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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Jack Glass" by Adam Roberts (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

INTRODUCTION: "Jack Glass is the murderer. We know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel tells the story of three murders committed by Glass the reader will be surprised to find out that it was Glass who was the killer and how he did it. And by the end of the book our sympathies for the killer are fully engaged.

Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, JACK GLASS is another bravura performance from Roberts. Whatever games he plays with the genre, whatever questions he asks of the reader, Roberts never loses sight of the need to entertain. JACK GLASS has some wonderfully gruesome moments, is built around three gripping HowDunnits and comes with liberal doses of sly humor.

Roberts invites us to have fun and tricks us into thinking about both crime and SF via a beautifully structured novel set in a society whose depiction challenges notions of crime, punishment, power and freedom. It is an extraordinary novel"

Ever since "Jack Glass" has been announced as above, the book has been a "super high expectations" one due to the combination of an irresistible blurb and its authorship by Adam Roberts who keeps producing the highest quality sf in story after story and novel after novel. 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "Jack Glass" was one of the "cannot put down until finished books" and despite the occasional gruesomeness inside, I thought it had the same combination of inventiveness and exuberance that made Land of the Headless one of my most favorite sff books.  

 Stone, Splinter and By Light Alone are also comparable in quality with all being among the top tier books I've ever read, though they are darker and arguably denser and "less accessible" to casual readers - however much I tend to dislike this expression, sometimes it just seems to be appropriate - and Yellow Blue Tibia is arguably funnier though also lighter, but Jack Glass hits the "sweet spot" in being inventive, literate, full of sense of wonder and "easily accessible" so I would recommend it as a great introduction to Adam Roberts' whole body of work.

The first paragraph of the book is funny in so many ways:

"This narrative, which I hereby doctorwatson for your benefit, o reader, concerns the greatest mystery of our time. Of course I’m talking about McAuley’s alleged ‘discovery’ of a method of traveling faster than light, and about the murders and betrayals and violence this discovery has occasioned. Because, after all – FTL! We all know it is impossible, we know every one of us that the laws of physics disallow it. But still! And again, this narrative has to do with the greatest mind I have known – the celebrated, or infamous, Jack Glass. The one, the only Jack Glass: detective, teacher, protector and murderer, an individual gifted with extraordinary interpretive powers when it comes to murder because he was so well acquainted with murder. A quantity of blood is spilled in this story, I’m sorry to say; and a good many people die; and there is some politics too. There is danger and fear. Accordingly I have told his tale in the form of a murder mystery; or to be more precise (and at all costs we must be precise) three, connected murder mysteries."

From here Jack Glass gets going with its first part, In the Box, where seven men are dumped on an asteroid where they have to serve an 11 year prison sentence by making it habitable - they are given some tools and a start with a little air in a sealed cavern, but they have to keep digging, find water, grow food, make personal chambers...

In-between the work and reminiscences of the world outside, the pecking order is established and at the bottom there is Jac, a legless man, who has an obsession with shards of glass and Gordius, a very fat man who is a former "son/sun god" of a cult. Things happen.

The next two parts called The FTL Murders and The Impossible Gun are the heart of the story as they deal with the structure of power and revolution in a Solar System of trillions, with world building for the ages and great characters and style, though the events of In the Box are important for the up-close-and-personal look we get of Jack.

The author continues to pursue the themes from By Light Alone though in a more expansive setting; the Solar System is colonized to the hilt by orbiting asteroids where the teeming masses live in squalor, but where also the movers and shakers of the day live in unimaginable luxury, pampered by servants chemically doped for blind obedience. It is a harsh world for the poor and a fabulous one for the rich, though in the pyramidal structure under the Ulanov (!) clan, nobody is really safe.

Second in power are five genetically engineered clans - MOH, term explained in the glossary at the end of the book - of which the Argents are the information "ministry", led by the two "MOHmies" of our main heroine Diana, who close to her majority at 16 is sent to a clan estate in the gravity well of Earth together with her older sister Eva.

Bred for super-smartness and the future leadership of the clan, Diane is an expert in "practical" thinking, well at least as that is possible in her simulation upbringing where she is the ultimate master at virtual crime solving, while Eva is already on her seventh science PhD at about 21. And of course a locked room murder just happens on their estate.

Here is another paragraph that is funny but also tells us a lot about the book, Adam Roberts' take on things and more; this is super funny if you are aware of the author's reviews of certain hard sf novels...

"Put silly romance to one side, and take those three questions in order. First: who committed the crime? Narrowing the group of suspects down to only nineteen people already placed the solution in the 99.9+++th-increment. Even if you limited yourself to the population of the island (though, since the whole Argent group had only just landed, and had not yet interacted with any island natives, the murderer was massively unlikely to be found outside the group – but for the sake of argument) we were talking about 19 out of 102,530, which was the 99.998+th percentile. Eva had never reached such levels of near-certainty in any of her PhDs! It was ridiculous to ask for more. Trillions of people in the solar system, and Diana wanted to waste her time sifting through a group of nineteen? Let her. If Eva had been in charge, she would have treated all nineteen as guilty – and then either execute them all, or perhaps treat the group conviction as a technical mitigation and sentence them all to long prison terms."

However larger happenings are afoot as there is a persistent rumor about FTL being invented despite its provable impossibility and that is the wild card which could shatter the stability of the System; of course Jack Glass - who is regarded by many as a nonexistent mythical hero or villain - and other Ulanov opponents have been working for the revolution for decades, but FTL can change everything overnight despite that it is impossible. And as the information clan, the Argents are in the bull's eye...

So grand themes - the fate of humanity in both the "internal", what is a good society, what is the cost of overthrowing oppression, etc, and external, in the "are the stars for us or are we stuck here in our corner forever?", a hinted resolution of the Fermi paradox, etc - larger than life characters, even an impossible love story, lots of action, mystery and indeed a strong dose of Golden Age sf done with modern sensibilities and superb style and Jack Glass succeeds on all fronts. Maybe for the ending I would have wished a few more pages but I really did not want the book to end anyway...

