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Monday, March 31, 2008

"Infected" by Scott Sigler

Watch the “InfectedPromo Video HERE

In 2005, writer Scott Sigler—creator of numerous novels, short stories and screenplays—took publishing to a whole new level when he released “EarthCore” as the “world’s first podcast-only novel”. In 2006, his follow-up novel “Ancestor” was made available on iTunes and became the first audiobook serialized on Sirius Satellite. Since then, Scott’s audiobooks, including “Infection”, and “The Rookie”, have accumulated over three million downloads with that number increasing thanks to his currently airing podcast novel “Nocturnal” and the short story collection “Bloodcast”. Because of his success, Scott has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Business Week, CNet, MacWorld, and the nationally syndicated radio show The Dragon Page, and in 2007 the author signed a world rights multi-book deal with Random House imprint Crown Publishing who is issuing his hardcover debut “Infected” (formerly known as Infection & Infested), which has already been optioned for film adaptation by Rogue Pictures (Hot Fuzz, Doomsday, Fearless) and is part one of a trilogy…

Ever since I first heard about Scott’s book and movie deal last spring, I’ve been dying to read “Infected” to see for myself what all the hoopla was about. I know, I could have just downloaded one of Scott’s audiobooks but I’m oldskool and prefer reading a novel to listening to one :) So I waited for the ARC and having finished it, I can understand why the publisher is excited about “Infected”. It’s just an incredibly entertaining book. I mean instantly I was hooked by the prologue and from there the novel is essentially 339 pages (ARC version) of nonstop suspense and intensity propelled by a combination of ultra-short chapters, constantly shifting viewpoints, and desperate pacing. As far as the actual writing, Scott’s prose is concise and highly accessible, interjected with numerous recognizable pop culture references like Frank Sinatra, Richard Simmons, Die Hard, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Falk’s Columbo, The Shining, Rage Against the Machine, and O.J. Simpson.

Story-wise, “Infected” will at first seem familiar. After all the concept of a lethal, world-threatening epidemic is nothing new—see I Am Legend, The Stand, The Andromeda Strain, 28 Days Later, the Resident Evil videogames/films, et cetera for examples—so there are certain elements that are easily identifiable like the CIA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) trying to isolate the outbreak without the news being leaked to the press, and Scott’s use of medical & military jargon that recalls
Michael Crichton and James Rollins. Fortunately the author introduces a few new wrinkles into this scenario. One is the disease itself which transforms everyday normal people—even children—into homicidal maniacs, but this isn’t another variance on zombies or vampires here. These ‘infected’ individuals possess unique symptoms like bluish triangular growths and a large part of the story is trying to figure out the nature of this disease, be it an infectious terrorist weapon, a bioengineered organism, a long-dormant natural organism, an alien entity, futuristic technology, or even something supernatural. While the actual answer is not that shocking, Scott does a pretty good job of keeping the reader second guessing themselves and the journey itself is one helluva ride :)

I’m particularly talking about the narrative of “Scary” Perry Dawsey, a former All-Big Ten linebacker at the University of Michigan with serious father & anger management issues who was destined for NFL stardom before a blown out knee destroyed his football career. Now Perry works a lowly job in tech support and through him, readers get an up close and personal look at the ‘triangle’ disease from the moment that Dawsey is infected to the parasites’ evolution, all the way to the final ‘hatching’ and let me tell you that this portion of the book is not for the weak-hearted. While Perry’s narrative initially starts out in suspenseful territory that reminded me of
Dean Koontz or Stephen King, it’s not long before the story ventures into much more violent, skin-crawling terrain. To be blunt, Perry wages war against the parasites—which in essence means his own body—and the resulting battle, both physically and psychologically, is shockingly, disturbingly and intensely graphic. In fact, I kept thinking of the Saw films when reading Perry’s chapters, but even those pale in comparison to some of the things that Dawsey ends up doing to himself. Nevertheless, as uncomfortable as I sometimes felt, I have to say that Perry’s confrontation with the parasites was definitely the highlight of the book.

As far the ending, I knew that a sequel—Contagious—was in the works so I was expecting some sort of cliffhanger, but I thought Scott managed to conclude “Infected” in a manner that leaves the reader satisfied and wanting more. From a negative standpoint, my only real complaint with the book was the rest of the cast who are more or less stock characters, specifically the CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Murray Longworth; field agent Dew Philips who shares a past with Murray; CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya, the lead researcher on Project Tangram; her staff Amos Braun; and Clarence Otto, the CIA agent assigned to watch Montoya’s back. Part of the reason of course is that they play second fiddle to Perry and just don’t have as much face time, but even then it’s obvious that they possess largely stereotypical traits. So, I’m hoping that Scott will address this little issue in the sequel if they return.

In closing, as much as I love reading fantasy and science fiction, there are times when I just want to curl up with a pulse-pounding thriller or a chilling horror novel. Normally for that kind of fix I turn to such established authors as
Dean Koontz, James Rollins, Michael Crichton, or James Patterson, but in “Infected” with its genre-busting blend of bio-thriller, horror fiction and suspense, I’ve discovered a writer in Scott Sigler who’s every bit as entertaining and could eventually become a new favorite...
Friday, March 28, 2008

"Before They Are Hanged" by Joe Abercrombie

Official Joe Abercrombie Website
Order “Before They Are HangedHERE
Read An Extract HERE
Read Reviews of “Before They Are Hanged” via A Dribble of Ink, Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, OF Blog of the Fallen, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist + SFFWorld
Read Interviews with Joe Abercrombie via Fantasy Book Critic + A Dribble of Ink

When I started Fantasy Book Critic in 2007, one of my main goals for the website was to show my appreciation for authors that I already knew and loved, but the blog was also an opportunity to discover new writers. One of my favorite discoveries last year was Joe Abercrombie whose debut novel “The Blade Itself” (Reviewed HERE) was one of the best books I read. And because the sequel has been out in the UK (Gollancz) since last March, all I’ve been hearing for over a year now is how much betterBefore They Are Hanged” is than its predecessor. Needless to say I couldn’t wait to get started on the second book in The First Law trilogy…

