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Friday, September 28, 2012

Spotlight on Some Recent SFF Titles of Interest (with comments by Mihir Wanchoo)


There’s only so much time I can spare towards reading and in an ideal world I would have read all of these titles by now. However since cloning hasn’t come of age, for now I’ll be doing a quick spotlight on all of them along with a few comments as I've read a bit of all except one. I will be trying my best to review them in the coming months over here or Bastard Books.


BETWEEN TWO FIRES by Christopher Buehlman 

Book Blurb - And Lucifer said: “Let us rise against Him now in all our numbers, and pull the walls of heaven down…” 

The year is 1348. Thomas, a disgraced knight, has found a young girl alone in a dead Norman village. An orphan of the Black Death, and an almost unnerving picture of innocence, she tells Thomas that plague is only part of a larger cataclysm—that the fallen angels under Lucifer are rising in a second war on heaven, and that the world of men has fallen behind the lines of conflict. 

Is it delirium or is it faith? She believes she has seen the angels of God. She believes the righteous dead speak to her in dreams. And now she has convinced the faithless Thomas to shepherd her across a depraved landscape to Avignon. There, she tells Thomas, she will fulfill her mission: to confront the evil that has devastated the earth, and to restore to this betrayed, murderous knight the nobility and hope of salvation he long abandoned. 

As hell unleashes its wrath, and as the true nature of the girl is revealed, Thomas will find himself on a macabre battleground of angels and demons, saints, and the risen dead, and in the midst of a desperate struggle for nothing less than the soul of man. 

Thoughts: With a premise very similar to The Crucible series by the late Sara Douglass, Christopher Buehlman’s sophomore effort came under my radar a bit later than I would have preferred. Mixing a metaphysical war within the historical premise of war-torn Europe that is also under the deadly grasp of the Black Death, makes for an exciting storyline. The author’s forte is supposed to be horror and so I look forward to his mix of medieval fantasy and horror. Readers can also read this excerpt to get started on this book that releases next week. 

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LISTENING TO RAIN by Albert A. Dalia 

Book Blurb - China, 627 C.E. The Tang dynasty’s rule remains tentative after a decade of civil war. The rise of a new uncertainty in the far south thrusts the fledgling dynasty between its most powerful enemies in the north and the possible revolt of the southern aborigines. The emperor and his grand minister delegate a two-man assessment team – the Shaolin Blade, Tanzong and the Imperial Commissioner, Li Wei to travel into the southern regions and negotiate with the aboriginal leader. 

The first volume of this epic wuxia adventure tale follows the duo to the mysterious Isle of Pearls. To get there, they must use secret Taoist underground waterways, fight off the airborne attacks of the Thunder Lords, cross storm-tossed seas in a shaman’s bronze ship, and then sail aboard the Dragonfly, with the female aboriginal pirate captain, Byung Nhak, as she engages the local warlord, the Iron Shaman and his fleet of Seahawks. 

Their heroic journey continues into the center of the island through the unexplored “Land of Drifting Ghosts” mountain range in search of a legendary lost Buddhist monastery. While the long hidden Celestial Masters sect of Taoism and an enigmatic Tibetan princess pose an immediate threat, Tanzong’s internal conflicts offer the greater danger. The series, The Adventures of the Shaolin Blade Tanzong, will follow Tanzong’s adventures throughout the medieval Chinese empire. 

Thoughts: This book reminds me a lot of Barry Hughart’s Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox however this book is more grounded in history than mythology as was Barry’s seminal work. Again after reading the first few chapters, it has become apparent that the author has taken some liberties but promises a rousing story filled with action, wonder and mystery. Plus with such a stark but eye-catching cover by Jungshan Ink there’s much to admire in Albert Dalia’s historical fantasy series. Look forward to the review in the upcoming weeks of October. 

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MAGE’S BLOOD by David Hair 

Book Blurb - For years the Leviathan Bridge was a boon for prosperity and culture. But when the Rondian Emperor turned his avaricious eyes toward it, peace became war. In successive crusades the Imperial legions and their mighty battle-mages plundered the East unopposed. 

Now the Moontide has come again, the Bridge is rising from beneath the waves, and the Third Crusade is poised for release. The board is set and the pieces are moving. But three lowly pawns, barely regarded, threaten the game: A failed mage, a jaded mercenary and a lowly market-girl are about to be catapulted into the maelstrom. Their choices and their courage are about to change the world. 

Come to Urte, where the moon covers half the sky and the tides render the seas impassable. Where windships ply the skies and magi with god-gifted powers rule the earth. Where East and West are divided by colour, creed, language and the sea, but drawn to each other irrevocably in a dance of life and death. The Moontide is coming, to sweep away all in its path. 

Thoughts: I’m currently reading this book and its turning out to a good read with a sweeping world scenario that is very reminiscent of the best epic fantasy has to offer. Additionally with a liberal dose of cultures similar to those of our world, the author has managed to build an interesting world scenario and back-history. Showcasing a clash between the western and eastern parts of world, in this case literally the author has spawned a story spanning many nations and characters that will leave a mark on the reader's minds.  Look out for the review next week (hopefully). 