I would also note that in addition to the text of the novel per se and the aforementioned Glossary, Jack Glass contains an interesting collection of "poems and ballads" that are indirectly related to its action, but add quite a lot of depth to the world building - so  even here and Adam Roberts found a way to be different from the usual info-dumping in sff novels as he does it through verse! A short quote too:

"The Interplanetary Rebel’s Hymn

You who govern Venus, where the disk is smooth and grey:
The Ulanovs rule your System—but you’re greater, far, than they!
Now as the laws are questioned and the police sloops blast and glide,
Mithras, lord of the planets, give strength to those who died."


To summarize, the last sentence of Jack Glass' blurb above "It is an extraordinary novel" is quite the understatement. A top 10 novel of 2012 for me.

Monday, July 30, 2012

GUEST POST: The Literary Odyssey of Ilona Andrews by Andrew Gordon

Read FBC's Review of "Gunmetal Magic" & "Magic Gifts" (releasing tomorrow)

So, we are often asked how we got started as writers. Surprisingly, or not, we both started as readers. I can honestly remember first learning to read or deciding to learn because I wanted to read the comic strip in the Sunday paper for myself. Ilona can't recall being unable to read, only the school trying to re-teach her, and her mother "going ballistic." Her parents were Russian intelligentsia and her father pushed her toward authors like Arthur C. Clark, Robert Sheckley and Isaac Asimov when she was all of eight years old.

One particular Sheckley story sticks out in her mind. It was about an excavation on Mars and the release of a creature who devoured its creators. The story was called the Last Weapon, and it deeply disturbed her. She remembers having nightmares but admits it started her lifelong love affair with Mars.

For me it was more like Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars. There were comics of it when I was a kid and of course I read the books when I could find them. I was familiar with Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, but they were too dark and disturbing for me. I know that they are brilliant but I preferred Sword and Planet to hard SF. Still do. My choices were also different, because I was mostly raised by my Aunt and Uncle, who were and remain, devoted "born again" Christians. Anything magic was taboo, and as Clark himself famously said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Science fiction was looked upon with suspicion at best, while fantasy was strictly verboten.

When I could, I snuck comics and book into the house on the sly. I have one particular memory that stands out. It was during a cold North Carolina winter in 1986 or '87. The house was heated then by a single wood-burning stove in the living room. I was upstairs hiding and shivering with a borrowed copy of Margret Weiss and Terry Hickman's Dragons of Winter's Night. It was cold as heck upstairs and I was freezing in my room , but it was the only way to get some privacy. From the local library I was allowed to check out detective novels. Robert B. Parker's Spenser was a favorite, and my Uncle, a retired Marine and Sherriff's deputy had no objection to the violent nature of the genre, in fact, I think he even approved.

 Later as an exchange student in Japan, I read whatever English book I could find in the local bookstore. The Kanji for bookstore was one of the first I learned. Often enough they were novelizations of popular films. Did you know Die Hard was book before it was a movie? A nice neighbor lady loaned me a copy of Ian Fleming's Dr. No; it was my first James Bond book. Also, the library in the school I attended had a collection of Classic Literature in English. This was where I first read King Solomon's Mines, Around the World in Eighty Days, and my favorite Gulliver's Travels. Additionally I read more recent works like Alex Hailey's Roots and Shogun by James Clavell, it seemed appropriate that I read about Japan's history as well as my own.

Upon my return to the States, I quickly enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In basic training, all you can read are manuals and the Bible. Once on the ship, I spent most of my money on comics and paperbacks, in fact one of my two lockers, the one most people use for civilian clothes, was filled with Casca and Conan. While we were in the Persian Gulf, people back home sent us books and I read everything from romance to westerns. It was also during this time that I first read Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land, and my all time favorite A Clockwork Orange, books most people probably read when they are much younger.

After getting out, I went back home to the mountains for college. There I met a pretty girl with a funny accent. She was just barely eighteen, I know because I checked, and the smartest girl in our English class. After a disastrous first date, I started hanging out in her room and napping while she did her homework. She was taking as many classes as a freshman was allowed, most of it upper level science. This was when we started swapping books, I let her read my cherished Conan and Spenser books, while she convinced me to give David Eddings a try. I started with the Diamond Throne and quickly finished the series. We didn't have any money, so when we were able to buy books, we wrapped the covers in clear plastic shelving paper. Mostly we checked stuff out of the Jackson County library in Sylva. She always said the Belgariad was better and it took a long time for me to try and of course admit that she was right. This ended up being a pattern for us. She was the first to read and then pass along the Anita Blake books by Laurel K. Hamilton. I had never really read anything like that before. Vamps were real and people knew about it. Here was a tough as nails heroine who killed the Undead. It was amazing.

When I was in the Army, after basic but a student for almost 5 months in Signal School, she bought me the complete adventures of Hawk and Fisher by Simon R. Green. Hands down the best present ever. School was boring and I hid the books and read them whenever they left us alone for any length of time. Again we were only supposed to be reading Army books. Sometime later I remember her handing me a book with what looked like Sean Connery in black leather and holding a sword. She claimed I would love it. I was dubious. When I asked her what it was about, she said, "It's an old hero, who is good with an axe and goes to save a fort from barbarian invaders."   
"Does he win?" I wanted to know.  
"Well, sort of, but he dies."

So she wanted me to read about an old man who goes to a fort and gets killed. For me it was a dubious endorsement at best. Of course, I eventually read it, and as usual, she was right. It was Legend by David Gemmell and within a few years I had read everything he published, he and Robert B . Parker are my all time favorite authors and both sadly have passed. I don't read her romance books and she doesn't read the Sookie books, of which I have all, but we still share. She's trying to get me to read Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell. She says it has that almost Jack London young man making his way in the world, or outer space in this case, feel to it. She says I would like it. I'm dubious.

The point of this long rambling post is to sort of explain why we write what we write. Just as you are what you eat, I believe you tend to write what you read. So read widely and often.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Andrew Gordon is one half of Ilona Andrews, the pseudonymous husband-and-wife writing team along with Ilona Gordon. Together, Andrew and Ilona are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series and the romantic urban fantasy novels of The Edge. They live in Texas with their children.

