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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spotlight on August Books

This month Robert Thompson provided most of the book titles with additions by Cindy Hannikman, Liviu Suciu and Mihir Wanchoo. We are featuring 54 books. This month there were considerably more new sff releases but we tried to limit ourselves to a reasonable number and we chose the books most in tune with what's reviewed here.

The release dates are US unless marked otherwise and the books are first edition unless noted differently. The dates are on a best known basis so they are not guaranteed; same about the edition information. Since information sometimes is out of date even in the Amazon/Book Depository links we use for listings, books get delayed or sometimes even released earlier, we would truly appreciate if you would send us an email about any listing with incorrect information.

Sometimes a cover image is not available at the time of the post and also sometimes covers change unexpectedly so while we generally use the Amazon one when available and cross check with Google Images, the ultimate bookstore cover may be different.

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"Second Sight" by Greg Hamerton Release Date: August 1, 2010.
“Sympathy for the Devil” edited by Tim Pratt. Release Date: August 1, 2010.
“Guardian of the Gate” by Michelle Zink. Release Date: August 1, 2010.
"The Grim Reaper's Dance" by Judy Clemens. Release Date: August 1, 2010.
“The Thin Executioner” by Darren Shan. Release Date: Auguest 1, 2010 (US Debut).
“Elves: Once Walked with Gods” by James Barclay. UK Release Date: August 1, 2010.

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“The Osiris Ritual” by George Mann. Release Date: August 3, 2010 (US Debut).
“Children No More” by Mark L. Van Name. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“Omnitopia Dawn” by Diane Duane. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“Shades of Gray” by Lisanne Norman. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“Shades of Milk & Honey” by Mary Robinette Kowal. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“The Questing Road” by Lyn McConchie. Release Date: August 3, 2010.

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“The Stainless Steel Rat Returns” by Harry Harrison. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“Betrayal” by Gillian Shields. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“I Am Number Four” by Pittacus Lore. Release Date: August 3, 2010.
“Thresholds” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. Release Date: August 5, 2010.
“The Scarab Path” by Adrian Tchaikovsky. UK Release Date: August 6, 2010.
“Shift” by Tim Kring & Dale Peck. Release Date: August 10, 2010.

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“The Three Furies” by Kaza Kingsley. Release Date: August 10, 2010.
“The Madman of Venice” by Sophie Masson. Release Date: August 10, 2010 (US Debut).
“Prospero in Hell” by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Release Date: August 17, 2010.
“The Last Page” by Anthony Huso. Release Date: August 17, 2010.
“After America” by John Birmingham. Release Date: August 17, 2010.
“Template” by Matthew Hughes. Release Date: August 17, 2010 (US Debut).

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“15 Miles” by Rob Scott. UK Release Date: August 19, 2010.
"The Disciple" by Steven Dunne. UK Release Date: August 19, 2010.
“The Technician” by Neal Asher. UK Release Date: August 20, 2010.
“The Evolutionary Void” by Peter F. Hamilton. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
“Bearers of the Black Staff” by Terry Brooks. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
“The Ragged Man” by Tom Lloyd. Release Date: August 24, 2010.

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“Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
"Valley of the Scarecrow by Gord Rollo. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
“Sabotaged” by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
“A Crack in the Sky” by Mark Peter Hughes. Release Date: August 24, 2010.
“The Black Prism” by Brent Weeks. Release Date: August 25, 2010.
“The Thief-Taker's Apprentice” by Stephen Deas. UK Release Date: August 26, 2010.

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“The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Century of the Soldier” by Paul Kearney. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“The Waters Rising” by Sheri S. Tepper. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“The Usurper” by Rowena Corey Daniels. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“A Star Shall Fall” by Marie Brennan. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“The Sky That Wraps” by Jay Lake. Release Date: August 31, 2010.

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“The Native Star” by M.K. Hobson. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Noise” by Darin Bradley. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Kell’s Legend” by Andy Remic. Release Date: August 31, 2010 (US Debut).
“Sixty-One Nails” by Mike Shevdon. Release Date: August 31, 2010 (US Debut).
“The Skin Map” by Stephen R. Lawhead. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“The Lucifer Code” by Charles Brokaw. Release Date: August 31, 2010.

