Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: mini-reviews of Gutenberg's Apprentice, The Glamour, and My Bookstore


Gutenberg's Apprentice is a fine historical novel following the life of Peter Schoeffer as he helps the man called Gutenberg print the book he would become most famous for, The Gutenberg Bible.  The story is compelling and the writing sharp and competent.  The choice of Peter as the main character is a smart one considering Gutenberg is one of Europe's renowned historical figures.  It's also an interesting choice because the novel claims that while Gutenberg created the ideas and techniques of the printing press, it was actually the young apprentice who physically produced the famous book itself. This is a pretty good novel for fans of books and historical fiction.

Rating: 8/10.

The Glamour is a novel about invisible people.  One of the main characters is a respected cameraman for news organizations who is the victim of a car bombing.  When he recovers he finds out he has amnesia and that he was involved in a torrid romance with a woman who was also involved in a complicated, often coercive relationship with another man, a woman who claims she and her previous boyfriend can become invisible.

Priest's gimmick in this book is one of perception: of being seen or unseen, noticed or not noticed.  Whether such invisibility is figurative, with all it's attending societal metaphors, or literal is the open question since Priest always plays around with unreliable narrators.  In this one, he also plays with the inherent unreliability of memory and how the mind can play tricks on you.  And as always with Priest, there is the complexity of personalities and human relationships.  The relationship bit was the hardest part for me because I've always had a difficult time understanding why people would let themselves be entangled in coercive, even abusive, relationships.

Rating: 8/10.

My Bookstore is a non-fiction collection of essays by writers about their favorite independent bookstores.  This is a very subjective book relying on your connection to the writers exhortations, because I suppose you can only say so much about each bookstore's uniqueness.  It will either work for you or it won't.  You really don't even need to read the whole thing, or at least, not all at once. 

Rating: 7/10.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Eye on New Releases for February 17, 2015



Synopsis:
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.
 
Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.
 
She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.
 
Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.
 
Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Thinking About Reading...


Blurb:
"The American Midwest provides the ideal landscape for literature exploring the intricate evolution of American ideology and culture from the earliest frontiersmen and settlers to present day citizens. In celebration of this region's inherent importance to American identity, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland presents a myriad of Midwestern-focused literature in three sections of literary styles: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with introductions contributed by admired and award-winning Midwestern authors: Dean Bakopoulos, Debra Marquart, and Iowa State Poet Laureate, Mary Swander. With an extensive roster of sixty-eight highly talented writers, this anthology presents an eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction, lyric essays, autobiographies, and formal and experimental poems that delve into the nuances of Midwestern identity. Each writer herein investigates, challenges, and redefines the varied perceptions of the Midwest, and, most importantly, their literary art invites us to gaze with renewed appreciation on the environmental beauty, nourishing agriculture, and innovative and creative people of the American Heartland."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Six of Crows Cover and Blurb


Leigh Bardugo's new book, Six of Crows, due out in October now has a cover and a synopsis.  Sounds really interesting!


Synopsis:
"Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.


Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eye on New Releases for February 10, 2015



Synopsis:
"The capital has fallen...
Field Marshal Tamas returns to his beloved country to find that for the first time in history, the capital city of Adro lies in the hands of a foreign invader. His son is missing, his allies are indistinguishable from his foes, and reinforcements are several weeks away.
An army divided...
With the Kez still bearing down upon them and without clear leadership, the Adran army has turned against itself. Inspector Adamat is drawn into the very heart of this new mutiny with promises of finding his kidnapped son.
All hope rests with one...
And Taniel Two-shot, hunted by men he once thought his friends, must safeguard the only chance Adro has of getting through this war without being destroyed...
THE AUTUMN REPUBLIC is the epic conclusion that began with Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Racers of the Night


Racers of the Night
by Brad Torgersen

Format: Paperback, 347 pages
Publisher: WordFire Press 
Cover Art: NickGreenwood 
Release Date: August 13, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1614752325

I thought it was past time I did a full review for a collection/anthology book.  I rather enjoyed Brad Torgersen’s first collection, Lights in the Deep, so I thought I’d give his new collection a try. 

“The Curse of Sally Tincakes.”  About a female race driver determined to overcome freaky superstition to be the first woman to win on a lunar race track.  It’s a fairly decent SF sports story, though utterly predictable. 

“The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae.”  Very solid emotional story about prisoners set on a colony world where resources are scare so everyone must contribute to the economy.  The main character is not a hardened criminal, but rather someone who made a stupid mistake in his youth and has worked hard to change himself.  As someone who sometimes struggles with his own temper, I can easily relate to it.  Possibly the best story in the collection.