First, for those readers unfamiliar with the series, a brief recap: The First Law trilogy is Joe Abercrombie’s attempt at writing fantasy that both embraces conventional trappings…and skewers them. So in “The Blade Itself”, many characters are introduced that seem like walking clichés—the powerful wizard (Bayaz), a barbaric warrior (Logen), the privileged swordsman who thinks only of himself (Jezal), the lower-class soldier who rises above his station (West), et cetera—but are actually much more than meets the eye such as Logen possessing unexpected intelligence—and a dark power, Major Collem West harboring a deadly rage, and the ruthless Inquisitor Glokta discovering a compassionate side. The plot meanwhile may establish such tired contrivances as a quest to retrieve a magical artifact and a civilized nation facing war from primitives to the north and an evil prophet from the south, but once again there are undercurrents, subtle as they may be, that diverges from the trodden path. Factor in Joe’s ability for writing clever and sardonic humor; the book’s unflinching portrayal of sex, violence and coarse language; and surprisingly perceptive insights on human nature, and is it any wonder that I loved “The Blade Itself” as much as I did :)

Unfortunately, “Before They Are Hanged” did not impress me as much and largely that’s a result of being a middle volume. In other words, not much happens in “Before They Are Hanged”. I mean the sequel follows three main storylines that pick up from the end of “The Blade Itself”—one finds Glokta reporting to Dagoska to root out a traitor and prevent the city from falling into the hands of the Gurkish despite limited finances, no reinforcements and little hope; another centers on Bayaz and his chosen comrades as they fully embark on their quest to the Edge of the World in search of the Seed; and the last deals with Collem West, now a Colonel, as he gets to babysit Prince Ladisla and five primitives (Dogman and company) as Midderland engages in war with the Northmen—but aside from a lot of character development, warfare, torture and other action, the book is mainly just setup. Glokta’s narrative is largely about the political power struggle that is taking place in Adua and the wide reach of the Valint & Balk bank; the war with Northland is establishing how unpredictable and dangerous an enemy Bethod is; and the quest gives new meaning to the phrase, “It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.” :) In short, it just seems like all of the good stuff has been reserved for the final book in the trilogy. Sure, a major character dies, there are a few jaw-dropping moments, and what the heroes find at the end of their quest gave me quite a chuckle, but Bethod, Khalul the Prophet and his first apprentice Mamun have yet to show their faces; the Feared only makes a brief appearance as does the Bloody Nine and the unholy Eaters; the Practicals have a much smaller role this time around; and answers are few & far between.

Thankfully the characterization was even stronger than it was last time, so even though the story was disappointing, I still had a blast reading “Before They Are Hanged” and it all starts with Inquisitor Glokta. My personal favorite, Glokta once again steals the show and is just a fun character to read, partly because he’s such an interesting anti-hero and partly because of the way Joe writes the Inquisitor, specifically his amusing internal dialogue :) Not far behind in terms of entertainment was the interaction between Logen Ninefingers, Captain Jezal Luthar, Ferris Maljinn, the First of the Magi Bayaz, his apprentice Malacus Quai, and the Navigator Brother Longfoot, six completely different individuals who just don’t get along. In fact, their quest is not so much about finding the Seed as it is about character growth, particularly Jezal learning a lesson in humility, Logen trying to gain the trust & friendship of his comrades, and Ferris just learning to trust period…and maybe even getting a little romance on the side ;) Of the others, it was nice to learn more about Collem West—and to see his unexpected evolution—Dogman, and the aforementioned Ferris, but many of the supporting players like Quai, the Practicals, and most notably the villains, are still nothing more than caricatures. Aside from this little qualm however, Joe characterization has improved in nearly every area—the alternating point-of-views are better handled and show more balance, the individual voices are further distinguished, and the insights are even more profound.

As far as the rest of the book, worldbuilding is again understated, but that was done purposefully and not really an issue regardless. Writing-wise, the construction of the plot and the prose is definitely more competent than it was in “The Blade Itself”, and if anything, the humor and violence have been taken up a notch, but I felt the pacing was a bit relaxed at times. Other than that, “Before They Are Hanged” really comes down to two things: 1) characters and 2) the story. Of the former, Glokta, Logen Ninefingers and company are unquestionably the strength of the novel—and the trilogy as a whole so far—but the lackluster plot kept me from enjoying the sequel as much as I did “The Blade Itself”. Nevertheless, Joe Abercrombie is easily one of the more exciting new writers in fantasy today and with everything that was established in the first two volumes of The First Law trilogy, I have extremely high expectations for the “Last Argument of Kings”…
Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Sharp Teeth" Giveaway Winners!!! FREE DOWNLOADS of Scott Sigler's "Infected" + Jon Armstrong's "Grey" and other tidbits...

Congratulations to Beth O’Keefe (Illinois), Kenneth Schaeffer (Pennsylvania), Rose Ardanaz (Canada), Bob Barton (Utah), and Pamela White (Washington) who were all randomly selected to win an AUTOGRAPHED COPY of Toby Barlow’sSharp Teeth” thanks to HarperCollins!!! For more information on Toby Barlow and his book, check out the Official Sharp Teeth Website, the Sharp Teeth Myspace and reviews of “Sharp Teeth” via Fantasy Book Critic, NextRead + The Book Swede.

In news, just a few tidbits:

First off,
Jon Armstrong’s novel “Grey” (I love that cover!) which was nominated for the 2007 Philip K. Dick Award has been made available as a FREE DOWNLOAD by its publisher Night Shade Books in honor of Jon being nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Included below is a description:

In a world pushed beyond the moral simplicity of black and white, all that survives is Grey.

High fashion, corporate malfeasance, celebrity culture, and an obsessed media collide with exuberant violence and volatile intensity in
Grey, the explosive debut novel by newcomer
Jon Armstrong.