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“Blameless” by Gail Carriger. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Game of Cages” by Harry Connolly. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Sacrifice” by Dakota Banks. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“The Clockwork Angel” by Cassandra Clare. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Halo” by Alexandra Adornetto. Release Date: August 31, 2010.
“Mysterium” by Robert Charles Wilson. Release Date: August 31, 2010 (Reprint).
Friday, July 30, 2010

What Color is Your Magic? Quiz Based on the Upcoming Superb "The Black Prism" by Brent Weeks


I rarely take online quizzes, though I tend to vote in polls on sites I follow. Considering how much I loved the upcoming "The Black Prism" - it was so gripping and involving despite its 600+ pages that I regretted that it ended since I wanted 600 pages more - I decided to check out the quiz and it's real fun, while as a bonus it is based on the setting and events from the novel, so you will get a taste of the book's flavor too. Go check it out!

Here is my result!

I'm a yellow magic drafter!

Take the quiz at Brent Weeks.com


You are a yellow drafter

Yellow luxin is most often a liquid that releases its energy back into light quickly, allowing its use as a torch or a trigger to ignite flammable materials or explosives. Yellow nourishes other luxins, extending the durability of luxin structures or tools. Like water turning to ice, when yellow is drafted perfectly, it loses its liquidity and becomes the hardest luxin of all. Yellows tend to be clear thinkers, intellect and emotion in perfect balance.

The results from your color matching test have also shown that you are one of the elite, a superchromat. The magic you do will almost never fail. Satrapies will compete to recruit you, and you will have a wide latitude in what work you choose to do once you finish your studies. You can expect your patron to lavish praise and honors on you. As a monochrome, you will master your color, and only have to defer to bichromes and polychromes and, of course, the nobility and the satraps who support us all.

Magic in the Black Prism

When a candle burns, a physical substance (wax) is transformed into light. Chromaturgy in The Black Prism is the inverse: A drafter transforms light into a physical substance (luxin). Each different color of luxin has its own strength, weight, and even smell: blue luxin is hard, red is gooey, yellow is liquid, etc. But even as drafters change the world, the luxin changes them too, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The color change of a drafter's eyes is only the beginning…

The 2010 Man Booker Longlist


On July 27, the highly expected Man Booker Long List of 13 novels has been announced. There are only two annual book prizes that really interest me not only for the winner, but for the general selections and shortlist, namely in sff the AC Clarke prize and in literary fiction the Man Booker, both happening to be UK based prizes and the last opened only to Commonwealth authors.

Last year's Man Booker longlist and shortlist have been very fruitful, providing me with 6/13 and 4/6 respectively - including the
eventual winner - interesting reads. Not only that but my overall top 2009 novel The Children's Book by AS Byatt and my #3 overall novel and the Man Booker winner Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel came from that list.

This year the list seems considerably less interesting for me. It has
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet which was my #1 non-sff anticipated novel of 2010 and for which I begged shamelessly for an arc a long time ago and upon getting it, I read it several timers and reviewed it and then it has Parrot and Olivier in America which I bought upon release but kind of lost interest after 150 pages or so, though I plan to finish it and review it at some point.

I also read several times from The Long Song and I covered almost all the book, though I should read it end to end too. Other than that and from the blurb only C seems of interest to me, though I will take a look at the others as they appear in store or library here.

The USSR 1952 book - The Betrayal - seems to be a sequel and I remember vaguely checking out the previous installment The Siege though I will try it again, while several of the books are definitely of very little interest as neither boarding school nor suburbia tempts me in the least...

So a little bit of a disappointment at least compared with 2009, but still a diverse list that gives a taste of the critically acclaimed current fiction from the Commonwealth.

The List:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America

Emma Donoghue Room

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question

Andrea Levy The Long Song

Tom McCarthy C

David Mitchell The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Lisa Moore February

Paul Murray Skippy Dies

Rose Tremain Trespass

Christos Tsiolkas The Slap

Alan Warner The Stars in the Bright Sky

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Second Sight" by Greg Hamerton (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)


Official Greg Hamerton Website
Order "Second Sight" HERE
Read A Sample from "Second Sight" (pdf)
Read FBC Review of "The Riddler's Gift"


INTRODUCTION: "Second Sight" is the second Tale of the Lifesong following the author's debut "The Riddler's Gift". While quite a traditional fantasy tale - the destined girl, the magical artifact, the mentor of the title, the nasty and tricky villains, the pseudo-medieval setting - "The Riddler's Gift" enchanted me from the first pages with its beautiful and lyrical style and I followed the adventures of Tabitha Serannon and the assorted cast of characters to the superb and complete ending of the novel's main thread.