Order Gunmetal Magic HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bites” & “Magic Burns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Strikes” & “Magic Mourns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bleeds” & “A Questionable Client
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Slays” & “Magic Dreams
Read FBC's Review of "Gunmetal Magic" & "Magic Gifts"
Read FBC's Review of "Retribution Clause" & "Magic Tests"
Read FBC’s Interview with Ilona Andrews

Note: Dragons of Winter Night cover art courtesy of Larry Elmore and Dragonlance[Tower of High Sorcery], A Clockwork Orange cover art courtesy of Starduster26.
Sunday, July 29, 2012

A stunning Cloud Atlas movie trailer (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (FBC Rv) is one of the few novels of our new millennium about which I strongly feel that it will "live" and be read for a long time. Its special structure and the succession of storylines which are part of why the novel is so mind-blowing, do not seem well suited to movie adaption, while David Mitchell has stated that a direct movie adaption seemed pointless to him, like an audio book with added video.

So taking up the challenge in what will be the most expensive German movie of all time,  Lana Wachowski, Tom Twyker and Andy Wachowski working with an international all star cast headed by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry and with the enthusiastic participation of David Mitchell who will have a cameo in the movie, went beyond the book itself and made a movie that follows its six storyline but also makes explicit the reincarnation links betweern them, links that were only hinted in the novel.

How does it work, well we will see after October 26th when the movie debuts in theaters, but the stunning extended trailer below made it a must for me!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The 2012 Man Booker Longlist (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

A few days ago the Man Booker prize has announced its 2012 longlist;  12 novels of which many are from less well known writers and a few which have been published by smaller presses in the UK at least. The US availability of the titles varies though.

Nicola Barker, The Yips (Fourth Estate)
André Brink, Philida (Harvill Secker)
Michael Frayn, Skios (Faber & Faber)
Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories)
Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)
Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber and Faber)
Sam Thompson, Communion Town (Fourth Estate)

Of the list above, I read Bring up the Bodies (and hope to have a review later in the year) which has been installed as the favorite sort of by default. The sequel to the acclaimed Wolf Hall (FBC Rv), winner of the prize in 2009 and top 25 novel of mine in that year as well as the middle book of a trilogy following the life of Thomas Cromwell, Bring up the Bodies is tighter and more accessible than Wolf Hall, though I missed a little the sprawling nature of the first book as well as its more difficult but also more rewarding style. Still a top 25 novel of the year as it is just a great read.

The big surprise for me was Tan Twan Eng's second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists which was another book I have been looking for every year since I've read the wonderful The Gift of Rain in 2008. I actually discovered The Gift of Rain from the Booker longlist and it was a top 25 novel of the year for me also. I have not written anything about it, as The Gift of Rain came before I started keeping my reading journal on Goodreads and doing full reviews here, but I plan to remedy that soon either with a  full review on FBC or at least talking a little about it in the introduction to the review of The Garden of Evening Mists which I plan to do for its US publication date on September 4.

As I have not seen a new book by Tan Twan Eng for a few years, I forgot to check recently and so I was really surprised but delighted to see The Garden of Evening Mists and of course I got the UK edition on the spot and it starts as haunting and as memorably as The Gift of Rain so I expect another top 25 read of the year.

Of direct sffnal interest there seem to be three books, Communion Town, The Teleportation Accident and Umbrella and I will check them out when a copy will come into my hands or I see one in a bookstore and actually I plan to do that with pretty much all 10 books on the list I have not heard of before as who knows, I may discover another big time favorite!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Land of Hope and Glory by Geoffrey Wilson (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE
Read the prologue HERE
Read reviews of Land of Hope and Glory by Bookworm Blues & Edi’s Book Lighthouse

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Geoffrey Wilson was born in South Africa, grew up in New Zealand and then backpacked around the world before eventually settling in the United Kingdom. He studied Hinduism and Buddhism at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, and has been fascinated by India since travelling there nearly twenty years ago. He has previously worked as a bookseller, technical author and IT project manager, until he finally decided to focus on his passion - to write stories. He currently lives in London with his wife, an ever-growing mountain of books and a peculiar cat.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: It is 1852. The Indian empire of Rajthana has ruled Europe for more than a hundred years. With their vast armies, steam-and-sorcery technology and mastery of the mysterious power of sattva, the Rajthanans appear invincible. But a bloody rebellion has broken out in a remote corner of the empire, in a poor and backward region known as England.

At first Jack Casey, retired soldier, wants nothing to do with the uprising, but then he learns his daughter, Elizabeth, is due to be hanged for helping the rebels. The Rajthanans will spare her, but only if Jack hunts down and captures his best friend and former army comrade, who is now a rebel leader. Jack is torn between saving his daughter and protecting his friend. And he struggles just to stay alive as the rebellion pushes England into all-out war.

FORMAT/INFO: Land of Hope and Glory is 376 pages long divided over two parts which is made up of twenty-one chapters and a prologue. In this book, narration is in the third-person, and is done solely by Jack Casey. Land of Hope and Glory has a self-contained plot with a complete resolution and is the first book in the Land Of Hope And Glory series.

Land of Hope and Glory was originally published in the UK on September 15, 2011 via Hodder and Stoughton and released in the USA on May 1, 2012 via the same publisher. Cover art provided by Angelo Rinaldi.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: When I first heard of this book via a review request, I was a bit surprised that I had missed out on this book when it was released last year. Being an Indian, I was utterly fascinated to read about the uprising premise of the plot with the positions being reversed for the English and Indians. A bit of background is required for those not so well averse with Indian history. This event was a big one in the history of India and marked a turning point in its occupation by England. Firstly it marked the general unrest in the country and showed a united effort by soldiers of the Indian army irrespective of caste, creed and religion to overthrow their masters; the English East India Company, secondly it showed the English aristocracy that they would have to be more involved in the ruling of this country.

