Thursday, December 31, 2009

Author Laura Bynum

I recently finished reading a debut novel, Veracity, by Laura Bynum. Classified as science fiction, or dystopian, it was disturbing in its portrayal of a future where government takes total advantage of society's every little abdication to wholly consume it. The government's new version of society revolves around complete, around-the-clock control of entire citizenry. The most alarming aspect of Bynum's story is that, regardless of your political affiliation, anyone could see how easily freedom could fall.

I was glad to get the opportunity to review Laura Bynum, but I was unprepared for how compelling her personal story and thought process is. It was a great interview, I only wish I could claim any relevant amount of responsibility for it.

PW: Will you please give a summary of your journey from hopeful writer to the publication of Veracity?

Bynum: I knew as a kid that I wanted to write but I put it off until I was well-entrenched in a corporate life I didn’t want, and until my creative self had nearly starved to death. Why?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spotlight, on a Tuesday?! The Interviewer is interviewed.

Well, lookey what we got here. An interview of Harry Markov. In all fairness, this should've been posted on Sunday night, but an observational error on my part got us delayed. I wanted this in 2009, so here it is.


You have, in all likelihood, read Harry's various interviews over the past year or so. Harry does an excellent job in bringing us views into many of the personalities around sf&f, be they bloggers, authors or what have you. As a result, I've wondered from time to time, "Who is Harry Markov?" You're about to find out.

Harry and I have actually had plenty of decent, if brief, conversations when time permits. Recently, I asked him for an interview and he graciously agreed. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Harry Markov.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Veracity Review

Veracity (HC)
by Laura Bynum
Pocket Books, 2010
Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4391-2334-8

Summary: The protagonist, Harper Adams, is a citizen controlled like all the rest. Unlike the rest, she has precognitive abilities. These abilities, like all else of value, are exploited by the State. Harper is used by the highly centralized government as a 'monitor' to analyze potential traitors to the State. After watching numerous horrific episodes of citizen seizure and what passes for law enforcement/punishment, Harper decides to run.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Get out the Vote

The polls have opened and let the voting begin! I'm talking about the David Gemmell Legend Award. The Morningstar Award will be given, for the first time, this year. It is for the "Best Newcomer." There will also be a Ravenheart Award (not open for voting yet), which will be awarded to "the best fantasy jacket artist."

These are great awards for two reasons. First, it is a set of awards where fantasy no longer has to play little step-brother to science fiction. Second, these awards are granted at the mercy of the fans. The "powers that be" can slap each other on the back and say what they will, but these awards come from the people who actually pay money for books (i.e. make the entire industry an industry).

Follow the link below for the list of nominees in each category.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Arrivals


Thanks to publicist Sarah Reidy at Simon & Schuster, I've just received a book and an ARC.

The book in question is Veracity by Laura Bynum. The dustcover displays testimonials from Greg Bear, Elizabeth Moon, Jeff Carlson and Larry Beinhart.

The ARC is Liane Merciel's The River Kings' Road: A Novel of Ithelas. On its front cover, the ARC bares a testimonial from L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

What is he doing?!

I completed Michael A. Stackpole's Talion: Revenant this morning. What is Stackpole doing? Granted, I've never read anything by him before, but this particular world and story was entertaining enough to have been, long since, revisited. I looked around on sf&f sites and wikipedia and found...nothing. Surprising, because it was quite fun.

Talion: Revenant (mmpb)
Michael A. Stackpole
Bantam Spectra, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-57656-9

Book Blurb: Justices - the select of the Talion, endowed with fearsome magick and lethal martial skills - roam the Shattered Empire, crushing the lawless and championing the oppressed. Their word is law and their judgement binding on the highborn and low.

Nolan is a Justice born in what once was the free nation of Sinjaria. Orphaned in the war of conquest with the nation of Hamis, he traveled to far Talianna and secured the right to become a Justice. Now, years later, the Master of all Talions has a dangerous assignment for Nolan: he is to guard the life of the king who destroyed Sinjaria and slaughtered his family. Alone, Nolan ventures into the political maelstrom that is the court of Hamis to stop an assassin even his Masters think cannot be slain...


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tripping the light fantastic

Well, it appears creatures of a fantastic nature are beginning to invade our everyday world. In the American south, evidence of a leprechaun presence has been chronicled. The following news story comes from Mobile, Alabama. All I can really say about the matter is that the amateur sketch of the leprechaun is, now, an all-time, top-ten favorite.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Tis the Season


Seak's Stamp of Approval, Ubiquitous Absence, and State of Review are proud to announce their first book giveaway.

We all feel that some of our holiday gifts were not quite what we hoped to receive. So, we are offering one novel from the list below to one lucky winner. You have three chances to win by emailing each of our blogsite emails. This contest will begin December 15, 2009 and the winner will be announced on January 10, 2010. Sorry, but this is limited to those in the U.S. only.

First, send an email to each of the blog emails (replace with regular at and dot symbols) -

seaklos (AT) gmail (DOT) com
PeterWilliam (AT) gmx (DOT) com
stateofreview (AT) gmail (DOT) com

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail) otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries (to individual blog addresses) will disqualify whoever sends them. Please include your screen name and the message boards you are frequently using.

Good luck and happy holidays from us at Ubiquitous Absence, Seak's Stamp of Approval and State of Review.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Emotional Evisceration


Yikes! I watched the finale to season 4 of Dexter last night. I will, of course, avoid announcing spoilers here, but the final scene was an absolute nightmare. This is clearly the best, if also the most disturbing, television programming known to me. John Lithgow's portrayal of the Trinity Killer is certainly award worthy, but Michael C. Hall's role of Dexter is still compelling, after four seasons. I watched only the portion of the Hall/Lithgow interview played after the finale episode, but the whole thing is available over on Showtime's site. I regularly follow the Wertzone and was stunned when Adam once told me that he hadn't watched the Dexter series yet. Adam is, generally speaking, one of the world's best locations to discover great entertainment, be it books, games, film or television. I would strongly recommend watching each season on DVD, however. Waiting for each successive episode is a torture unto itself.

Meanwhile, I'm still reading Wolfe and Stackpole, but progress is slow. Part of the delay is that I've been working on compiling an outline for a novel length work of fiction, based on some advise given by Elizabeth Moon who has been posting regularly over at SFFWorld lately. I'm also working on exercising writing skills by participating in a monthly flash fiction contest. With the holidays coming and going, let's hope normal posting activity resumes in a couple of weeks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Excuses

Not much posting taking place around here lately. I have several excuses and self-justifications. Seriously. Well, not really.

In reading, I'm a good way into book 2 of the Gene Wolfe omnibus, Severian of the Guild. Thus far, I'm enjoying the read very much. The perspective, Severian's, is a great vantage point for this tale. That having been said, I don't think I like the 'undependable narrator.' It reminds me a great deal of a movie I saw years ago. Back in 1990, I was stationed on a US Army base in San Antonio, TX (Fort Sam Houston). We went to see a movie, on base, called Jacob's Ladder. Very discombobulating and tension inducing. I get that same sense of feverish hallucination while reading this story. How I can like it and not like it at the same time isn't something I can explain - it just is. We'll see if I can articulate the sensation any better once I've finished the book.

Ok, excuse time. I'm trying to be more conscientious about writing. I've spent months and months of not putting butt to chair. It's time to get cracking. I don't plan to post any less. In fact, this should have me more in the rhythym to write and bring lucid (ok, semi-lucid) thoughts here. I'm going over my chapter one, again, even though chapter two is half-born and begging to be tied off. Chapter two has gone over-long and may have to be chapters 2, 3 and 4. I'll bring chapter one by here, eventually. First, after I clean it up, I need to find a writing partner, or an online 'workshop' where I can get this read and receive some feedback. So, what's in this excuse to slow down posting, you ask? Excellent, and insightful, question. I've been rearranging the Man-Cave. I've gone back to find some reference works that had been languishing in a cardboard box for quite some time. This weekend, I found the reference works, some old scribbled notes and some writings that I'd nearly forgotten about. Now that I've found the missing items my subconscious was niggling away at, it's time to get down to it.

