Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review: Against All Things Ending


Against All Things Ending, by Stephen R. Donaldson
Paperback: 575 pages (uncorrected proof ARC)
Publisher: Putnam, ©2010
ISBN: 978-0-399-15678-6
Copy: provided by Putnam

Blurb: Thomas Covenant is alive again, restored to his mortal body by the unimaginable combined force of his own white gold ring, Linden Avery's Staff of Law, and the ancient dagger called High Lord Loric's krill. His resurrection is Linden's defiant act of love, despite warnings from mortals and immortals that unleashing this much power would destroy the world. She brought his spirit back from its prison in the Arch of Time, and revived his slain body, so that Covenant lies whole on the cool grass, and the world seems at peace. But the truth is inescapable: The thunderclap of power has awakened the Worm of the World's End, and all of them, and the Land itself, are forfeit to its devouring. If they have any chance to save the Land, it will come from unlikely sources - including the mysterious boy Jeremiah, Linden's adopted son, whose secrets are only beginning to come to light.

While this review won't be seeing the light of day until the release date of Against All Things Ending, it must be composed now (i.e. 8/14/2010), lest all that swirls in my mind be lost in the interim.

Any of Donaldson's multiple Chronicles of Thomas Covenant can be characterised as being garbed in the viscera of human emotion. The tale brings the reader into such intimate acquaintance with loss, sorrow, rage, self-doubt, self-loathing, self-condemnation and, ultimately, despair, that the sensation of drowning amidst one's own stunned silence prevails. The same is true with Against All Things Ending.

Donaldson's use of archaic terms throughout the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are well known. Aside from driving the reader to the dictionary, the terms used also provide a meaning unattainable with more modern equivalents. Donaldson also employs a dynamic use of simile. In fact, the only element to Donaldson's style that has ever failed to satisfy, and it is a recurring one, is excessive description during periods of travel which undermines the overall sense of the novel's pace.

The tale unfolds through five main, and sequential, acts. In labelling them, according to their setting, they are: Andelain, Gravin Threndor (Mount Thunder), the Spoiled Plains (where the group splits), Muirwin Delenoth (a region south of Kurash Qwellinir, i.e. the Shattered Hills, which ring Foul's Creche - Avery's party) and Ridjeck Thome (the proper name for Foul's Creche - Covenant's party). Those who love and defend the Land are confronted by numerous enemies and an impending apocalypse. Throughout this tale, lives are lost, choices are made and consequences are borne, willingly or not.

Throughout, Linden Avery and Thomas Covenant are their typical selves. Surely, there has been some dislike of the two characters over time. However, it seems most likely that the antipathy for the characters stems from the characters' penchant for: 1) unintentional destruction and damage, 2) subsequent self-doubt and loathing and, 3) the emotional or mental paralysis suffered by the character, consequently. Such circumstances can be disheartening and drive one to look away when descried in another. Perhaps because it brings on a disturbing sense of discomfort - reminding us of similar events we have suffered. No sane person wants to go there ever again.

And, so, there are many who criticize Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as being rather bleak. The works are are not intrinsically so as the author has demonstrated throughout why nothing is "too bleak." Ranyhyn are still Ranyhyn - noble. Giants are still Giants - cheerful and faithful. Haruchai are still Haruchai - ready and able. For all of the dreariness a reader may encounter in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the author does provide, in extremely subtle ways, salvific relief.

By way of example, Linden Avery has a conversation with Stave, a Haruchai by birth and former Master. Linden asks why the Masters distrust her as though she were a second Kevin Landwaster. She asks what is so similar between the two of them. Stave responds by saying, "If." Linden asks for elaboration and gets it - in spades.
"If, Chosen. That you share with High Lord Kevin Landwaster, who is now forgiven by his sires. If.

Summoned to a parley with or concerning the Demondim, if he had not sent his friends and fellow Lords in his stead. Concerned and grieving for your son, if you had heeded Anele's desire for the Sunstone. You believe that you might have acted otherwise, and that you are culpable for your failure to do so. Thus you open your heart to despair, as High Lord Kevin did also."
Stave continues,
"Chosen, you have rightly charged the Masters with arrogance. They have deemed themselves wise enough, and worthy, to prejudge the use which the folk of the Land would make of their knowledge. After his own fashion, Kevin Landwaster was similarly arrogant. In his damning if, he neglected to consider that his friends and fellow Lords selected their own path. He commanded none of these to assume his place. Indeed, many among the Council valued his wisdom when he declined to hazard his own vast lore and the Staff of Law in a perilous vesture [perhaps author meant 'venture']. Yet those voices he did not hear. Arrogating to himself responsibility for the fate of those who fell, he demeaned them - and failed to perceive Corruption clearly. Faulting himself for error rather than Corruption for treachery, he was self-misled to the Ritual of Desecration, and could not turn aside.

So it is with you."
In an attempt to drive the point home, inexorably, Stave concludes his comparison of Linden Avery to Kevin Landwaster:
...you demean all who stand with you by believing that there can be no other fault than yours, and that no fault of yours can be condoned. Doing so, 'You tread paths prepared for you by Fangthane's malice,' as Manethrall Mahrtiir has said. Thus you emulate High Lord Kevin.

In your present state, Chosen, Desecration lies ahead of you. It does not crowd at your back.
Avery, as is her wont, has assumed "the weight of the world" upon herself. Stave explains that Avery has, at her side, Ranyhyn, Giants and Haruchai that are ready, willing and able. Stave asserts that it is futile, and the road to despair, for Avery to assume total responsibility for defending the Land and battling it's enemies. It is in this way, that Stave provides 'salvific relief' - by emphasizing that no one need necessarily be alone with their burdens.

Since the 1980's, I have read and enjoyed the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Within, there lies a deep, rich and well disguised symbolism that is extremely relevant to the conduct and endurance of an individual life. They are stories that offer the reader maimed and loathsome lepers, both literally and figuratively, which demonstrate the virtues of perseverance and resolve, while disdaining apathy, self-abasement and despair. It boldly and confidently delivers the message that nothing, and no one, is irredeemable or unforgivable.

Against All Things Ending, as with any other Chronicle of Thomas Covenant, does more than merely entertain. It is a story which explores the width, breadth and depth of the concept of free-will, especially how to recognize it's pitfalls and gracefully accept it's consequences.

Must Read

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: The Grave Thief, by Tom Lloyd



The Grave Thief, by Tom Lloyd
Format: Paperback, 490 pages
Publisher: Pyr, ©2009
ISBN: 978-1-59102-780-5
Series: The Twilight Reign - Book 3
Copy: out of pocket

Back of book: FOR ISAK, THE TIME FOR HEARTLESS DECISIONS AND RUTHLESS ACTION HAS COME IF HE IS TO SAVE THE LAND FROM ITS OPPRESSORS...

Scree has been wiped from the face of the Land in a brutal demonstration of intent. While those responsible scatter to work on the next step in their plan, the stakes are raised - all the way to the heavens - as the Gods themselves enter the fray. Returning home to a nation divided by fantaicism, Lord Isak is haunted both by the consequences of his actions in Scree and by visions of his own impending death. As the full extent of Azaer's schemes becomes clearer, he realizes prophecy and zealotry must play their part in his battle plans if there is to be any chance of surviving the coming years. As a white-eye, Isak has had to embrace the darker parts of his own soul, but now the savage religious fervor sweeping his nation must also be accepted and turned to purpose, in the name of survival. With the battle lines vague and allegiances uncertain, the time for heartless decisions and ruthless action has come. Two figures oppose Isak and his allies: the greatest warrior in history, who dreams of empire and Godhood, and a newborn baby whose dreams have no limit.