For Michael Rivers, life is perfect. Michael has everything; tall, handsome, and famous, he is worshipped by billions of fans around the globe. He is wealthy beyond measure, the heir apparent to RiverGroup, one of the handful of high-tech corporations that controls the world. He is fashionable, setting trends with his wardrobe of immaculate designer suits, each a unique and celebrated work of art. And Michael is in love, perfect love, sharing a private language based entirely on quotes from the latest fashion magazine advertisements, with Nora, his beautiful, witty, and equally perfect fiancee, the only woman with whom he can see surgically-altered monochromatic eye to eye.

When an assassin's bullets pierce Michael's body before the unblinking eyes of cameras, reporters, and viewers at a press junket, everything changes, forcing Michael to question everything about his previously perfect world. Illusions shattered and forcibly separated from Nora, Michael seeks to uncover the reasons behind the attempted assassination, embarking on a quest that leads him to question his relationships with his loud, pro-fane, and narcissistically Ultra father; his estranged mother; and the perilous, contaminated, neo-feudalistic world that lies beyond the safe and protected bubble of corporate family life...


Moving on,
Scott Sigler’s debut hardcover “Infected” is due out April 1, 2008 (I will be posting my review on Monday) and in support of that release, Crown Publishing has made the book available as a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD, but it’s only for a limited time—Monday, March 31, 2008—so don’t miss out. Here’s the synopsis:

Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families.

Working under the government’s shroud of secrecy, CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. She discovers that these killers all have one thing in common – they’ve been contaminated by a bioengineered parasite, shaped by a complexity far beyond the limits of known science.

Meanwhile Perry Dawsey – a hulking former football star now resigned to life as a cubicle-bound desk jockey – awakens one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Soon Perry finds himself acting and thinking strangely, hearing voices . . . he is infected.

The fate of the human race may well depend on the bloody war Perry must wage with his own body, because the parasites want something from him, something that goes beyond mere murder.

Infected is the first major print release from Internet phenom Scott Sigler, whose podcast-only audiobooks have drawn an immense cult following, with more than three million individual episodes downloaded. Now Sigler storms the bookstore shelves with this cinematic, relentlessly paced novel that mixes and matches genres, combining horror, technothriller, and suspense in a heady mix that is equal parts Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.

Infected will crawl beneath your skin and leave fresh blood on every page...

Thirdly,
A Dribble of Ink brought to my attention that author J.V. Jones just posted the prologue from the fourth volume in her Sword of Shadows fantasy epic that was recently christened “Watcher of the Dead”. You can check that out HERE. For that matter, Aidan has a whole post about Free Readin’ including links to a Pyr Books Sampler and an excerpt from R. Scott Bakker’s upcoming novel “Neuropath” so let me just direct you to that HERE :) And staying with this theme, Jacqueline Carey has posted the first chapter from “Kushiel’s Mercy”—the final volume in her current Imriel TrilogyHERE. Regarding this book, readers can look forward to a review, a giveaway and a short interview sometime in June!

Finally, saw on
Jeff VanderMeer’s blog that “Shooting War” (Reviewed HERE), a futuristic political satire graphic novel written by Anthony Lappé and illustrated by Dan Goldman has been optioned by Power Options for possible movie or TV development. Personally, I thought this was a really fun and thought-provoking read and will definitely be there for the film or TV series. For more information on the deal check out Jeff’s thoughts HERE and the “Shooting War” website HERE.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"The Magician and the Fool" by Barth Anderson

Official Barth Anderson Website
Order “The Magician and the Fool
HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

After starting out with short fiction which included attending the Clarion SF & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 1998; publishing numerous stories in Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Flytrap and many other print/online venues; and winning the 2004 Spectrum Award for his short story “Lark Till Dawn, Princess”, writer Barth Anderson made his long-form debut in 2006 with “The Patron Saint of Plagues”, a critically-acclaimed futuristic bio-thriller. Now in his second novel which has been ten years in the making, Barth draws on his considerable experience as a tarot card reader—three decades worth—in crafting “The Magician and the Fool”, a fascinating contemporary tale of identity, love, redemption, and a thought-provoking mystery based on the origins of Tarot and the founding of Rome…

I’m not very well-versed in the art of tarot reading or its history, so I can’t say how much of “The Magician and the Fool” is actually based on fact or just drawn from Barth’s imagination, but either way the concept is quite intriguing. Ancient cults, blood sacrifices, the Etruscan Discipline, tyros, Lemures, authenticators, and the very first deck of cards, all centered on the legend of Romulus & Remus and their true story is the intricate web in which the book’s two protagonists find themselves caught in. One is Jeremiah Rosemont, a gay ex-art historian whose attempt at carving a new life leads him to Nicaragua before a mysterious message lures him to Rome and the secrets that await there. The other is the Boy King, a ‘dumpster diver’ slumming in a Minnesota warehouse whose anonymity runs out with the appearance of an archaic sigil and the evil it heralds. Together, the two narratives invite the reader on a mesmerizing journey that explores the otherworldly abilities they possess, the pasts that they are fleeing, and how Rosemont and the Boy King are connected, but let me warn you that the journey is not an easy one. Despite beautifully elegant prose, wonderfully drawn characters & dialogue, and pacing that causes the pages to fly by, “The Magician and the Fool” is a challenging book that demands the reader’s full attention. In other words, Barth Anderson’s novel is not about cheap thrills, clear-cut answers and fairy tale endings. Instead, “The Magician and the Fool” is about ambiguity and subtext, and if you blink you’re bound to miss something important. So my best advice to anyone willing to undertake this journey is to take it slow, savor the experience, keep your mind open and watch for clues that are hidden everywhere. And once you’re done, read “The Magician and the Fool” again because I’m pretty confident that the second time will be even more rewarding :)

As far as the supernatural elements which includes divination, yoking—a form of compulsion or mind control, ghosts, templums—“a safe piece of territory from which to view the other world or work the greater work”, and centuries old characters, I would normally be inclined to describe “The Magician and the Fool” as fantasy, but in reality the book has much more of a science fiction feel, especially when things get metaphysical in the novel’s latter stages. Of course “The Magician and the Fool” could also be categorized as a mystery, historical fiction or even a literary novel so it’s not about labels. What matters is how the novel opened up my imagination, fed my curiosity and challenged my perception of the unknown. Bottom line, Barth Anderson’sThe Magician and the Fool” is the kind of book that wins awards, is taught in college courses, and will be one of the best releases of the year…
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Giveaway Winners!, a Pyr Press Release, and Misc. News...