Cross your fingers. I may have an interview for Sunday Night Spotlight coming up soon. The questions are away and I am now awaiting the response. Who is it? At this time of year, such spoilers would be a big no-no, so you'll just have to wait.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bad news, good news and interviews - John D. Brown


Well, the bad news is that reading is slow going with the intensity of work-life and home-life, so there won't be a book review for a little while yet. Also, I've nothing for a Spotlight this Sunday night. The good news is that I have finished the massive work project for this year and can return to some enjoyable leisure activities again. Which is the segue to the other piece of good news - an interview.

Recently, thanks to Alex Koritz, I was granted a review copy of Servant of a Dark God and interview access to it's author, John D. Brown. I found Mr. Brown to be a very thoughtful man, perhaps best described using words like reflective and introspective. More than that, Brown seems to be a comfortably confident individual - the kind of presence to immediately put one at ease. Read on and see what I mean.

PW: I noted the juxtaposition in the story between free will and compulsion. Will you give your own view of the comparison and contrast between the two?

John D. Brown: Peter, first of all, thanks. I'm so happy to appear on Ubiquitous Absence. I will also say that you're the first to note this aspect of free will in the story. It's a subject fraught with drama and danger, and will become more important in books two and three. I find it fascinating. On the other hand, I never write with the intent of fictionalizing a philosophy ala Ayn Rand or Terri Goodkind. There's nothing wrong with doing that. Such an approach has obviously produced great stories. It's just not how I do it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The end of the tunnel

There's light out there! By this time next week, I should be enjoying a return to a 'normal' schedule. The massive yearly project that is my main reason for employment is coming due this Thursday. Once that's out of the way, I will sleep for somewhere between 1.9 and 2.72 days (man, I'm fairly punchy now). After that, I will be able to post on a respectable level at Ubiquitous Absence, rather than merely being ubiquitously absent.

I do have two interviews coming back to me any day now, so we'll see what we have when they're in. My current reading selection, Severian of the Guild, Gene Wolfe's omnibus edition of his Book of the New Sun story, is slow going only because of minimal time. What I've read so far (~150p) has me excited to continue, however. Gene Wolfe is clearly an author that is going to become a favorite.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for something truly interesting, check out the thorough look at the history of the D&D worlds (Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms) Adam has put together over at The Wertzone. Or, go visit Grasping for the Wind, where I recently participated in the worst ending survey.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - Into the Wild Blue Yon-der

Tonight, we get to sit down with one of the bigger sf&f fans you may never have heard of; Mark Yon. Mark is the administrator, known as Hobbit, over at SFFWorld. In describing Mark, the word kind comes to mind, but its more than just that. Mark has the same enthusiasm that he had the first time he came across sf&f. The same enthusiasm we all had at one time or another. Mark's enthusiasm is infectious, however. Classy and never gratuitously contentious, Mark displays (as much as one can on the internet) the kind of personality that I'm dying to meet in person one day.

If you get the chance, do yourself a favor and register on the SFFWorld forum boards and engage Mark in a conversation or two. Or, just read his book reviews and blog posts at SFFWorld.

The only part of the interview that I regret, was the loss of top-secret photos I had managed to obtain. I had complete 360° external and internal photos of Hobbit Towers, but was stopped by security on my way out and had the camera confiscated. Mark told me it would happen, but you've just gotta try. Ah well.

PW: What was your first encounter with sf&f?

Mark: That goes back a long way, Peter! I’m now realizing, with horror, that it would be about 40 years ago. When I was aged about 3 or 4 I used to watch a ‘60’s TV series here in the UK called Thunderbirds. It was a puppet show created by Gerry Anderson. I wouldn’t miss an episode, evidently. One of my earliest childhood memories is about being sat in a highchair, [having] my tea and watching it on TV.

The consequence of that was that I learned to read with the TV series. There was an accompanying comic called
TV21 that had stories and comic strips in it based around the Gerry Anderson TV series and set 100 years in the future. I’ve been told I spent a lot of my early reading time working out words from those magazines.

In terms of ‘proper’ reading, I was a fan of mainly SF first, no doubt as a consequence of what I’ve mentioned already. There were some short stories along the way, mostly in books borrowed from my small local library, who struggled to keep up with my interest. There were lots of books related to the TV series I watched –
Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Doctor Who - but my first ‘proper’ buy was a second-hand copy of Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. I’ve still got it! After that, there was no stopping me. Mainly it was whatever I could borrow from my local library, as we couldn’t afford too many books. At that stage, it was mostly Arthur C Clarke and whatever Asimov and Heinlein I could get my hands on, which was pretty much what my library had. That, and authors such as John Wyndham (Day of the Triffids) and good old HG Wells (War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and so on.) There wasn’t much choice, but I rabidly read whatever I could get.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The eyes have it

I recently found out that my old workplace (The Stanford Eye Laser Center, Palo Alto, CA - ca. 2001-2007) was up on YouTube. It's fun to watch and see Dr. Manche again. A stellar guy and probably top 5 among the planet's corneal specialists. Not that I'm biased, mind you. ;)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review of a debut

This book was provided courtesy of Tor publishing

Lately I've been burning the candle at both ends, leaving certain elements of life to suffer. Ach, such is the burden of prioritization. Anyway, I finished John D. Brown's debut novel, Servant of a Dark God, on Sunday night. I should have had the review up last night, but had nothing left in the tank.

This is more than a debut novel. This was a launch. Fans of video games will know what I'm talking about here. Seriously, a heretofore unknown quantity (i.e. John Brown) gets Swanland cover art, Tor Forge, testimonials from Brandon Sanderson, Ken Scholes, L. E. Modesitt, Jr., David Drake, Kage Baker and David Farland, a publicity campaign that hits all the right blogs and, then, manages to even find Ubiquitous Absence? Somebody is seriously sold on Brown. Incidentally, so am I. With clarification on that coming later, let's first look at the story.


Summary: In Brown's novel, you have a protagonist who, at first glance, is yet another installment of the coming-of-age story. Okay, now look a little deeper. This young man (Talen) is as conflicted as you could want. Talen's father is a Koramite (a race of people who are, clearly, second class citizens) while his mother is Mokkadian (the dominant race within the tale). Talen spends his early years making an attempt at respectability by seeking acceptance into the Shoka clan from which his mother is from. Talen has a connection in that his maternal uncle is a man of some reputation within the clan. Beyond that, however, Talen is, largely, dismissed as the "half-breed." Talen views the Koramites, from which his father descends, as a people who constantly provoke the oppression which they endure. Talen walks across the knife's edge of an identity struggle between the two halves of his lineage and endures periods of hatred for both sides. Ultimately, Talen must choose which heritage to follow and learn to live with the consequences.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Things & Stuff

There are things and stuff going on. Lately, I've been going back and forth with a couple of other bloggers. Harry, over at Temple Library Reviews, put together a Halloween special of bloggers' favorite scary stories. Harry and I go back and forth with conversations and my blog has done, at least, this one favor for me - bringing along someone very interesting to talk to. I've also gone back and forth with 'The Otter', over at his blog. It, too, is a great site. John (AKA, The Otter) is putting together a group of bloggers' favorite book endings. While mine may seem an 'easy' pick, my explanation will hopefully clarify.

Otherwise, I received my first publisher's edition of a book for review. In this instance, I have shelved what I was reading in order to give this book full attention. It was nice to be noticed, so I'll give the book the complete dissection. Initially, I was nervous that I would dislike it and end up having to write up a bad review for it. Currently, I purchase all of my own books, which I thoroughly vet and examine long before committing actual money. In this case, the book (Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown) is a total unknown element for me. Luckily, at ~150p in, it is going rather well. We'll see what we really have once I've finished.