In this third installment to The Twilight Reign series, Lloyd has hit full stride. Each major element of his story crafting has distinctly tightened up.

Previously, the cavalier approach to dialogue and/or character interaction kept the reader at arm's length when reading through more dramatic stretches of story. It did not 'read' consistently with the rest of the tale. The Grave Thief is more adept at drawing the reader into the dramatic, with credibility, than the previous two books were. Otherwise, Lloyd's style remains the same - which is more than adequate.

While there are no new characters of note, the characters within the story each take on a level of gravity, or relevance, not previously possessed. To be sure, principle characters to the story have not diminished in their relevance, but the more peripheral characters have each noticably developed significant depth and relevance to the story on the whole.

Following the collapse of the city of Scree, in The Twilight Herald, all contending factions are drawn to the twists of fate in the Circle City. A city of merchants and commerce, it is, largely, devoid of the militant strength to defend itself in the face of the moves and counter moves of the Vukotic family, Lord Styrax of the Menin nation, the shadow - Azaer, King Emin's Brotherhood, the Farlan nation - led by Lord Isak - and the gods themselves.

While The Grave Thief does not answer as many questions as hoped for, it certainly did induce a great deal of anticipation regarding the next book in the series (thankfully, it came out 2 days after completing the read of this one). To say that The Grave Thief ended on a cliff hanger would be an extreme understatement. As a recommendation, I would suggest having book four - The Ragged Man - on hand prior to finishing The Grave Thief.

In summary, Lloyd and his series continue to improve on a good thing with each successive installment.

Highly Recommended

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book Challenge Review: A Shadow on the Glass


A Shadow on the Glass, by Ian Irvine
Format: paperback
Publisher: Aspect (Warner Bros.), ©1998
ISBN: 0-446-60984-6
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back cover:
THE TALE OF THE FORBIDDING
In ancient times the Way Between the Worlds was shattered, leaving bands of Aachim, Faellem, and Charon trapped with the old humans of Santhenar. Now Llian, a Chronicler of the Great Tales, uncovers a 3,000-year-old secret too deadly to be revealed - while Karan, a young sensitive, is compelled by honor to undertake a perilous mission. Neither can imagine they will soon meet as hunted fugitives, snared in the machinations of immortals, the vengeance of warlords, and the magics of powerful mancers. For the swelling deluge of a millennial war is rising, terrible as a tsunami, ready to cast torrents of sorcery and devastation across the land...


From 1998, this is Irvine's debut, and it shows. The first third to half of the book leaves one with the impression that the author had a vast, massive idea in mind, but didn't know how or where to begin. The means by which the various characters encounter, or know of, each other seems rather contrived. In other words, it read as though the author were 'trying too hard.'

Early segments of dialogue were very strained and incongruous to extant circumstances, and read very awkwardly. Characters, who barely knew each other, would heatedly argue as though they had known each other for many years one moment, and then immediately apologize - returning to the semi-formal, rather polite, dialogue usually employed between relative strangers.

The plot consisted, mainly, of perpetual peril. Our main characters, Llian (bard, of the spoken word variety) and Karan (a sensitive empath, who can affect others with her emotive feedback) escape peril, become assailed and/or captured, nearly come to permanent harm and escape again throughout the tale. It is an element to fiction that certainly works, but not if there is nothing else within the tale with which to contrast it.

The tale does have a long, shadowed past, however. Indeed, one of the key plot points is that Llian has, in his research, discovered a 3,000 year old secret. It appears that the key story in the history of the world, at the pinnacle of the last age, is something which has been misrepresented for three millenia. This particular element kept my interest throughout the tale, as each person, race and locale had some relevance to the distant past. As a result of the history revealed thus far in this debut, it is clear there is a great deal more to be known - not only to the reader, but key characters as well. It is this aspect alone that convinces me to continue onward into the next book of this series, at some future date.

Fair

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book Challenge

Alright, so I am now back from holiday (i.e. spent the past week in Maui) and realized I forgot to post about this myself. So I'm chipping this in from over at Speculative Book Review.

Not long ago Seak from Seak's Stamp of Approval and Only the Best Sci Fi/Fantasy gave [me] and [Tyson] the ultimatum to read a novel by an author we have never heard of or by the cover alone. [Ty] and I are not ones to shy away from a challenge so we took it upon ourselves to each find a book that would fit the criteria for Seak's trial.

While [my] choice was a lot older and mysterious compared to [Ty's], [I] also had the benefit many exceptional used bookstores that [I] could peruse to find [my] choice.

Shadows on the Glass by Ian Irvine

An ancient war closed the Way between the Worlds, leaving the four human races of Aachim, Faellem, Charon, and Santhenar to inhabit a single realm. Thousands of years later, Llian the Chronicler discovers an ancient and dangerous secret, while a young woman gifted with magic embarks on a search for a powerful artifact. Irvine's series opener promises a grand-scale epic fantasy that features a pair of unusual heroes and a complex world rich in history and variety.

[I] picked th[is] novel due to the fact that there were runes running along the edge of the cover. (Mmmm, runes. Milk please)



The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

Shale is the lowest of the low-an outcast from a poor village in the heart of the desert. In the desert water is life, and currency, and Shale has none. But he has a secret. It's the one thing that keeps him alive and may save all the cities of the Quartern in the days to come. If it doesn't get him killed first...

Terelle is a slave fleeing a life as a courtesan. She finds shelter in the home of an elderly painter but as she learns the strange and powerful secrets of his art she fears she may have traded a life of servitude for something far more perilous...

The Stormlord is dying in his tower and there is no one, by accident or design, to take his place. He brings the rain from the distant seas to his people. Without a Stormlord, the cities of the Quartern will wither and die.

Their civilization is at the brink of disaster. If Shale and Terelle can find a way to save themselves, they may just save them all. Water is life and the wells are running dry...

[Ty] picked this one because [his] mom sent it to [him] thinking that [he] would enjoy it.

Seak's choice is also a good one.....

Flight to the Savage Empire by Jean Lorrah and Winston Howlett



"Bloodlust! In the Aventine Empire, gladiator games still slake the multitudes' undying thirst for blood. Magister Astra hated the games - with her telepathic powers, she felt the warriors' agonies as her own. But the Master had once again sent her there to tend the wounded: it was a punishment - but for what? Even her strongest Reading couldn't tell her. Not until an unexpected death and an exotic, mind-bending drug brought her into the path of the ex-slave warrior Zanos did Astra begin to understand the web of deceit, greed, and vengeance that would send them both in a desperate - Flight To the Savage Empire."


In the coming days and possibly weeks we will be posting our reviews of the challenge issued by Seak and Seak himself will be posting his review.

