Saturday, February 28, 2009

Review: Lamentation

I just reviewed Lamentation by Ken Scholes for Bookspot Central. You can read the review here. I thought it was a very solid debut novel in a new series that relies very heavily on politics and intrigue. I enjoyed it and I look forward to the next books.

NYT bestsellers for February 27th

Stephanie Meyer’s The Host slips one rank in its 41st week to number 4. (Amazon, B&N)

Christopher Moore’s Fool rounds out its second week on the list at number 5 and down one. (Amazon, B&N)

Patricia Briggs’ Bone Crossed falls to number 12, down seven in week three. (Amazon, B&N)

Dan Simmons’ Drood stays steady at number 18 in its second week on the list. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ From Dead to Worse stumbles four spots in its 22nd week to number 21. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series has books one and two at number 20 and number 21 respectively.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Review: A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

Paperback, 292 pages
Publisher: Roc Fantasy
Cover Design: Alissa Amell
Release Date: May 6, 2008
ISBN-10: 0-451462053
ISBN-13: 978-0451462053

Remy Chandler is a Boston private eye on a standard assignment, investigating a man suspected of cheating on his wife. The target confirms Remy’s suspicions when he meets with his lover, but then things go horribly wrong when he shoots her and then himself. Even worse however, is that neither one dies from the fatal wounds. It is soon revealed that for the last week, no one in the city has died, whether from violence, disease, or natural causes. They cannot die because no one is collecting their souls and that is because the one being that should be doing it, the Angel of Death, has gone missing.

You might think such a case is beyond the ken of a simple private detective except that Remy is himself an angel. Thousands of years ago, after the Great War caused by Lucifer Morningstar, Remy left heaven and repressed his angelic nature to live among mortal beings. He soon discovers that things are even worse when a group of heavenly angels show up in his office with a case from the boss upstairs. Not only is the Angel of Death missing, so are the scrolls that when opened in his presence will unleash the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Remy Chandler must now get drawn back into a world he hoped to leave forever in order to save the world.

I was first exposed to Sniegoski’s Remy Chandler in the short story “Noah’s Orphan’s” published in the paranormal crime anthology Mean Streets (review), which incidentally is set after the events in this novel. I was intrigued by a story about an angel turned private detective who consciously chose to live among humans. For the most part, he is essentially human, at least in appearance. He has superior senses, he can will himself invisible, and he can speak and understand any language. The language bit is one of my favorites because Remy can also talk to animals and does so constantly with his Labrador retriever, Marlowe. Marlowe sometimes acts a little more intelligent then he should, but Sniegoski makes the interaction between him and Remy humorous and endearing.

Perhaps the most important thing about Remy in this book is that he is immortal. His wife of over five decades is dying of cancer. Or she would be if the Angel of Death was not missing. For her sake and for the sake of the world he must stop the Apocalypse and restore the natural balance to the world. Even after thousands of years of living among humans, Remy still doesn’t completely understand them yet he’s still willing to fight for them. But in order to do that he has to call upon his angelic nature and that is what he is afraid of. Angels don’t have souls so they have to learn to be human the hard way. Remy stands to lose everything he has gained, but what choice does he have with mankind’s existence hanging in the balance?

A Kiss Before the Apocalypse is the first book in an intriguing new urban fantasy series. I was raised Luthern so I don’t know that much about Catholic theology but I think this could an interesting series. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New releases for the week of February 24th


Cyberabad Days is a triumphant return to the India of 2047, a new, muscular superpower of one and a half billion people in an age of artificial intelligences, climate-change induced drought, water wars, strange new genders, genetically improved children that age at half the rate of baseline humanity, and a population where males outnumber females four to one. India herself has fractured into a dozen states from Kerala to the headwaters of the Ganges in the Himalayas.

