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Friday, November 30, 2007

Winners of the "The Solaris Book of New Fantasy", Cassandra Kresnov trilogy and The Orphan's Tales duology giveaways!!!

Congratulations to Cristina McDowall (UK), Kate Weber (Virginia), Casey Buell (California), Iain Leishman (Scotland), Deborah C. Leis (Florida), Nicole Simmons (Canada), Pierre-Yves Asselin (Canada), Jeremy Sobczak (Michigan), Brian Barlow (Utah), and David Trejos (California) who were all randomly selected to win a copy of “The Solaris Book of New Fantasy” signed by editor George Mann, all thanks to Solaris Books!!! Personally, I really enjoyed this anthology as you can see from my review HERE, so for those who did not win, I strongly urge you to go pick up a copy today! Of course, if you’re broke I think Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist is still running a giveaway for the anthology HERE ;)

Congratulations also to Chris McClelland (Maryland), Bill Fogarty (Florida), and Rik Kline (Maryland) who were all randomly selected to win a set of
Joel Shepherd’s Cassandra Kresnov trilogy including “Crossover”, “Breakaway” and “Killswitch”, all thanks to Pyr Books!!! For more information on the series, I recently posted my review of “KillswitchHERE, there’s also an interview Joel Shepherd HERE, a review of “BreakawayHERE, and to complete the trifecta, The Book Swede has a review of “CrossoverHERE.

And lastly, congratulations to Will Bragg (Georgia) and Jim Hines (Michigan) who were both randomly selected to a set of
Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales duology including “In the Night Garden” (Volume One) and “In the Cities of Coin & Spice” (Volume Two), all thanks to Bantam Spectra!!! One of my favorite releases of the year, Ms. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales comes highly recommended and you can read my reviews of both parts HERE (Volume One) + HERE (Volume Two) as well as an interview with the author HERE.

Finally, just a friendly reminder that the giveaway for “The Shooting War” graphic novel ends on Monday, December 10, 2007 – 11:59AM PST. Truly a fascinating read and well worth the time to sign up :) As far as next week’s giveaways, just a few hints—vampires, dragons and Greeks…

Interview with Josh Conviser

Official Josh Conviser Website
Order “EmpyreHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Echelon/Empyre

As I’ve discussed before, I’m a strong believer of the cross-pollination between literature and other media formats such as film, television, videogames and comic books. Neil Gaiman, R.A. Salvatore, Frank Beddor, Christopher Golden, Tim Lebbon, Richard K. Morgan, Warren Ellis, Mike Carey, Michael Marshall Smith, Wayne Barlowe and Whitley Streiber are just some of the names that immediately come to mind who have been using their creative talents for more than just literature. Another one to add to the list is Josh Conviser, a screenwriter/producer whose Hollywood credits include the HBO television show Rome. Josh’s true love though is fiction writing and to date he has two novels—“Echelon” and the recently released follow-up “Empyre”, both of which I reviewed HERE. While Mr. Conviser’s debut showed flashes of promise, his new book “Empyre” delivers on a whole other level and I was really excited when the author agreed to an interview. So thank you Mr. Conviser for the opportunity and the fantastic discussion that not only covers his books and Hollywood projects, but also such interesting topics as transhumanism, a Singularity, the burgeoning relationship between different mediums and the relevance of the printed word:

Q: “Empyre”, the sequel to your debut novel “Echelon” (2006) was recently released on October 30, 2007 and, like its predecessor, is described as “spy-fi”. For those who may be unfamiliar with your books, can you tell us your definition of “spy-fi”, how “Empyre” is related to “Echelon”, and what readers can expect in the new novel?

Josh: I didn’t set out to write genre busters with “Echelon” and “Empyre”. I’m a huge reader of both sci-fi/fantasy and spy thrillers (Ludlum and the like). So when I sat down to write a novel, combining the two just felt comfortable. As such, my books are influenced by Orwell and Le Carre, William Gibson and Ian Fleming.

Echelon” and “Empyre” are written to be exciting, edge-of-your-seat reads. They’re filled with action, jump all over the world and have characters and plot lines that – I hope – will draw a reader in. While “Echelon” and “Empyre” are both “Ryan Laing” novels, each stands on its own. There’s no need to read them in order.

Echelon” is the first Ryan Laing book. It looks at how a total surveillance system might rise from the actions we’re taking today. (ECHELON is an actual eavesdropping system within the NSA). My hero, Ryan Laing, starts as an agent within Echelon who uncovers an earth shattering conspiracy that sends him on the run.

Empyre” finds Ryan and his partner, Sarah Peters, a couple years after “Echelon” wraps up. “Empyre” starts where most sci-fi ends: “Big Brother” is dead. The world is free. I wanted to know what would happen the next day. How would we react to that freedom and what would life be like for Ryan and Sarah – the two people who forced such a change? Turns out, it’s not a pretty picture. From that premise, Ryan once again gets pulled into an intrigue that has him on the run for his life.

My hope is that the books combine the excitement and political intrigue of a spy thriller with the best “what if” aspects of sci-fi.

Q: Personally I thought “Empyre” was a huge step forward from “Echelon” in everything from prose and character development to plotting, pacing, etc. How do you feel about the progress you made as a writer between the two books, and what was easier for you this time around compared to writing your debut? What was harder?

Josh: Many thanks! That’s a great compliment for any writer. With “Echelon”, I was learning to write a novel. I’ve worked as a screenwriter for a while, but novel writing is totally different. The canvas is much broader, and the options wider. I loved writing “Echelon”. Every day was a discovery. And there’s a lot in “Echelon” that’s very close to my heart. But it was also a learning experience.

Getting into “Empyre”, I felt like I had a much better grasp of how to structure and write a novel. What works and what doesn’t. That said, there was also more pressure on “Empyre”. Writing “Echelon”, I had no idea if anyone would ever see it, let alone publish it. “Empyre” was a different story. A lot of my novelist friends told me that their second novel was the hardest. I now understand what they’re saying. But, like “Echelon”, “Empyre” was a ton of fun to write – something I hope comes through in reading the book.

Q: A couple of themes that showed up in “Empyre” that I was unfamiliar with were singularity—“the acceleration of technological progress to the point where we can no longer predict our future based on the past” and transhumanism—“the impact of technology on humanity”. Could you discuss a bit more about these two topics and how much of an impact you think they’ll have in our world?

Josh: The concepts of a Singularity and transhumanism both relate to the underlying theme in “Empyre” and “Echelon”. My books are about control, both on a personal and a societal level. It seems to me that the speed and scope of our technological progress will impact our ability to control and understand both society and ourselves.

The Singularity deals with technology’s impact on society. The idea is that, at some point, technology will kick us into a totally new reality, one so removed from what we know that our past will no longer be a predictor of the future. The journey to that point, whether you see it as good or bad, marks a substantial shift in society. We can see it today. With each passing moment, the world gets smaller, technology further webbing us together. This dispersion of control, be it good or bad, is only increasing.

Some think that passing through the Singularity will be a boon for humanity. And some think we will not survive the process. “Empyre” looks at this issue. It opens on a world teetering on the Singularity’s edge – a world ripe with fear – and looks at what might happen next. As an idea, I find the Singularity very interesting. As a writer, I think it sets up a world ripe for an action packed storyline.

Transhumanism deals with similar issues on a more personal level. It looks at how our integration with technology will impact us as people. How will it change what it means to be human? I look at this issue through my hero, Ryan Laing, who is the first true cyborg – a total mesh of man and machine. He’s the guinea pig, reluctantly entering a new territory. And it’s not a place he’s comfortable inhabiting. The technology within Ryan offers limitless possibilities, but it also forces him to relinquish control on the most personal of levels.