Since all three of us have gone out on a limb we now are challenging our readers to go out there and find a book from an author you have never heard of or have heard of but know virtually nothing about them and give that author a chance. You just might find a new series to read and at the very worst you have something to complain about to your friends and families. Best of luck and good hunting

Also, if you have not stopped by and checked out these other great sites, please do and check out the books they chose for the Book Challenge:

Simcha @ SFF Chat

Melissa @ My World...in words and pages

Amanda @ Floor to Ceiling Books

Seak @ The Stamp and Only the Best Sci-Fi

Ryan @ Battle Hymns

and, of course, Ty @ State of Review and one of my nefarious partners in crime at Speculative Book Review

So go ahead, judge a book by it's cover and read the thing. Then let us know whether you found a 'diamond-in-the-rough' or a dead-mound-in-the-rot. Incidentally, Keeper Martin's Tale has recently been reviewed and is, thus, ineligible. =)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review: The Twilight Herald, by Tom Lloyd



The Twilight Herald, by Tom Lloyd
Format: Paperback, 503
Publisher: Pyr, ©2009
ISBN: 978-1-59102-733-1
Series: The Twilight Reign - Book 2
Copy: out of pocket

Back of the book: Lord Bahl is dead and the young white-eye, Isak, stands in his place; less than a year after being plucked from obscurity and poverty, the charismatic new Lord of the Farlan finds himself unprepared to deal with the attempt on his life that now spells war, and the possibility of rebellion waiting for him at home.

Now the eyes of the Land turn to the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan flexes his powers. Scree is suffering under an unnatural summer drought and is surrounded by volatile mercenary armies that may be its only salvation.

This is a strange sanctuary for a fugitive abbot to flee to, but he is only the first of many to be drawn there. Kings and princes, lords and monsters - all walk the sun-scorched streets.

As elite soldiers clash after dark and actors perform cruel and subversive plays that work their way into the hearts of the audience, the city begins to tear itself apart - yet even chaos can be scripted.

There is a malevolent will at work in Scree, one that has a lesson for the entire Land: nations can be manipulated, prophecies perverted, and Gods denied.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of a shadow, and no matter how great a man's power, there are some things he cannot be protected from.


After having truly enjoyed book one, a better than average debut, book two is as much a pleasant surprise as the first was. The Twilight Herald expanded, in many ways, upon the foundations established in The Stormcaller.

The voice and narrative of the tale remains third-person, as much such tales are and Lloyd's style remains relaxed, if not cavalier. The down side to that is that it becomes difficult to take the darker and more brooding elements seriously.

That having been said, the cast of characters grows mildly, while the book's POVs expand heavily. The various regions, plot lines, characters and agendas reveals a surprising jump in scope. If you like, think of it as Lalazan - Malazan's little brother.

After book one, the reader should be readily familiar with Isak, a young, white-eyed wagon rat, elevated by the Gods to the position of Krann among the Farland nation. A white-eye (stronger, larger, greater longevity, powerful instrinsic and instinctive magical ability) cannot viability interbreed with your garden variety human being, although they are created by garden variety human beings, although the occurence is rare enough. Unfortunately, a white-eyed child spells death for the mother as they are physically large enough to kill the woman in labor. The various gods of Lloyd's realm select young white-eye candidates to become heir to the throne (i.e. Krann), while the current ruler reigns. Book one is exclusively about Isak, the Krann of Farland. At the end of book one, Isak becomes Lord of the Farlan and it is here that book two begins.

However, book two reveals to us the white-eye leader of the south - Kastan Styrax. White-eyes can, however, produce viable offspring among themselves. Styrax has a son of his own who serves as his Krann. Styrax is an experienced ruler, conqueror and planner. Styrax has long planned, flawlessly it would seem, for all he now attempts. While he appears equal to any task, someone or something has taken great pains, of colossal effort, to possess his son. Can the brutal Styrax save his son? If so, will it be worth having saved whatever creature remains as his son?

Morgien, the 'man of many spirits,' knows more than is revealed. Having invited many other souls in to share existence with his own, Morgien has come to understand many things others dare not inquire after, including the true nature of possession.

Zhia Vukotic has seen it all, literally. Having been doomed by the Gods, along with her brothers, to walk the earth without aging, yet being perpetually held sane and overpoweringly sympathetic to the suffering of mortals. It is a curse that burns, literally as well as figuratively - the Vukotics are vampires. Zhia remembers a time when she was mortal and loved. She was the consort to the last true king and, coincidentally, most powerful ruler to have ever lived.

King Emin of Narkang, rules a region of half-breeds cast off by the tribes of men, fashions many things of his own - his kingdom being perhaps the easiest. The King of Narkang has already acquired knowledge of things deeper than most dare and, yet still, delves ever deeper.

The ghost of the last true king, Aryn Bwr, is anything but peaceful. In an age where the stories about the savage, brutal and barbaric elves streaming forth from the Wastes are treated like poorly aged fiction, the ghost of their most fierce member, the last true king, wanders aimlessly while once again seeking power.

And what of the gods who have placed all of this into motion several millenia ago? They are in hiding, or so it would appear. What should happen to the gods if their believers are turned? Will they only become a shortened scream that has no voice? Azaer, a shadow worshipped by some, certainly thinks so and means to find out. And so a cult of the shadow grows, quietly and slowly, in power. In fact, many thousands of years ago, it is said that a shadow spoke to Aryn Bwr and handed him twelve weapons of power. In those days - the days of the Great Wars - gods died, or so the legends say. In fact, the legends say gods died horribly.

The significant, but measured increase in backstory, characters and plot threads truly adds weight to this series. Thus far, each book has had a naturally resolved ending. However, each ending seems to remind the reader that winning numerous battles is no guarantee of winning the war or enjoying the victory if you did.

As of this review (typed on 8/26/2010), the fourth book - The Ragged Man - has just been released. It is a read that is eagerly anticipated.

Highly Recommended

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: The Stormcaller


The Stormcaller, by Tom Lloyd
Paperback: 449 pages
Publisher: Pyr, ©2008
ISBN: 978-1-59102-693-8
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back of the book: In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of Gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control.

Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic, and more powerful than normal men...but with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage he cannot always hide. Brought up as a wagon-brat, feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life. But when the call comes, it isn't to be a soldier, for the Gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager: Isak has been chosen as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan.

The white-eyes were created by the Gods to bring order out of chaos, for their magnetic charm and formidable strength make them natural leaders of men. Lord Bahl is typical of the breed: he inspires and oppresses those around him in equal measure. He can be brusque and impatient, a difficult mentor for a boy every bit as volatile as he is.

But now is the time for revenge, and for the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice, the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by Gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and molded to fulfill the prophecies that circle him like scavenger birds. Divine fury and mortal strife are about to spill over and paint the world with blood.

The Stormcaller is the first book in a powerful new series that combines inspired world building, epoch-shattering battles, and high emotion to dazzling effect.

Well, that's more than a mere blurb, but it does pretty much cover the main plot points. And a fine plot it is. While the info dump/assimilation quotient goes above average here, there is a Dramatis Personae at the end of the book for the reader to untangle all of the various personages walking through the storyline, as though it were a subway station. The faction tracking portion of keeping the plot straight was a bit difficult due the double-edged sword of: 1) info dump and, 2) lack of information on things that will probably be revealed in later installments. Other than the aforementioned potential snags, the plot of the story is engaging. The story elements of the setting (or world-building, whatever) have a nice mix of the imaginative and the "tried and true."

The characters really work for this tale. One could conceivably describe the characters as Eddings-esque (as a categorization not necessarily a criticism), but it would be more fair to describe them as being withheld from unnecessary over-complication and, yet, still vibrant. Each character carries a key emotive role, for the reader, and it worked in this instance.