> The Magician’s Apprentice, Trudi Canavan
> White Witch, Black Curse, Kim Harrison
> City Without End, Kay Kenyon
> Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt (Anthology)
> Blood and Ice, Robert Masello
> Black Blood, John Meaney
> The Caryatids, Bruce Sterling
> Jailbait Zombie, Mario Acevedo
> Third Claw of God, Adam-troy Castro
> The Accord, Keith Brooke
> The Alchemist’s Code, Dave Duncan
> Wrath of a Mad God, Raymond E. Feist
> The Dreaming Void, Peter F. Hamilton
> Duainfey, Sharon Lee, Steve Miller
> Spell Games, T.A. Pratt
> Hope’s Folly, Linnea Sinclair
> The 13th Immortal, Robert Silverberg
> Galaxy Blues, Allen Steele
> Palimpsest, Catherynne Valente
> Kitty Raises Hell, Carrie Vaughn
> The Swan Maiden, Jules Watson
> Better to Beg Forgiveness, Michael Z. Williamson

Saturday, February 21, 2009

NYT bestsellers for February 20th

Stephanie Meyer’s The Host is up one to number 3 as it reaches it's 40th week milestone on the NYT bestseller list. (Amazon, B&N)

Christopher Moore’s historical satire Fool on the list at number 4. (Amazon, B&N)

Patricia Briggs’ Bone Crossed drops two spots in its second week to number 5. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ From Dead to Worse rounds out week 21 at number 17 and down one. (Amazon, B&N)

Dan Simmons’ newest novel Drood makes its debut at number 18. (Amazon, B&N)

Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand is down three points to number 28 in its third week. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series has books one and two at number 19 and number 23 respectively.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Review: Shambling Toward Hiroshima

Shambling Toward Hiroshima
by James Morrow

Format: Paperback, 170 pages
Publisher: Tachyon PublicationsCover Design: Ann Monn
Release Date: February 1, 2009
ISBN-10: 1-892391848
ISBN-13: 978-1892391841

It is the summer of 1945. Germany is vanquished and victory in Europe has been declared, however, the war rages on in the Pacific. Japan is beaten, but remains defiant promising the Allies they will have to pay for every inch of ground. Back in Hollywood, Syms Thorley is an actor playing the various monsters in B-movie horror classics. You need a giant lizard, a mummy, or a Frankenstein; Syms Thorley is your man. And now, the US Navy wants to tap Thorley with a special starring role.

The US Navy has developed a new biological weapon: giant, fire-breathing monsters designed specifically to destroy a city. They want Thorley to don a monster suit and raze a miniature of a Japanese city to convince the enemy to surrender. If not, the President will authorize the use of the monsters on the Japanese mainland. It’s the role of a lifetime with thousands of lives hanging in the balance.

I have to admit this story piqued my interest. Shambling Toward Hiroshima is written as a memoir from the 1980s in which an aging Syms Thorley, suffering from depression, feels compelled to share his story on this piece of forgotten history. The majority of the novel is thus written in flashback vividly invoking the era of the horror genre classic. It was very interesting to get an in-depth look of the history of horror filmmaking featuring behind the scenes views of special effects and collisions of egocentric actors.

While the historical aspect of the story was fairly interesting, I had a little bit of trouble swallowing one of the basic premises of the book, that of using an actor to pretend to be a monster in order to force a surrender. Bascially, the author used a monster movie demonstration as a diplomatic scare tactic. Granted, any diplomats sent by the Japanese would never have seen a monster movie from Hollywood at the time, yet how could they possibly be expected to believe it? They weren’t seeing a real demonstration of the “weapon’s” capability. Putting aside whether scientists could actually have engineered any real such monster in the 1940s, it seems to me that this performance is simply too far-fetched to be believed.

Any such fantastic idea seems doomed to failure and that’s certainly what happened. As we know from history, the US dropped two atomic bombs onto Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The failure of the monster demonstration plagued Thorley throughout his life. It also caused the deaths of thousands of Japanese civilians. In effect, the novel is a character piece and a warning on the dangers of weapons of mass destruction.

