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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Graphic Novel Review: The Bunker by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Joe Infurnari


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Joshua Hale Fialkov is the creator of graphic novels, including the Harvey Nominated Elk’s Run, the Harvey and Eisner nominated Tumor, Punks the Comic, and the Harvey Nominated Echoes. He lives with his wife, Christina, daughter, Gable, and their cats, Smokey and the Bandit. TwitterFacebook

Publisher: ONI Press Number of Issues: 19 collected in four volumes

The Bunker revolves around five friends who uncover a metal bunker buried deep in the woods. Inside, they find letters addressed to each of them from their future selves. A joke? Maybe, but who would know such personal details about each of them?

The letters say they will destroy the world soon. Uplifting, right? Over the next few days, they realize their lives as they saw them are over. If they don't change, everyone else on the planet will pay. The friends find themselves growing further apart, unable to make the right decisions.

In Bunker, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari created something spectacular. They play with the structure and show readers the future, the extinction event itself, and the past. As a huge time-travel nerd, I loved their take on it. They do get into the science and the idea of paradox and contradiction, but the book is first and foremost about characters. And that's enough to immerse readers.

The story plays with the idea of destiny vs free will, friendship, manipulation, and coming-of-age. And it wraps them in a gripping time-travel thriller narrative. The drama unfolds at a steady pace and offers plenty of exciting twists. I loved watching pieces fall into place.

Each of the characters feels distinct and has a purpose in the story. And in the story within a story. Some characters start as pawns in a guest from the future game, but it soon changes, and new variables change the equation. Fialkov develops his characters organically, through the careful layering of the mystery and the role each of them plays in it.

Billy, Daniel, Grady, Heidi, and Natasha feel like real people you might know from school or work. They speak differently and have small mannerisms. None of them has a perfect physique, and it's refreshing. Take Grady - he's slightly overweight and has a big nose.  

I love Infurnari's stylish, moody art. I know some readers dislike it but for me, his deliberately rough, sketchy, style, is the perfect match for this story. He uses light and shadow to create a grim atmosphere, and the muted colors add to the feeling of hopelessness. Interestingly, The Bunker was originally black-and-white, color was added when ONI Press published it. I haven't read the original version but I love the "remastered" one so much I have no need to do so.

The Bunker is fast-paced, exciting, and unpredictable. The unique cast of characters and the dystopian vision of the future hooked me instantly. It has it all, really: action, drama, suspense, and a nice touch of science fiction. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Book Review: A Practical Guide to Conquering the World (The Siege # 3) by K. J. Parker


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

Series links: 


AUTHOR INFO: K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt. According to the biographical notes in some of Parker's books, Parker has previously worked in law, journalism, and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal. It is also claimed that Parker is married to a solicitor and now lives in southern England. According to an autobiographical note, Parker was raised in rural Vermont, a lifestyle which influenced Parker's work.

Publisher: Orbit (January 11, 2022) Length: 385 pages Cover design: Lauren Panepinto Formats: audiobook, ebook, paperback

Monday, January 24, 2022

Book Review: Obsidian by Sarah J. Daley (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order Obsidian HERE

AUTHOR INFO: Sarah J. Daley is a former chef who lives and writes in the Chicago Metropolitan area with her husband and teenaged son. She earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Though she still enjoys the heat and chaos of a professional kitchen, she is now writing full-time. She enjoys traveling, creating costumes for comic con, riding the occasional horse, and streaming old sitcoms for background noise.

Release Date: January 25, 2022 Publisher: Angry Robot Pages: 400 Cover design: Mark Ecob

Thursday, January 20, 2022

"Hotel Iris" by Yoko Ogawa (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Yoko Ogawa at Wikipedia
Order Hotel Iris HERE

INTRODUCTION: I have heard of Yoko Ogawa in connection with her most famous novel, translated as The Housekeeper and the Professor. I got a copy of that one a few years ago when it was published here in the US though I have not read it yet, but recently I opened her newest (2010) English translation, Hotel Iris and I was hooked.

Book review: Anatomy of the Heretic by David Mark


Author Official Website

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

Author Info: David spent more than fifteen years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with the Yorkshire Post - walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

Publisher: Head of Zeus (January 21, 2022) Length: 375 Cover art: 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

SPFBO Finalist review: Burn Red Skies by Kerstín Espinosa Rosero

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Author and artist. Burn Red Skies is her debut novel. Find Kerstin online: InstagramTwitter.

Publication Date: November 12, 2020 Publisher: Kerstín Espinosa Rosero Page Count: 400 Cover design: Franziska Haase
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: Kerstín Espinosa Rosero

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Author and artist. Burn Red Skies is her debut novel. Find Kerstin online: InstagramTwitter.