It's that time of year again, so let me scare you with this: PUMPKIN-HEAD (AKA, Milk-Beard, the Pirate).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fully Completely

Getting ready to queue up the latest DVRed episode of my new favorite television show, Dexter and started thinking. I see mood indicators on some authors' live journals (notably GRRM) and thought, "Hey, that's kinda neat." Well I'm going to do it with a little YouTube video. Getting ready to watch this show has me in mind of my all-time favorite musical act - The Tragically Hip (specifically, Locked in the Trunk of a Car). I recall, many a moon ago, standing about in Memorial Auditorium (Burlington, VT) and listening to Gordon Downie make the comment, "you odd, hill people." Oh yeah, baby, je sais beaucoup odd hill people. N'est-ce pas?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review - Dave Duncan

Okay, just finished Duncan's second book in the Seventh Sword series. We pick up with the protagonist, and his 'fellowship', the day after the end of the first book. The entirety of the book takes place on, or beside, the flow of the mystical River that is symbolic of the Goddess worshipped by the peoples living near it. In this second book, we begin to encounter 'sorcerers', or peoples who have descended from the mountains to challenge the swordsman caste for local supremacy, town by town and village by village. Recently, every clash between sorcerers and swordsmen has resulted in total domination by sorcerers. By the end of this book, you will discover why. I would say that most will discover why half to three-quarters of the way in, since the answer is rather intuitive and the author does a fair amount to lead the reader into the conclusion, well ahead of the protagonist.


The Bad: 1.) Although I liked this book, many may dislike the amount of action, of which it is short on. Think Sherlock Holmes. Intellectually intriguing and teasing, but not a candidate for a blockbuster film laden down with huge, explosive moments. 2.) Though it is short and not belabored, there is some repetition. An obvious point explained, when I have long since gotten the gist of the matter, kills my reading appetite and I have to go and do something else.


The Good: 1.) The solving of the mysterious plot lines. I can't get too specific without hitting spoilers. In this case, I will only say that the above average mixture of observation and thoughtfulness will have the reader patting themselves on the back for their keen sense of intuitiveness. 2.) The development of Nanji is subtle, but very appreciated by this reader. This is the course I would have expected Nanji's development to take, considering he is regularly exposed to Wallie Smith. 3.) The Sapphire and her crew. It is slow to develop, but I have come to love the crew of the Sapphire by the end of the book. 4.) The honorable Honakura. Easily my most favorite character in this series. Imagine the combination of Yoda and Grumpy Old Men. I'm telling you, it works.

Next Up: I'm still working on question sets, so no Sunday Night Spotlight this week. As far as reading goes, I'm itching for a book with a strong hook. I will in all likelihood forgo finishing this trilogy, for now, in favor of something heavy. I'm thinking of Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind or Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. We'll see.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tired

Man, am I tired. With a 2½-month old doing his thing and six medical office building budgets coming down on me, I'm beat, but finally caught up. I've only got ~50p remaining in book two of Dave Duncan's Seventh Sword series and then I'll have a review up. I'm also working on a couple different question sets for the Sunday Night Spotlight.

Otherwise, I recently became a bit more aware of a particular author. My interest became piqued and I looked a little deeper into the author's bibliography, while reading trusted sites for reviews of his work. I stop and wonder, "How do I miss out on this?" The only answer I can arrive at, was that there is insufficient "buzz" about this author to draw my attention.

On his own blog, S. A. Swann has this recent blog title, "My cover can kick your cover's ass."


I love the sense of humor. So, I start looking around and, guess what? There are plenty of reviews out there, from reviewers I trust, and I still couldn't say that I had read any Swann. For instance, Swann's latest book had some fairly decent reviews from Paul and Graeme. Swann has also received a nice review from Rob for Prophets.

Swann has even been up on the radar over at Fantasy Literature and the Hotlist. I was suprised to read, from Pat's entry, that GRR Martin had given the book a testimonial. I doubt GRRM would do that, just for the asking. People can say what they want to about Pat, but there is no debating he is the most viewed SF&F blogger on the web. If Swann is coming up for reading consideration during Pat's extraordinarily limited amount of leisure time, then it must be better than average.

Well, my head is coming out of the sand and I shall be acquiring some Swann material. Anyone visiting this have any familiarity with Swann's work, either SF or Fant Lit? Let me know and give a quick summary and opinion.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Fine Blend

I finished reading Dave Duncan's The Reluctant Swordsman moments ago. Coming in at just under 300 pages, it is a quick read. The story is constructed around it's protagonist, a man who has transmigrated from his own dying corpse, on Earth, into the body of a dead man in a secondary world. Through the course of the story, the protagonist realizes that his own values, morals and opinions have less place in this world than the one from which he came. His values clearly clash with the prevailing culture and, from time to time, nearly cost him his life. While he begins to learn how to exist in this world, without utterly betraying his conscience, he begins to be effected while concurrently making an impact.

The Bad: I'm not sure I found anything bad at all. The story, characters, theme, action and other various sundries were fine. That all having been said, there was something that kept it from being truly great. I would say that it is the immediate locale within which this first book takes place. The reader gets one town, with temple and jail, for the entire tale.

The Good: The characters and storyline were above average. The truly noteworthy item was the depth and breadth of knowledge of the author. Without knowing such things myself, I might have skipped right over it. However, it is clear to me that Duncan is well versed in many matters. Given the exploration of the mysteries of faith by the protagonist, I would guess that the author is Catholic. Now, whether or not I would be right, it's clear to me that Duncan has, at least, had some formal, spiritual exposure. Also, I would guess that the author is well versed in Asian history. The story reads like an amalgam of Confucian legalism/meritocracy and Japanese bushido. As a student of history, I truly enjoyed the protagonist's dilemma regarding his rose-tinted, twentieth-century glasses view of society and culture. I often find people's historical arrogance/ignorance astounding (e.g. the currently PC vilification of historical figures - Christopher Columbus, et. al.). I am very interested to see what becomes of the protagonist and this part of the storyline as it proceeds.

Next Up: There is no Spotlight this week. I'm going to remain within Duncan's Seventh Sword series and read book two, The Coming of Wisdom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scope of work

The political sprawl continues, here in the US. Now, the federal government is concerning itself with book blogs. Yes, book blogs. Uncle Sam wants to make sure he's getting his piece of the action here. Monitor, regulate, tax and do it again. This time, it's the Federal Trade Commission.

I'm not even bothering with the details, because I succumb to the temptation to get real negative all too easily where the federal government is involved (i.e. intrudes). Seriously, if the FTC really needs to go here, in this economy, then the money grubbing and power hungry nature of government is transparently obvious. With these clowns, I'm very minimalist. Less is more, baby. However, hit all the bases if you're looking to iron it out.

Now under FTC regulation, by Ken at Neth Space

Federal Trading Commission: Aims for a head shot. Should bloggers beware?, by Harry at Temple Library Reviews

About that FTC guides update that has some in a tizzy, by Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen

FTC Will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies, by The Mad Hatter at The Mad Hatter's Book Shelf & Book Review

FTC to Monitor Bloggers?, by Tia Nevitt at Fantasy Debut

Yet Another Post on the New FTC Guidelines, by Kristen at Fantasy Cafe

Smugglers Ponderings: On the FTC Guidelines & The Book Smugglers, by The Book Smugglers

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spotlight o' Sunday Night

Recently, I managed to convince Rob Bedford, of Rob's Blog o' Stuff and moderator at SFFWorld forums to stop in for an interview.

Rob, aside from putting together tons of stuff for his own blog, completes plenty of reviews for SFFWorld and helps to moderate the forums. So, we made a beneficial trade - he promised to stop by and I promised to no longer raise dead threads (the "necro-thread"), as well as relenting from creating unnecessarily redundant threads.