So transhumanism and the Singularity both relate to the single theme of control that runs through “Echelon” and “Empyre”.

And while all these ideas and issues may seem like far future scenarios, I think we’re going to be dealing with a good bit of them in our lifetime. For a primer on these ideas, I highly recommend Joel Garreau’s nonfiction book, “Radical Evolution.”

Q: You mentioned how you explored Transhumanism through Ryan Laing, but the other two returning characters in the book (Sarah Peters & Dave Madda) are also dealing with technological issues. For Sarah and Dave though, their reactions are much different from Ryan’s. Is it safe to say then that a large part of your characterization is discovering how different personalities deal with transhumanism, singularity, etc?

Josh: Certainly. I want to know what the on-ground impact of these issues would be. It’s one thing to talk in an intellectual way about how we might deal with technological progress. It’s another thing to slam your characters up against those changes and see how they react. I think that’s one of the great benefits of sci-fi – it allows a dramatic, emotional experience of complex issues.

Q: Other subjects that you explored in the books that are highly relevant with current events are terrorism and privacy rights. Is there a certain statement that you’re trying to share regarding these issues, and if so, what is it?

Josh: As far as the right to privacy, I think it’s a very tricky issue. I totally understand the need to obtain good intelligence. We live in a world with very real threats. My concern is that, in our effort to find safety, to maintain control, we’ll commit to a course that will have long-term, unintended consequences. The choices we make now will only be magnified as our technical capacities increase. We’re balancing between security and freedom. Leaning toward freedom puts us in physical jeopardy, while overweighting safety could well kill the freedom we hold dear. Finding the balance between these two pressures will be pivotal to our future.

The threat of terrorism is obviously wrapped up in all this. “Empyre” deals with the ramifications of using terrorism as a political tool. If “Echelon” is about control through surveillance, “Empyre” is about control through fear.

Q: A very accurate description I think about the two books. Now even though “Echelon/Empyre” are set a hundred years in the future and deal with what seems like far-fetched technology, apparently most everything in the books is grounded in reality and based on factual data. How important for you is it that readers are able to connect with your novels on a realistic level despite the ‘science fiction’ elements?

Josh: Very important. The world I’ve created lies down the path we’re walking right now. As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about what would happen tomorrow based on what’s going on today. And that includes technology, geography, politics, architecture, healthcare and even our social interaction.

Q: On your website HERE you talk about some of the technology used in “Empyre” as well as the varied geography. What kind of research did you put into the technology & locations that you ended up using in both of your books?

Josh: On the technology side, I read every book, blog, magazine and publication I can get my hands on. I also spend a lot of time at the universities, chatting with those people working on the cutting edge. Honestly, it’s a ton of fun – one of the best aspects of my work!

On the location side, I’ve spent time in most of the places in “Echelon” and “Empyre”. I’m a big traveler and love being able to write about the locations I’ve lived in. For those locales that I haven’t been to, I try to spend some time with those who have. For example, part of “Empyre” takes place in Antarctica on these massive granite fangs that rise out of the ice. Getting down there was going to be a bit tough. So, I spent an afternoon with Rick Ridgeway, one of America’s foremost mountaineers, and a guy who’s climbed those formations. Getting his impressions of the place was invaluable.

As “Echelon/Empyre” take place in the future, I’m making guesses as to what the technology and geography will look like, but I try to ground those guesses in fact.

Q: I believe that you’re working on a standalone novel. How far along are you with that and is there anything you can tell us about it?

Josh: Wow – good intel! Haven’t told many people about it. The standalone is set in the espionage world as well. I’ve put a lot of work into it, and it’s coming along well. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but I want to get it done before going into it much deeper.

Q: Fair enough :) I also believe you’re developing a sequel to “Echelon” + “Empyre”. What’s the progress report on that, what do you have in store for Ryan Laing & friends, and how many volumes do you envision in the series?

Josh: I am working on part three, but haven’t settled on a title yet. As you can probably guess, it will be one word and start with E. Why fix what ain’t broke, right?

I always conceived of the Laing story in three parts. That said, Ryan could well find another mission or two - that is, of course, if he survives the third book! I love Ryan and Sarah as characters. It would be very hard to give them up!

Q: In addition to writing novels, you’ve actually been working in Hollywood for about ten years now as a screenwriter & producer and you were an executive consultant on
HBO’s television series Rome. First off, how did you land that gig, what kind of experience was it, and what was the most important thing you learned from working on the show?

Josh: I co-wrote what’s called the story bible for the show. It’s the document that outlines the show, the characters, the larger arcs and, in our case, the episodes themselves. It was a great pleasure to work on Rome. To have the chance to develop a project with that kind of scope was absolutely amazing.

As to what I learned… I’ll just say that the behind the scenes power struggles were of Roman proportion. Coming out of that, I realized that I needed to do something on my own, to write something that would live or die based on its quality and nothing else. That was my motivation to write a book.

At this point, my passion lies in literature. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and having the opportunity to write books for a living is a true gift. With each page, each book, my passion for the work grows. That said, I do still write for the screen. Making film and TV is a ton of fun. I love the communal creativity and energy in filmmaking and would miss it if I only did books. In being able to do both, I think I’ve found the perfect balance.

Q:
Rome seems like a pretty big departure from your current “spy-fi” novels. Will we ever get to see you write a fantasy novel? What about another genre like say horror, etc?

Josh: None of the above are impossible. I don’t really think about genre as I begin to write. Usually, an idea flashes into my head, a set-up or “what if,” which then leads me to the genre. That’s how you get Rome and “Empyre” from the same writer. In the end, no matter what the genre, a writer does the same thing: create a world, populate that world with characters that, hopefully, resonate with the reader and then tell a story that’s gripping.

I’m not sure that I’ll go into horror, but you never know. I have been working on a fantasy novel geared for teens. It’s a ton of fun and is coming along well. I’m also a big fan of historical fiction and spy thrillers and would love to try both genres.

Q: I read that once you finished your debut novel “Echelon”, it didn’t take you long to get an agent and land a contract with Del Rey. Do you think your Hollywood background had anything to do with you getting a publisher so quickly, and while we’re on the topic, could you just tell us a bit about your journey in finding a publisher and why you went with Del Rey?

Josh: It was really quick and did have something to do with my Hollywood stuff, but in a roundabout way. The first person to see the novel was Sarah Self, a film agent. Her excitement for it bowled me over. Within days, she became my agent for film and found a lit agent to push the book to publishers. Within a couple weeks of that, we had an offer from Del Rey. As to why I went with them – I really hit it off with my editor, Betsy Mitchell, the Del Rey gang and Ballantine in general. I was thrilled to go with them and look forward to a long relationship.

Q: Going back to film, you have something being developed at Fox. What’s going on with that?

Josh: I’m producing a CGI animation film for Fox/Blue Sky (the crew that did Ice Age, among others). It’s a total departure from anything I’ve done before and I’m really enjoying it. Getting a CGI animation project to the screen is a long process, but it’s coming along well.

Q: Sounds like fun :) Additionally, you wrote a screenplay for a thriller that is described as “a modern day adaptation of Dante's Inferno set in Las Vegas”, which sounds pretty interesting. Could you tell us a bit more about the story and how things are progressing?