The tale is third-person in nature, even during several key dreamscape sequences. One gets the sense that the author was attempting to veer away from the third-person during the dreamscape sequences, but didn't completely commit to doing so.

Overall, a very fun read and debut. One which shapes and stores an expectation for the next book in the series.

Highly Recommended

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

...and another...

I collect blog roll additions like they were free signed first editions. In the case of Dazed Rambling, I should've found it sooner as this is James/Winter, who is one of us.

What do I mean by that, you may wonder? Wonder no more, perplexed one. We who blog on sf&f tend to find ourselves in similar corners of the universe. There is, in fact, a singular planet which draws/creates many such bloggers. It is the planet SFFWorld and we are it's predominant life-form, if I do say so myself. ;-)

So head on over and visit James' place - just don't pet the Grrthalian, it's not what it appears to be.

Nevermind, you'll know it when you see it...or when you're missing an arm.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Shadow's Son


Shadow's Son, by Jon Sprunk
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Pyr, ©2010
ISBN: 978-1-61614-201-8
Copy: Out of pocket

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

This work was certainly a quick read, without any slow portions. It's a rather straightforward tale of an assassin, Caim, who struggles with elements of his past. Elements he clearly does not fully understand. Some such elements arrive in the present and, consequently, threaten any possibility of a future. Caim spends the majority of the tale playing catch-up to others' agendas. Agendas which have no spare room for Caim to continue consuming oxygen.

Our protagonist, while very skilled, does have another layer. He has some ethereal connection to the realm of shadows. This connection manifests on occasions where Caim is intensely afraid or angry. His lack of direct control of this connection causes some complications. When active, Caim's connection to the realm of shadows allows him to be completely unobserved - possibly even invisible. As the tale unfolds, the reader becomes aware that this connection may do more than Caim suspects.

The tale also gives us a couple of other main characters to this tale, in the form of a love interest and side-kick. Josephine, the love interest, is introduced to the reader as something of a naive, bubble-headed socialite. Events unfold abruptly which carve the innocence completely off of her. Kit, Caim's side-kick, is an ethereal being that has been with Caim since he can remember. Even Caim has no idea what Kit really is, and where she goes when she whimsically vanishes, either because of boredom or in a fit of pique. In fact, even when present, Caim is the only person capable of seeing Kit. Sprunk's characters are not overly complex, but are well rendered for their roles in the tale.

Sprunk's tale is composed, and reads, from your garden variety third-person limited omniscient perspective. Of particular note, is Sprunk's plot. While Sprunk hints and foreshadows a great deal about the realm of shadows, the nature of Caim's companion, Kit, and Caim's past, it is not done in the sort of glaring, over-the-top, super-charged fashion that is becoming increasingly common (not necessarily a "bad" thing - simply a different approach). Sprunk is very measured and deliberate with the doling out of content in his debut. Indeed, there is the sense that Sprunk will have his readers returning for further episodes (I'm reminded of Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk - of 1970's American television) of Caim - the Shadow's Son.

In summary, Shadow's Son is a fair debut effort. It does not burden the reader with massive assimilation workloads (e.g. cast of characters, innumerable political intrigues, geography, magic system) and maintains the reader's attention throughout. While the tale was, in a sense, simplistic, only the tip of the iceberg has been exposed thus far. Sprunk has a great deal of room in which to expand and elaborate on Caim, his world and his story.

Fair to Recommended

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spacing out...


...is merely another symptom of my condition (i.e. ubiquitously absent cognition). Anyway, I announced a blog roll addition the other day and was soooooo fixated upon finding a cool picture to go with it, I forgot to announce the other blogroll addition I have recently added, Bookworm Blues.

Sarah, the force behind Bookworm Blues, has plenty of reviews already - and they are well worth checking into. Of note, Sarah has reviewed many of the 'big hits.' If there is a book you've been considering, because of it's buzz, do yourself a favor and make sure to see if Sarah has reviewed it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Review: The Escapement


The Escapement, by K.J. Parker
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Orbit, ©2007
ISBN 10: 0-316-00340-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-316-00340-7
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back of the book: The engineer Ziani Vaatzes engineered a war to be reunited with his family. The deaths were regrettable, but he had no choice.

Duke Valens dragged his people into the war to save the life of one woman -- a woman whose husband he then killed. He regrets the evil he's done, but he, equally, had no choice.

Secretary Psellus never wanted to rule the Republic or fight a desperate siege for its survival. As a man of considerable intelligence, however, he knows that he has a role to play -- and little choice but to accept it.


With The Escapement, K.J. Parker brings the Engineer trilogy to a close. The climax that has built thus far, explodes (literally) before the gates of Mezentia. The result, while not necessarily expected or anticipated, is in keeping with the style Parker has set thus far. In that sense, the ending seemed symmetrical and orderly, while also being bittersweet -- probably more bitter than sweet.

The destruction brought about by love and duty is a dominating theme throughout. In that sense, each character defines their circumstances as, "having had no choice." While I found the characters' reasoning, positions and definitions unpersuasive, it remained consistent, coherent and self-contained.

Truly, there is a malaise that underlies the characters, theme and totality of the tale. I wouldn't necessarily link it to the concept of 'depressing' proper, but would attempt to pin it down as "dysthymia, secondary to PTSD."

One item that was very noticeable to me was that the cultures within the tale had a near-total absence of any spirituality. There were no priesthoods, deities or religions, which seemed rather unusual since nearly every culture among our species has something to that effect. Within the trilogy, such things are briefly addressed by stating that certain cultures (i.e. Mezentine, Vadanai) used to have such things. I don't recall where they went, but it was treated as a vestigial element of the culture that had long since fallen away.

Without interviewing the author on the matter, it isn't likely to be discovered if the temperamental, and spiritual, apathy was a part of the plot design, or if it was the subtle influence of the author's own experiences/worldview. It does make me wonder, as though I were plagued with an inexorable itch, what the person behind the K.J. Parker pseudonym is really like.

Either way, the Engineer trilogy was a wonderfully composed and executed trilogy, which has convinced me to go forth and acquire every other work by K.J. Parker that I can find. Based upon the Engineer trilogy alone, Parker deserves a larger profile than he/she (frackin' pseudonyms!) currently has.

Highly Recommended

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blogroll addition

Interested in the 'New Weird,' or works there abouts? Check into the Little Red Reviewer, who has some solid reviews of the works and authors driving that niche.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In the mail


Hold up. You other books are riding shotgun now. Donaldson's Against All Things Ending arrived in today's mail. A review will be available upon release.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More Brent Weeks goodness


John Ottinger III has, in collaboration with Orbit books, an exclusive video interview with Brent Weeks, just ahead of the release of The Black Prism.


Also, Orbit books has, in their August 2010 newsletter, made the first three chapters of The Black Prism available to read. Enjoy!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Brent Weeks meme



Bah, I got sucked into another meme. This time, it's Liviu's fault. I saw his post that had his meme result up and went over to Weeks' site to give it a go.

I'm a yellow magic drafter!

Take the quiz at Brent Weeks.com

Swann interviewed....by Scalzi


Let's say you've written a fairly well received work of speculative fiction. A stand-alone work of speculative fiction. What do you do if the publisher wants a follow-up work written? It's in interesting question, but largely because it's not a theoretical one. This actually happened to author S.A. Swann.