However the big picture remained in the background with only hints and snippets given and indeed
"Second Sight" picks up where "The Riddler's Gift" ends and deals with the monumental - the creation and destruction of worlds, the relationship between Order and Chaos or Dark and Light - all embodied in the eons long conflict between Wizards of Order, Sorcerers of Chaos and Gods and Goddeses of Creation and Destruction.

Very high magic and big-words stuff, but despite my general avoidance of such, the beautiful writing and the great characters, especially Tabitha and The Riddler, compelled me to read and greatly enjoy this tale too.


FORMAT/CLASSIFICATION:
"Second Sight" stands at about 640 pages divided into four "movements" and 44 named chapters. As in "The Riddler's Gift" each chapter starts with a two line quote from the Riddler himself.

"Second Sight"
has essentially five story lines that converge. We see the Wizards of the Gyre who shielded Eyri the last outpost of order and where across the centuries Zarost - the Riddler and one of the eight - tried to engineer or at least discover the powerful wizard/sorcerer that will give the world a chance against the Sorcerer of Chaos. We also find out how this state of affairs evolved and how the big and bad Ametheus emerged and what are his goals.

But the more "down to earth" and intriguing threads are the ones following Tabitha who is haunted by the dreams of imprisoned Goddess Ethea and *needs" to break out of the Eyri and save her, while in two sort of offshoots, jealous Prince Bevn has stolen the Kingsrim which gives the wearer power over every Eyri native - including Tabitha for example - and plans - well he does not really know what, except that he also flees the ordered realm into the outside chaos, while fledgling "gifter" Ashley gets separated from Tabitha in the Oldenworld and has his own strange adventures.

"Second Sight" is high fantasy that goes into realms of power and supernatural from the more mundane setting of The Riddler's Gift. While it touches on the events of the first installment, the novel is pretty much complete on its own and has a definite ending.

ANALYSIS: "Tabitha Serannon can perform miracles of healing, yet people are dying in her hands. A prophecy points a crooked finger beyond Eyri and Tabitha must abandon her followers to rescue the source of her power. Every step takes her farther into the terrors of Oldenworld, but she must liberate the essence of life before it is corrupted by chaos. This is no game: a traitor lurks among the wizards, a ruthless enemy hunts her with whips of wildfire and she could lose her closest friends with one wrong move. On the journey to mastery, whom can she trust? She has only her faith in love and her fading song to guide her."

Why would you want to read the novel described above? It may be that the description which is of a completely traditional high-magic fantasy in a transformed, unnatural land interests you a lot but since I usually avoid a book with this blurb I will give you some other reasons.

First of all the wonderful prose of Greg Hamerton which you can get a taste of in the excerpt linked above as well as in the one linked in The Riddler's Gift review. "Second Sight" flows beautifully page after page and all the thread transitions are done so well that you do not discern any interruption or hit any narrative wall.

The Oldenworld is vividly described both in its scarred physical nature and in the strange inhabitants, while the "outside" narrations - spatial in the Gyre which is located away "into the stars", time wise in Ametheus story which takes us back to how the Eiry and the Oldenworld got to be - mesh very well with the "here and now" tales.

Tabitha grows a lot in the novel, while The Riddler shown in his natural environment is even more impressive than before, though in many ways the star of the novel is the putative villain, the sorcerer Ametheus whose tale is twistier and stranger than I expected. On the other hand Garyll is mostly a pale reflection of the confident sword master from before, and while that is understandable given what had happened, I still kind of regretted it since Garyll the leader was more interesting than Garyll the follower.

The main plot itself is relatively predictable but the strength of the novel does not lie there. The ending is very satisfactory and quite complete, though of course there is enough space for more Tales of the Lifesong. Overall Second Sight (strong A) is as good a traditional high magic fantasy as it gets and I hope the author will continue to use his superb writing style to enchant us with more stories.


Note: In a very kind gesture the author offered a 10% discount on purchasing his book until the end of August 2010 with the promotional code FBCSS0810 during checkout on greghamerton.com, while letting me know that the book will be available directly in the USA from Amazon.com soon and of course it is already available - as of Aug 1st - from Amazon.uk and other UK outlets as well as in ebook format regardless of location.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

**EXCLUSIVE** A David Gemmell Short Story: The Birth of a Legend



At Fantasy Book Critic, we love to commemorate our favorite authors. Today is the 4th anniversary of the death of one of Fantasy’s brightest stars. David Gemmell left this world in 2006 and left a huge gap in the world of heroic fantasy. Our team of reviewers are huge fans of Gemmell's books.