PW: What was it, in sf&f, that captured your interest and catalyzed your activity?

Rob: I’ve been a geek since a young lad, growing up watching Saturday morning cartoons like Super Friends and Godzilla (the cartoon from the late 70s/80s as well as the movies), and the Superman and Star Wars movies . From there, I was led to comics, which coincided with my early RPG days, playing Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it was known then – the first edition that came as a boxed set of books. D&D led me to the DragonLance books, my parents were big Stephen King and Robert McCammom fans, which got me interested in horror. So really there was never any hope for me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dust of Dreams winner

Bryce Lee (Seak on sffworld forums) of Laramie, WY (USA) is the winner for Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams for the Ubiquitous-Absence review challenge. Bryce correctly found and emailed the link from my review, posted on Harry Markov's Temple Library Reviews.


Tomorrow is Sunday night and the Spotlight will be on. The Ubiquitously Absent caravan will be blogcasting from New Jersey and ♫we're halfway there...oh-oohhhh♫.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Raven heats up

The third book of James Barclay's Raven series picks up five years after the end of the second book. Each character's life has followed natural progression lines since last we read of them. Early on, events unfold which spur Denser to seek out the former members of the now inactive Raven. In the finest traditions of comraderie, solidarity and esprit de corps, the members of the Raven incrementally reunite on a southerly passage across the continent before taking to the sea. Upon the ocean, they seek a place of legend and myth - the respository of the few remaining mages practicing the One magic.

Where the first book is the introduction to the characters, this book brings to the reader familiar faces. Where the second book is an over-long exercise in detailing several POVs over the same weeks long period, this book hits with several major events for our intrepid mercenaries to confront, endure and survive.

[CLICK TO READ MORE @ YOUR OWN RISK - SPOILER ALERT!!!]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Floating around

No spotlight tonight, folks. Now, now, don't get too upset. Some truly interesting sf&f people will be stopping in for the Sunday Night fun over the next couple of weeks.

I should have a review of Nightchild up tomorrow evening. As you may or may not have noticed, I have given a review grade to Glen Cook's The Swordbearer. So, where's the review? Ah-hah!! That is the question. The review for The Swordbearer will be out in the sf&f blogosphere somewhere this week.

To make this kind of fun, I will personally purchase, and mail to you, a brand spanking new hard cover copy of one of the favorites I'm eye-balling at the moment: Steven Erikson's Dust of Dreams.

The rules are simple. I'll ship anywhere Amazon/U.S. does (because I'll direct ship it to you) and you need to be above reproach. Huh? WTH did he say? That's right. I know some of you already know where the review is going up, so no cheating - even though I love the Patriots (In Bill We Trust).

So, should you be the first to find my review of Glen Cook's The Swordbearer, email me the link, and your snail mail address at PeterWilliam-AT-gmx-DOT-com (use the regular "at" and "dot" symbols). Entry deadline is 9 PM, Eastern Standard Time on Friday, October 2nd.

"There can be only one."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's that time of year

My blog content will undoubtedly be sparse during the autumn/early winter season (in the US we're talking September through January). Aside from a change in jobs, and a newborn, I am transfixed by football (American style). Saturdays are all about college football (I'm watching University of Louisville v. University of Kentucky while typing). Sundays are all about pro football (we're talking about Patriots football, as I grew up in a particular New England state).

There will not be an interview this Sunday Night. However, I do have more than one person who has agreed to give an interview. Currently I am constructing question sets for these individuals to answer at their leisure.

I continue to read James Barclay's Nightchild and can say, thus far (i.e. ~200p.), I like it more than the previous two entries in the Raven series. I am also starting The Swordbearer, by Glen Cook for an as yet undisclosed purpose. Oh, I'll tell you, when the time is right.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - The Wertzone

In exchanging posts through forum boards, I have come to realize that the sf&f community has an encyclopedia - Adam Whitehead. I have seen challengers come and go, but one thing I have yet to see, is someone challenging Adam to the facts of a matter and come out on top. It's Sunday Night Spotlight and we're in The Wertzone.

PW: Recently, wotmania shut down. In previous interviews Pat (Fantasy Hotlist) and Ken (Neth Space) spoke about the “early days.” Can you give those of us in the second generation of sf&f online a summary of wotmania and those early days? What was the attraction that drew so many there?

Adam: Well, I was just a lurker for most of those early days and didn’t start posting there until 2005, although I’d visited on and off since its founding. As the first forum I frequented I remember it being a very optimistic and friendly place at the start. This was before the Wheel of Time series veered heavily off-course with the later books, Steven Erikson and Scott Bakker were still years away from releasing their first books and even George RR Martin only had one Song of Ice and Fire book out. Back in those days (starts smoking pipe) Wheel of Time was widely regarded as the best epic fantasy series out there, despite grumblings over the length even back then with ‘just’ eight books out. There was an awful lot of enthusiasm and energy running around. When the books started going off the rails a bit more, that energy got transferred to the new ‘Other Fantasy’ department, where people like Ken and Larry did an excellent job of promoting other authors and getting people fired up about other books. It was a very interesting and enjoyable community back in those days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To rate, or not to rate

It's a discussion I've seen flown around from time to time. In this particular iteration, heavy language was flowing from the outset. In lieu of a recap, I'll give the quick link rapid fire version. Harry Markov, of Temple Library Reviews, has a regular Sunday column called, Reviewer Time, where he reviews bloggers from the genre.

As an aside, yes thanks for mentioning it, I feel somewhat stupid putting my Sunday Night Spotlight on....Sunday. I was aware of Harry's interviews, just not that they were on Sunday. Yeah, yeah, can it!

Anyway, Harry interviews Paul Stotts of Blood of the Muse. In explaining why he rates books as he does, Paul drops a comment some took exception to. James, from Speculative Horizons, had a response to Paul's comment. Jeff, from Fantasy Books News & Reviews, had a response to Paul's comment. Joe Sherry, of Adventures in Reading, had a response, to Paul's comment. Larry, from OF Blog of the Fallen, had a double-barreled response to Paul's comment.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - Speculative Horizons

Whether it's an enhanced photo, or a clever remark, James Long of Speculative Horizons always has me laughing. James has agreed to be interviewed and, look at what we got here, it's Sunday Night.

PW: What was the major catalyst for Speculative Horizons?

James: My love for the fantasy genre and my enthusiasm for talking about it. I’ve been a fan of fantasy ever since I was young, and as I got older I enjoyed talking about my favourite books online in various forums. When the genre blogosphere really started to take off, I greatly enjoyed following the various blogs and joining in the discussion they often provoked. I saw how much the individual bloggers seemed to be enjoying themselves, and as time went by I started to realise that running a fantasy book blog was something that really appealed to me – I saw it as a chance to really indulge in my love of discussing the genre, and to hopefully point some people in the direction of the books that I had enjoyed.

Speculative Horizons was subsequently born on 5 January 2008.


PW: What is the funniest story you have to tell regarding Speculative Horizons?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - Neth Space

It seems only fitting that tonight's interview be with Ken of Neth Space. Guys like Adam, Ken and Larry (well known bloggers of sf&f) became well known for their contributions to conversations at wotmania. The wotmania forum site closed today, signaling the end of an era, at least in the online sf&f community. Though I never had any contributions to wotmania, I like to think I'm of the second generation of what bloggers like Pat, Ken, Adam, Larry and others started on that forum board. So, sit back, relax and enjoy a look into the sf&f community with Ken from Neth Space.

PW: Will you describe your best day ever at Neth Space?

Ken: This would be toss-up between a few events.

Just after starting I started Neth Space I installed a stat counter. It was a complete shock to discover that people were reading my blog and that these people were literally from all over the world. It was a moment when the academic knowledge of the ‘world wide web’ being a literal term became personal to my experience.