The revolt was primarily caused by a particular insistence of the British army superiors to their Indian soldiers that they had to chew out their cartridges in the loading of their rifles. The biggest anathema to both the Hindu and Muslim soldiers was that the cartridge was covered with grease from either cows or pigs, the former considered holy by Hindus and the latter being considered gross by Muslims. The officer’s insistence and the soldiers’ refusal to follow their superior’s orders compiled with the overall anti-British feelings lead to a revolt in major parts of north and central India. The revolt was ultimately unsuccessful however it showed the British that they had to tread carefully with the religious feelings of their subjects.

The bones of this story are then taken by Geoffrey Wilson and rather carefully constructed to give us a world wherein the Rajthanan Empire from India has conquered many parts of the world and like the Roman Empire previously, has now colonized England. The Rajthanan Empire is most likely a synonym for the area known as Rajputana or as it’s currently known as Rajasthan. They have discovered the means to a power called Sattva nearly eight hundred years ago and since then have managed to overthrow the Mughal Empire in India. Since then they have also taken over many parts of the known world and now are exploring the new world.

Amidst all their explorations they have also conquered England and Wales nearly a hundred years ago. The rest of the continental Europe previously was under Muslim Caliphate rule and England was the only country to rebuff their advances under the rule of King Edward. It is not clear how much of continental Europe is under the rule of the Rajthanan Empire but its safe to presume that majority of the area would be under their rule. Currently there have been small mutterings against the Rajthanans and their rule over the English people and a person called the Ghost has been leading a group of soldiers all over the countryside looting army posts and generally calling for the overthrow of the Rajthanan rule.

Jack Casey is the protagonist of the story and an ex-soldier who has seen one too many wars and now wants nothing to do it. He leads a decent lifestyle and supports his young daughter by serving as a man Friday for Shri Goyanor in Dorsetshire. He is competent and is looked upon favorably by his employer, destiny however has other plans for him as he is soon lead back to the thick of things in regards to the uprisings when his previous military superior and the person who taught him the ways to utilize Sattva, asks him for a favor. Captain Jhala needs Jack because of his tracking skills and his past ties however Jack is reluctant to go back. Jack’s hand is forced as his daughter Elizabeth has been captured assisting the rebels and now is due to be executed unless he helps them against the rebels. Thus begins Jack’s dilemma as he is torn between the love for his progeny and his duty towards his friends and comrades. What ultimately follows will be a test for Jack as well as the English in their fight to determine their destiny.

I have to say I was very very impressed by Geoffrey Wilson’s debut effort. Often in alternate history books, authors don’t give enough explanations for the change in history and the world however in this book the author has neatly created a world wherein a province of India has become a superpower through the power of the mind, yoga and Sattva. It has lead to the creation of machines called sattva avatars and the plot very well showcases sattva-punk and its ramifications. The author's imagination takes some wild jumps in regards to sattva-punk and it was fascinating to see the author's creations. The story begins with the reader not knowing much about the world but the author skillfully inserts information without overt info-dumping. The story has quite some pace to it, not in the first part though which is used to build up the character and world situation but in the second part of the story wherein everything is set against the clock and Jack Casey has to finish his tasks to save his daughter.

Characterization is something which always helps make or mar a book, in this one we get a strong sense of who Jack Casey is and what he is capable of. Jack is an honorable man forced to do dishonorable things however the readers gets a keen insight into his thought process and the mental turmoil he undergoes in trying to save his daughter and do his dharma to his country. The book’s pace and action filled climax add to the book's excellence but the icing on the cake is its very twisted climax and kudos to the author for giving the reader such an enjoyable but unpredictable read. This is the first book of a series and the way it ends I’m very curious to see where the author takes the story next as he’s contracted for two more books set in this world.

However amid all the rosy parts, there were a couple of places where I thought that the author could have done better namely in the usage of certain Indian/Hindi words such as “Purusha” and “Prakriti” which mean male and nature respectively but were used in the context of spirit and matter which doesn’t translate precisely. Secondly I would loved to read a timeline of the events preceding the contents of the story recording the spread of the Rajthanan Empire and this is just me but I’m a sucker for maps so I would have loved to see Europe and Asia in the context of this world. These small things however will not detract anything from the overall read and for most readers it depends on their individual preferences.

CONCLUSION: Land of Hope and Glory is an exciting debut featuring a protagonist that struggles to do the right thing. Amidst the many alternate history books published so far, its the only one that brings to the fore a crucial incident in the history of the Indian subcontinent. Reversing the details and setting it in a new country makes the story completely unpredictable and marks this debut as a gem to watch out for. Geoffrey Wilson has to be lauded for his imagination and storytelling skills; do check out this book to know more about the travails of the people from the Land of Hope and Glory.
Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Blood Song" by Anthony Ryan (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Mihir Wanchoo)

INTRODUCTION: When I first heard of Blood Song, the blurb below seemed to indicate a traditional epic fantasy of the kind I have been moving away from, so I did not really pay attention to it despite some enthusiastic recommendations. 

However I recently saw a comparison of the book with The Name of the Wind and that attracted my attention, so I got the Smashwords sample and after reading the first few paragraphs I will quote later, the novel became just impossible to put down and I had to read it asap and to reread it immediately on finishing, as I could not part from the wonderful universe the author created.

As for the comparison that made me open the novel, it definitely holds in the narrative pull as Anthony Ryan's prose is as compelling as Patrick Rothfuss', though the content of Blood Song is quite traditional, while The Name of the Wind is "post traditional".

"An epic fantasy exploring themes of conflict, loyalty and religious faith. Vaelin Al Sorna, Brother of the Sixth Order, has been trained from childhood to fight and kill in service to the Faith. Ensnared in an unjust war by a king possessed of either madness or genius, Vaelin seeks to answer the question that will decide the fate of the Realm: …who is the one who waits?"

Note that while Blood Song has been independently published by the author, the whole trilogy which it so magnificently debuts has been acquired by Penguin and will be traditionally published starting in 2013, so grab the ebook at its currently value price as fast as you can! 

