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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Liviu's Anticipated Novels of 2010 - collated post to be referred to and updated frequently as books come

Update: 8/30/10
Read 72 books from the list so far
- quick takes below under each book presentation with links to the FBC Rv when posted; a summary here so you know at a glance which books I have read to date. I have also updated the list with some novels confirmed for 2011 or later as well with novels I have but plan to read later.

Summary: City of Ruin/Newton (A++, full rv ), The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/Jemisin (A+, full rv Robert), Spellwright/Charlton (C- from me but an A from Robert, full rv Robert), The Bookman/Tidhar(A, full rv), The Desert Spear/Brett(A, full rv), Servant of the Underworld/de Bodard(A, full rv), The Left Hand of God/Hoffman(A++, dual full rv), The Conqueror's Shadow/Marmell(C from me but again an A from Robert so you may want to check it, full rv Robert), The Napoleon Concerto/Mellon(A, full rv), The River Kings Road/Merciel (D from me but Robert liked it more, full rv Robert), Geosynchron/Edelman(A+, full rv), Freedom/Suarez(C), Spirit Lens/Berg(A, full rv), Thirteen Years Later/Kent(B, full rv Robert), Black Hills/Simmons (A++ , full rv), The Folding Knife/Parker (A++, full rv), Mission of Honor/Weber (A+, full rv), Funeral Games/Cameron(A), Grand Central Arena/Spoor (A, full rv), Salute the Dark/Tchaikovsky (A++, full rv), A Mighty Fortress/Weber (A++, full rv), Farlander/Buchanan(A, full rv), Bitter Seeds/Tregillis (A++, full rv), Up Jim River/Flynn(A, full rv), The Emerald Storm/Michael Sullivan(A++, full rv), Raven:Sons of Thunder/Kristian(A, full rv), The Orphaned Worlds/Cobley(C), The Dream of Perpetual Motion/Palmer(D, full rv Robert), Ghosts of Manhattan/Mann(A, full rv), Terminal World/Reynolds (A-, full rv), The Sorcerer's House/Wolfe (A, full rv), Secrets of the Fire Sea/Hunt (A++, full rv), Children No More/Van Name (A+), The Barbary Pirates/Dietrich(A, full rv), Shadow's Son/Sprunk(A+, full rv), Dragonsoul/Jones & Bennett(A, full rv), Gaslight Dogs/Lowachee(C), The Age of Zeus/Lovegrove(A, full rv), West and East (Hitler's War aka War that came Early #2)/Turtledove(A), Office of Shadow/Sturges(A, full rv), The Lotus Eaters/Kratman(C), Migration/Hogan(A, full rv), The King of the Crags/Deas(A, full rv), Tome of the Undergates/Sykes(F, un-review), A Magic of Dawn/Farrell(A, full rv), The Hypnotist/Rose(D), New Model Army/Roberts(B, full rv), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet/Mitchell(A++, full rv), Naamah's Curse/Carey(A, full rv), The Last Page/Huso(A++, full rv), Deceiver/Cherryh (D), The Prince of Mist/Zafon(C, full rv Cindy), Lex Trent Versus The Gods/Bell(A, full rv), Stealing Fire/Graham(A+, full rv), The Evolutionary Void/Hamilton(A++), Absorption/Meaney(B-, full rv), Who Fears Death/Okorafor (Not for me at least for now, may try later), Spies of the Balkans/Furst (A-), The Map of all Things/Anderson (A+, full rv), The Dervish House/McDonald (D), Passion Play/Bernobich (A+), The Black Prism/Weeks (A++), Imager's Intrigue/Modesitt(A++ book/series, full rv), Restoration Game/MacLeod(A+, full rv), Empire of Light/Gibson (A+, full rv), The Half Made World/Gilman(A++), The House on Durrow Street/Beckett(A++), The Scarab Path/Tchaikovsky (A++, full rv), Black Lung Captain/Wooding (B), The Technician/Asher (A++, full rv), Ragnarok/Vanner (F), Midsummer Night/Warrington (A++), Horns of Ruin/Akers (D)

Top 10 (Original Post #1)


In generally random order:

Mission of Honor by David Weber (July 2010, Baen Books)

"Oyster Bay" - the obvious analogy with December 1941 - and its aftermath; most likely peace with Haven and the start of the breakdown of the Solarian League; but who knows for sure outside Mr. Weber and his editors/first readers since after all he is one of the masters of surprise and his twists and turns have blown me away quite a few times so far. This one is my most anticipated novel of 2010. Hopefully I will get to do the long planned Honorverse overview here soon.

Edit 2/4/10 Baen published an e-arc of Mission of Honor on 2/2 and I bought it that evening and stayed until 4 am to finish it with at least one reread going on and I have to say that Mission of Honor was the book I wanted to a large extent and together with Storm from the Shadows to which it's a completion and the side-novel Torch of Freedom which is also essential here, it represents the hinge of the Honorverse in the way At All Costs represented the end of its first part. Very well plotted and flowing superbly with lots of emotional moments, the one small disappointment I had (besides that it ended of course) was that it was relatively predictable; there were lots of small touches (the midnight "visits", some names which got me anywhere from chuckling to laughing hard), then we gotta find out the hinted secrets of the "spider" drive, "ghost" ships and who died in and who survived Oyster Bay, but there was nothing new in the big picture that would made me gasp in wonder; that essential unpredictability, the twists and turns which are one of David Weber's main trademarks were missing here so overall MoH is an A+ but the next book should be a cracker since now we are really in "uncharted territory" for the Honorverse (full FBC rv)


The Folding Knife by KJ Parker (February 2010, Orbit Books)

Do not know more than the blurb, but considering that KJ Parker has become one of my most favorite fantasy author recently, the blurb is enough to know this will be a read/review on receive.

"Basso the Magnificent. Basso the Great. Basso the Wise. The First Citizen of the Vesani Republic is an extraordinary man.

He is ruthless, cunning, and above all, lucky. He brings wealth, power and prestige to his people. But with power comes unwanted attention, and Basso must defend his nation and himself from threats foreign and domestic. In a lifetime of crucial decisions, he's only ever made one mistake.

One mistake, though, can be enough."

Edit 1/31/10 I spent three days on this book and read it almost three times to fully appreciate and enjoy it; my top expected fantasy release of the first half of 2010 and possibly of the whole year, The Folding Knife delivered all that I expected and more; this one is a very tough book to review since so much happens that I would not want to spoil and the motives and actions of its main character Basso are hard to understand without learning some crucial things but at a first try there are some points to emphasize:

- the book is written almost flawlessly with the same understated, cynical voice of KJ Parker's oeuvre, though this one is arguably the most idealistic of all and Basso the author's most idealistic character who wants to do good in a "real world" way through a combination of wealth, populism and intrigue with "war is an admission of failure" as his motto

- the world building is pitch perfect; I could describe it as a modern world without religion and technology in the way we understand them, or in another way an what if no messianic religion with a message of the possibility of human betterment - which however long it took essentially led to our technological world - appeared, but the flows and ebbs of the ancient Greek/Roman/Byzantine world would have continued for another two thousand years or so; another way of thinking about it would be as a "western" Chinese/Egyptian civilization, relatively stable over thousands of years but based on the Greek/Roman templates; very similar to the world of Fencer but without any overt magic like there - lots of names carry over modified a little, while both the world of The Engineer trilogy and Purple and Black could fit in The Folding Knife universe; very different from Scavenger and The Company which are more traditional pseudo-late medieval/early modern worlds; lots of naming jokes and allusions to the classical world

- the twists and turns are superb and while we have an idea of the book ending both from the blurb and from the prologue, we really do not know the hows and whys until almost the last page

- the book is also a page turner that you do not want to put down, though I forced myself to read 100 pages, reread them, read another 100 pages, reread them, another 100 pages, another reread and then the last 150 pages, a reread of them and then a reread of the most salient parts of the novel, so in this way I could both enjoy and savor the book as well as keep the tension which ratchets through to the finale

An A++, for now this one and The Left Hand of God are the two top fantasies of 2010 and both will be very hard to dislodge from this position
(Full FBC Rv HERE)


Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds (March 2010, Gollancz UK)

Do not know more than the blurb, but considering that recently I ranked Alastair Reynolds as the best sf writer of the 00's, this is enough to know that will be a read/review on receive. Moved from 2009 to 2010, this has been a highly awaited novel for a while now.

"Spearpoint, the last human city, is an atmosphere-piercing spire of vast size. Clinging to its skin are the zones, a series of semi-autonomous city-states, each of which enjoys a different - and rigidly enforced - level of technology. Horsetown is pre-industrial; in Neon Heights they have television and electric trains . . . Following an infiltration mission that went tragically wrong, Quillon has been living incognito, working as a pathologist in the district morgue. But when a near-dead angel drops onto his dissecting table, Quillon's world is wrenched apart one more time, for the angel is a winged posthuman from Spearpoint's Celestial Levels - and with the dying body comes bad news. If Quillon is to save his life, he must leave his home and journey into the cold and hostile lands beyond Spearpoint's base, starting an exile that will take him further than he could ever imagine. But there is far more at stake than just Quillon's own survival, for the limiting technologies of the zones are determined not by governments or police, but by the very nature of reality - and reality itself is showing worrying signs of instability . . ."

Edit: 3/23/10 This was one of my top 5 expected novels of 2010 and it was good but not awesome and the weakest novel I read from Mr. Reynolds as execution goes - I did not like The Prefect and Century Rain as much as the others mainly because I thought the mystery/thriller part in each was too detrimental to the sense of wonder part, but they were well done overall, while Terminal World reads like a draft that needs a lot of editing and tightening. When heroes discuss/declaim before shooting the villains in what's supposed to be a surprise attack that is just sloppy writing regardless of the author...

The other problem is the main hero Quillon who just does not have the weight to carry an ambitious novel like TW - again the author tried to compensate with stronger characters like Fray, Meroka, Curtana and even Ricasso, but they are all supporting characters that seem to come and go as the script goes rather than in a natural way.

There are lots of moments of brilliance which show how awesome the novel could have been and the ending is excellent though in many ways I would have loved the novel to start then so to speak...

An A- and a moderate disappointment (Full FBC Rv)


Naamah's Curse by Jacqueline Carey (June 2010, Grand Central Publishing)

More Moirin after the superb Naamah's Kiss (FBC Rv); enough said, though I will add that I consider Ms. Carey the top fantasy author of the 00's as will be noted in the forthcoming post on the topic complementing the recent one on sf authors.

"Far from the land of her birth, Moirin sets out across Tatar territory to find Bao, the proud and virile Ch'in fighter who holds the missing half of her diadh-anam, the divine soul-spark of her mother's people. After a long ordeal, she not only succeeds, but surrenders to a passion the likes of which she's never known. But the lovers' happiness is short lived, for Bao is entangled in a complication that soon leads to their betrayal."

Edit 4/29/10 Darker and less exuberant read than Naamah's Kiss, I enjoyed it but not as much as the series debut; more of a travelogue and taking Moirin all over Central Asia from its borders (China, Russia, India aka Chin, Vralia and Bodhistan), the novel works because of the heroine's voice which is still wonderful and fresh, but the action, descriptions and secondary characters are not on par with the ones from the debut; an A and a must for fans of the series, but overall one of the weakest installments in the 8 novels so far set in the wonderful alt-history of the author (full FBC rv)


A Mighty Fortress by David Weber (April 2010, Tor Books)

I know, I know, too much David Weber and also kind of breaking my rule of trying to mention an author only once in a general post like this since I strongly dislike general lists that repeat an author over and over; but what can I say, the Safehold Series (BSRA Rv, BHD Rv, DW interview) has become almost as big a favorite as Honor Harrington and after all, as the Grand Inquisitor ends volume 3 "we will find something to keep us busy", I definitely want to see what's next; outside that is volume 4 of the series, I do not know that much about "A Mighty Fortress" and it may get delayed from the date above, but I think it's a 2010 lock; I expect to be surprised with unexpected twists and turns...
Edit 2/20 The 4th installment of the superb Safehold series goes back to the intensity of the first two volumes, with lots of quotable lines, jaw-dropping moments and powerful emotional ones.
The ending is similarly emotional to the one in OAR though I have to say that the book is more like BSRA in the sense that it opens a new arc but not closes it. I heard the series is planned to go 10 volumes, so who knows maybe the next volume will close its first part, maybe not..

It's hard to talk more about the book without spoilers and I will try to add more after the first reread, but I really wanted the book to go more - and it's quite long, almost 700 pages of text plus characters, glossary, timekeeping details, probably the longest of the 4 -

Action galore in Corisande, Zion, on the seas (make sure you have the map from OAR handy, though I think the final version of the novel will come equipped with maps), daring escapes, nasty conspirators, dastardly assassinations, one sword fight for the ages inside the Temple of all places, very, very emotional moments, tragedy and rejoicing, a tense dinner, lots of memorable lines and a baby...

One of the non-spoilerish quotable lines, though there are several that are even more awesome, but...:

“I was simply attempting to establish the proper . . . collegial atmosphere.”

A++, Full Fbc Rv


The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (August 2010, Orbit Books)

Do not know more than the seemingly not quite correct and spoilerific blurb HERE - so head out there to your own risk - but considering that Brent Weeks became another top author of mine, that is enough.

Edit 7/6/2010 Major league epic fantasy; for the first half I thought this novel could be my #1 fantasy and maybe overall though the second half lost some of the intensity and became more predictable though the ending promises new surprises; A++ and a series that should quell any criticism of the author's lack of originality, while keeping the same qualities that made Night Angel a winner - great narrative energy, twists and turns, great characters, sophisticated world building


The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton (Fall 2010, Tor UK/Del Rey) - cover substituted with The Temporal Void one since the actual cover is not yet done as far as I know

The Void trilogy ending from my co-#1 sff author and "king of space opera" (Void 1 Rv, Void 2 Rv); enough said about the novel, while about publication dates here is the latest from Mr. Hamilton's website:

"Publication dates are not absolutely final yet, but The Evolutionary Void is tentatively scheduled for release in September 2010. And as a treat for Peter's US fans, this is the release date for both sides of the Atlantic! So there will be at most a couple of weeks difference between the UK and US releases. "

Edit 5/16/10 I finished The Evolutionary Void by PF Hamilton, the highly awaited finale to the Void trilogy and it is *the* sf novel of the year and the best PF Hamilton at least since The Reality Dysfunction - which I still consider the best PFH for its unabashed sense of wonder and larger than life characters - if not ever.

Everything comes together into the grand finale - and here there should be no more complaints about weak endings, deus-ex-machina and all - and there are enough twists and turns to make one realize what a master storyteller PFH is to get all that done and I do not want to list from the stuff you will find out even in the vaguest detail just not to spoil some of the extraordinary revelations there

Most action is Commonwealth oriented though Edeard is still important and we see how he uses the ultimate Void capability revealed in Void 2 to achieve "fulfillment" and why indeed billions want to go there to be "fulfilled" in a relative primitive non-tech society despite virtual immortality and all the goodies of the Commonwealth.