Similar to the moment above, there was a point when I realized that someone who posted a comment at my blog was a well-known and inspected editor. This led me to approaching him about receiving review copies – he was happy to set me up with his publicist. I’ve been a big fan of Pyr ever since (of course this is mostly due to the consistently high quality product they put out).

The other moment that comes to mind is my first true contact with a ‘rock-star’ of SFF. I emailed George RR Martin about doing a short interview. I got an email back from him in less than an hour (you can read the interview here). It was a sort of ‘wow’ moment – I had just gotten and email from George RR Martin. I’ve since gotten a bit used to this sort of thing, but it still brings a warm-fuzzy feeling.


PW: Will you describe your worst day ever at Neth Space?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Raven, II

First, I apologize for the dearth of content since interviewing Pat. I've been too lazy, honestly. As an excuse, I use the newborn (3 weeks old) and my new job (1 week old). Incidentally, I have two more interviews in the vault, one of which will be coming up this Sunday night. On to the review.

It's been a week, or so, since I finished James Barclay's Noonshade. The events of this book coming directly in the wake of the preceding book, Dawnthief.

The Bad: For what this particular story is, there is a lot of padding. The entire tale covers a two week period of time, give or take a day here and there. A lot of areas in it, particularly surrounding Julatsa, went over-long.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Night Spotlight - The Hotlist

Back on Friday, I wrote about wanting to highlight individuals surrounding the sf&f landscape. I've found, largely through the forums at sffworld (thanks to The Hobbit/Mark Yon), that interacting with the people who enjoy the genre as much as I do, to be nearly as much fun as reading tales from the genre. There is an energy to imagination that is self-perpetuating. Now if we could only find some way to bottle it.

The opening salvo of the Spotlight highlights someone any visitor here should already be well aware of: Pat St-Denis. The Fantasy Hotlist is a great place to find all kinds of your favorite tidbits regarding sf&f. Pat has book excerpts, interviews, book reviews, breaking news, regular NYT bestseller list updates, giveaways and much more.

It is said that, "you learn something new every day." In a fun Q&A session with Pat, he taught me something new about myself. I don't know how dangerous it is, or what the prognosis would be, but it would appear that I am a 'Lemming of Discord.' If you already know what that means, continue to read and chuckle on. If, like me, you don't, then read on and enjoy the phenomenon of discovery.

PW: At what moment did you realize the Hotlist was more than a hobby; that it was really going to be big?

Pat: Truth be told, I still look at the Hotlist as a hobby. A time-consuming hobby, certainly, but nevertheless something I do for the fun of it. I never, ever thought that this blog would become as big as it is now. After all, I was just a passionate genre reader with no contacts and no resources. I wasn’t exactly “dressed for success,” and yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, this thing took off and skyrocketed to become one of the most popular SFF book-reviewing blogs out there.

Friday, August 21, 2009

All available units, Stand-By!

Since I returned to reading sf&f on a regular basis, approximately four years ago, I've been using the internet a great deal. First, it was to find something that would grant me the kind of reading experience I had loved in my youth and young adulthood (e.g. LotR, MST, Thomas Covenant). After buying, and wishlisting, hundreds to thousands of titles, I am definitely back into sf&f. Then, I started using the internet to read sf&f blogs and join forum boards. Reading the various posts, blogs and forums, was as much fun as getting a top shelf book recommendation.

Early on, I recognized that the blogs and forums had remarkably distinct personalities on them. Read an Adam Whitehead rant, view a riotous computer generated photo pinned up by James Long or take in the endless and inexhaustible reviews of Liviu Suciu. We are a community, perhaps a family even, based upon the tenor of some of the exchanges (i.e. pissing, moaning, bitching). Even though there is no such thing as a consensus in sf&f fandom, I love it, perhaps because of that. I don't mind the opposing opinions, if only because sf&f fandom has become nearly as interesting as sf&f itself. Hmm, is this an argument for art generating life, if only in a communal sense? Well, don't know, I don't do philosophy.

What I do want to do, however, is a regular spotlight on the recognizable personalities of the vast and broad sf&f community. Starting this weekend, I will begin a post called Sunday Night Spotlight. With the cooperation of bloggers and forum board members all across the internet, I hope to bring to you the personalities that have helped shape the landscape surrounding our favorite genre. The post won't necessarily be a weekly one, but will come in on Sunday nights whenever I've a new interview to post.

In case I don't see you until then, see you Sunday.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Poli. Sci-fi

I don't intend to post movie reviews, but saw a movie that provoked such a reaction, I had to write it off my chest.

Last night, I went and saw District 9, directed by Peter Jackson. With the internet buzz surrounding it, my expectations were primed. Unfortunately, I was the victim of over-hype. That alone would be nothing noteworthy, as this happens to movies, books and games all the time. No, what got me going was something else entirely.

Perhaps one of the largest disservices I have ever done to myself, was to minor in Political Science while attending the University of [state in which I attended]. At the time, the topic was new and interesting to me, and seemed to mesh well with the history degree I was pursuing and eventually earned. It was, in essence, a glimpse behind the curtain. We covered everything from our own (American) political history, through Constitutional procedures, elections and even the appropriate construction and analysis of a political poll. With a newly heightened awareness of all things political, I began to see the subtle and not-so-subtle political underpinnings throughout various elements of daily life. My wife, an executive chef, rarely enjoys eating out, because she understands what a professional kitchen and it's staff are like vis-a-vis the food. Similarly, had I known more, I would not have bothered with District 9.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Present, ARMS!!!

Here is DominicWilliam (also, and affectionately, known as, Milk-Beard the Pirate).

All Hail, Milk-Beard!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nevermore

In the past, I have read and reviewed The Ascendants duology, by James Barclay. As of last week, I've returned to Barclay and enjoined his Raven series. As of minutes ago, I finished the Raven series premiere: Dawnthief.

The Bad: The dialogue, as pertaining to plot development, in the initial phase of the book. Without using quotes or spoilers, there were times when I, as the reader, wanted to smack either Hirad, Sirendor, Ilkar or Talan for stating something that was, partially, incongruous. That is to say that I understood precisely what the conversation was meant to achieve, but was shaking my head at a nonsensical statement or a painfully obvious observation.

Advancement of the plot, at times in the early phase, felt forced or artificial. The dialogue problems previously mentioned, are symptomatic of this condition. Thankfully, for both author and reader, it is brief and temporary.

Friday, August 7, 2009

speechless

While I am currently reading James Barclay's Dawnthief, I'm not setting any speed records. I should have it finished this weekend and be moving onward from there. This brings me to the real reason for my lull in activity: DominicWilliam.

That's right, there's a new addition. At merely 3 days old, he continues to develop unbelievable levels of charm. I'm already polishing off Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles for Dominic, in order to begin his own various literary adventures.

I've now spent countless hours staring at a sleeping face, entranced and utterly speechless. You go, 'lil Dominic.

pictures coming soon....

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rai-kirah finale

Finishing this series is somewhat bittersweet. I will truly miss the characters. In another sense, I definitely need a break from them. This series has, in it’s own way, worn me out. The Rai-kirah series takes it’s reader and drags them up and down the range of human emotion.


The Bad: Hard to say. I wouldn’t call it bad, but I will leave advance warning for those considering reading this book/series. That warning being an ending that some may classify as the “happy ending.” Some fantasy fiction readers loathe anything approaching the happy ending. I could care less what type of ending the author uses, as long as it is well done.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elizabeth Moon

It has been some time since I read The Deed of Paksenarrion. When I read it, though, I was struck by how it captured the essence of esprit de corps, the comraderie developed among a group of soldiers bending their efforts towards a common cause, often with life itself on the line. I have, at a previous point in my life, been an infantry medic. Well, it was no surprise to me, after reading Elizabeth Moon, that this author had prior military experience. In fact, she was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps in the late '60's. Now that's something you can wear on any sleeve.