Swann explains how he handled the conundrum in a recent interview. An interview by fellow author, Jon Scalzi, no less. Head on over and enjoy yourself.

Review: Evil for Evil


Evil for Evil, by K.J. Parker
Paperback: 684 pages
Publisher: Orbit, ©2006
ISBN 10: 0-316-00339-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-316-00339-5
Copy: Out of pocket

From the back cover: CIVITAS VADANIS is in trouble. The Mezentines have declared war, and the Mezentines are very focused on their goals when it comes to killing.

DUKE VALENS, of Civitas Vadanis, has a dilemma. He knows that his city cannot withstand the invading army; yet its walls are his sole defense against the Mezentines. Perhaps the only way to save his people is to flee, but that will not be easy either.

ZIANI VAATZES, an engineer exiled by the Mezentines for his abominable creations, has already proven that he can defend a city. But Ziani Vaatzes has his own concerns, and the fate of Civitas Vadanis may not be one of them.


The war upon Civitas Eremiae, by Mezentia, is all but complete. The ultimate goal of which, however, has not been achieved. Several of the individuals marked for death, by Mezentia, have survived. As a result, Mezentia's eye turns to Civitas Vadanis and it's remarkable amount of native wealth, in the form of silver mines. It won't be long before Mezentia manufactures a pretext upon which to make Civitas Vadanis the next target of the war.

In fact, who can hope to be safe from Mezentia. Indeed, the only thing they seem to fear are the vast, innumerable hoard of Cure Hardy beyond the desert. The Aram Chantat tribe alone numbers over one million. The only solace for Mezentia is that there is no easy path across the desert. If there were, or one was discovered, Mezentia would be facing what would amount to certain annhiliation, a fact Ziani Vaatzes is poignantly aware of and hopes to exploit.

And then, a most unique political alliance is proposed. Among all these machinations, Ziani Vaatzes continues to poke, file, trim, shave, thread, calibrate and nudge events into an alignment most suited to his own ends. Indeed, Parker's core message is that, for love, a human being will do anything. It is the direct by-product of this dynamic that gives humanity it's notions of "good" and "evil." While I may not agree, you can certainly see that Parker has an extremely coherent and salient point.

The characters are much the same: the Eremian Duke Orsea and his wife, the Duchess Veratriz; the Eremian Duke's former chief of staff, Miel Ducas; the Vadanai Duke Valens; the exiled Mezentian engineer, Ziani Vaatzes; and the Mezentian bureaucrat Lucao Psellus, who is slowly unwinding, and understanding, several intricately laid webs. The only new character installment of note is the unusual and bizarre, Gace Daurenja. What Vaatzes does for the story, Daurenja does to Vaatzes. Daurenja is able to twist and mold Vaatzes to fit his own agenda. As each man vies to incorporate the other into their plan, which one will come to a complete understanding, thus mastering, the other first? It would seem the outcome is overwhelmingly dependent upon the answer.

The more I read this trilogy, the more difficulty I have in pinning down a definitive description of Parker's style. It reads like a hybridization of the third-person voice and narrative, interwoven with first-person thoughts cavalierly tossed onto the page. I really, really like it - with one minor exception.

With perhaps 150 pages to go in the book, I became mildly aware of an acute irritation I was developing toward some of the characters. In stopping to analyze precisely why and what, I realized it wasn't the characters, but a particular theme beginning to be espoused by multiple characters. It was the theme that concepts such as duty and love are the true motile power for other concepts - like good, evil, creativity and destruction. Apparently, love makes the world go round. Some of the characters began to bemoan their individual circumstances because love, duty, or both, had 'done them wrong.' The Self-Pitysburg Address was tolerable once, but after reading it from Orsea, Ducas, Veratriz and Valens, it went from being old to an irritant rather quickly.

All in all, however, this is the strongest 'middle book' to a trilogy that I have yet read. K.J. Parker has, with this book, lived up to the standards set for me in the previous one, and I now look forward to getting my hands on all-things-K.J. Parker that I can find.

Highly Recommended to Must Read

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ian Cameron Esslemont's Stonewielder: Prologue


The prologue to Ian C. Esslemont's Stonewielder: A Novel of the Malazan Empire has just been posted online at SFFWorld, with permission from Transworld. Follow this link to view for yourself.

The current plan, by Bantam Press, is to publish in hardcover on November 25, 2010. This excerpt is of uncorrected pages, but should be all the taste one requires to begin the anxious wait for Esslemont's next contribution to the MalazVerse.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Contract News


Dave Brendon, a short while ago, reported that Stephen Deas has recently signed a 4-book deal with Gollancz.

Follow the link on over to Dave's and read up on the deal, which will bridge his current series -- which began with The Adamantine Palace -- with his up-coming YA series, through a third intermediary series. Phew, series and series and series. Congratulations to Stephen and his family.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Review: The Left Hand of God

The Left Hand of God, by Paul Hoffman
Hardcover: 372 pages
Publisher: Penguin USA (Dutton); ©2010
ISBN 10: 0-525-95131-5
ISBN 13: 978-0-525-95131-5
Copy: Penguin Group publicists


From inside the dust cover: In the Redeemer Sanctuary, the stronghold of a secretive sect of warrior monks, torture and death await the unsuccessful or disobedient. Raised by the Redeemers from early childhood like hundreds of other young captives, Thomas Cale has known only deprivation, punishment, and grueling training. He doesn't know that another world exists outside the fortress walls or even that secrets he can't imagine lurk behind the Sanctuary's many forbidden doorways. He doesn't know that his master Lord Bosco and the Sanctuary's Redeemers have been preparing for a holy war for centuries -- a holy war that is now imminent. And Cale doesn't know that he's been noticed and quietly cultivated.

And then, Cale decides to open a door.

It's a door that leads to one of the Redeemers' darkest secrets and a choice that is really no choice at all: certain death or daring escape. Adrift in the wider world for the first time in his young life, Cale soon finds himself in Memphis, the capital of culture -- and the den of Sin. It's there that Cale discovers his prodigious gift: violence. And he discovers that, after years of abuse at the hands of the Redeemers, his embittered heart is still capable of loving -- and breaking.

But the Redeemers won't accept the defection of their special subject without a fight. As the clash of civilizations that has been looming for thousands of years draws near, a world where the faithful are as brutal as the sinful looks to young Cale to decide its fate.


When I received this book in the mail, I wasn't sure what to think. There had been a fair amount of hype concerning the book, and some reviews that seemed to indicate that the amount of hype received was, perhaps, too generous. I'm glad I am fairly removed from that time -- the time of the original release -- because I can now look on the book fairly.

First, Hoffman opens the book with a great line -

"Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp is named after a damned lie, for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary."

Yeah, it has some grim aspects to it. While there are a couple of POVs in the book, the lion's share of the reading follows Cale. The reader trails along with Cale, and friends, from the fretful and angst-ridden drudgery in the Sanctuary, to the daring escape across the Scablands and their rise through the society of Memphis, the most relevant city of the region. It is a slow process of revelation by which we discover what the true nature of the boys' lives, in the Sanctuary, was like and to what purposes they existed.

In Memphis, the reader bears witness to Thomas Cale's discovery of love. Like all young boys and girls, Cale also discovers love's twin - the pain of a broken heart. The reader follows these things through a standard third-person, limited, approach with some sprinkling of first-person insights, offered through the ponderings of Cale.