As a small spoiler we meet almost everyone of importance from the Commonwealth saga

I really, really do not want to spoil more since this is a book to savor and explore and it raises the Void trilogy and the overall Commonwealth Saga one notch above - I need some time to settle and while I still think Night's dawn would remain my top all time finished sf series because of the characters which are just awesome there, this one will probably become #2 and is just mind-blowing sf at its best and a prime example of why sf is alive and kicking

Again it's early but The Evolutionary Void just catapulted into my top sf of the year by far and it will be a top 3 overall novel, possibly overall #1 too.

While I have read the earlier volumes at least 2 times each, I have not reread them in almost a year and a half, but I remembered easily the most important stuff and I had no problem getting immersed in this one(A++)


The King of the Crags by Stephen Deas (April 2010, Gollancz UK)

This is a novel that I would not have expected to put it here when I finished the superb debut of Mr. Deas' The Adamantine Palace which I liked but was somewhat dissatisfied about in the beginning; however after a reread of that novel, I realized that what I disliked about The Adamantine Palace was that it ended; it was so fast and so crammed with ideas and interesting stuff that I really wanted it to go on for a while more, so The Adamantine Palace moved much higher in my estimation and this one got its place in my top 10 highly awaited novels of 2010.

Here is the blurb with spoilers for volume 1 though:

Prince Jehal has murdered, poisoned and betrayed his way to the top. There is a new speaker for the realms, his opposition has been crushed, now he just has to enjoy the fruits of power. And yet . . . He feels more for the wife he married for power than perhaps he should and his lover knows it. And out in the realms those loyal to the old regime are still plotting. and there are rumours that the Red Riders, heralds of revolution and doom are on the ride. And still no-one has found the famous white dragon. The dragon that, if it lived, will have long since recovered from the effects of the alchemical liquid fed to the the dragons of the realms to keep them docile, to block their memories of a time when they ruled and the world burned . . . Stephen Deas has created an epic world, vivid characters, a plot full of betrayals and the most awesome dragons fantasy has seen.

Edit 4/18/10 The King of Crags continues the story started in The Adamantine Palace, deepens it and enlarges it, while the last 50 pages are just awesome setting up a third novel that should be a cracker. In some ways The King of the Crags is a middle novel so the major threads (the human-dragon interaction and the fight for supremacy among the Dragon Kings) are not solved, but there are a lot of things happening too. The novel is even more brutal that the first one, darker and more cynical with no-nonsense and sentimentality; the awakened dragons still hate humans with a passion and eat them when they do not burn their cities, queens and kings die, cities are burned and the prize (if anything will remain intact of course) is still there for the taking. (strong A, full rv)


Empire of Light by Gary Gibson (Summer 2010, Tor UK)

Dakota Merrick 3 from the best "new" writer coming from the UK - I have been a fan of Mr. Gibson since his superb 2004 debut as I wrote in many posts, but it seems that only now people are catching up with this superb talent.

Here are FBC reviews of Mr. Gibson's work from Robert, myself and a co-interview with him.

Edit 7/31 A+ ; Full Rv


City of Ruin by Mark C. Newton (June 2010, Tor UK)

Last but not least and with the mention that I am slightly cheating here since I read a final draft of the novel and indeed it's what I expected and more - but will discuss in detail only closer to pub date - the second book in the superb Legends of the Red Sun series by another favorite new author Mark Newton.

For now just the blurb which is accurate as it goes but is far, far from conveying the richness and even highly developed sense of wonder of the novel. If Nights of Villjamur (FBC Rv, FBC Interview) struck some as somewhat conservative as genre conventions goes, in this one Mr. Newton really lets it go... (Full FBC rv)

Viliren: a city of sin that is being torn apart from the inside. Hybrid creatures shamble through shadows and barely human gangs fight turf wars for control of the streets.

Amidst this chaos, Commander Brynd Adaol, commander of the Night Guard, must plan the defence of Viliren against a race that has broken through from some other realm and already slaughtered hundreds of thousands of the Empire’s people.

When a Night Guard soldier goes missing, Brynd requests help from the recently arrived Inqusitor Jeryd. He discovers this is not the only disapearance the streets of Viliren. It seems that a serial killer of the most horrific kind is on the loose, taking hundreds of people from their own homes. A killer that cannot possibly be human.

The entire population of Viliren must unite to face an impossible surge of violent and unnatural enemies or the city will fall. But how can anyone save a city that is already a ruin?


Part 2 "Established SFF Novels".

Next there are three novels that were also strong candidates for the top 10; I found out about two only when I started researching this post seriously several days ago, while the third is on track for November 2010 as its editor Lou Anders confirmed, but it is not yet set in stone so to speak.

A History of the Half-Made World (??) - Felix Gilman
I have no idea what this book is about since I saw it mentioned only in several places including the Vandermeer Ecstatic Days site but based on the quality of Thunderer (FBC Rv by RT) and its sequel Gears of the City (FBC Rv by RT though Robert liked it less than me) both top 5 fantasy novels of the year for me, whatever this novel is, I expect it to be super-good.

Edit 7/31 This one should have been in my Top 10 Anticipated
The Half-Made World is quite a strange book. It is dark, dense and awesome, part steampunk, part magic, all within a wild-west kind of mythology

The world is divided between the settled East and the expanding into uncreation West. Some centuries ago the seemingly impassable mountains that formed the border of the settled world, opened and people started settling the lands beyond and in the process fixing them into reality.

However un-natural or supernatural things sprung out here and there, most notably spirits, demons and "magical" engines, while the local people of the "uncreation" who may be immortal and have magic are pushed farther and farther away, with the remnants enslaved.

The settled parts of the west consist of many independent lands but all live under the ever expanding shadow of the Line, a highly regimented industrial and well armed civilization of millions, led by the magical engines of above, currently 38 in number that span tens of thousands of miles of tracks; opposing them are the demon guns and their agents, also few - tens, maybe a hundred - in number, but who have extreme powers of endurance and who foment uprisings, rebellions and generally wreak havoc.

Some decades ago a "free republic" has risen led by a General who was rumored to have had a pact with one of the original natives and know how to use their magic; nevertheless after 40 years of flourishing, the Republic was finally crushed by the Line and after 10 more years of underground resistance, the General was rendered mad by a Line "noise bomb" in a kind of last stand and he was presumed dead.

However it is rumored that he is now a patient at an asylum on the farthest borders of the West with the uncreation, asylum that is neutral and under the protection of a spirit; a letter surfaces hinting of a powerful weapon the General may have been given by his native ally and both the Line and the Gun want it.

So effective but unruly Gun Agent Credmoor is sent to infiltrate the asylum, while a thousands strong - with guns, flying machines, poison gas, bombs, machine guns and the like - Line force is also dispatched to deal with the Asylum and their Spirit, with one sub-invigilator, grade 3 Lowry as one of their officers.

A lady psychiatrist from the far away settled cities of the East with a traumatic past of her own receives an invitation to join the Asylum staff - invitation actually addressed to her much older and recently deceased husband, but she figures out she would be gladly received too - and she engages on the long and harrowing journey with her sort of servant/protege, who is a relatively young man of her age, very strong but mentally challenged so to speak

And so it starts, with the three main characters above converging on the Asylum and then of course lots and lots of things happen.

While the ending has enough closure, the book reads like the start of duology at least and begs a sequel. All in all, a very powerful novel that confirms Felix Gilman as a master of the new weird fantastic (A++)


Absorption (Ragnarok 1)- John Meaney
"600 years from now on the world of Fulgor Roger Blackstone, son of two Pilots..."
The return to the universe of Nulapeiron, pilots and alternate universes is a book that would take precedence in my reading above almost everything; I found Paradox one of the most astounding sf novels ever as sense of wonder and larger than life characters went, while the sequels Context and Resolution were excellent but could not top the trilogy debut; two strong A's after an A++ is still super in my book.

To my surprise, I generally disliked Mr. Meaney's foray in dark sff The Bone Song which had great ideas but a very boring plot and focused on the least interesting aspects of that macabre universe and I do not have plans to read its sequel, so I was extremely pleased when I found out about his return to space opera. A candidate to the "blow me away" sf novel of 2010.
(Robert liked Tristopolis 1 more than me and reviewed Tristopolis 2 also)

Edit 5/26/10 A very ambitious series but quite mediocre execution so far; Absorption is not really a novel but more a collection of snippet threads that never coalesce and late in the book seem very rushed to boot; it is the first volume of a series true, but still I expected more coherence - maybe the number of pages allotted to the novel just does not support its presumed depth, problem encountered in another ambitious but even more flawed series (Cobley - Humanity's Fire); I did a quick pass through Resolution in which universe Absorption takes place since I remembered vaguely some stuff from there that takes place here and indeed some of Absorption events are mentioned there, but I was struck how much superior Resolution was as writing style, leaving aside coherence; still there were enough goodies in Absorption to keep me interested till the edn and I am curious where it goes, but a step back for the author from his superb Nulapeiron series and I hope book 2 will get back to form (B-); disappointment but I hope the promise of the series will be fulfilled later (full fbc rv)


Horns of Ruin (new series 1) Tim Akers
"Eva Forge is the last paladin of a dead god."
After the superb Heart of Veridon (FBC Rv) and considering Mr. Akers short stories which I loved quite a lot, any new fantasy by him would be a top anticipated novel; while I want the sequel to Veridon, the opening line of Horns of Ruin (original title - may change) above is also irresistible for me. If it makes 2010 this one is a candidate to top fantasy of mine for the year.

Edit 8/30/2010 Biggest disappointment of the year so far; "wonder woman on steroids' , no subtlety or nuance, linear plot, villain wearing its "villain hat" on page 5 or so, basically a comic strip novelization (D for energetic writing that kept me reading to the end, though the last half was kind of boring due to its repetition and predicatability)

In no particular order except for f/sf alternation some 38 more books from "established" authors. The rest of such, the 2010 debuts, the few non-sff novels I know about for 2010 and the "maybes" will follow in Part 3 soon.

Thirteen Years Later (Danilov 2) - Jasper Kent
Despite my dislike for vampire fiction, I loved Twelve quite a lot - narrative energy that compelled non-stop reading till the end, great characters, great recreation of Russia 1812 and reasonably unobtrusive vampires that I could keep my suspension of disbelief, so the sequel was always a highly expected novel; Russia 1825, the Decembrist plot and much more... Try Twelve first if you are intrigued by this, but I expect it will be readable on its own by and large. (FBC Rv RT)

Edit 1/15 Minor disappointment in the last 1/3 of the novel;
it was absolutely great for 2/3 and it had some nice twists and turns, but anytime it went beyond Aleksey vs enemies of both kinds, I felt it went off the rails; the portrait of Tsar Alexander I was extremely unconvincing, the "science and vampires" thingy was superfluous or annoying - experiences with mirrors and vampires made me think of pulp 50's sf- the novel tried to go beyond historical thriller/adventure with vampires where its greatest strengths lie and imho it did not succeed; a B and I hope the third book will be more interesting, though I fear it will go the "stake escalation" - you know, end of the world and all - route; I read it fast and could not put it down, but it left me with a bit of "that's all???" feeling that I did not have in Twelve; ultimately vampire fiction and me do not really fit together and while in Twelve I generally could ignore that aspect, here the whole "big picture" plot just did not work for me...
Full Rv (mostly Robert who loved it, but several lines from me too)


Transformation Space (Orion 4 - end series)- Marianne DePierres
I have just reviewed Mirror Space (Orion 3) so I will just note that Sentients of Orion is "space opera at its best" and that this one ends the tetralogy. I expect to be surprised...


The Dark Commands (Land Fit for Heroes 2)- RK Morgan
The Steel Remains (FBC dual Rv) which started the series was a novel that was so over-hyped that made a full enjoyment by anyone involved in sff forums/blogs quite hard to come by since while very good and highly recommended by me, it was far from a "reinvention of the genre". Also as I noted in my part of the review RK Morgan did again his favorite end-trick that started becoming tiresome (without spoilers it involves the identity of the "real villain" and while it was innovative in Altered Carbon, it got me to say "not again" here).
However I enjoyed Ringil and the rest quite a lot to be curious where the story goes next. And now at least I start with much lower expectations so this one may be an unexpected top 5 fantasy of 2010.

2011 at the earliest


Guardians of Paradise (Hidden Empire 3) - JN Fenn
I loved both Ms. Fenn's debut Principles of Angels (FBC Rv) - I remember how surprised I was when the novel turned out to be adventure/space opera sf rather than the fantasy I expected based on the title and without doing my research, though I have ordered it on general principles as a touted Gollancz debut - and the highly anticipated novel of 2009, Consorts of Heaven (FBC Rv) that delivered all I wanted and more and that also showed an expanded range for the author being quite different than the debut though part of the same series. So this one is another high expectation novel and I know only that it somehow ties the previous two novels together but nothing more. There will be at least two more Hidden Empire novels after it.


Salute the Dark (Shadows Apt 4) - Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt with 3 novels out already and 2 more scheduled for 2010 of a total of planned 10 is on its way to becoming the most complex fantasy series I am reading today and the only one comparable to the sophisticated sf series of David Weber (Honor Harrington ) and Eric Flint and co (163*) in theaters of action, number of main characters and plot threads. From the inadvertently read blurb for #5 - go there to your own risk - I have an inkling of the major developments of this one, but I still expect to be surprised and of course I care a lot about many characters so I am eager to see their further fates.
We have reviews of all the previous installments: Empire in Black and Gold (RT), Dragonfly Falling (RT + LS) and Blood of the Mantis (LS) as well as an interview with the author that discusses the series to date in detail (some spoilers there).

Edit 2/16/2010 This book was all that i expected and more; though the series is supposed to go 10 and there are at least 2 more books in the 6 month interval pipeline, this book nicely rounds a lot of the main plots threads and concludes to some extent the story started in Empire and Gold;

The title is apt (so to speak) since this book is very dark - I saw some complaints how given all the war and violence in the first 3 volumes, most main characters escape; well, up to here since this book is merciless on them; I would not want to spoil some of the most powerful moments of the book but there are so many including personal combat, cavalry charges, mystic foretelling of the future, escape from crucifixions in the nick of time, weapons of mass destruction, land battles, air battles, intrigue and assassinations or tentative of such, but the prize goes to the gladiatorial combats and especially to the climactic one that has all the intensity of the best from Spartacus on...

Since the first part of the series sort of ends here, I really have no idea what will happen next so the fifth book due this summer jumped a notch on my asap list to co-first place; Salute the Dark is an A+/A++ depending on rereads; if book 5 matches the intensity of book 4 and brings more twists and turns - here there some unexpected ones but mostly the sheer carnage of the war including withing the ranks of the main characters was the biggest surprise - they could jump to the top of my fantasy list for 2010

For "series completists" books 1-4 can be said to form sort of a complete series so go read them..