Book two - The Tower Lord - is currently being written and the author hopes to have it done by the end of the year, but Blood Song offers a full reading experience and ends at a great stopping point.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Liviu) Blood Song starts with the narration of an enemy historian charged with chronicling the end of "Hope Killer" as Vaelin is known in the Alpiran Empire where he has been imprisoned for five years and from where he is now sent to fight a duel to the death everyone believes he will lose or even if he triumphs, he will be anyway killed by the duel's hosts for the deeds of his father, the former First Battle Lord of the Unified Realm in which most of the action takes place. 

Because you see, the host city of the duel is the capital of the piratical Meldenean nation, capital which had been burned by Vaelin's father on King Janus' orders some decades ago, event which turned to be quite crucial in some other ways we learn about later. 

After the introduction, the book goes back to the beginning and Vaelin's unceremonious dumping by his father on the steps of the Sixth Order when he was 10 and his beloved mother had just died of an illness and follows Vaelin's POV in the usual third person narration of epic fantasy; his training in the order, the expected trials that weed the weak and the morally unfit, his order friends etc, the usual stuff you've most likely seen lots of times, but done brilliantly here.

 "He had many names. Although yet to reach his thirtieth year history had seen fit to garner him with titles aplenty: Sword of the Realm to the mad king who sent him to plague us, the Young Hawk to the men who followed him through the trials of war, Darkblade to his Cumbraelin enemies and, as I was to learn much later, Beral Shak Ur to the enigmatic tribes of the Great Northern Forest - the Shadow of the Raven. 

But my people knew him by but one name and it was this that sang in my head continually the morning they brought him to the docks: Hope Killer. Soon you will die and I will see it. Hope Killer.

Although certainly taller than most men, I was surprised to find that, contrary to the tales I had heard, he was no giant, and whilst his features were strong they could hardly be called handsome. His frame was muscular but not possessed of the massive thews described so vividly by the story tellers. The only aspect of his appearance to match his legend were his eyes: black as jet and piercing as a hawk’s. They said his eyes could strip a man’s soul bare, that no secret could be hidden if he met your gaze. I had never believed it but seeing him now I could see why others would."

While the Realm's Faith is different from the usual in the sense that it is literally godless being based on venerating the spirits of the ancestors from the Beyond, spirits that can be communed with by the truly faithful - or so it is believed of course - and its Fourth Order aka its Inquisition hunts heretics of all kinds but especially god followers, such being considered a major heresy - a lot of the rest is standard with the orders being devoted to healing (Fifth), learning (Third), battle (Sixth of course), ministering the living, communing with the dead and spreading the faith (First and Second) and of course six is not the usual "holy" number, which tends to be seven...

Also the Unified Realm is the usual pseudo-medieval country though this time it is also literally formed of four distinct and not getting along that well realms that have been united only occasionally throughout history, most recently by the elderly King Janus a while ago when he was in his prime. 

And of course coming from a celebrated father and a quite famous mother - though the whys and the hows of that are to be found only later as the novel progresses - Vaelin is the ultimate boy with a destiny. But again there is a tweak, as his expected destiny - marry Lyrna, Janus' daughter and be the right hand of the King's well meaning but seemingly ineffectual son Malcius - seems to take a definite detour when he is dumped on the Sixth Order's steps and is accepted to the austere, celibate and generally hard life of an Warrior of the Faith. Though as we are in epic fantasy, destiny is not to be trifled with!

So if you like the "boy with a destiny" story, do not hesitate and get and read this book as it stands among the best such. But even if you do not like that much the above or if you moved away from this type of story like myself, give Blood Song a try as the narrative pull is just extraordinary, the world building very good - with a lot of thought behind, with depth and space and with lots of subtle touches you will enjoy along the way - while the characters from Vaelin to his "order brothers", Dentos, Barkus, Caenis and Nortah - all from quite different backgrounds from the very poor like Dentos, to Nortah, the son of the first minister of the realm who had to keep up in his rivalry with the Battle Lord, so he had to send his only son to the Sixth also - to various masters of the Orders, heretics, healers, fighters, tradesmen, noblemen and of course the several important women from Vaelin's life are simply outstanding...

Blood Song is just awesome and a top 25 novel of mine for 2012, novel that came out of nowhere but made me a fan of the author for the duration! 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Mihir): Blood Song is another of those books that I discovered a few months earlier, thanks to Amazon’s cool algorithm for suggesting titles I might like based on my previous “Buying and Search” history. Previously I had stumbled upon Zero Sight by B Justin Shier the same way and the way that book turned out to be, I have learnt to keep an eye out for such Amazon recommendations.

Blood Song begins with a first person narrative featuring Lord Verniers Alishe Someren, a chronicler that has been chosen to write about the main character Vaelin Al-Sorna and about the journey that they both will undertake.  The story then begins Vaelin’s past as when as a child he’s commanded to join the Sixth Order of the Faith of the Unified Realm. Thus begins Vaelin’s journey wherein he will learn to wield weapons and become a famed warrior of the unified realm that will also earn him many names all across various nations and regions. Friends and foes alike will be drawn to him in differing amounts. But when all is said and done, Vaelin’s journey has only begun as the reader will learn more about his past as well as that of his realm.

One searches for the next best thing in fantasy, often going through many books in search of the book that will enthrall you completely. I almost missed on this beauty by buying it but then never getting around to reading it. I owe thanks to Michael Sullivan for reminding me about this book and what a book it is. Beginning from the events in the past to the current story going on currently, this setup has been explored in various fantasy, historical and other genre novels.

The most recent famous example being The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. In fact a similarity between those two books can be seen in regards to the protagonist's story and their growth via a university/military school setting. What differentiates these two books is a terrific conclusion to the book as well as themes about war and its follies. Also this was my observation but I found some shades of David Gemmell in Anthony Ryan’s storytelling style and prose. It is heartening to see a Brit take up the mantle of heroic, epic fantasy from one of fantasy’s most distinguished writers as well as a fellow British writer.