Publication Date: November 12, 2020 Publisher: Kerstín Espinosa Rosero Page Count: 400 Cover design: Franziska Haase

Monday, January 17, 2022

Book review: Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley


Book links: AmazonGoodreads

Other books by the author: 

GREENSMITH - FBC Review - Amazon

AUTHOR INFO: Aliya Whiteley writes across many different genres and lengths. Her first published full-length novels, Three Things About Me and Light Reading, were comic crime adventures. Her 2014 SF-horror novella The Beauty was shortlisted for the James Tiptree and Shirley Jackson awards. The following historical-SF novella, The Arrival of Missives, was a finalist for the Campbell Memorial Award, and her noir novel The Loosening Skin was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award.

She has written over one hundred published short stories that have appeared in Interzone, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Black Static, Strange Horizons, The Dark, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The Guardian, as well as in anthologies such as Unsung Stories’ 2084 and Lonely Planet’s Better than Fiction.

She also writes a regular non-fiction column for Interzone

Publisher: Solaris (March 16, 2021) Length: 300 pages Cover art: Dominic Forbes

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Book Review: The Chosen Twelve by James Breakwell

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: James Breakwell is a professional comedy writer and amateur father of four girls, ages ten and under. He is best known for his family humor Twitter account @XplodingUnicorn, which has more than a million followers. He has published three comedy parenting books that explore hot button issues like the benefits of doing as little as possible and the best ways to protect your child from zombie attacks. 

Publisher: Solaris (January 18, 2022) Length: 384 pages Cover art: 

Friday, January 14, 2022

ENGINES OF EMPIRE by R.S. Ford - Review

Official Author Website

Buy the book HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: R S Ford is a writer of fantasy from Leeds in the heartland of Yorkshire. He writes historical fiction under the name of Richard Cullen.

FORMAT/INFO: Engines of Empire was published on January 18th, 2022 by Orbit Books. It is 575 pages and is told from the third person POVs of Tyreta, Conall, Fulren, Rosomon and Lancelin. It is available in paperback and ebook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: In the kingdom of Torwyn, the Guilds of commerce hold sway over the land, and few are more powerful than the Hawkspurs. Lady Rosomon has ensured that each of her three heirs are pursuing a path that will prepare them to eventually assume leadership in the guild. Conall is undergoing military service on the frontier, while Fulren prepares for an apprenticeship in artificing. Tyreta, meanwhile, has been sent to an island mining outpost to be trained in running the operations and the family business. But troubled times are sparked in the kingdom when an emissary from a rival kingdom is murdered and Fulren is framed. With no one at court willing to defend her son’s innocence, Rosomon must investigate matters on her own, and soon discovers a sinister plot. Elsewhere in the kingdom, Conall and Tyreta make disturbing discoveries of their own that will push the kingdom ever closer to war.

Engines of Empire is a fast-paced epic fantasy adventure that is always engaging, though at the cost of deeply written characters. Those who find 600-page fantasy tomes a slog may find this story more to their liking, as it never lets up the pace, constantly throwing characters from one fire into another. I found myself constantly hooked by the story and flew through it in four or five days – books of similar length have taken me well over a week.

Engines is a brutal tale with surprising moments, peppered across multiple kingdoms and different magic systems. I enjoyed the steampunk adjacent setting, where industry has risen through the use of arcana devices powered by magic stones mined from various regions. These stones power everything from giant trains to guns to mechsuits – fans of the recent Arcane will enjoy the magical technology vibe. There are also some great action set pieces (Fulren in particular has a memorable fight).

What succeeded less in my opinion was the writing of the characters. The story of Engines of Empire is so whirlwind-fast that we hardly get a moment to sit with any of our POV protagonists. The result is that everyone felt a bit the same: hot-headed, impulsive people who are nonetheless dedicated to the family and who will go to extreme lengths to protect it without a second thought. “I’ll pay whatever the cost” is a feeling almost every character utters without hesitation. While you could chock some of this up to “it runs in the family,” the result is that you have four characters who generally make knee-jerk reactions to every bit of information they receive. There’s little variation to how anyone handles the situation. No one plays the long game or is a coward or is more methodical. As a “character first” kind of reader, this was a bit of a hang up for me, but your mileage may vary!

CONCLUSION: While Engines of Empire was not a home run for me, I commend the author for writing a tome that goes by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t connect with the characters in the way I was hoping, but it is certainly an engaging story setting up plenty of mysteries and trials for the Hawkspur family to overcome.


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