163* novels (163* 10+) - Eric Flint and co - should be at least one 1635-**** novel out there in 2010
From a simple premise and an intended standalone 1632 (free online) - what if Grantville, a mining town in W. Va, is transported back in time to Germany 1631 and the terrible Thirty Years War - this series grew to be a publishing phenomenon with tons of novels, 25+ magazines dedicated to it called Grantville Gazettes (most available only as e-books), several anthologies and guaranteed places on bestseller lists when any new novel appears.

And we are only in 1635 so far and there are literally tens of main characters, lots of plot-lines and just fun all around. From historical notables like Gustav Adolf, the two cardinals Richelieu and (the young) Mazarin, to the indomitable union leader that becomes a nation builder of an United States of Germany, one Michael Stearns and many, many fictional super characters this series is maybe the most complex original one in all current fiction. If you are a newbie to it, try 1632 since intended as a standalone it will give you a good flavor of the series at large and then move to the huge expansion of the storyline that follows. The official 1632 site and the 1632 Wikipedia have enough information to guide anyone. I plan to do an extended overview of the series sometime next year and will review any main new novel that will come out.


The Desert Spear (Demon 2) - Peter Brett
Demons and glyphs, magic and survival, avoid the night at all cost and darker, grittier writing made The Painted Man (UK) aka The Warded Man (US) (FBC Rv) the debut of Peter Brett and of the series, a big time favorite last year. Since I have just received an arc of the huge The Desert Spear at almost 600 pages I plan to start it immediately and will update later with impressions; the first pages read as superbly as the ones from The Painted Man.

Update 12/14 - finished the novel and it was excellent end to end; pretty much the whole novel is on the quality of the best of The Warded Man; much more focused on the cultures of Krasia and The Free Cities than on the Demons per se, with Jardir emerging as a great main character in addition to Arles, Leesha, Rojer and several more; new kinds of demons too and a good stopping point setting up a great sequel plot - (strong A, full fbc rv)


The New Model Army (standalone) - Adam Roberts
"Adam Roberts' new novel is a terrifying vision of a near future war - a civil war that tears the UK apart as new technologies allow the worlds first truly democratic army to take on the British army and wrest control from the powers that be. Taking advances in modern communication and the new eagerness for power from the bottom upwards Adam Roberts has produced a novel that is at once an exciting war novel and a philosophical examination of war and democracy. It shows one of the UKs most exciting and innovative literary voices working at the height of his powers and investing SF with literary significance that is its due."

The undisputed king of high concept sf and one of my top six sf authors of the 00's, Adam Roberts does not write sequels and each book is different conceptually from the rest. So when this one - about which I know precisely what is above in the blurb - was announced it became another get asap and read on receive. I have reviewed Yellow Blue Tibia, included the opening lines from Land of the Headless among my top five opening lines of all time and discussed why Stone made my top sf novels of the 00's list. So go ahead and check any Adam Roberts novel's blurb, see which interest you and try it; since all are different, if you dislike one, you may love another....

Edit 4/22/10 I finished "New Model Army" and I was a little mixed - it's a very readable book and a page turner and actually the concept of the New Model Army makes sense and it could be real with a little more improvement in technology - you should think a New Model Army (NMA short and there are tons around btw) as a new kind of sentient organism composed by some thousands of smaller sentient cells (ie people) that makes war because it's fun, the new kid on the block that smashes things as he experiments; of course a NMA needs modern tech and society to work so historical analogies are unhelpful and in itself the concept (not particularly in the army context) is a staple of sf in the notion of group mind; here the group mind is physically realized with wi-fi implants and obedience to the will of the supermind expressed in the free vote of its cells - btw A. Reynolds has something like this in the Prefect with some tweaks and in a general context

The problem I had with the book was that a lot of it was didactic about "true" democracy, love and war all expressed in the dialogue between the narrator ( a gay NMA component) and his interrogator a Baptist fundamentalist US officer with the usual barbs and all and while the dialogue is witty and full of great references, frankly I just did not care that much about it

I love didactic sf when it's about something I care about and which is a fact or a good approximation thereof (Incandescence by G. Egan which novelizes General Relativity is a perfect example), but blather about love, democracy and such, I do not particularly care about - that is better shown than told so to speak

So all in all a B and a minor disappointment
(full rv)


The Emerald Storm (Ryria 4)- Michael Sullivan
The Ryria Revelations series shows why it's good to try small press novels too since from the almost standalone first novel The Crown Conspiracy (FBC Rv) to the superb Avempartha (FBC Rv) that starts dealing with the big picture in a major way, to the very good, though somewhat less satisfying because of being essentially a transition novel, Nyphron Rising (FBC Rv tbp), the series has established itself as a page turning pure fun adventure tale and the 2010 offerings #4 above and #5 below are highly awaited novels.

Edit 3/9/2010 This novel was awesome and it finally fulfills the strong potential of the Ryria series at its max; it also made me reconsider Nyphron Rising which sets this one up and reads much more fulfilling once we can continue the story started there and of course the part cliffhanger ending makes Wintertide a big asap, but The Emerald Storm sits well on itself and lots of things happen, while we have great, great stuff in opening more the world and exploring stranger parts of it, duels, magic, suspense and even the weaker Modina thread starts getting much better; and of course the super-twist at the end left me stunned since I really did not see it coming; also the novel is considerably darker than the rest and while it's no spoiler to know that the main characters (Royce, Arista, Hadrian) survive, the body count including secondary but interesting characters is rising... This is unequivocally an A++ since it raises the whole series one notch to the top-top (Full FBC Rv)

The Immorality Engine (Newburry/Hobbes 3)- George Mann
Another smaller press offering in the UK, though riding on its success it was picked by Tor in the US, the Newburry/Hobbes series with its mix of steampunk, "magic", sense of wonder, old fashioned detection in the Holmes spirit and secret agent skulldugery in the James Bond spirit has quickly become a big time favorite of mine. I reviewed both The Affinity Bridge (FBC rv) and The Osiris Ritual (FBC Rv) and the author has been kind enough to offer some hints about The Immorality Engine and future developments in a short note at the end of the Osiris review. There is also a blurb offered in the title link above if you want more information, but for me it's enough to know that is Newburry/Hobbes #3!


The Map of All Things (Terra Incognita 2)- Kevin J Anderson
If you want a complex series with multiple happenings, lots of plot threads and 'swords and sail-ships" as sense of wonder, Terra Incognita is for you. Written in the author clear prose I enjoyed a lot the series debut The Edge of the World (FBC dual review with Cindy) and I am looking forward to read more about the fate of its many characters.

Edit 6/19/10
While i liked the Edge of the World quite a lot, The Map of all Things is even better despite its transitional middle volume character; there are three reasons:

- the action is more compact in time and the character set is the same (at least the surviving ones since the author does not shy in killing characters) while under the pressures of total war new radical technologies develop

- the book is even darker and *more realistic* at least as politics go, with the full reality of fanaticism, as well as of otherwise reasonable people caught in a spiral of atrocities on both sides; so the Urabans use the ravirs to break an Aidenist attack by assassinating commanders, the Aidenists massacre hundreds of prisoners of war and throw their heads into the Uraban camp and then so it goes with atrocity topping atrocity on both sides; same with the other threads that do not involve the war, but have their own darker sides too

- there is a lot of exploration, sense of wonder and finally we have quite a few voyages of discovery going on, as well as magic

the same clear and serviceable prose makes the book a fast read despite its length since it's a page turner you do not want to put down; the ending is on moderate cliffhangers in some threads and on a big one in one of the threads but the heft of the book makes it ok since a lot happens between its covers

A+ sets up an asap The Key to Creation trilogy ending novel.
(full fbc rv)

Ghosts of Manhattan (new series 1) - George Mann
"1926. New York. The Roaring Twenties. Jazz. Flappers. Prohibition. Coal-powered cars. A cold war with a British Empire that still covers half of the globe. Yet things have developed differently to established history. America is in the midst of a cold war with a British Empire that has only just buried Queen Victoria, her life artificially preserved to the age of 107. Coal-powered cars roar along roads thick with pedestrians, biplanes take off from standing with primitive rocket boosters and monsters lurk behind closed doors and around every corner. This is a time in need of heroes. "

The blurb and my love of the Newburry/Hobbes series set in the same universe are enough to make this another highly awaited offering.
Edit 3/20/10 A fast, furious and ultra-entertaining read set in the alt-steampunk universe of the author's superb series "Newbury and Hobbes" but some decades later and in NYC rather than London; while Ghosts is as pure superhero adventure as it gets with clear-cut heroes and villains, gadgets (steampunk here), non-stop action, high body count and minimal plot, so it lacks the subtlety of Affinity Bridge and Osiris Ritual, the engaging direct style of Mr. Mann makes it work superbly and you cannot help but root for the main heroes "Ghost" (identity clear on page 10 or so) and detective Donovan and I am sold on the further installments to come.

A strong A and an excellent debut to a new series to watch and get each volume asap
(Full FBC RV)


Book of Whispers - (edit 12/16) new title The Scarab Path (Shadows Apt 5) - Adrian Tchaikovsky
Shadows of the Apt with 3 novels out already and 2 more scheduled for 2010 out of a total of 10 intended is on its way to becoming the most complex fantasy series I am reading today and the only one comparable to the sophisticated sf series of David Weber (Honor) and Eric Flint and co (163*) in theaters of action, number of main characters and plot threads. From the inadvertently read blurb for #5 - go there in the link above to your own risk - I have an inkling of the major developments of this one, but I still expect to be surprised and of course I care a lot about many characters so I am eager to see their further fates.
We have reviews of all the previous installments: Empire in Black and Gold (RT), Dragonfly Falling (RT + LS) and Blood of the Mantis (LS) as well as an interview with the author that discusses the series to date in detail (some spoilers there).

Edit 8/14 Just awesome; Full FBc Rv


The Restoration Game (standalone) - Ken MacLeod
"There is no such place as Krassnia. Lucy Stone should know - she was born there. In that tiny, troubled region of the former Soviet Union, revolution is brewing."
Despite that I did not really care for Ken MacLeod's latest two near-future sf thrillers, I am still a big fan since his previous nine novels (a loose tetralogy Fall Revolution, a trilogy Engines of Light and two superb standalones Newton's Wake and Learning the World) have been big time favorites. So this one which seems more interesting than The Execution Channel (which I disliked) and The Night Sessions (have not tried but tempts me less) is a 2010 dark-horse so to speak.

Edit 7/18/10 Superb fun to the end; while the final twist is reasonably predictable from the prologue - though there are some surprises along the way, including one I did not see though it was if not obvious, but very likely in hindsight, the novel which has some resemblances in style/subject with Yellow Blue Tibia showcases the author' irony at its best.

I found myself laughing out loud many times when reading it and the narration of Lucy Stone is just irresistible; Lucy is the daughter of academic and CIA (or maybe some other acronym) operative Amanda Stone, with several possible fathers of which current shady businessman and former left wing anticommunist activist Ross Stewart is the second main character.

Born in 1985 - and living there until 1991 when it became too dangerous - in the obscure statelet of Krassnia which now stands at the contested border between Georgia and Russia and with lots of Krassnians connections from the past too, Lucy has the typical red hair of the Vrai, former rulers of Krassnia and supposed guardians of a terrible secret that is rumored to have scared Beria and Stalin among others, though most remaining Vrai have been exterminated in the Great Terror of 1937

In her work in Krassnia, Amanda Stone "concocted" a national epic The Krassniad drawing from the local legends and the work of an ethnographer of Vrai origins who may have been her (illicit) grandfather and who was shot in 1937 and Lucy grew up with the local legends.

In the present day Lucy's startup game company is hired - by Amanda's organization with whatever acronyms, though only Lucy knows it, to develop a fantasy game based on The Krassniad to be officially marketed as a niche game, while unofficially to be used by the Krassnians "revolutionaries" aka CIA spies to plot the next color revolution...

Of course things are more complicated than that as Lucy slowly discovers...
(full rv)


Wintertide (Ryria 5) - Michael Sullivan
The Ryria Revelations series shows why it's good to try small press novels too since from the almost standalone first novel The Crown Conspiracy (FBC Rv) to the superb Avempartha (FBC Rv) that starts dealing with the big picture in a major way, to the very good, though somewhat less satisfying because of being essentially a transition novel, Nyphron Rising (FBC Rv tbp), the series has established itself as a page turning pure fun adventure tale and the 2010 offerings #4 above and #5 below are highly awaited novels.


Children No More (Jon Lobo 4) - Mark Van Name
From the series debut One Jump Ahead the Jon & Lobo combo (hardliner mercenary, sentient warship AI) grew on me and each novel in the series has been a treat so far. I have reviewed the latest one Overthrowing Heaven (FBC Rv) and discussed the earlier novels in the process too. Adventure sf in a space opera universe, much less military than most Baen related offerings and the most exciting series there after the perennial Weber, Bujold and Flint/163* favorites.

Edit 3/30/2010 The fourth Jon Lobo adventure is the "least adventurous" and most introspective of all and it works extremely well; alternating present happenings on a middle of nowhere poor planet where rebels pressed some 500 boys in service as soldiers and Jon and Lobo are co-opted to rescue them with the back story of Jon 139 years earlier when he became a child soldier himself, the novel is mostly about Jon confronting his personal demons and trying to do good for once rather than do the mission (hopefully a "good" one, but as we learned in earlier installments that's tricky in the amoral universe of power politics and money), get paid and leave

There is action galore and we meet old friends from Maggie, Lim to Jack who steals the show towards the end, while the back-story is super-poignant and Jon's childhood friends on the island called Dump - Benny, Alex, Han - are unforgettable as are some of the children in the present.

An A+ and a novel that goes beyond the "gung-ho" adventure style of the series so far and raises it one notch. I am truly curious where the series goes next but I hope we get to see more Jon and Lobo and start touching on some of the big-picture mysteries too


Above the Snowline (Castle 4 but prequel)- by Steph Swainston
This is Jant Shira's life before the drugs took over, as a hunter in the mountains. Awian exiles are building a stronghold in the Darkling mountains, where the Rhydanne hunt. Their clash of interests soon leads to bloodshed and Shira Dellin, a Rhydanne huntress, appeals to the immortal Circle for justice. The Emperor sends Jant, half-Rhydanne, half-Awian, and all-confidence, to mediate. As Jant is drawn into the spiralling violence he is shaken into coming to terms with his own heritage and his feelings for the alien, intoxicating Dellin. ABOVE THE SNOWLINE tells the story of Jant's early years in the Circle and shows the Fourlands as you've never seen them before."