Congratulations to Brad Huffman-Parent (Oklahoma) and Frank DeNunzio (Pennsylvania) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone quadrilogy (US Version) including copies of “The Briar King”, “The Charnel Prince”, “The Blood Knight” and the concluding volume, “The Born Queen” (Reviewed HERE), all thanks to Del Rey!!!

Congratulations also to Rebecca Moore (APO) and Scott Schaeffer (Pennsylvania) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of
Christopher Golden’s The Veil Trilogy including copies of “The Myth Hunters”, “The Borderkind” and “The Lost Ones” (Reviewed HERE), all thanks to Bantam Spectra!!!

Congratulations also to Brent Mills (Iowa) and Jennifer Schroeder (Arizona) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of the first two volumes in
Kay Kenyon’s The Entire and the Rose Quartet including copies of “Bright of the Sky” and “A World Too Near” thanks to Pyr Books!!!

Finally, congratulations to Brian Barlow (Utah) and Peter Starck (Wisconsin) who were both randomly selected to win a SET of the first two volumes in
Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy (US version) including copies of “The Blade Itself” and “Before They Are Hanged” (Review forthcoming) thanks to Pyr Books!!! Also, just a reminder that all of these titles from today’s concluded giveaways are now available :)


In book news,
Pyr Books recently announced the following press release:

Amherst, NY—March 24, 2008.
Pyr, the highly acclaimed science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, is proud to announce that its Editorial Director, Lou Anders, and three of its authors have been nominated for highly esteemed awards in science fiction:

~
Lou Anders for Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo® Award
~
Ian McDonald’s Brasyl for Best Novel Hugo® Award
~
Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself) for John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award
~
David Louis Edelman (Infoquake) for John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award

The Hugo® Award is the leading award for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. For the second year in a row,
Pyr Editorial Director Lou Anders has been nominated for the Hugo® for Best Professional Editor, Long Form in recognition of his ability to produce a high-quality and intelligent line of science fiction and fantasy titles. Anders says, “I am personally very honored to be nominated for a second year in a row… but when one honors an editor, what they are really doing is sending along an endorsement of that editor's tastes, so I am over the moon to see a book from Pyr in the ‘Best Novel’ category and two Pyr authors on the Campbell list."

USA Today called
Ian McDonald’sBrasyl”—up for the Hugo® for Best Novel—“the most rewarding science fiction in recent memory.” McDonald, hailed by Asimov’s Science Fiction as “one of the most interesting and accomplished science fiction writers of this latter-day era, indeed maybe the most interesting and accomplished,” comments on this nomination: “As they say, the honor is simply being nominated. I'm thrilled to have been nominated for Brasyl (even if, as umpteen Brazilians have told, my spelling is terrible!) —but what's especially exciting is that it's a double whammy: for me, and for Lou Anders as editor (and a real old school hands-on editor) as creative director of Pyr. This, I hope, is the first of many for the ballsiest imprint in SF.”

The John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award is given to the best new writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appearing in a professional publication was published in the previous two years. Nominee
Joe Abercrombie’s best-selling fantasy debut “The Blade Itself” (Book One of The First Law trilogy) has earned him much praise and the designation by Locus as “a rough-and-tumble, bold new voice in the heroic fantasy ranks.” With the same dark wit that colors his novels, Abercrombie says, “I’m delighted to have been nominated, especially at a time when there are so many great new authors coming out. My Uruk Hai hit squad are already on their way to Wisconsin to ‘dramatically reduce’ the chance of a Scott Lynch victory. They may well stop by David Anthony Durham’s house on the way back …”

David Louis Edelman is also up for the John W. Campbell Award for his debut novel “Infoquake”. “I'm beyond thrilled to be nominated for the Campbell Award. It's an honor to even be mentioned in the same sentence as the other esteemed nominees. I feel especially honored considering I only had one eligible published work during the 2006-2007 time period.” SFF World called Infoquake “A stunning debut novel by a lucid, precise, and talented new voice…This may be THE science fiction book of the year.”

Prometheus Books and Pyr congratulate Lou Anders, Ian McDonald, Joe Abercrombie and David Louis Edelman for their outstanding work. We are proud to be associated with such talent and quality. (I too would like Prometheus, Pyr and everyone nominated. Pretty impressive for an indie publisher!)

On a related note, three
Bantam Spectra authors were nominated for the recently announced 2008 Hugo Awards including Scott Lynch (author of Red Seas Under Red Skies (Reviewed HERE) and The Lies of Locke Lamora) for the John W. Campbell Best New Writer Award; Daniel Abraham whose story "The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics" from Logorrhea (edited by John Klima), was nominated for Best Novelette; and Elizabeth Bear (author of Dust reviewed HERE) who was nominated for a short story. Winners will be announced at the Hugo Awards Ceremony at the World Science Fiction Convention (Denver, CO) in August.

In comic book news,
Newsarama continues to offer a wide variety of interesting articles. First up, in promotion of the “Dark Wraith of Shannara” (Reviewed HERE) graphic novel which comes out today, the website has an interview with author Terry Brooks HERE that covers the graphic novel, the last book in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy—titled The Gypsy Morph—the movie adaptation of “The Elfstones of Shannara”, and a new Magic Kingdom book :D Newsarama also has an interview with Robert Place Napton HERE who adapted “Dark Wraith of Shannara” and will be posting an interview with the artist Edwin David on Wednesday. In other news, Newsarama reports HERE that actor Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige, The Fountain) is working with Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone, The Practice, CSI:Miami, Wolverine) on an original new comic book series called “Nowhere Man” for Virgin Comics. Virgin has had a pretty good track record so far with their comic books so I will definitely be checking this out. Lastly, the website has a short interview HERE with Richard Corben (Heavy Metal) who is writing/drawing “Haunt of Horror: Lovecraft”, a three-issue miniseries that is coming out this June under Marvel’s MAX imprint.