Fantasy Book Critic has recently been given the opportunity to post this extremely rare excerpt. Originally this excerpt was first mentioned in this interview here (reference to the excerpt is in the last 2 paragraphs).

The Games Master issue has finally been located and Fantasy Book Critic has received all the required permission to be able to post it here for the enjoyment of everyone.

We would like to pronounce our heartfelt gratitude to Mrs. Stella Gemmell, Mr. Howard Morhaim[David’s Literary Agent] and Gareth Wilson[DG fan] for their help in making this excerpt available to all Gemmell fans.

This excerpt can be read as a preface to chapter 1 in The first Chronicles of Druss the legend. As it the first three pages detail Druss’s wedding day[which has not been seen in any of Druss’s books] pages 4 and 5 deal with the first true fight Druss faces[parts of this are already found in the book. Think of this excerpt as a first draft of that scene].

So go ahead and enjoy this small tale which was almost lost and then hopefully you will go on to read the rest of David’s work as well.

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(To be able to read the excepts please click on the photos as they will appear larger when clicked).















Monday, July 26, 2010

"Linger: The Wolves of Mercy Falls #2" by Maggie Stiefvater (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman


Visit Maggie Stiefvater's Website here
Read FBC's review of Shiver here
Order Linger from Amazon Here


Overview: Sam and Grace have fought an amazing battle to be together. Sam has over come changing into a wolf and Grace has faced many changed in her life. Now the fight is on to keep the relationship together. Grace must fight against her parents who believe Sam is a bad influence. Sam must keep up the relationship while trying to help the new wolves learn about transitioning and changing and what to do.


While trying to keep the relationship as normal as possible, Grace starts to experience some health issues that could have serious consequences. Can she keep these symptoms a secret from Sam?

Meanwhile, Isabelle who lost her brother to being a wolf is coming out of her shell and is becoming attracted to the new wolf of the pack Cole.

Format: Linger is the sequel to Shiver. Linger could be read on its own but it is best to read Shiver to fully understand the context of some of the problems. Linger stands at 368 pages. It is told from alternating first person point of views of Sam, Grace, Cole, Isabelle. It was published by Scholastic Press on July 13, 2010.

Analysis: The long awaited sequel to Shiver is finally here. I admit I had some issues with Shiver, mostly regarding the non-existent parents, a few time inconsistencies and some other minor details. However I really enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater's writing and it wasn't so bad that I couldn't finish it. So when Linger showed up on my doorstep I knew I had to give it a go and see where this second installment was going to take readers.

If you read Shiver and didn't enjoy it, this is most certainly is not going to change your opinion on the the writing or plot line. If you enjoyed Shiver this will just make you fall in love with the characters and become more involved with the story then the first novel. If paranormal YA romance novels are not your thing then Linger won't change your mind on reading them.

The problems that I encountered in Shiver are addressed here. Grace's parents seem to be a bit more aware of situations going on in their house. This was a MAJOR problem for me as I couldn't understand why the parents were so out there and not knowing what was going on. I can't give away too much without the bulk of the story being ruined but this is definitely addressed in this novel. The timing issue was also addressed and elements seemed to flow a lot smoother then they did in Shiver.

Linger like Shiver is 80% teenage love/angst and 20% actual plot and story line. Readers should be prepared for a bunch of lovey dovey kissing, cooing and teenage romance. Besides that Linger is very much a middle novel, it contains just enough information to resolve some of the questions from the first book but really sets up for a third book. Be prepared to be left with a massive cliffhanger which won't be addressed until the third book hits shelves.

Putting aside the teenage love, the actual plot element of Linger was a bit predictable. When Grace started to show symptoms I knew instantly where the story was going to go. As I had guessed all of my predictions did come true. I don't know if this is from reading so many books or if it was really that transparent. This problem led me to enjoy the book a little less then I did with Shiver.

All the characters that were present in Shiver are still present in Linger, except there is an introduction of a new character, Cole. This new character was my favorite part of the novel. Cole was new, fresh and added a new plot thread. Everything else in the novel tended to come across to me as if I had read it somewhere or was just like Shiver.