Elizabeth Moon is accomodating and gracious, however. How do I know? Because she gave a lightweight blogger (yours truly) the time of day and an interview. This being my first such interview, I bear an indebtedness and gratitude to Elizabeth Moon that I will never forget.

Elizabeth Moon has returned to the world of Paksenarrion. The first book to her new series, Oath of Fealty, will be released next spring. Without further ado, the interview:

PW: I have read that your upcoming series will chronicle Paksennarion's former commanders (Dorian, Arcolin and Phelan). Can you give a thumbnail preview of the new series?

EM: When a paladin comes in and does great deeds, there's always fallout...always change. Combined with the activities of the other people (which also has consequences) this means lives disrupted and re-directed in ways those involved never imagined. In the first book, out next March, the political situation in Tsaia has been destabilized by both the loss of Kieri Phelan to the kingship of Lyonya--his domain and his mercenary company now have no commander--and the treachery of the Verrakai family. The South, Aarenis, has been less than stable since the wars depicted in the original Paks books. Instability both north and south of the mountains makes for interesting times, in the worst sense of the term. The main POV characters are all mature people who thought they knew how the rest of their lives would play out. ("Mwah-hah-hah-hah!" cackles the evil author.) It will all come out in the end, but I'm not there yet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Once upon a debut,

I just finished reading The Adamantine Palace, by Stephen Deas. I've a lot of loose pieces still floating through my mind here. Let's see if I can put it all together.

The Bad: The characterization can be thin at times. Thin enough that the characters are unbelievable. As in the suspension, of. Particularly Jehal. Jehal is the perfect villain. No reasonable person could possibly defend Jehal. If the author hopes to, authentically, blur that line a bit, it's going to take some serious work. Otherwise, one need only predict that Jehal will continue to act in the most devious, underhanded and traitorous manner to understand where this story is going.

The plot twists are very intuitive. As the reader, you will know where this is going before you get there. The author, in telling his tale, leads the reader too close to the truth for it to have that thrilling flavor of surprise to it. Which is strange, since so much of the tale built upon political intrigue and betrayal. In such a tale, I would not expect to be able to see so much of what transpires behind the curtain.

The world-building is good enough to make my next point properly classified under "the bad." Let me first say the author did include indices listing the genealogies of the leading families of the realm. However, no map??? Seriously, with four or five realms, kings and queens, to say nothing of the Worldspine mountain range, the Adamantine Palace itself, the coastline, the Crags and the Sea of Salt and Sand, you really must have a map. A story carried by better than average characterization can get by without one. A story built upon political intrigue and betrayal necessitates a map.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Revelation, by Carol Berg

I finished Carol Berg's Revelation last night. This was another good book in the Rai-kirah series. Thankfully, the cover art wasn’t repulsive, as was the case with the previous installment.


The Bad: The middle portion of the book. The protagonist, Seyonne, is convinced that the key to knowledge he is searching for lies somewhere within the genesis of the demon war. He decides to descend into Kir’Vagonoth, the demon world stronghold. Once there, Seyonne is captured, tortured and enchanted. Through a long and excessively winding trail, he ultimately comes to the knowledge, and position in the story, that makes the ending possible.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

got book blog?

If you blog about books, then you will want to check out Book Blogger Appreciation Week. One of my favorites, Dark Wolf, was kind enough to put up the link. I'm assuming that there are many more smaller review sites out there (e.g. yours truly) than people expect. I don't know that smaller review sites like this have much impact, but it can't hurt to let your presence be known. At the very least, it will be a way to find some sites you might really like, that would've gone completely unnoticed otherwise.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Release Dates

What an ugly topic, eh? I've recently been embroiled in one of the constant, inexorable and inexhaustible grievance debates re: release dates, over on sffworld. That particular debate had to do with Martin's A Dance with Dragons. While I'm not sure that I could ever be a fan of the man, I buy and read his series in hard cover. There is no doubt that it is one of the very best such series published.

Recently, however, I've seen similar grievances regarding Rothfuss, Lynch, Brett, et al. I still don't get it. I've so much stuff to read that waiting for the release is no more difficult than waiting to wake up in the morning. It gets here when it gets here. I can't help but see the level of criticism, anxiety and vitriol over release dates and updates as having crossed the border into the obsessively unhealthy. To read some of the statements made regarding the issue, one might think that the author is some kind of narcotics dealer intentionally withholding a drug from it's wealthy and withdrawal ridden client base for the sheer enjoyment of inflicting pain.

One of the common realities of life that one faces and, hopefully, learns to accept when transitioning from pre-adulthood to adulthood is that life rarely goes according to plan. Since I understand it is rather gauche (pun completely intended) to be virtuous, let us just say that patience is the best of all coping mechanisms.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Book v. The Cover

I just finished reading Carol Berg's Transformation, the first in her Rai-Kirah series. I'm already heading into Revelation, the second book, so I need to get Transformation off my mind before I get too far along.

The Bad: The cover art. That's right. The lousy, putrescent, unmarketable cover art. Don't believe me? Check this out.


Exactly. I have no idea what Roc was thinking with this cover, but perhaps someone over there really had it out for Ms. Berg.

Monday, July 13, 2009

With an eye on, or waiting for

Books. Books, books, books, books. Mmm, I love shopping around for books, and I don't even need to step away from the keyboard. There's always some books I'm looking at, or waiting to hear about. Aside from the releases we all generally are waiting for, here are ones of special note (to me, that is):

One of my favorites, Elizabeth Moon, is returning to the eight kingdoms and the world of Paksennarion. It's set to be a trilogy and Oath of Fealty's cover art came out just this month.

Recently, I reviewed Blood of Ambrose. Soon, James Enge will be coming out with his next installment.

The concluding two novels of P.C. Hodgell's Godstalker series, in an omnibus edition entitled Seeker's Bane, is now out. I picked up the first omnibus based on the recommendation of a person on the sffworld forum boards whose opinion I've come to trust. Even though I've yet to read it, I'll be picking this up soon enough, as well.

Before The Desert Spear gets out, Subterranean Press will be publishing Peter V. Brett's The Great Bazaar, and Other Stories.


I've got my eye on a couple of books that have my interest due to buzz I've read in different places about the particular authors, and in Mickey Zucker Reichert's case, the series itself. Reichert has Flight of the Renshai due for release in September (yes, this year). The other book I've read some things of interest about is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin.

Check out this blurb for Company of Liars, by Karen Maitland:

On this day of ill omen, plague makes its entrance. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is spreading inexorably toward them.

Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller... from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all, propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.


Also, Glen Cook now has, arguably, the best cover art of the current day.


I'm interested in picking up the refurbished edition of Swordbearer, also.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strained

Hogan and Del Toro’s The Strain is a refreshing addition to current vampire fare. Generally, books set in the current day, involving vampires, are things from which I run. I don’t stop running. The difference, for me, with this book was it's internet buzz, as well as the name Guillermo Del Toro.


The Bad: The characterization got me riled on one occasion. The CDC sidekick, Nora, goes from being a physician/epidemiologist to a woman holding a hand over her mouth, stifling a terrified cry and sobbing afterward. Really? Our physician/epidemiologist’s first truly stunning and shocking exposure to the gross, disgusting, hideous, etc., is a newly turned vampire (newly turned = more zombie than vampire)? C’mon. I'm certain that the real article (Nora’s real-life counterpart) would be far more hardened, as a result of career path alone, than that. Other than that one truly glaring error, the characterization was still sub-par, running in the shallow end of the pool.