Finally in movie news, the first two photos (featuring Snake Eyes) from the upcoming
G.I. Joe movie adaptation were recently unveiled and I have to say I’m pretty impressed :) Of all of the 80s cartoons that I grew up with including Transformers, He-Man, Voltron, the TMNT, ThunderCats et cetera, G.I. Joe was probably my favorite and its mainly because of the characters, particularly the villains :) I mean Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, Destro, the Baroness, Zartan, Serpentor, Doctor Mindbender…it just doesn’t get any better than this. However, out of all of the characters my favorite is Snake Eyes and it’s only fitting that the first picture from the movie is of him. So even though I’m a bit skeptical about the director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) and some of the cast like Marlon Wayans, this photo has given me hope that the adaptation won’t be a complete waste of time…

Norwescon 31

From March 20-23, Norwescon 31 was held at SeaTac, Washington and I was fortunate enough to attend this year. In fact, my wife, son and I were pre-registered for the entire four-day event, but we were only able to make it on Saturday. Still, for our first convention, we had a lot of fun :) We arrived at around 9:00am and literally grabbed the second-to-last space in the hotel parking lot. From there, I sat in on the slideshow for artist guest of honor Ciruelo before checking out the art galleries and other little goodies that the convention had to offer as well as spending lots of money on prints and whatnot :)

Then, from 11:00 through 12:30 we attended the autograph sessions which was cool because not only did we score a lot of autographs, but it was an opportunity to meet a bunch of writers—and a couple of artists—in person that I had only communicated with via email or knew about just by name. Afterwards, I sat in on the Mark J. Ferrari reading and was treated to a wonderful preview of the new book that he’s working on :) From there, I had planned on attending various panels but was sidetracked when Mark asked me to join him for lunch. How could I refuse!?! So the rest of the afternoon was spent in delightful conversation with Mark who was every bit as nice, intelligent and passionate as I imagined he would be…

Unfortunately, by that time our son Zane had reached the limit of his seemingly never-ending well of energy and it was time for us to go home. So, I really only got a small taste of what the convention had to offer, but what a taste it was and I definitely plan on going back next year and also have my eyes set on a few others :) In the meantime, I thought I’d share some photos that we took from
Norwescon 31:

This is me with Argentine artist
Ciruelo who was the guest of honor and is best known for his paintings of dragons. He’s also worked with George Lucas, Steve Vai, Playboy, Heavy Metal and Magic: The Gathering.

These are the two prints that I got autographed by
Ciruelo.

This is me with special guest
Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire novels and winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Yes, I look like a fool so please ignore me ;)

On the left is
Irene Radford aka P.R. Frost whose works include the Dragon Nimbus novels, The Star Gods series, Merlin’s Descendants, the Tess Noncoire Adventures, etc.
On the right is
Jay Lake, a prolific author of over 200 published short stories and various novels including the upcoming “Escapement” (June 2008) which Jay was kind enough to sign :)

On the left is
Kat Richardson, author of the Greywalker urban fantasy series which includes “Greywalker”, “Poltergeist” and the forthcoming “Underground” (August 2008).
On the right is
Mario Acevedo, author of the very cool-sounding Felix Gomez novels including the recently released “The Undead Kama Sutra”.

This is
Michael Swanwick, a multiple award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy for over three decades. Very nice individual and it was a real pleasure getting him to autograph my copy of “The Dragons of Babel” :)

On the left is
Joshua Palmatier, author of the Throne of Amenkor novels which I hear are vastly underrated. The third book in the series, “The Vacant Throne” was released earlier this year.
On the right is
Patrick Rothfuss, author of “The Name of the Wind” which won the 2007 Quill Award. Patrick wasn’t even listed as one of the panelists so it was a pleasant surprise to meet him and he’s every bit as laidback as I’ve heard, although I wasn’t able to get any more from him regarding his next book ;)

This is me with
Dan Simmons, the popular award-winning author of the Hyperion Cantos, Ilium/Olympos and last years “The Terror”. Another very nice individual :)

This is
Alma Alexander, author of numerous works including the current young adult fantasy series Worldweavers, the second book of which, “Spellspam”, was recently released.

On the left is
Jon Armstrong, author of the debut novel “Grey” which was nominated for the 2007 Philip K. Dick Award. A book I definitely want to read…
On the right is
John Picacio, an award-winning illustrator whose breathtaking artwork can be most recently found in Michael Moorcock’sElric: The Stealer of Souls”, which John graciously signed for me :)

On the left is
Richelle Mead, author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and YA fantasy. Richelle has four books coming out this year including “Frostbite” (April 2008), “Storm Born” (August 2008), “Succubus Dreams” (September 2008) and “Shadow Kiss” (November 2008).
In the middle is
Mark Henry, author of the excellent debut novel “Happy Hour of the Damned”.
On the right is
Caitlin Kittredge, author of the new Nocturne City Series which debuted this month with “Night Life” and will be followed in August by “Pure Blood”.