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GEARTEETH by Timothy Black 

Book Blurb - In 1890 a disease that turned sane men into ravenous werewolves erupted in the United States and soon spread to the rest of the world. On the brink of humanity’s extinction, Nikola Tesla and a secret order of scientists known as the Tellurians revealed a bold plan: the uninfected would abandon the Earth’s surface by rising up in floating salvation cities, iron and steel metropolises that carried tens of thousands of refugees above the savage apocalypse. The remnants of mankind huddled fearfully in the clouds, waiting for the werewolves to devour each other.

Yet twenty years later only one salvation city remains aloft, while the beasts still rule the world below. Time has taken its toll on the miraculous machinery of the city, and soon the last of the survivors will plummet to their doom. But when Elijah Kelly, a brakeman aboard the largest of the city’s Thunder Trains, is infected by the werewolf virus he discovers a secret world of lies and horrific experiments that hide the disturbing truth about the Tellurians. 

When the beast in his blood surges forth, Elijah must choose between the lives of those he loves and the city that is humanity’s last hope of survival. 

Thoughts: The blurb promises a steampunk story mixed with werewolves in an apocalyptic world setting, plus there’s the presence of Nicholas Tesla and airborne cities. How can one resist such a premise and after reading an excerpt I was hooked. Hopefully this book will deliver on its promising blurb as well as the aforementioned reasons, I will do my best to review it as well. Check out the first chapter on the author's website or download a sample from Amazon to get a better idea about the book. 

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MINDING THE HEAVENS Part I: ELECTION by James Pyle 

Book Blurb - Minding the Heavens is a series of three novellas that chronicle the intersection of four distinct stories: 
1) Lawrence Fielding is in his mid-twenties, works for his uncle (whom he hates) and has recently broken up with his longtime girlfriend. He is determined to kill himself until a chance encounter with a man claiming to be the devil starts him down a path of curious, and seemingly inexplicable, incidence. 
2) Michael, once an angel of the Host of Heaven, is now a drunk who has wandered North America for the better part of five decades. 
3) Samuel is a reclusive assassin who, just as he decides to retire, is offered one final opportunity unlike anything he's ever done before. 
4) Diedrich Markus was, at one time, a promising young physicist. That is, however, until he published a paper claiming to have found evidence that the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics work differently within the Trans-America building in San Francisco. After several unaccounted years, Markus resurfaces at a small, decidedly hippy-like, university in Western Washington. 

Thoughts: Mea culpa it was the blurb again. This is one of the most enticing blurbs I have ever read. Mixing angels with physics and assassins promises to be a mad caper and from what I have read of the beginnings of this novella, this one is looking to be a terrific story with a strong Terry Pratchett-esque vibe to it. Also originally this series was titled The Zany Misadventures of Lucifer the Fallen One, now that should be a good indicator of what the plot of the book might entail. 

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COLD IRON by Josh Loomis 

Book Blurb - Detective Morgan Everson has gotten pretty acquainted with death. She sees it all the time, especially working the Special Homicide division in Philadelphia. But this case is new. In this case, the victim of the murder is also a potential eye-witness. His name is Seth, and he was dead for thirty-five years before they found him wandering around a cemetery. 

A detective himself in the 1980s, Seth sets about putting together the pieces of the former life he can barely remember. In his wake, however, people who knew him start dying, and in particularly violent ways that put them squarely in Morgan's lap. She must discover the connection between Seth and the murders, even as Seth works to understand the whys and wherefores of his resurrection. The connection between the two may be the bullet found among his belongings. It is not jacketed in steel or made with silver, but instead has a core of cold iron. What it means, and the intent behind its creation, will change the lives of both detectives forever. 

What is the secret of Seth’s resurrection? Why are his old friends and acquaintances getting killed? And what is Morgan not telling him about this new world into which he’s awakened? 

Thoughts: I have read and thoroughly enjoyed this debut novella. I’ll be reviewing next week on Bastard books and all I can say about it is that this is a terrific story and I’m waiting anxiously to read the next book COLD STREETS. The author describes it “Law and Order meets World of Darkness” and while that estimation is pretty spot-on, there’s a lot more being left unsaid in regards to the mythology utilized and the world settings of the story. For more information about COLD IRON, hop onto HERE.

6 comments:

Nayan said...

Excellent post Mihir!!

Wish that you get all the time in the world to read these books. That way we get to read the real gems directly :) without having to browse through hundreds of books.

Thanks.

Timothy Black said...

Point taken about the excerpt length for GEARTEETH ;) I was unsure about how much to post for folks to read as this was my first novel, so I tried to emulate other authors on my publisher's website in sample size. Later today I'll update my own website's excerpt to a greater length (at least one chapter, perhaps a full two as Amazon has done) and contact the publisher to try and get a more meaty section up on their site as well. Thank you for the suggestion!

The Reader said...


Thanks Nayan

I hope to hear your thoughts on these titles whenever you get around to them :)

Mihir

The Reader said...


@ Timothy

Thanks for stopping by, a longer excerpt will definitely help the readers in deciding and so thank you for it. Will also let you know how I found GEARTEETH.

Mihir

Timothy Black said...

Your excellent advice has been heeded, and now all of Chapter 1 is displaying its plumage proudly for folks on my site :)

The Reader said...


@ Timothy

Thanks and I've updated link description as well.

Mihir

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