Indeed, the most developed character we see is Cale. The rest of the cast seem richly developed, perhaps because they conform to conventional expectations of them. People have read, and viewed, such characters before and, thus, familiarity brings the reader closer to an easy understanding of the characters than might have been otherwise.

A pet peeve of mine is the search for something "new" or "innovative" in a piece of fiction that, if not properly satisfied, must render a judgement of bad, poor or "m'eh" to a work. Seriously, "there is nothing new under the sun." Such innovation is an extreme rarity, so I prefer to simply work with what we have. All this having been said, Hoffman takes great handfuls of the familiar, and makes it work rather well.

Is the book worthy of all it's early hype? I have no idea. It is, however, worth reading.

Recommended

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review: Devices and Desires


Devices and Desires, by K.J. Parker
Format: P.O.U.S's (Paperbacks of unusual size)
Publisher: Orbit, ©2005
ISBN-10: 0-316-00338-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-00338-7
Copy: out of pocket

From the back cover: When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance -- one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others...

This is the extraordinary tale of a man who engineers a war to be reunited with his family.

I have seen and read a great deal on K.J. Parker throughout the blogosphere. As a result, I became rather circumspect, due to the nature of the differing reactions. Regular readers/bloggers of sf&f liked Parker, while casual readers/forum posters seemed only mildly moved, at best. I jumped to the conclusion that it was "an elite thing," thus I wouldn't be interested. I was most definitely wrong.

This glorious find, for me, occurred one evening as I took my birthday gift card (Books-a-Million) to the closest store in town. I was there, primarily, looking for Ranger's Apprentice books I could hold onto for my son one day (I'm certainly hoping he'll become a reader). I found one such book and then, with plenty of gift card value remaining, began searching the sf&f section. I found the entire Engineer's trilogy sitting there -- staring at me. It was simply time for me to give Parker a try.

This story follows the actions of an engineer, and fugitive from justice, of an industrial, regional power as he lays a proactive strategy to bring about a war that will return him to his wife and daughter. The engineer, Ziani Vaatzes, uses his keen mechanical insight, and native intelligence, to pre-arrange a course of events that leaves the Guilds, as well as rivaling, next-door aristocracies reacting in a most flat-footed manner. The realization that there has been a set-up, or 'long game' if you will, usually comes after ruination, while a very few seem to know precisely what is taking place -- waiting for their proper moment to assert themselves, and achieve their own ends.

There are no heroes or villains in such a tale. The intrigue is non-stop and most of the characters involved are surprisingly unaware of the stakes involved. In the end, it felt like a combination of the character driven dramas of Tad Williams and the tantalizing and pivotal plot points dangled just beyond the reader's reach, common in works by R. Scott Bakker. There are no epic scale battles, no quest objects, no magic system, no mythical creatures and no dark overlord. There is a lot of engineering though. Parker takes the reader on an adventure that could be described as historical science fiction. Science fiction, traditionally, takes its reader into a futuristic setting, imagining what technology will be able to do one day. Parker takes science fiction, and the reader, retro. The reader follows learning how to improvise mills, lathes and cams and the author makes it all more interesting than I'm sure the topic truly is.

Parker writes in a third-person quasi-limited approach. That is to say that the author drops occasional subtle hints which leave the reader speculating about impending, foreshadowed and massive plot shifts upcoming in the tale. If all such Parker works are like this, I will have found another favorite author to watch.

There is simply no other way to say it, K.J. Parker, in Devices and Desires, hauls the reader through the pages.

Highly Recommended to Must Read

Friday, July 16, 2010

Free Reading: The Choir Boats


The Choir Boats is a debut, fantasy novel by Daniel Rabuzzi and is available, for free, during the month of July. It is DRM free, thus perusable on any device compatible with PDFs.

The Choir Boats explores issues of race, gender, sin, and salvation, and includes a mysterious letter, knuckledogs, carkodrillos, smilax root, goat stew, and one very fierce golden cat.

One early review described it as, "Gulliver's Travels crossed with The Golden Compass and a dollop of Pride and Prejudice." Another stated that The Choir Boats is, "a muscular, Napoleonic-era fantasy that, like Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series, will appeal to both adult and young adult readers."

The Choir Boats is featured as Wowio's July Book of the Month. It has also been selected by January Magazine as a Top Ten YA Novel for 2009.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rhone, by John Karr


I have a joint review up, with Tyson, over at Speculative Book Review, on Rhone. If you're a fan of the "old style" sword and sorcery (think Howard), then this would be worth reading for the induced sense of nostalgia alone.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Review: The Last Princess and the Cup of Immortality


The Last Princess and the Cup of Immortality, by D.R. Whitney
Format: Trade paperback; 368 pages
Publisher: Avilon Press
ISBN: 978-0-9822508-0-8
Copy: provided by author

From the back cover: When Vivienne Le Faye, a sixteen-year old, with intuitive powers inherits a priceless family amulet, she becomes an instant target.

Unaware of her noble heritage, she only knows that a strange family CURSE haunts her. And when DANGER suddenly threatens her, a mysterious boy with blazing golden eyes appears out-of-nowhere to protect her.

Convinced he's real and positive she has fallen in love with him, Vivienne bravely follows her 'gift of sight' to England where her Amulet allows her passage through a Portal of Mists. There, in a mystical world of witchery and magic where many perils await her, she discovers he is an Immortal and she is the last Princess of the Misty Isle, destined to become the next Lady of the Lake.

Called to fulfill her birthright and armed with her new gifts, of spell craft and war craft, together they must confront a terrifying enemy, so that she can save their magical world and allow the Misty Isle to rise again.


For me, a rare thing occurred with reading this first book of The Goddess Prophecies - I was unable to finish the book, something which hasn't happened for thirteen years (I distinctly remember the last such occasion). I made it to page 242 of 368. While my reading speed is definitely better than average, those 242 pages took me forever. After reading ten pages, I had to stop and move on to doing something else. Ultimately, it had taken so much time, that I could no longer proceed.

Through those 242 pages, I encountered a tale based upon a unique mix of Arthurian legend, Celtic mythology and mysticism, Gaia- or earth-based magic and a theme of female empowerment. All in all, not a bad mix to go with. Unfortunately, for me, it read like a work written by Dan Brown to an audience of twelve-year olds.

As my mind fluttered away from what I was reading, memories of the distant past drew me along. Reminiscences of early reading came up, snippets of the Hardy Boys novels my father used to buy for me, or the copies of The Three Investigators that I had signed out from the elementary school library as a child. Undoubtedly, had I read this book at that long ago time, I would have enjoyed it greatly. Currently, I no longer possess the requisite capabilities in the realm of suspension of disbelief - at least on the scale necessary to overlook rather implausible story elements.

For example, while our protagonist is making her way from Philadelphia to New York, to catch a plane to England, she realizes she is in need of some muscle to help cover her. She calls her former master at the New York chapter house of the "Martial Arts Academy" to acquire some help. Incidentally, our sixteen-year old protagonist is an Olympic calibre black belt in her own right. This sixteen-year old has also been emancipated by her grandmother and is living on her own, at school, in New York City. This sixteen-year old also happens to be far more certain and secure than the majority of all the adults I've ever encountered.

I just couldn't finish. Well, I still think that, as a twelve-year old, I would've had great fun with it - especially the cover art.