“Guard Dog.”  A wounded soldier takes an opportunity to serve by becoming an android in order to protect Earth from a vicious alien race.  At least until he discovers the truth.  Solid story for the most part, but there really isn’t enough pages devoted to setting things up.  Also, fairly dark ending, which is perhaps not too surprising considering it was co-written with Mike Resnick.

“Recapturing the Dream.”  A former asteroid miner must overcome emotional trauma to recapture the human dream.  Decent story about the severe emotional trauma possibly when one single person survives the death of small, close-knit group.  The idea is hardly new, though the author handles it well.  It’s just that as an introvert myself, I’m not sure I really understand how such a thing would affect other people.

“The Flamingo Girl.”  A murder mystery about a prostitute genetically altered to look like giant birds.  A strange story idea from Torgersen, not to mention I felt this world-building element was rather gratuitous for no real reason.

“Reardon’s Law.”  A military cop investigates the theft of prototype military armor and stop it from falling into enemy hands.  The longest story in the collection, and yet the least developed and the most ridiculous.  What I mean is, hardly any of the necessary political backstory concerning a civil war between human factions is explained when it should have been, plus there are faults of logic all over the place. 

“Blood and Mirrors.”  Another murder mystery, this one about a former sex robot turned cop who must stop a series of brutal murders.  Torgersen seems to have prostitutes on the brain lately.  Premise relies on robots built for sex that then become self-aware.  Okay, I could buy that.  But then while the author did think through the commercial and legal implications, he certainly didn’t consider the programming side and why the robots think exactly like real people.  His lack of experience in the mystery genre is also evident because the killer is painfully obvious.

“The Shadows of Titan.” Horror mystery about alien artifacts on Saturn’s moon, Titan.  I like that Torgersen was thinking about what Titan is really like and wrote a story set in the location.  But like “Reardon’s Law” above, there are logic problems such as how the captain of the vessel exploring Titan does stupid things for no apparent reason and nearly gets everyone killed.  There is supposedly a reason relating to the alien artifacts, but I didn’t find it believable so it comes across like the captain went stupid because she was a civilian with no military training. 

“The Nechronomator.”  Time travel story where zombies powered by the afterlife go back in time to prevent their own deaths.  Really, really weird genre choice and a very strange story overall.  I’m not really sure what to think to be honest.

“The Hideki Line.” Another time travel episode, this one about “lines” that go back to particular points in time and a small group of extremists want to go back and erase all the mistakes made by mankind.  Frustrating, because the whole thing comes across as a spiel against the dangers of environmentalists.  Extremists are dangerous no matter which side they’re on, buttercup. 

“Peacekeeper.”  Humans are used as peacekeepers by a third party on an alien world wracked by civil war.  Definitely one of the better stories in the collection, probably because it’s the second story here that was co-written by Mike Resnick, a much more experienced writer.  This one really should have been expanded a bit more as there was a lot of good material here. 

“Life Flight.”  Another solid, emotional story about a kid, on a colony ship headed for another star system, who is unable to go into hibernation and must spend the entire trip awake.  Torgersen really captured the essence of being the only person to grow old on a trip like this.  However, like some of the other stories, it has logic problems, the biggest one being why kids would be awake during the trip.  Yes, some adults are awake as well, but there is no reason I can think of why kids would be except without that there is no story. 

Overall, I suppose this was a decent collection of short stories, however, it felt like a letdown after some of Torgersen’s older stories.  If you’re pretty new to science fiction, then maybe you might enjoy this.  More experienced readers will probably want to look elsewhere.

Rating: 6.5/10.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Richard Anderson



Yesterday I posted about my Hugo nominations and one of the artists I included was Richard Anderson.  He's been making a splash recently with kick-ass book covers like The Mirror Empire and the upcoming The Dinosaur Lords.  You can view his portfolio here.








Eye on New Releases for February 3, 2015



Synopsis:
"In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story—a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane—Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year—stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother’s Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we’re all alone in the darkness."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hugo Nominations


Well, it's that time of year again for the Hugo nominations.  People may nominate works if they were a supporting or attending member before January 31, 2015 of Sasquan, Loncon 3, or MidAmeriCon II.  If you are a member of any of these conventions, you should have received an email with your member number and a pin number to use to log in to the Sasquan site here.

I try to nominate not just great books but also books that I think deserve some exposure or utilized some interesting idea.  I often don't nominate works that won the previous year to give other books a shot.  So for example, even though Ancillary Sword was a great book, I didn't nominate it because Justice won last year.