Josh: This is an idea I’ve been stewing on for years – putting a modern spin on the epic poem. At first, I thought about going the fantasy route. Then, my writing partner, Jud Grubbs, and I decided to go the other way – to make it as realistic and gritty as possible. The story tracks a young lawyer, Dante, as he descends into a hell of his own making. The poem becomes inspiration for the characters Dante meets along his journey. Dante lands in Vegas and is immediately swept up by a stunning beauty named Beatrice. When she disappears, Dante enlists a casino host named, you guessed it, Virgil to find her. It doesn’t take long for Dante and Virgil to fall into an intrigue that sets them on the run for their lives. It’s a ton of fun, a project I’m really excited about.

Currently, it’s being shopped to Hollywood. The writers strike has put everything on hold for the time being, but I think this one will find a home eventually.

Q: Well I hope so. It sounds even better now that you’ve shed a little light on the premise! Moving on, have there been any developments regarding an “Echelon” film adaptation? Speaking of which, what would be the ideal situation for you…in other words, would you be okay in handing over the rights to someone else and trusting that they’ll do the best job they can, or would you want more control such as what Frank Beddor is doing with his Looking Glass Wars property?

Josh: “Echelon/Empyre” is doing the typical Hollywood shuffle. There’s a lot of interest and we’ve been close but, as of today, the rights remain available.

As a producer myself, I’m very aware that the budgets of these films means that there has to be talent attached to the book for a studio to pick it up. If that talent ends up being an A-list screenwriter, so be it.

There’s some relief in not writing the screenplay for my own book, as I know it would require a wholesale slaughter of darlings. To make a good film, you have to cut a lot from the book and such drastic surgery would be tough going. That said, do I want the job? YES! I’d love to re-imagine “Echelon/Empyre” as films.

Q: On a somewhat similar note, you’ve expressed interest in bringing Ryan Laing to life as a comic book character. Personally I think that would be really cool :) Any word on that happening?

Josh: Still in the early stages of this. I would love to try my hand at comic books, and think Ryan’s world suits itself well to the format. I’ll keep you up to date on my progress.

Q: Great, thanks! Are there any other projects—film, novels or otherwise—that you’re working on that haven’t been mentioned yet, and if so, could you provide any details?

Josh: I have two TV series that I’ll pitch when the writers strike ends. One, which I’m doing with novelist Allan Folsom, is set in my hometown of Aspen, Colorado. The other is more “Empyre” in feel and deals with high-tech and international intrigue.

I also have a new screenplay I’m working on, a Three Days of the Condor style thriller. I mentioned the teen fantasy book and the standalone. And, of course, there’s the next chapter in Ryan Laing’s saga!

Q: Looks like you’re keeping busy! From your experience in the film industry and now publishing, what are your thoughts on the cross-pollination between different mediums (comic books, film/TV, videogames, etc.) today and where the future might lead regarding multi-media properties?

Josh: Great question. I think seeing one “property” on multiple platforms will become the norm. As a creator of these stories, I love the challenge of adapting them to different mediums. In the end, film, TV, comics and video games are all mechanisms to pull someone into a story. Each does so in a different way and has different strengths. Cross-pollination between these mediums is only a good thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to tell a story within a video game. As an art form, video games haven’t really been accepted yet – but that day is coming. The games now hitting the shelves have increasingly intricate plot lines, with more effort put into theme, characters and story arc. I’m excited to see what’s coming down the line!

Q: Additionally, with film, television, music, videogames, etc., becoming more interactive and technology-based, not to mention the Internet, is there a legitimate threat of the printed word becoming obsolete and what can publishers & authors do to make sure that literature/publishing stays relevant?

Josh: I don’t think the printed word is in danger. Are there more options for consumers than there used to be? Sure. But literature offers an experience that, as of yet, no other medium can. It’s a direct link between the author and reader. And more than that, the reader fills out the scene and characters with his/her own imagination. No book is “seen” in the same way by two readers. As a writer, that ability to develop a story in cooperation with a reader is magical. No other medium offers such a direct link. As far as I’m concerned, literature is still the most personal way of telling a story.

As to what authors and publishers can do to keep books relevant, I think we need to keep up with the times and not fear change. I think we need to recognize and embrace the fact that readers will find the printed word on an ever-increasing number of platforms. I think we need to see that promotion of our product comes increasingly from sites like yours and get savvier about making sure people like you know about our books. Personally, I’m excited to see how the publishing industry will deal with shifts in technology and the marketplace. There will be turbulence but, hopefully, the journey will lead to an increasingly robust industry.

I also think that all of us who love to read and write should bow our heads in thanks to JK Rowling for introducing a new generation to the written word.

Q: What’s the biggest misconception that people have about Hollywood?

Josh: I guess it’s that there’s a wider breadth of experiences than what you see on Entourage and the like (though I am a huge fan of Entourage!). On one level, the industry is as wild, cut throat and irrational as most think. On the other, there are people of amazing talent in every aspect of the business. I’ve had the honor of working with many, and it’s an experience that’s addictive.

Q: So what have you been reading lately?

Josh: As you can see, I’m all over the place. I like to read a little of everything. My website HERE has a larger list of my favorite books:
Spook Country” by William Gibson
The Society of Others” by William Nicholson
Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg
The Android's Dream” by John Scalzi
The Faithful Spy: A Novel” by Alex Berenson
The Sandworms of Dune” by Herbert/Anderson

Q: What about new authors? Anyone I should be checking out?

Josh: Hmmm. I have a couple friends with books coming out soon, including Selden Edwards. I think his will be a book worth checking out.

Q: You’re a big fan of spy fiction. Who better represents you: James Bond or Jason Bourne?

Josh: You’re going to make me pick?! I love both. The Bond books got me into reading. And I think Ludlum’sBourne Identity” is one of the best spy thrillers ever written. I also love the movies of both. In Ryan Laing, I was hoping to create a new hero who’s spoken of in the same sentence with Bourne and Bond. That would be a huge success in my book!

Q: Good luck with that! I think you’re off to a good start :D So is there anything else you’d like to say?

Josh: Only, thank you. These are great questions. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Thursday, November 29, 2007

Free online novel at Solaris Books, a Stephen Lawhead book tour and more!

As of yesterday, Solaris Books has started to post Chris Roberson’s new book “Three Unbroken” online for FREE! You can check out the First Chapter HERE with Chapter Two to be posted tomorrow. The novel, which is part of Mr. Roberson’s Celestial Empire sequence along with the forthcoming “The Dragon’s Nine Sons”, will be serialized at a rate of two chapters per week with the story getting published in book format in 2009. You can read the original press release HERE and if you’d like to host one of those nice looking banners like the one above, then check out Chris’ website HERE for more information.

In other news, there’s a CSFF Blog Tour going on for Stephen Lawhead and I’d like to direct your attention to Grasping for the Wind who not only has a review of the author’s new book “ScarletHERE and a wonderful analysis of the King Raven Trilogy HERE, but there’s also an interview with Mr. Lawhead HERE! If that’s not enough, be sure to check out Chris’ Write & Whine blog HERE for links to all of the participants on the tour :) Meanwhile, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist just posted his interview with J.V. Jones HERE so be sure to check that out as well. Finally, just a reminder that the giveaways for The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, a SET of all three Cassandra Kresnov novels, and The Orphan’s Tales duology end tomorrow so if you haven’t signed up yet, here’s your chance! And next week, more giveaways!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Killswitch" by Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd’s Blog
Learn about “KillswitchHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Breakaway
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s INTERVIEW with Joel Shepherd

It’s been two years since the monumental events that took place in “Breakway” and at the start of “Killswitch”, the third and final volume in the Cassandra Kresnov trilogy by Australian science fiction/fantasy writer Joel Shepherd, the civilian planet Callay is in the midst of a great change only a year away from becoming the new capital world of the Federation. In preparation of the Federation Grand Council permanently relocating to the planet, the Callayan Defence Force (CDF) has been established. Unfortunately, the CDF is still a work-in-progress and security remains an issue especially regarding all of the opposing factions at play—Earth vs. Callay, Earth vs. the Federation, anti/pro-League sentiment, et cetera. Compounding the problem is the presence of Fifth Fleet whose motives for being in orbit around the planet are at best, questionable. Caught in the middle of this mess is our heroine Cassandra KresnovSandy to her friends—the ex-League GI who first dazzled readers in “Crossover” and is now CDF’s second-in-command as well as the special security adviser to President Neiland.