While technically book 4, it is a prequel so I included the blurb. The Castle Series is a big time favorite of mine for two reasons, one being its imaginative setting that combines a mixture of medieval/pre-modern and magic with very strong "new weird" vibes, but first and foremost because I love Jant Shira's voice; not the most heroic of protagonists, the drug-addicted "immortal Messenger" has become of my all time memorable and favorite characters in fantasy, so any novel involving him is a must. The first three novels of the Castle series which form a reasonably complete storyline - though there is clear room for more - are among the most remarkable offerings in recent fantasy and I plan to do a thorough review/overview of them around the publication of this one, though for newbies to the series I guess Above the Snowline may be a good place to start.


The Orphaned Worlds (Humanity's Fire 2)- Michael Cobley
Another new space opera series that started in The Seeds of Earth, (FBC Rv) I am looking forward to the second novel and strongly hope it will fulfill the promise of the first volume. Like with the Orion series which had a very interesting but not totally satisfying first installment, Humanity Fire #1 while very good and highly recommended, was a little less than what I expected; in this case it was because of the lack of balance between the first part of the novel and the part where the "real story" began. I hope that book 2 will hit its stride and make this one a top-top series for me. Another potential mind-blowing novel for 2010.

Edit 3/17/2010 While I had very high expectations for the series debut, only to be partially fulfilled after an intriguing beginning followed by an almost fatal descent in costume-aliens pulp, my expectations were tempered for this one; still the novel managed to under-perform them with occasional snippets of brilliance with Banksian overtones and a lively engaging style, but with a very 50's like content which is far from the modern space opera standards

The many threads of the novel are uninspiring and with too little attention devoted to most; I think that the main failing technically is precisely this spread into way too many stories for the page count/depth; a 800 page novel would make it work, a 400+ page no way

I am not sure I will read the next volume - if it comes my way maybe - since I could not care that much overall about what will happen next


The House On Durrow Street (Magicians and Mrs Quent 2)- "Galen Beckett"
I absolutely and utterly loved Magicians and Mrs. Quent (FBC Rv by Robert who loved it a lot too) and this one has been on my "look for list" for a while now; so imagine my big surprise when on the (pseudonymous) author's website there was a recent note that the novel is done and will be published in 2010. This has the potential of making my top ten list for 2010 or even the top 5, it all depends how ambitious it gets since I have no idea where the series will go.

Edit 8/3 The novel was all i expected and more and I utterly hated that it ended despite 700 pages, while I needed to read it 3 times end to end to be able to leave its wonderful universe and characters (A++)


Stone Spring (new series 1) - Stephen Baxter
"8,000 years ago Europe was a very different place. England was linked to Holland by a massive swathe of land. Where the North Sea is now lay the landmass of Northland. And then came a period of global warming, a shifting of continents and, over a few short years, the sea rushed in and our history was set. But what if the sea had been kept at bay? Brythony is a young girl who lives in Northland. Like all her people she is a hunter gatherer, her simple tools fashioned from flint cutting edges lodged in wood and animal bone. When the sea first encroaches on her land her people simply move. Brythony moves further travelling to Asia. Where she sees mankind's first walled cities. And gets an idea. What if you could build a wall to keep the sea out? And so begins a colossal engineering project that will take decades, a wall that stretches for hundreds of miles, a wall that becomes an act of defiance, and containing the bones of the dead, an act of devotion. A wall that will change the geography of the world."

Stephen Baxter is another author I follow though his novels tend to be hit or miss with me - loved many of his original Xelee novels (Ring, Raft...) and ss including the later trilogy Destiny's Children which is a big time favorite; loved Time and to a lesser extent Space and Origin; did not care about Flood or Ark, was meh about the Time Tapestries series, loved Time Ships the sequel to HG Wells Time Machine, loved a lot some of his non-series short stories here and there including the absolutely remarkable Last Contact. So this series about which again I know only what is in the blurb above is another one I *have* to try especially that it sounds very "on my taste" as subject goes.

edit 6/19/2010 published but not yet convinced to order it unseen; need more reviews

Inside Out - Maria Snyder
"Keep Your Head Down. Don't Get Noticed. Or Else.

I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. One of thousands who work in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. The Trava family who rules our world from their spacious Upper levels wants us to be docile and obedient, like sheep. To insure we behave, they send the Pop Cops to police us.

So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous--the only neck at risk is my own.

Until a lower level prophet claims a Gateway to Outside exists. And guess who he wants to steal into the Upper levels to get the proof? You’re right. Me. I alone know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple. But guess who can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered? Right again. Me.

I should have just said no...

Teen Girl fiction for me??? Who would have believed it? Well, since I opened absolutely by chance Maria Snyder's superb debut Poison Study, I have become a big fan of her fast, immediate, page-turning style and I read all her five novels to date, all pretty much without putting them down so I have no choice but to try Inside Out...Especially that the voice of the narrator seems very compelling.

I have reviewed the Glass series (Storm Glass and Sea Glass) and in the first review there is a short discussion of the Study trilogy that introduced me to this wonderful author. Leave aside preconceptions and give this one a try!!

Edit 6/19/2010 - have it and reads ok, plan a full read when volume 2 out


Cryoburn (Miles 10+) - Lois Bujold
Do not know more than it's the next Miles novel; do not need to know more for the novel to be an asap since I have been a big Miles (and of Lois Bujold's fantasy too) fan since the early 90's. I have read all the Miles novels and ss quite a few times and A Civil Campaign is still one of my big-big time favorites for its zany humor and non-stop action.


Stealing Fire (standalone) - Jo Graham
Alexander the Great's soldier, Lydias of Miletus, has survived the final campaigns of the king's life. He now has to deal with the chaos surrounding his death. Lydias throws his lot in with Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals who has grabbed Egypt as his personal territory. Aided by the eunuch Bagoas, the Persian archer Artashir, and the Athenian courtesan Thais, Ptolemy and Lydias must take on all the contenders in a desperate adventure whose prize is the fate of a white city by the sea, and Alexander's legacy."

Since I read and was very impressed by Ms. Graham's debut Black Ships (FBC Rv by Robert who did not like it as much as I did) - a recreation of Aeneas' tale though not quite as the Aeneid tells it - I have become a big time fan and while I enjoyed her second effort Hand of Isis (FBC Capsule Rv) a bit less, mostly because I read way too many books (fiction and non-fiction) about Cleopatra, this one is about a subject I read much less, namely the "successors wars" following Alexander's untimely demise and lack of mature heirs. I expect another top, top novel on the Black Ships caliber.

Edit 5/15/10 From my full FBC Rv Stealing Fire (A+) is the best of Ms. Graham's work to date and a novel I strongly recommend to both lovers of historical fiction and fantasy adventures as the "perfect crossover"


The House of Discarded Dreams (standalone??)- Ekaterina Sedia
From a Locus interview excerpted online:
"The book I'm working on now, The House of Discarded Dreams, is mostly based on urban legends, but there's also some other strange stuff going on. This girl's parents are Zimbabwean immigrants, and she has problems with her mother, who is politically aware and insistent on her daughter following the same road and having the same beliefs. It's urban fantasy, but it's more Atlantic City/New Jersey/horseshoe crabs (though the urban legends are mostly Zimbabwean). There's a Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera, who wrote about this entity known as Man-Fish -- it's a fish that swallows the soul of a drowning person, and becomes a fish with the soul of a person inside of them. I read this book and thought, 'Oh my god, this is so awesome! But I'm not going to steal somebody else's ideas.' Then I found out the Man-Fish was actually an urban legend. Score! I am so going for it!”

Since I loved The Alchemy of Stone (FBC Rv by Robert who loved it too), any new novel by Ms. Sedia that has the least interest to me is a must. Based on the above, I am curious about this one and while it's not steampunk/secondary world, I still believe I will like it quite a lot.

The Gaslight Dogs (standalone or new series??)- Karin Lowachee
"At the edge of the known world, an ancient nomadic tribe faces a new enemy-an Empire fueled by technology and war. A young spiritwalker of the Aniw and a captain in the Ciracusan army find themselves unexpectedly thrown together. The Aniw girl, taken prisoner from her people, must teach the reluctant soldier a forbidden talent - one that may turn the tide of the war and will surely forever brand him an outcast. From the rippling curtains of light in an Arctic sky, to the gaslit cobbled streets of the city, war is coming to the frozen north. Two people have a choice that will decide the fates of nations - and may cast them into a darkness that threatens to bring destruction to both their peoples."

While I liked to a large extent Ms. Lowachee's loose trilogy (Warchild, Burndive, Cagebird) - I actually liked the writing a lot and the universe of the series was intriguing but the main characters were somewhat annoying and I generally dislike teen boys as heroes especially in sf, less in fantasy since in medieval times there was no such thing as "teenhood" and a 15-16 year old could be as mature as a 30 year old today, but having modern teens as heroes is like having children as heroes in many ways - I sort of forgot to follow her writing until I saw this somewhere in the links above and it seemed interesting, while for once the none of the main characters seems to be a modern male teenager...

Edit 4/7/10 After various tries I finally fast read this one and sort of gave up on it; I may reconsider when the sequel comes out since the ending while not strictly a cliffhanger, requires one, but the verbose and emotional style of the book just did not work that well for me; a minor disappointment (C)


A Magic of Dawn (Nessantico 3 - end series) - SL Farrell
Great characters and a complex storyline stretched across some decades made the first two installments favorites of mine, so the series ending is another *must*. I have reviewed volume 2 A Magic of Nightfall (FBC Rv) and talked about volume 1 in the process. Political fantasy with lots of adventure scenes too and a page turner also despite its 600+ page length per volume, this series is a great addition to modern fantasy and I hope it will conclude as well as it started.

Edit 4/22/10 Conclusion in my Full Rv: "
The interaction between the characters above powers the novel and for me "A Magic of Dawn" was a perfect ending for a very good A-level series, with volumes 2 and 3 quite outstanding as series connection goes too"


The Kingdom of Two Sicilies (standalone or series beginning) by Mary Gentle - may go 2011
"Conrad Scalese is a writer of librettos for operas in a world where music has immense power. In the Church, the sung mass can bring about actual miracles like healing the sick. Opera is musicodrama, the highest form of music combined with human emotion, and the results of the passion it engenders can be nothing short of magical. In this world of miracles, Conrad is an aetheist - he sees the same phenomena, but sees no need to attribute them to a Deity . . . until his first really successful opera gets the opera-house struck by the lightning bolt of God's disapproval . . . . . . And Conrad comes to the attention of the Prince's Men, a powerful secret society, who are trying to use the magic of music to their own ends - in this case, an apocalyptic blood sacrifice. Life is about to get interesting for Conrad."

Though this one may get delayed till early 2011, it seems done and ready to go, so I am including it here too. Mary Gentle and a complex secondary world (or alt-hist) series is something I started cherishing since the superb 1610 and Ilario novels. I have not read Ash yet though I plan to do it sometime since I have the mammoth omnibus, but I definitely plan to read this one as it comes out and maybe review either 1610 or Ilario or both since they are such superb novels. Not for everyone though because their main characters are unusual to say the least, but great, great entertainment. I also loved Mary Gentle sf series ending in Ancient Light that made her name many years ago and I still recommend that one as great sociological/planet adventure sf duology with a strong f-nal ethos in the spirit of U. LeGuin masterpieces.

2011 or later


Dragonsoul (seems to be Havemercy 3)- Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
Do not know more than the title and the indication above, but anything by the two author combo that produced the excellent novels Havemercy (FBC dual Rv with Robert) and Shadow Magic (FBC Rv) is a must also. If - as it seems quite plausible based on the title - this is a novel set in the universe of the above two, I am very, very curious where it takes the series next...

Edit 4/5/2010 Dragonsoul is the third series novel but a direct sequel to Havemercy and features Thom and Rook as pov's in addition to Madoka, a Ke-Han girl form an obscure village that becomes a hardened scavenger and when she finds a powerful magical object in the ruins of the capital, she attracts lots of unwelcome attention and will have to follow a long trek to survive and to Malahide a secret agent and magician of the Esar of Volstov who traded her voice for enhanced magical powers as a young orphan. While Thom and Rook hear rumors of pieces of Dragons sold on the black market and decide to follow them even in the dangerous desert where Havemercy creator has been exiled by the Esar, Malahide is sent to follow the same rumors by her master

The four threads converge as expected and the novel is excellent though again the ending is slightly rushed; a great addition to the series and featuring again great prose and characters, Dragon soul (strong A, full rv) is highly recommended


Grand Central Arena (standalone or series debut)- Ryk Spoor
It was supposed to be a simple test flight, one that pilot Ariane Austin was on only as a last-ditch backup; intelligent, superhumanly fast automation would handle the test activation and flight of humanity's first faster-than-light vessel. But when the Sandrisson Drive activated, every automated system crashed, the nuclear reactor itself shut down, and only the reflexes and training of a racing pilot saved the test vessel Holy Grail from crashing into the impossible wall that had appeared before them, a wall which is just part of a monstrous enclosure surrounding a space twenty thousand kilometers across. With all artificial intelligences inert and their reactor dead, they had to find some other source of power to reactivate the Sandrisson Drive and—hopefully—take them home."

Do not know more than the above outside some excerpts the author kindly posted on Baen's Bar, but it seems quite interesting and I plan to try it with pretty high expectations.

Edit 2/14/10 Very entertaining series debut - at least i think so based on the ending - which combines a lot of pulpier "old style" space opera with costume aliens, heroic/plucky humans... with modern sensibilities and awareness of current speculations in cutting edge physics; good narrative pacing and some superb scenes mostly in the beginning and ending parts, while the middle part is the more pulpier 30's like stuff, it was a fun though not that deep read and I am in for the next book (I expect at least one sequel though I have not seen mentioned it anywhere) ; the blurb above is accurate and gives the flavor of the book

A solid A
(full fbc rv)


The Thief-Taker's Apprentice (new series) - Stephen Deas
"Berren has lived in the city all his life. He has made his way as a thief, paying a little of what he earns to the Fagin like master of their band. But there is a twist to this tale of a thief. One day Berren goes to watch an execution of three thieves. He watches as the thief-taker takes his reward and decides to try and steal the prize. He fails. The young thief is taken. But the thief-taker spots something in Berren. And the boy reminds him of someone as well. Berren becomes his apprentice. And is introduced to a world of shadows, deceit and corruption behind the streets he thought he knew. Full of richly observed life in a teeming fantasy city, a hectic progression of fights, flights and fancies and charting the fall of a boy into the dark world of political plotting and murder this marks the beginning of a new fantasy series for all lovers of fantasy - from fans of Kristin Cashore to Brent Weeks."

A new Stephen Deas novel and a blurb that interests me and it's another must considering that King of the Crags is among my top ten anticipated novels of 2010.


The Age of Zeus (standalone but related thematically with Age of Ra) - James Lovegrove
Do not know more than the title but it seems to be related to the superb The Age of Ra (FBC Rv) so another must.
edit 12/14 - found blurb:"The Olympians appeared a decade ago, living incarnations of the Ancient Greek gods on a mission to bring permanent order and stability to the world. Resistance has proved futile, and now humankind isunder the jackboot of divine oppression.