Overall, I enjoyed Linger not as much as I enjoyed Shiver but it was a decent read.I await to see what happens in the 3rd novel. In the end, Maggie Stiefvater's writing is just as beautiful and lyrical as her previous novels and she really knows how to draw a teenage romance that'll make readers wish that they were a part of.
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Anthology Story Review: To Seek Her Fortune by Nicole Kornher-Stace (reviewed by Liviu Suciu)



Order Clockwork Phoenix 3 HERE
Read Lineage by Kenneth Schneyer from Clockwork Phoenix 3 on FBC
Read FBC Review of Desideria

INTRODUCTION: I am a big fan of original anthologies either themed like say New Space Opera or Swords and Dark Magic or un-themed like the Eclipse or the Clockwork Phoenix series.
Sadly this year I have been terrible at finishing them with only two of them fully read so far, though I have been much better at reading collections with six reviewed so far.

Like last year with Clockwork Phoenix 2, we have posted here a story Lineage from Clockwork Phoenix 3 which I invite everyone to read and get a flavor of the anthology. I enjoyed a lot reading Lineage and even parsing it several times to make sure our FBC post corresponds to the print version, but for me the highlight of the anthology and the one story I *had* to read was "To Seek Her Fortune" by Nicole Kornher-Stace considering how much I loved her debut novel Desideria. And indeed the story has the same beautiful style that makes one lose himself in the story and wishes for it to continue for a long time...

ANALYSIS: "To Seek Her Fortune" is about 25 pages long and is very satisfying as completeness go, while the images that we get to see from its world strongly place it in the fantasy steampunk camp.

"In the land of black salt and white honey, the Lady Explorer bartered a polar bear’s pelt, a hand-cranked dynamo, her second-best derringer and three bolts of peach silk for her death."


The first lines of the story presented above were enough to hook me and of course while we slowly understand what's going on, the pattern continues with the next part of the story starting:

"In the land of silver trees and golden fruit, the Lady Explorer bartered a case of tawny port, the captain’s quarters’ folding screen and rolltop desk, a filigreed sterling tea service and the airship’s only drop glider for her death."

And there are five such parts, each chronologically following an episode from the heroine's life, while the pieces of the puzzle come together into a superb and touching ending.

The snippets from The Lady Explorer's life, her deep love for her son who was born on the airship she "stole" with her comrades to escape a lifetime of drudgery and the panoramas of the wonderful world created here by the author mesh extremely well to create a superb story that will entrance you.
Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Clementine" by Cherie Priest (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Cherie Priest Website
Order Clementine HERE
Read FBC Review of Boneshaker

One of the most entertaining novels I read in 2009 was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Full of exciting cross-genre adventure (zombies, steampunk, post-apocalyptic retro-futurism), memorable characters and a cool twist on American history, Boneshaker was a blast to read and I couldn’t wait to see what else Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century had to offer. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long thanks to Subterranean Press and their publication of Clementine.

Clementine is a 208-page novella that expands on characters and events briefly introduced in Boneshaker, specifically runaway slave Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey and the theft of his airship, the Free Crow. In Clementine, Hainey and his two-man crew (Lamar & Simeon) are in hot pursuit of the stolen airship—renamed the Clementine by the thief Felton Brink—as it travels across the Midwest and towards Kentucky.

The novella also revolves around real life historical figure, Maria Isabella Boyd (Belle Boyd), an ex-Confederate spy newly employed by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency which has tasked her with ensuring the safe arrival of the Clementine and its precious cargo in Louisville, KY.

There’s a bit more going on with the plot like the construction of a powerful new weapon that could finally end the Civil War and some spy intrigue, but for the most part Cherie Priest keeps things simple and to the point. Personally, that’s what I like about novellas. They are usually more concise than novels, without any extraneous fat. In Clementine’s case, the smaller word count resulted in faster pacing and fewer lulls than what was found in Boneshaker, while delivering a nearly nonstop barrage of crowd-pleasing entertainment that rivals anything currently produced by Hollywood.

Of course, there are downsides to a smaller word count. The most glaring problem with Clementine is the shallow characterization of the novella’s supporting characters, in particular Ossian Steen, Doctor Smeeks and a young boy who all play important roles in the book’s conclusion. There were also a couple of unresolved plot threads regarding the mysterious Phinton Kulp and an old acquaintance of Maria’s, as well as themes on racism and loyalty that lacked the punch they could have had if given more room to grow. Apart from these minor issues, Cherie Priest delivers another impressive performance highlighted by her accessible writing style, skillful execution, and invigorating dialogue, especially the verbal exchanges involving Belle Boyd:

“... and since you’ve already so eloquently confessed to your wartime activities, I might assume that once or twice, you’ve been known to hurt a man or two.”