Novel
Half a King, Joe Abercrombie (Del Rey )
A Darkling Sea, James L. Cambias (Tor)
The Mirror Empire, Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu and translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
The Bees, Laline Paull (HarperCollins)

Novella (17,500-40,000 words)
“The Rogue Prince, or, a King’s Brother”, George R.R. Martin (Rogues, Bantam)
“The Things We Do For Love”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean)
“The Slow Regard of Silent Things”, Patrick Rothfuss (Daw)
 “Dream Houses”, Genevieve Valentine (WSFA)

Novelette (7,500-17,500 words)
“The Ninety-Ninth Bride”, Catherine F. King (Book Smugglers)
“Wine”, Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld)
“The Clockwork Soldier”, Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
“Reborn”, Ken Liu (Tor.com)
“The Last Log of the Lachrimosa”, Alastair Reynolds (Subterranean)
“Collateral”, Peter Watts (Upgraded)

Short Story (< 7,500 words)

“Little Knife”, Leigh Bardugo (Tor.com)
“The Long Haul From the ANNALS OF TRANSPORTATION, The Pacific Monthly, May 2009”, Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
“Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon”, Ken Liu (Kaleidoscope)
“I Met a Man Who Wasn’t There”, K.J. Parker (Subterranean)
“Wake-Rider”, Vandana Singh (Lightspeed)

Best Related Work
The World of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin, Elio M. Garcia Jr. and Linda Antonsson (Bantam)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Captain America: The Winter Soldier(Marvel)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Chernin Ent., Ingenious Media)
Game of Thrones, Season 4 (HBO)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel)
Interstellar (Legendary, Paramount)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
“Death Benefit”, Person of Interest, Season 3
“Deux Ex Machina”, Person of Interest, Season 3

Best Editor – Short
Neil Clarke

Best Professional Artist
Richard Anderson (The Mirror Empire, Echopraxia)
Daniel Dociu (Cibola Burn)
John Howe (The Hobbit)
Alan Lee (The Hobbit)
Andreas Preis (The Gospel of Loki)

Best Semiprozine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Lightspeed
Subterranean
Tor.com

Campbell Award
Rjurik Davidson (Unwrapped Sky)
Anthony Ryan (Blood Song, Tower Lord)
Helene Wecker (The Golem and the Jinni)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: mini-reviews of City of Stairs, Stone Mattress, Invisible Cities, and The Lady


Seems everyone has been reading and raving about this one so it was time to see what the fuss was about.  I like how this secondary world urban fantasy spy thriller, and other books like Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence and the ones by K.V. Johansen, are putting gods back in the mix, gods like the ancient Greek gods that often meddled around in human affairs.  It was also nice to see that the main character was a woman of color who isn't automatically the smartest and most competent person in the room.  The book is very well written with flashes of brilliance that certainly brings things up a notch.

Despite all the praise, I did have some reservations.  Namely, I felt that Bennett got just a little carried away with his world at the expense of the story so that there are plot and logic holes that really should have edited better.  Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to City of Blades.

Rating: 8.5/10.

This is my first collection of short story collection by Margaret Atwood.  I was curious about her short fiction after enjoying The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.  Turns out I felt a little let down.  All of the stories in the collection are competently written, but none of the nine really grabbed me until the titular story "Stone Mattress" about a female serial killer seeking justice for a long-ago rape.  The last story, "Torching the Dusties" was also quite good, evoking the dystopian warnings of her novels.  I may try more of Atwood's short fiction in the future, but for now I'll probably stick to her novels.

Rating: 7.5/10.


Invisible Cities is one of the novels most synonymous with the name Italo Calvino so it seemed a good place to give the author a try.  Unfortunately, I found somewhat disappointing.  Given the lush, almost magical prose and storytelling this book should have appealed to me more, but something just never connected.  Perhaps it was something to do with the layers of metaphors and figurative language describing the cities because I could never really figure out what it was trying to say.  It was easier for me to connect to the interludes written by the third person omniscient narrator.  Despite being disappointing, that doesn't mean I'll give up on Calvino.  Some of his other work sounds interesting so I will probably give them a try someday.

Rating: 6.5/10.


The Lady is the second of the Marrakand duology, the first being The Leopard, which I reviewed last year.  While I enjoyed this book, I don't think I liked it quite as much as the first one.  The big reason for this may be that the duology is really one big book split into two so it really deserves to be read in its entirety.  The Lady pretty much picks up right where The Leopard left off and it was a little hard to get back into it after a separation of several months.  Someday when I re-read I'll be sure to read both back-to-back.

Rating: 7.5/10.