Something niggles at me concerning the story. It’s not bad, but seems like a road we’ve all been down before. Don’t get me wrong, the story is well executed, for what it is. It’s not daring or stunning in any kind of innovative way. I don’t mean for it to be a criticism, because I liked the story well enough, but it seemed to be an amalgam of books/movies/games I’ve experienced before.

The Good: Newly turned vampire/zombies running rampant through NYC as the first cascading shockwave of a possible extinction level event for humanity. Think I am Legend mixed with Resident Evil, except with vampires. The vampires “mature” in a matter of weeks into rather sentient, cunning and collaborative little buggers it would seem.

I really like how this book shows vampires as they ought to be: horrifying monsters – not the hot boy in high school. They smell disgusting. They relieve themselves while ‘feeding,’ or, pretty much, at any other time with no concern for sanitation or hygiene. These vampires have a hive intellect and no verbal communication, or need for it.

The whole phenomenon becomes more interesting when considered in terms of an epidemic outbreak. The vampires themselves are the vectors. They transmit the blood worms to infected prey. They can be exterminated by ultra-violet irradiation or decapitation. Silver can cause them pain. Otherwise, run! Forget the garlic and holy water.

Also, there seems to be a long standing arrangement concerning the existence of vampires. Prey are customarily beheaded so that no new vampires are created, unless necessary or desired. Among the ancient “Masters” (seven in all), the one central to this story has gone rogue. Moreover, it appears that there is an alliance between the rogue Master and a wealthy financier. The unlikely alliance between an ancient and a human is designed to throw the old arrangement out and boldly initiate a head-on conflict.

Overall, a fun read even though it’s not profound or innovative. For those who can live without owning their reads, wait until it arrives in the library. For those who must own, wait for the mmpb.

Next up: Transformation, by Carol Berg.

P.S. There is a more recent interview of James Maxey, over at FBC, than the one I referenced in an earlier post.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bloody Ambrosia


I finished Enge’s Blood of Ambrose last night. I’m still turning it over in my mind. As previously noted, Aidan Moher had a review of it up on his blog. While his description/criticism of the book is accurate, it is something I find interesting about the book. More on that later; let’s get down to the ugly first.

My only complaint on the story concerns the banter. Seriously, does banter ever come off well. There are all kinds of great dialogue devices, but I’ve yet to see banter that added anything to a story. I am willing to concede that it could possibly work, but I’ve yet to read an example of such. Also, I’ve a tangential complaint, and it centers around, “What’s next?” At the end of the novel, I was left wondering if we would see any of these characters again. There is no mention of any forthcoming works at the end of the story. There is nothing in the beginning of the book that hints towards any further adventures of Morlock. Indeed, I had to go scrounging through the net to discover anything. I found this interview, by Mirhir Wanchoo, over at FBC. It isn’t until question 8, do we find out what’s to come.

Alright folks, prepare the rotten fruit, because this is where I write about what I liked. Yes, I’m going to use a comparison that everyone universally loathes and snickers about. This book reminded me, in it’s way, of The Hobbit. It’s an introduction to a cast of characters, with one key character (i.e. Morlock) that the author has been writing about for over 30 years (cf. FBC interview). Other than Morlock, Enge doesn’t promise us (again, cf. FBC interview) any future regarding the other characters. Enge himself, is also a language scholar. Enge’s dedication to this world, and it’s various cultures, can be seen in the appendices, brief though they are. Look, I’m really not equating Enge with Tolkien, but with the amount of back-story unexplored and the volumes Enge could fill doing so, leaves Enge plenty of room to go in a more epic direction, if he so chooses.

Oh, but it would make for a very dark version of The Hobbit, indeed. With legions of zombies, necromancy and plenty of the expected, associated gore; the unrivalled skill of a Master Maker and his manipulations of phlogiston, aethirium, cloaks of invisibility and arachnoid automatons; and a political power-struggle with a great-great-great-ad infinitum, ad nauseum-grandmother, who seems to be in a battle for sole possession of her body with her sister who is long dead (usually they prescribe meds for that), this story has gone well beyond more “polite” versions of fantasy fiction.

Regarding criticism that Enge has received regarding his writing style, I’ve two takes on the matter. I’ve read Aidan’s review, as well as some others, that have difficulty with Enge’s style of stringing short-stories together and calling it a novel. This is no accident, nor is it (my opinion only here) as a result of an inability to write anything other than short stories. Indeed, as one will note from the interview of Enge over at FBC, this was intentionally done. Enge refers to this book as an ‘episodic novel.’ Enge also states that many colloquially refer this style as “fix-ups.” One might refer to this explanation as a well conceived cover for a lack of proficiency with any other style. Another take on it would be to laud the author for getting away from the formula, being daring, innovative or what-have-you. Personally, I liked it, but well after I had completed the book and had a while to mull it over.

I look forward to purchasing, and reading, future installments of all things Morlock and Ambrose. Next up, Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

between books

I'm still finishing up Enge's Blood of Ambrose. Aidan Moher has a review of it up on his blog. My review will probably be a bit more favorable than his, but his criticism of the book is solid.

I just saw a review I really liked. I had seen the author's name (James Maxey) before, but wasn't sufficiently piqued to put it on the wishlist or investigate further. FBC is my favorite review blog, however. This review was more than enough for me to look a little deeper.


I then went and poked around Maxey's blog a bit, as well as looking a bit further into his Novels of the Dragon Age series. It's definitely going onto the wishlist. If you've read any, or are more familiar with Maxey than I (which wouldn't be hard), let me know. I'd love to hear more impressions.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Legendary

When reviewing books, I normally begin by listing and explaining the items that I found, or think others might find, detracted from the work. Then I get on to the fun part, which is talking about the things I enjoyed and had fun with. In this particular case, we’re just going to skip to part two since I have no criticism at all. I predict this book, and it's author, will endure the testing of time, much the way Tolkien has. Contrarians come and contrarians go, but they still line up to talk down Lord of the Rings. I think the same will occur for David Gemmell as the years pass.


Gemmell’s Legend is something I should have read years ago. Living in the United States, I had not heard of David Gemmell. In all fairness, I grew up in the 80’s under extremely rural circumstances. I’ve had no exposure to the SF&F community until lurking around, and then joining, Mark Yon’s forum boards on sffworld over the past couple of years. Gemmell is fabulous. Previously, I had read his Sipstrassi Stones/Jerusalem Man series. As has been said/written elsewhere, Gemmell excels in ‘badassery.’ A main character by David Gemmell seems to be cast in the mold of Clint Eastwood, a la spaghetti westerns.

Legend is no different. The title of the book actually refers to a man named Druss, Captain of the Axe. There is a phenomenal cast of supporting characters as well. The story is of the most primal of struggles. The emotional range covered is complete and intense. Gemmell’s characters plumb the depth of human personality. Each ‘hero’ is sorrowfully aware of their own fatal flaw. Each ‘villain’ is one the reader can empathize with. While reading Gemmell’s Legend I was reminded of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Seriously, David Gemmell is legitimately described as Homeric. What Tolkien did for epic fantasy, David Gemmell has, for my money, done for heroic fantasy.

As an aside, I love everything that has been done with the award given in his name. Truly a fitting tribute to one of the genre’s ‘A-list’ contributors.

Currently starting Blood of Ambrose by James Enge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reflection and introspection

There is a bit of a storm sweeping through certain corners of the blogosphere. I won't spend any time here recapping the issue, but if you track the evolution of the issue from Aidan Moher's post, you should be able to find the significant portions of the discussion, debate or whatever you want to call it.

For me, it was great to get Aidan's thoughts on the matter in such a frank and honest manner. As is obvious from any examination of this blog, the experience is new to me. In that context, I struggle with precisely what direction to take this rudderless ship. Having had some time to digest Aidan's post, I've reflected upon my own efforts here. I'm comfortable not having Pete's Blog of the Fallen or Pete's Fantasy Hotlist. I realize, I don't necessarily want to be on publisher's ARC lists. I would prefer to read the books that have captured my attention and talk all the nonsense that's unfit to print.