Shambling Toward Hiroshima is an interesting effort mixing science fiction, historical monster filmmaking, and apocalyptic cautionary tale. The unfeasibility of the basic premise makes suspension of disbelief difficult yet the character arc partially redeems it.

Rating: 7/10.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Review: Alexandria


Hardback, 276 pages
Publisher: Century
Cover Design: Mark Edwards
Release Date: February 5, 2009
ISBN-10: 1-846052873
ISBN-13: 978-1846052873

Alexandria is the 19th addition in the long-running and entertaining Falco sequence, a mystery series set in the ancient Roman world circa 70s AD. Marcus Didius Falco and family are on holiday in Alexandria, the city founded by Alexander the Great and capital of the province of Egypt. The city is home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Great Lighthouse, and is the staging point for a second, the Great Pyramids of Giza. Marcus and his wife, Helena, have come to visit the great wonders, however things quickly go awry when the head librarian of the Great Library dies in mysterious circumstances. As an informer who often works for the Emperor, Falco is quickly handed the investigation by the authorities. Falco must deal with hostile academics, bribery, and embezzlement in his quest to solve the murder. Two more deaths complicate matters not to mention Falco’s shifty relatives who take an unhealthy interest in the Library’s scrolls.

Alexandria is another good book in one my favorite book series. As always, Marcus is a dogged and smart-ass informer, the closest Roman equivalent to a private detective. His social values and sense of justice may seem out of place, but the author handles it deftly, often tempered by the realities of Roman politics and society. Indeed, one thing I’ve always enjoyed about Lindsey Davis’ books is how authentic they feel. Davis does her homework on Roman society, culture, and history extremely well often consulting the latest archaeology research. Whenever I’m reading on the books, I often feel that I’m actually walking the streets of ancient Rome. The author openly admits that she often takes liberties for the sake of the plot, however I think she does a fantastic job and I always enjoy her work.

For fans of Lindsey Davis, Alexandria is another solid entry in the Falco series. Recommended for mystery and historical fiction.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New releases for the week of February 17th


Lamentation, Ken Scholes
An ancient weapon has completely destroyed the city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Nine Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. He knows that war is coming to the Named Lands.

Nearer to the Devastation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city – he sat waiting for his father outside the walls, and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.

Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at each others' throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.

> The Judging Eye, R. Scott Bakker
> The Valley of Shadows, Brian Cullen
> Steal Across the Sky, Nancy Kress
> The Seven Towers, Patricia Wrede

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Patricia Briggs’ Bone Crossed makes it debut on the NYT bestseller list at number 3. (Amazon, B&N)

Stephanie Meyer’s The Host slips two spots to number 4 in its 39th week. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ From Dead to Worse maintains its current position at number 16 in week twenty. (Amazon, B&N)

Kelley Armstrong’s Men of the Otherworld falls seven points in its second week to number 26. (Amazon, B&N)

Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand finishes its second week on the list down 12 to number 25. (Amazon, B&N)

Many Bloody Returns, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, makes it debut on the paperback list at number 29. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris has the first two books of her Sookie Stackhouse series in positions number 26 and number 27 respectively.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Review: The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages

Hardback, 572 pages
Publisher: Tor
Cover Design: Jon Foster
Release Date: October 14, 2008
ISBN-10: 0-765316897
ISBN-13: 978-0765316899

The Hero of Ages picks up a year after The Well of Ascension leaves off. At the end of the previous book, Vin accidentally released the primal force called Ruin from the Well of Ascension. The third book in the Mistborn trilogy starts with Vin and Elend seeking out the supply caches left by the Lord Ruler. They must hurry because the ash from the volcanos is beginning to fall even more heavily than before and threatens to bury the land completely. Elend has managed to unite most of the fractured kingdoms back into the empire except for two major holdouts in the cities of Fadrex and Urteau. Vin and Elend head to Fadrex to besiege the city and find the last supply cache. Sazed and Breeze are sent to meet up with Spook in Urteau. Elend is determined to survive, however it seems that Ruin opposes them at every turn. Is it the end of the world or is simply the darkest hour before the dawn?