 This book is more akin to a traditional epic fantasy wherein it’s set in a pseudo-European setting and with a world history that is unveiled slowly and tantalizingly. At the same time, there is a core mystery at the heart of this plotline, why was Vaelin sent to the sixth order? What really happened with his parents? Who is the One Who Waits? These questions and much more abound this volume and will tempt readers into coming back for the later parts of this trilogy. The book focuses in the past as well as the present and the author has tantalizingly kept both time periods shrouded in mystery. This thread is what powers the book throughout and makes the story such a strong one.

Characterization is also a strong point in this opening volume, even though we get a singular narrative voice for the majority of the book. The author has created a fascinating side character cast particularly King Janus, Princess Lyrna just to name a few, these characters make the story even more fascinating and with the increase in POV character cast in "Tower Lord" (book II). I can't wait to see which other characters get their own narrative voices. The book ends on a strong note and with a twist that is hard to anticipate, giving the readers a complete story if they want to read just this book however I’m sure once the readers finish this book they will want to read “Tower Lord” the next in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy.

Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song is a tremendous debut; it has a fast paced, action packed and character driven story. Qualities to admire in any genre story and most of all in an epic fantasy one. Give this book a read, if you have ever felt that Indie books have no quality to them, give this book a read if you are tired of the same morass of stories in the epic fantasy genre, give this book a read if you want a well written story by a newbie author and lastly give this book a read if you want to read a story that’s closest to those written by David Gemmell.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Imperative by P. A. Wilson (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order the book HERE
Read an excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Perry Anne Wilson is a Canadian author who has big ideas and an itch to tell stories. After taking a sabbatical from writing due to having spent some time on university, a career, and life in general, she has returned to her original love a few ago and hasn’t looked back since then. She is a member of the Vancouver Independent Writers Group, and has self-published several novels. She has written the Charity Deacon Investigations thriller series, the Quinn Larson Quests, the Madeline Journeys and a couple of stand-alone novels. She also is a project management consultant. She currently is based in Vancouver, BC.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Quinn Larson is a wizard. His life in the hidden world of the Vancouver Real Folk is one of study and socializing, and he'd prefer if it stayed that way. One unfortunate night, however, he witnesses a human's death at the hands of a fairy, and it becomes clear that all is not well among the magical races.

One dead human is a problem, and three is something he can't ignore. Neither can the human authorities, and the last time the Real Folk came this close to being exposed, it caused a genocide that washed away a part of all their magical power. Someone has to make the murders stop and avert the attention of the police, or they may face much worse than death, and that task falls to Quinn.

But why are the fairies killing humans? Why are the beautiful, immoral, power-hungry Sidhe involved? Quinn will need all the help he can get to figure it out – help like Olan, a pixie with an unfortunate case of feathers; Princess Elizabeth, the leader of the rose fairies; Cate Witherspoon, a witch that he's never been able to stop thinking about.

For all their sakes, he has to find the answers before the body count gets much higher. But as his enemies rise to stop him, Quinn is left with a terrible question. How much would you sacrifice in the service of the greater good?

FORMAT/INFO: Imperative is 258 pages long divided over thirty-seven chapters. In this book, narration is in the first-person, exclusively via Quinn Larson. Imperative has a self-contained plot however leaves a few plot threads open and is book one of the Quinn Larson Quest series.

January 4, 2012 marks the Mass Market Paperback and e-book publication of Imperative and was self-published by the author.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I think I have an addiction and its time I announced it, urban fantasy is my drug of choice currently. I’m always interested in new titles and I have Jim Butcher to blame for it. His Dresden files have ignited a insatiable need in me to absorb as many books as possible. P. A. Wilson approached us with a review proposal and the blurb seemed interesting enough for me to give her book a try.

The book begins with Quinn Larson who is a wizard situated in Vancouver, British Columbia. He happens to see a fairy luring a human to her death, intrigued and alerted by this strange and surprising phenomenon. He decides to investigate more about this as he’s concerned that too many human deaths will alert the human authorities and this definitely will not be good for the non-human folk as well as enlightened humans such as Quinn. However he also has to contend with his new partner Olan who is harboring a vendetta from a deity known for vengeance and death. His choices are limited and he will have to bargain from all corners and gain every advantage possible to get to the root of the mystery behind the fairy folk’s recent interest in humans. The story then dwells into a world wherein humans exist with other species and are ignorant completely of the presence of the others.

This book was an easy one to read for it has many plus points and an equal if not less drawbacks attached to it. The biggest plus point for the story is its pace, namely the story opens up with the main issue in the first chapter itself, and from then onwards barrels forward with all its twists to the surprising conclusion. This is the best part of the book that it takes a streamlined approach and never wastes time in uninteresting side plots. The second part that I enjoyed about the story is the location and the author’s inclination to dip it in the other-worldly affairs, the author does her best to show the various features of the magical folk and the world they inhabit. The last plus point would be that the author has included a couple of good plot twists towards the end that surprised me and hopefully will give most experienced readers enough of an incentive to read forward and not get bored.

Now onto to the drawbacks which are namely the most predictive part of this subgenre, this book along with many others is very derivative of the trend set by the Dresden files, the pattern is replicated here with a few different touches and a few plot twists however it is the same and that can be disappointing to read for readers who would like to read something different. The second and the more important drawback is that the main character remains a mystery to the readers throughout the book. Quinn Larson narrates however remains an enigma to us I’m not sure if this is something the author planned for or was just something unfortunate. His actions and thoughts while shown on the page don’t make him much of an enticing character and he remains a colorless narrator. This was the biggest drawback for me as while the story was enticing, the first person narrative wasn’t strong enough to support it.

This being the first book, it could be very well that I’m jumping the gun and the second book might very well be a different book and overcome all these deficiencies and I would want to find out if that is indeed the case. I hope the readers read an extract or two before deciding whether they want to go ahead with book one of the Quinn Larson Quests.

CONCLUSION: P. A. Wilson is a writer with an interesting story, there are some rough edges to this book but if you can overlook those and read this story, you will definitely be entertained and that’s something to look forward to in any book. Give it a read however please check out the excerpt first to see whether you like the author’s style or not.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Emotobooks: The Fusion of Written Fiction and Expressionistic Art by Ron Gavalik

Thank you to Fantasy Book Critic for allowing me to guest post.