“Once or twice, plus half a dozen more. And if you don’t vacate these premises, perhaps that tally will rise.”

“There are people in this world who steadfastly refuse to understand anything unless it’s couched in terms of violence. In my experience, it is most expedient to simply accomodate them.”

“Expedient?”

“You may as well communicate in the language they best understand.”

Regarding Boneshaker, while there are connections between the two books with several references (Dr. Minnericht, the Blight, Andan Cly, etc.) made to the novel in Clementine, the novella reads independently of the opening volume in the Clockwork Century.

In fact, the two books are different beasts altogether. Where Boneshaker reminded me of a cross between The Wild Wild West, Fallout and a George Romero zombie movie, Clementine combines Western pulp, steampunk, swashbuckling adventure and a dash of espionage for an experience more akin to The Wild Wild West meets Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Sky Caribbean. In short, readers don’t need to be familiar with Boneshaker in order to enjoy Clementine, but I would still recommend it :D>

As for the novella overall, as much fun as I had with Boneshaker, I enjoyed reading Clementine even more, and my expectations are sky high for Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought, the third volume in the Clockwork Century, which is scheduled for publication on September 28, 2010 via Tor..

Friday, July 23, 2010

Odds and Ends: Some Interesting Fictional Characters Part 2: Men (by Liviu Suciu)



I want to present some of the most interesting characters I've encountered in my reading across the years, characters that stayed in my memory for a long time. After the first post about female characters, I am continuing here with a post about men and then I will conclude with a post about secondary worlds which make for great fictional "characters" too, as well as some persons who do not fit either the "man" or "woman" label, like say Thorn from Gary Jennings' Raptor or Merlin from David Weber's Safehold.

I decided to have five categories of three characters each here. Most choices will be the expected ones for anyone who follows my quite repeatedly and far-from-shyly stated preferences, but hopefully there will be a few surprises too.
My usual rules of one character per author in each category, English language availability and some time passed since I have first read the respective books apply.

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Most Interesting SF Hero

Cheradenine Zakalwe from IM Banks's Use of Weapons. As I do not tire of mentioning, Use of Weapons is my all time favorite sff novel and has been so for 15+ years now and the awesome cast of characters is one of the main reasons.

Zakalwe
is a non-Culture agent of Special Circumstances that goes down and does the "dirty" jobs. Diziet Sma is a Culture agent of SC, Zakalwe's "handler" though she does her own field work too. Skaffen-Amtiskaw is a drone - assistant or maybe boss - to Diziet and it handles the covert aspects and non-covert use of force.

Just remembering the scene when the drone who strongly dislikes Zakalwe, brings him a gift when he was recovering after a particular tough mission still makes me laugh. You see, only Zakalwe's head returned and the recovery consisted of waiting for his body to regrow, while of course the gift was a hat (!).



Miles Vorkosigan
- from the eponymous series by Lois Bujold; very little to add except that the long-running series - new novel Cryoburn due in the Fall 2010 - is one of the best adventure sf ever, all due to Miles. Not quite a one man show since there are some other notable characters, but overall Miles carries the series from space opera, to mystery to romantic comedy...


Joshua Calvert
from Night's Dawn by Peter Hamilton. As I do not tire mentioning, Night's Dawn is my all time favorite *finished* sff series and has been so for 10+ years now and the awesome cast of characters is one of the main reasons, in addition to the almost unmatched sense of wonder.

While
Ione Saldana narrowly lost to Paula Myo in my top sf heroine category, the two male leads of the series, Joshua Calvert and Quinn Dexter are here, with the latter leading the villains category.

Of course Joshua may not be on everyone's taste with his womanizing, antiques and "luck", but he is the perfect character for the tone of the series, exuberant and awesome.


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Most Interesting Fantasy Hero


Ciaran
aka Poldarn from The Scavenger series by KJ Parker; in doing the fantasy list I came to a little conundrum - for once there were 4 characters I wanted to mention and for another two of them are extremely ambiguos.

Poldarn is after all one of the "most evil" man in the world as everyone who meets and knows him while he is without memory, does not tire to remind him and of course we slowly find out why; then even in his almost desperate try to stay away from all, rebuild his life and stay memoryless and bad things happen due to his actions...
Still since Poldarn tries hard to be "normal" and he is otherwise such an awesome character, I decided to include him here.