Then former London police officer Sam Akehurst receives an invitation too tempting to turn down, the chance to join a small band of geurilla rebels armed with high-tech weapons and battlesuits. Calling themselves the Titans, they square off against the Olympians and their ferocious mythological monsters in a war of attrition which not all of them will survive!

Edit 4/7/2010 I finished Age of Zeus by J. Lovegrove which is a very fast read despite its almost 700 page bulk; in the same thematic with Age of Ra but this time with the Olympians taking over humanity, Age of Zeus is quite different from Ra, though it is closer to what I expected Ra to be with a mixture of low-bro comedy (mythporn says it all with titles that are hilarious in a sick way so to speak, though there is no explicit language beyond those titles but those are quite explicit), monsters and urban combat with enhanced technology, while Ra turned out to be one of the most philosophical mil-sf novel I've read

The short summary - Olympians appear 10 years ago with all the monsters from the myths in tow as well as the powers from myths and enforce peace on humanity at some cost like obliterating some cities to make a point, defeating and destroying any army sent against them...

12 experienced (army and police) scarred veterans are chosen by a rich industrialist and offered the chance to strike back using special armor that gave them powers on the Olympians scale - lower but on the same level so the attempt to overthrow the Gods has a shot; of course all take Titan names and they start by hunting the monsters (hydra, lamia, typhon, cyclops, minotaur...)

Police Detective hotshot Samantha Akerhurst aka Sam emerges as the de facto leader - though the cast is multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural and as pc as it gets - and of course the rich industrialist in cause has his own secrets

The Olympians steal the show with their hi-jinks and there are a lot of "current issues" jokes, jibes and fun poked at politicians, media personalities... that are sort of recognizable at least in type if not in actual persona

While lacking the deep and mysterious part of Ra (this one has explanations which Ra does not and I thought it better that way as in Ra), Age of Zeus is fun in a campy way and better than I expected; a strong A from me and here is the Full FBC Rv

Imager's Intrigue (Imager 3) - LE Modesitt
The Imager series took me by surprise as becoming such an unexpected favorite after just discovering it some weeks ago. But I am a sucker for first person narration and Rhenn is an extremely endearing character. I have
even started a longer term project to read the Recluce series in chronological order and read the first five novels as such, so I really want more Rhenn asap. Robert has reviewed Imager and I have reviewed Imager 2.

Edit 7/18/2010 Full rv - superb book


The Dervish House (standalone but in the spirit of River of Gods and Brasyl) - Ian McDonald
After a superb River of Gods and a great stylistic but ultimately breaking down sf-nally Brasyl, I am eager to read this one too, though I hope that Mr. Mc Donald can combine the superb pyrotechnics of Brasyl with a good sf-nal storyline that does not collapse in solipsism. Despite that, I still recommend Brasyl since for maybe 3/4 is a masterpiece until it starts to read more like the wish-fulfillment dream of the author than a "real story", while River of Gods is a panoramic novel that is worth all the fame it got. This one has the potential to be a top five novel of 2010 but only if it delivers both on the stylistic front (here I am fairly sure it will do) and on the sf-nal front (this will remain to be seen).

Edit 6/19/2010 have it; plan to read it in July
Edit 6/24/2010; big disappointment; nothing worked for me and could not suspend disbelief (D)


The Black Lung Captain (Ketty Jay 2) - Chris Wooding
As fun as it goes Retribution Fall (FBC Rv) was such a big hit with me in 2009 that any new Ketty Jay novel is a must. Steampunk, adventure and weird characters, all in Chris Wooding clear page turning prose. Retribution has even a local poker primer at the end of the novel!

Edit 8/14
I finished Black Lung Captain and I am a bit mixed; I reread Retribution Falls before starting this one and I remembered how good it was, while the Black Lung Captain has great moments but overall falls short. All the crew interactions in solving their personal issues from the last volume are superb, as are Frey's interactions with TrinicaThe plot is ok, less suspenseful than in RF and there is a bit too much repetition and not enough new stuff The biggest failing though was in pulp moments like the silly beginning and the Amalicia part which made me cringe All in all I am still in the series and I hope the next installment recaptures the excitement of RF (B)


Geosynchron (Jump 225 3 - end trilogy) - DL Edelman
Natch, "Multireal" and the rest of the great characters in this mind blowing near-future sf disguised as far-future sf in a carefully worked out chronology that feels dated after only two-three years, so fast the "real life" is becoming sf-nal, Geosynchron is another must read that I plan to get to in the near future. I have reviewed Multireal and discussed Infoquake in the process too, but as mentioned the social-media part of the Internet has been growing so rapidly in the past two-three years that there is a very "now" vibe for the series and it should be looked more and more as near-future sf.
Update 12/28 I finished the book and my fears above have not materialized since Mr. Edelman took the series to another level; this one is an A+ novel and while maybe not quite a top 5 level for me, it's close there for two reasons; the most important is the stepping up of the sense of wonder and the break form the "mundane sf" constraints into wider imagination space even if that was briefer than I would have liked; here I would mention that this series is the best mundane sf around imho and while very, very good it shows the limitations of the happily now mostly dead mundane movement - though like other similar silly memes, it rears its head under other names like positive sf, prescriptive sf and all that junk sound bites here and there - sf *is* sense of wonder and that's that; by definition the unknown unknowns are not knowable so asking sf to limit itself to what we can extrapolate from what we know today is unproductive at best ...

Coming back to the Jump 225 Series the other main reason Geosynchron was great and a step above is that the mix of superb action and great characters that made MultiReal very good and a great middle novel after the world-building of Infoquake, is even better done here; I *wish* the series would start here and explore outward, but since the author stated in the afterword that he has no current plans to continue, I hope that for his next project he will let his imagination running wild and use his great world building and characterization skills shown in this series and create a true sense of wonder series to remember (Full FBC rv, A+)


Who Fears Death (standalone??) - Nnedi Okorafor
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways, yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. After years of enslaving the Okeke people, the Nuru tribe has decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke tribe for good. An Okeke woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her child Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient tongue."

I do not know more than the blurb above, but I really want to try this novel since it seems very interesting and has the potential to be a top novel of 2010 if it turns out to be "for me".

Edit 6/19/2010 - not for me at least for now; may try again later


Heretics (Apotheosis 2 - Moreau universe 9)- SA Swann
I have read S Andrew Swann Moreau universe books since their publication in the mid 90's and enjoyed pretty much all of the 8 so far (there is an original Moreau trilogy collected in an omnibus with a fourth and weakest addition later starring one of the original characters, a space opera/mil sf trilogy set some hundred years later on the libertarian planet Bakunin and now this trilogy that started in Prophets). I planned to review the very enjoyable page turning adventure Prophets, but the timing did not work out, so I will review both Prophets and Heretics when this one comes out. Not dissimilar with Jon & Lobo in kind though with a slightly different ideology and highly recommended if you want a fast adventure sf which provides lots of sens e of wonder too.

Edit 6/19/2010 have it but no firm plans yet to read it; as soon as in the mood for its kind


Swords & Dark Magic - edited by Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan
Though I came to fantasy from "cape and sword" novels a la Dumas, Zevaco, Sabatini and lesser known masters of the genre, so I am less excited by magic than by intrigue and historical fiction-like plots, this anthology is a must for any lover of secondary world fantasy considering its editors and contributors. The table of contents is here and it's enough to make this highly expected.

Edit 6/19/2010 have it; read most and should finish soon; reviewed the best story of the anthology (unlikely to be topped) A Rich Full Week by Kj Parker HERE

The Lotus Eaters (Carrera 3) - Tom Kratman
Hard right wing wet-dream, at least in the ending of the second Carrera book - would not spoil it but it involves crucifixions, sex changes and much more - and definitely not for everyone, I loved the first two novels which follow a new Earth like society through analogues of 9/11, the Iraq war
and more, though this time they are due to manipulations from the "real" Earth representatives who resent the growing power of the free nation of "Columbia" aka the US of course, while on "real" Earth the hereditary UN, Greenpeace and more general "Tranzis" leaders rule a brutal slave state with unspeakable perversions and cruelty as Duke of UN, Countess of Greenpeace and so on...

As it happens though, while of "Columbian" (ie US) extraction the main hero takes his Balboan (aka Panamanian) wife's name and with mostly a Balboan "mercenary" army and "Arab" allies wins the war for the Columbians; so no paeans to the superiority of the "white man", no racism, but no mercy for the corruption of the Tranzis either. Again the series is not for everyone and the first two volumes are dark and moody in the bargain, but I expect a great absorbing read...

Edit 4/14/2010 A bit disappointing since nothing much happens in the main thread till the end which is great but too little; hopefully the next book will get back to more large scale action


Kraken (standalone) - China Mieville

"The Natural History Museum’s prize exhibit – a giant squid – suddenly disappears. This audacious theft leads Clem, the research scientist who has recently finished preserving the exhibit, into a dark urban underworld of warring cults and surreal magic.

It seems that for some, the squid represents a god and should be worshipped as such. Clem gradually comes to realise that someone may be attempting to use the squid to trigger an apocalypse. And so it is now up to him and a renegade squid-worshipper named Dean to find a way of stopping the destruction of the world as they know it whilst themselves surviving the all out-gang warfare that they have unwittingly been drawn into…"

Any adult Mieville is an asap however much (Bas-Lag) or not (City/City FBC Rv by me and by Fabio) I care about its subject; The Scar is still my top standalone fantasy of all time and this one sounds much more on my taste than City/City; anyway, it's China Mieville, it's a must...

Edit 6/19/2010 have it; while better than City/City i got stuck on page 200 so far


Part 3 - more "Established Novels", debuts, mainstream and "maybes"


The Barbary Pirates (Ethan Gage 4) - William Dietrich

It's Ethan Gage, it's most likely an exciting adventure so a must. After Egypt, the Middle East, Paris and a dalliance with Napoleon' sister that made a trip back home advisable followed by an exploration of the American interior in search of Viking traces, Ethan is on to another adventure; another book I opened by chance - basically the title excited me well enough to give it a try - Napoleon's Pyramids established this series as a big time favorite of mine and I have reviewed all 3 adventures so far (Napoleon's Pyramids + The Rosetta Key which form a complete duology, The Dakota Cipher), while we also have a bonus essay by Mr. Dietrich.
Pyramids, masons, mysterious ancient manuscripts of power, but first and foremost page turning fun with lots of great cameos and a towering Napoleon. Loosely sfnal in content, the series is very sfnal in ethos so it deserves inclusion here rather than in the "mainstream section".

Edit 3/31/2010
While The Dakota Cipher was the darkest Ethan Gage, this one is the lightest and pulpiest with mostly cardboard characters, but the one liners, the zaniness and the non-stop action make it an ultra-fun read though it's harder to take it even the little bit seriously for the most part, moving towards comic book territory.

But in the right mood and especially if you like Ethan, the "brilliant imbecile" as Napoleon calls him, the book is super fan read and I definitely want more, though hopefully we will get back into more serious historical like fiction

And the first line is one for the ages, though the book kind of goes like that all the way to the end and what is fun in a one liner tends to become boring in a 350 page novel

"Af­ter I trapped three sci­en­tists in a fire I set in a broth­el, en­list­ed them in the theft of a stam­ped­ing wag­on, got them ar­rest­ed by the French se­cret po­lice, and then mired them in a mys­tic mis­sion for Bona­parte, they be­gan to ques­tion my judg­ment."

An A for fun
(Full FBC Rv)

Secrets of the Fire Sea (Jackelian 4) - Stephen Hunt

Another epic/steampunk loose series - here the novels follow one another but the main characters change - I loved the debut The Court of the Air (FBC Rv Robert) which had some narrative problems but had so many "goodies" that I could forgive it almost anything, while the followup The Kingdom Beyond the Waves
(FBC Rv Robert) was a top 5 fantasy of mine for 2008 and it's one of the most fun fantasy adventures I read in the last several years with a "for the ages" 60 page action sequence that ends it and with much smoother prose.
Sadly the highly, highly awaited third installment "The Rise of the Iron Moon"
was a disappointment being too pulpy for my taste and I found it very hard to suspend disbelief; however I am willing to give it another try before I read this one, maybe a year 's perspective and different expectations will allow me to enjoy it better; anyway I am still in the series, so this fourth book is a must and I hope it will live up to the still very high expectations I have. We also have an interview with the author.

Edit 3/28/10 About a month ago when Secrets of the Fire Sea was published I gave another try to Rise of the Iron Moon and while it still read too pulpy, I was better disposed towards it and today I would give it a B, rather than the D to F I gave it originally - that's the power of expectations, after a very good but flawed Court of the Air, the superb Kingdom was a top book, after that the pulpy Iron Moon was almost a throw away in anger... Now Secrets of the Fire Sea returns to the form of Kingdom Beyond the Waves with superb tale that has sense of wonder, great characters, twists, turns and a new setting in the Jackelian world, the island continent of Jago, surrounded by a magma sea, where electricty works and where thousands of years ago, civilization kept going in in the ice-age and later under the savage Chimecan Empire domination
While the book has all the trademarks of the series, it is also the deepest one in many ways, with a study of what it means to be human, godlike, sentient; how much technology is too much, how little is not enough...

And of course there are ruins, duels, assassinations, battles, intrigue, a riff on Sherlock Holmes and much more. An A++ and a book on par with Kingdom Beyond the Waves - this one still does not equal the imagination run wild of that one but on the other hand it is somewhat deeper as mentioned; Full FBC Rv

Deceiver (Foreigner #11)- C. J. Cherryh

Another year, another Foreigner novel and while the first 6 were just superb, the following 4 were much more mixed with the action slowing to a crawl. But the saga of Brent paidhi and the atevi which at least to start with was "Shogun" in space to a large extent is still compelling enough to follow it.

Edit 5/7/10 This book was very boring and made me drop the series once and for all; things just happen at a very glacial pace and I just lost any residual interest in the same happenings (well this time Barb and Toby have more central roles, but still...); when the series is done once and for all, I may go back to check the intervening novels, but not until then


The Midnight Mayor ( Matthew Swift 2) - Kate Griffin

The only "pure" UF series I follow, "A Madness of Angels" (FBC Rv) was an unexpected good read for me so I am interested in this one and hope it will keep my "suspension of disbelief" of which I have so hard time in UF. Very clear prose and a compelling main character are the main reasons I plan to continue reading the series.

Edit 6/19/2010 have it but no firm plans to read it yet; hard to say why but not in the mood for this kind of UF in the least

Freedom(TM) (Daemon 2)- Daniel Suarez

Near-future "post cyberpunk" sfnal thriller, the way it should be done imho; an underground hit self-published pseudonymously, "Daemon" (FBC Rv) got a major league release under the author's name this year and despite some minor narrative flaws, it was a very compelling read with a stunning ending that makes this one another highly expected novel. Dead billionaire genius, distributed AI that wants to take over and some oddball characters in real and virtual...