As a writer and publisher, it’s always been a goal to bridge the gap between the cerebral gratifications of well-plotted fiction writing and the visual stimulation of illustrative art. The one day I had a mini-epiphany. Insert expressive, emotionally representative imagery in written stories, during moments of emotional consequence. By delivering a visual of what a character feels, the reader becomes more intensely immersed in the story.

Emotobooks are written fiction stories, not comics or graphic novels. The few emotional abstract images woven in the stories are the dream-like visuals each of us experience in the middle of the night.

The term Emotobook is a portmanteau word I conjured as a memorable label for the very first fiction medium for smartphones and tablets. For the first time, readers can now see actual representation of character emotions right on the page for a fun, interactive experience.

Stories are published as EmotoSerials or EmotoSingles. EmotoSerials are monthly-released, continuing stories, much like TV dramas or miniseries that continue until their climactic ends. EmotoSingles are individual experiences.

I launched Grit City Publications in July of 2011, with the first Emotobook series titled Grit City, a seven-part story about Dillon Galway, an idealistic freelance journalist, who scrapes out a living reporting on corruption. Since then, we’ve grown the Emotobooks Catalog into an array of fun genre fiction titles in Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, and Horror. 

Each Emotobook title consists of three creators: the author, editor, and illustrator. It’s our philosophy that three contributors on each Emotobook delivers a richer, more flavorful story. The creators even offer Autograph Cards and suggest mood settings, such as food, drink, and music. This way our fans can achieve a full-bodied experience.

Emotobooks accommodate a new audience, who desire a fast “full story experience” on smartphones, iPods, computers, or tablet readers in about 30 to 60 minutes. They can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Our editors are currently seeking the best genre fiction for the Emotobooks transformation. It’s required that fiction writers read our submission guidelines and the free handbook, How to Create Emotobooks, before submitting. Our publishing model is unique and we require long-term participation from authors for everyone’s success.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the Emotobooks Revolution, I hope you’ll join our Readers Cult and begin collecting the coolest titles. We even offer free Autograph Cards to our fans. What it really comes down to is we write, edit, and illustrate the best modern fiction for our fans. Without you, we wouldn’t be here. Thank you!

Ron Gavalik’s Bio:

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Ron Gavalik is a seasoned freelance journalist and fiction author of the successful Grit City thriller series. As Publisher for Grit City Publications, he oversees the Emotobooks Revolution. Ron holds an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and a B.S. in Marketing Communications from Point Park University. When not writing, you can find him in the outdoors of Southwestern Pennsylvania on his trail bike, hiking, or fishing.

Note: Ron Gavalik's photo courtesy of Cynthia Ravinski of Greater Portland Scribists.
Monday, July 23, 2012

Cover and Synopsis for "Shadow of Freedom" by David Weber (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

As everyone following my thoughts here or on sffworld probably knows, the Honorverse is my favorite ongoing series and it represented a number of firsts for me since I discovered it in 1994 when the first 4 books were out. A combination of military sf and space opera with hundreds of named characters, many of them with "speaking parts", the Honorverse is first and foremost superb story-telling and each new book is a huge asap, while I follow Baen's Bar and the author's forums for any new hints where the series will go, any snippets etc. For example you can find a small passage from Shadow of Freedom HERE, passage published more than a year ago when even A Rising Thunder was a distant prospect. 

Shadow of Freedom is the 3rd Talbott Quadrant novel and the 18th series novel and it will be out in March 2013, while hopefully an e-arc will be available in late fall from Baen! Note that the following has major spoilers for the direction of the series if you have not read beyond At All Costs which essentially ended the second stage (military space opera but on a regional scale) of the series, while the following book Storm from the Shadow started the current third stage.

The synopsis below has the usual mixture of humor and seriousness that you tend to find in the Honorverse blurbs and it highly entertained me. Enjoy!

"#18 in the multiply-bestselling Honor Harrington series.

Wrong number? There are two sides to any quarrel . . . unless there are more.

Michelle Henke, Queen Elizabeth of Manticore's first cousin, Honor Harrington's best friend, and the commanding officer of Manticore's Tenth Fleet, is just a bit surprised when a messenger arrives from the Mobius System to inform her that the Mobius Liberation Front is prepared to rise in rebellion against the hated regime President Svein Lombroso. She can understand why
anyone would want to rebel against someone like Lombroso, but why tell her about it? After all, she has problems of her own, like the minor matter of a life-or-death war against the Solarian League.

Michelle has just handed the "invincible" Solarian League Navy the most humiliating, one-sided defeat in its entire almost thousand-year history in defense of the people of the Star Empire's Talbott Quadrant. But the League is the most powerful star nation in the history of humanity. Its navy is going to be back – and this time with thousands of superdreadnoughts.

Yet she also knows scores of other star systems — some independent, some controlled by puppet regimes, and some simply conquered outright by the Solarian Office of Frontier Security — lie in the League's grip along its frontier with the Talbott Quadrant. As combat spreads from the initial confrontation, the entire frontier has begun to seethe with unrest, and Michelle sympathizes with the oppressed populations wanting only to be free of their hated masters.

And that puts her in something of a quandary when the messenger from Mobius arrives, because someone's obviously gotten a wrong number. According to him, the Mobians’ uprising has been carefully planned to coordinate with a powerful outside ally: the Star Empire of Manticore. Only Manticore — and Mike Henke — have never even heard of the Mobius Liberation Front.

It's a set-up . . . and Michelle knows who's behind it. The shadowy Mesan Alignment has launched a bold move to destroy Manticore's reputation as the champion of freedom. And when the RMN
doesn't arrive, when the MLF is brutally and bloodily crushed, no independent star system will ever trust Manticore again.

Mike Henke knows she has no orders from her government to assist
any rebellions or liberation movements, that she has only so many ships, which can be in only so many places at a time . . . and that she can't possibly justify diverting any of her limited, outnumbered strength to missions of liberation the Star Empire never signed on for.

She knows that . . . and she doesn't care.

No one is going to send thousands of patriots to their deaths, trusting in Manticoran help that will never come.