If you read my review of “BreakawayHERE, you’ll see that I had some issues with the book such as its lack of action, multiple point-of-views and overall balance. While politics and philosophical musings remain at the heart of “Killswitch”, Mr. Shepherd shows much better restraint this time around and has drastically upped the ante with the story, which is a great deal more intense and electrifying than its predecessors. For one, we learn that Cassandra’s life is in danger, and not only does she have to worry about assassination attempts, but Sandy discovers she has a killswitch embedded in her brainstem and a GI to deal with who may be even more dangerous than she is. To make matters worse, an elaborate plot is underway, one that would undermine Callay’s competence as the new seat of Federation authority and sanction a Fleet blockade that would not only be crippling to the planet’s economy, but could also incite a civil war. Uncovering who’s behind the conspiracy and how to thwart them is all part of the fun along with ambushes by mobile killing machines, deadly GI versus GI combat and space warfare...

As far as the characters, thankfully Mr. Shepherd goes back to using more than one narrative so while Sandy is once again the main attraction, Captain Reichardt of the Third Fleet, Vanessa Rice, Ari Ruben, President Neiland and a couple of minor roles all take a turn which I think helps with the book’s pacing and in providing different perspectives of what’s going on politically. Disappointingly, aside from Sandy’s continuing growth and contemplation of what it means to be human, and the progression of Sandy’s League GI friend Rhian Chu, the development of characters & relationships is very modest though Joel does throw in a wrinkle or two to complicate Cassandra’s personal life even further ;)

As a whole, when you add up the higher stakes, an increased amount of pulse-pounding action, the return of the multiple POVs, improved prose & plotting, and the once again smartly conceived politics & thematic observations, what you have in “Killswitch” is a novel that is easily the best out of the trilogy. Obviously though, it’s recommended that you read “Crossover” and “Breakaway” first since most everything that happens in those two books leads up to the events in “Killswitch”. While “Killswitch” closes out the series successfully, I was surprised a bit at how much was still left unanswered. I guess this is good news because even though the author doesn’t have any immediate plans to return to the world of Cassandra Kresnov, at least the opportunity to do so is there. For now, Joel Shepherd is busy finishing his fantasy tetralogy, A Trial of Blood & Steel—“Sasha” (Volume One) was released August 2007 in Australia—and I personally can’t wait until it’s available stateside. In the meantime, I recommend giving Ms. Kresnov a spin. Even though the trilogy has its highs & lows, ultimately the books are a rewarding time that challenges the mind as much as it gets the heart racing…
Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Darkest Evening of the Year" by Dean Koontz

Official Dean Koontz Website
Order “The Darkest Evening of the YearHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “The Good Guy

I grew up on a farm and as far back as I can remember we always had a dog. Some memories are more precious than others—the super-smart German Shepherd we called Cha-Cha or the very beautiful, very loyal half-Siberian Husky/half-wolf Roosky—but I loved each and every one of them and as a young reader that love extended to literature—“Where the Red Fern Grows”, Jack London’sWhite Fang” & “Call of the Wild”, “Old Yeller”, et cetera. #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz is also a profound lover of dogs and one of his most endearing trademarks is the frequent use of canines in his books—“Watchers”, “The Taking”, “Fear Nothing/Seize the Night” starring Christopher Snow, “Dark Rivers of the Heart” and “Midnight” immediately come to mind.

Recently, Mr. Koontz and his wife suffered a loss with the passing of their Golden Retriever of nine years Trixie. Trixie was more than just a pet though—she was part of the family as evidenced by her continued presence on the Dean Koontz Website, the Trixie Koontz pen name (Life is Good: Lessons In Joyful Living, Christmas Is Good), the Canine Companions for Independence facility (Oceanside, CA) renamed the Dean, Gerda, and Trixie Koontz Campus, and so on. While Mr. Koontz hopes to one day write a book about Trixie, in a way “The Darkest Evening of the Year”, Dean’s newest novel, already embodies the spirit of Trixie. After all, Mr. Koontz describes Trixie as “sweet, clownish, innocent, mysterious, and startlingly smart”, all attributes shared by the Golden Retriever Nickie in “The Darkest Evening of the Year”. Coincidence…I think not :)

Mr. Koontz’s books are known for their fast starts, but “The Darkest Evening of the Year” takes a little while for the good stuff to get going. It’s after readers are introduced to dog rescuer Amy Redwing and her architect boyfriend Brian McCarthy which includes saving Nickie and a family from an abusive, drunken father that the mundane starts shifting into more suspenseful, uncanny territory—the bizarre emails that Brian receives, the supernatural drawing abilities that Brian suddenly develops, Nickie’s unusual behavior toward Amy and other dogs, the mysterious autistic-like girl Reesa, etc. From there, Mr. Koontz methodically sucks the reader in deeper, introducing an interesting cast of characters—the sociopathic couple Moongirl & Harrow, a private investigator, a hired assassin, Piggy—, hinting at the secrets each of them harbor, and increasing the book’s intensity while venturing further and further into the realm of the extraordinary…

Compared to his other books, Mr. Koontz doesn’t really bring anything new to “The Darkest Evening of the Year”. For instance, you have the male/female protagonists with a remarkable ability for witty banter; villains with unique characteristics—Moongirl only makes love in complete darkness and likes to burn things & people to keep from getting bored, Vernon Lesley’s Second Life is more real to him than his actual one, Billy Pilgrim is an avid reader especially books ‘steeped in irony’, Bobby Onions is a new-school P.I. and thus uses a more ‘updated’ vernacular—; Nickie of course is a smarter-than-normal dog; there’s the disabled children with special abilities; revelations of shocking secrets; themes about faith, love, vengeance & redemption; and various other recognizable Dean Koontz idiosyncrasies. Despite these familiar elements, Mr. Koontz does a good job of mixing & matching creating a book that may be identifiable to readers, especially long-time Koontz fans, but at the same time is still a fresh and fulfilling experience.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed it more when Mr. Koontz indulges in the fantastical and when you add my love for dogs, “The Darkest Evening of the Year” should have been a surefire winner. Alas, the book just didn’t quite do it for me. As much as I loved Nickie, the powerful nature of the story and its uplifting message, a couple of factors lessened the novel’s emotional impact. One was the characters. Like Mr. Koontz’s last novel (The Good Guy), it was the bad guys that were the most interesting personalities in “The Darkest Evening of the Year” when it should have been Amy & Brian considering the heartwrenching situations they found themselves in. And two, I didn’t really like the way the book was concluded, not the actual events that took place, but the manner in which it was told. It just seemed too abrupt and detached, when I was expecting something much more poignant. Personal complaints aside, what can I say, it’s Dean Koontz! I finished the book in a day, nearly in one sitting, and if you’re a fan of the author, a dog lover, or someone who appreciates a tug-on-the-heartstrings thriller, then I recommend the haunting, magical journey that is “The Darkest Evening of the Year”…

