jones story, Lansdale copies the old style Burroughs, but is even more "faithful" and absurd, right down to the ridiculous plots and corny dialogue.  Good grief, the author could tried for something more original.  I haven't enjoyed any of Lansdale's work in the past and this one is no exception. 

"The Godstone of Venus" by Mike Resnick.  This one is actually a sequel to Resnick's short in Old Mars, though each story stands alone.  Reappearing are the two main characters: Scipio, kind of a mercenary/adventurer, and Merlin, an intelligent, telepathic, Venusian beast.  The plot is a straightforward treasure hunt into the jungle, but it's quite good and I enjoyed it.  Made me wonder if Resnick will write any more stories with these two characters. 

"Botanica Veneris: Thirteen Papercuts  by Ida Countess Rathangan" by Ian McDonald.  This story is perhaps the most creative and imaginative in the whole anthology.  McDonald pulls out all the stops to create a truly unique alternate history Venus with multiple races and humans, with politics, war, and class struggle, all as the backdrop for a Victorian widow researching Venusian flowers as a pretext for searching for her long-lost brother.  It reminded me a lot of Howard Waldrop and how he can create a truly unique story.  Absolutely fascinating and probably the best in the anthology.  

As with any anthology there are bound to be a few stinkers that a reader can't get into, but get past that and you'll find a good and interesting anthology with Old Venus.  Recommended for something a little different with a touch of nostalgia. 

Rating: 8/10.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Eye on New Releases for April 28, 2015

"Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who's always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza's hands lies fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?"

Friday, April 17, 2015

Updated Hugo nominee list

There's been some changes to the Hugo nominee list due to a few people turning down their nominations as well as a couple that turned out to be ineligible.  The new list:

Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
  • Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
  • Skin Game by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)

Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry by Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow” by Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, Nov 2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy” by John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)

Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Cards InterGalactic Medicine Show, May 2014)
  • “Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner (Analog, Sept 2014)
  • “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt Translator (Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, June 2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale” by Rajnar Vajra (Analog, Jul/Aug 2014)

Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, Nov 2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen)
  • “Totaled” by Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, July 2014)
  • “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF” by Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
  • Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled” by Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
  • Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press)

Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
  • Saga Volume 3 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate by Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)

Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (1285 nominating ballots)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO Systems A/S Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))

Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (938 nominating ballots)
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW) (Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”, written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC) (GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor (Short Form) (870 nominating ballots)
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Vox Day
  • Mike Resnick
  • Edmund R. Schubert
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Best Editor (Long Form) (712 nominating ballots)
  • Vox Day
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Jim Minz
  • Anne Sowards
  • Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
  • Julie Dillon
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Alan Pollack
  • Carter Reid

Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
  • Abyss & Apex Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors David Kernot and Sue Burtsztynski
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • Strange Horizons Niall Harrison Editor-in-Chief

Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
  • Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Colin Harris and Helen Montgomery
  • The Revenge of Hump Day edited by Tim Bolgeo
  • Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale

Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
  • Adventures in SciFi Publishing Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward, Shaun Ferrell & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • The Sci Phi Show Jason Rennie
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman and Peter Newman
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
  • Dave Freer
  • Amanda S. Green
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Laura J. Mixon
  • Cedar Sanderson

Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
  • Ninni Aalto
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Elizabeth Leggett
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots)
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu*
  • Jason Cordova
  • Kary English*
  • Rolf Nelson
  • Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Review: The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings
by Ken Liu

Format: Hardcover, 623 pages
Publisher: Saga Press
Cover Art: Sam Weber
Release Date: April 7, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1481424271

"Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. 
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice."
The Grace of Kings is the debut novel of acclaimed short fiction writer, Ken Liu, and is the first book in the Dandelion Dynasty.  I've been a big fan of his short fiction for a while now so I was eagerly looking forward to this book.  I was hoping he would be able to make the transition to a longer format and I have to say he succeeded wonderfully.

The setting is an island archipelago with many differing states that were conquered and unified in recent history by one of the other states.  The plot is loosely based on Chinese history of the fall of the Tang dynasty and the rise of the Han.  You can tell from the blurb there is obviously a rebellion, but what the blurb fails to convey is the scope of the story.  The friendship between the two main characters is the core of the novel, but it is not the only part.  The author has a lot to say about power, politics, friendship, tradition, class, and the roles of women.  Being epic fantasy there is a good deal of political manuvering as well as battles on land, sea, and air, from almost every land in the setting and over a long period of time.  However, it is the quieter moments that are most important. 

One of the things I really like about Liu's short fiction is that he is very good at creating emotional resonance with the stories.  A good example is "The Paper Menagerie", a heartbreaking story of a young man's ambivalence toward his Chinese-American heritage and his mother's small magics, which won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the WFA for novelette in 2012.  I'm happy to say that Liu managed to transfer much of this resonance to the novel.  Though the book is epic fantasy, it doesn't always feel like it because Liu often handles the big stuff quickly in chapters or paragraphs, almost like background, while concentrating on character moments.  Gary K. Wolfe of Locus magazine referred to this as a character-driven epic, which certainly fits.  As a consequence, there is a lot that happens in this book and it packs quite a punch.  Most other authors would need a trilogy or two to cover this much ground, while Liu does it one novel.

I do have one or two minor quibbles.  On occasion it feels like Liu isn't completely confident writing  longer fiction.  And towards the end of the book, the character moments become a little superseded by the plot so that it feels like more of a chronicle.  This was only a minor issue for me, but I thought it should be noted. 

I also want to add that there is a prequel novelette called "None Owns the Air", set some decades before The Grace of Kings, that tells about the development of airships.  It's not necessary in order to read the novel, but I think it's worth reading on its own. 

The Grace of Kings is a spectacular debut novel and I would heartily recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 9/10.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eye on New Releases for April 14, 2015

"Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.