D.N.F.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Review - Return of the Crimson Guard


Return of the Crimson Guard, by Ian C. Esslemont
Format: Hardcover; 702 pages
Publisher:Tor, ©2008
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2370-5
Copy: Out of pocket

From inside the dust cover: The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for a Malazan Empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries. Indeed, there are those who wonder whether the Empress Laseen might not be losing her grip on power as she faces increasing unrest as conquered kingdoms and principalities sense freedom once more.

Into the seething cauldron of Quon Tali - the Empire's heartland - marches the Guard. With their return comes the memory of the Empire - and yet all is not well with the Guard itself. Elements within its elite, the Avowed, have set their sights on far greater power. There are ancient entities who also seek to further their own arcane ends. And what of the swordsman called Traveller who, with his companion Ereko, has gone in search of a confrontation from which none have ever returned?

As the Guard prepares to wage war, Laseen's own generals and mages, the "Old Hands," grow impatient with what they see as her mismanagement of the Empire. But could Laseen have outwitted them all? Could she be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate these last irksome survivors from the days of her illustrious predecessor, Kellanved?


My first trip down Esslemont Lane, in the Malazan world, was good enough. I know, it sounds like the kiss of death. Seriously, I liked Night of Knives well enough, but not nearly as much as previous Malazan offerings. Return of the Crimson Guard, however, is quite fine indeed.

The style employed, whether it's Esslemont or Erikson, is something of a third-person limited-omnisicient. C'mon, I know it's rather oxymoronic, but bear with me here. The story regularly offers subtle hints and characters nod their heads knowingly, even when the reader is struggling to uncover the point/mystery involved. I'm sure that there are Malaz-oid fanboys (complete with self-drawn maps, timelines, etc.) out there who can, speculatively, tie together all of the hints nicely. I, on the other hand, sit in blissful suspense through each new offering in the Malazan world because I expect the answers will fall into my lap, in the end.

This story follows an implosion, seemingly, of the empire. The empress is forced to make alliances and betrayals, which seem to be pivotal to survival when faced with the empire's arch-nemesis, the Crimson Guard. The Crimson Guard aren't having an easy time of it either, as there appears to be no dearth of covert manipulations employed to advance the agendas of internal factions in their corner as well.

Into this possible implosion come several parties. There are a group of exiled and imprisoned mages from the Seven Cities otataral mines - that end up en route to Quon Tali. There is the enigmatic Traveller, with his companion Ereko - bound in a similar direction, complete with tag-alongs from a parallel plot line. When combined with the Crimson Guard, en route to Quon Tali, the locals who are uprising in hopes of independence once more and, let's not forget, the empire itself, you get quite the stew.

This is my segue into the reason I love all things Malazan, so much. Scope. As in an extraordinarly ambitious and over-the-top scope. When you consider the variety of races, locations, mortals, deities, demi-deities, warrens, etc., it's almost numbing - oh, but I just love it (right down to the cover art - seriously, just look at that). Return of the Crimson Guard, among a couple of other works written within the Malazan world, perfectly epitomizes this.

I will readily admit it - I'm a fan of big, fat fantasy series (BFF). Generally speaking, I like them all. However, the Malazan world is, and has been for some time now, the best (ok, my favorite). Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard only further cements my opinion on the matter.

Highly Recommended

Monday, July 5, 2010

Dante's Journey & J.C. Marino


Dante's Journey, by J.C. Marino
Trade Paperback: 366 pages
Publisher: Star Publish, ©2010
ISBN: 978-1-935188-09-4
Copy: provided by author

I finished Marino's book some time ago, but since it was the prototype test subject for the 'Round Table' feature at Speculative Book Review, I've waited until now to put anything down here about it. To see how I weighed in on the story, follow the prototype test subject link.

I liked the story well enough, but from what I have run into in our first 'Round Table' exercise at SBR, I would say that most will like it more than I did. Also, the author is a particularly decent fellow and a pleasure to interact with. In fact, there was a subsequent interview with Marino at SBR, thanks to Tyson.

While I would rate Dante's Journey as "Recommended", I would also call Marino an author to keep an eye on with future books.

An aside: It's been some time since I've been able to swing through the internet, and this stop is the exception rather than the rule. Work life has made of itself a larger priority that it, perhaps, ought to be. I hope to rectify the matter sooner, rather than later.

In the meantime, my rate of reading has been suffering as well. Other than Marino's work, I have also read Return of the Crimson Guard, by Ian C. Esslemont; Rhone by John Karr; Field of Fire, by Jon Connington; The Left Hand of God, by Paul Hoffman; 242 of 368 pages of The Last Princess and the Cup of Immortality, by D.R. Whitney (D.N.F. - a once every dozen years rarity for me) and Devices and Desires, by K.J. Parker. I will have something to post for some of these books here, but a little something to post for all of them over at SBR.

I was struck soundly enough by Parker's Devices and Desires to immediately pick up the second book of the Engineer's trilogy, Evil for Evil.

Monday, April 26, 2010

YA Review


I have been reading several books off my traditional beaten path of late. One that I did recently finish, and does have a home in the realm of fantasy fiction, is Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. When I first began combing through the threads on SFFWorld, looking for books to place on a wish list, this book came up. After looking it over I was intrigued, despite the YA label. I do not dislike YA, it just isn't something that I can connect with anymore. If you are looking for a good, age appropriate YA tale, this is a great candidate. I posted a review of this work over at Speculative Book Review.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

David Gemmell Legend Award



Somewhere around here, I have previously written about the David Gemmell Legend Award and why I like it. Well, its that time of year again. As previously noted, the short list is up, so go and vote. I'll drop you a hint...I voted for the author that should have won last year.

Anyway, Jeff and James discuss the pros and cons surrounding the DGLA. So check out James' post and then stop by and read Jeff's rebuttal. Great guys and good points, but I just want to see Abercrombie swinging a life-size replica of Snaga around an elegant environment like some kind of wild drunkard (although he could be the real thing - you never know).



ETA: After I finished posting this yesterday, there were a couple of additional developments. Gav, after having read James' post, also had a rebuttal. Last, but certainly not least, Larry circumnavigated the topic in a far more broad, if not peripheral, fashion.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Williams


Read The Burning Man last weekend. It is a short story by Tad Williams in the Legends anthology (Tor, ©1998, edited by Silverberg). It is a tragic tale told by an elderly woman reminiscing over a pivotal event from her life.

In light of recently finishing Shadowrise, it was very interesting to go back and read something that was new to me, but from the author's past. I would say that I detect a difference, within the story, from more recent Williams fare, but wonder if that's only because I know there is a separation of, roughly, a decade.

Regardless, that story alone made the anthology well worth the purchase, even though I originally purchased it to read through everything I could find regarding Silverberg's Majipoor series.

Blogroll Adds

This past week I've added a few links to the blog roll. They are:
Edi's Book Lighthouse - this is Bona Fide (aka, ediFanoB from Only The Best)
Scrying the Fantastic - a collection of blogging heroes dedicated to cataloging upcoming releases

Stop by and enjoy yourselves.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The finalists are...

I'm going to say go ahead and view this on full screen, otherwise it's difficult to read. Just click on the button with four oblique arrows at the bottom-right.