NOTE: For Mr. Koontz’s next release, Odd Thomas fans should be rejoicing as everyone’s favorite ghost-talking, short-order cook returns in the sequel “Odd Hours” (May 20, 2008) followed by the graphic novel “In Odd We Trust” (June 24, 2008). I can’t wait!!!
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Missouri over Kansas 36-28! Go Mizzou!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

"The Solaris Book of New Fantasy" edited by George Mann

Order “The Solaris Book of New FantasyHERE

Kind of like what Pat just said in his REVIEW of George R. R. Martin's new collection "Dreamsongs: Volume One", I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to short fiction. Apart from the occasional novella, the only short fiction I remember reading have been the two Legends anthologies edited by Robert Silverberg. Because of my lack of experience in this area, I hope that you will bear with me as I try to provide a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of "The Solaris Book of New Fantasy", even if I don’t always succeed. The plan is to first look at each short story individually providing synopses and commentary, followed by my evaluation of the compilation as a whole. So, let’s look at the stories shall we:

01)Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast” by Mark Chadbourn. On Christmas Eve in the year 1598 in a world where England is at war against the Faerie, England’s greatest spy Will Swyfte is on a mission of the greatest import—he has until dawn to prevent the Faerie Queen from crossing over to the other side. If he doesn’t, then the Unseelie Court will gain access to valuable secrets that will turn the tide of the war in favor of the Faerie. Success or failure depends on what’s stronger…love or duty to one’s country… I really liked this one. It was vaguely reminiscent of Susanna Clarke’sJonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell”, but more thrilling and I thought it was an excellent way to open the anthology. (For more information visit Mark's blog HERE)

02)Reins of Destiny” by Janny Wurts. This one was a bit different. Rather than reading like a short, it felt more like a prologue or preview of a much larger story and world. This makes sense though because at the beginning, the tale is designated as A Wars of Light & Shadows Story which apparently is this huge fantasy epic that Ms. Wurts is working on. Sadly, since this was the first I’ve heard of the author, I admittedly found the short story a bit confusing at times and the writing style a little jarring. However, I was definitely intrigued by the world, the cultures and the mythology hinted at and I hope to one day experience this universe in fuller detail…

03)Tornado of Sparks” by James Maxey. Having read “Bitterwood” (Reviewed HERE), I probably enjoyed this short more than I would have if this had been my first exposure to Mr. Maxey. After all, “Tornado of Sparks” is essentially a prequel to “Bitterwood” and features a number of familiar characters including Vendevorex, Albekizan, the hunter Zanzeroth and the human Jandra as the tale recounts how Vendevorex first became the king’s wizard. For me personally, the short was very rewarding because Vendevorex was a favorite of mine from “Bitterwood”, but the story’s accessibility should also appeal to readers new to the author…

04)Grander than the Sea” by T.A. Pratt. Like the previous short, it was easy for me to dive into this story because I was already familiar with Marla Mason and her assistant Rondeau having enjoyed their adventures in the novel “Blood Engines” (Reviewed HERE). This little tale takes place in Felport—the city that is Ms. Mason’s duty to protect as the Chief Sorcerer—and deals with a criminally insane sorcerer who wants to “raise a dark god from the sea and destroy all human life.” Factor in human sacrifice, doppelganger spirits, homunculi, and Mr. Pratt’s idiosyncratic humor and what you have is a crazily fun, amusing and engaging urban fantasy treat...

05)The Prince of End Times” by Hal Duncan. Writer Catherynne M. Valente was once accused of “passing off prose-poems as fiction”. That’s what I kept thinking of when reading Mr. Duncan’s short. While the story is beautifully written and wonderfully surreal, the actual plot, what little there is, is pretty hard to follow. About all I could really understand was that it was set in the same universe as the author’s novels “Vellum” & “Ink” and that it had something to do with lightprinces, darkartists and murder. As challenging as the story was though, I have to admit that I loved its language and plan on re-reading the short a couple of times more to further savor the dreamlike experience…

06)King Tales” by Jeff VanderMeer. It seems like everywhere I look I see Jeff VanderMeer’s name, but strangely, I’ve never actually read anything by the writer/editor apart from his blog and a few articles. So I was pretty excited to check out “Kings Tales” and was surprised when it turned out to be a collection of three short fairy tales about talking bears, cats and birds that would fit seamlessly in any children’s book. While it wasn’t quite what I was expecting from Mr. VanderMeer, the short was nevertheless delightful and humorous and I hope to discover more of the author’s writings…

07)In Between Dreams” by Christopher Barzak. I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Mr. Barzak’s debut novel “One For Sorrow” and his short story definitely lives up to the hype. Elegantly told in the first-person, “In Between Dreams” stars Ai, a Japanese girl working in Tokyo cleaning the apartments of ‘the dreaming man’. How Ai came to this point in her life, what she’s searching for and who ‘the dreaming man’ is, are all part of the mystery that gracefully unfolds, which includes ghosts, spirits, and a journey of self-discovery and love… Poignant and magical, “In Between Dreams” was a wonderful read…

08)And Such Small Deer” by Chris Roberson. Like his novel “Set the Seas on Fire” (Reviewed HERE), Mr. Roberson’s short is a superb blend of historical and speculative fiction that also pays homage to classic literature. For this story the setting is Northern Sumatra in the early 1860s; the characters are doctors Abraham Van Helsing & Francis Arnaud Moreau—narrative alternates between Van Helsing’s journal entries and Francis’ letters; and the plot plays around with evolution, nature and monsters… While this is only the second piece I’ve ever read by the author, I’m extremely impressed by Mr. Roberson and I can’t wait to get started on his next novel “The Dragon’s Nine Sons” (February 2008)…

09)The Wizard’s Coming” by Juliet E. McKenna. Set in the world of Einarinn which is the backdrop for Ms. McKenna’s series The Tales of Einarinn, The Aldabreshin Compass and the forthcoming Lescari Revolution (Solaris Books, 2008), “The Wizard’s Coming” reminded me of Robin Hobb’s Farseer novels because of the conflict between the Caladhrian lords and the coastal raiders of Aldabreshi. Despite the familiarity, the short shines with its lively sword-and-sorcery action, unexpectedly high body count, surprising twists and a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more… A great introduction to the author, Juliet E. McKenna is now firmly on my “To Read” list…

10)Shell Game” by Mike Resnick. First impressions are important, and if this short is any indication, then I’m going to be a huge Mike Resnick fan :) Dubbed a John Justin Mallory Story, you could probably file “Shell Game” under the urban fantasy genre as it features a detective who lives in a contemporary world populated by demons, leprechauns, gremlins, elves, cat-people, et cetera. This particular tale—apparently there are many—finds Mallory, partner Winnifred and their catgirl Felina searching for the world’s last lamia egg which was stolen…from the one who stole it in the first place ;) Addictively comical and loaded with great characters & banter, “Shell Game” is tons of fun!