Edit 1/10/10 - a minor disappointment, Freedom morphs into the standard goodies vs baddies thriller lacking any subtlety; a C novel, thankfully I think the series is over since otherwise it would have been a dropped one for me; this one will definitely not get reviewed on FBC since I have been reading much better books I want to highlight

The Office of Shadow (Midwinter 2)- Matthew Sturges

I loved Midwinter (FBC dual Rv with Robert) though on reread and after time passed I started agreeing about some of its flaws that others pointed out; while it moved a little down in my ranking for 2009, I still think Midwinter a great debut with its inventiveness overriding the narrative problems; The Office of Shadow is a highly expected book and with a little prose improvement it could be a candidate to my top 10 since it has the "narrative heft" for that. A strange mixture of traditional fantasy with modernity - a 21st century Earth physicist in the fae world though he is not the main character so far; 50's cars running loose in same "magical" world...

Edit 4/12 Office of Shadow starts with great promise and the first 50-100 pages made me believe this will be another big time favorite, but then something happens - the characters just become indistinct instead of developing the way i thought, the world building starts skirting my suspension of disbelief and the writing becomes less engaging; still a lot of excellent stuff and I quite liked the book overall, but it was not the step up in the series I believed it could be after the superb opening (A, full rv)

The Hypnotist (Reincarnation 3) by MJ Rose
In Vienna a clandestine robbery inside a locked library leads to a brutal murder. A 1,500-year-old sculpture holds the Metropolitan Museum of Art hostage. A young woman’s fatal accident gives two lovers a chance to meet again, against all odds. A centuries-old massacre in Persia has modern-day repercussions in Iran. In New York City a Matisse masterpiece surfaces after twenty years, mutilated and vandalized."

Another part of a loose series of which I really loved volume 2 "The Memorist" (FBC Rv) after a "meh" volume 1 "The Reincarnationist"; based on the blurb and on what I read in The Memorist I expect to love this one a lot. Sfnal thrillers with historical undertones following parallel characters in some historical milieu and present day.

Edit 4/22/10 After the superb The Memorist this was a let down - somewhat mystical thriller with FBI agents and such while the historical parts that were excellent in The Memorist were boring here; all in all a book that comes under a "very generic" thriller label and I am not a fan of that genre (D)


Migration (standalone??)- Hogan, James

"The world of the past eventually died in the conflagration toward which it had been doggedly heading. A more fragmented and diversified order has emerged from the ruins and . technology has reappeared to a greater or lesser degree in some places and not at all in others.

Unique among them is the nation-state of Sofi, with an exceptional population that has rediscovered advanced science. However, as the old patterns that led to ruin before begin to reassert themselves across the rest of the world, a scientific-political movement within Sofi embarks on a years-long project to build a generation starship that will enable them to create their own world elsewhere.

The circumstances and thinking of future generations growing up in the totally unknown situation of a space environment cannot be known. Accordingly, the mission will include different groups of idealists, reformers, misfits, and dissidents who are not satisfied with the world-in-miniature that constitutes the original mother ship, to go out and build whatever they want. Hence, what arrives at the distant star generations hence will be a flotilla of variously run city states, frontier towns, religious monasteries, pleasure resorts, urban crushes, rural spreads, academic retreats, and who-knows what else.

The trouble began, of course, when all the old patterns that they thought they were getting away from started reappearing . . . "

While the recent Hogan books have been hit-or-miss for me (taking Velikovsky seriously and writing a sf novel about that is not what I look forward to; though to be honest the novel in cause Cradle of Saturn was better than many disaster novels I tried as far as the story goes if you can swallow the pseudo-science gobble-dock - it's one thing to write about vampires, fairies and the like since people will take it as fantasy but something else to write about discredited junk) - but the early Giants novels were pulp fun, so this one is a try for sure.

Edit 4/14/2010
While it's unclear that this is part of a series and the book works as a standalone the world of the ark ship Aurora, its satellite worlds and the superb society built there deserves more books

A return to the Hogan of the Giants saga combining didacticism with great world building and interesting characters, especially the stage magician Korshak and the robot Ket; the villains make a hilarious bunch with their subtle name "Dollarians" and the mystical symbol $, while their leaders go by titles like Banker and the like - though personally I thought that their ideology in the context of the book was much more suited to a Green movement since it's all about finite resources and conservation against the heroes "humanity as unlimited potential, no resource is scarce since humans can invent something else if needed"; I guess today is cool to have "Dollarians" as villains so let that be since the book is fun and a solid A from me
(full FBC rv)

Up Jim River (Celtic Space Opera 2) - Michael Flynn

There is a river on Dangchao Waypoint, a small world out beyond Die Bold. It is a longish river as such things go, with a multitude of bayous and rapids and waterfalls, and it runs through many a strange and hostile country. Going up it, you can lose everything. Going up it, you can find anything"

Follow-up to the excellent 'The January Dancer" (FBC Rv), I included a non-spoilerish part of the blurb to give you a flavor of this Celtic Space Opera; I hope it will live up to my very high expectations.

Edit 3/7/2010
A - it did not quite live to my high expectations as marked above, though an ambitious flawed attempt can have enough goodies to be fully recommended, but I expected an A+ novel like The January Dancer at the least...

I put an extended mini-review on Goodreads and will have a full review on FBC in April. The main problem is that while The January Dancer was space opera, this one is Vancian travelogue and the choice of the archaic Celtic-peppered language which worked so well in The January Dancer since it added to the space operatic feel of that one, backfires here when it makes the multiple cultures that form such a main part of the novel, feel silly and make-believe.

Trying to combine two unrelated weird things (language of the novel and strange cultures) is very tricky and this novel showcases why.

In his Gaean Reach novels Vance has absolutely great style, elegant, clear, a little ironic, a little understated and that works perfectly to create the many superb human cultures there and Up Jim River just pales in comparison, though with characters you care about and a storyline that hooks you and has several twists and turns (though quite a few are easily seen in advance), it was a very good novel compared to most of the sf field - it's just that it could have been a super novel so to speak
Still it's better to be ambitious and come up a little short, so I would highly recommend this one too (A, full fbc rv)

West and East (War That Came Early 2) - Harry Turtledove

Sequel to Hitler's War which I loved (FBC Rv HERE)- Munich 1938 fails and Germany invades the Czechs; highly awaited novel in what may be one of the best military series ever (forget the alternate since the novel follows WW2 descriptions perfectly imho and I read lots about that both non-fiction and fiction).

Edit 4/8/20
I liked Hitler's war the series debut a lot, it's probably the best Turtledove I've read and as fine a WW2 historical novel with a slight twist (WW2 starts in Sept 1938) that expands to quite different outcomes as it gets, but the rest is pitch perfect period, all told from the point of view of "grunts" - mostly soldiers and non-coms, with a submarine captain and a Stuka pilot Lt. the highest ranked pov's - and two special women, a middle age US socialite from Philadelphia that gets stuck in the Reich and a 17 year old Jewish girl from Munster

West and East continues the same absorbing story, with mostly the same pov's (some die and some new ones appear) and the book has a lot of happenings on the personal level of everyone,but as the big picture goes it is mostly a lull in the big battles kind of action, though things advance and we end as 1940 is approaching; since the series will go 6 minimum there is a lot to come (A

Behemoth (Leviathan 2) - Scott Westerfeld

Sequel to the superb Leviathan (FBC Rv) and a Jules Verne'ish series for the 21st century. I expect 2-3 hours of pure fun with at least one re-read and maybe a "pre-re-read" of Leviathan to get into its spirit.

The Technician ie The Gabbleduck novel (Polity standalone) - Neal Asher

While I expected the Owner novel
(Departure Space), that one seems to be 2011 so I will get and read this one since I love the Polity series quite a lot. We have various reviews of Neal Asher's work (Brass Man, Hilldiggers, Line War) , an interview and the post arguing why he is in the top 6 sf writers of the 00's.


Prospero in Hell (Miranda 2) -L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero Lost (FBC Rv) was a big positive surprise of 2009; I did not expect to read it, but the cover intrigued me and I opened it as I do most sff titles available in major bookstores "just to do my duty" so to speak and I got hooked on the first page so I bought the book the same day and read it immediately. Not quite UF as is understood today, but more in the tradition of older fantasy, I liked both the inventiveness of the author and her style, while Miranda became a favorite heroine. The ending is quite superb with a twist that makes Prospero in Hell even more anticipated...

The Prince of the Mist (series 1) - CR Zafon
"The novel begins when Max Carver's father – a watchmaker and inventor – decides to move his family to a small town on the Atlantic coast. They move into a house that was built for a prestigious surgeon, Dr Richard Fleischmann and his wife but was abandoned when the couple's son drowned in a tragic accident. Behind the house Max spies an overgrown garden full of statues surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. When he goes to investigate, Max finds that the statues seem to consist of a kind of circus troop. In the centre of the garden is the large statue of a clown set in another six-pointed star. Max has the curious sensation that the statue is beckoning to him. As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: they discover a box of old films belonging to the Fleischmanns; his sister has unsettling dreams and his other sister hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe. But Max spends most of his time with his new friend Roland, who takes him diving to the wreck of a boat that sank close to the coast in a terrible storm. Everyone on board perished except for one man – an engineer who built the lighthouse at the end of the beach. During the dive, Max sees something that leaves him cold – on the old mast floats a tattered flag and on it is the symbol of the circle and six-pointed star. As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of a legendary figure called Prince of the Mists begins to emerge."

YA or not, it's CR Zafon it's a must...

Edit 5/9/2010
Not bad as writing goes but very YA and I just could not muster that much enthusiasm about the children in the story; would have been a great book when I was 10 or so but not now, though I will still check out the next installment just in case it becomes more complex and subtler (C, full FBC rv Cindy)


The Spirit Lens: A Novel of the Collegia Magica (new series 1) Carol Berg

"In a kingdom on the verge of a grand renaissance, where natural science has supplanted failing sorcery, someone aims to revive a savage rivalry...

For Portier de Savin-Duplais, failed student of magic, sorcery's decline into ambiguity and cheap illusion is but a culmination of life's bitter disappointments. Reduced to tending the library at Sabria's last collegia magica, he fights off despair with scholarship. But when the king of Sabria charges him to investigate an attempted murder that has disturbing magical resonances, Portier believes his dreams of a greater destiny might at last be fulfilled.

As the king's new agente confide, Portier - much to his dismay - is partnered with the popinjay Ilario de Sylvae, the laughingstock of Sabria's court. Then the need to infiltrate a magical cabal leads Portier to Dante, a brooding, brilliant young sorcerer whose heretical ideas and penchant for violence threaten to expose the investigation before it's begun. But in an ever-shifting landscape of murders, betrayals, old secrets, and unholy sorcery, the three agentes will be forced to test the boundaries of magic, nature, and the divine..."

Blurb sounds very interesting; will be my first try at a complete read of a novel by Carol Berg (tried and dropped one of her earlier series and started but put on "hold for later" the Valen one); hard to say, on one hand I am excited by the description above, on the other hand Ms. Berg ' style /story-lines have not been for me so far. A definite try though.
Edit 1/14/2010 - I am really happy I got this book since it proved to be excellent after a relatively shaky beginning;
from my minireview on Goodreads:
"I bought this one on its release day (Jan 5th) with high hopes, but though it intrigued me, i felt that it was too dependent on its quirky humor and light gags for its enjoyment so I kept putting it down; however I still planned to decide soon either to immerse into it or fast read and drop and after a while the novel drops its lighter pretense, picks up considerably and it gets extremely good; though fully concluding its main thread, it sets up a very, very interesting sequel

A solid A and highly recommended, keep going since after 100 pages or so it will start gripping you and then from about 1/2 in it will be not possible to put it down
Full FBC Rv


The Sorcerer's House (standalone??) by Gene Wolfe
"The new Gene Wolfe fantasy novel is told entirely in a series of letters. Only Wolfe could have made this so gripping, a surprising page-turner of a book.In a contemporary town in the American midwest where he has no connections, an educated man recently released from prison is staying in a motel. He writes letters to his brother and to others, including a friend still in jail. When he meets a real estate agent who tells him he is the heir to a huge old house, long empty, he moves in, though he is too broke even to buy furniture. He is immediately confronted by supernatural and fantastic creatures and events."

It's Gene Wolfe, it's at least a try; recent novels have not been quite on my taste though I loved some of his new short stories, but the author of the various "Sun" series is in a class of his own so I will try each of his novels asap.

Edit 3/25/10
it was super-fun; now "pure fun" and Gene Wolfe is something that is usually incongruent since his books like the awesome various Sun series are dark and demanding, but this one is just a zany novel end to end written as some 44 letters and an epilogue, most letters addressed by main hero Bax(ter) Dunn to his twin brother George or George's wife Millie, with several addressed to a former cellmate and several addressed by others mostly to Bax

A holder of 2 PhD's (for reasons to be discovered reading the novel) Baxter Dunn is just out of prison for defrauding George and several of his business partners (of as he puts it, insignificant sums for them, but it was the pride of being taken in by a seemingly unworldly scholar...) and living at a motel in the middle of nowhere he sees a house that seems abandoned but with some little work could me made livable; soon he actually finds out that the house was his, deeded by a mysterious disappeared and presumed dead Z. Black and actually even sooner he finds out that the house is much larger inside that it seems and it has lots of mysteries, some that could be deadly

Later the mysteries even thicken and we meet a cast of ultra-eccentric characters among some more normal ones, though slowly it is clear what is going on and some of the revelations are easy to guess; but that is beside the point since the main attraction of the book is as a zany not to put down novel that will entertain and enchant ( like with all books of its kind as long as you do not question it too much) A strong A (Full FBC Rv)

Edit 12/15;
Napoleon Concerto by Mark Mellon
"1806: the world’s two great powers square off in deadly combat. France is militarily undefeatable under the greatest general in history, Napoleon Bonaparte. Britain’s Royal Navy rules the seas. Neither side can come to grips with the other, to engage and defeat a mortal enemy. The English whale confronts the French elephant with no practical way for either one to destroy the other. Or is there?
Wolfe O’Sheridane, a renegade Irish naval officer, thinks there is. In collusion with Robert Fulton, an American inventor in France, he persuades Napoleon to finance a steam-powered ram to attack British ships that harry the French coast. The ram succeeds spectacularly, but enemies circle, plotting O’Sheridane’s destruction. Can he still win through and carry out his plan to destroy the Royal Navy and liberate Ireland? The answer can be found in Napoleon Concerto, a 100,000 word alternative history novel that reads like Patrick O’Brien combined with Jules Verne. Replete with authentic detail, filled with vivid characters (many drawn directly from history), and written with ceaseless pace and energy, the novel will appeal to admirers of Napoleon, science fiction fans, and lovers of plain old adventure alike."