This is
Barb & J.C. Hendee, co-authors of the Saga of the Noble Dead series which is on my ‘To Read’ list…

This is a picture of me with
Mark J. Ferrari, author of the excellent novel “The Book of Joby”, an ARC of which I was able to get signed. Once again, I look like a fool so please ignore :)

Speaking of autographs, there were only so many books that I could bring, so I asked most of the authors to sign the pamphlet supplied by
Norwescon 31. I thought it worked out fairly well…

Among the goodies that were supplied by the convention was a copy of
Bantam’s inaugural SpectraPulse magazine. I was wanting a copy so this was a nice surprise :) Apologies for the blurry picture though…

This is Annie and Zane posing at a Star Wars photo shoot. Apparently, Zane was really into the stormtroopers :)

Here’s a picture of cool looking dragon that was made out of spoons…

Finally, congratulations to
M. John Harrison whose novel “Nova Swing” was selected as the winner of the 2007 Philip K. Dick Award at Norwescon 31.
Monday, March 24, 2008

"Poison Sleep" by T.A. Pratt

Official Marla Mason Website
Order “Poison SleepHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s REVIEW of “Blood Engines

Urban fantasy is all the rage these days and while I’m concerned about the eventual over-saturation of the market it’s definitely a good time to be a fan of the subgenre, especially when writers like T.A. Pratt are given the chance to shine. Winner of the 2007 Hugo Award for the short story “Impossible Dreams”, Tim Pratt left a positive impression on me with his novel “Blood Engines” (Reviewed HERE) with its rewarding blend of wacky characters, comedy, supernatural action, and imagination. Granted, I had a few issues with the writing, but overall I really enjoyed the book and was looking forward to the sequel…

Where “Blood Engines” took place in San Francisco, “Poison Sleep” finds Marla Mason back in her element as the chief sorcerer of Felport—a made-up city in an alternate contemporary world where magic is real, but kept hidden from the eyes of ‘ordinaries’. Of course, with any position of power there are responsibilities and Marla’s plate is overflowing. Not only is there the usual in-house bickering that she has to contend with from rival sorcerers, but a patient has escaped from the Blackwing Institute for the criminally insane. At first Marla isn’t too worried, but when she gets a glimpse of Genevieve Kelly’s awesome reweaving abilities—being sucked into her dreamland, palaces appearing in the real world, creating a living nightmare who wants to usurp Genevieve’s power for his own and conquer the planet—she makes it her top priority. Unfortunately, as if that’s not difficult enough, there’s also a slow assassin out for Marla’s head and two new men in her life—Joshua Kindler who was hired to handle diplomatic matters and personal assistant Ted—one of which is a spy. Needless to say, things are looking pretty bad for Marla. Thankfully, the greater Marla’s problems are the more entertaining it is for readers as Tim delivers a story crackling with energetic pacing, witty sass, and a smorgasbord of wild magics like Marla’s double-edged cloak—one side heals the wearer, the other turns her into a ruthless killing machine—Cursing, probability-shifting, technomancy, Medusa’s blood which can birth new creatures, chaos magic, sympathetic magic, and a symbiotic green mold that does a pretty good impression of Venom from the Spider-Man comics ;) There’s also a little romance involving Marla & Joshua, but keeping in line with the rest of Tim’s work, this is not your typical romance as Kindler is a lovetalker—possesses a supernatural power that makes people fall in love with him—which brings up the interesting question: Is Marla in love with Joshua as an individual, or just his magic?

Regarding the characters, Marla is obviously the focus of the book like last time—and again shows how much of a bad-ass she is—but the third-person narrative is also split between the renegade slow assassin Zealand who is contracted to kill the chief sorcerer, and Nicolette, a chaos magician serving under the diviner Gregor who is one of Marla’s main rivals. Now if you read any urban fantasy you probably notice that most series are narrated via the first-person which offers a certain intimacy that I admit is appealing, but the alternating third-person POVs has its benefits too like offering greater insights into the motives of other characters, keeping readers in the thick of the action, and perhaps most importantly, surprising the reader :) Fortunately, Tim likes to keep readers on their toes, so there are some pretty interesting surprises that just wouldn’t be possible in a first-person POV. As far as the supporting players, I’m not sure if this bunch is as eccentric as the ones found in “Blood Engines” but Genevieve, Reave the king of nightmares, and Joshua Kindler do make a strong case. Other than that, it was nice to see more of Hamil, Marla’s consiglieri—chief advisor—as well as Felport’s other prominent occupants like the technomancer Langford, Viscarro, Ernesto, the Chamberlain, Granger, the Bay Witch, et cetera. One thing that surprised me though was how small a role Rondeau had in “Poison Sleep”. I know I found him a bit one-dimensional in “Blood Engines” but I have to admit, I missed his banter :)

Apart from the wildly imaginative story, the fun cast of characters and the improved writing—Tim just seemed to have a better grasp of what he was doing in this book—what I liked most about “Poison Sleep” is that the novel is almost completely self-contained. I mean sure, there are references to “Blood Engines” and the short story “Grander than the Sea” (from The Solaris Book of New Fantasy) that I was able to pick up on, but those are few and really have no bearing on what happens in the book. In fact, I’m pretty confident that the next volume in the series, “Dead Reign” (October 2008), will also be self-contained—with maybe a few overlapping threads—and that brings me to the heart of the matter about Tim Pratt’s Marla Mason novels. While the series obviously possesses certain similarities to other urban fantasy books currently out there, it’s the little differences—like the third-person narratives, the novels being self-contained, the strong supporting characters, the plot manipulations, the inventive magical concepts, et cetera—that really separates both “Blood Engines” and “Poison Sleep” from the competition. Now between the two, I personally thought that “Poison Sleep” was the stronger and more entertaining novel, but they are both terrific reads and if Tim can keep it up with the next couple of books, then the Marla Mason series will be one of the first that I recommend to readers wanting to discover great urban fantasy…
Friday, March 21, 2008

"The Lost Ones" by Christopher Golden w/Bonus Q&A

Official Christopher Golden Website
Order “The Lost Ones
HERE
Read An Excerpt
HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Reviews of “The Myth Hunters” + “The Borderkind

In “The Myth Hunters” and “The Borderkind”, the first two volumes in The Veil trilogy, Christopher Golden establishes a world where creatures of ancient myth and legend like Jack Frost, the Sandman, Greek gods, trolls, goblins, giants, sorcerers and whatnot are real entities existing in a world that mirrors our own but is separated from us by a magical barrier called the Veil. Known as the Two Kingdoms, this fantastical world is populated by Legends, Borderkind—creatures who can travel back & forth across the Veil at will—and Lost Ones, human beings who accidentally crossed the Veil and are now forever trapped in the realm of the legendary. For centuries, Legends, Borderkind, and Lost Ones have co-existed peacefully alongside one another, but everything changes with the arrival of the Bascombes, siblings who are possibly Legend-Born—the ages-old prophesied saviors of the Lost Ones—and the key to a war that threatens the existence of the Borderkind and the hope of the Lost Ones