11)The Song Her Heart Sang” by Steven Savile. Lukas Mey is in love. Unfortunately, men in love don’t always make the brightest decisions which Lukas learns firsthand when a miracle gift becomes instead a curse. To right the wrong, Lukas sets out on a fool’s quest into the haunted remnants of Sahnglain in search of a fabled treasure that would win back Lili’s heart. What he finds there is much more than he ever bargained for… Blending elements of romance, horror and fantasy, “The Song Her Heart Sang” was a bittersweet love story that stayed with me long after I finished reading it…

12)A Man Falls” by Jay Lake. Through the eyes of Peleppos, a Prince of the Law, we’re introduced to an intriguing world where day is ruled by the terrifying Teratornis and their riders, and night is a sanctuary for the denizens of the Wheeled City. Ridiculed by his betters, the boy prince sets out on his own to form an alliance between the two peoples, and instead discovers a shocking secret… As an author of over 200 published short stories, you get the feeling that this wasn’t one of Mr. Lake’s better efforts. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the short and was once again reminded that I need to read “Mainspring” ASAP…

13)O Caritas” by Conrad Williams. Not too long ago I read my first Conrad Williams story and was thoroughly impressed with “The Scalding Rooms” novella—a review will be posted in the near future. One of the reasons I was anticipating this anthology was because of the author’s inclusion and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed. Embodying elements of Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker with the title taken from a Cat Stevens song, “O Caritas” vividly paints a post-apocalyptic London where an earthquake has created a catastrophic breach between a hidden underworld and the Top… Eloquently composed and atmospherically rich, this short strongly affirms that Mr. Williams is one of the best unknown writers out there today…

14)Lt. Privet’s Love Song” by Scott Thomas. As the younger brother of Jeffrey Thomas whose writings are noticeably influenced by Lovecraft, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Scott and was pleasantly surprised by his story. In a familiar setting that recalls 18th century Britain—apart from the magic users and the extraordinary number of twins—Mr. Thomas’ tale starts out innocently enough with Lt. Privet purchasing a love potion from the Deerfield Sisters in order to make the innkeeper’s daughter fall in love with him. As one might expect, thing don’t work out as planned and before you know it Lt. Privet has been challenged to a sword duel to the death by the finest swordsman in the King’s fleet! Throw in a mysterious red ship that shoots invisible cannon and a plot to assassin the King’ heir, and you can see why this short was one of my favorites :)

15)Chinandega” by Lucius Shepard. Chinandega is an actual town in Nicaragua. How accurately Chinandega is depicted in the short I’m not sure, but for the story it is described as “hot and vile and soulless”. Regardless of its bad reputation, Alvaro Miguez of Mayan descent must go there to rescue his sister Palmira who now lives as a prostitute. Once there he will come face-to-face with the mystical Recluse, the divine Queen of Whores and a truth that will forever change him… More of a contemporary tale sprinkled with a dash of mythology & the spiritual, “Chinandega” was a compelling introduction to another author I had never heard of before now…

16)Quashie Trapp Blacklight” by Steven Erikson. Closing out the anthology in style is a wild tale about a whore; an Irishman; a hairless cat with an Aristotelian outlook; a tarantula spy with x-ray vision; an elephant; the last Bhudo priest; a hungry bushman; and servants of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl; all of whom, through a series of inane circumstances including a hurricane; converge on the British Honduras circa 1789, in hilarious fashion… As a huge fan of Steven Erikson I admit that I was a little disappointed that the story wasn’t set in his popular Malazan universe, but there’s no denying how much fun it was to read this short and you have to give the guy an A+ for his sheer outrageousness…

Well there you have it! Sixteen short stories and sixteen overviews :) The review turned out to be a little longer than I expected, but I don’t think I could have done it any other way. Looking back, I actually ended up liking each short which was a nice surprise though obviously there were stories that I personally enjoyed more than others like “Shell Game”, "The Song Her Heart Sang”, “In Between Dreams”, “Who Slays the Gyant, Wounds the Beast”, “Lt. Privet’s Love Song”, “Quashie Trapp Blacklight” and “Grander than the Sea”. As far as the anthology as a whole, my heartfelt thanks go out to the editor George Mann, Mark Newton and everyone who was involved in putting the book together. Not only does the compilation masterfully celebrate the rich diversity of the fantasy genre, it also showcases a wonderful array of writers, both new and established, that deserve a much larger audience. In fact, the best part of the anthology I thought was its excellent selection of authors who probably don’t get enough credit and I for one was grateful for the opportunity to meet writers I had never heard of or was only familiar with by reputation. So in the end, no matter what kind of a fantasy reader you are, I believe there’s something in The Solaris Book of New Fantasy for everyone and I hope that Solaris will continue producing these anthologies for years to come…

NOTE: For more chances to win a copy of "The Solaris Book of New Fantasy", Pat's Fantasy Hotlist just started a giveaway HERE. Also, be sure to check out A Dribble of Ink who is reviewing each short story indivdually. I believe Aidan is up to Jeff VanderMeer's "King Tales".
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day Tidbits

So, just a few nuggets for you today… First off, following up on the recent press release HERE about Simon Spanton of Gollancz acquiring the world-rights to a new dragon fantasy trilogy by debut author Stephen Deas, Sascha Mamczak of Heyne Verlag has just pre-emptively acquired German rights for the series. ‘”We are extremely excited about this! It's a great fantasy adventure. A highly talented new author!” said Sascha Mamczak. “Both Stephen and I are delighted – and he is more than a little flabbergasted!” said the author’s agent, John Jarrold. “The fact that his wife, Michaela, is German only adds to the delight they both feel at this wonderful deal. Congratulations to Krystyna Kujawinska, Gollancz’s Foreign Rights Director, for sorting this out so rapidly.” The Adamantine Palace, the first book in the series, isn’t due for publication until summer 2009, but I’m already getting excited for this :D

In other news, Newsarama has a couple of interesting interviews—one is a Word Balloon audio discussion with award-winning comic book writer and film/TV writer/producer Jeph Loeb who talks about episode nine of Heroes, how the strike is affecting the show, the spin-off series and other goodies. Check out the mp3 for that HERE. And then this one is a little old, but Newsarama also has an interview with Michael Chabon HERE. Finally, I just wanted to turn your attention to Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist HERE, who will be donating any proceeds (through December 31st) from his Amazon Associates Program to the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Foundation. So, it’s a great cause and if you’re thinking about ordering something through Amazon, why not through Pat’s site :)

And if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s Turkey Day!!! To everyone that applies, have a Safe & Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Confessor" by Terry Goodkind

Order “ConfessorHERE
Watch a Video Interview HERE with Terry Goodkind

"Confessor" by Terry Goodkind
Reviewed By: David Craddock

The beautiful marble corridors of the People's Palace. The labyrinthine passages of the Wizard's Keep, each full of tricks, traps, and endless knowledge. The trails winding through Hartland Woods, where a simple woods guide fell in love with the Mother Confessor. The sprawling camp of the Imperial Order, comprised of the unwashed, the mindless, the sadistic.

Some fantastic, some dangerous beyond comprehension, each of these locations and more have been crafted by renowned author Terry Goodkind. Literally an artist, Goodkind took brush to canvas long before he felt himself a storyteller worthy of telling a story that had brewed within his mind for decades. The Sword of Truth, his venerable fiction series, represents an artistic masterpiece, but one not created with a brush. Instead, Goodkind wielded the pen—or, perhaps more appropriately, the keyboard—in order to convey his story.

If one were to compare The Sword of Truth to a picture, one would see a circle consisting of names seamlessly woven together. Richard, Kahlan, Shota, Zedd, Adie, Victor, Nicci, Cara, Jennsen, Gratch, Denna, Jagang, Ann, Nathan, Chase, Rachel, Ulicia, Violet, Ben, Tom, Six.... The names twist around, with more and more added to the list until finally, the circle curves one last time, linking to its top, its point of origination.