I have just found out about this very exciting upcoming novel from small press Treble House and I have to include it here since I really loved the author's short novel Escape From Byzantium (dual FBC Rv with Mihir) and I plan to read/review this one asap.
Edit 12/21
Finished this one and I liked it quite a lot though it's a much more straightforward alt-hist than the zany Escape From Byzantium and lacks the panache of that; on the other hand it has everything I want from alt-hist with action, characters, battles, inventions, intrigue, romance and it's a full novel so I strongly recommend it; the ending makes it complete but it begs a sequel at the least (A, Full FBC Rv HERE)

Edit 12/23
I have just found out that Philip Palmer (Debatable Space Rv, Red Claw Rv) has a new book Version 43 in 2010 from Orbit. I have no idea what is about except for this from his website: "This doesn't mean abandoning the rigour of the science fiction enterprise - yes, you can chuck magic into an SF novel, as indeed I do in my next book Version 43. But you can't have Wrong Science" but with the author's great talent and hopefully a return to the cutting edge of sf, it's another must for me.


Debuts: here I will put the blurb and some quick thoughts about why I want to read the book in question.

Tome of the Undergates by Samuel Sykes
Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the shict despises most humans and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century."

This one has the best "vibes" for me of all the fantasy debuts here; I even got the recent Dragon Book anthology edited by J. Dann since it had a story (co) written by Mr. Sykes and I really liked what I read there; this is the "epic" debut with the highest expectations for me.

Edit 4/19/10 Sadly this turned into the biggest flop of the year so far for me, though after reading advance reviews I had a feeling it may go that way so I cannot say I am very disappointed since it was not unexpected;
there are books that are so bad to be funny, but this one while as bad as I've read in a long time is not that funny; if you like potty humor and enjoy a paragraph describing the potty habits of various characters and deep ruminations like "potty habits never change", or if you like juvenile humor going back and forth in the middle of supposedly tough fights, maybe you should try this one, but otherwise steer clear; I had high expectations when the book was announced but the reviews I saw kind of tempered them but I still expected a readable book (F and an unreview HERE)

Maybe it works as fantasy humor but I am not in the market for such and this one is definitely not sold as such either;
F and an un-review to come shortly

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history."

Read this, loved it a lot and will contribute to a dual review with Robert (who loved it the most of all recent debuts) for January. Blurb is accurate but far from conveying the richness of the story. A standalone with a great ending too, it will be followed by another novel in the same universe which is excerpted at the end of this one and it's another asap. Ms. Jemisin' style is just superb and she is an author to watch. (A+) Full Fbc Rv from Robert - I agree 100% so I did not add anything

Ragnarok by Patrick Vanner
"Captain Alexandra 'Alex' McLaughlin is not a woman to be underestimated. Under her petite exterior is a spine of solid steel and a disposition to laugh in the face of impending death. A former member of the Terran Navy's elite force, the Dead Jokers, electronic-warfare pilots with a mortality rate to match that of old Japan's Kamikazes, Alex is a born survivor. But sometimes survival can be a curse.Humanity is locked in a war of survival with the Xan-Sskarn, an alien race that refuses to acknowledge the rights of 'weaker' creatures to live. It is a war that will not end with a peace treaty, but only the complete subjugation of one species to the other. And right now, the alien side is winning.However, the enemy on the outside is not the only one to be faced. As the battles take on an eerily familiar pattern of no-win scenarios, Alex realized the horrifying truth; humanity has a traitor, and it's somebody close. As each battle brings more death, Alex's ghosts grow and so does her desire for vengeance. There is only one way for this to end, and Alex is just the human to take it there — to Ragnarok."

If you frequent Baen's Bar and/or read the not-to-be-named series by John Ringo, you will understand why this one is *the debut* of recent times in mil-sf; a highly awaited novel for me based on the above and one I hope an e-arc will be available to buy sooner rather than later...

Edit 6/19/2010 checked the sample chapters on Baen/Webscription and this reads like a disaster in the making; candidate for F and an un-review but will see when the book gets in stores, though from the early reviews it seems it is as bad as the sample chapters indicate

Edit 8/30 The author tried to imitate John Ringo and David Weber and the result is plain bad (F)


Spellwright by Blake Charlton
Nicodemus is a young, gifted wizard with a problem. Magic in his world requires the caster to create spells by writing out the text . . . but he has always been dyslexic, and thus has trouble casting even the simplest of spells. And his misspells could prove dangerous, even deadly, should he make a mistake in an important incantation.Yet he has always felt that he is destined to be something more than a failed wizard. When a powerful, ancient evil begins a campaign of murder and disruption, Nicodemus starts to have disturbing dreams that lead him to believe that his misspelling could be the result of a curse. But before he can discover the truth about himself, he is attacked by an evil which has already claimed the lives of fellow wizards and has cast suspicion on his mentor. He must flee for his own life if he’s to find the true villain.But more is at stake than his abilities. For the evil that has awakened is a power so dread and vast that if unleashed it will destroy Nicodemus... and the world."

To my surprise I did not like this one; things (naming, style, characters, story) just did not work for me but Robert loved it and I think if you like fantasy for the magical system inside you should check this one out as it has an original system of magic. As I mentioned in other places too I came to fantasy from "cape and sword" novels so magic interests me far less than "storytelling/adventure".

From Robert's review tbp early 2010:

"the book is still one of the most entertaining and satisfying fantasy debuts I have ever read, mainly because of its charming appeal, highly imaginative magic system, and the author’s obvious love for the genre." (C- but an A from Robert)


The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
"The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie for there is little redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary'. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a desolate place - a place where hope and joy are not welcome. Most of its occupants have been brought here as young boys, against any will they might have once had. They cower under the terrifying regime of the Lord Redeemers whose cruelty and violence have one singular purpose - to serve the name of the Hanged Redeemer. No one knows their way around all of the Sanctuary, so vast and twisting is its maze of corridors - corridors filled with the stench of centuries old religious fervour. Standing in one of these corridors is a boy, looking out of a dark window, looking out at the latest unfortunate arrivals to this hell. His is perhaps fourteen or fifteen years old - he is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has long-forgotten his real name, but now they call him Cale. He doesn't remember anything of his former life. He doesn't know anything of his future life...Meet the Angel of Death"

This one is another highly awaited book for me based on the above and Robert's review tbp later this week; he was more mixed on it because he felt it has too many things thrown in the pot so to speak. Should get an arc soon and it will be a read on receive.

Edit 12/19 I got the arc several days earlier, read the first line and got hooked, dropped everything I was reading and read the book two times and it's still hard to let go of its universe; the best debut in a long time and a combination of Jack Vance's weird human cultures of the Gaean Reach (Night Lamp) and the cynical lines of Joe Abercrombie - (A++)

Shadow's Sun by Jon Sprunk
"In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples. Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last victim, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. But in this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won’t be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir’s hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must claim his birthright as the Shadow’s Son…"

While in the vein of traditional fantasy, as for example in the recent Brent Weeks superb series, the blurb is much more "for me" than the ones with destined-to-save-the-world-heroes or good-for-nothing-younger-sons-that-discover-their-destiny, so I have reasonably high expectations of this one.

Edit 4/2/2010
Excellent debut from Jon Sprunk grabs you from the first page and never lets go till the end; the subject is very conventional,kind of like the Brent Weeks trilogy but without the panache of that, but the writing is excellent, among the most energetic in fantasy from what I read so far and that elevates an otherwise very good but generic assassin fantasy one level. An A+ for the style and the series became another get/read asap the next installment (full fbc rv)

Passion Play by
Beth Bernobich
"Here romance and politicial intrigue unfold in a richly-imagined fantasy world. This wonderful novel fills the senses with the gritty taste of ashes and the delicious shiver of silk, while the mysterious scent of magic is everywhere present. Beth Bernobich's debut burns bright with passion. It is destined to be a crowd pleaser."

Do not know more than the quote above but I loved Ms. Bernobich' style in the recent novella
Ars Memoriae (that one started great and the writing kept being excellent but the story broke down in the middle and ended being a sort of a muddle with cataclysmic events rushed in several pages); hopefully having the space of a full novel - actually of a trilogy - will allow the author to develop the story properly and then combined with the excellent style, it should be a cracker; this one has the potential to be a big positive surprise for me

Edit 3/17 Recently I finished Ms. Bernobich's collection "A Handful of Pearls" (a review of each story here, full FBC rv in a month or so, an A+ collection) so I am even more excited about this novel

Edit 6/30
Passion Play was my most expected debut of the second half of the year so i came to it with extremely, extremely high expectations; and they were mostly satisfied though the book was not quite what i expected it to be based on the pre-release blurb and other marketing material.

The comparison with Jacquelin Carey's Kushiel Dart debut is somewhat misleading because that novel was an epic saga with a large cast and with romantic and explicit elements on the side in some ways, while Passion play is a romantic fantasy with two characters (she and he - though the he is a strange one indeed) and essentially nobody else of note. As such, I utterly loved it and the Eastern European naming (Yugoslavian mostly - since I cannot really discern between the various South Slav cultural influences, I use this as most appropriate) worked well for me, while the hints of the big picture were great so the series has a huge potential.

I hated that the book ended since i wanted more, while if there was one niggle I had was the use of third person narration instead of first person since the book has only one POV anyway and I love first person narration whenever it is possible to be used

Emotional, excellent but to be continued for full appreciation (A+)


The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
A dazzling hard SF novel set in the solar system of the far future - a heist novel peopled by bizarre post-humans but powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge and jealousy. A stunning debut. In a far future Solar System, Jean le Flambeaur is a posthuman criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy -- from breaking into the vast zeusbrains of the Inner System to steal their thoughts to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of the Moving Cities of Mars. Except that Jean made one mistake. Now he is condemned to play endless variations of a game-theoretic riddle in the vast virtual jail of the Axelrod Archons -- Dilemma Prison -- against countless copies of himself. Jean's routine of death, defection and cooperation is upset by the arrival of Psi -- a barbarian from the icy miniature worlds of Oort, but working for Cybele, the avatar of a Venusian god-mind. She offers him a chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self -- in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed, breaking into the mind of the Maelstrom . . ."

The above blurb is just the perfect hook for me so this one is the biggest sf debuts in a while and has the potential to be a top 5 sf novel for me in 2010. Of course execution matters a lot...


by Gavin Smith
Three hundred years in our future, in a world of alien infiltrators, religious hackers, a vast convoying nation of Nomads, city sized orbital elevators, and a cyborg pirate king who believes himself to be a mythological demon Jakob is having a bad day: "Nothing gets in the way of a hangover like being reactivated by your old C.O and told to track down an alien killing machine. The same kind of killing machine that wiped out my entire squad. And now it's in my hometown. My name is Jakob Douglas, ex-special forces. I fought Them. Just like we've all been doing for 60 bloody years. But I thought my part in that was done with. My boss has other ideas. If I didn't find the infiltrator then he'd let the Grey Lady loose on me. And believe me; even They've got nothing on her. So I took the job. It went to shit even faster than normal. And now I'm on the run with this teenage hacker who's had enough of prostitution. The only people I can rely on want to turn the internet into God. And now it turns out that They aren't quite what we'd all thought. I've been to the bottom of the sea and the top of the sky and beyond trying to get to the truth. And I still can't get far enough away from the Grey Lady. All things considered I'd rather be back at home deep in a whiskey bottle." Veteran is a fast paced, intricately plotted violent SF Thriller set in a dark future against the backdrop of a seemingly never ending war against an unknowable and implacable alien enemy."

A very interesting blurb, but here I need also compelling style/character to go with; another read on receive novel.

Edit 6/19/2010 Have it and read 50 pages; a combination of David Gunn and RK Morgan but not in the mood for such yet; will read sometime in the next month or two


Servants of the Underworld - Aliette de Bodard
Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A Priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, High Priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead. Aliette De Bodard is the hottest rising star in world SF and Fantasy, blending ancient crimes with wild imagination."

I have an arc of this one and it starts well and I plan to read it and review it soon. Based on I what browsed so far I expect to like it a lot.
Edit 12/16
"I finished Servant of the Underworld the highly awaited novel debut of A. De Bodard and it's taking place in an Aztec state at some point in history - the afterword or more detailed knowledge of Aztec history indicates the date - there is magic of many kinds, intrigue, priests, warriors, "femme fatales" and a mystery of sorts through which we explore this wonderful universe.
A first person narration by a semi-disillusioned "priest of the dead" and servant of the "duality" - which essentially means an investigator that deals in the magic of the underworld, so acts as coroner at deaths, as priest at cremations and investigates occurrences of dark magic
There are four major ingredients in this book: the world-building, the mystery, the magic and the style/narrator. The world-building is exquisite and we *believe* we are transported to the 15th century Tenotichtlan and together with the superb voice they formed the main reason I enjoyed this book so much
..." (A)

The Bookman
- Lavie Tidhar
A masked terrorist has brought London to its knees - there are bombs inside books, and nobody knows which ones. On the day of the launch of the first expedition to Mars, by giant cannon, he outdoes himself with an audacious attack. For young poet Orphan, trapped in the screaming audience, it seems his destiny is entwined with that of the shadowy terrorist, but how? Like a steam-powered take on V for Vendetta, rich with satire and slashed through with automatons, giant lizards, pirates, airships and wild adventure, The Bookman is the first of a series."

I read this one and the review will be posted this week or early next week; excellent debut, but the blurb is quite misleading since the novel is a steampunk adventure/coming of age story in an alt-hist universe in which Jules Verne is author/adventurer, James Moriarty (that one) is Prime Minister at the court of the Calibanic Lizard Kings and Queens (it's still Queen Victoria though she is a "lizard") and Mycroft Holmes heads a secret branch of HMS, while Sherlock Holmes has been found in a coma after a fall in Switzerland in connection to the PM... "Captain Nemo" and Robur appear too as do Karl Marx, Lord Byron as a recreated automaton and many more cameos... Just superb steampunk debut. (A)

The Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell
"With The Conqueror’s Shadow, Ari Marmell brings a welcome seasoning of wit to the genre, proving that dark fantasy can address the enduring questions of good and evil and still retain a sense of humor. Playful yet intense, sharply sarcastic yet deeply sincere, The Conqueror’s Shadow announces the appearance of a unique talent—and an antihero like no other. They called him the Terror of the East. His past shrouded in mystery, his identity hidden beneath a suit of enchanted black armor and a skull-like helm, Corvis Rebaine carved a bloody path through Imphallion, aided by Davro, a savage ogre, and Seilloah, a witch with a taste for human flesh. No shield or weapon could stop his demon-forged axe. And no magic could match the spells of his demon slave, Khanda."

A fast and fun traditional fantasy based on Robert's opinion; I have high hopes for an entertaining read and should contribute to a dual review in 2010.
Edit 12/19 Got the arc and started it and it reads very well; nothing new but a solid and entertaining read so far; Edit later same day and then with more time to reflect; sadly the novel became the typical run of the mill fantasy, actually a perfect example of such; finished it but no intention to read more from this series - though I could be persuaded by a compelling less straight A-to-B-to-C storyline since the author has narrative energy( Full FBC Rv, C)

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis
It's 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly ordinary man is caught in the middle."