Friday, April 2, 2010

PSA - DGLA

That's right, we've a Public Service Announcement regarding the David Gemmell Legend Awards. I received the email this very day and it states:

Just to let you know that the Shortlists for the Morningstar, Ravenheart & Legend will be announced via video podcast ON THE DGLA WEBSITE on Easter Sunday!

That's right, you, our great, supportive Members will get the scoop FIRST! Cos we luv ya! ;-)


When it comes to covering the awards beat, this is the only one that comes up on my radar, for reasons previously stated somewhere around here.

All hands, stand by for short list announcements.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On-line book store launches


While exercising my world-renowned productivity (i.e. screwing around) over at the SFFWorld forums, I received a private message about a month ago. Josh (aka, werewolv2) asked me if I could put a little something together for his store's launch on April Fool's. Hey, if somebody has the stones to ask me a favor, and I have the time and resources to perform it, then I definitely have the stones to agree to it.

W & D Books, the name of Josh and his family's store, is running an offer through the 20th that will be quite the nice surprise for some lucky sod. You'll have to check his site for qualifying details, but orders placed will automatically enter the customer in a drawing. The winner will receive an ARC of either The Devil in Green, by Mark Chadbourn, or Blood of the Mantis, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Better still, shipping starts at 99¢. W & D Books runs their point-of-sale through PayPal.

Seriously, if you don't like the heavy-handedness of Amazon, stop by the site of a true book fan, and his family, trying to blaze their own trail in life. It may not be The Book Depository yet, but remember that you read about it here, because I'm betting it's here to stay.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Favorites

Among the authors/series that are my personal favorites, Donaldson and his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant come in right behind Tad Williams. Thus, thanks to Patrick St-Denis, take a look at this - the next, and penultimate, installment to The Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

Amazon has the release listed for October 19th this fall, although those dates cannot be relied upon. I pre-ordered A Dance with Dragons over two years ago, based on Amazon's dates. Yeah,...I know.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tad Williams - The Interview

That's right. It wasn't a typo. Alright, for you maybe not such a big deal. However, I got to interview my favorite living author. So, each of you, pick your favorite author/artist/musician/whatever and consider exchanging correspondece with them. Damn cool is right!

The interview has just gone up over at Speculative Book Review. Love it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review - Shadowrise


Just put the review of Shadowrise up at Speculative Book Review. There will soon be even more Shadowrise related fun.

While you're there, check out Tyson's review of The Emerald Storm, by Michael J. Sullivan and Victoria's review of The Spirit Lens, by Carol Berg.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's on like Don Juan, baby!

Ok, people. We're going live. Specifically, Tyson (of State of Review), Yagiz (of Between Two Books), Cara (murf61, up on Posterous), Victoria (of the Great White North, :D) and myself (of Asshattedness). We are up with a collaborative endeavor titled Speculative Book Review. For now, it will be hosted on blogger. In fact, there are already a couple of reviews up. With a bit of luck, I'll have something up on it by Thursday.

We hope to have plenty of reviews, interviews, round table discussions on certain books, some guest posts and upcoming cover art. Special thanks to folks like Ken, Rob, Pat, Aidan, Bryce, Alec, ediFanoB, Adam and Mark Yon who, without knowing it, encouraged me to go at this a bit more seriously. Oh, I'll still be around here as often as ever (i.e. intermittently-to-not much). It's just that, while here, I'll be going far LESS seriously and much more extemporaneously. Maybe I'll use this to really get some writing done. You know, put up a few scenes so people can take a few kicks at me.

I'm kickin' like a chicken, baby! Feelin' like Terry Tate. WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's (Rothfuss) Day


I'm about as runned-down as I have been in years. However, when Patrick Rothfuss comes to town, you've just got to "man up." There was seating for 125 and it was packed. As a result, Pat was limited in his flexibility to take pictures with people. I got some pictures, most of which came out terribly, damn it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go Cats, Go!


Hey, just because I currently live in Kentucky doesn't mean I'm cheering for those Cats. No, no, no, my friends. I'm cheering for my Cats - The University of Vermont Catamounts, Champions of the America East Conference. For the first time since 2005 we're back in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It'll be great to see how they fare.

Otherwise, I have, this very evening, finally finished Tad Williams' Shadowrise. In case you did not know it, I am a Williams fan and have been since removing a shiny new HC copy of The Dragonbone Chair from a shelf in Waldenbooks to purchase in '90. His work has the gravity of something ancient and relevant. His stories are nothing short of masterful. Williams' works are not chockfull of the mile-a-minute blood, gore, magic and chaotic mayhem that many works of the genre are, and have to be to pick up readers, who praise such works by word of mouth through their D&D circles (no RPGers were harmed in the making of this post). They don't need to be. Williams' works are something for a mantlepiece, kept well beyond the reach of the grasping, grubby fingers of the mildly curious.

More on Shadowrise (i.e. review) and Williams soon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Road trip


Ah, after the first big anniversary, Ubiquitous Absence is takin' its act on the road, baby. Where to? Not far. Just down the road about an hour to Lexington, KY. There to stop by and see Patrick Rothfuss...on March 17th...St. Patrick's Day. Hey, it is what it is.

On his blog, Rothfuss lists the impromptu itinerary. We'll see if pics are doable.

Later skater

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Upcoming Interviews

Lately, I have been working on a couple of interviews, among other things. Both are with authors sporting new releases this month. The real news about that is where those interviews will be posted. That's right, they won't be posted here. I will post and link to them here, though.

Ah, I can't tell you where they will be posted yet, as knowledge of the location requires top secret clearance. The location is, in fact, under construction. Updates are forthcoming, as they develop.

There is a least one person "in the know" now, but he's trusted and would've been involved, had we been quicker with the concept.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today marks the one year anniversary of Ubiquitous Absence. I would not have bet on it surviving this long. It is the sort of endeavor that I could have easily dismissed due to lack of substantive yield. However, it has been more fun than I would have imagined, and that is the only real goal.

Coincidentally, cousin Harry published a post reviewing us today over at Temple Library Reviews.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review - Conqueror's Moon

Conqueror’s Moon
by Julian May
Ace, 2004
copy provided by me (♫ a name I call myself, fah – a long, long way to run♫)

ISBN-10: 0-441-01132-2

I am rather surprised that this book, and series, has as low a profile as it seems to. I picked up on this series through sheer happenstance while reading an old post, in an obscure thread, from years ago, on SFFWorld. As you can see, the book has rather fine cover art. The dust cover bears testimonials from Jean Auel (on front) and Fritz Lieber (on back). Given the date of copyright and printing, to give nothing of the story away, it would be fair to say it was influenced by Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. In fact, if Conqueror’s Moon is any indicator of the remainder of the series, May’s Boreal Moon trilogy may be every bit as good as the Farseer trilogy.

My Summary: Centuries ago, Bazekoy, Emperor of the World, sailed north from the continent, across the Boreal Sea, to High Blenholme Isle. There, to tame and conquer its wildness. Replete with fae creatures (including spunkies, green men, salka, etc.) and different forces of magic, it can only be conquered in the basest sense. Down through the ages, fae creatures and ethereal forces survive and remain bound to, or by, none. As with all empires, Bazekoy’s slowly withered and failed. Now, the Prince Heritor of Cathra, Conrig Wincantor, seeks to revive Bazekoy’s empire. First, by uniting the four separate kingdoms of Blenholme Isle under the Act of Sovereignty, ruled by Cathra.