Everything that’s happened so far in the first two volumes has been building towards “The Lost Ones”, the trilogy’s conclusion, and what a conclusion it is :) Where “The Myth Hunters” was a suspenseful blend of mystery, fantasy & horror that drew readers in with its intriguing concept and “The Borderkind” was an action-packed rollercoaster full of shocking revelations and betrayals, “The Lost Ones” is an explosive finale where all-out war erupts, secrets are revealed—like finally learning about the mysterious Wayland Smith—villains are confronted, heroes fall, and the prophecy is fulfilled… In other words, “The Lost Ones” is much bigger than its predecessors, not just in terms of size—as in page count—but also in the scope of the story, action-wise, the number of character viewpoints, and emotionally. In short, “The Lost Ones” completes the Veil trilogy in wonderful style, but it does have its drawbacks.

For starters, between the massive war that is being fought, the prophecy, the awesome hidden power that the Bascombes possess, and other subplots like recruiting soldiers for the war, characters seeking redemption for past mistakes, a tragic romance, and righteousness overcoming evil, you just get the feeling that you’ve seen all this before, especially if you’re a fan of epic fantasy novels. In particular, I kept thinking of “The Return of the King” :) Obviously there are some notable differences in the Veil trilogy like the numerous mythologies—both recognizable and obscure—that are culled from dozens of exotic cultures, but the similarities are still easy to see. From a personal standpoint, I loved Christopher’s take on so many different fables & folklore and that was an aspect that I really missed in “The Lost Ones”. Sure, the author introduces a ton of new Legends and Borderkind in the book, but they aren’t afforded the same depth as others were shown in the first two volumes, which is understandable considering everything the finale has to cover. Still, for me it was a noticeable absence along with the lack of suspense and horror that I found so riveting in the earlier books. Lastly, it should be noted that there are some ridiculously powerful characters in the novel including Oliver, Frost, the Sandman, and the Atlantean sorcerer Ty’Lis which leads to a few over-the-top battles that may be hard to swallow unless you’re a big fan of videogames or superhero comics/movies. Fortunately, I am :)

In the end, even though “The Lost Ones” has its shortcomings, the book is still highly entertaining and does a super job of concluding the Veil trilogy which is one of those series that offers wide-ranging appeal especially with Christopher’s smooth prose & accomplished storytelling and the trilogy’s dynamic blend of contemporary thriller, horror and supernatural fantasy. For me though, the best thing about the entire series was how the author resolved the trilogy. All I will say is that the future holds unlimited possibilities for Oliver Bascombe, the denizens of the Two Kingdoms, and potential sequels…

BONUS FEATURE: Author Q&A

Q: “The Lost Ones” which completes your Veil trilogy is scheduled for publication March 25, 2008. What are your final thoughts on the trilogy as a whole and will there be any future adventures starring Oliver Bascombe or the denizens of the Two Kingdoms?

Christopher: THE VEIL started with Oliver Bascombe and Jack Frost, and Oliver's anxiety about getting married. As I wrote the trilogy, the story changed dramatically, with new characters coming in and altering the course of events, creating new tangents, new sub-plots to be served, and new stakes. I had a fantastic time with all of the various mythologies mashed up together in the three books—and certainly there are a thousand more stories to be told involving characters I introduced and new ones, as well as plot threads about people who've gone missing in the past (Lost Ones)—but I enjoyed the characters the most. I loved writing Oliver, Kitsune, Julianna, Colette, Blue Jay, Frost, Halliwell, and all the rest. Would I go back to that world? One of these days I'd very much like to do that. But I have a lot of other things I want to write first, and there'd need to be a desire on the part of the publisher to see that happen, which would depend entirely on the long term sales.

Q: On May 20, 2008 your collaboration novel with author
Tim Lebbon, “Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities”, is coming out. Is there anything else you can tell readers about the book that hasn’t been mentioned already and what’s the status report on the second Hidden Cities novel “The Map of Moments”?

Christopher: I don't want to give anything away about “Mind the Gap”. What I'll say is that thus far the few people who've read it have given us fantastic feedback. If other readers like it as much as the writers and editors we've shown it to, we'll be very happy indeed. “Mind the Gap” started as an idea I had years ago for a relatively mainstream book, but I really wanted to co-write it with a UK writer. When Tim and I met, we hit it off right away, but I'd never read anything by him. Once I did, it was a no-brainer to ask him aboard “Mind the Gap”. The finished product is very different from what I'd originally planned, which is a result of the influence of both Tim and of Anne Groell, our editor. I'm really, really pleased that it's turned out the way it has. Tim and I have finished the first draft of “The Map of Moments”, the second Hidden Cities novel, and we're just revising now, and will be delivering it in a week or so. Honestly, I like it even better than the first one. It's set in post-Katrina New Orleans and it's quite dark. We're hoping that
Bantam wants to continue for we know the plot, location, and title of the third one (presuming Bantam goes for it), and the location of the fourth one. Our collaboration is really smooth and comfortable, and so far very fruitful. We're also doing a couple of young adult novels together for Atheneum.

Q: Also forthcoming is the British Invasion anthology (
Cemetery Dance-May 28, 2008) that you edited with Tim Lebbon + James A. Moore, the YA novel “Poison Ink” (Delacorte-July 8, 2008), and “Soulless” (MTV Books-October 21, 2008). Can you give us some more info on these releases and any other writing projects that you’re currently involved in, including the next two adult novels that you’re working on for Bantam?