Hari Michaelson aka Caine from the eponymous series by Matthew Stover. Technically sf, the series is fantasy in spirit and considered so by pretty much everyone. No more to add except try Heroes Die and see why Caine is such a powerful character in both his "real world Hari" persona and in the alternate fantasy Earth one...


Tyrion Lannister
from A Song of Ice and Fire by G.R.R. Martin; while the last two novels of the series worked out less well for me (bloat and only half a book respectively), at least compared with the awesome first two - though of course still being A+/A++-level novels - A Song of Ice and Fire has many powerful characters, of which Tyrion is by far the most memorable. Not dissimilar from Miles, as both are very smart and born in privilege "dwarfs" in a martial world, though of course Miles has the huge advantages of technology and a supporting family.

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Most Interesting Non-SFF Hero



Gordianus the Finder (my top overall choice) - from Roma sub Rosa by Steven Saylor; the most "humane" hero in pretty much all the series I follow; currently - The Triumph of Caesar - a spry 64 year old with three grown (all adopted) sons, one grown (natural) daughter, some four grandchildren and his memorable Jewish/Egyptian wife Betsheda, I followed Gordianus' life and his involvement in the most dramatic moments of the Late Republic, since his first apparition as a 30 year old somewhat disreputable "finder" in Roman Blood.

While the author is soon releasing
Empire his second volume of his epic magnum opus that started with Roma, he plans to return to Gordianus, this time with adventures from his early wandering life and probably later following the still dramatic events till the Ides of March and maybe beyond...

Noting that while technically mysteries, the
Roma sub Rosa novels are actually historical fiction at its best, I plan to present an overview of the series soon, hopefully before my review of Roma/Empire.


Mixtli
from Aztec by Gary Jennings - one of the masterpieces of historical fiction Aztec is notable by the voice of its narrator Mixtli and the superb world building that compares with the best sff around. Another novel from my top-top all time favorite list that deserves a full review here. For sff lovers who have never tried historical fiction seriously, Aztec is an example why they should, since its world building is as superb and "alien" as most secondary worlds out there...


Minutus Lausus
from The Roman by Mika Waltari - a naive narrator who wants to do good, though he is tricked by many around him and especially by the women in his life, in sometimes doing bad things, but who somehow escapes the twists and turns of destiny at least for a while. This sums most of Mika Waltari's superb picaresque heroes, whether the Egyptian, the Etruscan, the Adventurer or the Roman...

Some of the most superb opening lines ever made me both a fan of the character - I read The Roman 15 times at least since I discovered it some 20 years ago - and of the author, though Minutus still remains my most favorite of Mika Waltari's heroes, especially given the ending of the book. The novel seems to remain quite popular, even up to recently being plagiarized...


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Most-Interesting
SFF Male Villain

Quinn Dexter
from Night's Dawn by Peter Hamilton. Best "pure" villain ever...


Anas├╗rimbor Kellhus from The Prince of Nothing (and continuations) series by Scott Bakker; while I included Kellhus first in the hero category, I reconsidered since his actions are aimed at getting supreme power and nothing else.


Grand Inquisitor Zhasphar Clyntahn from Safehold by David Weber - smart, overweight and given to extreme sensual pleasures, both corrupt and fanatic, Clyntahn is another ubber-villain that takes over the page whenever he appears.


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Most-Interesting
Non-SFF Male Villain

SS Officer Dr. Maximilien Aue
from The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell; over the top and a relatively small fry as the Nazi murderers go, Max Aue carries the huge epic novel with both his personal dramas and the larger context; a winner of many prestigious literary prizes and my top novel of the 00's The Kindly Ones *is* the narrator's novel, flaws and all. Its first lines rank #5 on my list of memorable such.


Maxim Arturovich Pianitsky aka Colonel Pyat from the eponymous saga by Michael Moorcock. Another narrator villain, this time of a four volume saga that spans the 1900-1940 period. While more of a picaresque anti-hero, Pyat is entertaining and loathsome by turns and the series ending The Vengeance of Rome is another top novel of the 00's.


Lucius Cornelius Sulla
from the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough; the best character of the series by far since the author's worship of the presumable hero Caesar is sometimes nauseating, Lucius Cornelius is as fascinating as without scruples...

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