This can be very interesting or very boring if it goes the Stross route; hope for something where I can suspend disbelief which I just could not do in The Atrocity Archives.

Edit 3/4/2010 - awesome book! not a silly pastiche a la Stross, but the real deal so to speak and an A+/A++ depending how it will settle in my memory;
it's a novel that can appeal to fans of sf, fantasy and horror since it has elements of all; fits the "mainstream fantastic" category better than core-sf or core-fantasy since it's a sort of alternate history with a little bit of supernatural at the beginning that turns into a lot as the novel goes on, great, great characters, some action scenes that are just unbelievable - Nazi "supermen" and their support troops against British warlocks and their special troops - while the ending just left me wanting the next installment asa
(Full FBC Rv)

The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel "When a gruesome massacre wipes out the border village of Willowfield, including a visiting lord and his family, the fragile peace between the rival kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is immediately threatened.

But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived the carnage—a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe"

Another traditional fantasy that seems to be a fun and fast read based on Robert's review (tbp 2010) and to which I may also contribute, so I have high hopes for it too.
Edit 12/23: "
The book has a great first line but it has been downhill for me from there; just nothing of interest in this one, another run of the mill fantasy, though the Marmell one had at least compelling writing while this one just drags on and on"


The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer "Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane."

This sounds like a perfect novel for me; steampunk and inventiveness. A very high expectation novel.

Edit 3/1 - Full Rv HERE by Robert; I have it and plan to read it at some point

Edit 3/17/2010 Sadly, another disappointing novel for me and one I had high hopes for; ambitious and with a great idea, the prose just did not connect to me in any way, shape or form, so it's another case of "not for me" that got included here because it was one my 2010 anticipated novels.
The Steel Queen by Karen Azinger
"Azinger's series is fast-paced action-packed fantasy. Kingdoms and characters come alive as they are woven together through twisting plots, surprising and delighting the reader with each chapter. In a world of forgotten magic, the kingdoms of Erdhe are nothing more than a chessboard for the gods. The players are being positioned for an epic struggle where lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, yet few mortals understand the rules. In this game of power, pawns of light and darkness will make the difference in the battle for the future of the world: / Katherine, 'The Imp': a young princess with the stout heart of a warrior will challenge the minions of a thousand-year-old evil. / Liandra: The Spider Queen; who uses her beauty to beguile, her spies to foresee, and her gold to control, will need all of her skill and strength to fight a rebellion with her own blood at it's heart. / Magda, a silver-haired grandmother who has been stripped of all she holds dear will be underestimated in the fight against a false religion. / Cereus, an oracle priestess, will ply her powers of dark magic and seduction in her quest for immortality. / Steffan, the puppeteer, will corrupt the innocent and unwary with greed and desire, as he sets fire to an entire kingdom."

Hard to say about this one; I could like it, could be a big "meh" based on the above; worth a try for sure.

seems to be 2011 at the earliest


The Last Page by Anthony Huso
"The city of Isca is set like a dark jewel in the crown of the Duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling landscape, the monsters one sees are nothing compared to what’s living in the city’s sewers.Twenty-three-year-old Caliph Howl is Stonehold’s reluctant High King. Thrust onto the throne, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest court secrets. He also faces a brewing civil war that he is unprepared to fight. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his old lover, Sena, is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: she has been trained from birth by the Shradnae witchocracy — adept in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood — and she has been sent to spy on the High King."

Same as the above but I like much more queens-princesses as heroines than kings-princes as heroes so this one has a higher bar for my enjoyment; will give it a try too.

Edit 5/2/10 The blurb above does not do justice to this awesome novel that is the "pure" genre debut of the year so far for me and one of three "debuts" that astounded me - though the other two are "debuts" in an extended sense since one (The Left Hand of God) is from an author that wrote a bunch of other books but not sff and another (Bitter Seeds) is by an author who wrote shared universe fiction before.

I have not encountered the inventiveness, sense of wonder and the stuff of
The Last Page in a debut, all packed in a reasonable 400 odd pages, since John C Wright's Golden Age and Gary Gibson's Angel Stations, though this one is fantasy with blood magic, necromancy, mysterious and ultra-powerful beings and airships, guns, newspapers and a "steampunk" like setting with an early industrial flavor. The main characters Caliph and Sena are just superb with a great supporting cast of witches, spies, former college friends, devoted servants and mysterious personages, while the meaning of the title remains somewhat ambiguous to the end (Page as in book, or as in a young servant?); while the main thread of the novel is solved, the stunning ending promises a sequel for the ages too. A++

Farlander by Colin Buchanan
"The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators. The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army. Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Rōshun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink."

This one is another that sounds like Brent Weeks or the above Jon Sprunk debut so it's more likely to be on my taste than the straight-up fantasies above.

Edit 2/25/10
I liked it a lot - it's a page turner and has lots of interesting stuff going on, but I was quite surprised by the way it went and I am a bit puzzled about its destination, so I need some time truly asses it - the sequel though became a big time asap, no question about it since I definitely want to see what happens next

While the setup (the blurb is ok'sih for it) seems standard and to start at least the villains are the ultra-cliched corrupt, debauched, orgy including killing humans barehanded, priesthood villains, while the seemingly main hero is another cliched one and a bit silly too - the young apprentice of the great Roshun (philosopher-assassin) Ash who is a Farlander in exile and former apprentice of the Roshun order founder in its current incarnation, another Farlander and former general of the "people's army" from somewhere far away - there are several other characters that appear and start taking more and more center stage and as mentioned the novel becomes subtler and different...
And there are guns, airships, artillery so even the setup is not quite pseudo-medieval

The writing is very engaging though there are the occasional cringe passages and the over-the-top villains are really cartoonish for a while, but overall I would say that the last half of the novel more than makes up for the good but not great beginning.

I definitely recommend it though again I need some time to see how it will settle in my memory; while not as outlandish as The Left Hand of God, Farlander is quite far from the "standard" fantasy it seems from the blurb and maybe from its first half and I am curious how it will appeal to people looking for more standard fare
(A, Full Rv)


Black Hills - Dan Simmons
"When Paha Sapa, a young Sioux warrior, "counts coup" on General George Armstrong Custer as Custer lies dying on the battlefield at the Little Bighorn, the legendary general's ghost enters him - and his voice will speak to him for the rest of his event-filled life. Seamlessly weaving together the stories of Paha Sapa, Custer, and the American West, Dan Simmons depicts a tumultuous time in the history of both Native and white Americans. Haunted by Custer's ghost, and also by his ability to see into the memories and futures of legendary men like Sioux war-chief Crazy Horse, Paha Sapa's long life is driven by a dramatic vision he experienced as a boy in his people's sacred Black Hills. In August of 1936, a dynamite worker on the massive Mount Rushmore project, Paha Sapa plans to silence his ghost forever and reclaim his people's legacy-on the very day FDR comes to Mount Rushmore to dedicate the Jefferson face. "

It's Dan Simmons as big time mainstream writer, it's a must...

Edit 1/26
While I was a bit apprehensive since the description is not quite what I am interested in - 11 year old boy Lakota with title name Paha Sapa aka Black Hills with some magical abilities is infused with the ghost of GA Custer at Little Big Horn in 1876 and then lives an even stranger than usual life until in the 1930's he is determined to stop the "desecration" of the Black Hills - the Lakota sacred place guaranteed by treaties and then seized by the US later and after which the boy is named of course - by the carvings in stone there at Mt. Rushmore which are quite famous today - the book is just stunning, maybe the best that Simmons has written and a clear departure from Drood or The Terror in so far this book is very emotional and personal; not the easiest reads with all the time/perspective jumps and very voice dependent, the portrait of the main character and his life is engrossing and I plan to re-read this novel at least once more. I am curious how it will stay in my memory since while I was very enthused by Drood on first reading, it kind of become forgotten sooner than I expected, but I expect this one to stay with me for a long time since it's so different. A++ (full fbc rv)


Tyrant 3: Funeral Games - Christian Cameron

I loved Tyrant 1 and 2 which form a complete series that I plan to review maybe in conjunction with this one; starting some 10-15 years later this is the first in a planned trilogy following the "new generation". Greeks, Scyths, war to the knife in Europe and Asia, on the steppes and in the Greek colonies on the Euxine. The hero of Tyrant 1/2, an Athenian cavalry officer in Alexander's army, dismissed once Alexander attained his goals and needed reliable "yes-men" dared to confront his former commander; now his twins will deal with the Successors...

Edit 2/7/2010
I strongly recommend this as a better starting point than Tyrant 1 since it deals with the children of the heroes there, takes place some 12-3 years later and all needed back-story appears, while the novel is more exciting, lighter in some ways, much more adventure oriented and without the sense of doom that pervaded the first duology; I would not say it's YA despite that the main heroes start at 12 (twin girl/boy) and it's really fun. The same compelling narrative, attention to detail and strong characters as in the original duology and a strong A, almost an A+ and the best of the series so far.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet-David Mitchell
Imagine a nation banishing the outside world for two centuries, crushing all vestiges of Christianity, forbidding its subjects to leave its shores on pain of death, and harbouring a deep mistrust of European ideas. The narrow window onto this nation-fortress is a walled, artificial island attached to the mainland port and manned by a handful of traders. Locked as the land-gate may be, however, it cannot prevent the meeting of minds – or hearts. The nation was Japan, the port was Nagasaki and the island was Dejima, to where David Mitchell's panoramic novel transports us in the year 1799. For one young Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, a strage adventure of duplicity, love, guilt, faith and murder is about to begin – and all the while, unbeknownst to the men confined on Dejima, the axis of global power is turning..."

Epic/sfnal David Mitchell and it's a must; with a masterpiece in Cloud Atlas (a top mainstream novel of 00's of mine) and a very good Ghostwritten any new Mitchell of interest is an asap...

Edit 2/27/10
Set in 1799-early 1800's mostly on the artificial island of Dejima that was Japan's only window to the West from the 1640's to the 1850's and which was connected to the city of Nagasaki by a simple "land gate", gate that metaphorically connects two worlds, though there is a lot of action both in Nagasaki and in its surroundings, the novel has three main interweaving threads:

the life and fate of Jacob de Zoet, the isolation of Japan as expressed through its one window to the European world, the artificial island of Dejima and finally a story of cross lovers, murders, abductions, secret mystical and very dark cults that gives the novel both a tinge of the fantastic and powers its action and emotional content.

A stunning novel that was worth spending several days on; set in third person in a change for the author who usually writes novels in first person from multiple pov's, The Thousand Autumns has three main pov's - Jacob de Zoet, an idealistic and devout clerk who comes to make his fortune in the East, Uzaemon Ogawa a young Japanese samurai/translator/scientist-to-be and Orito Abigawa a Japanese midwife, daughter of a samurai and scholar who wants to be a doctor/scientist too despite the barrier of her gender - but a plethora of various others, including a slave, various Japanese nobles, an Englishman naval officer have their own pages and the author makes it completely believable and immersive.

There is a lot to explore in this book and it's really worth spending the time to do it; An A++ and a novel to savor at length and probably my best of the year at least so far (full rv)


Raven 2: Sons of Thunder -
Giles Kristian

I loved Raven 1 (FBC Rv) so this one is another one I plan to read on receive since I really liked the main character and the first person narration is an added bonus. Many recent Vikings books around including a good but not great non fiction one last month (Ferguson) , but until this series, none has excited me since the superb Byzantium by M. Ennis.

Edit 3/10
Excellent follow up to the author's Raven: Blood Eye debut; I actually re-read that first and i was even more impressed with it since I saw how the viking world created there was immersive and pitch perfect.

Sons of Thunder continues the same, taking off where Blood Eye ended following the band of adventurers led by Jarl Sigurd and containing our narrator, Odin-marked Raven, as well as several unlikely companions including an English girl, a priest that made his life-mission to convert Sigurd and Raven (and then the fellowhip), as well as a Christian English warrior. This time they make their way to the land of the franks and to Charlemagne court, visiting a muddy and still village-like Paris of 800 AD and the glittering Aix la Chapelle aka Aachen the glittering capital

On the way they have the usual adventures, great duels, cunning tricks, great banter and blood curling happenings, while the book keeps the "no putting down" breakneck pace of the first volume.

Next seems to be Constantinople...

A strong A and the series is among the best adventure historical fiction today
(Full FBC Rv)

Spies of the Balkans - Alan Furst

Alan Furst is another asap author like Steven Saylor below, so even though I have no clue what this one is about except that it is part of his loose 30's-40's historical thrillers series, Spies of the Balkans is read on receive. Dark Star is still his best (imho) and a masterpiece of the genre, but pretty much any Alan Furst is excellent.

Edit 6/19/2010 This one needs a reread to fully decide how i rate it; had some great stuff but i thought a lot of nuance just escaped me on the first read; it's definitely an Alan Furst novel, but it also reads a bit more thrillerish - kind of in Ambler territory than usually; an A-

maybes - here check our Review Index for many reviews for works by the authors below

Roma 2 - Steven Saylor - no recent updates, hope it's still 2010 - recent author email indicates Sept 2010 as release date - Great!!
Berlin Station 4 - David Downing (not confirmed but highly likely) - summer 2010 yes !!
Vortex - RC Wilson - seems not done yet so most likely 2011 - 2011 at least
White Luck Warrior - Scott Bakker
-seems to be 2011 now - 2011
A Dance with Dragons - GRRM
- who knows but since it's been announced yearly, we gotta continue the ritual - 2012 at the earliest from what i hear
Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss -
who knows but since it's been announced yearly, we gotta continue the ritual - maybe 2011 though can easily go 2012
Robert Redick The River of Shadows (this would move into top 10 if..)
new IM Banks
(this would move into top 10 if..) - 2011 confirmed; nope back to October 2010; three cheers for Orbit!!!
new Reynolds beside Terminal World
(this could move into top 10 if..)
Corvus ( starting title) by Paul Kearney (this could move into top 10 if..) 2010 fall yes!!
Death's Head 4 - David Gunn (highly likely but not confirmed)
new Thomas Harlan -
unlikely but one can hope
El Tercer Reich - Roberto Bolaño - no idea, just vague rumors
Tax from Heaven - Daniel Rabuzzi - unlikely since last I heard the author was still working on it
Lex Trent Vs the Gods - Alex Bell - supposed to be 2009 originally; hope it's 2010 (edit 5/10/2010, read, mostly utter fun fantasy though occasionally bounds on farce but still very enojyable A, full rv)
new Andreea Cort - Adam Troy-Castro - finished but not yet scheduled
Times of Contempt - Andrzej
Sapkovski maybe 2011
Magister 3 -
CS Friedman 2011 - most likely
Midsummer's Night (sequel to Elfland) by Freda Warrington - possible - 2010 summer yes - nope November 23, but worth reading in spades!! (Edit 8/30/2010 superb A++ and a top book of the year)

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