Christopher: It's strange the way things that are developed all at different times come about at the same time. “British Invasion” is something I'm not supposed to talk about yet because—despite the fact that it's already been listed on Amazon—the publisher hasn't officially announced it. But, since it *is* on Amazon...
Cemetery Dance is publishing the book soon. The lineup is absolutely incredible, full of wonderful stories by UK writers. It came about at a convention, actually. Jim and Tim and I were sitting at the bar talking about the differences between genre publishing in the UK and US, and decided we ought to do an anthology. I believe I'm the one who said “the hell with a proposal, let's go sell it right now.” We finished our beers, left the bar, and within fifteen minutes had sold the book without having a single writer committed to the project.

Poison Ink” is a teen supernatural thriller, and I loved writing it. Really, really loved it. It's set in Covington, Massachusetts, a fictional version of my current hometown, which is near Jameson, Massachusetts, another fictional town that's part of “Wildwood Road”. I've used Covington in a recent short story as well. It concerns five very different girls who become best friends and decide to commemorate their friendship by all getting the same tattoo. In Massachusetts, you have to be eighteen to get a tattoo without parental permission, so they go to a shady, backroom kind of place to get it done, and things don't turn out so well.

Soulless” is a combination of two things. First, it's my reaction to the recent zombie movie/novel trend. I love a good zombie story, but what troubles me is that so often these things don't have a third act. The structure of the typical zombie story is—some bizarre chemical or astronomical event triggers an uprising of the dead, everybody gets eaten, the end. No third act. I wanted to come up with (A) a new trigger and (B) a story with a three-act structure. I had a blast with all of those elements of the story, and with pushing the envelope regarding what kind of hideousness I could get away with in a YA book. The second major element in “Soulless” is a socio-political one, which I wrote about at length on the
MTV Books blog not too long ago.

Regarding the next two books for
Bantam...it's too early to talk about them, except to say that I'm currently writing the first of the two.

Q: Last time we talked (Read Interview HERE), two of your properties had been optioned for film adaptation including “Outcast” and “Talent”, and since then “Baltimore Or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire” w/
Mike Mignola was picked up by New Regency. How far along are these projects (development status, talent attached, etc.) and has anything else been optioned recently?

Christopher: I'm working with
Mike Mignola on the screenplay for “Baltimore” now, and hope to deliver our first draft next month. David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Blade, The Flash) is signed on as director as has been excellent to work with thus far. “Talent” is still in development at Universal, and we're supposed to be seeing a script shortly. I don't think I can say who the writer is since they haven't announced it, but he worked on a film I expect will be one of the big blockbusters of 2008. “Outcast” is also still in development at Universal. Right now they're looking for a new writer. “The Sisterhood”, which is a comic book miniseries Sniegoski and I wrote, is set up at Intermedia with a major writer and an up-and-coming director attached. Sniegoski and I are co-producing that one with Harry and Mary Jane Ufland and with Intermedia. It's looking very promising, but nothing is a done deal until you start actually shooting a film...and sometimes not even then. Also, I did a YA book series called “The Hollow” with my old friend Ford Gilmore, and that's been set up for TV with Lionsgate. There is definite movement on that front with a cable channel and a major TV series creator/producer, but again, I don't think I'm allowed to say more than that.

Q: Many of your titles could be described as ‘urban fantasy’ which is extremely hot right now. How do you feel about the subgenre’s popularity and the fact that publishers are signing and releasing so many new urban fantasy titles?

Christopher: It's weird, actually. I think what constitutes "urban fantasy" has changed dramatically in the past two or three years. To me, THE VEIL and THE HIDDEN CITIES and THE SHADOW SAGA and some of the other things I've done really are urban fantasy. But these days, the phrase has come to mean any of the many ass-kicking, supernatural-fighting female-driven sagas that have come out of the post-Buffy, post-Anita Blake age. Certainly it extends to
Jim Butcher and Simon Green, etc., though their series aren't female-driven. But they all do follow what I think of as a TV series kind of structure—core protoganist in an ongoing series of adventures. My SHADOW SAGA stuff follows the pattern—in fact I'd like to see those four books republished to take advantage of that fact—but the other things I've done that I consider urban fantasy don't fit the current marketplace definition. As for publishers taking advantage of the readership's interest in that subgenre formula...why not? If that's what people want to read, fantastic. Supply and demand. The only trouble I see is that, as always happens when something gets “hot,” publishers will invariably start buying sub-standard work to fill slots on their publishing schedules. In time, publishing that stuff alongside work by the really talented writers who sparked the popularity of the subgenre to being with will end up hurting the overall perception of the subgenre, and the whole thing will collapse. The people who are really good won't really be hurt by that, but once the bubble bursts, a lot of people—readers and writers alike—will move on to something else. It's a cycle that publishing goes through on a regular basis.

Q: Lastly, since you weren’t able to participate in the 2007 Review/2008 Preview
HERE, I thought I would take this opportunity to ask you again :) Basically, what were your favorite books that you read in 2007, and what titles are you most looking forward to (or have already read) in 2008?

Christopher: My top five favorite books that I read in 2007 were:

1)Heart-shaped Box” by
Joe Hill
2)The Devil You Know” by Mike Carey
3)The Tin Roof Blowdown” by James Lee Burke
4)The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
5)The Blue Girl” by Charles de Lint

So far in 2008, they include “Duma Key” by
Stephen King (his best in forever), “Promises To Keep” by de Lint, “Crooked Little Vein” by Warren Ellis, and...without question, Neil Gaiman's wonderful “The Graveyard Book”, which doesn't come out until the end of the year but which I was fortunate enough to get an early look at. It's my favorite of Gaiman's novel's, I think.

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click here to find out more about “The Bone Clocks”
Review HERE

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Click here to find out more about “The Broken Eye”
Review HERE

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Click here to find out more about “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki”
Review HERE

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Click here to find out more about “City of Stairs”
Review HERE

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Click here to find out more about “The Seal of the Worm”
Review HERE

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Click here to find out more about “Edge of Eternity”
Review Soon

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click here to find out more about “Towers of Samarcand”
Review Soon

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

Click here to find out more about “Tyrant: Force of Kings”
Review HERE