With “Confessor”, the concluding installment of The Sword of Truth, Goodkind's character-driven adventure literally comes full circle. In Laymen's terms, the gang's all here, and “Confessor” is one wild, wild ride.

Like a Venn diagram, each Sword of Truth novel contains its own set of elements, but also links together to form a much larger picture. Goodkind's books have the refreshing quality of not only standing as part of a whole, but representing a whole in and of themselves. Each has its own storyline that is sufficiently concluded on the last page, giving readers enough to feel satisfied with their purchase, yet teasingly reminded that more is still to come.

Confessor” manages to keep the pressure of being the end, the last, the final book, at bay. Picking up immediately following the whiplash ending of "Phantom", Richard Rahl finds himself in the belly of the beast as a prisoner of the Imperial Order—and very close to his wife, his soul mate, Kahlan Amnell. How will Richard attempt to free his beloved from the clutches of Emperor Jagang? How will Richard attempt to escape in time to properly formulate a plan to stop the Order, who are literally camped outside the People's Palace, the last bastion of life and free will?

By playing sports. For the first time, Ja'La dh Jin, the game of life, is given center stage as Richard and his team work toward the ultimate goal of playing the emperor's undefeated squad. If victorious, any woman of each team member's choosing is granted to them as a reward.

The Ja'La games are breathless and brutal in their descriptions, rewarding readers with bloody and strategic battles that will have hearts thumping even harder than in many of Goodkind's battle scenes (which are as exhilarating as ever).

Arguably the most intriguing journey is Kahlan's, who discovers clues leading toward the rediscovery of her past. Each step, each encounter with a familiar face, leaves the reader waiting for that ultimate discovery, that most anticipated of reunions—falling into the arms of her husband, and knowing who he is to her, and who she is to him.

Of course, because Richard doesn't have things hard enough already, Goodkind has thrown an interesting variable into the Chainfire equation: should Kahlan learn of her emotional connection to and with Richard before a certain event transpires, her past will be lost to her forever.

Given that “Confessor” is the circle's last curve, it stands to reason that “Confessor” will wrap up everything that has come before it. Goodkind's attention to detail sees to it that all stories, large and small, receive closure. From Ann and Nicci's animosity, to the beast pouncing on Richard every time he uses his Gift, to Kahlan's past being destroyed by Chainfire, finality is dispersed liberally, giving the readers almost everything they could possibly want.

Yes, almost. Though masterfully done, no work is without a few flaws, and I'm happy to say that while some do exist in “Confessor”, they are all relatively minor. During the last 100 pages, as the book is hurtling toward its conclusion, things feel a bit too rushed. Some happenings seem extremely coincidental, and while some are explained before the story's end, some are not, leaving readers with their collective brow raised in a bit of skepticism. Certain characters seem to come together at just the right time, and while Goodkind lends feasibility to everything, a bit of Deus ex machina does pop up once or twice.

Again, though, most happenstance in “Confessor” is perfectly viable. While there will be a couple of things readers will question, the book's conclusion is still supremely satisfying.

Confessor” is doubtless the book that Goodkind has been waiting to write since The Sword of Truth first took root in his mind. Almost effortlessly, Goodkind has constructed a fast-paced, character-driven narrative that not only stands as a thrilling story, but relays the most important lesson of all, the final wizard's rule that has hitherto been unwritten.

And will remain that way, at least in this writer's review. Goodkind's fans will be all too eager to read “Confessor” and learn the rule—and hopefully apply it—themselves. Each word has been painstakingly, lovingly crafted into sentences, sentences have been honed into paragraphs, and paragraphs have been molded into a story, the final curve of the circle that delivers in every way imaginable. Savor it...
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

News, Opinions, More News, and Book Previews!!!

As promised, I just wanted to let you know that the second part of that massive blogger interview has now been posted HERE. You can check out my original post on the Q&A HERE and Part One of the interview HERE. For those who may not read the interview, I just want to give another shoutout to the band OneRepublic. They’ve actually been getting some buzz because their song “Apologize” appears as a remix on the new Timbaland album. Trust me though, the original version is much better and has been a regular on my iPod for over a year now and is the featured track on my Myspace page ;) Anyways, their debut album “Dreaming Out Loud” comes out today!!! It’s absolutely beautiful, emotive melodic alternative rock featuring the outstanding vocals of lead singer/producer Ryan Tedder (Chris Cornell, Lupe Fiasco). Standout tracks for me included “Apologize”, “Say (All I Need)”, “Mercy” and “Stop & Stare”, which I think is going to be the next single. In short, I can’t recommend them enough!

In book news, Eos Books is looking for TEN ADVANCE readers to check out the new Robin Hobb novel “Renegade’s Magic” which comes out January 8, 2008 and completes the Soldier Son trilogy. Just go over to their blog HERE for the details. (On a related note, I’m working on an interview with Ms. Hobb which I hope to have up around the book’s release so that’s something to look forward to :) Over at Solaris Book’s blog HERE, Mark has just posted the cover and synopsis for Paul Kearney’s new fantasy book “The Ten Thousand”. It sounds and looks pretty interesting—evokes shades of 300 meets Troy meets David Gemmell—and it comes with a ringing Steven Erikson endorsement!

Around the blogosphere I’ve been seeing posts (Engadget, Gizmodo, Solaris Books Blog) about the new Amazon e-reader Kindle that launched yesterday and thought I’d chime in with some thoughts. My first impression is that it’s a pretty slick little piece of hardware, at least spec wise. Visually, it’s not as appealing as the Sony Reader, but it’s also not as bad as some reviews have been making it out to be. My only real hangup is the price. I mean $400!?!? For that I could get a Playstation 3, an Xbox 360, or a 16GB iPod Touch, and as much as I may love to read, I guarantee you that I’d rather buy one of those before I buy a digital reader. And that’s not even taking into account the price of the books, and all of the other little extra costs. Still, I understand that it’s a work-in-progress. After all, with the success of mp3 players, handheld videogame systems, portable DVD players, et cetera, it was only a matter of time before books became digital. However, as Sony has discovered, the e-book market is a tough place to crack and I think we’re still quite a ways from it becoming fully realized. The most important thing that developers need to realize is that the demographic for book readers is completely different from other forms of media. So, what may work for the music/film/gamer crowd is more than likely not going to cut it with book lovers. Take me for example. I like to think that I stay pretty cutting-edge when it comes to new technology. I mean, I never had any problems getting rid of my cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes, cordless phones or whatnot in favor of cell phones, mp3s, DVDs, and high-definition flat-screen TVs. But at the mere thought of replacing my book collection with a digital reader?!?! It almost makes me sick to think about it. Perhaps I could see myself purchasing one just for the novelty or as a complement to books, but not at that price…maybe $50, maybe $100. But replacing actual books! That’s a whole different story and I think companies will have to come up with something a hell of a lot better than the Amazon Kindle to make me consider that. I guess time will only tell how the digital book fares, but for now I’m sticking with the real thing :)

In other book news, agent John Jarrold (Ian Cameron Esslemont, Paul Kearney, Stephen Hunt) has concluded a three-book World Rights deal with Simon Spanton of Gollancz for a dragon-fantasy series by debut novelist Stephen Deas. The first book in the series, titled “The Adamantine Palace”, is due for publication in the summer of 2009.

Simon came to me with the idea of an intelligent fantasy series involving dragons,” said Jarrold. “I thought that Steve Deas might be the man for this, after previous conversations we’d had, and so it proved. He has come up with a great idea and brilliant opening chapters.”