After all, I never expected, or sought, a wide readership. This was just supposed to be an exercise designed to enforce some regular writing discipline upon my lazy backside. To sit on story notes, characters and plot threads for twelve, fifteen, even twenty years, is no way to tell that story. While it may be easier for me to daydream such nonsense, the rubber must hit the road one day if I will ever be the kind of storyteller I want to be.

Thanks to Aidan Moher for reminding me of what my original target was. I'd love to have that journey end with this.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Supernatural Space Opera

So I finally finished The Reality Dysfunction. I've had last night and most of this morning to digest the experience, and I'm still hedging on it. First, the caveat. I've never read any 'good' science fiction before, aside from the kind of dystopian things one reads in high school literature classes (e.g. Huxley's Brave New World). So, my impressions here will be those of someone relatively new to the experience.

There are elements of potential negativity for some readers. Hamilton's descriptiveness reminds me of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. In his descriptions, Hamilton seems to have a fixation with units of measure (metric, of course). Moreover, the exercise in assimilation that this book demands is higher than most. I'm not sure I would use the term 'info-dump' to define it, but it's as close as I can come. At nearly 1100 pages, it is a very long set-up to a trilogy. The characterization starts out two-dimensional and improves a little further into the story, but I found only one compelling character. To be clear, only the length got to me. After 1100 pages, I thought the plot would be more developed.

I really liked this book though. The direction of the overall story has me very curious, interested and filled with anticipation. We have a science fiction tale, trending it's way across issues of a supernatural, or metaphysical, nature. There is a dash of horror, and a smattering of fantasy, thrown in as well. The technology presented throughout the story seems plausible and accurate. I had no difficulty in suspending disbelief. While The Reality Dysfunction may have dragged a bit for me, I am still thinking about different elements of the story throughout the day. In holding my attention like this, post-read, I can only conclude that it was good. I fully expect the remaining installments of this trilogy to intensify my level of engagement.

In the spirit of last night's awards (The David Gemmell - Legend Award), I'm reading Legend by Gemmell. Congratulations to the finalists, especially the winner, Andrzej Sapkowski for his winning efforts on Blood of Elves.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anti-Rothfuss whisper campaign

While examining posts over on sffworld's forums, I found this post. The post is by Adam Whitehead of The Wertzone. If you're reading this blog and haven't heard of Adam or the Wertzone, you've got problems.

Anyway, I wanted to do whatever part I could to make sure Rothfuss got whatever publicity he could from this cheap-shot. Is it because I like his book? I don't know; I haven't read it yet. What I do know, however, is that this attempt to railroad someone enjoying success and acclaim is male bovine excrement. Even should I end up loathing Name of the Wind, I now feel slightly biased towards the book because of the under-handed swipe at it.

A scathing column regarding these tactics and the suspected perpetrator (I've no interest in repeating their name) is up over on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist.

As an aside, cheers to Henry Allingham.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Which writer are you?

Ken had a link to this meme over on NethSpace. I'm not sure how the answers compute, but I took it anyway. The results....

China Miéville

"Congratulations! You are High-Brow, Violent, Traditional and Romantic! These concepts are defined below.

China Miéville writes in the British fantasy tradition of authors like Mervyn Peake and Michael Moorcock, a tradition which is a little darker than the Tolkien kind, but Miéville is also a great renewer, as he has taken care to challenge, for example, race-related (or, to be exact, species-related) stereotypes in fantasy. His great breakthrough came with the award-winning novel Perdido Street Station (2000), which is set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon in the secondary world Bas-Lag. Apart from its urban setting, Perdido Street Station also differ from Tolkien-style fantasy by taking place in an era reminiscent of the Victorian age rather than the typical quasi-medieval setting of so-called high fantasy. This means that Miéville has the opportunity to explore his socialist beliefs in a fantasy environment, even if both Perdido Street Station and its two sequels also feature monsters, adventures and such.

Setting his book in a rather dictatorical society and occasionally spinning his sories around resistance against an oppressive government means that Miéville's books sometimes contain rather horrible violence, made all the scarier because it's often conducted legally by a ruling government. This also makes the boks rather romantic; although the struggle is difficult, the struggle continues and whether you are a socialist like Miéville or not, it's easy to sympathize with the message that the world can be changed for the better. It should also be pointed out that although Miéville is often inventive and has a love for spicing up his prose with archaic words, his books are, narratively speaking, traditional adventure stories. Actually, Miéville has made a point of taking genres such as the pirate story and the Western story and retelling them in a fantasy environment.

Still, Miéville has brought fantasy to new literary heights and can be said to represent hope for the genre's future.

You are also a lot like Michael Moorcock.

If you want something more gentle, try Susan Cooper.

If you'd like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Orson Scott Card."


I hate to admit it, but I haven't yet read any of Miéville's works. This test has at least sold me on picking up something and giving it a try. Maybe Perdido Street Station. I'll have reviews for Hamilton and Gemmell coming up soon. No, really, I will. I'm serious.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blitzball

The reading, and thus the blog, is suffering due to my involvement in playing Final Fantasy X. That's right. Years after everyone else has played, I'm just starting. You see, the 'ole Pedro is slow to get out there and buy platforms, hardware, peripherals, software and games, because if I'm just patient, I can get them a few years later at greatly reduced prices and maximize the fun:dollar ratio.

The Blitzball side-game has been occupying vast swaths of time. My proficiency (thank you NHL '95) is such that I've not yet lost a game (50+ played). I am having a great time, winning the division, repeatedly, as well as every tournament entered.

Between the obligations of day-to-day life and playing Final Fantasy X, my reading of Peter Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction is suffering. Worse yet, I'm now considering reading David Gemmell's Legend, concurrently. So far, I've only read Gemmell's Sipstrassi Stones series, so I am fairly excited to start out Gemmell's Drenai series. It'll be Hamilton at night and Gemmell during the day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Slow going

Man, the book I'm reading is slow going. That's not a criticism, it's just huge and the process of assimilation has taken me a little while.


Just jumping into sci-fi, by Peter Hamilton no less, was probably going to be a little more time intensive that previously anticipated.

While obviously sci-fi (space opera to be specific), I detect a dash of horror involved as well. While I am currently only 400p into book one, I think that I have, perhaps, finally absorbed enough of the story's layout to proceed.

It seems as though there are several disparate elements drawing together to converge at a common locus. I enjoy that; it seems ordered and symmetrical to me. The characters however, seem fairly similar. I observe two main categories of characters: actors and hopeless. One group drives the storyline, is beautiful and is having sex every six hours or so. The other has the storyline riding right over the top of them and bears some kind of burden they can't process which makes them, well, hopeless. We'll see how it progresses.

Incidentally, I would have really enjoyed Quinn Dexter and all of his merry little Ivets getting the Tony Montana treatment.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Arrived

I love when new books arrive in the mail (FedEx & UPS are good, too). Today I received Conqueror's Moon, book 1 in the Boreal Moon Tale, by Julian May. It's a recommendation from a very trusted source and I've finally got around to ordering the series to read. Like any other reader of sf&f, I'm a sucker for a great cover. This one was nice, so I wanted to share it on site. It isn't nearly as nice on screen, as up close. Proximal scrutiny reveals incredible detail and scale of the habitations in the valley beyond the armed crowd in the foreground. One day, hopefully soon, I'll review it.


Currently, I'm doing something I've not done in approximately 20 years: reading sci-fi. I solicited, and was given, some great sci-fi recommendations over on the forums at sffworld. As a result of the recommendations, and their respondents, I've decided to go with Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy. I'm only 150p into The Reality Dysfunction, but will be back soon enough with a review.

Off to the weekend and my birthday. That's right!! 'Ole Pedro, kickin' like a chicken.