As with the prior two novels, the characterization is very well done. Elend became a mistborn at the end of the second book and is now a seasoned fighter and soldier. He has become a combination of emperor, soldier, and scholar that the role has forced him to become. Vin doubts herself after being fooled into releasing Ruin. Not only that, but while seeking to stop Ruin, it seems to take a personal interest in her. Many secondary characters, including Sazed, Spook, and TenSoon, also get plenty of action and character development in their resistance to the machinations of Ruin. The end of the world makes for a pretty gritty and heavy storyline yet The Hero of Ages shares the determinism and optimism of the previous two books. Ruin’s actions and manipulations happen on a scale only a primal force can affect. How can any one person make a difference? Read the book and find out.

One thing I realized with The Hero of Ages is how the scope of the series increases with each book. Mistborn started with a simple thieving crew intent on killing the powerful and immortal Lord Ruler. The Well of Ascension takes the next step as the characters try to deal with the fallout of the Lord Ruler’s death and bring some stability to the empire. The final novel deals with no less than the fate of the world itself. Information and plot threads from the previous novels come together in the final book. I was often surprised at little bits of information from Mistborn that suddenly gained importance in Hero. The Mistborn trilogy is a great series and Brandon Sanderson has established himself as one the brightest new voices in fantasy.

Rating: 9/10.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

New releases for the week of February 10th


Drood, Dan Simmons
On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.

Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?

Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

> Fool, Christopher Moore
> The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
> Resistance, Owen Sheers

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NYT bestsellers for February 6th

Stephanie Meyer’s The Host finishes its 38th week on the list holding its previous position at number 2. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ From Dead to Worse drops four points to number 16 in its nineteenth week on the list. (Amazon, B&N)

The first of three new debuts on the bestseller is Kelley Armstrong’s Men of the Otherworld marking its spot at number 19. (Amazon, B&N)

Also debuting this week is Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand clawing it's own place at number 13. (Amazon, B&N)

Finally, Michael Reaves’ Star Wars: Coruscant Nights: Patterns of the Force makes its debut at number 16 on the NYT bestseller list. (Amazon, B&N)

Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series has books one through three at number 23, 26, and 32 respectively.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand
by Carrie Vaughn

Format: Paperback, 301 pages
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Cover Design: Craig White
Release Date: January 13, 2009
ISBN-10: 0-345501110
ISBN-13: 978-0345501110

The fifth book in the Kitty series by Carrie Vaughn finds Kitty and her fiancé, Ben, planning to run off to Vegas to get married. However, as is often the case with Kitty, things easily become much more complicated. First, her parents insist on coming along. Then Kitty’s station manager convinces her to host a one-time television episode of her radio show. Not only that, but the vampire master of Denver asks her as a personal favor to deliver a letter of introduction to his counterpart in Las Vegas. So much for eloping on the spur of the moment.

The trip to Vegas gets off to a bad start when Kitty realizes her hotel is hosting a gun show. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem, despite the fact she hates guns, except it seems the show has attracted several werewolf-hating bounty hunters. Bounty hunters who her fiancé and know of her supernatural alter ego. As Kitty does research for the television show, she comes across several interesting characters including a magician who’s magic may be real and a live animal show starring a pack of lycanthropes. Fairly soon however events take a turn for the worst with the leader of the lycanthropes seeming determined to seduce Kitty for ulterior motives, a couple bounty hunters being equally determined to have her put down like an animal, and to top it off her fiancé goes missing. Viva Las Vegas.

The major thing I noticed with this book is that it seemed a little “lighter” than the last one, Kitty and the Silver Bullet. The fourth book had several major plot and character developments culminating in Kitty and Ben becoming the alpha pair of Denver’s wolf pack as well as the ascendance of a new vampire master. In Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand, the drama is much more personal. It feels a lighter because the dramatic action focuses on just a couple of people rather than a much larger contingent. The book is still a solid read and I’m definitely looking forward to the release of Kitty Raises Hell at the end of the month.

Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand is another good, solid book in Carrie Vaughn's Kitty series. Recommended for all fans of urban fantasy.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death
by Charlie Huston

Format: Hardback, 319 pages
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Cover Design: Christopher Sergio
Release Date: January 13, 2009
ISBN-10: 0-345501110
ISBN-13: 978-0345501110

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is a new fiction thriller by author Charlie Huston, well known in SFF for his Joe Pitt novels. Webster Fillmore Goodhue is a lazy bum with no job and an acerbic attitude. When his only friend tells him his freeloading days are over, he takes a job as a trauma cleaner. Trauma cleaners are a largely unregulated industry that handles just about anything that needs to be cleaned up from a dog hit by a car to a decomposing packrat. Web quickly finds he is well suited to the work.

Web’s life changes when he and his team clean up after a suicide by handgun and he encounters the deceased’s bereaved daughter. They don’t exactly hit it off like a couple in a bar, but there is a certain something there. This is increased when she asks him for help in another cleanup and pulls him into the middle of a smuggling operation gone bad. The smugglers kidnap the girl and put both of their lives in jeopardy.

This is my first of Huston’s non-fantasy books I have read and while it’s quite good, it does seem a little familiar. Plotting, pacing, and style are all consistent with the author’s work. One thing Huston is good at it are gray, gritty characters. Web comes off as a super asshole that alienates everyone he meets. Frankly, I had a hard time identifying with the character, as he is very hard to like, though that is half the point. Web had a very traumatic moment prior to the events in the book and of course everyone reacts differently to tragedy. By the end of the book however, the character changes considerably and his evolution is handled quite well.

A good stand-alone book, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death is not Huston’s best work, but it works well as an introduction to the author. Recommended.

Rating: 8/10.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New releases for the week of February 3rd


In the tradition of Godzilla as both a playful romp and a parable of the dawn of the nuclear era, this original satire blends the destruction of World War II with the halcyon pleasure of monster movies. In the summer of 1945 war is reigning in the Pacific Rim, while in the U.S., Syms Thorley continues his life as a B-movie actor. But the U.S. Navy would like to use Thorley in their top-secret Knickerbocker Project, putting the finishing touches on the ultimate biological weapon: a breed of gigantic, fire-breathing, mutant iguanas. Thorley is to don a rubber suit that will transform him into the merciless Gorgantis and star in a film that simulates the destruction of a miniature Japan—if the demonstration succeeds, the Japanese will surrender, sparing thousands of lives; if it fails, the mutant lizards will be unleashed. Godzilla devotees and history buffs alike will be fascinated by this conspiratorial secret history of a war, a weapon, and an unlikely hero who will have to give the most convincing performance of his life.

> Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs
> Wings of Wrath, C.S. Friedman
> The High City, Cecelia Holland
> Lear’s Daughter’s, Marjorie B. Kellogg, William Rossow
> Walls of the Universe, Paul Melko
> Escape From Hell, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
> Man-Kzin Wars XII, Larry Niven (Anthology)
> Enclave, Kit Reed
> Into the Storm, Taylor Anderson
> Rx for Chaos, Christopher Anvil
> Undone, Rachel Caine
> Foxfire, Barbara Campbell
> The Sorcerer’s Plague, David B. Coe
> Seekers of the Chalice, Brian Cullen
> A Magic of Twilight, SL Farrell
> Crime Spells, Martin H. Greenberg (Anthology)
> The Last Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
> Dark Haven, Gail Z. Martin
> The Automatic Detective, A. Lee Martinez
> Mad Kestrel, Misty Massey
> The Philosopher’s Apprentice, James Morrow
> Mortal Coils, Eric Nylund
> Postsingular, Rudy Rucker
> Duplicate Effort, Kristine Kathryn Rusch
> In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, S.M. Stirling
> We, Yevgeny Zamyatin
> The Rise of the Iron Moon, Stephen Hunt
> Dragonfly Falling, Adrian Tchaikovsky