Simon Spanton said: “While it’s self evident that there have always been dragons in fantasy and that there are series out there at the moment featuring them I did feel (especially after a French publisher asked where the dragons were on the Gollancz list…) that there was room for a series that centered around dragons and which brought in the grittiness and moral ambivalence that has come to define modern epic-fantasy. Steve’s proposal for a trilogy featuring an Empire reaping a firestorm when the political chicanery behind the throne upsets the balance that has kept the Empire’s dragons under control was just excellent: exactly what I had in mind. Uncanny almost. He’s made the dragons and the idea for the series 100% his own. I can’t wait to publish.”

Stephen Deas has worked as a systems designer and project manager for a number of technology-based aerospace companies and has reviewed books for the British SF Association’s magazine VECTOR.

Finally, in a little preview of something I may do at the end of the year, I have some info on two books that I’m really anticipating in 2008. First is “Kushiel’s Mercy” by Jacqueline Carey, the final volume in the author’s current Imriel trilogy. Below is the description taken from Amazon which may have some minor spoilers:

From Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of “Kushiel's Scion” and “Kushiel's Justice” (Reviewed HERE), comes the final adventure in the Imriel Trilogy. “Having paid dearly for ignoring Elua's edict to love as thou wilt, Imriel and Sidonie have finally come forward to publicly confess their love for each other—only to watch the news ignite turmoil throughout the land. Those who are old enough cannot forget the misdeeds of Imriel's mother, Melisande, whose self-serving lies plunged their country into war. In order to quell the uprising, Queen Ysandre hands down a decree: she will not divide the lovers, but neither will she acknowledge them. And if they decide to marry, Sidonie will be disinherited. That is, unless Imriel can find his mother and bring her back to Terre D'Ange to be executed for treason…” – Release Date: June 12, 2008 (Grand Central Publishing). Click HERE to Pre-Order –

The second is “The Kingdom Beyond the Waves” by Stephen Hunt, which is sort of a sequel to “The Court of the Air” (Reviewed HERE) as it features a minor character from that book. Once again, the below synopsis is taken from Amazon:

“A tale of high adventure, set in a Victorian-style world – a fantastical version of Dickens. Featuring a gutsy Indiana Jones-style heroine, and filled with perilous quests, dastardly deeds and deadly intrigue. Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilization of Camlantis, a legendary city from pre-history that is said to have conquered hunger, war and disease – tempering the race of man's baser instincts by the creation of the perfect pacifist society. It is an obsession that is to cost her dearly. She returns home to Jackals from her latest archaeological misadventure to discover that the university council has finally stripped her of her position in retaliation for her heretical research. Without official funding, Amelia has no choice but to accept the offer of patronage from the man she blames for her father's bankruptcy and suicide, the fiercely intelligent and incredibly wealthy Abraham Quest. He has an ancient crystal-book that suggests the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sea-like lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli. Amelia undertakes an expedition deep into the dark heart of the jungle, blackmailing her old friend Commodore Bla. With an untrustworthy crew of freed convicts, Quest's force of female mercenaries on board and a lunatic steamman safari hunter acting as their guide, Amelia's luck can hardly get any worse. But she's as yet unaware that her quest for the perfect society is about to bring her own world to the brink of destruction!” – UK Release Date: May 6, 2008 (HarperVoyager). Click HERE to Pre-Order – (I loved “The Court of the Air” and if anything, this book sounds even better!)
Monday, November 19, 2007

"Shooting War" by Anthony Lappé + Dan Goldman

Order “Shooting WarHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Enter HERE To Win a COPY of "Shooting War"

Mention comic books and most people probably think of superheroes—men or women in tights saving the world against evil supervillains—kiddie stuff right. Well comic books have come a long way since the advent of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man and “Shooting War” could be the book that helps comics and graphic novels to become recognized as a serious form of literature. After all, there’s no spandex, super powers or planet-devouring aliens in the pages of “Shooting War”. There is profanity, sex, nudity and graphic violence, but being “Not Suitable for Children Under the Age of 17” doesn’t automatically make something more adult-like. What does are the hot-button issues at hand here including the Iraq War, America’s foreign policy, the problems with network news, the oil crisis, and a glimpse at the future of blogging. So even though the graphic novel is described as a ‘political satire’, is set in the near future (Year 2011), and is rife with sly humor, “Shooting War” is a realistic look at topics relevant today.

Basically, “Shooting War” stars Jimmy Burns, a 25-year-old hipster who goes from being an indie left-wing video-blogger to a war correspondent for Global Television, an around-the-clock news network on terror coverage. Embedded in the middle of Iraq, Jimmy learns the hard way just how horrifying the war is and how difficult it is to make a difference, especially when you’re being manipulated by a terrorist organization known as Sword of Mohammed, your own news network, and the military. When events escalate spurred by a nuclear attack, Jimmy Burns must make a decision, one that could alter the course of American history…if he manages to get out alive that is…

For the graphic novel/comic book format, artwork is just as important as the written word in conveying a story and fortunately in the case of “Shooting War”, both areas are well-represented. Writer/producer Anthony Lappé—executive editor of
GNN.tv (the Guerrilla News Network), co-author of True Lies, producer of Showtime’s award-winning Iraq documentary Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge and contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, MTV News, Fuse, Air America, Details, Vice, Salon.com, etc.—is the writer & mastermind behind “Shooting War” and what he brings to the book are informative knowledge of the war, Middle East politics & media coverage; and a hip, edgy writing style that should appeal to the Generation Y readers with its fashionable lingo and pop culture references—Tom Cruise breaking up with Mary Kate Olsen; John McCain as president; KFC sued for selling cloned meat; McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, etc., franchised in Baghdad and Dan Rather making an appearance in an entertaining supporting role. Additionally, Mr. Lappé comes up with some amusing near-future scenarios such as a terrorist-simulating videogame (Infidel Massacre: Los Angeles), American battlefield robots created with PS4 technology and remote-controlled by ‘gamers’, and terrorists funded by call centers. Then again, these concepts might be much closer to the truth than one might think.

Providing the visual side of the book is writer/artist
Dan Goldman—a founding member of ACT-I-VATE; author of the Craigslist serial “KELLY”, Everyman: Be the People and an upcoming nonfiction project with Michael Crowley—whose artwork is a ‘combination of photography, vector illustration and digital painting’. Admittedly, the digital paintings are a bit cartoonish which sort of desensitizes the more explicit subject matter, but as a whole the illustrations perfectly complement the story, especially when it comes to the integration of pictures and the accurate replication of brand name logos, CNN/Global News television reports, magazine covers (New York Post), New York Magazine articles, Jimmy’s Burn Baby Burn v-blog, flickr and YouTube, all of which adds to the book’s realism and relevance.

Originally, the 2007 Eisner Award-nominated “Shooting War” was a serialized web comic that appeared on smithmag.net before it was purchased by Grand Central Publishing (North America) and Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) for publication as a hardcover graphic novel. Since the graphic novel was to feature over 110 pages of new content, I went back and read the web-comic version (Click HERE for the full, unedited web comic) after finishing the hardcover, and I’m happy to say that the additions made to the original definitely improved the story without losing any of its significance. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much “Shooting War” impressed me overall and how much I enjoyed reading the graphic novel, not just in relation to the other comics that I’ve read this year, but compared to anything that I’ve read in 2007. After all, looking past the packaging and the format, what you have in “Shooting War” is something much more than just a simple graphic novel. For not only is “Shooting War” an intelligent, provocative & witty story that could help establish a new precedence for comic book mainstream acceptance, more importantly, it is a timely reminder of current affairs that everyone should be aware of…

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