Not on Mike Henke's watch."

Press Release: Jo Fletcher Books acquires The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi! (by Mihir Wanchoo)

These two bits of news almost slipped by me however I must thank the Gods (Lord Shiva in particular) that Twitter helped me come across them. The Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi has been acquired for publication by Jo Fletcher books in 2013. I believe the deal is for all three books to be published. Currently the author has released two books “The Immortals of Meluha” & “The Secret of the Nagas”. Both these books have been huge bestsellers in the Indian Subcontinent and I can vouch for their fantastic content as I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book and the second book is on my ever-growing TBR pile. The third book is tentatively titled “The Oath of the Vayuputras” and will be out in late 2012 in the Indian subcontinent.

This series is basically a re-imagining of the myths surrounding Lord Shiva (one of the Hindu Trinity) basically thinking of him as a man whose feats became legends and then ultimately lead to godhood. The first book particularly reveals a lot of the setup and brings into play many characters that will be familiar to those with even a modicum of knowledge of Hindu mythology. For those who don’t know much, never fear, the author will be also be including a handy-dandy glossary explaining all the myths and terms to be utilized in the series. What is the most enticing part about these books (for me) is that it focuses on an important aspect of Hindu/Indian mythology and the author does his best to concoct a tale that utilizes ancient mythology and modern storytelling ethos

Here’s what Jo Fletcher has to say about Amish and his wonderful work: “Amish is a massive bestseller in his native India with the first two books in his Shiva trilogy. The first, The Immortals of Meluha, is the story of how Shiva, a barbarian tribesman from Tibet, comes to be known as the Neelkanth, the man with the blue throat prophesied by Lord Ram who will come to destroy evil. In the fantasy world we’re well used to authors using myths and legends to explore all manner of stories, and I found myself gripped by this one because I know far too little about the wealth of legend from one of the world’s most ancient civilizations.”

So fantasy readers be assured, I’ll be doing my best to review the trilogy when it gets released over here and until then feast your eyes on these Indian covers and book blurb for the first book “The Immortals Of Meluha”:

It is set in 1900 BC, in what the modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha – a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived.

The once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis.

To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracised and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills.

The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend – "when evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge".

Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Focus on 3 older SF titles: David Zindell, A. A. Attanasio and Richard Garfinkle (by Liviu Suciu)

INTRODUCTION: Looking through the list of notable sf titles from 1987-2011 that I have posted a few days ago, I decided to highlight three books that are less well known than the more famous novels from the list, but have some following and cannot really be called obscure either. 

Looking for example at the number of Goodreads ratings, the best known books from the list are in the 10-30k range, with a bunch in the high k's and the one pure mainstream by Kazuo Ishiguro, with a popular movie adaption to boot, having over 90k ratings. 

Actually, I was a little surprised that Hyperion was second beating by a few hundred ratings, my expected second, Cloud Atlas, in the 26k+ range, while the usual sfnal suspects (Banks, Morgan, Reynolds, Hamilton...) clock as mentioned. 

The three titles below have from under 100 to a little more than 300 ratings justifying my claim above.

Two of them, Neverness by David Zindell (1988) and The Last Legends of Earth by A. A. Attanasio (1990 and recently reissued) are just masterpieces of sf; pure "mind blowing sense of wonder", great style and superb characters, especially in Neverness which excels at large than life ones, from Mallory to Soli, while The Last Legends has a lyrical intensity that balances well its sweep.

Neverness has been followed by a trilogy, "Requiem for Homo Sapiens", which I quite liked too and thought it was a sf highlight to be read and enjoyed for a long time, but I also thought it never reached the height of the original novel. 

The Last Legends of Earth is billed as the 4th part of the "Radix" tetralogy but it is quite independent of the rest, none of which really excited me that much.

In addition, I want to highlight Celestial Matters by Ricard Garfinkle, which is a novel that takes place in an alt-Earth where the Ptolemaic physics is "true". Greek science and philosophy against Far Eastern Taoism, for control of the world, universe and all, the book is standard sfnal adventure in many ways and lacks the sweep and grandeur of Neverness or the lyrical intensity of The Last Legends of Earth, but it is quite original - at least at novel length - and the implications of the laws of physics of its universe are thought out quite well to be worth remembering across time.


"The universe of Neverness is intriguingly complex. filled with extraordinary beings. There are the Alaloi, who have chosen to return to the Neanderthal state, the Order of Pilots which reworks the laws of time and physics to catapult its members through dense regions of 'thickspace', the Solid State Entity, a vast brain made up of moon-sized biocomputers, and the Ieldra, a legendary race of aliens that seeded the galaxy aeons ago with its DNA and so began the evolutionary cycle. 

Against this rich backdrop unfolds the story of young, headstrong Mallory Ringess, a novitiate of the Order of Pilots. Against all odds he has penetrated the Solid State Entity - and made a stunning discovery. A discovery that could unlock the secret of immortality hidden among the Alaloi."


 "Seven billion years from now, long after Earth has been shattered by its exploding sun, an alien being regenerates lost humanity. The Rimstalker intends humans as bait for the marauding, spiderlike zotl, remorseless predators that feed on the pain and suffering of intelligent life-forms. In the Chalco-Doror system - itself a vast machine created by the Rimstalker - the reborn children of Earth build mighty civilizations, worship terrifying gods, and choose sides for the titanic final battle.

A gripping tale of struggle against alien control, a mind-bending excursion through the mysteries of time and death, a cosmic epic of creation and destruction, this grand and challenging visit to strange new worlds is both a towering epic of survival - and an intimate story of human love."


 "A thousand years after Alexander the Great, the Greek Empire has expanded over the world with the help of advanced technology. Its plans for Total Domination of the entire planet will be complete once the war with the empire of the middle kingdom has been won.

The scientist Aias, commander of the celestial ship Chandra's Tear, prepares to embark on a secret mission to the sun, to steal a piece of the purest elemental fire. This ultimate piece of celestial matter will form the basis for a weapon capable of decisively ending the war with the Taoists of the Far East.

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